Hi, all! Kate here. I'm so happy to welcome Gail Nall here to talk about the long but rewarding journey to publication, turning a MG book into YA, and her brand-new book, Exit Stage Left!
Hi there! My YA debut, EXIT STAGE LEFT, came out on Tuesday from Epic Reads Impulse/Harper. I'm especially excited for this book to see the world because it's been one loooooong journey. If any
of you all are out there querying the book you've spent five years working on, or if you're on your tenth revision of manuscript – I get it.
ESL started life waaaaay back in 2007, during NaNoWriMo, as a middle grade novel. It was my second manuscript, and I still hadn't done a lot of research on market or querying or anything, really. But I loved this manuscript. The voice just flowed out of me. When I was about halfway through, I realized that this? This was what I supposed to be writing. Voicey, fun, contemporary MG.
Fast forward a few years. I revised it. Multiple times. I queried it, um, a lot. Nothing ever really happened. So I put it away and started writing something else (which turned into BREAKING THE ICE, my debut MG). I pulled EXIT STAGE LEFT back out in 2012 because I couldn't let go of the characters. I thought I'd send a few more queries out on it and see what happened. . . .
And well . . . it got me an agent. Two years after I'd first queried it. Five years after I began writing it. So, yay, right? We went on sub with it. It got an R&R, which was awesome. But no ultimately, no takers.
So last year, my agent (who loves this book fiercely and was determined to sell it even after I'd given up on it) decided to send it out again. And you know what happened? An offer! From an editor I'd already worked with on my first book (and who I loved!), but had since left for another house. But the catch? She wanted it as YA, not MG.
I said yes. Of course.
And then the really hard part began. It took multiple rewrites to turn this book into a YA. The basic story remained the same, and most of the original characters are still there, but so much else had to change. It took three major edits to overhaul the book. And it hurt. Sure, it was fun to imagine what my thirteen-year-old characters would be like at sixteen, and it was definitely fun to create new scenes for them, and it was really, really fun to up the romantic aspects of the book. But it was a lot of work, and I had to cut so much in the process. Some of my favorite scenes and favorite plot points just wouldn't work any more.
But you know what? When you work so hard and so long on one project (eight years on one book!), you're pretty damn proud of what you finally get to put out there. So if you're in it for the long haul, the way I was, know you're working on something you can be proud of. It may not be your debut novel. You might have to trunk it for a few years before you can pull it back out again. It may never sell, but you'll know a million times more about writing and revising than you did before you started, and your next book will be so much the better for it.
So when those rejections come rolling in, don't quit. Revise it. Work on something new. Just don't give up. Because eight years from now, your baby manuscript might be a published book.
So to keep things interesting, here's a scene that survived from 2007 – as it was then, and as it is now:
Original MG first draft (don't judge!), 2007:
“That’s it people!” Mrs. Sharp said as she stood up. “Check the bulletin board outside the theater tomorrow. Casting should be posted by noon.”
We stood up to leave. Silent British Boy brushed past us, saying nothing. Trevor followed, his friends trailing after him.
“You did great,” I said to Trevor. “I’m sure you’ll get the lead.”
Trevor grinned. “I hope so. You did all right, too.”
“Thanks.” I looked at my feet. Now what should I say?
“See you in rehearsals,” Trevor said. He followed his friends out of the theater.
“Did you hear that?” I turned to my friends.
“Well, of course he’s going to see you in rehearsals,” Harrison said. “He’s going to see all of us in rehearsals.”
“Yeah, but he didn’t say it to you, did he?” I said. Harrison was being completely annoying.
“I hope I see Silent British Boy in rehearsals,” Kelly said. “And I hope he’s un-silent.”
“Ooo, me too,” Amanda agreed.
The only person I wanted to see was Trevor.
Final YA version, 2015:
“That’s it, people!” Ms. Sharp says. “Check the bulletin board outside the theater tomorrow. Casting should be posted by noon. Remember! There are no small parts, only small players.”
I roll my eyes. Easy for her to say. Her entire life isn’t riding on this one play. No way will one of Ms. Sharp’s former Broadway director friends recommend someone who lands a pea-sized role. Or worse—chorus.
We stand up to leave. Silent Hollywood Guy brushes past without seeing any of us. Trevor follows, the Grimaldis trailing after him. I try to look like I’m super busy with . . . picking lint off my top.
“Hey, Case,” he says in that melting-chocolate voice. “Nice job.”
I pry off a really stuck ball of fuzz and finally look up at him. “Thanks. You too. I’m sure you’ll get the lead.” It’s stating the obvious, and I say it in as bland a voice as I can muster.
Trevor’s giving me a look like I just handed him the part along with a million dollars and the key to Broadway and a vocal role in the next huge Disney animated film. “I hope so.”
False modesty. He knows he’s getting the lead. I’d usually feel the same way about myself, but it takes everything I have to force a smile right now.
“See you in rehearsals,” Trevor says, grazing his fingers across my arm as he follows the Grimaldis out of the theater. My traitor skin breaks out in goose bumps.
“I hope I see Silent Hollywood Guy in rehearsals,” Kelly says. “And I hope he’s un-silent.”
“Ooh, me too,” Amanda agrees.
As we walk up the aisle, Gabby flies past us, somehow managing to knock my purse off my shoulder. I reach down for it, and when I look up again, she’s shoulder to shoulder with Trevor up ahead.
Not my problem to deal with anymore. And that makes me smile for real.
Casey Fitzgerald has always been an actress. She's known it was her destiny ever since she snagged the role of "apple" in her kindergarten's production of The Food Pyramid. But when she doesn't get the lead in her performing arts high school's production of The Sound of Music, she begins to question everything. Not getting the lead means no recommendations, and no recommendations means she can kiss good-bye any chance of getting a scholarship to the prestigious New York College of Performing Arts.
After some soul searching and some wise words from her friend Harrison, Casey decides to totally reinvent herself. She's already ditched her on-again off-again boyfriend Trevor and is interested in the new boy at school, so why not start fresh with everything? But every new destiny she tries doesn't seem quite right. And when her best friend, Amanda, who did get the lead, starts hanging out with Trevor, Casey's not sure if she'll ever be able to leave the drama behind.
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