I knew I wanted to be a writer from the moment I saw Romancing the Stone. The scene where she finishes her book and celebrates with her cat and an airplane bottle of booze? I was so on board with that.
By the time I was twenty, I had about a dozen "starts" to novels. But I never got past that thirty page hump before another idea distracted me. My characters would inevitably end up in a diner somewhere deciding what to order, while I decided what to do with them (I didn't plot back then).
I bought lots of books on writing. I took courses and workshops. I wondered why it all seemed so difficult. Why even bother? I thought. I didn't have any experience, no credentials, no contacts...nothing. I hadn't even finished a book yet. All I did was talk about wanting to be a writer. What made me think I could get published?
The thing is, I really loved a lot of the ideas I had for books. If only the process was easier!
When I turned thirty I decided to focus. I chose to write something that I loved reading. When I was a teen I read voraciously. From Enid Blyton to Jackie Collins, but mostly what would be considered "Young Adult." I sat down and quickly wrote and finished a young adult trilogy (if you call four years quick, that is. Ha.). I sent it out to a couple of agents, a few publishers. I received complimentary rejections, but still, they were rejections.
I consulted my "idea file" for something else that would hold my interest long enough to finish it. One of the ideas was titled "Diary of the Dearly Departed" and I'd jotted down a question: "What if Bridget Jones was a vampire?" Hmm, I thought. That's kinda fun.
So I wrote it. The Writer's Digest Novel Writing Course helped get me started, but after the first fifty pages I was on my own. I finished it up in about a year from beginning to end. I was very happy with how it turned out, so I researched the market like a woman possessed until I had my list of agents to query. I polished my query letter till it shone. I poked at my synopsis until it was virtually non-crappy.
The second agent I queried offered representation! The week after he sent the manuscript out we had a 2-book deal with Warner Books. I am the living proof that it is possible to get a book deal without any previous publishing experience. It's possible to get an agent by sending out a slushpile query. You just need to write a book you want to write. Make it shine. And start sending it out. If it can happen to me, it can happen to you!
As of right now, I have two books published. Bitten & Smitten was released January 2006 and Angel with Attitude came out July 2006. And I am incredibly lucky enough to get to write a sequel to my first "baby." My characters from B&S will take the stage again in Fanged & Fabulous (Summer 2007), which I've just finished writing.