Let me start by saying that experiences may vary. This is not a definitive treatise on the matter, but my experience with my latest book. Had I been a celebrity the process would have been very different.
Ten years ago I opened a document on my computer and typed the following:
Once Upon a Princess
The ballroom was dazzling. I stood at the top of the stairs and looked in wonder at the scene below. The women were in beautiful gowns, the men in tuxedos. “Her Royal Highness, the Princess Fredericka,” the footman announced, and every eye turned my way. I descended the steps gracefully, right to arms of the waiting prince. The musicians started playing again and the prince and I began to dance. We danced as if we were floating.
“Fritzi, Fritzi, Wake up.” I opened one eye to the midnight blackness of my room, then closed it again, trying to get the beautiful scenes of my dream to stay in my head; it didn’t work. It was a dream. All that grace and beauty was a dream. The ball hadn’t been a dream though. That had been last night. But the graceful princess who had captivated everyone’s attention and danced dreamily with Prince Eduard had not been me, it had been my older sister, Alessandra. Alessandra was everything I was not. She was graceful and blonde and beautiful. She was 15 and looking more like our mother every day. I was 10 with wild red hair and a tendency to bump into things and fall down.
“Fritzi!” Mam’s voice sounded urgent.
“Ummm,” I managed to mumble. Why was Mam waking me up? We hadn’t gone to bed until well past midnight. I knew it couldn’t be time to get up yet. I opened both eyes this time. It was still dark out. The sun wasn’t even beginning to peak over the mountaintops yet. I turned and saw the numbers glowing green on my clock. 4:03. Why on earth would my mother wake me at 4 in the morning?
“You must get up. We need to go.”
“Go where?” I asked sleepily and rolled over, trying to pull the covers over my head.
Mam pulled the covers back down. “I’m sorry sweetheart. I know you’re tired. But there’s trouble. We need to leave.”
“Is the castle on fire?” I asked urgently, sitting up.
“No dear. But there is trouble, we must go.”
“What kind of trouble.”
“The kind that means we have to go.” Mam answered, which meant that she wasn’t going to be telling me anything else, at least not right now.
I wrote a few more pages after that, and then the story sat, unfinished for several years. Hey, life gets in the way, that’s how things go.
Interestingly I had a title already picked out from the get-go. That is not always the case.
The premise of the story, then as now, was that instead of a regular girl waking up one day to find out she’s a princess, a princess wakes up to find out she’s just a regular girl.
When I picked the story back up again a few years later I made some changes, Fritzi got a few years older, her sister got a new name and I finished the story. A big part of the story, at that time, was Fritzi’s mad dash back to Europe to save her country, while trying to stay one step ahead of the bad guys. I sent the story to my trusty beta readers and they liked it so I started querying agents.
Trying to interest an agent (in my experience) is nerve-wracking and frustrating. There is a lot of waiting to hear back from the agents you have queried and a lot of time the answer is “no, sorry” or even no response at all.
With ONCE UPON A PRINCESS I got what I had always dreamed of…. an agent signed me.
Tune in for part two to find out what happened next…..