The Jobs Report: I Wrote A Book!
3:30 pm, February 1st | by Sarah Devlin
This is the latest installment in an ongoing series we’re calling The Jobs Report. In light of depressing statistics about unemployment, especially for recent college graduates, the task of finding a job you love — or finding a job at all — can seem insurmountable. We want to challenge those numbers and offer an antidote to the depressing data, so we’re asking women we know who have found jobs they love to share how they got their gigs and what challenges and rewards them about their careers. Previous installments can be found here.
Laura Donovan is an associate editor here at The Jane Dough, who has recently self-published her first novel. She lives in New York City.
1. When and how did you decide to write a book?
Ever since seeing “Harriet the Spy” in second grade, I’ve wanted to be an author. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I came up with a concrete idea for my first book, which became The Wingmen. The novel is a semi-autobiographical (but obviously fictionalized) account of some experiences I had during my last year of high school, so I’ve carried this story with me for what feels like forever. I kept diaries throughout my childhood (I’ve attached a picture of my dog among my diaries here!), so I reread them all before starting the book to get back into the head of 17-year-old me.
2. What was your process for writing and publishing the book?
I reread my old journal entries to fully understand the mindset of my high school self, which isn’t who I am at all today. I started very early drafts of the book freshman year of college, but had a completed manuscript by junior year. I let it sit my senior year of college and have spent the past few years editing off and on. I’ve spent the last year editing nonstop (although there are a couple of typos/inconsistencies in the book, but even bestsellers run into that problem these days!), and once I thought it was ready for test readers, I called on friends and former creative writing classmates to read what I had. Once they all provided ample feedback, I hired an editor, with whom I worked closely for several months. It was originally going to be a memoir, but late in the game I chose to fictionalize it, so I had to spend some extra time fact-checking and changing the story line. Publishing the book was a far more complicated process than I expected it to be, but after nearly seven years of keeping this in the pipe, I just had to do it. As my mom would say, “sh-t or get off the pot.”
3. What was something really challenging about the writing process that you didn’t know before you worked on the book?
I initially assumed I’d be working with an agent, but after doing a great deal of research, reading books on the thriving self-publishing market, and consulting my friends in publishing and writing, I chose to self-publish, which has lost the stigma it had a decade ago. A few agents expressed interest in the book, but they all eventually decided my story wasn’t a good fit for them. Book publishing requires immense patience, as it can take agents months to get back to you or respond to your query letter, and the excitement you feel at the sight of their name in your inbox dies the second you read their stock rejection email.
This story was so personal to me that I needed to get it out into the world once and for all, with or without the assistance of an agent, so I self-published early this year. One of my New Year’s Resolutions was actually to publish this book, so good on me for following through on at least one goal, right? Because of the nature of my book, which I felt was starting to hold me back/cause me to relive my senior year of high school on a daily basis, I didn’t want to wait any longer to publish the book, so I put it out there for all to read (and judge), and now I feel like a 24-year-old with a lifetime of writing opportunities ahead of her, not a 20-something still writing and thinking about that guy who wronged her in high school. Best of all, I can finally start working on my next project. Many authors don’t make it big until their second or third novel, so if this doesn’t do well, maybe a future book of mine will be a hit. Not all self-published authors can have a success story like that of E.L. James!
4. What was something really great about the writing process that you didn’t know before you worked on the book?
Getting feedback is awesome, even when it’s negative and scathing. I wanted as many people as possible to enjoy my story, so I actually loved being told how I could improve it. Obviously I appreciated receiving warm fuzzies and encouragement, but I was even more interested in knowing what others thought I should work on or change. If there was a pattern among my test readers, I listened. I don’t take criticism well, particularly with regards to my nonfiction writing, but if I realized that I needed to accept being torn apart if I was going to pursue this field. It’s the only way I’ll ever have a shot at making it as an author.
Do you know a woman who has a cool job that she loves? Are you that woman? Nominate yourself or someone else to be featured in The Jobs Report at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Photo via Shutterstock]