Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Writer's Wednesday - Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Most people know it's not easy to write a book, let alone sell one. But there is an opinion bubbling up that once you've crossed some invisible line in the sand to the "published" beach, it's all palm trees and cabana boys. Pink Heart Society editor Jenna Bayley-Burke is on deck, wondering just how she missed that particular wave...

Want to know a secret? I sold the first book I ever finished. Want to know the real secret? It wasn't easy. Yes, the story came to me like magic and it flowed from my fingertips...and then I had to take that magic and weave it into something that resembled an actual story. So much of writing is rewriting. You can look down your nose at me because I said I enjoyed writing it, I don't mind. I really did love it.

Selling that first book was a great ride. My editor didn't like the other five books I'd written (yep, from finishing the first book to selling it, I wrote 5 more. It took that long for my 'fast' sale), so we started a new one and it went from idea to contract in six weeks. Fabulous, right? This is the stuff people think of when they decide to start writing. They don't think of the months that book spent crossing the ocean during the revision process, because hey, that's not so fun to blog about. Writers, especially romance writers, need to have an aura of positivity to craft these happily-ever-after tales and so we tend to edit out the soul-zappingly hard bits when we tell our own story. But here goes...

After the first two books, I got a new editor. We could not communicate. We both tried like crazycakes to make it work, but after burying four partials and two books, it was obvious to all we were missing some critical part that made the editor-author relationship work. Readers and aspiring writers rarely hear about editor issues because authors need to be professional. Mine was a very mild issue - we ran parallel, but couldn't connect. There are some other stories that would make for great books...

I got another editor and things were swimming along...until we both got pregnant. Yep, fertility abounds in the romance novel industry :) We worked out a book, I turned it in and had my baby. My editor's due date was months ahead, I expected to hear back about the time my baby brain fog lifted. Except she had a premie, so I came back to a new editor and that book sat. For a year.

Another editor came my way and we worked out three stories that never made it past the partial stage. And then she had a baby (I'm not kidding about this baby thing, we're swimming in babies!). So, another editor took me on and looked at the whole of what had happened since that second book, read the book I'd turned in pre-baby, and realized that line direction had shifted so much we could no longer make that book work. And wouldn't it be great to just start over...

A lot of things contribute to pauses in an authors career, some happy like marriage and babies, some not like your best friend's cancer diagnosis and three family members dying in six weeks. And that's aside from writers block, having to re-learn how to type after wrist surgery, moving, babies, PTA, the moving target of what a series is looking for in category's endless really. All those things that keep you from writing the first one, are still there after you sell. And while I do hope that having had those two books gives me some credit in the eyes of an editor, I have gotten to know them well enough to say that what matters to them most is a great story.

Lots of authors have had years between books. Few share why. Since I'm going to be documenting my submissions next year with the Slushing Through column, I thought it might help to shine a light on what happens between sales. It isn't easy, but it is supposed to be fun.

Jenna's latest release is Compromising Positions -- available with chocolate, Kama Sutra yoga, a decade old crush and a steady addiction to sugar. To find out what Jenna is up to ...check out her website or blog


  1. You know, I knew you'd been through a lot.
    But I had no idea it had been THAT MUCH.
    *bows to the queen*

  2. WOW Jenna - thanks so much for sharing that VERY personal journey. FWIW I'm a HUGE fan and can't wait for more of whatever you write!

  3. Thanks, ladies! The stumbling blocks of life have kept the writing wobbles in perspective.

  4. I applaud you Jenna for sharing your story. It's an eye opener - like Jennifer said, I knew you'd been through a lot but I didn't know it was that much.

    Congrats on keeping it together. :)

  5. Hi Jenna

    Major kudos to you for being so candid about what had clearly been a particularly arduous journey...

    I think it gives an invaluable insight not just to aspiring authors who (as I'm sure many of us did - myself included) think that the Call is the Holy Grail and everything else will be easy-peasy from then on... But also to those of us who are published and need to keep our own woes in perspective (suddenly the nightmare revisions I've just been through don't seem all that nightmarish!)

    And major congratulations for keeping your head up, your energy and enthusiam in tact and carrying on writing through it all.

    Heidi x

  6. Hugs, Jenna! Thanks for sharing. You're right--there are lots of behind-the-scenes stories about those pauses in author careers.

  7. Thank you for sharing your story. I learned a lot. There's always another mountain to climb over.

  8. The post inspirational I'm sure to aspiring authors.

    Wishing you and yours and happiest of holidays.

  9. I've been through loads too, and still haven't managed to place another mainstream novel since my first - a whole decade ago! - though I've published numerous series fiction novels and other books, and forged a career of sorts as a poetry critic and editor. Life trips you, doesn't it?

    Here's to a clear run in the years ahead for all of us!