Romancing The Work

I just finished work on my first romantic fiction piece.  It took me over a year to write and my days were fraught with doubt, indecision, and wine.  I wrote the original manuscript over twenty-years ago.  At that time, I had pitched it to publishers, agents and to whoever I could find.  After the onslaught of rejection letters arrived, I decided to put it away.  I felt it was destined for the great slush pile in the sky.

Fast forward twenty years and that manuscript sat there daring me to open it and take a peek.  So I did.  The bones were still good, but the story and the characters needed work.  I needed better dialogue and a better plot.  I opened my ten-year-old laptop and started typing.  I bought a book on how to write a novel.  I researched websites on how to write a good romance.  I bought a fresh notebook and wrote character outlines, plot structures, subplots, point of views, dialogue and pretty much anything that popped into my head.

I kept a running recipe card summarizing each chapter so I could remember details of characters like birthdates, hair color, eye color, traits, jobs, families, and backstories.  I kept pictures of my old apartment in the back of the notebook so I could take it out and look at it remembering it in detail.  It is the inspiration for Ashley’s apartment in the book, right down to the weather-beaten picnic table and it was fun to relive that time through a character’s eyes.

I took the pile of rejection letters and went through them.  Again.  I researched how to write dialogue.  I researched plots and pacing.  I wrote and rewrote chapters.  I sat in my basement and isolated myself from everyone, who still insisted they needed to see what I was doing.  I took my ten-pound laptop to work and wrote outlines on my lunch break.  I rewrote the chapters at home in the evening.  I read and wrote for months.  Then I stopped.

I left the project for three months.  I’m not sure why.  By the fall, I was ready to tackle it again and began.  Again.  It took me until June to finish what I started. 

But I finished.

And I’m happy I didn’t give up.  I’m happy I didn’t listen to that voice telling me to put it away.  The voice that said it was too hard and complicated and no one would read it.  I’m happy the rejection letters sat in my file daring me to try again because, without all of that negative “I-knew-you-couldn’t-do-it” attitude, I proved them wrong.

My decision to self-publish was born from the above-noted rejection letters.  I didn’t think I was as bad as all of these lovely publishers and agents thought I was.   I am determined to get this book out into the world by the end of this month and I can’t wait.

Wading through all of the self-publishing advice and webinars and blogs can be tedious.  I picked one person who sounded knowledgeable and listened to his advice.  Some of it I used, and some I threw aside.  Not everything is written in stone.

I just want to publish a book.  Simple. 

Apparently, not.

There’s designing a cover and editing your work.  Selecting a platform and uploading files.  Formatting, ISBN numbers, social media, marketing, and the list goes on.

Tackle one thing at a time.  I started months ago researching book cover design.

I created a cover for the book using a free online service.  I just couldn’t find a resource or a designer that fit what I had in mind.  I used the suggestions I found online.  I researched the most appealing colors and the most attractive fonts.  I went through stock photos and templates.  I wasn’t liking anything I saw.  I stuck to my original plan and with a new YouTube vid in my mind, I designed what I wanted. 

 Through happenstance, my cover came to life.  I love it.

It was a lot of work, but I enjoyed every step of the process.  I’m now working on the outline for Book 2 and have ideas for the third.   I’m taking my time and I will publish when I feel I have everything set and ready to go. 

If you are working on your first novel, keep going.  You’ll want to give up and throw the laptop out of the window but resist.  Drink the wine and take a walk.  Then go back to it.  The journey in writing the book is the most fun. 

You’ll find there are no better words than “The End” staring back at you.

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A Little Hope

These past few months, I’ve been working on my first romantic fiction novel titled, False Hope.©  It’s been a long haul and I’m still writing and I hope to be finished soon.  I’m to the point now where I’m cluing up the last few chapters.  Below is the final passage that is written from my protagonist’s point of view regarding death and loss.  I thought it was especially true and wanted to share it.  Here it is….

  I came to view the emotional tumult of death similar to that of travelling through a tunnel.   My life prior to entering the tunnel as opposed to my life after having walked through it.  My life before the tunnel was full of youthful energy and hope for the future.  I had a new job, good friends and much to look forward to;  then without warning I lost her.  Midway through the tunnel,  I didn’t think I would ever recover from the devastation and despair.  I crawled my way grasping to anything that remotely made sense to me.  It was dark and rank and I knew I had to keep going, but the struggle was so mired in confusion and pain, it was exhausting.  And then I woke up.  After walking through all of the sorrow and grief and loss,  I felt a change within me.  I emerged from the tunnel different than when I had entered.  Things appeared clearer, my understanding of the world around me was renewed and I felt empowered.  I had conquered the most overwhelming loss and yet, I was still standing.  I was still breathing.  It was miraculous to me that after having my guts kicked in by her death, I ceased being doubled over in agony.  It had passed.  It had evolved into an everlasting ache, more than a sharp acute stab.  I could live with that.  The choice to move forward was as much in my power as I willed it to be.  I could have chosen to wither and wallow in self-pity and hide myself from the world, but that would not have been living.  That would have merely been existing and was that any way to honour someone who had died?  By simply throwing myself on the mercy of the earth and grovel away my life, instead of making it count for something?   My choice to stand and move forward was as much for selfish reasons as opposed to anything close to altruistic.  I refused to concern myself with how others viewed my departure from grief and instead focused on how to live with the loss.  It wasn’t going away, there was nowhere for the empty space that was once occupied by a living breathing person to go.  It simply did not get refilled with something or someone else.  It continued to be empty.  It followed me around and became a part of me.  This empty space attached to my leg or my arm or my heart continues be a part of who I am.  Yes, death changed me.  But so did hope.  Hope in its finest form gave me the chance to move forward.  The hope for a better tomorrow, the hope I could find love, the hope I would feel like a whole human being again pushed me to live my life; to re-enter the world with the perspective that I had the power to change what may lie in wait for me.  Good or bad, wrong or right, truth or lie I hoped for more for myself.  Whether that hope was true or false it was worth holding tight to my chest.                                                                                                                                                         -Ashley, False Hope© 2019