Today was supposed to be my release day for SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES. Yay! Except…it’s not. It’s awesome that a self-published author can get a book out quickly, but I’m still learning how to estimate publication dates so that I don’t overpromise and underdeliver (as I did in this case, sigh). I’m currently waiting to get the book back from my formatter, so it should be up in the next two weeks. And there will be much rejoicing throughout the land (or at least my apartment) when that happens!
In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to share my writing process for this book. Or lack of process – it depends on what you think ‘process’ should be. If you’ve had a book turn into a nightmare of rewrites and revisions, read on – we can commiserate together. Here’s a brief timeline:
November 2004: I started a NaNoWriMo project about a woman whose mother arranges for her to marry a Scottish earl. I got ~10000 words into the story before life (in the form of Thanksgiving dinner for forty people) intervened.
2005-2007: I kept working on this project in fits and starts, but I spent six months in India and three months in Ireland for work, and life kept getting in the way. Excuses, excuses…but I knew that the story was about a woman who secretly wrote Gothic romances, and her fear that marriage would prevent her from ever writing again. Malcolm and Amelia’s characters were pretty set at this point, even if my feelings about the plot were “who needs plot when you have long, endless banter!” Ha.
2008: I took a leave of absence from the day job and finished the book (then called AN INCONVENIENT MARRIAGE) in time to enter it in the 2009 Golden Heart contest. Then I started querying like mad and overmedicating myself with coffee/chocolate/wine while I waited to hear back.
2009: I finaled in the Golden Heart and became a Ruby!! (which, to be honest, was one of the best parts of this whole journey). I also signed with a fabulous agent shortly after finaling, and eventually went on to win the Regency category.
2010: We heard back from the last editor who had the book, and even though she’d taken it to the acquisitions team, they declined it. I wailed and gnashed my teeth and tore my garments (or, rather, drank wine and had a surly NCIS marathon). Then I wrote ONE NIGHT TO SCANDAL, which eventually became the book that came out two months ago (HEIRESS WITHOUT A CAUSE).
2011: HEIRESS WITHOUT A CAUSE finaled in the Golden Heart (yay!) but didn’t sell to a publishing house (boo!). So my agent and I agreed that I would self-publish. I blithely said I would release HEIRESS and SCOTSMEN back to back, since they were already done. Stupid. Here’s what really happened:
October 2011: Oooh! I can’t wait to revisit SCOTSMEN and fix a few little things!
November 2011: There are more things to fix than I thought there were [note my utter disregard of plot when I first wrote it]…but I think I can salvage almost all of it.
December 2011: I’ll rewrite the first half and salvage the second. And I’ll numb the pain by watching several seasons of “Doctor Who” and eating every Midwestern delicacy my mother can feed me over Christmas.
January 2012: Maybe I’ll rewrite the second half too…
February 2012: What the %*#& have I done?! Is this a Frankenstein’s monster? Or is it actually better? I don’t know anymore – I can’t see the manuscript anymore through my tangled, unwashed hair. It’s at this point that I hired a freelance editor who worked at HQN/MIRA for several years, and she assured me that it wasn’t a monster (although she might have felt differently if she’d seen my hair).
March 2012: I finished the rewrite! Yay! I estimate I kept ~5% of the original book. But it’s way better, and there’s actually a plot, which is kind of exciting. Then I sent it off to the formatter, and as soon as I get it back from them, it will be up on Amazon/Barnes and Noble/Kobo.
This whole process was painful, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. However, I’m certainly glad that I did it. I could have taken the shortcut and just fixed a few continuity details before putting the book up – and I’ll admit I was tempted. But even though speed and prolific output is important when self-publishing, it was important to me to put out the best book possible. That’s why I hired a book formatter rather than doing it myself; I could have done it myself, and the book would have come out on time, but the formatter will produce something better and prettier and more professional than what I’m currently capable of.
I’m also coming to realize and accept that writing a whole book, and then tearing it apart and rewriting it, may be my process. I don’t want to admit that — I want to be the writer who can write a book once, do a couple of editing passes, and be done. But I think that I’m just enough of a pantser that I have to feel my way through the book on the first draft, and then rewrite it all once I have a better view of where the characters are going.
I could go on endlessly about process, but I’ll spare you. If you do want to hear more, though, I recently did an Authors@Google talk in which the interviewer asked me about process, self-publishing, and leaving the day job – you can watch it here:
Do you have any projects sitting under your bed that you want to revisit? Have you rewritten something you wrote years ago? Or is your process totally different? I would love to hear about your projects – and a lucky commenter will win a copy of SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES (any available format) as soon as it comes out!
Sara Ramsey writes fun, feisty Regency historical romance. Her first book in the Muses of Mayfair series, HEIRESS WITHOUT A CAUSE, is out now on Amazon, Nook, and Kobo. Her second book, SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES, will release in early April. You can find more information about her writing (and participate in her current contest for chances to win books, gift cards, etc.) at www.sararamsey.com.