I love hearing about how writers come up with their ideas. Learning about other people’s creative processes is endlessly fascinating to me. I wish I had a cooler story about how I came up with the idea for FIRSTS, but the truth is, it just kind of hit me one day out of the blue and kept me in its clutches until I agreed to write it. I swirled it around in my head, thinking, what if there was a book about a girl who wanted to give guys the perfect first time? What would that even look like?
I was about to find out.
At the time, I had just finished writing my second New Adult contemporary. I figured I’d take some time away from writing to polish it and start querying. My first attempt at querying (with a different New Adult project) hadn’t resulted in representation, so I was feeling a bit discouraged with writing. Honestly, I felt like I had nothing left to lose, so I decided to write that story that had been taking up residence in my brain.
Writing FAST GIRL (the original title for FIRSTS) was completely different than writing either of the New Adult contemporaries. It was a total fast and furious pantsing experience. The only things I knew before writing down a single word were the hook (a girl who wants to give guys the perfect first time), and the main character’s name, Mercedes. The plot and other characters and details just kind of happened, which was both surprising and awesome. I was shocked at how well I knew Mercedes when I hadn’t spent that much time with her. In my other writing attempts, it took me considerably longer to know my main characters. But Mercedes clung on like a barnacle and I couldn’t shake her loose.
It took me three weeks to write the book. I think the reason I was able to write quickly was because I felt no pressure from myself. The novel that became FIRSTS was my, well, first attempt at Young Adult, and I figured if it was crap, I could use it as a learning experience and write the next one. And the other reason? Because I was having fun. I wasn’t letting my inner editor run the show. In fact, I basically gave her the middle finger and told her to take a hike.
Because I had nothing to lose and wanted to see the kind of reaction my book would get (would people like it, or think it’s crazy?), I decided to enter FAST GIRL into a contest called Pitch Wars, run by the inimitable Brenda Drake. (Seriously, Brenda is such a positive fixture in the writing community. She’s amazing.) I almost didn’t hit “Send” on those applications to the mentors I had carefully selected because, well, self-doubt is a real thing. But eventually, I told myself, what’s the worst that could happen? So I hit “Send” and ran away from my computer. (Literally, it was a mad dash.) Later, I was blown away when I was chosen by two mentors, Lori Goldstein (whose fabulous debut, BECOMING JINN, is out now!) and Evelyn Skye (fellow Sweet Sixteen author of THE CROWN’S GAME).
Before Pitch Wars, I had never had another writer read my manuscript. I had no critique partners and basically, no clue how to revise a manuscript besides fixing spelling errors. (Shameful, I know.) But working with Lori and Evelyn taught me so much. Under their guidance, FAST GIRL took shape and turned into FIRSTS, a book that led me to my wonderful agent, Kathleen Rushall, and publication with Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press in January 2016.
That’s the very condensed version of how FIRSTS came to be. In any publication journey, there are countless headaches and revision stress and gaping plot holes and fear and doubt and cups of coffee and bottles of wine (hey, don’t judge). Mine was no different. But when I look back at how mine came together, I wouldn’t change a single thing.