I’m so thrilled to be here at PHS for my new monthly column, Confessions of a Sophomore Author! So much has happened over the past year since I was signed with Harlequin Presents. I’ve had four books accepted, launched my first book, The Divorce Party, and wrote a serial on the glamorous northern Ontario cottage culture for Harlequin called A Wedding at Ruby Lake. Which might be the most fun thing I’ve ever written.
In May I traveled to London to meet my wonderful editors who surprised me with my first cover, I signed books at Harlequin’s distribution centre in Buffalo and sat on a palette of my first book and did a book signing at Harlequin HQ. All in all, an amazing first year in my dream job. And yes, I did pinch myself a few times!
I’m looking forward to sharing my journey through year two with you. I thought I’d start off with some of the things I’ve learned in year one. Because there were lots. And I hope you’ll chime in with your own thoughts!
I’m happy for the backstory
Some authors are naturally brilliant storytellers who’ve never opened a craft book in their life. For me the courses I’ve taken and the craft books were invaluable. Almost every time I get stuck, it’s because I’ve missed a crucial element that makes a story work. A sequel I left out, a logical piece of the action-reaction process human beings go through. Or my character’s GMC has gone awry. There are no hard and fast rules in writing, but knowing what makes a classically great story is a great start. It not only makes the process of writing easier for me, it helps me work more effectively with my editor.
A partial and a manuscript are not equal
Until I sat down and committed to writing a full book, to taking that entire journey with my characters, to knowing how they evolved and what mistakes they would spontaneously make, I didn’t really know them. Sending in partial manuscripts and waiting to hear if lightning struck may have made me feel like I was doing something, but it wasn’t making me a better storyteller. They were surfacey, without depth. And although that first manuscript I finished will never see the light of day (nor should it), my second will be my fourth book with Presents.
Revisions aren’t a monster to chase you under the bed
Well not really J. My heart is still in my mouth when I get a revision letter. And rightly so I think. You put your heart and soul into a book. You want your editor to love it. On a couple of my books I’ve had virtually no revisions. On another I loved but I was struggling with – they made all the difference in the world. ‘Take an entire plotline and source of conflict out’ might sound terrifying, but it focused the book and made it exactly what it needed to be. And without fail, my editor’s revision letters have always been spot-on, invaluable advice that have made the book better. And when something didn’t ring true to my story, I stuck to my guns. You can do that. You must do that if the story is going to be yours. Not so scary.
It is a scary thing launching your baby into the world
Sending your first book out into the world is a nail biting venture. There’s promotion, reviews and the hope that everyone will love it as much as you do. Then there’s the expectations for book two, and three and so on… A very wise mentor once said to me, ‘all you can do is write the best book you can’. And that advice has stood me in good stead. We all have unique voices. We can only write our stories. And as I’ve navigated this past year, that’s what I’ve tried to do – write the story I’m in love with. Write the story I’d want to read. And with it comes a kind of peace.
There’s lots more I’m looking forward to sharing with you in the coming months. I’d love your feedback and if you leave a comment, I’m giving away two copies of my Jan 21 release, An Exquisite Challenge – book two of my Delicious De Campo series. You can read an excerpt here.
So what have you learned lately? Share!