HerKentucky Story: Writer Megan Whitmer

 Today's HerKentucky Story spotlights Lexington-based writer Megan Whitmer.  I had the pleasure of meeting Megan this spring when her brother married my cousin/BFF.  Megan is exactly the kind of person you'd hand-pick to add to your extended family -- smart, creative, cool, and unique.  And she has two of the cutest little girls I've ever seen!  I hope y'all enjoy getting to know Megan as much as I have! -- HCW

Megan Whitmer grew up in Lancaster, KY and currently lives in Lexington. She attended Transylvania University and the University of Kentucky, and holds a bachelor's degree in psychology. When she's not working on her novel, Megan spends her time playing dress-up with her two daughters, drinking absurd amounts of Cherry Coke Zero, and wishing someone would pay her to tweet.  

You can learn more about Megan on her blog, or follow her on Twitter.

Every time I tell someone I’m a writer, I get two questions: 1. A real one? 2. Have you written anything I might have read? (Answers: 1. No, I’m imaginary. 2. Probably not. Yet.) 

I’ve written three books. The first was in elementary school, a picture book called Honey I Flunked the Squids. The second was many years later, and so ridiculously unmarketable I don’t even want to tell you about it. My latest is the first with a real chance at being published. It’s a young adult fantasy called Between, and you can read the first couple of pages of it on my blog.

In case you don’t know, getting a book published isn’t as easy as Amazon would have you believe. 

1. You write a book. 
2. You send query letters to literary agents telling them about your book and asking them to represent your work. 
3. They say no. 
 4. You keep trying. You hear stories of people who query agents for a day before they find someone who loves their book. You hear stories of people who queried for months. You take comfort that some bestsellers were repeatedly rejected before finding an agent. You reread your book and convince yourself it’s crap. You read it again and call yourself a genius. 
5. If you’re lucky enough to find an agent who thinks your book is publishable, he or she will shop your book to publishers.
 6. Hopefully, an editor at one of those publishing houses will read it, love it, go through a painfully long process involving editorial boards and marketing teams, and then your book will officially be on its way to bookshelves. (Or not. There’s no guarantee that your agent will be able to sell your book to an editor. But we’re going to ignore that piece of reality for the sake of my mental health.) 

I’m currently hanging out in step four. There are nearly 350 agents who represent the kind of book I wrote. I queried about 50 of them before I decided to stop. 

After I finished Between, I spent six months reading some really incredible manuscripts, and I realized that my book was nowhere near ready. It needed so much work that a simple revision wouldn’t cut it. 

It needed an autopsy. I needed to take it apart and put it back together again, figure out what parts worked and what didn’t, and at that point, I did the unthinkable. 

 I deleted every word. 

I could’ve written a new book. After all, if you’re starting at page one, doesn’t it make sense to just write a brand new book? I have a few other story ideas I could’ve put my sweat and tears into, but I couldn’t let go of Between. I’m so in love with my characters, and I didn’t want to feel like I hadn’t done everything I could for them. 

So I wrote Between. Again. It took three months of around-the-clock writing. I deleted one character completely, changed the ending, had one of my most loved characters die, and amped up the kissing. (When in doubt, always amp up the kissing.) 

I thought about quitting at least twice a day. In the hardest moments, when my brain was completely broken and I was sure all my words were stupid, I questioned the point of it all. Between wasn’t getting many bites from agents. Young adult fantasy is the hardest genre to break into. Why was I sacrificing sleep, meals, and time with my family for a book that might not get me anywhere? 

Then I reached The End. For the first time, I feel like my book is really and truly complete. It’s everything it needs to be. 

You know what? Between might never land me an agent. But at this point, I know if it doesn’t get published, it’s not because I didn’t give it everything I had. It won’t be because I was afraid to start over. None of my books will ever make it to a bookshelf if I’m afraid of looking at a blank page.