I’ve heard writers and editors say the key to telling the most compelling story is asking yourself what’s the worst thing that could happen to this character, and then making that happen. It seems like easy enough advice to follow, but I’m not sure I pulled it off until yesterday. Oh sure, I mess around with the idea…Will she get her theatre? Won’t she? Of course, in the end she does. I’ve never destroyed a character’s dream. I’ve never taken the one thing the character wanted and ripped it from his or her grasp never to be seen again. It’s agonizing—for the character and me.

In my life, I avoid negative emotion as much as possible. I will walk away, shut down and completely delude myself into thinking the worst case scenario isn’t happening. I’m a focus-on-the-positive kind of gal, and my writing reflects that. Therefore, I don’t suspect the rest of my books will involve destroying my characters. But, I’d love to know what you think as a reader…

Do you appreciate a story more where the characters are brought to their knees before they get their happily ever after, or do you prefer a lighter read, where there are bumps in the road, but nothing bad enough to cause an emotional wreck?

Elley

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You’ve signed a contract. You’ve done edits. You have a release date. You feel invincible!

And then the next rejection comes.

I honestly never thought about it one way or another, but it was a weird feeling realizing that rejection would still be part of the game after publication. I mean, sure, it’s not surprising, but I think we focus so hard on getting published, we don’t always think about what happens after publication (I mean beyond becoming rich and famous, of course).

Of course, the reality of the situation is, if you plan to keep getting published, you have to keep putting your work out there. You have to keep submitting, and whether that’s to your publisher, agents, or another publisher, rejection can still be the name of the game.

I signed the contract for my first book in October of 2011. I signed the contract (with a different publisher) for my second book in July of 2012. I signed the contract for my third book in December of 2012 and I got offered a fourth contract in January of 2013…and yet, there were rejections in between all those contracts. Rejections from editors and agents. Rejections on queries, partials, and fulls. Luckily none of the rejections came from publishers whom had offered me a contract in the past, and most came from agents on projects I later sold, but that doesn’t mean rejection wasn’t a possibility (or it might not be a possibility in the future).

Rejection is always a possibility. The nice thing about rejection after publication, is you have a contract to pull out and remind yourself, gosh darn it, you’re good enough. It should also remind you that this is your career and the only way to keep building that career is to keep writing, keep improving, and keep submitting. Rejection be darned.

Nicole

My first novel took ten years to write. (If you’ve been around this blog long enough, you’ve “heard” me say that a thousand times.) Recently, I wrote my favorite manuscript (thus far) in two months—from October to December. To be honest, I didn’t know what I was doing with the first manuscript, AND it was ninety-thousand words. This last manuscript logged in at fifty-thousand words. But if you do the math, you’ll see I would’ve reached the ninety-thousand-word mark well before ten years with this one. (I’d hope so, right?)

My point is, writing does get easier with time. My question is, just how much easier?

How many quality manuscripts can I put out each year? The key word is quality. I know I can write, and I can write fast, but I also know if I’m not careful a story can fall apart in the middle. It’s not okay with me to have a strong start, a strong end and a crappy in-between. For me, keeping the middle humming is a chore. I suspect a lot of writers are like this. Critique partners, beta readers and editors help, but it’d save me so much time if I could get it right the first time through. And that takes time.

While I’m perfectly capable of writing a category-length manuscript in two months, that’s not a given, and it doesn’t mean I can write six manuscripts a year, especially if my manuscripts are selling. They don’t stay as-is for long after signing the contract. I have to factor in edits for contracted manuscripts while I’m writing the next book in a series, while I’m plotting my next brand new idea, while I’m waiting to hear back on submissions I sent out into the scary publishing world. It’s…chaotic.

Of course, it’s great fun, too.

Writing is a learning process, not just craft but also execution. More often than not, there is no answer to the burning questions, like how long does it take to write a book and how many books can be written in one year? We just have to jump in, give it a go, see what happens, and try to keep our heart rates normal while we’re panicking. 🙂

Elley

When I was doing revisions for Seven-Night Stand with my first editor, she asked if the hero’s brother had a story. (Answer: duh). But it wasn’t finished, so she asked I finish and submit it to her.

Cue: DOUBT.

I had never written anything for a specific editor before. Before, everything I wrote was mainly for me. Sure, I wrote to get published, but mainly I wrote characters I liked in places I liked with conflict I liked and didn’t think much of fitting a mold.

Writing a second book meant fitting a mold. It meant trying to avoid any of the mistakes I’d made in that first manuscript. It meant trying to impress this editor with my dazzling writing skills. I so badly wanted her to like it, to want to acquire it, that I kind of lost sight of something very important.

