I’d like to share the story of how I finally won the war against myself. It was a long war, but I’ll try to make it a short story.
Some of my favorite authors are slow writers. But there’s slow…and then there’s me.
When writing Bend, my first contemporary romance novel, it technically took me about 12 months to get from start to end. But if you count how long it’d been since the last time I’d finished writing a manuscript? Make that 12 years.
I wrote my first historical romance novel manuscript in 2001. Then I wrote another and another. Three years later, after much hard work, I had finally managed to whip one into a good enough shape to try and snag an agent. It took a few months, but when I got an offer of representation (the first big hurdle in the publishing world), I thought, Yay! I’m going to get published!
For a while publishers kept sending us some very lovely rejections, full of praise, and then at the end, the dreaded sentence starting with the word “unfortunately…” Then one day I got some happy news: one of the editors liked it and had sent it on for a second read by a senior editor. I thought, Yay! I’m going to get published!
You know how this part of the story ends, right?
This publisher ended up echoing what everyone else had said, that the story didn’t have enough of a “hook,” and that it wasn’t “marketable” enough. My agent said they had asked if I’d consider writing a contemporary romance instead. I emphatically refused. My passion lay with history. I’m fascinated with the past, and I loved writing stories where I got to live there for a while.
The words “hook” and “marketable” threw me for a loop, though, and for the next 11 years I started and quit writing about a dozen different historical romances.
In late 2014, I re-started a historical manuscript (that I’d started and given up on four times before, but fifth time’s a charm, right?). This time I had a plan. At the same time, I began a contemporary story that was meant to be a fluffy, sexy novella. The idea was that whenever I needed a break from the historical, I’d work on this easy and fun contemporary until I felt like writing the historical again. Switching back and forth…that was the answer.
Except plotting the contemporary was more fun. The characters were more alive and interesting. Writing it was easier…and more fun. A year later, I finished Bend. For the first time in over a decade, I actually finished writing a book.
Did I have moments where I wanted to quit? Almost every day. So I guess the question is, why was I able to keep going? I’m not exactly sure. The research was definitely easier, so that played a part. But perhaps the main reason was that Mia and Jay never stopped talking to me. I never lost interest in telling their story. I often doubted that I was telling it well, yes, but writing a contemporary meant I felt like I was writing about real people. Which made abandoning them that much harder.
And the reason I chose to indie publish this story instead of sending it off to my agent and trying to sell it to publishers? Well, it comes down to being impatient (I wanted to get it out there as soon as it’s done) and being a bit of a control freak who prefers being in charge of everything myself. It’s a lot of work, yes, but this way the book remains 100% my baby.
Moral of the story: Don’t ever be a full-time quitter. If you only do it part of the time, it’ll take you a while to achieve your dreams (okay, most likely a long time), but you’ll get there eventually.