Saturday, August 26, 2006

Rather than a figurative line floating somewhere in the romantic notions of aspiring authors, deadlines are really dates, given by the publisher, for when a manuscript is due.

Sound a little less like the fairytale?

Janelle and I thought so, too, especially when we realized that with more than twelve chapters left to write, our deadline was only eight weeks away. Added to that, the pressure of preparing for the American Christian Fiction Writer’s conference, held every year in September, loomed heavy over our heads. Both of us have other manuscripts we want to pitch, so finishing this book early became doubly important. In order to conserve time, we decided to put aside the editing for a bit, and concentrate on getting the story down on paper. . .er. . .computer.

Funny thing is, the rest of the world didn't stop simply because we had a deadline. There was still home, work, and family, to deal with, not to mention VBS! How did we do it? I found myself spending a lot less time answering emails and surfing the internet, for one thing, but the biggest time saver of all was simply turning off the t.v. and forcing myself to write, even it was only a page or two each night.

The days and chapters flew by as we scrambled to get the writing done and still give ourselves and our crit groups ample time to critique. Thankfully, they were understanding and agreed to look over large portions of the manuscript in order to help us meet our deadline. That did not, however, mean less to change. Like any good crit group, my partners are dedicated to helping me put out the very best novel I can, which translated to minor, but necessary revisions. I didn’t mind. Better them, than my editor.

Once the novel was complete, Janelle and I got together to apply the final edits. Both of us could realistically be accused of being perfectionists. She is very detail oriented, and I am nit-picky when it comes to editing, so we prepared ourselves for a long day of hard work. The entire process took nearly ten hours, but we were satisfied with the finished product and managed to submit the book with four weeks to spare.

Next week: Hurry up and Wait

Saturday, August 19, 2006

So Janelle and I decided to co-author.

Seemed like a simple enough venture when we started out. Barbour announced their new mystery line and it seemed the perfect opportunity. But when the contract was signed, the real work of submitting a polished manuscript began.

For anyone considering co-authoring, I would caution you to choose your partner carefully. How well do you know the other person? How familiar are you with his or her work? Besides being co-authors, Janelle Mowery and I have been critique partners and friends for almost five years. She knows my work inside and out, as I do hers. Our styles are similar. We hold many of the same values and beliefs, which is vital when writing inspirationals. All of this will combine to either make or break a duo, no matter how dynamic they are.

Honesty is also important. Janelle and I have always been open with one another, speaking the truth in love when something works in a manuscript and when it doesn’t. This gave us a good foundation for developing a deeper working relationship, especially since we were planning for an extended term.

Long before the actual writing, we began plotting the story via telephone and emails. Communication is key, so be sure you correspond often and in length with your co-author. This will help you avoid troubling issues when the story takes an unexpected turn.

Once we came up with a good premise, timeline, and a detailed synopsis, we took time out to find headshots of our characters so that we could both visualize them clearly. THEN we began writing. Even with the advance prep work, this was no easy task. We determined to each take a POV character, but we both had very clear ideas of what the other’s character would be like, which meant a lot of issues had be worked out before and during the writing process. Once again, knowing your partner is crucial so that disagreements can be resolved calmly through compromise.

And that was just chapter one. :-)

The first major hurdles behind us, Janelle and I quickly got into the story. Over the next few weeks, we took turns writing and submitting chapters, sending them back and forth, editing and critiquing each other until we were both satisfied. Did I mention the need for compromise? Be prepared to work out the kinks when your co-author doesn't envision a scene the same way you did, and be willing to accept that their idea may be better than the one you came up with. The beauty of co-authoring really is the old adage, "two minds are better than one."

Afterward, make use of critique partners. We belong to two fantastic crit groups. Even though Janelle and I picked apart and perused every chapter, they were still able to offer suggestions and make recommendations that served to strengthen our work. We met face-to-face in order to review the critiques and decide which changes to apply. This became even more valuable as the time for submitting the manuscript to our editor drew near.

Next week: The Deadline

Sunday, August 13, 2006

“Mom, I sold a book.”

I still remember the excitement I felt as I spoke those words. After seven years of learning, writing, submitting, and being rejected, I’d finally sold a manuscript. At long last, the hard work and tears had paid off. I could officially and without reservation, add AUTHOR to the signature line on my emails. Hey, it’s the little things, right?

Anyway, my mom was thrilled. For almost half a minute, she just laughed and repeated over and over how proud she was of me. She asked when the book would come out. She asked about the publisher. And, eventually, we got down to the nitty-gritty.

“So? How much do you get?”


“The money. How much do you get?”


You know, before I joined the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), I was under the mistaken impression that people who wrote books owned expensive cars and lived in crystal palaces with servants to cook their food and clean their bathrooms. Okay, I wasn’t quite that na├»ve. Not quite.

I tried to explain that I was a new author, that it was the sale that mattered. After she got over the initial shock, Mom remembered that she was proud of me, and that she could tell all her friends she has a daughter who is published. I think that, and the fact that the royalties go up considerably for reprints, made up for the rest.

Mom finally found her voice. "I'm happy for you, hija (daughter). Just be sure you read the contract carefully."

Carefully? My husband and I perused the contract for days! Certain parts jumped out at me, things like, "Grant of Rights," and "Delivery of Manuscript." Suddenly, I realized there was a whole lot more than I thought to this whole "Publishing Agreement" thing. By putting my name to paper, I was signing over rights to a novel I had prayed and sweated over for months. Not only that, I was bound to deliver said novel, described within the publishing agreement as the "WORK" by a clearly outlined deadline.

Why do they refer to it as the "Work?" I wondered. And then I found it. Tentatively titled. The publisher could choose to rename the book if they chose. That didn't bother me. For some reason, when God called me to write novels, He didn't call me to write titles. I'm horrible at them.

My husband and prayed over the contract wording, made sure we understood all of the clauses correctly, and got advice from an agent I had been corresponding with. In the meantime, Janelle Mowery, my co-author, did the same. Once we were both satisfied, we got together to sign the paperwork. Hands shaking, I put my name to my first ever book contract. A few weeks later, I got a copy of the contract back, signed by a Barbour representative. It was official. I was an author.

I framed my copy. ;-)

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Writing is a tough business. I've come to appreciate those people who stuck with it, who learned the ropes through trial and error, and after many tears, tests, and turmoils, landed that first contract.

Mine came last March.

I still remember the phone call, the excitement. Little did I know the work that would be involved. Signing the contract is, after all, only the first step. I invite you to journey with me. Come along as I learn the intricacies involved in the process from contract to publication. Expand your vocabulary as we are introduced to such fun writing terms as 'galleys,' 'cover development,' and the dreaded, 'deadline.'

I shudder to think of all the things I don't know. They'll come at me eventually, I'm sure. So peek over my shoulder. Learn as I do, what comes AFTER the contract, and prepare yourself...for the day you get your phone call.

Next week: The Contract

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