July 14, 2015
Welcome to our BEYOND THE PAGE series, a tell-all about the process of turning a manuscript into a published book. Our first entry comes from the author herself. Catrina Burgess used to be a lighthearted writer…but not anymore. Find out the inspiration behind her YA Horror series, the Dark Rituals. Take it away, Cat!
About five years ago, I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue. I was so sick I wasn’t able to write for a couple years. To put it simply, chronic fatigue changes your whole life. You go from being a high energy person who can swim fifty laps in the pool every other day and work twelve hours on the computer, to someone who can’t stand for longer than five minutes. You lose who you are and become someone who stays in the house most of the time and has to spend a great deal of that time lying or sitting down. I’ve always been a big reader, and sitting and reading is not a bad way to spend a day, but the fatigue made it hard for me to read. It takes a lot of brainpower to sit down and read a whole book. There were many days when I didn’t have the energy. With all these things you can no longer do, all these parts of you that you lose, you end up having some very dark days. Days where depressing thoughts swirl through your head.
Every year I started to get a little better, and after a couple years, I found I was well enough to start writing again. Before my chronic fatigue diagnosis, I wrote romantic stories. The worlds I created were light-hearted and fun. There was little darkness in them. But since I was struggling in my own life, I decided to take all that angst—all the darkness and anger I felt because I could no longer do things I loved—and pour it into my story and characters. The story whizzing around my head was full of drama, paranormal events, and horror.
When I was putting pen to paper, I thought it would be fun to write the story from a young-adult perspective. I sent my teenage nieces the story as I worked on it. At the time, I only intended for my writing to entertain myself and them. When the story was done, I happened to stumble across Wattpad. It seemed like a fun place where writers and readers hang out, share ideas, and critique stories. I wondered for the first time if anyone else might like my crazy little story, called Awakening. It took me two weeks to work up the nerve to start posting on Wattpad. I was worried readers would hate it, or worse, laugh at me because they thought the story was silly. My nieces liked it, but let’s face it—they have to say that because they’re family. Once I started posting chapters, readers started leaving comments telling me how much they liked it, too. It was the best feeling ever!
When I uploaded the last chapter of Awakening and hit that “complete” button on Wattpad, I realized the story wasn’t finished. I knew I had a lot more of Colina’s journey to tell. So I started working on a second book. And halfway through book two, I realized that there was no way I could get the whole thing finished in two books and whammo—I suddenly was thinking about a third book. At the end of book three, to my surprise, I still had ideas for a fourth book. So, that’s how the Dark Rituals series started. It was a way for me to release my dark thoughts and escape the small world chronic fatigue forced me into.
After gaining some confidence in my work, I submitted Awakening to Wattpad HQ in hopes of becoming a featured author and was accepted! A year later, I saw a posting about the “Wattpad Prize” contest. I hadn’t entered a writing contest in a really long time, but I was on a roll after being featured and I figured, what did I have to lose? I definitely didn’t think I had a chance of winning. So when I got an email saying I was one of ten winners for the 2014 Wattpad Prize and that Awakening had won Best Suspense, no one was more shocked than me. I remember when I read the email to my family I had tears in my eyes. This crazy little story I had started writing to keep me sane, the story I was so sure everyone would think was stupid, had just won a writing contest!
Not long after I won the contest, I got an email from Jane Arbogast, Assistant Editor at Full Fathom Five Digital. She said she’d seen the story and that FFFDig was interested in acquiring it. I remember dancing around the room when I got that email. And now the Dark Rituals series is coming out from Full Fathom Five Digital starting this October.
I’ve received quite a few emails from other writers asking, “What happens after you sign with a publisher?” There’s a lot of information on the internet telling you how to submit your work to agents and publishers, but not many people talk about what happens after you sign. So, I thought it would be fun to go beyond the page and let you peek into the process that goes along with getting a book (series!) published. The staff at FFFDig was cool enough to agree to blog about different aspects of their jobs and about the process. Some of the entries will be from me, and some of them will come straight from the FFFDig staff. If you have any questions along the way, don’t be afraid to ask them.
Stay tuned next week as our BEYOND THE PAGE series continues. Next Tuesday, Assistant Editor Jane Arbogast tells us how she goes about finding stories for FFF Digital.
What is BEYOND THE PAGE?
Ever wonder what happens after you sign with a publishing house? Catrina Burgess, author of The Dark Rituals series coming this October, has convinced us to give you a behind-the-scenes look at how a manuscript becomes a finished book. Tune in every Tuesday for a new installment, and check out the series on the author’s blog at catrinaburgess.com!
Catch up here: