“I want to give up.” It’s an easy thing to say after getting a mounting pile of rejections. But for some people the rejections make them stronger. Make them fight harder for what they want. That is the case with today’s featured author N.K. Traver. As she shares in her own words, a rejection “felt like a personal blow, like saying no to my idea meant I wasn’t cut out to be a writer.” But as her journey shows, N.K. used those negative responses to push herself. She learned about the craft and became a better writer which resulted in connecting with her agent and the eventual sale of her debut, DUPLICITY.
Many thanks to N.K. for sharing her inspiring writing odyssey today…
Amy: What inspires you to write Young Adult Fiction?
N.K.: Honestly, I really miss the days before jobs and bills, when family and relationships came first. I love reliving the drama and the thrill of those days.
Amy: How many manuscripts had you completed prior to DUPLICITY?
N.K.: Two. A YA fantasy and its sequel.
Amy: If you had preliminary rejections, how did you deal with that process and continue to write?
N.K.: They say “the first cut is the deepest,” and I think that’s so true. The first rejection I ever received, for that YA fantasy referenced above, basically brought me to tears. It felt like a personal blow, like saying no to my idea meant I wasn’t cut out to be a writer. It’s all I could think about the rest of the day. I’d poured my heart into that book. I’d even edited it. Like, twice. Couldn’t the agent see my abounding potential?? But the rejection was also a challenge. It made me face the harsh reality that maybe I still had some things to learn, and if I wanted this, I was going to have to work harder. It drove me to improve. Thanks to my rejections, I signed up for a local writers’ conference and a course on how to get published, and joined an online forum where I could swap work with other writers. The encouragement and enthusiasm of the people I met kept me going.
Amy: How long did it take you to write the query for DUPLICITY? Did it go through many drafts?
N.K.: Ahhh not the “q” word! Some people have a natural talent for writing queries … I have a natural aversion. I want to say it took me at least a month or two to get the query for Duplicity down, including back-and-forths with critique partners. I think it went through at least 5 different versions and a hundred million tweaks?
Amy: How many agents did you query for DUPLICITY?
N.K.: 10. But I want to add to that–Duplicity was a much different experience from my first manuscript. I queried over 80 agents on my YA fantasy with very few requests to show for it. With Duplicity, I sent out a cautious batch of 10 queries … that all came back as rejections. So I stopped, took a harder look at my first page, and rewrote the first chapter until my fingers bled. Then I entered it into two online pitch contests, intending to query afterward if I made the cut for one of them, except I made the cut for both! Suddenly I had 11 requests for pages from the contest agents.
I think that’s a really long way of saying 21.
Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for requests/rejections?
N.K.: It varied from agent to agent. I heard back anywhere from 2 days to 8 weeks.
Amy: What was your “call” like with your agent, Brianne Johnson? How did you know she was a good fit for you?
N.K.: It was like flying to the moon and discovering they have plants made of cookie dough. Bri was so enthusiastic about my work and had some great ideas for revisions. One thing that struck me was her interest in my career beyond Duplicity, and I liked that she was going into our potential partnership for the long term. Really I could go on for pages, but it comes down to 1) Her incredible professionalism 2) Her amazing publishing connections 3) That I felt entirely comfortable with her and her direction for the book.
Amy: Was there ever a time you thought about giving up on your writing dream? If so, what motivated you to keep writing?
N.K.: Yes. After I’d sent those 10 queries for Duplicity and received rejections on all of them, I was devastated. I had so wanted my experience with Duplicity to be different than my first book. I had learned so much since then, both about the publishing world and writing. I had edited and polished and edited and polished some more, and my excited, encouraging critique partners had raved that this could be “the one.” So it really hurt to feel like I’d come so much farther only to get the same results. I didn’t think I would ever be good enough to get published. But it’s writing. It’s what I’ll always be doing, with or without a book deal. So just like I had to with those first rejections, and all the rejections after–I picked myself up, and I tried again.
Amy: What advice did you get early on in your writing career that you still use today?
N.K.: An editor friend of mine told me writing is a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve found that to be true in learning the craft, getting an agent, getting a book published, and even in drafting a new manuscript. I think it goes hand-in-hand with one of my favorite quotes from Earl Nightingale: “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”
(Releases March 17, 2015)
In private, seventeen-year-old Brandon hacks bank accounts for thousands of dollars just for the hell of it. In public, he looks like any other tattooed bad boy with a fast car and devil-may-care attitude. He should know: he’s worked hard to maintain that façade. With inattentive parents who move cities every couple of years, he’s learned not to get tangled up in things like friends and relationships. So he’ll just keep on living like a machine, all gears and wires.
Then two things come along to shatter his carefully-built image: Emma, the kind, preppy girl who insists on looking beneath the surface – and the small matter of a mirror reflection that starts moving by itself. Not only does Brandon’s reflection have a mind of its own, but it seems to be grooming him for something – washing the dye from his hair, yanking out his piercings, swapping his black shirts for … pastels. Changes he can’t explain to his classmates, who think he’s having an identity crisis, and certainly not to nosy Emma, who thinks this is his backward apology for telling her to get lost. Then Brandon’s reflection tells him: it thinks it can live his life better, and it’s preparing to trade places.
And when it pulls Brandon through the looking-glass, not only will he need all his ill-gotten hacking skills to escape, but he’s going to have to face some hard truths about who he’s become. Otherwise he’s going to be stuck in a digital hell until he’s old and gray, and Emma and his parents won’t even know he’s gone.
As a freshman at the University of Colorado, N.K. TRAVER decided to pursue Information Technology because classmates said “no one could make a living” with an English degree. It wasn’t too many years later she realized it didn’t matter what the job paid—nothing would ever be as fulfilling as writing. Programmer by day, writer by night, it was only a matter of time before the two overlapped. For more on N.K., check out her website, get info at Goodreads, or follow her on Twitter.