Persevere is exactly what Lillie had to do in order to see Dream or Destiny in print. And today she’s going to tell us how her own “dream and destiny” became a reality. I asked her to write about the path the manuscript took to becoming a book. She’s calling her story, “How Things Change -- Editing a Manuscript Ten Years Later.”
How Things Change -- Editing a Manuscript Ten Years Later
The road to publication for Dream or Destiny was a long one—more than ten years, in fact. For much of that time, publication seemed like a dream that, unlike Marilee’s nightmare, didn’t come true. Representation by an agent for two years resulted in nothing more than a stack of rejections. I put the manuscript away and tried to forget it, but the characters wouldn’t let me forget. They seemed to call out to me, demanding publication, claiming it as their destiny.
A few years later, I decided to try again. I revised the manuscript, then two published authors read and critiqued the story. I made a few more changes and submitted the manuscript again. A publisher accepted the book, and I signed a publishing contract. Before the book went into production, however, the publishing company changed its business model to focus heavily on erotica, and my romantic mystery didn’t fit. Some readers would probably buy Dream or Destiny because they expected erotica and would be disappointed at the lack of explicit sex. Others who might enjoy the story would never find it because they wouldn’t shop on a Web site primarily selling erotica. The publishing company readily agreed to release me from the contract, and the manuscript went back into a drawer—actually a corner of my hard drive.
Still those characters clamored to be published. I submitted the manuscript to GASLight Publishing, LLC owned by Grace Anne and Ken Schaefer. The Schaefers accepted the manuscript but publication was delayed by some health challenges and other obstacles.
By this time, I realized the manuscript needed to be edited again. I wrote a post on my blog asking for first readers. Several people, including Helen, responded. I expected to have to make some changes, but some of the problems surprised me.
At one point in the story, Marilee received a threatening phone call when David was at her home. They reported the call to the police, saying they didn’t know who the caller was because the voice was disguised. When Helen read this scene, she asked, “Why didn’t they check caller ID?”
Caller ID? Of course, it’s ubiquitous now, but when I wrote the book ten years ago, it wasn’t common, at least not where I live. I had to revise the scene to account for the number not appearing on caller ID.
Helen made another suggestion that I had to consider seriously before I decided to make the change. I had neatly tied up all the loose ends in an epilogue, which Helen suggested seemed a little contrived. My editor and I discussed eliminating the epilogue … and suddenly I had an idea for two more books. Leaving some loose ends opened the door for me to tell Tess’ and Bonita’s stories in future books.
I learned two important lessons from this experience:
1) Things change. As writers, we need to pay close attention to changing technology and changing social mores. This is especially important when there is a lag between writing and publishing the book, but even if you’re working on a book steadily, some things, especially technology, can change even during the writing process.
2) Getting input from several different people provides different perspectives that can significantly improve the book. Most readers didn’t say anything about the epilogue, but Helen’s suggestion made the ending stronger and gave me ideas for other books.
I hope it doesn’t take you ten years to get a novel published. But if a few years pass from the time you finish a book until it’s published, read the manuscript again and look for outdated technology and social patterns.
Even if there’s no time gap, consider asking trusted readers to read your work and give you feedback. Don’t accept all the advice you get; after all, you are the author. But if someone gives you an idea that leads to two more books, jump on it.
Thank you so much Lillie! You can read reviews or a free excerpt as well as keep up with her blog tour schedule. Bookmark her schedule so you can follow her!
Before we open the Comments section so you can leave a message for Lillie or ask questions, let me tell you a little more about Lillie Ammann.
Lillie spent much of her life as the owner of an interior landscape company, planning to write “someday,” when she retired. A severe stroke was the wake-up call she needed She wrote fiction at night and ran her business by day for several years before she sold her company and started her new career as a freelance writer and editor. Dream or Destiny is her second novel. Her first, Stroke of Luck, a contemporary romance featuring a disabled hero, is available from the publisher as an e-book. Lillie and her husband Jack live in San Antonio, Texas. She writes and edits for businesses and authors, and she blogs at A Writer’s Words, An Editor’s Eye.
Okay, the Comments section is open. Drop in and say “hi” to Lillie and ask questions. As you can tell by her post, she’s very open and willing to share.