I’ve decided to try to go in a kind of chronological order in terms of this series of blog posts about my publication journey. I’m grouping my ideas and the questions I got/may get into three categories: pre-contract, contract, post-contract.

So, we’ll start these first few weeks with topics that fall into that pre-contract offer space.

First up, I want to talk a little about the submission process. Now, if you’ve ever submitted anywhere before you know that every publisher works differently. For example, I have signed a contract for three books to three different publisher and none of them have worked the same. Let me break down what the submission process looked like with each.

The Wild Rose Press

Subbed query and synopsis (5/20/11)

Partial Request (Chapters 1-3) (6/6/11)

Full Request (6/20/11)

Revision request (8/25/11)

Contract Offered (9/29/11)

Entangled Indulgence

Subbed query and first three chapters (5/4/12)

Synopsis Request (5/31/12)

Asked for revisions on first three chapters (5/31/12) (Sent 6/2)

Full Request (6/2)

Contract Offered after agreeing that specific revisions would still need to be done (6/21)

Samhain Publishing

Subbed query/synopsis/full (6/13/12)

Contract Offered (12/5/12)

Right off the bat you can see that each publisher wanted different things in the first submission. Also, different publishers did more revisions before offering a contract. Some had a multi-tiered process, some just wanted the full. This is why it’s so important to follow submission guidelines. No two publishers are exactly the same and no two publishers are looking for exactly the same thing in a submission. (Also, apparently I should always submit in May and June, huh?)

If you look at the time frame, you’ll notice that each also had a difference. For both my TWRP and Samhain submission, I was at some point beyond the “normal” response time. Now, while it’s not frowned upon to send a status email to any of these publishers in my experience, I found that my nudge emails were unnecessary.

Editors are going to get to your manuscript eventually. Sometimes it may be quickly (I was very lucky to hit Entangled when I did, because of their growth it takes longer to hear back from them now). Sometimes, it may be longer. It is very rare for a manuscript to go astray especially when you get an automated response, as I did from all of these publishers. Sure, my paranoid brain told me maybe my email had been lost, but the truth of the matter was I received the automatic response, and publishers are typically very organized in this matter. After all, think of how many submissions they see in a day.

Sometimes, a nudge helped ease my fear of being lost, but it didn’t actually amount to anything. The editor got to it when it fit their schedule, and if you think about all that these editors do (sometimes also with a full or part-time job on the side), they have very full schedules. Sometimes everything will fall within a given time window, sometimes it wont.

I’ve heard this of agents, but it applies to editors as well. The greatest portion of their job is dedicated to the authors they’ve already acquired. If they acquire you, you’d want this to be the case. Waiting sucks. SUCKS. Especially when it’s longer than you think it’s going to be, but it’s a fact of life and a HUGE fact of publishing life.

I think, in nudging, it’s important to remember that this is a business. Yes, your MS might feel personal to you, but treat your writing and the people in publishing as you would treat anyone you work with. You probably wouldn’t go whining to your boss every day if he didn’t do something when you wanted him to. Yes, occasionally you may need to say something, but be careful about how and when.

If you’ve been in the submitting roundabout before, you’ve heard the age old adage that the best thing to do when waiting is write the next book. I get irritated when people tell me that, because duh I’m going to keep writing. Still, it’s true. If you let yourself get truly lost in the next manuscript the wait is easier, and you’ll find yourself obsessing less and whether you get an acceptance or pass, you have another book ready.

At the very least, arm yourself with a CP who will listen to you whine. God knows the amount of whiney emails I’ve sent mine. Also, back away from Twitter. When you’re waiting it can make you crazy.

Next week I’ll talk about pre-contracted revisions. You’ll notice I’ve done that twice.

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments about this or anything else you might want to hear about.

Nicole

Happy Holidays

December 20, 2012

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

We’re going to be taking a break from blogging until after the first of the year. Wherever you are in this great big world, we hope you’re surrounded by loving family, supportive friends and an endless supply of books.

Elley, Tari & Nicole

The title is misleading. It’s not really “the rules” I’m struggling with. It’s the process. Plotter vs. Pantser. These two fools are always at war inside my head. When I started writing fiction, Miss Pantser reigned. She was carefree—giddy even—and never second guessed the twists and turns she put on paper…that is until she received her first rejection and her second and her third. (You get the idea.) That’s when Ms. Plotter came to the “rescue” with encouragement like this: Buck up. Buckle down. Take a workshop on plotting. Take a workshop on characterization. Take another workshop. Take one more. You’ll be fine.

