2015: Looking Back!

Dec 19, 2015 Main blog 20 comments

What a year it has been! I got a little farklempt drafting this post because I couldn’t help remembering this time in 2014. That December, I was beyond burnt out and discouraged from the endless, maddening cycle of querying, revising, and entering contests, and I’m pretty sure this week was the week I texted close writer friends to tell them I was giving up on traditional publishing at last. I simply didn’t have what it took.

“If it was meant to be,” I told them, “then it wouldn’t be this hard.”

If I ever publish an autobiography one day, it would be titled “Close, But No Cigar: The Julie Dao Story.” There is nothing that punches the heart harder than getting riiiight up there to that elusive door, and then having it slam in your face, over and over and over. Honestly? I would have preferred not getting into every contest I entered. I would have preferred form rejections over R&Rs that never panned out. At least then, I would have known what to fix. I would have been able to move on. It drove me CRAZY that I was clearly doing everything right, I had a query letter that worked, and I had written a tight manuscript, and still couldn’t get over the hurdle for some reason.

This Adele song, “Chasing Pavements,” was my freakin’ anthem in 2014.

 

Should I give up
Or should I just keep chasing pavements
Even if it leads nowhere?

 

 

JANUARY

 

There is nothing quite like being a depressed writer… unless it’s a depressed writer with a broken leg. Last winter was quite possibly the worst winter of my entire life, and keep in mind I am a native New Englander. But there is nothing anyone can do to prepare for EIGHT FEET of snow. It was nor’easter after nor’easter, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some Bostonians broke out into hives at the words “winter storm warning.”

And, because snowbanks twice as tall as me weren’t enough, there was also plenty of ice! Yay! I was on my way to work when I became a landing cushion for a woman who had slipped. Let me rephrase that: my left kneecap became a landing cushion for a woman who had slipped. Luckily, I worked at a hospital, so a doctor checked it out right away. My x-ray showed a horizontal crack right across the patella. My first broken bone!

I am so grateful I didn’t need knee surgery, though. I just had to shuffle around with a brace (to keep the two pieces of the bone together, and prevent them from cracking apart further) and go to physical therapy. And I’m happy to report that my knee is pretty much back to normal, except for the fact that I still can’t kneel on a hard floor. Found that out the hard way when I dropped a pen under my desk… OUCH.

 

FEBRUARY

 

I won’t go back into this story, because you guys know all about it. Suffice it to say, I was in a state of complete and utter disbelief for two weeks. I kept pacing, panicking, and wondering how I had tricked these incredible agents into liking my book and liking me enough to offer. They were supposed to say “no” like everybody else! I was 100% sure they would back out and say, “Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to offer to you. I confused you with someone else.” But they didn’t. They opened the publishing door for me.

The day I posted this on Twitter felt unreal. I remember it took me three whole days to respond to all of your comments and messages on Twitter, Facebook, email, and this blog, because I wanted to make sure you all knew how much I appreciated your words. Luckily, I was snowed in and couldn’t go to work because the trains had been shut down all over the city (big surprise), so that was what I spent my time doing! It was glorious!

 

 

MARCH – APRIL

 

I dove into final revisions with more enthusiasm than I ever thought I’d have, considering I had read this manuscript approximately 85 billion times. But this time, I had Tamar to tell me if I was screwing up or not. What a world of difference that made, to not have to go it alone anymore.

It also hit me then that this was getting pretty real. Like… I was one step away from literally achieving my dream. (Well, not one step, technically. But still a LOT closer.) So I kept doing what I was doing with my online “platform,” or whatever (meaning I messed around on Twitter when I should have been brainstorming my new project). And, after Googling myself and finding a hundred other Julie Daos, I officially added my middle initial on all of my social media.

And then this happened in April:

 

 

What Happened In My Head
 
Friend: So, why are you going to New York again this weekend?
Me: (casually picks at nails) I’m trying on bridesmaid dresses with my cousin, and catching a Broadway show. Oh, and I might grab coffee with my agent. No big deal.
 
What Happened For Real
 
Friend: So, why are you going to New York again this weekend?
Me: (incoherent babbling)

 

Yes, I am a dork and I get REALLY excited about things that other people probably just take in stride. I’ve actually been criticized before for being too cheesy and sappy and rose-colored-glasses-y on my blog. But you know what? That’s who I am. When big things happen in my life, I am going to celebrate them to the fullest. Life’s too short to be cool and collected, and my writing road has been too hard. So I took my over-excited self on a train to NYC and got to meet Tamar and Laura and tour their office!

