Writing: More Than It Says

When I sold my first book, I was way beyond naive. I had no clue how incredibly lucky I’d been. I’d never taken a writing class (beyond a high-school class where we had to write an autobiography). I’d never been to a conference, never heard of Romance Writers of America, never met an editor, never met a published author.

What I had done was make up stories my entire life, sometimes telling them, usually writing them down. I had read a ton of romance novels, and I’d sat myself down to first write the book (by hand), then type it (on a typewriter). Yeah, that long ago. 😉

As a result, I didn’t know how hugely the odds were against me. I didn’t have any idea how much money could be made in this business (more then than now, sigh . . .). I didn’t have the slightest notion that there was more to the writing business than just writing. A lot more.

After getting The Letter — no, not The Call — and accepting the offer came the revisions. They were fairly minor. I did more on this last book than that first one. I had my first deadline right away because Silhouette wanted to publish my book in a special promotional deal and they were on a tight schedule. Then came the line-edit, where the editor goes through the manuscript. Followed by the copy-edit, where the copy-editor checks for mistakes, continuity, a little fact-checking, making changes to punctuation to fit house style and catching anything the author and editor missed. Followed by the page proofs, or galleys, which is your last chance to make changes or corrections.

Somewhere in there, I did the art facts sheet, providing a short synopsis of the book, plus detailed descriptions of the hero and heroine and outlining 2-3 scenes for possible use on the cover. Plus, we brainstormed a title. My original title was Moonlight and Shadows, or something similar, but my editor chose Within Reach.

I had to fill out an author bio and get a publicity picture. There’s nothing quite so good at cutting your newly-inflated ego back down to size as trying to come up with something, just one thing, you’ve done of interest in all your years on earth. I thought for a long time. I had nothin’. I was about as interesting as dish water.

I had to send out review copies, join RWA, subscribe to Romantic Times, think about conferences and workshops. I did a few interviews. I fielded questions from people who thought I was now newly rich and people who thought publishing a romance novel was just a step or two above stripping for a living. I had to learn the terminology of the business. (When my editor mentioned that I needed to watch my POV shifts, I responded: “I’m a Navy wife. To me POV means privately-owned vehicle. What does it mean to you?”)(Point of view — whose head we’re in in a particular scene.)

Oh, yeah, and somewhere in there, I had to think about the second book. Write it. Submit it. Get rejected on it. That’s when I learned more business terminology: proposal, synopsis, partial. (A proposal usually consists of a synopsis, or outline, and a chapter or three. A partial is a partial manuscript.)

And when I sold that second book, it all started again. Because I was a fast writer, I’d have three or four manuscripts in various phases of the publishing process at the same time. Sometimes I felt like a chicken with its head cut off.

Today’s aspiring authors are so much better informed than I was. They know what to expect. They can talk knowledgably about contract terms and promotion and editors and agents. They know the biz, they know it’s tough, and they’re still willing to pursue that dream. Gotta admire them.

And now, going back to the chicken part . . .

Happy Easter to all my Peeps!


11 thoughts on “Writing: More Than It Says

  1. Happy Easter!

    When I decided I wanted to write novels, I did think all I had to do was sit down and tell my stories on paper. But now I know that writing can become secondary if you get bogged down with the business side of the profession. But what a great career this is.

    I’m so very grateful to have you and all of the Inkers as a resource. You guys provide tremendous support and great info.


    • We love having you with us, RD. Writers love to talk about writing, and sometimes {she says wryly}, it’s hard to get nonwriters to listen. A lot of people in my life prefer to think of it as kind of a hobby — when I’m through with housework and yardwork and lounging around watching TV, then I dash off a few pages and before you know it, I have a book coming out.

      Don’t I wish it were that easy!

  2. Marilyn,

    It’s kind of nice to know that you had a ‘gentle awakening’ in the publishing business. There are some authors who talk like their first experience was akin to being hit by an eighteen wheeler.

    Happy Easter to you. I just saw an “Unwrapped” episode on Easter candies. They featured an artist who only does Peep art. Your kind of guy.


    • I was lucky. No second-book syndrome, a wonderful editor who saw something in me worth nurturing and plenty of opportunities to learn.

      I would have loved the Peep art. Right after my stripper book came out, Leslie Wainger — the above-mentioned editor — sent us a jpg of a Peeps strip club. It was a hoot!

      • Those are so cute, Sandee! When I Googled ’em, I got the more gruesome images — crime scenes, peep bars, etc. What happens when a Peep goes bad.

        I ran into a man and woman at WalMart when buying candy for the kiddos, and they told me how he and their adult son had taken a propane torch to the grandkids’ Peeps last Easter to see what would happen. (Not much, according to them.) I laughed and added a few more boxes of them to my cart.

  3. We were all innocent babes in this business – to one degree or another – in the beginning. Guess step one is writing the story. Step two is everything else…all at once! We think we’re ready (for those of us still unpubbed), but your post is a wake up call.

    Thanks for sharing…and HAPPY EASTER!!


    • All innocent and usually overconfident, LOL. We think we’ve written the greatest book in the world until we get into a critique or writers’ group or, in my case, submit it (the rejection before the sale). The general gist of the letter was “don’t bother me again.” THAT was a wake-up call.

      That’s one of the best things about RWI: we’ve got so many published in so many areas that we can get/give advice about practically anything.

      Hope your Peep Day was great.

  4. OMG, if I’d had to go through all that, I might never had stayed with writing.
    My Easter wasn’t half bad considering I worked. I got pulled to PICU for an easy 8 hours. My floor had an Easter dinner pot luck and I spent the last four hours back on my floor with only three easy patients.
    After work, I went to Applebees were I had a terrific dinner, then off to Reasors where I found a title that wasn’t supposed to be out until the sixth! Very nice day.

    • Wow, Jackie, you did score. I never think of PICU as being easy. Come to think of it, I never think of eight hours doing something as easy, either. 🙂 I’m a lazy one, I am.

      What a find with the book. Now you need to finish reading it right away, since today’s the sixth!

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