I was fortunate enough to be invited to be on a panel of published authors at my RWA chapter meeting this month. The moderator of the panel asked me to tell the aspiring authors present my best “publishing story”. I thought that perhaps you, my faithful readers, would like to hear it, too.
A long time ago, before I ever truly believed I would someday really get published, I wrote a Cinderella story that was just for me. If you’re a writer, you know how it is: you’re feeling down, and so you write. This story was about a widow who, with the help of two fairy godmothers, won a trip to a Mediterranean kingdom; she then met the king while he was staying “incognito” at a resort. They fell in love, of course, and they lived happily ever after. I wrote this story by hand, and it wasn’t more than 30 pages long.
The story had no conflict to speak of, but it was, after all, an escape, and just for me.
Flash forward to 2005; I attended CanWrite, the writing conference of the Canadian Author’s Association, in Kitchener, Ontario with my friend Kelley Armstrong. There I heard of something called “erotic romance” something that seemed to be a new genre just opening up, being published in e-books, a new medium just opening up. I’d been writing romance for years; I’d already finished 10 novels! Surely I could spice the romance up enough to make it erotic romance. So I began to write a story I called Simply Irresistible. But I had never written anything specifically to sell before. It was really tough going. Words dried up, and I wondered if I could really do this thing called “writing”, after all. Then along came NaNoWriMo. Kelley said she was going to participate just for the fun of it, and suggested that I should, too. Also, since I’m a moderator of the writing group on her web site, the two of us together could encourage the entire writing group to join in the madness that is NaNo and thus inspire them to finish their novels. I agreed, of course, even though I didn’t have a clue what I was going to write about.
And then I remembered my Cinderella story. I got excited about writing again, and I ended up producing 54K words in a fortnight.
The story still had no conflict to speak of, but it was, after all, just a writing exercise, and just for me.
Two years later it’s 2007. The book that had been written as Simply Irresistible had been released with the new title Made For Each Other, and my publisher put out a submission call for “adult fairy tales”. She wanted to publish an anthology of them. Eager to have another title published, I put my thinking cap on and came up with “Beau and the Lady Beast”. I pitched it, and my publisher loved it. She then asked, “Do you have any other ideas?”
I remembered my Cinderella story, which for NaNo I had renamed “Once Upon A Time”; I really loved that story. But it had no conflict to speak of….ah, but now I was a “published” author, and I knew I could “fix” it. So I pitched it to my publisher, who suggested making the story into a three book series. It was my first series, and, since the name “Once Upon A Time” had already been taken, I called it “Magic And Love”.
What had begun as a short story hand written one sad, lonely day ended up as a 145,000-word series.
If you have a story that you wrote long ago that you love, it doesn’t have to stay in the past. You’re a writer, a professional. You can make it work, if you want to.
These three stories of Magic and Love (The Prince and the Single Mom, The Princess and the Bodyguard, A Prince for Sophie) are very far from my best sellers. But to this day, they remain my favorites of everything I’ve written, and I even re-read them, from time to time, myself.