No manuscript is ever perfect. There will still be revisions and mistakes. That’s kind of what editors are for.

That’s not to say I could phone it in, but agonizing over every plot choice, every comma, every thing wasn’t very productive to getting the job done. At some point you have to trust yourself to write a good story, and trust your editor to see that good story beyond whatever mistakes you might want.

Because whether you agonize or don’t. Whether you stress or are completely zen about it, nothing can really control that outcome. Chances are, the second book will get accepted. And if it doesn’t? You’ve always got more books in you. Rejection isn’t the end of the world (or your career) no matter where in the publishing journey you are.

But that’s another post for another time.

Nicole

The Trouble with Older Books

February 13, 2013

I’m reading an older book by Rachel Gibson. She is a must-read for me, and how I missed this one, I’ll never know. I’m especially excited, because this older book jumps i the basis for her more recent books. I like the familiarity involve in reading series. (But that’s another post.)

As I’m reading this older book, I’m neither loving it nor hating it. I’m reading it, absorbing it, enjoying parts of it, skimming other parts. That’s the way I read EVERYTHING except a chapter I’m editing, revising or critiquing, or a book that manages to knock me out and earn a five-star rating. But last night, as I was really thinking about the pages I’d just read I realized this book might not “fly” today, at least not with reviewers and other writers. The heroine keeps a big secret from the hero, and it drags into critical parts of the book. I can just hear the outrage on Goodreads. Worse, there’s a word used by a teenage boy to convey to his mother something’s not cool. Today, in a cultural increasingly aware of the hurt caused by homophobic word choices, that word sounds like acrylic nails on a chalkboard, especially when the mother doesn’t even flinch.

I should say I’m not the most politically correct person. I certainly didn’t put the book down when I read the word, but I did wonder why the editors didn’t change it. It wouldn’t have hurt the story in the least. The word wasn’t making a statement or being used as a definitive descriptor of a character’s personality. I suspect it was tossed in there much like it was being tossed around by society at the time the book was written.

Maybe I’m wrong. (It happens quite a bit.) Maybe I’m describing a type of censorship, and I’m not onboard with that either. Maybe I’m just worrying about what I’m writing now and how it might be construed (or misconstrued) in the future. These words live on…especially in the age of the Internet.

It’s something to think about.

Elley

Here’s something that those of you in pre-published land probably don’t want to hear. Even after you’ve signed a contract and worked on your edits (sometimes even before you’ve worked on your edits) you’re still going to have to do a lot of that one thing we all hate.

Waiting.

Here are a few breakdowns of how my edits went. Now, keep in mind every publisher is different. Every editor is different. Heck, every BOOK is different. But, one thing that’s not different? WAITING.

All’s Fair:

From contract to first edits: 2 weeks

First edits to galley proof: 1.5 months

From galley to cover/final pdf: 1 month.

From cover/final pdf to release: 4 months.

Seven-Night Stand:

From contract to first edits: 3 months*

From edits to galley proof: 3.5 months*

From galley proof to cover/final pdf: One week

From galley proof to cover/final pdf: None.**

*With editors leaving, this was an anomaly for this book. I do not expect my next book to have this large of a wait.

**Because of my publisher signing a deal with another publisher, some release dates got shifted. Thus, I didn’t actually see my cover or final book until release day.

And my next book is already different. Flight Risk was contracted 12/31 and I will likely get my edits in the next few weeks so roughly a two month wait between contract and edits. But, all edits/proofs etc. must be done by the end of April, so roughly 2.5 months for the next step. Then it will release late summer.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t prepared for this. I don’t know why, but it definitely knocked me sideways. So, the lesson I’ve learned is to try to go into the process without expectations. Every book will take its own time, and that’s okay, because the contract is signed and your book WILL come out.

Best thing to do during the wait? Keep writing. Most publishers/editors don’t just want one book out of you. They want to help build your career. Keep working toward that.

Nicole

The Changing Writer

February 6, 2013

Twenty-four weeks. That’s six months, isn’t it? (Math and I don’t get along. I’m sure I said that before.) Why am I asking? Because in updating my submission tracker I noticed I’d be waiting SIX MONTHS for a response from one publisher. And that in turn got me thinking about how long it might actually take to get to a contract point should I be lucky enough to make the grade. AND THAT got me thinking about how at any given time what’s being published isn’t always representative of what a writer’s writing now. (I hope that makes sense.)