What Ms. Plotter was really saying—and Miss Pantser was too naïve to hear—was change the way you’ve been writing. Change is hard. Still, Miss Pantser agreed to be “coached” by Ms. Plotter until plotting was the name of the game.

Plotting sucks. I’ve never questioned myself more than when I’m plotting. Should I go here? Should I take it there? Maybe I’ll start over again. Honestly, there are too many options!

I’m at the cusp of rewriting at least 10 chapters of this manuscript, and I have little more than an inkling of where I want this story to go. I’ve taken some notes, but I’m resisting plotting. I’ve given myself permission to “pants,” but I my poor pantser is broken. What the hell is going on?

Fear. Nicole comes after me every once in a while with that little word—fear. She sees through my excuses. She knows when I’m stalling because I’m afraid the effort I put forth won’t be good enough. She knows, because she’s been there.

So what am I afraid of?

I’m afraid of:

Doing it wrong.

Missing the great story in the mass of suck I’m assembling.

Being stuck in this literary limbo, where I’m writing, but I’m like a mouse on a wheel—round and round without any purpose or achievement, simply falling off when I get dizzy or sick.

Finding out I wasn’t good enough all along.

There’s a lot more to fear, I’m sure. But I had to pull the plug on that depressing thought stream. It’s painful to list my worries. It makes me want to escape…you know what’s funny? Writing is my escape. (There’s the purpose.)

So…Miss Pantser and Ms. Plotter can take their drama elsewhere. And rules be damned. I’d rather write than worry.

Elley

Last year (2011) I attended the Romantic Times Convention (RT 2011) in Los Angeles…well, I attended one day of the convention. After years of writing non-fiction, I had just begun to work on fiction. I hadn’t even joined RWA yet, From Fact to Fiction was only a few weeks old. I didn’t find out about RT 2011 until it was already in progress, which is why I was only there for one day. Even though RT was geared more toward the reader, there were special workshops for writers, and I was excited to attend even one day. In fact, I wrote about it here at From Fact to Fiction, and in a post titled Shoes, Underwear, Beard Stubble and Marcia Brady over at my blog, Tari’s Thread.

So, this week I’m preparing for the Romance Writers of America 2012 National Conference, which happens to be right here in Anaheim. Yay!! *happy dancing in my room* I’ve got my brand new business cards—a birthday gift from middle son, designed with some special inspiration from oldest son. I’ve been polishing my WIP (okay, I’ve spent about a year on this). I’m working on my pitch. My appointments are set, and my clothes are laid out on the bed in my office…this year I intend to pack spare underwear rather than to store them in a pant leg. (This explains part of the title to my previous RT blog…and in case you’re wondering, No, I DON’T have beard stubble…really, I don’t.)

So, my underwear is packed and going into a suitcase rather than a pant leg, and I am more excited than I can begin to tell you.

I’ve carefully planned my agenda. I have two appointments with editors and two with agents. I’ve planned an intensive schedule of workshops, primarily on craft. Although, Hunky Hubby says my writing is brilliant, and I could teach all of the workshops, the truth is that I’ve learned so much this year, that I realize how much more I need to learn, and I’m going to this conference to learn.

So, I’m planning on taking workshops on dialogue, plotting (yes, I am a pantster, but maybe I’m teachable…who knows…) setting, and one of the things I find most challenging, synopsis writing. Although I live about 30 miles from the convention, I’m staying in the hotel so I can be there early and stay late. I don’t plan on missing a minute, I’ll sleep next week! Don’t worry, Hunky Hubby and Middle Son won’t starve. I’ve made them dinners and put them in the freezer, so they’ll be sure to go out and get tacos or have pizza delivered.

Are you sick of hearing my talk about RWA 2012 yet? If you’re going, drop me a line. Maybe we can meet up! If you have attended a conference please pass along your best tips here! If you have any questions, ask away. I’ll try to get answers while I’m there.

And, if I don’t get to see you at conference, I’ll see you all right back here next week with news from RWA 2012! For all of you flying, driving, or taking a train in (Elley and Nicole, it’s not too late) have a safe trip, and hope to see you there.

Tari

Conflict, angst, scars, they’re all a part of romance. Stories of two people falling happily in love without a bump in the road don’t get published, and even if they did, they’d probably end up being pretty boring to read.

