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October 19, 2004: The Waiting Game

At the end of November, I will have to have cut approximately 17,000 words from my manuscript. I haven’t yet gotten the revisions letter from my editor, so all I can do right now is speculate, which frequently morphs into panic.

It’s not that I think each of my words is a golden treasure. I have no problem deleting entire chapters, if that is what is required. I actually think I will enjoy it. Hopefully my future readers will admire my succinct prose and simple, yet elegant, plot. It’s just a lot of words to remove.

17,000 out of 93,000. If I were better at math, I would a) be able to tell you what percentage that was and b) not be a writer.

I was wondering how many words the average person speaks in the course of the day; is there a measuring device, sort of like a pedometer, that could tell you? I bet I speak a lot fewer than 17,000 words.

When I first started writing, and even after I had finished writing the book, I thought I was writing a single-title Regency-historical. Regency-historicals are those delicious, fat, over 300-page books prominently displayed at your local bookseller.

What I got an offer to publish, however, was a traditional Regency, which is a lot shorter and with a smaller print run. I’m hoping my book won’t be literally pigeon-holed with the other traditionals (in my local bookstore, at the end of the romance section, just past the Betty Neels), but will be included with the other alphabetized books, just after Foley, if I’m lucky.

Reviewing my book post-sale, I can understand why it sold as a traditional Regency rather than the Regency-historical I thought I was writing. Its plot doesn’t have the sturm und drang of R-Hs; its writing features occasionally stilted conversation rather than witty dialogue; and there’s no oral sex.

I’ll fix all that next time. Unlike most new authors, I’ve sold only one book to Signet. I am under no obligation to write another traditional Regency and can expand my writing to write a bigger book which, if I am very lucky, will get sold and be another one of those delicious, fat books mentioned above. I try not to think about the alternative, which is that I will be an author who publishes one book. Ever.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing; when I wrote my first book, A Singular Lady, I had no idea what I was doing. Since then, I’ve figured out what POV is, tried to suss out what makes a good conflict, tried to write dialogue rather than simultaneous monologues and realized I’m not so good at plotting.

But I’ve also gotten some tremendous help, too. I didn’t join the Romance Writers of America until more than half a year after I started writing. When I did, and when I started reviewing for All About Romance, a whole new world opened up. I made friends who knew what I was talking about when I sighed over Carla Kelly’s brilliance or Mary Balogh’s ability to make me cry. And some of these friends helped me with my writing, too, pointing out when I was telling (not showing) or faltering in explaining a conflict sufficiently. A few have gone above and beyond reasonable expectation, critiquing chapters and synopses, and even editing and rewriting bits to show me how much better it could be.

I didn’t believe a group of people, primarily women, could be so incredibly supportive towards someone they had never met in person.

Which, I guess, is a long way of saying ‘thank you’ in advance to those ladies whose shoulders I’ll be crying on when I finally get my revisions letter.

Next time: Revisions!


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