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eight years writing

I came up on this anniversary a month or two ago and thought, “I should write a post about that!” and then I worked on an actual book instead.

I’ve been writing for longer than eight years–since I was small–but I have been writing seriously for eight years now. By “seriously,” I mean several hours every day except Sunday, with the hope of getting published.

Eight years.

That’s a long time.

I wrote on the computer in our student apartment while my first baby slept next to me. I was so worried about him that I wheeled him around in a bassinet to wherever I was, even while he was sleeping, so I could watch him and take care of him. Neither of us slept much that first year, but somehow we both managed to dream.

I wrote in the tiny basement apartment where we moved next, where the computer was smashed right up next to the bed. I hurried out to the mailbox every day so the people upstairs wouldn’t get the mail first, because I was embarrassed for them to see all the manila-enveloped rejections coming back day after day.

I wrote in the sorority where we were the house parents for the lovely sisters of KKG, in between their knocks on the door and the second baby crying and the sounds of frat boys and parties out in the hall. In those tiny two rooms off the entrance to the house, I wrote two books and slept even less.

I wrote in my own office for nine months in our first house (bliss!) before I happily gave it up (the office, not the writing) for the third little one to have a room.

I moved to a corner of the basement and kept writing. I wrote MATCHED. I knew it wasn’t a good fit for my regional publisher, and I was scared.

I took a deep breath and started to query again, relieved that this time we didn’t share a mailbox with anyone else.

And, almost seven years after I started, I finally had an agent for the very first time.

Now another year has passed and my book is out in the world.

If I could have shaken the magic eight ball back when I began and asked, “Will I ever be published nationally?” and seen the answer float up “yes,” I might not have believed it.

Sometimes I still don’t believe it now.

So if it feels like it is taking a long time, hang in there. Can you do it?

The answer is “yes.”

+ comments (33)
  • ShariArnold
    January 25, 2011

    Thank you for this Ally! Great post.
    And you deserve all the success!

  • JenniElyse
    January 25, 2011

    That was a wonderful post. So hopeful! Way to be persistent and hang in there! 🙂

  • Keary Taylor
    January 25, 2011

    You are amazing Ally! And such an inspiration!

  • Ruth
    January 25, 2011

    Thank you for the encouraging post. Congrats on the fruits of your hard work.

  • Charlie
    January 25, 2011

    Congratulations! Hearing that it took you so many years is good for motivation, even if it is a long time there can still be light at the end of the tunnel.

  • Beth
    January 25, 2011

    Such a lovely post!!

  • Steph
    January 25, 2011

    I love this post–it’s so inspiring! Congratulations!

  • Cate Gardner
    January 25, 2011

    I love posts like these. Keep shaking the magic 8.

  • Melissa
    January 25, 2011

    It’s so encouraging to read posts like this. I’m glad you found success after all those years of writing:)

  • Debbie
    January 25, 2011

    Congrats on 8 years of hard work and many fun books along the way! 🙂

  • CarolineStarrRose
    January 25, 2011

    Yay, you! It took me almost twelve years to sell my first book.

  • Candice
    January 25, 2011

    Thanks for this, Ally. It’s this kind of inspiration that keeps me going.

  • Shari
    January 25, 2011

    Thank you, Ally. You have no idea how much I needed to hear that today. (The eight ball would probably have told me no, but I would have kept going anyway, ’cause I’m like that.)

  • Emily
    January 25, 2011

    Thank you for this. It is very inspiring. I’m very impressed that you continued to write through three babies! I’m sure that I would’ve given up.

    You are an inspiration. Thank you again.

  • Melanie Jacobson
    January 25, 2011

    I’m glad you wrote. I’m glad it’s lead to Matched. I’ve read so much YA lately that I’ve had to abandon, it was a wonderful gift to be able to put your book in the hands of the different young women who babysit for me and feel good about it.

    You were the very first author who ever offered me help or advice (three years ago?) when I started writing and now I have two books coming out this year. Thanks for being kind.

  • Kelly Allan
    January 25, 2011

    Gaw…this makes me feel depressed and hopeful all at the same time.

  • warnagirl
    January 25, 2011

    I also really enjoyed this post and appreciate the time you take out of your busy schedule to keep in touch with all of us. Congratulations on a dream come true! Like Melanie Jacobson I have had my share of dissapointments when it comes to reading YA; so I loved the beauty and cleanliness of Matched. Thanks for a wonderful story!

