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Guest Post by Katie Bucklein … A Journey to Success!

Saturday, 7 February 2015  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

Guest Post


I think it’s safe to say this has been a looooooooooooooooong time in coming! And I am SO BEYOND THRILLED to say I have an agent!!! Thus, I’m going to have a slew of celebratory gifs.


Success Story A
Success Story B
Success Story C
Success Story D

I have been dreaming about the day when I get to say I AM NOW AN AGENTED WRITER. I still can’t get over it, and I signed the contract on February 2nd! Let me back up a bit, because this journey has been long. And when I say long, boy do I mean long.

Back in the summer of 2013 after I graduated from high school, I wrote a novel. It was not my first novel–far from it! I’ve been writing since I was twelve (I am now twenty), and had completed many novels in my time. It was, however, the only one I deemed publication-worthy. It was titled IN THE MIDST OF MONSTERS, and some of you may remember me talking about it (I can’t believe it’s been that long since I got my Twitter/started my blog). I thought it was the best book I’d ever written. I joined WriteOnCon where I met my fabulous first critique partner Sarah Glenn Marsh. She helped me spiff up my manuscript. On September 17th, 2013 I sent several queries out, and more and more rejections began piling up. So I revised my query (it needed revising, I can assure you), and on October 9th, 2013, I got my first full request. A month later, it turned into a rejection.

Fast forward to December of 2013. By now, I’d gotten another critique partner–the wondrous Anne Tedeton–and had become quite numb to rejections. But, nonetheless, I spiffed up my query again and entered PitchWars with MONSTERS. Lo and behold, I was chosen by the stupendous Stephanie Garber as the mentee of Team PPU (Phantom Pirate Universe, a nod to each of our manuscripts). I met my other team members Melody Marshall and Julie Dao, and one thing led to another and suddenly we were swapping chapters as we waited for Stephanie to get back to us with notes.

Success Story E

And when those notes came in, it was a brutal wake-up call. But it was–and is–the best thing that could have ever happened to me. Ever. Stephanie pinpointed every single thing that was wrong with my manuscript in the most detailed letter she somehow managed to complete while balancing being a teacher, revising her own manuscript with her agent, and regular life activities such as eating and sleeping. (I honestly don’t know how she did it.) She taught me things about writing I had no idea were conscious efforts. She introduced me to an outlining method I swear by now.

I made one of the most difficult decisions I can recall ever having to make in my writing: scrapping 90% of the manuscript, and starting almost entirely from scratch. I took the high notes, the strengths of MONSTERS that Stephanie pointed out, and spent thirteen days (THIRTEEN DAYS) rewriting it so I could make it by the PitchWars showcase deadline. Luckily I was on winter break from college, so I holed myself up in my room and rarely emerged.

Success Story F

92,000 words in thirteen days is something I do not recommend anyone doing, yet I did and I survived and the manuscript became a much better beast than I could have possibly hoped for. It became the manuscript A SEA OF HOLLOW HEARTS. You can read its query on my “Books” page.

After PitchWars, the requests began to trickle in much faster than with MONSTERS. Along with Julie and Melody, both of whom had become my critique partners, so we were a critique triangle, I entered a slew of contests. All three of us managed to make it in with every contest we entered! I felt like I was on top of the world as more and more requests began pouring in. As I made more friends in the writing sphere. As I got my amazing beta reader EM Castellan, who read HEARTS and loved it to pieces.

And then…the rejections began to pile up. And up. And up. My poor manuscript, my poor pirates who had been through so much, were still not up to par. I entered a funk, a dry spell, so I didn’t write a single creative word (outside of college) from January, 2014 to September, 2014. NINE MONTHS of coming up with ideas and not being able to write them. I’d start and stop, start and stop, over and over and over again. During those nine months I certainly sent out more queries and received more requests, but they all kept turning into rejections. This might be why I wasn’t able to write anything. The rejections–although all very kind–made me feel like I couldn’t write. Like I didn’t have a creative bone in my body, despite what my critique partners and beta readers said.

Then, I moved from Arizona to Idaho with my family and took a semester off from college. I was feeling burned out on everything–life, school, friends, writing…You name it, I was burned out on it.

Then I got the idea that turned into THE WAYWARD DARK & NEARLY FORGOTTEN (the query of which you can read on my “Books” page. There is also a Pinterest board for it!). I began writing it on September 14, 2014, got to 65,000 words by some feat of magic, and then watched the movie Troy and realized the story I’d been writing was not the one I had to tell. So, I scrapped it. All but perhaps 5% of it and a majority of the characters, and then I started writing it all over again.

I finished that draft in two weeks. Two weeks of frenzied, crazed writing where I barely emerged from my room again. I poured my heart and soul and every dark and bitter thought I’d ever had during this nine month funk into this manuscript. It tore me apart. It made me cry. It made me laugh. It made me swoon. I’m trying not to feel teary even as I write this, because this book remade me. Eleri and Soren and Pallas and Rikku, Adallon and Valafar and Kilyan and Wraith–they are my life and breath and blood and sweat and tears. By the time I wrote “The End,” I was a mess of emotion, but I felt whole again. I felt more like myself.

