What do you do when your editor tells you your book just isn’t good enough?
Shell-shocked and emotional, I wept, tore at my hair and paced the floor. Husband patted my back and suggested I give it up as a bad job. “You are really good at writing historical fiction,” he said. “Maybe contemporary erotic romance isn’t the right genre for you…”
The only thing in life I’ve given up on, other than numerous diets, was riding horses, to my regret. I wasn’t about to give up on Three.
My editor John Hudspith’s advice was to dig deep for a better story, and then rewrite it. And that the secret to success was CONFLICT. My original narrative was too twee and my characters lacked depth. I needed to keep asking, “what if?” rather than letting them passively accept their situation. I needed to force my imagination out of its comfort zone. I needed to up my game.
You’re a writer,” Johnny said, “and if you want your work to be great, to be compelling, to sell well and garner positive reviews, you must dig for it. Dig for hours, days, weeks, months. Dig for those gems until your brain hurts, until sweat pours down your face and you’ve pulled all your hair out. Push yourself then push yourself some more. Don’t accept the first gem you find; put it aside and dig for better, because you will find it. Understand that all the digging and hair-pulling and straining until your brain hurts is exercise for the imagination. Stretch it, push the boundaries outwards and keep repeating the mantra What if, What if, What if. Dig into the depths of each character, each place, each and every possible scenario. Make notes, pages and pages of notes. Keep doing all of those things and eventually the gems will pile up. And that’s when the magic happens. Gems come alive, start connecting, strengthening, birthing fresh gems with ease, and suddenly your story is there in substance, just waiting for the maestro to orchestrate it into a beautiful tune.”
Johnny’s advice was sound advice. I sat at my desk for hours every day, exploring, making notes, slowly but surely building foundations, finding those gems and then sweating and cursing until I found more. And I have to admit that I ended up enjoying the experience. When the hard work pays off and those sparkling gems are born, the pain of labour is banished.
“And don’t be smug,” Johnny added. “Realise that, at whatever point you decide to stop digging and start writing, there’s always something different, something better to be had.”
The premise of Three changed radically over the course of the next couple of months. What started as a sex romp “jolly” became a much deeper story with three lost souls coming together, overcoming their inner conflict and then facing an external one. Introducing the conflict was the key to the overall improvement.
Three is now published and the reviews are excellent. Today I can’t help feeling proud my baby achieved “bestseller” status on both sides of the pond. 🙂
Quotes from the most recent reviews:
“Unlike a lot of ménage books this has a great story behind all the sexy. Everything is not magically fixed by adding another. This is a great story with strong characters.”
“What starts as a bit of fun turns into a heart-warming tale of three people finding so much more.”
“The relationship Max, Steve, and Lauren have is amazing and touching. The connection they share and their trials are compelling.”
“I can’t believe these characters aren’t real, I loved each of them. Although it is sexually graphic, there is more to this book with a nice background story…”
“Three has a story you can follow (awesome story) and it keeps a great pace. Max, Lauren & Steven actually care about each other, that’s also another rare thing to me, normally it’s a wham bam thank you, ma’am…”
What have I learned from the whole experience? Not to be a lazy writer and go for the easy option, but to push myself, USE my brain, stretch it, dig for gems and then dig some more, because there’s always better to be found. Thank you, Johnny, for pushing me, for showing me how to stretch my mind and dig until it hurts.
And I won’t ever be smug. I wouldn’t dare. I’ve realised that stories have infinite versions, infinite possibilities, and that digging through the spectrum of possibilities is the key to great story. I’m now better armed for my next dig and can’t wait to enjoy the pain. Ha!
Onwards! (as Johnny likes to say).