  • Susan Auten
    January 25, 2011

    You wrote this for me. I got my third rejection letter today and I feel like giving up.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  • Kelly Allan
    January 25, 2011

    Besides perseverance and time, what is something that you’ve learned over the years that you could share with us…about writing?

  • Joan White
    January 25, 2011

    Ally! You are amazing. You give hope to those who are trying to push their way to the top – in any phase of life – whether it is writing a book, going back to school, or just trying to accomplish something in this lifetime. THANK YOU! &…sorry I missed your book signing, if I was better @ keeping up with things I would have for sure been there! You are so lovely….you deserve the attention and any rewards that come with it.

  • Dawn
    January 25, 2011

    Thank you for this post, Ally! I loved Matched, and I’m going through my own query process right now to get an agent for my first book. Five rejections so far, and though it is disheartening, the fiction is worth it. Your encouragement is a great boost for someone like me.

  • Karen_St_Louis
    January 25, 2011

    All right, your post gives away the secret to your success – you just don’t bother with sleep! I, unfortunately, LOVE sleep. Maybe that’s what’s holding me back.

    Has it been fun having your dream turn to reality, or like all dreams is the reality not what you expected? (I know you’ve blogged about the difference between expectations and reality before…)

  • Heather Macbeth
    January 26, 2011

    Thank you for your post. It has helped me to have hope in a world that has lost a lot of hope. I would love to get published, but I have to remind myself that it may not actually happen. I just have to love the adventure along the way.

    I finished Matched last night. It was soooo good. November won’t come soon enough. I really need the next book. 🙂 Can’t wait to meet you in Raleigh!

  • becca
    January 26, 2011

    Love this. Love the visuals… and your words (always).

  • Maegan
    January 26, 2011

    Thank you for this post, Ally. I’ve been writing seriously for 3 years, been working on the first draft of my first book for awhile now. Reading this strengthened my resolve to stick with it for as long as it takes. It’s a good thing for us that you hung in there: MATCHED was wonderful and I can’t wait for CROSSED.

  • Melissa
    January 26, 2011

    Don’t forget that you have not only succeeded in becoming published nationally, but internationally! As your wonderful book MATCHED sits on my bookshelf in a small town in South Australia!
    So glad you continued to write, even when it seemed like an impossible dream.

    • ally
      January 26, 2011

      Oh, thank you Melissa! That is so fun that you have MATCHED in Australia! Truly a dream come true to know someone in another country enjoyed it.

  • Emy Shin
    January 27, 2011

    Thank you so much for sharing this heart-felt post with us, Ally. Reading it gives me hope and the push to continue.

  • doreen
    January 27, 2011

    I teared up when I read this post. I was on a blog the other day and it seemed people were making you out to be a rich lady, who just tried her hand at writing out of boredom. Yes, I couldnt help but say, wow, how lucky she is. Just read Matched and boy did I cry. I dont want to state the scene where I cried, because of spoilers, but it has something to do with someone calling someone’s name and pointing to the sky. Sweet mercies, that was one of the most beautiful things I have ever read.
    This post was so honest and so heartfelt and I am glad I read it because now I feel I know you better. You deserve all your success and I hope more comes your way.

  • HeatherS
    January 28, 2011

    Have any of the loveyly ladies of KKG noticed that you are the author of Matched?

  • Kimberly M.
    January 31, 2011

    Thank you so much for this post. I really needed to hear (read) those last words tonight. Your life sounds eerily similar to mine, and more than once I’ve almost given up on my writing simply because I get frustrated when “life” gets in the way. Yet I always seem to find my way back into my fictional world when the chaos finally settles. I suppose that’s the nature of our art…we must first LIVE in order to CREATE.

    Anyway, keep up the great work. I’m on the last few chapters of “Matched,” and I must say that I absolutely love the story and can’t wait to read more of Cassia’s story.

    Take care!


  • amy parker
    February 6, 2011

    Great post, very encouraging. I am two years in, writing from a tiny corner in my bedroom with my two kids playing close by-you give me hope that I can follow my dream while mothering small people. Got my first rejection letter this week-your post is helping me soldier on!

  • ValerieIpson
    March 4, 2011

    I’m currently reading Matched and decided to check out your blog. I love this post and it is so awesome to watch your success!!!

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