I read in this morning's USA Today that Janet Evanovich has a new book on writing coming out on September 29th. Titled How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author, it describes the mechanics of writing and the publishing process.
The article brought back memories. A little more than two and a half years ago, I had just received my sixth rejection on my first manuscript. Not knowing anything about publishing, I was feeling as low as a earthworm in a hole. In the same weekend, I attended my first meetings of RWA and Sisters in Crime, hoping to find some direction.
The RWA meeting was a little overwhelming. Those ladies were intent on being published. They were organized, very much into networking and extremely supportive of each other. I was impressed and a little intimidated.
The Sisters in Crime meeting was much lower key with as many readers as writers in the group. It so happened that they were handing out free tickets to a talk Janet Evanovich was giving in Fort Worth the following week. I ended up with one of the tickets.
The next week, I schlepped over to Texas Christian University without much hope or interest. I'd never read an Evanovich novel. I like my mysteries hard-edged and suspenseful. Her brightly colored book covers screamed "light" and "chick lit" to me. The only reason I attended was that I felt so needful of direction on what I hoped would be the road to publication.
I'd left home early because I was unsure of where I was going and where I would park. In retrospect, that was a lucky decision. When I arrived at 7:00 PM for an 8:00 PM lecture, I got one of the few single seats left at the front of the auditorium. The place was jammed with hardcore Evanovich fans. I was startled to see that the audience was almost equally divided between men and women. I'd expected a heavily distaff group.
Evanovich was a delight. Blunt, humorous and a little profane, she told of her ten-year battle to get published. She described dozens of rejections on multiple manuscripts, making my six letters for one manuscript seem paltry by comparison.
She explained that, after a decade of rejecting her submissions, Harlequin at last purchased one of her romances. Following her initial success, she wrote a dozen category romances for Harlequin (and those twelve books are now collectors' items). In a moment that shocked some listeners, she said she finally got tired of writing about "the male member pulsing with need." She decided to abandon category romance just so she could "call a dick a dick."
In a hilarious recounting, she described deciding to make her new heroine, Stephanie Plum, a bail bondswoman after watching a late night rerun of Midnight Run on television. To the accompaniment of laughter, she recounted tales of her "research" forays into the world of bail bonds in New Jersey.
Evanovich was exactly what I needed that night. She was upbeat, encouraging and--above all--matter of fact about the need to never give up on your dream of being published. I left that lecture, drove to a nearby bookstore and purchased her novel Hard Eight in paperback. Her lecture had been part of the book tour for To The Nines, which was then just out in hardback.
She gave me a needed boost at just the right moment. For the first time, I realized that there was more to getting published than just writing a good book. I would need to learn a lot more about word count, the industry and the process of getting published. I made the decision that I was willing to do the hard work she described.
Because of that kick in the pants, I stuck to it and set out to learn everything I could about the publishing industry. I networked and got critiques and took workshops.
I owe Evanovich one. Without her lecture, I might have put my first manuscript under the bed and forgot all about my dreams of being published. Instead, today I have a contract from NAL and am working on my next novel.
I'll buy Evanovich's new book when it comes out later this month. It's the least I can do.