Romance readers typically want some heart-wrenching stuff to happen to the fictional characters they’re investing in. Thus it becomes common for the hero or heroine or both to have some pretty horrible pasts that have scarred them deeply enough to be suspect of love.

Earlier this week, I tweeted:

Image

After these two tweets and the conversation that ensued, I tried to think about romance novels where parents, dead or evil, weren’t used as background for conflict.

After looking through my entire Goodreads collection, I could only come up with Shannon Stacey’s Exclusively Yours. I know the heroes parents were alive, nice people. The heroine’s parents don’t make an appearance, but if I remember correctly they are alive and left her with no lingering scars.

So, out of the 100+ books I have in my list, that’s it. (There is a Sarah Mayberry book I read that has both sets of parents being alive and moderately non-scar-inducing, but a major plot point in the book is the father’s early onset Alzheimers, so I’m weary about adding it to the list. There are a couple others where I couldn’t remember the parental background, so maybe there are more than I think).

Can you think of a romance novel you enjoyed that didn’t suffer from the Disney syndrome (dead or evil parents)? Did you like it? Would you recommend it?

Because, I swear, one of these days a lucky hero and heroine will have normal, living parents!

Nicole

Holy crap! To say I learn something every day about the writing process is a gross understatement. Most days, I learn something every minute. It’s daunting, because when there’s that much to learn there’s a very real feeling that I’ll never learn it all, and if I never learn it all, then how the hell can I expect to be published. (Of course, people get published every day who are greener around the gills than I am, so I know it can be done.)

Yesterday, I read through some old journals, and I came across an entry detailing the first time I ever submitted my work. On July 19, 2010 (two years ago tomorrow), I submitted a query letter for a single-title contemporary that took me nearly 10 years to write. (Thank God I’m faster now.) Sending off that query, and as proved by the blind hopefulness behind the words in my journal, I knew I was “on my way.” How could I be anything but a breath away from my dream come true, especially after the agent, whom I highly regard, requested a partial of the manuscript? I was almost there. Sitting on the porch swing with Hubby, I talked about pennames, website design and book tours, certain I’d be making critical career decisions very soon. But when the agent’s response came back a rejection, I had to tuck those big plans away.

I kept writing.

Over the next two years, I submitted a handful (a pathetically low number for writing seriously over two years!) of other works (manuscripts I completed after that first go-round). I won a contest. I received personal , helpful feedback. I had more partial requests. But not until recently did I engage in a writer/editor relationship that set me up for such welcomed disappointment. It was in the process of rewriting three chapters (massacring is more like it), that I began to learn the difference between revising and editing.

No matter how many times I’d heard the writer-favorite phrase kill your darlings, I never fully understood the meaning until the query-turned-partial-request-turned-revision-request-turned-full-request-turned-rejection process knocked me on my ass…in a good way. I learned that my vision for a story isn’t complete until I’ve revised, and revision is a little like kicking three-fourths of the Lego tower down and starting all over again. Revision isn’t checking for spelling. It’s not fixing a comma splice. It’s not changing a few words around so they pack more punch. It’s not even reassembling a couple sentences. (Although, we’re getting closer there.) Revision is destruction. It’s as though the story, despite being all there, is buried in a big fat blob of clay and it’s now time to unearth it, trim the fat, and strengthen the core. It’s backbreaking, doubt-producing work. It’s filled with second guesses and heart filled curses. Revision mocks editing.

And even after all that, the story might not be right. Revision may be needed again. And again.

At my lowest point, I figured the amount of revision necessary to take my characters to the paradise of publication must mean I sucked as a writer. Surely other people with published works haven’t worked this hard for this long. Was I wasting my time? Should I have given up on this one—started over again? But then I read this blog post, and I knew I wasn’t alone. Not only wasn’t I alone, I was on the right track too!

I used to think of writing as a two-part process: write the story, and then edit the story. Now I know I was missing the most critical part. Revision isn’t pretty, but I’m learning to love the destruction. When the dust settles, I’m amazed at what I’ve created. Hopefully, one day, an editor will be amazed too.

Elley

Ruthlessness

June 8, 2012

Elley mentioned in her post about revisions that revisions must be ruthless, and I got to thinking that it’s not just revisions that require a kind of ruthlessness, it’s writing in general that does as well. (And then I got to thinking, I sure do like piggybacking on Elley’s posts).