A couple days after I finished this draft, around mid-October, I went to Virginia to meet Sarah, my first critique partner and one of my best friends, in person. I had a blast–meeting her after more than a year of talking practically every day via email and text and Twitter and Facebook, it was like we’d known each other for years and had only been apart for a short period of time. I remember from the instant we saw each other in the airport and tackled each other with a gigantic bear hug, there was barely a moment of silence. (Bless her husband for putting up with our insanity!)

Then I came home and got to work editing my manuscript. It was a whopping 110,000 words. I managed to cut 4,000, then sent it off to Melody, who got it down 6,000 more. It went through five drafts with notes from my critique partners and beta readers. By the time I was happy with it, I had received several more rejections for fulls of HEARTS, all saying relatively the same thing. However, I fired back asking the agents (all of whom are wonderful, wonderful people I’ve been thrilled to talk to every time I have) if they were open to considering a new manuscript I was about ready to query. Every single one of them said yes.

I culled through my HEARTS query list and was very selective on who I put onto my new list for my demon fantasy. On December 1, 2014, I sent off the first query for THE WAYWARD DARK & NEARLY FORGOTTEN. The first full manuscript request came on December 4th, shortly followed by several more the following days. I sent them off, then sat down and waited, quite certain it would be months before I heard back (as had been the case with HEARTS).

Success Story G

On December 15th, I got the nicest rejection on a full I have ever received. It helped me feel better. It helped me feel like what I was doing, my writing, my words, wasn’t pointless. Christmas came and went, New Years came and went, and I started up school again (this time in a new state with no one I knew in any of my classes). I sent the query that turned into my offer of representation on December 4, 2014, while the agent was closed to queries (although I had been invited to send the query/manuscript whenever it was ready. Unless you’ve been invited, don’t send queries when agents are closed! More heartache than necessary will follow). The full request came December 5th.

On January 23, 2015, after an exceptionally long day at school, I came home desperate for a night of Oreo cookies and an episode of Reign. It had been a pretty rough day. I hadn’t been checking my email on my phone at all because I have one class after another on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and January 23 happened to be a Thursday.

Anyway, I got home around 5:00 PM and saw an email with “Wayward Dark” in the subject line sent around 1:00 PM my time, but the name wasn’t familiar. Intrigued about this mysterious email with part of my book’s title in the subject line, I clicked on it. And it said that the assistant (the name I didn’t recognize right off the bat) and the agent had just finished reading and discussing THE WAYWARD DARK & NEARLY FORGOTTEN. They loved it. They wanted to set up a phone call to discuss it. Cue the panicking.

I bombarded Sarah with texts and screenshots, begging her to tell me if THIS WAS REAL and WAS I IMAGINING IT and HOLY CRAP THIS IS HAPPENING WHAT WHAT WHAT. Sarah, being the calm, cool, and collected person she is, called me instantly (after I quite rudely interrupted the movie she and her husband were watching) and we SQUEEED and SHOUTED and basically caused a beautiful ruckus. Then I sat down and shot back an email to the assistant like a very calm, professional writer. We scheduled a call for January 26, the following Monday, before my three-hour geology lab. I spent the weekend trying to convince myself that this was actually happening. (I wasn’t very convincing.)

Success Story I

On Monday, during the epic blizzard that shut down New York City, the agent called up and we chatted about the book for an hour. WHILE IT WAS SNOWING. I remember thinking how crazy it was that someone besides myself and my critique partners should love my book so much they would brave a blizzard to talk with me about it. BUT IT HAPPENED. It was glorious! I babbled like a fool at times because I’m a wreck when nervous and on the phone. But the agent was amazing, and within five minutes I knew she was perfect.

The most memorable moment of that phone call was when she quoted my book at me several times. It was crazy to use the names of my characters and world in a conversation. I don’t know if that will ever become anything less than surreal.

And on February 2nd, I accepted the offer of representation. I am now represented by Emmanuelle Morgen of Stonesong Literary. It is the strangest thing to think about, to say, but it’s real. I may have to keep reminding myself of this from time to time. But the book of my heart got me my agent, and I think that is gloriously special.

Success Story J

For IN THE MIDST OF MONSTERS and A SEA OF HOLLOW HEARTS combined, I sent over 125 queries. (Some were repeats from MONSTERS to HEARTS, but still. Over 125 queries.) For THE WAYWARD DARK & NEARLY FORGOTTEN, I sent only 50. My list was very selective–only agents I had interacted with, had heard things from friends, knew were specifically interested in my type of book. I received six full requests in the two months of sending this query out.

But there’s my story. From start to finish, except this is hardly the end. SO MUCH is still in store for me now that I’m agented. Emmanuelle and her assistant, Jess, are stoked about the manuscript. I’m stoked about the manuscript. I can’t wait to make the beast it is into the beauty I know it can be.

I hope my story can help anyone in the query trenches feel better. It really can happen. I didn’t think it could, but I’ve proven myself wrong. Over a year and a half later, I’m finally agented. I could never have done it without my critique partners. They picked me up time and again, dusted me off, and kept me going. I owe so much to them. Support is probably the most important part of being a writer, and I seriously lucked out with mine.

Success Story K

Meet Kate …


Katie Bucklein

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