Last week, I gave a friend the purchase link for my debut novel. She asked if it was for, “the whole lot.”
My first instinct was to laugh, then I realized in her mind it was a valid question. She knew I had written a series of seven books, and sold the series to a publisher weeks ago and yet they are still not out? What was taking so darn long?
It was then I knew I had made the transition from reader, to writer, to author.
Three years ago, before I started writing, I lived in that world where books miraculously appeared. Where authors created, people and stories. And publishing houses bought, printed and sold them. Now I know writing the book is the beginning of the journey, not the end.
When I sat down to write my first work I was clueless as to the process. As a book-keeper for an international minerals company, my world revolved around numbers not words. Until one day when I woke up with a scene so clear in my head it was imperative I write it down. So I did, and within six months I had created a seven part Romantic Suspense series. Had I taken writing courses? Read writing craft books? Researched the do’s and don’ts online? Nope. I simply started writing and didn’t stop.
I had no thoughts of publishing, or fame and fortune. Just the newly discovered joy of creating stories. A year went past. My seven books turned into eleven. All sat on my desktop or in the hands of eager test readers. What on earth did I do now?
A chance article in the newspaper, pointed me to a one day publishing seminar held at the local University. This seemed like a good idea, so I went along.
That day goes down in my writing history, as one of the worst experiences ever. This seminar should have been subtitled, “don’t even bother; you are all doomed to fail.” Instead of an informative series of talks on the intricacies of the publishing world, the eager, freshly minted writers in the audience were maligned, berated and even insulted for a full eight hours.
One lady, who raised the question of writing romance was cut down mid-sentence. We are not here to discuss romance, she was told. We are here to discuss legitimate writing.
Such worthy quotes still stay with me. “Without an agent your work will never even get looked at.” And. “Don’t even bother submitting your first manuscript. No one will publish a debut author.”
The last comment made me curious. How is one to relinquish the tag of debut author, if no house will publish your first book? I watched in anger and disbelief, as the moral in the room sunk lower and lower. At the end, we all filed out, defeated, heads bent, feet dragging.
To this day, I wonder how many authors went home and never wrote again, or even worse, deleted manuscripts sitting on laptops. That thought makes me very sad, and very angry.
From a personal viewpoint I simply dismissed the day as a pointless waste of time and went back to my writing. A few months later I was reading a book by Nalini Singh and logged into her website to find out about other books in her series. Whilst there, I read her post about the importance of finding a writing association, and about the valuable resources they offer. This lead to an online search, and the discovery of, Romance Writers of Australia.
What a difference from the so called, ‘seminar’ of the previous year. These wonderful people understood new writers, encouraged and chatted, praised and commiserated when needed. And most importantly, did not say the word, ‘Romance’ in quiet guilty whispers. Now I started to learn what I was doing right, and what I was doing wrong. And let me just say, that finding out what the term, ‘head hopping’ meant after writing eleven books, was a bit of a shocker! I remember looking at the thousands and thousands of words in my completed books folder and resigning myself to a lot of rewrites.
Only a few weeks after joining the, RWA I entered their annual competition for unpublished writers called, ‘The Emerald’. To my complete and utter shock, I started to progress through the rounds. I entered the international competition, ‘The Daphne Du Maurier' awards, and again the same thing happened.
At this point, I sat down and began to seriously contemplate my next step. Could I actually do this? Could I be published one day? Was I brave enough to try? With the incredible love and support of my husband, I started to do research.
Fast forward, to August 2012. I won ‘The Emerald’, I got to the finals of the, ‘Daphne Du Maurier’ and I received a contract offer from, ‘Secret Cravings Publishing’.
And I was still mostly clueless… but I began to learn.
First lesson. Manuscripts are not books. Those pages and pages of words are not a book. They are a draft, which with hard work, will become a book.
Second lesson. Your editor is your boss. She is not there to ruin your manuscript; she is there to turn your manuscript into a published book.
Third lesson. Editing is a part of an author’s life, it is a necessity. Being precious about that sentence you really like and want to keep, regardless of all the reasons why it should clearly go, does not help anyone.
In the weeks leading up to my very first edits, and the learning of the above lessons, I freely admit to being a mess of nerves. What if my editor hates it? What if she changes every single word? What if it ends up being no longer my book?
I discovered something very interesting about myself. I could worry myself into a small quivering wreck sitting in the corner. Or I could take this invaluable information and use it to make myself a better writer. It was the right choice. When the round 1 edits arrived, I looked at my manuscript logically and objectively. Yes that’s right, that comment makes no sense in the context of the chapter. No I don’t need all those extra explanations in the middle of that paragraph. Yes that is head-hopping and needs to go.
I sliced through dialogue I considered pure Shakespeare when I wrote it. Merrily adjusted sentences to allow for a clean flow and corrected foolish mistakes, carefully pointed out by someone looking at the story with a clear clean set of eyes.
Editors are not only necessary, they are essential.
But getting published isn’t all hard work. There comes that joyous day when the cover art arrives. When words become pictures! And the characters in your head are there for the world to see. What a day. What an amazing fantastic day. I have six more books due for release in 2013 and every one of them will be exciting. But I suspect, seeing the cover art for my first book will always stay with me.
Finally the big day arrives. Final proofreading, writing the author bio, and the dedication. Then release day.
Seeing my name for the first time, on the cover of a book. My published book! Is another memory I will hold close. All the hard work melts away. The agonizing over the submission letter. The time consuming and sometimes frustrating task of writing a synopsis that is concise, without skipping over the plot. The waiting every day and obsessively checking emails to see if the publishing house has replied. Then when they do, the task of edits, corrections and revisions.
It is all worth it.
I am no longer clueless. Nor am I an expert. I still need my editor and my publishers to guide me through. But I know now that it takes hard work, time and effort to get a book published.
Now I am an author and proud of it.
Thank you, Ms. Wren. Loved having you. Readers, here's a blurb about Caroyln's book:
A covert operative. A life filled with secrets.
Jared Knight works with an elite group of agents trained to track down the worst criminals humanity has to offer. His career leaves no room for relationships.
On a dangerous assignment in Monaco he is captivated by a woman in a crowded ballroom. Disturbed by the uncharacteristic lapse, he is determined to forget her...
Five years later Jared offers Cecilia Benedict his protection when she becomes the object of an overzealous secret admirer. Unbeknown to Cecilia she is the woman who has haunted Jared’s thoughts. He can stay away no longer now her life is in danger.
Cecilia is intrigued by Jared’s serious manner and deep grey eyes. In the close confines they share she finds herself emotionally and physically drawn to him. An attraction grows...
But danger lurks in the shadows, threatening to destroy their relationship before it can even begin.