Or – The Evolution of a Novel (and its author)
The voices in my head aren’t real, but they have some really good ideas.
So goes a sticker my daughter bought for me. Fortunately she understands the “voices” while others think I’m crazy. It’s almost like dreaming, or watching bits and pieces of a movie in your head. Bits and pieces all jumbled while you, as director, yell CUT and start the whole scene over.
About eighteen months ago I had a random idea to write a story about a guy who lost his wallet outside a church. And make it an inspirational contemporary romance. That was it really, just an idea. Then I had to choose who would find his wallet. What would they do? What would make them do it? What would the wallet-loser do when he did or didn’t find it? Who was the wallet loser? Why was he there?
In no time at all I had my first chapter. Rudimentary at best and very old-fashioned in style. No matter, I sent it off to a contest. Gotcha! 2007. I changed it a little, added a few more pages, and then sent it off to another contest. Meanwhile – I began to read “da rules” on inspy stories. Hadn’t broken any of them so far, but what was going to happen next?
At this point I undoubtedly set it aside and worked on something else. Then I got my Gotcha! results.
Oh my. Not quite the bottom but almost there. Perplexed, I read the comments. One judge admitted if she hadn’t been forced to read the whole thing she would have put it down after page two. All judges commented on my poor sentence structure, backstory dumps, and wishy-washy POV.
All judges loved my heroine, encouraged me beyond belief, and told me to rework it a little but not give up. One, a published author, gave me her e-mail address and a bunch of suggestions. She offered to re-read the first chapter after I’d re-written it. Wow. I was inspired, and made some changes. But I still had a long way to go.
The story hit a crit group, I think I got through several chapters. It was tough, though. The critters wanted more action, more tension. And a few other things not conducive to inspies. But I did get some good feedback and encouragement, and kept rewriting the darn story. I frequently got sick of it, I admit.
An eBay fundraiser allowed me to meet one of my greatest mentors, Tracy Ruckman. I was high bidder for one of Tracy’s editing services. She took my three chapters and clumsy synopsis and tore them to shreds – very politely, of course. She also told me how much she loved it and gave me fantastic suggestions. I think I learned more from that single review than from anything else and all of my writing improved thanks to Tracy. I also came up with a “real” title – Learning to Let Go – a lot more exciting than the placeholder of The Wallet.
I embarked on rewrite number 257 and sent off entries to a few more contests. Then, in August of last year, something fantastic happened. A publisher requested revisions on my partial, and the entry began to final. I called in Tracy to help me with the revisions, and sent it off to the publisher. And waited. Meanwhile, it occurred to me I should probably finish the novel. I wrote and wrote and packed the first half off to Tracy. She loved it. Until page eighty-three when my heroine had issues with many things and showed a spiteful and bitter side.
Tracy said NO. Fix it. Well, darn. I knew she was right, but that meant more work. I hadn’t heard from the publisher and no one would ever buy the stupid story anyway. I ignored it and worked on something else, deciding this MS would be my learning material and nothing more.
Unfinished, it gathered dust.
Well – so much for that. In a few short months the thing finaled in six contests. The crowning glory was first place in the East Texas RWA’s Southern Heat, followed by first in Gotcha! 2008. I was pleasantly surprised. When I got the Southern Heat scoresheet back from the Wild Rose Press editor, I was ecstatic. The wonderful lady gave me a perfect score. After a nudge by the Southern Heat contest coordinator, Carol Braswell, TWRP requested a full. Goodness gracious. I think I was finally excited about this story.
Until Carol told me to send in the full ASAP, or at least within a couple of weeks. Eek!
I took time off work and about wore out my fingers but got it in AND my heroine stayed “true” throughout. TWRP replied quickly and told me I’d get their response by May 5th.
March 18th – I get a contract offer. I still can’t believe it.
(cross-posted at RosesofHouston.blogspot.com)