 

SUMMER

 

This year has been a phenomenal one, but also a really hard one in different ways. (See: autobiography title above.) My manuscript and I reached a point that some writers never, ever get to. After all this time, I was getting signs that… maybe I do have what it takes. I wanted to give my full attention to my next project, FOTL, and just get it written. The idea had been in my head since I was 13, but I had never felt ready enough to write it. Now, at last, I had the confidence to try. So I made the choice to do something a little crazy and maybe not so smart, but something I needed: writing full-time for a short while.

After consulting with Tamar, I also decided to post PUMPKIN PATCH PRINCESS on Wattpad. It terrified me because I wrote this book when I was still learning how to write well. The thought of posting a beginner effort for the public was scary, but having it languish away on my hard drive made me sad because I love it so much.

 

 

Well, it turned out to be the right move because within months, it got Featured Story status on the front page of Wattpad, hit #39 on the Teen Fiction list out of millions of books, and got almost 150,000 views. Those numbers, and the overwhelming response I’ve gotten from teen and tween readers (the people for whom I actually write!) gave me the boost of confidence I needed. Many of them have been kind enough to jump onboard and follow me, saying they’d buy a print copy of PPP or anything else I publish. I knew if I could convince them to like a book I had written years ago, I might be able to write something else they’d also enjoy, now that I’ve spent all this time learning the craft.

 

 

In August, I got another boost of confidence. I went on the Ireland Writer Tours trip led by Susan Spann and Heather Webb, and their feedback on my early pages of FOTL was amazing and smart. Heather told me that when my pages came in, she called Susan and they discussed how much they loved the story on the phone! I did have to tone it way down, though, because they thought it was adult epic fantasy (it’s YA). And then Susan gave me the idea for the ending of Book #1 and helped me figure something out that I’d been stuck on for months. I returned home with a better understanding of my characters and the whole arc of the series I’d envisioned. I am hoping I get the chance to write the second/companion book one day!

Also, this is a thing that happened over the summer:

 

 

If you know me at all, you know I am the BIGGEST Maggie Stiefvater fangirl. It’s no secret that I think she’s one of the greatest YA writers living today, and SCORPIO RACES ripped me apart and changed me as a writer. Basically, she is just a little below J.K. Rowling on my list of author heroes, and that’s saying a lot. I won a sheet of her Tarot card illustrations on one of her Twitter contests, and she mailed it to me with a gracious note, and has been following me ever since! I sometimes wonder if she’ll catch on to the fact that she never unfollowed me and has been seeing all of my annoying inspirational tweets and Instagram pics littering her timeline…

 

FALL AND WINTER

 

I was a dutiful Pitch Wars mentee to N.K. Traver and Stephanie Garber, and gave them what they’d always wanted: a GRAND-MENTEE! Yes, I added the lovely and talented Lorien Hallama to our little writer family tree. Her query and full manuscript knocked my socks off when I was in Ireland. I got so many amazing entries that I wish I could have picked them all, but in the end, I chose Lorien.

What an experience it was to help someone through the hurdles I’d jumped myself just a year ago. To this day, I still email Nat and Stephanie in a writing crisis, and I knew just how important it was to have a mentor and friend who’d gone through the same thing. I wanted to be that for someone else, which is why I jumped into Pitch Wars mentoring. And I intend to do it again next year!

 

 

Finally, just short of 95,000 words, I finished the rough draft of FOTL. I have been revising ever since (read: rewriting almost everything because I didn’t really figure the true plot out until I finished drafting) and will do one more read-through before I hit “send.” Self-imposed deadline is end of 2015!


In summary, this year has been pretty great. Things happened that I honestly believed never would. And amazing things happened to many close writer friends, too: several of them snagged agents and/or book deals, some self-published, and one scored an enormous book deal AND movie deal. So if you are in the boat I was in last year, just remember: next year could be your year. Anything can happen.

After all this time, I’ve at last learned not to make goals based on things I can’t control. So my resolution is to write three brand-new books next year — I’m planning two middle-grade books and a YA — and to make them as great as possible. I’m going to go back to work, but even though writing will once more happen only on nights and weekends, I am determined to accomplish this goal!

Thanks, as always, for sticking with me and my blog. I will never forget how much you guys have helped me! Here’s to a bright and happy 2016 for all of us!

