Dunne Being Published: My Story

5/02/2016 01:30:00 PM Lexie Dunne 2 Comments

So the fun part of being 98% done with a novel is that your brain becomes a mix of Swiss cheese and cottage cheese. Showering is a thing that happens to other people. Food is whatever’s nearest your hand. If you’re lucky, it’s edible. If you’re unlucky, it won’t even be a good source of fiber.

On Twitter, Teresa Frohock and James Kendley were discussing their paths to publication, when I chimed in. James asked for receipts, but due to the aforementioned my brain is cheese and smells bad problem, I cannot actually remember if I have written down the path I took to publication on this blog or not. I think I have, but my Google Fu is failing me. SO. Let’s talk about how I got published because it’s a funny story. Or, if you’ve been pounding the pavement and trying to get published for years, it’s an anger-making story.

It started in 1995 in North Carolina, when I was eleven and Mrs. Brock handed out an assignment to write and illustrate a children’s book. I was supposed to work with my fellow Babysitter’s Club enthusiasts Jenny and Jackie, but I sat down one afternoon at my Fisher Price convertible pool table (with table tennis boards on it) and wrote my own story, filling up several pages of notebook paper front and back. The project was called MY SCHOOL GYM IS HAUNTED, and it was the first and only time I ever met a deadline.

In middle school I made a new friend who loved science fiction and writing. As young nerds are wont to do, we talked about books, obsessed over the new Star Wars movie coming out soon, and wrote stories back and forth. I continued to write about anything that struck my fancy 1, and my parents purchased a Brother Word Processor for all of us to use, which mercifully could save files so I didn’t have to keep the whole house up writing away (it was a typewriter that would type out whatever you wrote on the screen). At fifteen, I wrote my first fanfic in Driver’s Ed.2 I’d written novels about aliens and an entire project about my friends that was essentially poorly-disguised Pern fic, and I just kept going.

I was introduced to Nanowrimo in my first semester of college. In 2002, I finished The Dragon’s Gift3 with two hours to spare. I won again in 2004, and then not again until 2008, with a story that had a super-long title. I started on November 1st because there was nothing to do in the Hamptons after Labor Day. On December 10th, I finished and set the book aside to work on other projects. I did eventually perform some edits, thinking maybe I should publish this book, but eventually it wound up stuck in a drawer.

Fast forward to 2012. I’ve been active in fanfiction this entire time, have written a magnum opus that wound up being four books long and clocking in at 473,000 words. A fandom friend I met because of this heartbreaking work of staggering WHY GOD WHY sent me a press release that Harper Voyager was setting up a digital imprint and was therefore accepting unsolicited manuscripts for two weeks. I didn’t have much time. Feverishly, I tried to edit as much of the 2008 Nanowrimo project as I could, realized that was never going to work, said “screw it.” I wrote a query letter and submitted it, six days before my 28th birthday. We were told that due to high volume, they wouldn’t contact rejected writers, so if three months passed, assume you lost. Because I didn’t want to obsess, I did my best to stop thinking about it.

I feel like I need to stop and talk about some things here. The first being that I’ve wanted to be a published author since about 13, but when the time came to put myself out there, I always balked. I’m lucky to have amazing parents who have always supported me, and a wonderful group of friends and family that do the same. But I never seriously tried to get published because I couldn’t fail if I didn’t try. So submitting to this contest was a way to say I tried, it didn’t work because it was an impossible shot that would never happen, back to writing fic, aw shucks. There was going to be a massive amount of entries, there was no way in hell they wanted Gail. I didn’t have to worry about it.

Turns out the joke was on me. 15 months later, on my brother’s 28th birthday, I got an email from my editor. They liked my book. They’d picked a bunch of phenomenal authors (you can see them in the sidebar) and me because they thought we were bright and had potential to grow an audience. So suddenly my never gonna happen, not in a million years scenario was very real and happening to me. My editor put me in touch with my agent, who I found incredibly terrifying at first even though she’s hilarious and nice. I met up with other authors, I was invited to come out to NY for NYCC.

Within the space of a year, I’d gone from thinking maybe I should try to get published to having SUPERHEROES ANONYMOUS on shelves with a NY editor and a NY agent. So when I say I feel like I won the lottery, that’s what I mean. I won a contest, essentially, and I became one of those people in the right place at the right time.

But saying I got lucky isn’t the whole story. Yes, I did do the bare minimum as a way to sabotage myself and wound up published anyway. BUT I have been writing consistently for twenty years. I joined writer’s groups (never panned out) and I was heavily involved with several fandoms, which introduced me to people and taught me skills that helped me as a writer. I’ve posted two to three million words of fanfiction online that has received feedback and criticism from the time I turned sixteen. I read books and blogs on writing and I applied those principles when they worked and ignored them when they didn’t. John Scalzi wrote a great post on impostor syndrome, which is something I don’t suffer from as a writer, but do struggle with as a professionally published writer.

There’s a bunch I could say here about being careful what you wish for4, but that’s a blog post for another day. Every writer’s story is different, which makes sense. Every writer has something new to say, and we can’t all express it the same way. As for me, my story’s going to keep changing the older I get and the more new experiences I add to it. And when I say I got lucky, I mean it. But what I got lucky over isn’t that I got published. I got lucky that I was really terrible at sabotaging myself.

And also I got lucky finding the agent and editor that I did because screw it, they’re amazing.

Stay sexy!

1 Dragons. Dragons are what I fancied. Seriously. All dragons. Every book I wrote as a kid? Dragons.
2 Thanks to staying up all night to read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, I failed my first driving test.
3 Which none of you will ever see.
4 In 2014, I started having spells where I had a hard time breathing, which it turns out is a symptom of anxiety and you should definitely see your doctor if the same thing is happening to you.


  1. Oh you have me in tears!

    You failed your driving test because you stayed up all night reading?

    I told you so... (that you would be a published author)!

    1. This is your fault because you got the copy of GOF first, Mom. JUST SO YOU KNOW. And thank you.


Please keep it PG. My mom reads this blog.