Sunrise in a Garden of Love & Evil and Tastes of Love & Evil, as well as three Regency novellas for Harlequin Undone: Notorious Eliza, The Wanton Governess, and The Unrepentant Rake. She lives in Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.
Last month, I submitted a full manuscript – a Regency – to my editor at Harlequin. A few weeks later, I got my revision letter. She wanted lots and lots of changes.
This in itself wasn’t a surprise. I never get it quite right the first time, so thank God for editors. I’ve had four so far, and they’ve all been great at picking out what’s not working, at asking good questions, at putting me back on track. They’re not always right, but in this case she was 90 percent spot on. I suffered a minor twinge of dismay at having so much rewriting to do, but what really, really bugged me about this particular revision letter was that I already knew much of what was wrong with the story. Not consciously, or I wouldn’t have sent it in – but subconsciously, I knew, and had known all along. Thinking back, I remembered being uneasy about certain aspects of the story. I even recalled passages where I’d thought, “Hmm, does this work?” But those niggling doubts hadn’t registered strongly enough for me to do something about them.
This is a problem. The more an author hones her craft, the more aspects of it should take care of themselves automatically. We learn to vary our sentence structure, to cut excess words, to stick to one point of view at a time, and so on. Catching what’s not working story-wise before sending it to an editor is just as important. Obviously, what works and doesn’t depends a lot on the genre you’re writing, but I’ve written for Harlequin before, I’ve received both acceptances and rejections, and I know more or less what they want. I should get more and more efficient…right?
Hopefully so, but on the other hand, writers aren’t robots. We can’t write the same old stuff every time without getting burnt out or bored to death. We have to be willing to take chances, to listen to the muse, do something different even while doing the same. Which leads me to what I’ve been blogging about this month – my latest novella for Harlequin Undone, The Romance of the Toe Bone.
No , that’s not the real title. I knew Harlequin wouldn’t go for that. It’s actually called The Unrepentant Rake, which perfectly captures the hero’s personality. (He was a hoot to write!) But the story premise and the happily ever after depend on a holy relic that’s been passed down in the heroine’s family for centuries— the toe bone of St. Davnet, an Irish saint of the 6th or 7th centuries.
My muse loved the toe bone concept, and so did I! It was so much fun. And yet, I was sure my editor would find it too weird – so sure that I forgot to look for St. Davnet’s staff when I visited the National Museum of Ireland last summer. (Duh! I wanted to see the staff anyway, and it’s not like I get to jet over to Dublin any old time I like.) I was surprised when her revision letter didn’t tell me to ditch the toe bone, and even more surprised when she accepted the revised story, toe bone and all.
Sooo… What do you listen to? Experience? Commonsense? Instinct? The muse? I hope to get better at this, but sometimes, I just don’t know.
One lucky commenter will receive a free download of The Unrepentant Rake.