I've dreamed about writing this blog post for years. Literally. And now that the moment is here, I'm not sure where to start or what to include. So let's get the important stuff out of the way first...
I sold my manuscript,TELL ME SOMETHING GOOD,to the Entangled Publishing Indulgence line!!
As you can see, I am beyond thrilled. I love this manuscript (almost as much as I love Reese's peanut butter cups) and as someone who has "stalked" Entangled for awhile and knows what they have accomplished, I'm happy to put it in their capable hands.
*needle scratching on the record* or *tape rewinding in the VCR* (Take your pick, although I fear both references date me).
Anywho...REWIND! Back to the beginning...
I decided to get serious about writing romance in the summer of 2009. I was unemployed and knew this was the time if I was ever going to do it. I'd actually started my first manuscript in 2002 after I graduated from college when I *sigh* found myself unemployed. But I didn't know what I was doing and I got halfway through the manuscript and realized I had no idea what happened next. I found a job and put it aside.
But I never forgot about it and whenever I got a new computer, I made sure I transferred the file.
In 2009, I figured out how to end the book. And I was off. I read blogs on writing, posts on message boards, and attended RWA meetings and conferences. And I wrote with the goal of becoming a better writer every day.
To make this long story a little shorter, let's skip ahead, shall we?
In March 2012, I received the completely unexpected honor of being named a RWA Golden Heart® finalist. My first thought was, "Oh, my God. I don't suck!"
I started querying agents because I was having trouble getting a response from a publisher I'd submitted to and I thought having an agent on my side would help. A solid plan, but one that didn't work because the agents, one by one, rejected Tell Me.
They were nice about it, saying complimentary things about my writing and often offering feedback, but a rejection is a rejection is a rejection.
Anyway, even without an agent, I eventually heard back from said publisher and it was a "no." I was disappointed, of course, but I knew it wasn't the end of the world.
I submitted the MS to another publisher because they offered a quick turnaround with guaranteed feedback. They were true to their word. Again, it was a "no." This rejection, however, sent me into a bit of a tailspin because of the editor's promised feedback. She said I did something in the story that I would never intentionally do in a million years. I was appalled/embarrassed and immediately thought of what I needed to do to rip my book apart and start over.
Then I calmed down. I thought back to the feedback I'd received from agents, critique partners, and the other editor. No one had ever menioned this, and I realized that editor just didn't "get" my book (which is fine, BTW. Not everyone will and I'm okay with that. This really is a subjective business). It didn't make sense to make wholesale changes for someone who'd already rejected the manuscript. (And no, I don't want to be more specific about the feedback because I didn't change my MS based on what she said and I don't want to unduly influence anyone who might read the book in question in the future. And no, the feedback wasn't mean. It just happened to hit a nerve).
Okay, so I wasn't going to change my MS based on this editor's opinion. But I needed to do something. There was something holding agents and editors back from agreeing to represent/buy it. I set Tell Me aside and worked on other manuscripts while I let possible changes percolate in the back of my mind.
At the start of this year, I decided this was going to be my year. I was tired of writing and not being published. I was going to do everything in my power to make my dream come to reality. But you can't get published (with a publishing house anyway) unless you submit, and I wasn't out on submission anywhere.
So I needed to get cracking.
Although I'd been working on other manuscripts, I always intended to return to Tell Me because I adored the story and the characters and I had the confidence Golden Heart final had given me to fall back on (there's no way I would have finaled in the contest if it truly sucked). Also, don't tell anyone, but I'm kind of stubborn.
I went back to the first editor's feedback. She mentioned a lack of character development. I didn't agree with that assessment because I knew exactly how the characters changed and grew throughout the book, but I also knew there was a distinct possibility that what I knew happened might not have made it on to the page. Maybe I was being too subtle.
Game plan time!
I knew that some writers swear by story fixer Michael Hauge. I went Internet searching and found this blog post describing Hauge's method of creating inner conflict in characters. I applied his methods to my hero and heroine, Tate and Noelle. Seeing their histories/fears/desires on paper really crystallized who they were as people to me, and I went back into the manuscript and added all this stuff where I saw fit. At times, I felt like like I was being too heavy handed. But no one who's read it since I made the changes has commented on it.
Lesson learned: Screw subtlety. Also, my additions probably aren't that heavy handed, but I was being too subtle.
The other area that needed improving based on agent feedback: Pacing. I could work with this, so I moved some things around and deleted some others to speed up the action.
When I thought the manuscript was worthy of being seen by outside eyes, I sent it to my friend and fellow writer, Dawn Alexander, who'd generously offered to critique it for me. She did an amazing job, pointing out my weak spots. I made (most of) her changes. Then I read it a million times because I am a perfectionist and I really, really wanted this to be my year.
When I was so sick of Noelle and Tate (though I love them dearly) that I couldn't bear reading about them any more, I submitted the manuscript to Entangled Publishing on June 17. On June 22, I received an email from editor Gwen Hayes saying she was interested in publishing Tell Me.
But the book still had to go to acquisitions, so there was a chance that it could still be rejected. I was hoping to get everything wrapped up by RWA Nationals, so I could shout out it from the rooftops, but that didn't happen. I talked to Entangled authors, Nicole Helm and Jackie Ashenden, who talked me down from the ledge and told me acquisitions wasn't a scary place to be.
Still! I was so freaking close to that Reese's peanut butter cup I could almost taste that perfect mixture of chocolate and peanut butter, but it was just out of my reach.
Finally, late last week, I saw this Gwen Hayes tweet.
I raced to my email and there was the golden ticket email. The acquisitions board said YES!
*press play for Cece Peniston's Finally* (Yes, I'm aging myself again, but I don't care!)
Lessons learned 1. Dream.
2. Do the work to make the dream come true.
3. Strive to be better every day.
4. Trust yourself. Consider ALL the feedback you receive, incorporate the parts that resonate, and discard the rest. YOU know your story best, but others can see things that you are blind to.
By the way, the story really hasn't changed much. I tweaked and improved some things, but the story is the same story I came up with way back when.
Oh, the story, you say. What's it about? It's funny and sexy and sweet and modern. IMHO. And totally me. Here's the (unofficial) blurb for TELL ME SOMETHING GOOD (to be published in 2014).
Tate Dr. Noelle Butler, the host of the radio show Noelle Knows, is an uptight psychologist who needs to chill out. She knows nothing about sports, but she’s talking about them anyway. So what if I called in to her show to set her straight?
Noelle Sports radio talk show host Tate Grayson is a playboy trust fund baby who wouldn’t know hard work if it bit him in the butt. So what if I phoned in and told him to stick to sports and to leave the relationship advice to me?
Here’s what. The station’s listeners loved our “discussions” and now we’ve been tasked to do a show together. Unbelievable.
But, hey, it’s only for a few weeks. What’s the worst that could happen? Besides killing each other? How about falling for each other?
The end. Almost. There are A LOT of people I need to thank, but this post is already obnoxiously long, so I'll save that for another post. Probably tomorrow.
Right now, I'm off to celebrate!
P.S. How many pop culture references can you spot in this post?