20 comments , , , , , , ,

20 Responses to “2015: Looking Back!”

  1. Emma Adams says:

    Wow, what a rollercoaster! You should be so proud of what you've achieved this year! 🙂

  2. That's a heck of a good year! I bet that is wild to look back at where you were this time last December.
    Have a great Christmas!

  3. Tiana Smith says:

    Love this – because I feel like I've experienced many of the same things. Not Wattpad or your fabulous trip, but emotionally we could be sisters 🙂

  4. Haddock says:

    Wow…. 150,000 views…. thats not a small number.

  5. Wow, how much things can change in a year!! Congrats again!!!

  6. June says:

    Yayyy what an awesome year this turned out to be!!!! I look forward to following more of your writing journey next year!

  7. Shari says:

    What a beautiful year you've had! I'm thrilled about all the steps forward you were able to take on your journey this year. You work so hard and are so very dedicated – you deserved every single magical experience that 2015 brought you. And you know, I firmly believe that optimism is a good thing. The world can try so hard to bring us down, but we can try just as hard not to let it. As always, thank you for that reminder. Wishing you a 2016 that's even better, friend! <3

  8. N.K. Traver says:

    SO excited for everything you have in the works – what an amazing year! I'm pretty sure I have a post on my blog that matches your exact words for January – that I wrote the month before I got my agent 🙂 Well, minus someone breaking my knee. I'm so glad you pushed through and look forward to what 2016 has in store for you!

  9. Julie C. Dao says:

    Emma: Thank you, friend. It's been slow-going, but that seems to be the theme when it comes to writing. Maybe in ten years, I'll be able to announce a book deal 😉

    Alex: Thank you! It is amazing how much can change in a year's time. I hope you have a great Christmas as well!

    Tiana: I'm sure this year has been very hard for you as well, as great as it has been! <3 Maybe 2016 will bring amazing things!

    Haddock: No, it's not 🙂

    Connie: Thank you so much! <3

    Melody: <333

    June: Thanks, friend! I hope to follow yours as well!

    Shari: I appreciate all of your kind words <3 <3 I think the same about you, and I hope you'll keep your chin up and keep striving. You're talented and hardworking and those things always pay off eventually. Wishing you a brilliant 2016!

    Nat: <3 <3 I remember how much your story inspired me! It's funny how so many of us get into that same boat before things really start happening. I'm glad I pushed through, too, and I'm glad you did as well!

  10. I love this post so much, Jules! Isn't it incredible how much can change in a year? It's exciting to think about where you'll be a year from now. I expect 2016 will be filled with even more wonderful things for you! <3<3

    Happy reading and writing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

  11. Krispy says:

    You have indeed had QUITE a year, and I'm so happy for you. I know how long you've been working at it, so to say this is long-in-coming and well-deserved is something of an understatement. Here's to an even greater 2016! Congrats again, Julie!

  12. M Pax says:

    Glad you had a good year.

    Thanks for the blitz, and a very Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  13. I love the idea of making a goal based only on things you can control. I might have to steal that!n 🙂

  14. Thanks for the recap and inspiring words! I have been feeling burn out lately, so it helped to read!

  15. Julie C. Dao says:

    Laura: It is absolutely amazing how much can change! I hope you have an amazing Christmas and a great start to your new year!

    Alice: Thanks, friend, I appreciate that <3 I hope 2016 will be just as great for you!

    M: You're welcome! Happy blitz again, and Merry Christmas!

    Dianne: It's a lesson that's been a long time coming… 🙂

    Leandra: Thank YOU for reading! Hugs. I know just how you feel and I'm hoping 2016 will bring all you ask for!

  16. Wow, what a whirlwind year! So much has changed for you. Gives me hope. I've been happy to see some of your daily highlights on Twitter. Happy New Year!

  17. Nicole says:

    What a great end-of-the-year post, Julie! I'm so excited that you persevered and are getting so close to your dream / getting it!! 🙂

    Your blog is always fun inspiration. Wishing you a wonderful 2016 too!

  18. Mia Hayson says:

    Fantastic emotional rollercoaster of a year! I think 2016 is going to be fantabulous for you &I I can't sit to see all the things it holds! <3

  19. Julie C. Dao says:

    Theresa: I am hopeful that great things are coming your way in 2016! Happy New Year!

    Nicole: Thank you so much! I'm happy you find my blog inspiring <3 <3

    Mia: Thank you, my dear! I'm excited for all the great things coming to the writing community! <3

Julie C. Dao