For instance, over the past two days I’ve written 1500 words of a WIP. These 1500 words were fine. They got the general point across, but when I was done with these 1500 words, I looked at them, scratched my head, and realized something wasn’t totally right.

My first thought or instinct is to keep going anyway. You can always go back and fix it later. But, then I got stuck. I couldn’t figure out what could happen next that wasn’t, well, boring info dump.

So, I had to be ruthless. No matter how painful it was, I had to highlight those 1500 words and hit delete. And then, then, I had to replace them.

I think we have a hard time deleting our words not so much because were are so in love with them, but more because they represent something we can’t replace or get back. The time I spent on those words is gone and to delete them makes it feel like that time, that effort was wasted, and many of us have very little time and effort left to waste.

But, you must be ruthless. Sometimes words need to be deleted, even if it renders those minutes you spend on them pointless. It no longer matters once you’ve replaced them because chances are you’ll have replaced them with something better, something stronger.

Nicole

The most popular search term leading visitors to this blog is: How long does it take to write a romance novel?  The flippant answer would be a long damn time. But in reality, I’ve heard of novels pumped out in a matter of days. (We’ve all heard of NaNoWriMo.) I once wrote a 65,000-word romance novel in two months, writing on average six hours per day, Monday through Friday, allowing time for re-reading and editing as the novel progressed. I also took ten years to write a romance novel, breaking from writing for months at a time as life’s demands overwhelmed me. Neither one of these novels saw publication.

The question isn’t: How long does it take to write a romance novel? The better question is: How long does it take to write a PUBLISHABLE romance novel? My answer is: I don’t know.

Every writer is different. Every story is different.

Elley

Happy Thanksgiving

November 24, 2011

Tari, Nicole and I are celebrating Thanksgiving today. We know many of you live in other countries where today is just another workday. No matter where you are or what you are doing, know that we are thankful for your support, interaction and friendship. Writing is a lonely business without people like you.

Elley

Hello everyone!

*waves excitedly*

Elley and Tari have kindly allowed me to high jack their blog today to celebrate the release of my debut novel Lure of the Blood and I thought I would share a little about my inspirations for this tale.

When I was originally featured here back in June this novel was very much a work in progress. I read lots of paranormal stories, but I had never attempted to write one and this story didn’t start out as paranormal. It was supposed to be another erotic novella. I had recently completed one and really enjoyed the shorter length, so thought I would try my hand at another short. The idea popped into my head one night as I went to sleep. I wrote the intro to the first chapter and posted it to my critique group with a, “This just came to me. What do you think?”

I was told in no uncertain terms to keep writing, so I did. 🙂

The UCW girls, as my critique group are known, are a huge encouragement. So many of my stories would not have been written were it not for them. Lure of the Blood is no exception.

I should add here that I am a complete panster. Even when I have a vague idea of a plot, my characters grab me by the throat and take me away on a tangent. This novel is a prime example.

My original idea was sparked by a magazine article I’d read whilst waiting for my eldest son to have an MRI scan for a tumour in his jaw. This was November last year. He’s made a full recovery since, after an operation to have the mass drained. Not surprisingly the idea was put to one side at the time.

What was the article about, you might ask? Well, it was about university students financing their degrees by lap dancing. Apparently there is a growing trend for this here in the UK. So my writer’s brain thought – oooh, there is a story in there somewhere.

So, when I went to sleep that night, many months later, this gem of an idea resurfaced, and my heroine Marnie was born. She finances her Law degree by dancing in a lap dancing club. And there is a mysterious stranger watching her from the shadows. Whilst writing, this stranger announced that he was in fact a vampire, so began my hunt for suitable visual inspiration. I don’t know about you, but words come so much more easily when I have a picture in front of me.

So the yummy Ion Somerhalder proved to be just the right inspiration for Lucas de Tourneau.

 

Sorted, so we had Marnie and Lucas and hang on, what about her boss? Ion grumbled away in the background until I went searching for some more inspiration for him. Actually that grumbling should have warned me…

I found the inspiration I needed in the form of Jason Statham.


This picture was perfect for the scene I had in mind, where Ion drives Marnie home in his truck. It was then that Ion announced he was a shifter and he didn’t stop growling in my ear until I did exactly what he wanted me to do. This very insistent alpha wolf muscled in on Lucas and Marnie and the story took a completely different turn to the one I had anticipated.

