It’s great to be back here at Riding With The Top Down. I have to say, a whole lot has changed since my last visit here in 09. I finally sold to NY and my debut novel BECAUSE OF YOU comes out in less than two weeks. Honestly, it’s kind of freaking me out. But today, I figured I’d talk about what’s changed since, well, The Call because so many people (self included) wonder what life is like on the other side of Sold.
Honestly, there were so many days when I never thought I would sell. My stuff didn’t fit, it wasn’t ready. Agents and editors would read military romance and automatically assume romantic suspense. I tried my hand at romantic suspense when I was first starting out. I’ll leave that to the masters *cough Cindy*
Anyway, I got The Call back in May of this year. And my life was, well, busy to say the least. My husband had been deployed for about four months at that point. I was a single mom whose daycare was imploding, a company commander for about a hundred and thirty troops and oh by the way, trying to figure out what to pitch to my agent next because my most recent project didn’t get out the door.
Needless to say, despite being really busy, I was at an impasse in my writing career. Mind you, I’d written through my deployment in Iraq in 2009. I’d written during my train up for that deployment. Writing had been a constant in my life since 2007 when I wrote my first real book. And yet, in May, I was struggling to figure out what next. So when Sue Grimshaw (Random House) dropped me a note and said, um, yes, I really like Shane and Jen in BECAUSE OF YOU (it was titled Her War then. I know, don’t laugh) she really got me reinvigorated because suddenly, I wasn’t just writing for some vacuous far off day.
I now had…a deadline.
To be honest, the best thing that has happened to me in the writing field is having a deadline because now, I can pace myself. I don’t have to sit down at the computer night after night, hitting some self imposed word count just to hold to the maxim that writers must write every day. I don’t believe in that. I had to give that up because at some point during the last year, there simply wasn’t enough Jess to go around. I love writing but sometimes, sleep is more important. So getting a deadline and having the ability to really pace myself on my projects helped tremendously.
The other thing that helped a ton was learning to answer a few basic questions before I started writing. I read Alexandra Sokoloff’s Screenwriting Tricks for Writers and it was literally like light bulbs went off. Once I started really thinking through my story before I started writing, I found I still had all the fun of writing a book (I was really worried about killing my sense of discovery that my characters led me on) without the having to throw the entire book out and start over part. Kind of liberating.
The really cool part that changed with The Call wasn’t what anyone might expect. I’ve always believed in my work, that’s never been a problem. But when you’re the only one arguing with New York after HUNDREDS of rejections, sometimes it gets a little daunting. So the coolest thing about The Call was just a little bit of a confidence boost. No, I’m not on the New York Times Bestseller list. I’m not some wildly wealthy self published author. But my book sold after a really, really long journey and people other than my editor like it. So while it’s always been about the book and the characters, having finally reached that elusive goal of sold is kind of a quiet boost that says, yeah, I can do it.
And that, really is the best part. Feeling like the last five years of struggling, of crying in Iraq because my then agent wouldn’t answer an email or a phone call, of getting yet another not right for me rejection. All of those were just stepping stones on the path to yeah, I can do it. I did. So whether or not Because of You takes off and becomes some great novel or if it’s just my first book, it’s going to always keep that special place in my heart of this was The One that did it for me. It was my first sale, the book that wouldn’t quit, the book that made me believe in it when no one else did.
So that’s the big change for me between The End and The Call. What’s your favorite Call story from any author? I’ll be giving away a copy of Because of You to one lucky commenter today!