Squawk Radio

Thursday, April 06, 2006

HELEN BRENNA EXPLAINS WHY SHE THINKS THIS BOOK HIT THE EDITOR'S DESK AND STUCK

Part Two: Why Now?

So what changed? After ten years and four manuscripts why did I finally get published?

I’d like to think that editors finally smartened up, or that I hit the right editor’s desk on the right day, during the right cycle of the moon. But the truth, I think, is much simpler than that. I switched gears. I think that’s why I finally sold.

My books are romantic adventures, stories like National Treasure, only with more romance. I’d been hitting up the contemporary single title market because my stories, to me anyway, seemed to have relatively big, over the top ideas with several subplots and lots of point of view characters. And I got very close a couple of times with single title editors, but something always nixed the deal.

Finally, when I’d accumulated enough achievements on my writing resume, an agent shared a bit of her wisdom with me over the phone. She liked my books well enough to read them all the way through, even though she knew she couldn’t sell them, but she believed romantic adventures were a market in my own mind. She said she couldn’t sell my books as single titles, but maybe as Superromances, if I got rid of my villain plotline. I didn’t believe her. I went with a different agent who more closely shared my vision, but something must have subconsciously stuck.

A year and a half later, as my third book, the Bahamian treasure hunt, was piling up rejections, I was quickly approaching the end of the rope I’d been dangling on for so many years. I decided to enter Georgia Romance Writer’s Maggie contest one more time, hoping a positive outcome might help sell that manuscript.

The Maggie allows an author to enter several books at once into the contest, but only one in any single category. All my books are contemporary single titles, so I had to compromise. I had a brand new book I was about 100 pages into that WASN’T an action adventure and I desperately wanted feedback on it’s single title potential, so I entered my smallest book, the Bahamian treasure hunt, as a LONG CONTEMPORARY.

Bingo!

My new book finalled in the single title category AND my treasure hunt won the Maggie. The editor judge loved it and wanted to see the entire manuscript. She was the second editor to offer revisions. When my revisions were rejected by her higher ups, I think she helped smooth the way for me at Superromance, where it eventually sold (villain plotline wasn’t history, but the villain POV scenes bit the proverbial dust).

A friend pointed out that there was a definite positive side to editors liking my writing but rejecting my books. These editors would remember me, and editors change houses all the time. That’s one of the reasons why perseverance is what it’s all about. In writing. In life. You never know how something bad from the past might swing around to help you in the future.

My dream came true. How I feel about it changes every day, every hour. I’m kind of a basket case, really. I’ve gone from crying happy tears one minute to sad ones the next. (I guess Connie’s right about that uber-weeper thing!) From being contentedly thrilled to extremely frustrated in seconds, wishing things would move faster. Heck, wishing things would move! (See, there’s Impatience again rearing her beautiful head.)

Other than motherhood, it’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I applaud every writer who has ever sat down at her computer and continued writing after a tough rejection letter, a difficult critique, or a disappointing contest score. For that matter, I applaud every person who has ever stepped up to ANY plate, took a few swings, struck out and came back to swing again.

Have you lived the dream? Any dream? How did it make you feel?

By the way, thanks for letting me share your day. I have teenagers at home, so it’s been great to actually have people listen to what I have to say!
Connie Brockway, 2:52 PM
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