After we finish a manuscript, I think we all get impatient. We want to edit and revise it fast so it can get in the hands of our bets readers and critique partners. Then when they are done, we want to quickly edit/revise again to get it in the query trenches. But as today’s featured author, Vivi Barnes, points out you must “trust the process.” If you want your manuscript to be a success, you must go through the necessary steps to make sure it is the best work it can be. If that means taking extra time to send to a new beta reader, or going over plot one more time, it should be done. The publishing process is long and hard, but if done right, the end product can be like Vivi’s: an agent, a book deal, and an amazing novel that will be on shelves soon!
Many thanks to Vivi for sharing her writing journey today…
Amy: When did you first know you wanted to write a young adult novel?
Vivi: I always enjoyed writing. In fact, my day job is in internal communications, so I knew that writing where I was happiest. I wrote a middle grade novel with a friend, but it took 11 years (I know, right?). I was kind of discouraged until I started meeting with my fellow Chicks and followed Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way, and I realized I hadn’t really found my calling yet. After I read The Hunger Games, I realized where I belonged was in YA. I sat down and started writing a young adult novel and completely fell in love with it!
Amy: What inspired you to write OLIVIA TWISTED?
Vivi: I used to watch the movie OLIVER! over and over at my aunt’s house when I was going through a tough time in middle school (I had scoliosis and was so self-conscious). I think I liked the movie so much because seeing poor Oliver go through such hell took my mind off my own problems. Then I read the book, and thought it might be interesting to write a contemporary version but call it OLIVIA TWISTED. So really, it all started with a title.
Amy: Was OLIVIA TWISTED your first completed manuscript or do you have others you’ve shelved?
Vivi: I started with a coming-of-age middle grade, then moved to a dystopian young adult that everyone seemed to love but interest in that genre was waning. So I started Olivia Twisted. One of my critique partners teases me that it took me two days to write it. It really took almost two months, but the first draft was only 58K words. It is now about 88K.
Amy: Do you use beta readers or critique partners? If so, how instrumental are they to your writing process?
Vivi: Oh, yes! I have an online group of critique partners who are all amazing writers. I have a wonderful group of SCBWI writers I meet with almost every Thursday night. And I have beta readers ranging from teen to adult, including a couple of fantastic teachers.
My readers/CPs are instrumental in helping me identify continuity issues, gaps in plot, and other concerns I might not be aware of otherwise. I can’t imagine not having these wonderful writers/readers behind me!
Amy: How many agents did you query for OLIVIA TWISTED? Did you receive immediate responses or did you have to wait a while for replies?
Vivi: I queried sixty-four agents and got about twenty requests for partials/fulls. Reply times varied, of course, but most were relatively fast (within a week for requests). I ended up with three offers and a couple revise/resubmits, and I chose the one who seemed like the right fit for me.
I have to add that I am grateful for those first agents who rejected me, especially the ones who gave feedback. My manuscript that I “thought” was ready was nowhere near, so I made it stronger and stronger with every one of these rejections. I sometimes cringe when I think how rough it was in the beginning. I was too impatient to get it out there and didn’t go through the complete critique process like I should have. I’ll bet many writers have this same story.
Amy: What can you tell me about your “call” with your agent, Pam van Hylckama? How did you know she was the right choice for you?
Vivi: Pam was the first to offer. She actually pulled it from her senior agent’s slush pile, read it and loved it. She sent an email asking if we could chat and I was SO nervous. She was so nice, though (and has a very sweet southern accent). She’s also hilarious! We hit it off right away, and I knew she was the one for me. She was a newer agent at the time, but had a lot of publishing world experience. I also loved that she was a blogger—bloggers are awesome! Pam had great plans for the book and really “got” the story. She has been fantastic—going above and beyond the call of an agent (I mean, she offered to create lip balm from scratch for me if I wanted that for giveaways—now that’s love!).
Amy: Was there ever a time you thought about giving up on your writing dream? If so, what motivated you to keep writing?
Vivi: Probably during the eleven years that it took me to write that middle grade novel, yes. But when I started writing for young adults, no way. I have to write, like I have to breathe. It’s very freeing to me, screwing up someone else’s life, I guess. I’m kidding (kind of). 😉
Amy: What was one piece of writing advice you got early on that you still use today?
Vivi: This is a tough one because I’ve gotten so much fantastic advice over the years. But I’d say one that stands out in my mind is to trust the process. Trust your agent, your editor, your critique partners, etc. It’s hard to send your “baby” out there, knowing you’re probably going to get rejections and bad reviews and sometimes feedback that might be hard to hear. But trust that it’s going to make you a stronger, better writer, and move along. “Move along” has been the toughest thing for a paranoid person like myself, but I’m learning to do it! And don’t take anything personally! Rejections aren’t personal—not at all. Your book might not be the right fit for a particular agent or editor (they spend so much time with it that they have to have almost obsessive love for it), but that doesn’t mean someone else won’t love it. Just as one person loves a book and the next one doesn’t.
(Expected release date, November 5, 2013)
He tilts my chin up so my eyes meet his, his thumb brushing lightly across my lips. I close my eyes. I know Z is trouble. I know that being with him is going to get me into trouble. I don’t care.
At least at this moment, I don’t care.
Tossed from foster home to foster home, Olivia’s seen a lot in her sixteen years. She’s hardened, sure, though mostly just wants to fly under the radar until graduation. But her natural ability with computers catches the eye of Z, a mysterious guy at her new school. Soon, Z has brought Liv into his team of hacker elite—break into a few bank accounts, and voila, he drives a motorcycle. Follow his lead, and Olivia might even be able to escape from her oppressive foster parents. As Olivia and Z grow closer, though, so does the watchful eye of Bill Sykes, Z’s boss. And he’s got bigger plans for Liv…
I can picture Liv’s face: wide-eyed, trusting. Her smooth lips that taste like strawberry Fanta.
It was just a kiss. That’s all. She’s just like any other girl.
Except that she’s not.
Thanks to Z, Olivia’s about to get twisted.
Vivi Barnes was raised on a farm in East Texas where her theater-loving mom and cowboy dad gave her a unique perspective on life. Now living in the magic and sunshine of Orlando, Florida, she divides her time writing, working, goofing off with her husband and three kids, and avoiding dirty dishes. OLIVIA TWISTED, a contemporary reimagining of the Dickens classic, is her debut novel. For more on Vivi, check out her website or follow her on Twitter.