Sunday, May 20, 2007

Saturday Surprise... Writing is Waiting

Okay, so you've got an idea for a book. Fabulous you're on your way! Here’s how easy the process now becomes!!!


For me the idea is the easiest part. I have so many pieces of scrap paper with “ideas” written on them I could write a book about coming up with ideas! (I know this isn’t the case for everyone, but this is my story so shoosh ;))

So idea is solid. You have a fresh Word file. You have a few weekends up your sleeve. Now...go!

This part, the writing of the book part, can take anywhere from three weeks - if you are Nicola Marsh or for a brief shining moment a month ago, Trish Wylie, and once, oh glorious once, me!!! - to the rest of your natural life. Truly some books take years. Many short category novels have taken people years from the idea to the end.

Think how much effort it took to write a 500 word story in primary school. Times that by 100, and remember you have to sustain loveable, believable characters, in an against the odds situation, make it unique, make it yours, make it entertaining.

My first book, THE WEDDING WISH, took me about a year to write, as I was scatty and wrote about a million things at the one time.

Okay? You done?


Next we edit. For that was only the first draft.

Now you have to go through and edit your masterpiece, perhaps keeping in mind things like word count, chapter lengths, pacing, repetition, grammar, spelling, character arcs, humour, dialogue vs internal monologues, point of view, time hero and heroine spend together on the page vs time spent making cups of tea or chatting with friends about the weather.

This can take anywhere from one read through to the rest of your natural life. Especially if you are thinking of showing the book to someone else.

You can find a critique partner. Someone to help find inconsistencies as you can’t see the forest for the trees. Or someone to correct your spelling and punctuation. Or someone to type the book up from the seventeen yellow legal pads on which you wrote it. Or someone in the business to give you a professional opinion. Or a competition to do the same.

And what if you are a perfectionist? Then the editing stage may never end.


You must hit a point where you think, “This thing is good. I am happy with it as it stands. I know that if an editor likes what she sees she will likely still want to make changes, so I will now edit no more.”

At this point you probably want to read through it one last time ;). Then print it.

Then spend more time researching your target. Send the manuscript to the right editor or you can waste months. Find a publisher who publishes like pieces. Find the name of the editor who heads the line you’re aiming for. Address the thing correctly. Walk to the post office, hand over your gazillion dollars...

Then get on with your life.


It took me about four months to hear back from Richmond in the UK about my first query letter. They requested I send the partial. (At that time I had no idea I could have just sent the partial in the first place! Talk about wasting time)

It took another four months to hear back on the partial. They wanted to read the full manuscript. At that point I hadn’t finished it. Silly, silly me. If I had I could have sent it away the next day. But instead it took me another good month to go through steps one to three.

Six months after that I got a phone call. Asking for revisions.


That phone call was fabulous. And surreal. And I still have the dodgy notepad on which I wrote big loopy crazy notes about what the editor wanted of me.

This was “not an offer to buy” mind you. Just a can you please do these revisions in the next couple of days and we’ll go from there. (HINT: Prepare to do lots of waiting, but if you get to this point, be prepared to put your skates on and type faster than you’ve ever typed in your life)

I was working full time. Nevertheless I promised her I could do anything she required of me. Fly. Triple back somersault. Turn War and Peace into a ninety minute screenplay by the weekend...


Two days after I emailed in my revisions, cue email asking for tweaking. Wouldn’t the hero recognize her the second time they meet considering she will turn out to be the love of his life? Well of course he would!!!

Twenty-four hours later the tweaks were in.

7. SALE! (OR NOT...)

The longest wait of my natural life came that weekend.

The next I heard from her was an email asking if I was home. She sent it Friday morning her time. I got it Saturday morning my time. Thus by the time I got the message it was too late. I had to wait the longest weekend of my life, knowing she wouldn’t get my panicked “call me any time day or night” email until Monday evening our time.

10pm Monday evening, the phone rang. I let it ring three times before casually picking up the phone with a frantically shaking hand. After what felt like hours of pleasantries my editor made an offer to buy my first book. My husband claims I leapt so high off the chair, punching my fist in the air I hit the ceiling.

The contract I received in the mail was dated February 14th. Valentines Day. I thought that was kinda nice.


Now, you’ve sold. You are over the moon. Everyone in the world you’ve ever met now knows that you have a book coming out. And they are expecting to be able to buy it from their local Borders within oh say the next month?

Nuh-uh. Try twelve months. But what a lovely wait this part is.

You wait for a release date. Then a title. During this time you hopefully write another book or two, so that by the time you get to see your first cover you have two more books in the pipeline already! You wait for your first books to turn up in the mail. You wait for your first review. Then the book hits the shelves. Your friends and rellies read it and love it and life will never be the same again.


If you think waiting twelve months until you see your book on the shelves is something, be prepared... You’ve never known the meaning of waiting until the word royalties becomes part of your lingo ;). From the time you sell your book it can be two years before any royalties filter through. So don't quit your day job!

And the thing of it is, none of this changes when you sell your first book. So if you are out there, thinking, one day I’d love to write a book and see it on the shelves, work on your patience skills right now.

Ally’s next Harlequin Romance, BILLIONAIRE ON HER DOORSTEP, hits bookshelves in the UK and North America next month.

But it is available online already! Yep, right now! So head on over to eHarlequin to pick up a freshly minted, super-scented, fairy dust sprinkled hot off the presses copy today!

Check out an excerpt here...

1 comment:

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this post Ally! Thanks!