What to do when the rug is pulled out from under you . . .
Even if you’re just feeling the tug, it’s always good to ask yourself, “What’s next?” I’ll say it right up front . . . I’m the worst person to address the subject of reinventing yourself. My fear of failure kept me from even trying to make the leap. I was making a decent living writing Intrigues, so the mere thought of stepping outside my comfort zone was terrifying. Besides, I didn’t want to make less money - as usual, I wanted more.
This is where good friends can save you from yourself. From 1983-1992 I tried to write a Silhouette Desire™. Reinvention #1: I learned I had to plot the book so I could stop playing three chapter Sally. It wasn’t until a good friend finally said, “Your action and dialogue are great but everything else is crap [edited]. Have you ever considered writing romantic suspense?”
Reinvention #2 - I can’t write Desires. I love reading them but I just don’t have the right kind of voice to pull it off (hence the nearly 10 years of failure). So now I knew that I couldn’t write a Desire and whatever I wrote, I had to plot before starting the first chapter.
Reinvention #3: Read, read, read! I poured myself into reading every romantic suspense out there. I finally decided that I wanted to write for Silhouette Special Edition™. That line had seemed to have more romance than Harlequin Intrigue™. Then karma struck. I’d entered a contest hoping to catch the eye of a Silhouette editor. At the last minute, an Intrigue editor was substituted and after coming in second, the editor contacted me and asked if the manuscript was finished. It was, I sent it to her and on February 10, 1993, I sold to Intrigue™. Why? They were changing their guidelines - they now wanted more romance. BTW - Silhouette™ rejected me - not enough romance.
Reinvention #4: Sometime in 2001 the crumb of a character was in my head - what would it be like to write someone who was an underachiever by choice? Someone who often did the wrong things for the right reasons? Maybe someone who was a series romance anti-heroine? Don’t get me wrong, I still love romance and try to keep one foot in that market. But Finley didn’t go away. In fact, I kept making notes and suddenly I realized I had a character and a plot and it wasn’t for Intrigue™. Now what? It took a lo9t of courage for me to tell my nearest and dearest about my concept. To a one they all encouraged me. The only one holding me back was me. It took two years - yep, twenty-four months before I got up the nerve to get another agent and start the submission process. Finley sold in less than three months. When it was time to go back to contract, Finley was lured away from Kensington by Gallery, a subsidiary of Simon & Schuster™.
So what did I learn? I am my own worst enemy and stepping out of your comfort zone can be a good thing and even if it isn’t - what can they do to you? Take away your birthday? Go out on the end of the plank. Jump into the water. Listen to your friends. Just don’t let your fears hold you back.