As a writer of romantic suspense, I’m a member of the Maine Romance Writers. Our newsletter has a feature called “My Five,” in which members list five items about anything—favorite children’s books, crazy Christmas gifts, a spouse’s foibles, writing challenges/successes/ frustrations, etc. So the opportunity to write mine came at a critical time in my writing career. A down time.
After my first book for Silhouette Intimate Moments was published in 2001, I went through a three-year drought before selling again. Then the next four books seemed to breeze through the submission process. Silhouette loved me. My books finaled in contests. Breaking All the Rules was a top seller. Deadly Memories was a Romantic Times Top Pick and nominated for Best Silhouette Intimate Moments of 2006. But after Deadly Memories, I hit the skids again.The next submission was rejected. I figured I’d run out my string with the anti-terrorism series so I tried something different. That submission was rejected. And the next.
In the meantime, I was working on a single title romantic suspense set in Maine, longer and more complex than the “category” novels I’d been writing. However, getting an agent and selling a single title is tough. As the publisher evolved and Intimate Moments became Silhouette Romantic Suspense and then Harlequin Romantic Suspense, they shortened the word count and changed the balance of suspense to romance, which further meant we weren’t suited for each other. I tried targeting another Harlequin category line. After four rejections there, the senior editor shut the door by saying I wrote well but my “voice wasn’t suited for that line.” Sigh.
Meanwhile, another single-title manuscript finaled in the PASIC Book of Your Heart Contest. Validation someone thought I could still write! At that point, writing the My Five back then prompted me to re-motivate myself. Maybe my thoughts will help someone else who’s hit a low point. Here are My Five Reasons to Keep Writing, à la David Letterman reverse order:
FIVE – If I stopped writing, I would have to get a real job so I can avoid cleaning out dust bunnies and weeds.
FOUR – I have stories to tell and characters in my head that won’t go away and leave me alone. All my life, I’ve suffered from occasional insomnia and occupied my mind during the long nights with my stories. Writing down the stories for others makes those sleepless hours worthwhile.
THREE – Belonging to writer groups has given me acquaintances and friendships with other people who have characters and stories in their heads. I’ve always felt out of step but I feel a sense of belonging more in writing groups than anywhere else. Also, writer groups and writing conferences are always motivating and inspiring.
TWO – The excitement and joy when the words sing or the scene rocks or the plot comes together or the characters seem like real people. If all of those collide, wow!
ONE – The absolute thrill of holding my published book in my hand and seeing it on a store bookshelf or listed online. It’s my baby that I sweated over for months and sent off into the big world.
Along with that is the thrill of receiving emails from readers who enjoyed the book and ask about the next one. Knowing there are readers who want more sends me back to my computer to experience TWO again. Since then, the single title set in Maine, Primal Obsession, was published by a small press. The other single title that finaled in a contest is On Deadly Ground, the first book in my Devlin Security Force series.
During the past few years, I’ve received the publishing rights back for all five of my Silhouette/Harlequin books. I’ve updated them all and re-issued them. The four books in that early anti-terrorism series are my DARK Files series. Readers and online reviewers seem to like them, so my books are selling. I’m working on another addition to that series, so overall now I’m experiencing numbers ONE and TWO of My Five.