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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Make your own luck? Or a roll of the dice

There is no such thing as luck, someone once told me. You make your own luck. By working hard and never giving up, you’ll always succeed. And for the longest time I believed that was true. And I proved them—and myself—correct at every turn.

Did I want to make it through boot camp? Work harder! Did I want to succeed at breast-feeding? Never give up! So when I decided to write professionally, I applied these two logics. Work harder and never give up.

For nine months, I spent every second I could spare writing, critiquing, revising, editing, rewriting. Until, by chance, I found a post about my soon-to-be agent. And this weird tingle tickled my stomach, so I sent off my query with partial, though it went against my own rule to not snail mail unless specifically requested. And my other rule not to send to non-responders, which is lucky I did, because about a month later I was offered representation.

So, some of you are saying, what’s the point? We’ve heard this all before. I know. ;) But see, even then I didn’t believe in luck. I worked hard on that MS. I wrote, rewrote, revised, edited, and suffered through a few rejections. Plus I visit that site every day. I was bound to find an agent through there. ☺

Well, about 2 months ago, I was sitting watching my son playing a video game, struggling through a story that was kicking my butt, and it hit me. The what if question all us writers get. And that question was, what if a little girl was stolen from the surface and dragged to live with this monstrous woman who brainwashed her in this underwater utopia/dystopia?

I immediately started plotting it out. Obviously, it quickly mutated and is completely different than that first what if question, but I couldn’t stop. Even when my agent sent me revision notes on two of my other stories, so we could go back out on submission, I had the hardest time pulling myself away from the computer.

I even brought my laptop with to RWA Nationals so I could keep writing. My characters wouldn’t shut up. And then the most amazing thing happened, the story changed AGAIN.

I realized I was writing in my most hated of writing styles. First person, present tense. And that it was good! I couldn’t get myself to write in past. No matter what I did, I always reverted back to present tense. And Evie, the MC, had this most amazing voice. It was formal and informal at the same time. So, I gave up. And wrote it the way it wanted.

Even though I’d plotted it out, things changed while I was writing it. It went from mildly dark, to darn near pitch black at the end. And still it wasn’t enough. I had to go back through the MS again, and again. To get it right.

In the meantime, it’s gone back to my critique group, who loved it. Then my most trusted critique partner, who fixed the few present tense slips. And then when I was pretty sure it was perfect, it went off to betas. And all reports back are: It’s great. When can I buy it?

Now it’s in the hands of my awesome agent, and I’m nervous as hell, because it’s unlike ANYTHING I’ve ever written before. But it’s also the best thing I’ve ever written.

And I STILL can’t get the story out of my head.

I just have to hope Natalie likes it and some editor snatches it up, because this has proven beyond a doubt that while hard work and never giving up are important, luck goes hand in hand with it.

Being in the right place at the right time means everything.

So, share with me. What’s your opinion? Is there luck? Or do we make our own luck?

Also, I'm in two places at once.  I'm here and over at Makin' Baby Grand talking about World-building in YA Science Fiction.