Here’s an example:

Save My Soul, my contemporary romance to be published by Crimson Romance next month, was written three years ago, during a very emotional time in my life. As such, I wanted to write a romance tinged with a bit of darkness and ambiguity, something the felt paranormal but wasn’t paranormal, something that spoke to the struggles of finding happiness despite life falling short of expectations. I’m not sure I accomplished all of those things, but questioning my own direction in life at the time I was writing, I figured at the very least there’d be authenticity in those pages. When I was finished writing, Nicole critiqued the manuscript. She gave generous feedback—as always—and left me feeling good about what I’d written. That was two years ago.

I submitted. I waited. I got rejected. I submitted again. I got rejected again, and again. I put the manuscript away. More than a year went by since I first sent the manuscript out into the world, and I decided it was time to give up. Still, something (rereading Nicole’s complimentary words, probably) had me pulling it out again. I rewrote a lot of it, using feedback from editors’ rejections, and I sent it off again.

When the manuscript sold, I was shocked. The longer I sit with that truth the more I wonder how to bridge the gap between the writer I was (when I wrote Save My Soul) and the writer I am now. (My last few manuscripts have been light, fun reads.)

Has this happened to you? Have you noticed a difference in what you’re writing now as opposed to what you were writing a few years ago? Does it worry you when it comes to building a reader fan base?

Just curious. I’m probably overthinking this like I overthink everything else. 🙂

Elley

I wanted to combine my usual Friday post on my publishing journey with my release day post, because this is a blog for writers and this book went through A LOT to get here. And, yes, this was supposed to go up Monday, but that’s just another lesson in things not going *exactly* the way you imagined, and that being totally okay.

So, anyway, here we are. Here being RELEASE DAY! Seven-Night Stand is out and about in the world. Last year at this time, I’m not sure I thought that was possible. In fact, in February of last year I got my second rejection from this book. Of the handful of agents I’d queried, none were interested in reading even a partial.

I thought this story had merit. It had been an honorable mention in the contest it was written for, and I just…liked it. I liked my hero and his dysfunctional family and I liked my heroine who wasn’t quite sure what to do with feelings. I liked my little private airfield in the middle of nowhere Kansas.

But, I didn’t know where to go from where I was, so I set it aside for a few months and focused on other things.

In May, I’d heard enough about Entangled and their success that I figured submitting my sexy category was worth a shot. An editor was interested, gave me some revisions, and I was excited. I worked with this editor on a full set of revisions and then I waited to hear back.

And then, months later, I got an email telling me my editor had left. I was definitely bummed, but these things happen and, hey, I had a contract. I waited for a while, was finally assigned a second editor and then before I even worked with her, she left (twice).

The hardest thing about changing editors is not working with someone new (editors are a pretty awesome, friendly bunch in my experience). It’s not even changing something you’d already changed once or twice. The hardest part (for me) was managing my own insecurity.

I knew my third editor had not chosen me, so to speak. She didn’t read my story in the piles of slush and think, yes! I want to work on this. And no matter how often she told me she loved it, no matter how many times her edits helped streamline the story into something strong, it was hard to let that voice go. She didn’t choose you. You’re screwing this up.

Somewhere around the billionth revision I just let that go. I stopped worrying over it. Because, here my book was. Good. A good book that some people will like and some people won’t. And it didn’t matter that my editor didn’t choose me, because she’d worked really hard on making the book the best it could be.

Publishing is a business just like any other. People leave and move jobs for a wide variety of reasons. Chances are, if you become a multi-published author you’re going to have, at some point, two different editors on the same project. It will be a challenge, but it will work out, because the grand majority of people in this business want your book to be as good as you want it to be.

In my experience, patience, asking questions when you’re confused, and having someone you can whine to (thanks, Elley!) are imperative if a situation like this happens.

Seven-Night Stand

Because what else is there to do if you want your book published? Not a whole lot. And more often than not, the challenges are worth it, and you get to look at something as pretty as this and know it’s yours.

So, nine months, three editors, and a whole heck of a lot of revisions later, here is my book. A book I am proud of and so excited to see out in the world (or at least the internet world).

Amazon

Kobo

Goodreads

Check Back Monday

February 1, 2013

Hi, All!

The next installment in Nicole’s publishing series will be pushed to Monday, when she’s also blogging on her RELEASE DAY! Seven Night Stand, an Entangled Indulgence, is one of my favorite reads from Nicole, featuring a sassy, reality tv scout heroine and a yummy Kansan pilot/airfiled owner. Check back for more details on Monday.

Elley