Seeing where the road leads

When I decided a few years ago to seriously pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a novelist, I knew it would take a lot of time and effort and a certain amount of sacrifice. Those were all acceptable choices to me, considering what I hoped to gain at the end of it. What I didn’t quite realize was how patient I was going to have to be about the roads I had to go down to get to wherever I was going.

When I first settled down to this pursuit, I finished a mystery that I’d started some time before. I love reading mysteries, so it makes sense that that would be the genre I’d choose to write in. I sent the finished manuscript off, and it eventually connected with an agent who liked it but thought that a certain aspect of the book needed work. The two main characters were former lovers who had to learn to work together to solve the problem. My agent didn’t find the romantic element of the book believable.

Well, what can I say? I’m not a romantic person. At least, that was the belief I had about myself and my writing. So I talked to a few friends and finally a romance writer colleague said to me, “You need to write a cabin romance.” Two people, obstacles, happily ever after. She thought that if I did that, then I would be better able to describe what love feels like and how it looks, how two people in love interact with each other, all of that.

Writing a romance had never been on my to-do list. In fact, if there is such a thing as a not-to-do list, that would have been on it. But I didn’t have any other agents knocking on my door, and this agent wasn’t going to sign me until I fixed the problem, so I sat down and wrote a short romance. 50,000 words later, I’d figured out how to write about attraction and fear of rejection and attachment and happily ever after. What surprised me was how much I enjoyed the entire process. It stretched my skills, trying to figure out how to maintain tension in the plot when everyone knows how it turns out, and it was challenging to learn to control my voice so that it didn’t take over the narrative.

After I was done, I took what I’d learned and rewrote the mystery. The agent loved the revision, signed me, shopped the manuscript and then — cue the dramatic flourish — nothing happened. The mystery didn’t sell.

But the romance did.

It still makes me smile to think about that. Being accustomed to getting paid for my words, I didn’t want to just write 50,000 of them and stick them away in a drawer somewhere, so I submitted the mansucript to a romance publisher. I was offered a contract and the book came out in 2008 under a pen name.

I can’t control very much of what happens in publishing, but I can open myself up to exploring opportunities and possibilities and seeing what happens next.