Such is the joy of being a panster. Always a thrill and maddeningly opinionated characters who do not do as they’re told, ever.

*grin*

Lure of the Blood took several more surprising twists and turns the more I wrote. The short went out of the window and I ended up with a 50K novel.

So, there you have it, a little insight into my maddeningly chaotic writing process.

Lure of the Blood is available through Evernight Publishing.

I shall leave you with a little excerpt of that ride in Ion’s truck, where everything changes:

 

Marnie scooted into a corner of the pickup truck, the minute her boss had handed her up into the cab, and let out the breath she hadn’t been aware of holding. When his hands had connected with her waist, the heat of his skin had burned through her clothes, his earthy scent invading her. She could have sworn his pupils had turned into catlike slits. She must be imagining things; clearly, she had hit her head too hard last night, and she had a lump the size of a football on the back of her head to prove it. Sure enough, glancing across at him now, he seemed perfectly normal to her. Perhaps it was simply the fact of seeing him in broad daylight for the first time––that had to be it. This was the closest she had ever been to him; in fact, he had never touched her before. He didn’t seem to touch anyone.

Heat crept into her cheeks when he turned to study her, one eyebrow raised in a silent question at her blatant appraisal. Way to go, girl; caught ogling your boss.

“You ok? I’ll have you home in no time.”

The cautious smile lighting up his craggy features at her tentative nod made her toes curl under. Good lord, he was gorgeous when he smiled. Close cropped hair, coupled with the stubble on a strong jaw and his intense expression gave him a mean, sexy look. How come she had never noticed before? This was her boss, for pity’s sake. It was bad enough lusting after mysterious strangers, let alone him. What the hell was wrong with her?

Instead of letting her imagination run away with her, she ought to be concerned why she couldn’t remember a thing about last night. Well, remember nothing but a pair of compelling moss-green eyes and a gravelly, accented voice in her ear and then just darkness. Gah, it was so bloody frustrating.

Ion’s low, growled curse registered at the same time as the pickup stopped abruptly and white-hot pain shot up from her bruised ribs, the seatbelt locking her in place. She couldn’t stop the agonised moan escaping.

“Shit, are you ok? That kid came out of nowhere.”

Ion’s hands were seemingly everywhere, unbuckling her seatbelt, running one hand over her sides, whilst the other checked her head with infinite care.

“Did you bump your head again? Are you hurt anywhere else?”

Marnie lost herself in the intense gaze of steely blue-grey eyes for a second, before the pain in her ribs made her flinch and Ion’s hands froze. “Your ribs? Let me see.”

“It’s nothing much, really.” Marnie tried in vain to slap his hand away, only to have her chin caught in an iron grip, forcing her to look at him. Her heart beat a bit faster at the concern she saw in his face.

“Let me be the judge of that,” and before she could say or do anything, his large hands had tugged her top up, his low whistle at what he saw causing his hot breath to skitter across her face. His hands started a slow exploration of her rib cage and her breath hitched when his fingers skimmed the underside of her breasts, awareness of the man in front of her causing heat to rise in her cheeks.

Get a grip, girl; he is only checking you over to make sure you’re ok.

His hands stilled at her indrawn breath, his gaze flickering to her face for an instant. Marnie’s mortification increased tenfold at the inscrutable expression on his face, the small muscle ticking in his jaw the only indication he was aware of her reaction.

“I don’t think anything is broken, but we ought to get you checked out by a doc anyway to be on the safe side.” His voice had dropped an octave and Marnie’s stomach dropped right with it.

“I…I don’t need a doctor, you said nothing is broken. I’ll get over it. Besides, he would ask too many questions I couldn’t answer.”

With one last searching look Ion shifted the truck into gear and moved off again.

Lure of the Blood by Doris O'Connor
Blurb:

Marnie’s decision to finance her law degree by pole dancing awakens her latent sexuality and the mysterious stranger lurking in the shadows sends her libido into overdrive. Attacked on her way home, she wakes up the next morning covered in bruises and with no recollection of what happened. The newspapers are full of a suspected animal attack and Marnie finds herself in her very own twilight zone.

Realizing her sexy lurker is a vampire is bad enough, but her boss is the alpha wolf of a pack of shifters? Torn between her attraction to both men and surrounded by danger, she has a decision to make, that will change her life forever.

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