2014: The Year of the Phoenix

It was the year of fire, the year of destruction. The year we took back what was ours. It was a new age. It was the end of history. It was the year everything changed.

The year was 2014. The place: Babylo…. wait. No, this is about my writing career.

But yeah, it was a hell of a year.

In January of 2014, I started querying DREAMWALKERS, a middle grade contemporary fantasy.

In February, I got into my first pitch contest (in which I got no requests, but got great feedback and encouragement).

In March, I got amazingly helpful feedback from the incredible and supportive online writing community, all of which pointed in the same direction: my voice for this novel was YA, not MG. After soul-searching and conferring with my CPs and beta readers — and most importantly, after realizing a direction I could take the book as a YA novel that could be really awesome — I decided to take the plunge and revise to YA.

In April, I finished revising the entire book from middle grade to young adult, retitling it JANUARY IN SHADOW.

In May, I started getting a whole bunch of requests for the new YA version.

In June, to distract me from the hell of waiting for query replies, I started a first person reboot of a new novel I’d been toying with, A FALCONER OF VENICE, a YA historical fantasy.

In July, I got sufficiently excited about the new book and disenchanted with the old that I gave up querying JANUARY IN SHADOW. I still had some active queries and requests, but I wasn’t sending out anything new. I’d shifted my focus to writing AFOV.

In August, I got a Revise and Resubmit request for JIS. I had to decide whether to focus on revising for the agent who was interested in JIS or on getting AFOV ready in time for PitchWars, a big mentoring contest I was really excited about. I went with momentum and kept pushing ahead with the new book, intending to get back to JIS next.

In September, everything happened at once. I got into PitchWars as a mentee with AFOV. While I was still celebrating, I got a request for JIS on an old query I’d closed out as no response. Within a couple of days, that turned into an offer of representation. WOO HOO!!! I was thrilled (if a bit dizzy from creative whiplash) to sign with my agent, Naomi Davis of Inklings Literary Agency.

In October and November, I furiously revised JIS based on feedback from Naomi and my awesome, awesome CP’s and beta readers, as well as my own fevered plans.

In December, I finished revisions on JIS and delivered the revised version to my agent. And also started taking notes for a new book I’m really excited to write, and worked on a revision plan for AFOV.

2014 was the year I finally figured out what revising was all about. The year I found the courage to start over, to take big leaps and big risks, to throw stuff out and completely rethink basic assumptions. To allow myself no quarter and ruthlessly keep honing a story rather than stopping as soon as it could hold an edge. It was a phoenix year, where I set things on fire with the faith something beautiful would rise from the ashes and lay some creative waste.

2014 was the year I found community. There are so many amazing people out there in the online writing community, who give of their time with great generosity to help each other on the endless road. And my own community of friends, writers and not, were equally amazing about offering to read my book, or helping me hone my pitches, or helping pick a title. I had been going it alone, but that was stupid. As video games teach us, IT IS DANGEROUS TO GO ALONE. There’s so much I have to learn as a writer, always, and I am honored and humbled to be a part of a writing community so generous in its sharing of knowledge and support.

2014 was the year I got an agent. That still feels pretty darn awesome. I’m starting a new phase of my writing journey. I know it’ll be even harder in several ways, and I’m sure there will be many bumps in the road. But I’m so excited to be embarking on the voyage.

I’m starting 2015 bursting over with creative energy, excited about all three projects (JIS, AFOV, and New Book) and eager to see where I can take them. No matter what happens, I am going to make awesome stories and it’s going to be amazing.

Published by Melissa Caruso

Fantasy author of the Swords & Fire trilogy: THE TETHERED MAGE (Orbit, 2017), THE DEFIANT HEIR (Orbit, 2018), and THE UNBOUND EMPIRE (Orbit, 2019), as well as the Rooks and Ruin trilogy, beginning with THE OBSIDIAN TOWER (Orbit, 2020). Melissa's debut, THE TETHERED MAGE, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Morningstar Award in 2017. Melissa loves tea, adventure, and the great outdoors, and has been known to swordfight in ballgowns. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, two superlative daughters, and assorted pets. Represented by Naomi Davis of BookEnds.

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