Today’s Path to Publication post is by fellow Clean Reads author, Chris von Halle. Without further ado, here’s Chris!
Before I begin my path to publication story, I want to thank Christi Corbett for hosting me on her blog. It’s a great honor to share the story of how I became an author with a fellow Clean Reads author and all you readers out there.
In any case, according to my parents I was born drawing and scribbling, and at some point that led to drawing and scribbling on series of pieces of paper, each series telling some kind of story. Eventually, once I learned how to write, I started writing those stories instead of drawing them.
I wrote A LOT in my early years—all kinds of stories inspired by the likes of Louis Sachar, Roald Dahl, R.L. Stine, etc. Most of them were handwritten in notebooks, but eventually I wrote longer stories on the computer. Then I transitioned into comic strip writing (my second love, really) on and off for most of my high school and college years. In particular, I was inspired by Garfield, Foxtrot, and Calvin and Hobbes. Ironically, even though comic strips involve a lot of drawing, I learned that the artists who create them are, at their roots, writers. (After all, when it comes down to it, each strip tells a story and most of them involve characters and dialogue).
Then, when I graduated from college, I decided to get serious about this whole writing books thing (as in shoot for publication), so I transitioned back to writing novels. It just felt like the right/natural thing to do, even though I loved writing comic strips, too.
So I wrote a 114,000-word YA space opera tome and sent it out to a handful of literary agents. As expected, I got nothing but crickets and form rejections. Curious and determined, I found a couple blogs online (the renowned Miss Snark’s First Victim being one of them) on which serious writers had their writing critiqued by other serious writers, authors, and literary agents. I submitted some of my work for critique on one such blog and had it absolutely torn to shreds by those experts. So I incorporated their advice/feedback (which was mostly excellent) and revised my book, but still it met nothing but rejections.
So I wrote two more books (a YA fantasy and an MG Science Fiction), but they didn’t fare well in the query trenches, either (though I admit I didn’t send out many queries; looking back, even though the books weren’t really ready to be queried, since then I’ve learned the importance of perseverance). That’s when I decided I absolutely had to learn how to write a professional-level novel—no way could I go out like that!
So I got my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University’s esteemed Writing Popular Fiction program. And even though I’d learned a fair amount of valuable stuff from the online venues I’d frequented before attending the program, it’s from the program that I truly learned how to write a publishable-quality novel.
BUT my thesis, another MG science fiction book, still didn’t do well in the submission trenches (I sent it out to 60 literary agents, resulting in only one partial request that was quickly rejected), not to mention with a couple small presses I subbed to. I did wind up winning an online writing contest based on the query pitch and first page alone, which garnered some more agent and publisher interest, but it all inevitably led to nothing. I also wrote an MG epic fantasy book on the side of my thesis, but, once again, I only wound up sending out a handful of submissions before I gave up on it (I was getting closer, but it DID have a couple problems; sometimes I think about returning to that one and fixing it).
But I told myself, “Hey, self, don’t feel too bad. When you think about it, your thesis and MG epic fantasy books are kind of like the first real book you ever wrote” (since I’d written them at the same time during the grad program). So I wrote The Fourth Generation, a YA dystopian novel (and, technically-speaking, my seventh novel overall).
BUT…as I was finishing it up, I kept reading online about how NO (or at least very few) literary agents and publishers were looking for YA dystopian since it was such a highly saturated market, thanks to big bestsellers like The Hunger Games, Divergent, etc. Somewhat discouraged, I sent The Fourth Generation out to only a handful of agents (yep—definitely a trend there), which was met with nothing but form rejections and crickets.
So I decided to shelve that book and wrote an adult humorous superhero novel. While I was researching agents and publishers to query for that one, I happened to randomly come upon Clean Reads (then Astraea Press), which said they were currently looking for (gasp!) YA dystopian of all genres/age categories. So what did I do? I thought, “Hey, that’s kind of cool,” and kept researching agents and publishers for my superhero book.
Just kidding—of course not! I sent The Fourth Generation to Clean Reads and that’s how I got my first contract. So the moral of the story? I think there are a few.
- Perseverance is very important—keep plugging away and sending out your stuff because you just never know who’s going to say yes (in some instances I should have queried/subbed a lot more).
- Don’t give up on a story just because it’s in a saturated market. If you love it and truly believe in it, then keep working on it and sending it out. There will be somebody out there who is looking for it or at least knows what to do with it.
- So much of this business has to do with finding the right publisher/agent at the right time. So even if you get rejected (and for most us that will be A LOT, trust me), it does NOT mean that your book stinks or that God decided to give you the least amount of writing ability of all the writers he decided to create.
- That being said, it can’t hurt to study up on the craft of writing fiction by reading how-to books, visiting and participating in writing blogs, getting your work critiqued by experts, getting an MFA in fiction, etc.
- Booze, chocolate, and stuff of similar nature can help you to weather the writing journey.
Sixteen-year-old Gorin, a collector of curious artifacts left over from the pre-plague civilization, is on the verge of perishing from that deadly epidemic. And his last wish is to find a way to visit the rulers’ reputedly magnificent, off-limits mansion.
Up against the clock, he and his friend Stausha steal into the mansion and discover a secret more horrifying than they ever could’ve imagined—a secret that holds the key to the survival of the whole human race.
Chris von Halle has had many different lives in many different worlds—the near and distant future Earth, other planets, and even other dimensions—and his books recreate his childhood memories of such outlandish locations. In this world and life, he lives in Ridgewood, New Jersey, and enjoys such extraordinary activities as playing videogames, tennis, and basketball, and writing the occasional comic strip.
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