One of my friends and colleagues, Kristen Bird, has just launched her debut novel, The Night She Went Missing, and dear reader, it is wonderful. If you like suspenseful mysteries with strong female characters and a compelling plot set in the otherworldly bubble of elite private schools, then this one is for you.
You’ll hear more from me later about this book, but for today, I’m turning the metaphorical microphone over to Kristen so she can drop some immense wisdom about the writing process. Enjoy.
Keep Writing by Kristen Bird
I wrote my first full-length novel as a creative writing thesis for the final project for my master’s in literature, and I queried it in the days when some literary agents still only wanted mailed submissions. That was almost fifteen years ago. After numerous rejections, I didn’t write much. Instead, I did the kinds of things many adults do: I got a real job (teaching high-school English), I paid bills, I went grocery shopping, I endured infertility treatments, and I had three babies in three years—the last two, twins.
But after all that adulting, I found myself returning to write as a therapeutic outlet. Having an hour to myself to drink coffee and enter another world—one that didn’t ask anything of me—became my escape. From the times my twins were two until they were five, I worked on a historical novel, one that involved tedious—and thrilling, to me—research about the early 1900s in New York City. I would later fall in love with the novel The Golem & The Jinni by Helene Wecker because the setting felt so familiar.
Though it took me years to complete this novel, I wasn’t in a hurry. My kids let me sleep (sometimes), and about once every other week, I would scribble away for an hour or two. I knew I was writing that book for me, though I secretly hoped someone would someday read it. That didn’t keep me from becoming fully invested in the querying process when I finally decided I’d revised the book as much as I knew how. When I started querying this second full-length manuscript, I finally began to understand the slow pace of the publishing industry. I would do equations like this: if I send this query to an agent and that agent takes 6-8 weeks to respond before I send it to another agent who takes 3-6 months to respond, how long before I give up in despair?
With that second full-length manuscript, I had a few bites, a few partial requests, a couple full requests. Some agents told me the writing was good. I didn’t believe them because they also rejected me. Some told me that the whole process of querying is subjective. I didn’t believe that either. One night after receiving a rejection from an agent I idolized, I ended up in my bed sobbing, proclaiming that I was giving up. No more writing. No more querying. I couldn’t face rejection anymore.
That lasted a week because, as writers know, we must write.
For my third full-length manuscript, I decided I would be the person who would keep writing and keep querying until something happened. I hadn’t yet listened to writing podcasts in which published authors often talk about not getting published until their second, third, or ninth novel. I didn’t know that could be normal.
If I was going to keep writing and querying, I knew I would have to write a lot faster than one novel every four or five years. I switched to a contemporary setting and voice, the benefit being that I had a lot less to research, and I decided I would write quickly and revise quickly. My daughters were turning six and nine, which was a game-changer in so many ways. I was finally getting consistent sleep, I was eating full meals without a child throwing a tantrum on the floor, and I was getting to have actual conversations with other grown-ups. I was determined to finish this new project, a contemporary suspense novel, in a few months.
The Night She Went Missing is the book that finally landed me an agent and a publisher, and though the process may look fast to some, it’s been a rather slow but event-filled fifteen years in the making. In the middle of waiting to be published, I’ve had three daughters, taught hundreds of students, and built a life with a great guy. Publishing—along with any other dreams—doesn’t come fast or easy for most writers, including myself, so I’ve learned it’s important to enjoy the life that happens in midst of the waiting—and to keep writing, no matter what.
The Night She Went Missing by Kristen Bird, 2022 from Mira Books. ISBN-10 : 0778332101 ISBN-13 : 978-0778332107
Kristen Bird lives outside of Houston, Texas with her husband and three daughters. She earned her bachelor’s degree in music and mass media before completing a master’s in literature. She teaches high school English and writes with a cup of coffee in hand. In her free time, she likes to visit parks with her three daughters, watch quirky films with her husband, and attempt to keep pace with her rescue lab-mixes. The Night She Went Missing is her debut novel.