My road to publication: Part 1, Blissful Beginnings

My story started with a dream. No, really. As in I woke up one morning after having this intensely realistic dream, and I couldn't shake it. Anyone who knows me really well has—at one time or another—endured my long and detailed dream descriptions. Often it is like waking up from a movie, and I can hardly get the details down on paper fast enough. Some dreams are more vivid than others. But when I have one of my "storyline" dreams, I usually wake up and then spend the day still in that unexpected place that my subconscious expertly crafted just for me.

One night, while living in Southern California, I had a particularly gripping dream that I was a mermaid saving a drowning pilot. I woke up and just stared at the ceiling for probably an hour, reliving the visceral colors and feelings of water and sand. It kept gnawing at me, that dream. Something told me to write the scene out in first person. So I did. It felt a little electric. I wanted to write more...

But there was one thing. Mermaids? Come on, Lyndsay. Honestly I didn't think I could tell anyone that I was thinking about writing a story about mermaids without some uncomfortable laughter (from either myself or the other person). So I talked to Wes about it. Wes is my very creative, yet grounded husband who is also a story teller (only his expertise is film and photography). I told him my idea and held my breath. He didn't laugh. Instead he very reasonably suggested I choose an edgier location than my initial thoughts of putting my mermaid in Greek waters. I knew exactly what my Scandinavian-loving, would-be-viking husband was getting at. She had to be an Icelandic mermaid. A real marine mammal (no iridescent scales or seashell bras). And there had to be mythology involved. Norse mythology. And maybe a Viking descendant. I think I could tell people about that without self-conscious laughter. I could tell people about that with wonder. I like to think of my mermaid like this (I put together a photo composite in Photoshop with elements I could find online):

The next two years were laced with great research finds, numerous coincidences-turned-storyline-gems, the music of Sigur Rós, and underwater caves. Lots and lots of deep and shimmering caves. Some basalt. Some ice. I spent a large amount of my time floating through the North Atlantic, or standing on a fjord, trying to spy a raven. All in my mind, of course, but still a really awesome place to be! And when I needed oceanic inspiration, we'd pack up the kids and head to the California coast. "I can see one! A tail!" my son would squeal. My whole family was on board. I really wanted this story to work out.

When all was said and done with my first draft, I edited my whopper of a manuscript probably four times by myself, whittling it down to about 125,000 words. I crafted a query letter and log line with some input from family. And in what I now know were its infant stages, I sent my manuscript to a manager who had been suggested to me by my brother. She actually loved the book! It seemed a little too easy. And it was. There was a catch. Of course. As a manager, she couldn't negotiate publishing terms, and said she would need to send the manuscript out to literary agents. From there she hoped to find my little idea a big home with an agent, and then hopefully a publishing house. And that's when things started to get real. No more magical love story to languish in. Oh no. There would be no escaping to my safe fictional world off the coast of Iceland. It was time to grow up and face rejection. Lots of rejection, in fact.

Stay tuned for part 2, where I talk about how finding a literary agent is like cramming a lifetime worth of dating into 5 months of hell.

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Amy said...

I am way excited for you. It's a huge accomplishment to actually write the story out much less submit it to an agent and get it published.

I have yet to do that for myself with my own story (that I've been imagining up for years).

I wish you all the luck. And I'll stay tuned for more details.