Year 2000 was a turning point in my life; that year, I completed not only my first, but also my second-ever novels, both contemporary romances. So this is the Cliff’s Notes version *laughs*
I’d been writing on and off all my life since as early as I can remember (I specifically remember 3rd grade, writing in bed at night under the covers with a flashlight when I was supposed to be sleeping). But I was never “A Writer” (TM), it was just … my stories. That’s what I called them. I wrote bits and pieces as they came to me. One day, on a whim, I joined AOL. I have to admit, I joined it because I watched “You’ve Got Mail” and the computers said “You’ve Got Mail” when they turned them on, and so I joined on a free trial, just for a lark so I could hear my computer tell me I had mail. Yes, I’m that easy 🙂 Anyway! AOL had writers groups, and I found them. REAL writers. People who were writing and/or had written… even *gasps* PUBLISHED writers! I never met a published author in my life. Kinda like happening across the Holy Grail by accident. Anyway, so I got involved in some of the writers groups, and heard for the first time about Romance Writers of America. No kidding? I joined on the spot. The next thing I started to be made aware of was writing contests run by RWA chapters. Reading the lists of contests in the RWR had me just hot to join a contest and see. I mean, my mom said my stories were good, but she’s my mom, right? I mean, it’s in her job description to think her duckling is a swan and that her daydreamer daughter can be a writer. I mean, she also told me that I was smart, when my dad always told me I was stupid. Hmm, actually she turned out to be right, when she tricked me into taking a test for Mensa when I dind’t have a clue what it was, and then qualified… but eh, that’s another story.
So there was this contest, the Undiscovered Writer II contest by an RWA Chapter, Love Designers Writers’ Club and Rendezvous Magazine. It required a first chapter and a synopsis. I decided to give it a shot… see what kind of feedback I got and if anybody thought I could write at all. I thumbed through my (112 by then) stories, and pretty much at random chose Truck Stop. I didn’t, of course, have the opening scene written, much less a whole chapter, but I had 3 various scenes written, and a rough idea of the main conflict. Fortunately my Muse kicked in, as she sometimes does (unreliably), and I came up with a first chapter, and one with which I was actually pretty pleased. Then I took that very rough idea of the conflict, along with the first chapter and 3 various scenes, and hammered out a 3-page synopsis, and sent it off.
Mind you… I wasn’t entering this contest with any thought, or even hope, of winning. I just wanted to see if the feedback I got back was in anyway validating. The burning question here was, CAN I WRITE?
What I never expected in a million years was that… it would WIN!
Which it did. AND… that the prize for the winning manuscript was to be read by an senior editor at Silhouette. Who already had my name, and I had a PHONE NUMBER (yes, really!) to CALL!!! She’d already read it when I called, and wanted to see more.
Um. I explained that the book wasn’t finished (massive understatement there.. I had the first chapter and 3 random scenes). She said send along the first three, and I agreed, no problem. Once I was off the phone… AGGGHHH!!!! I scrambled to get two more chapters written. Plus, my synopsis had taken some heavy criticism from the contest judges, so I got a copy of Writers Market and dove into the section on synopses, and came up with one that seemed much better, to send along with the new chapters.
Then I sat back to relax in total satisfaction that I’d written THREE whole chapters and had a great synopsis, VERY pleased with myself, and waited for my “Thank you so much for submitting but…” letter to arrive.
It was a “Thank you so much for submitting, please send the full manuscript” letter.
WHAT???!!!!! I hadn’t written any more on it in the intervening month (only one! not 3 or 6 or a year like I’d been warned), and I figured I had plenty of time to write more, since I now had lovely new 3 chapters and a shiny new synopsis to send out to agents/editors, once Silhouette sent their rejection letter. And then *they* would take months to reject it, too (See? I was totally totally all mentally prepared to take the rejections!). I had lots of time! It never, EVER occurred to me that they’d actually want to see the complete manuscript! I mean… I was a totally newbie! This just didn’t happen. It takes months… years! to get this far!
So I got to writing with a passion. From May 8, 2000, when I received the letter from the Undiscovered Writers II Contest, to October 10, 2000, I wrote, and finished, the whole book. (I also made a major move to another state in the interim, partially accounting for the time factor).
Ultimately, Silhouette did not make an offer on the book, because it didn’t fit into their lines. We discussed it at length, but given the conflict was absolutely crucial to the plot, there was no way to get around that obstacle… or they *would* have!!!! I went on eventually to accept an offer from a small epublishing company in 2001, and when it was published in paperback, I sent a copy to Romantic Times magazine, and it got a four star review in February 2002!
For anyone interested, click here to go to Diary of an Aspiring Novelist to read the complete story. Warning! This is very long, and is probably only of interest to my close family & friends, and other beginning writers 🙂