I was 14 years old when I started writing seriously, finishing the first draft of my novel, then called Take Me As I Am, in all of ...

My Success Story

I was 14 years old when I started writing seriously, finishing the first draft of my novel, then called Take Me As I Am, in all of two weeks. I researched publishing, prettied up my little baby (weighing in at a robust 14,000 words), and figured I’d have my name in print within the year.

Didn’t happen.

I set the story aside for a while and worked on a few other projects, but I could never not return to that story. Take Me As I Am went through multiple revisions and expansions and reductions and more revisions. There were two name changes (Sketchy Moments, then Low Expectations), as I attempted to thoroughly, but not cheesily, capture the primary emotions of the story. I reworked the plot, rearranged the POVs, and painted and polished the growing word count, now almost thick enough to actually call my little story a novel.

I was around seventeen and I had a book that I truly believed could succeed. I queried like mad.

I got only one request and even that eventually fell through.

I took a break from querying and set the story aside for a while. Just before I turned eighteen, I pulled it out again, reviewing the first few chapters to submit to a contest I’d found online: YoungArts. I claimed to be entering for the scholarship—and I was—but I think, more than that, I was secretly searching for affirmation. What I hadn’t realized about all that time surrounded by nothing but rejections and no-replies was that I was losing faith in my story. I was beginning to think it was a first-book flop, that it would never be good enough for publication, that it wasn’t a story that mattered enough to continue to pursue. When I wrote to YoungArts, I think I was quietly desperate to know that my story was worthwhile.

When I won a Merit Award (sort of equivalent to third place as a YoungArts winner), I was actually disappointed. At first, I thought that meant that I still wasn’t good enough. Then I went to Miami, and for the first time, I actually read my story aloud to people. I was nervous as all get out, and I barely breathed during my first reading. But most of the people I directly interacted with were actually moved by it. When I did my official performance for the YoungArts exhibition, a lady came up to me after the performance, kissed me on the cheek, and said that I had moved her to tears. Others spoke similarly highly of my character and of my writing skill. Suddenly, publication seemed possible. Maybe there actually was a grain of worth, hidden somewhere in the story.

I set back to work. This time. This time I had it right. This time, I knew what I was doing. This time, I would finally see my boy, Elliot, in print.

I submitted to my dream publisher; the story was rejected because Elliot’s age didn’t fit their YA line. I went to a conference and met with my dream agent, who really seemed to understand the vision for my book. I sent her the first 50 pages; she enjoyed them… but didn’t see a place in the market for the story.

I was back to the drawing board.

This sounds like the part where I’m “discovered on the street”: an editor stumbles across my blog, falls madly in love with my story, and desperately wants to publish my book. This… has not happened. The biggest news I’ve got is that I finished my book proposal and submitted it to my new dream publisher in the hopes that they’ll take it on.

That kind of success isn’t what this post is about.

When I began to seriously consider publishing the story that’s now called Low Expectations, I wanted it to be a story that made a difference. One that would touch someone’s soul, allow me to witness for Christ, or just bring a little joy to someone who was down. Right around the time I started querying, I actually remember writing those feelings down: I would consider Elliot’s story a success if it touched just one person’s life.

Last summer, I made it a point to reach out to online writers’ groups every week as a way to grow my platform, answer younger writers’ questions, and get back into the online writer community. That was when the success began.

At least once every week, I was able to answer another writer’s question specifically because of my journey. I was able to encourage discouraged writers, because I too had spent years writing without seeing any obvious wins, but I was still striving towards my goal. I was able to bolster a writer who felt she had no right to write her story, because I too had gone through those feelings of inadequacy and had pushed my own inferiority aside, releasing the story I believed God had given me to His hands and His timing. I was able to share Elliot’s story on my blog and see even those snippets bring people some form of joy.

Over the years, I’ve imagined several versions of a success story for Low Expectations and not one of those lofty ideas has occurred. But when I look back, I begin to see God’s success story. I see that Low Expectations has already done everything I set out for it to do. As Elliot’s struggles became mine, I shared and solved them. As his disappointments pushed me further, I was able to reach back and urge others on. As his triumphs reminded me of God’s grace and goodness, I was reaffirmed in what I know I believe and reminded to both act on and share those beliefs.

On Monday, I posted the song “Want What You Want,” because I wanted to be a published teen author. But I’m twenty years old and still unpublished, with only a query, proposal, and a prayer to my name. Yet, as I look back on my writing years, I begin to see what God wanted. I begin to see His success story.

Does this mean I don’t want Low Expectations to be published? Absolutely not! There’s a lot more Elliot can do, and I believe that God will make the way for Low Expectations to do all those epic other things—but only in God’s perfect timing. For now, today, on this blog, this is where God has the story of Low Expectations, Elliot, and me.

And this story is already a success.

Tell me about your writing goals and dreams! Have you been able to see success in what you hoped to do? Whether you believe it or not, I believe that God’s working on a plan for the incredible things He is calling you to, and it’s gonna be pretty awesome when it all turns out. I can’t wait to hear from you, and I will see you in the comment section!

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  1. You are definitely successful. Anyone who puts their heart and effort into a story like you has earned that label. I'm glad that you know that. I know your going to get your book published one day. Hard work does get recognized and you have definitely earned it! Thanks for sharing this, it was really encouraging. <33333

    1. Thank you so much!! <3 I really appreciate that. :D And you're absolutely welcome; I'm glad the post encouraged you. :)

  2. I love all three of your titles for the book :) This is a great post... I do hope you are able to publish it someday, Alexa! Rejections are hard, but not the end of the path :) There's still hope while you love your story :)

    1. Thank you so much!!!! :D

      And agreed: I still love this story with all the writer that's in me, so I'm definitely going to keep working towards it. :D

  3. This is a refreshing take on a success story. I have yet to have a story I just want to publish so it's admirable to see others who are passionate about their creations. I hope the world gets to see this story!

    1. Thank you so much!! :D And keep working at it! If you keep on writing, I believe you will eventually come to the story that you were meant to tell. :)

      Keep me posted on your writing journeys. :)

  4. This post was beautiful. And you /are/ successful. I love that you're seeing what God wants of you in all this. I've never gotten any books to a point where I could even attempt to query them. :P I'm excited to get to that point, but also nervous....*sighs* This gives me hope, though, because it's not all about publication. It's about reaching people. And I believe you will be published someday...your stories sound brilliant. <3

    1. Thank you!!! <3 Seriously, that means a lot. I'm so glad it brought you hope!

      Yeah, it's a scary process, but I think it does get easier as you do it. If you already know your story is successful, you already know it's good, the rejections don't feel so much like a rejection of you or your story. Just God saying, "Not this one. Not yet."


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