So You Want to Write? The Prequel: My Road to Publication
On Monday, I’ll begin my reboot of the writing series in earnest with “So You Want to Write?” But I thought I’d get the preliminary (prequel) info out of the way by offering this (not so concise) timeline of my writing career. I’d love it if you’d share yours in the comments section!
|1971||Born (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)|
|1976ish||I start learning how to read|
|1977||I see Star Wars and it changes my life. I fall in love with stories.|
|1981ish||I start reading the “girl and her horse” books (or “boy and his horse” with the Black Stallion books)|
|1983||I read Velvet Song by Jude Deveraux for the first time. I am forever hooked on romance novels.|
|1985||I see a book called Kathleen on the Scholastic book order form at school and spend my allowance on it, because my name is Katherine and it’s as close as it’s going to get. Also, there’s a girl on the cover with long, luxurious red hair, which I’d always wished I had. I’m now hooked on the Sunfire Romance (YA) series. In collecting all of these books, I get Victoria by Willo Davis Roberts, which quickly becomes my favorite book of all time (to this point). But I’m not content with leaving Vicky and Cade with the kiss at the end. So I start writing my own “sequel.” This is not the first time I’ve ever made up a story, nor the first time I’ve ever written down something I made up. But it is the first time I do more than write a few lines of summary and actually attempt dialogue and narrative, plot and character.|
|1986–1988||I quickly abandon writing the sequel to Victoria in favor of writing my own story ideas. I don’t finish anything before moving on to a new idea, and I not only don’t share what I’ve written with anyone, I don’t tell anyone what I’m doing.|
A Dream Is Born
|I take Creative Writing as my high school senior English class. My teacher tells me that I have the makings of a great writer.|
|1989||Though I start college as an Education major, I quickly switch to Creative Writing once I learn of that program’s existence.|
A Dream Is Squelched
|After horribly negative experiences in the two Creative Writing classes I take, leading to a major depression, I drop out of college. I swear I will NEVER let anyone read my writing EVER again.|
|1992–1999||Some of the most prolific writing years of my life. I spend almost all of this time developing a fictional setting (through the stories of dozens of characters) that would eventually become Bonneterre, Louisiana. This is also when I started developing my method (and resources) for character casting.|
|1999||I return to college part time to finish my degree. My first class: Creative Writing. This time, the professor and other students are 180-degrees different than in my previous experience, with so much encouragement that I finally start to see my writing as something other than my “dirty little secret.”|
A Dream Rekindles
|I “mysteriously” receive a brochure in the mail for the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. My parents send me as my 30th birthday gift. I meet Rachel Hauck and Patty Smith Hall, who encourage me to join their writing organization. I become member #121 of American Christian Romance Writers. I begin to think that maybe God wants me to consider pursuing publication. If I can ever work up the courage to let anyone read my writing. For Christmas, I give my mother and grandmother a copy of what I’ve written (about half) of what will become my first completed manuscript. Over the next several months, as I send them a chapter at a time as I finish writing it, I learn the joy of writing each chapter to a “hook” ending—that joy being the emails from each of them wanting more, more, more and wanting to know what happens next. However, I do not let them give me true “feedback” on my writing. I’m still not ready for that.|
|2002||At the (almost) literal last minute (a few hours before the midnight deadline), I relinquish the envelope containing my entry into the ACRW Noble Theme contest—the first pages of my first completed manuscript. If I’m going to let someone read and give feedback on my writing, better that it’s done anonymously, right? The feedback is constructive and encouraging, leading me to want to do even more—and to share even more.
October—I attend the first national ACRW (now ACFW) conference in Kansas City. I receive an “honorable mention” certificate for entering the contest. I meet so many people who become as close as family—my writing family! I finish my second completed manuscript shortly after the conference ends.
|2003|| Close to finishing my bachelor’s degree, and as I’m finishing my third manuscript, I start looking at grad school programs, but none want anyone who writes romance (and I don’t want to move). By divine accident, I see a quote in a magazine article from Dr. Lee McClain, founder of the Writing Popular Fiction graduate program at Seton Hill University. I decide to apply to the program.
September—I meet my first critique partners, Cindy Woodsmall and Marci Burke, at the ACRW conference in Houston, TX. These two women got to see the first two rounds of ten chapters of a manuscript titled Happy Endings, Inc.—a little something about a wedding planner set in a fictional city in Louisiana.
|2004||June—I enter grad school in the low-residency Writing Popular Fiction program at Seton Hill University, with Happy Endings, Inc. as my master’s thesis novel. I spend my first semester rewriting the first ten chapters for a third time.
September—I pitch HEI to Anne Goldsmith who acquired for the Heart Quest trade romance line for Tyndale at the ACFW conference. She asks to see the full. I only have ten chapters and never submit it (it’s a good thing, too, because it went through a massive plot change—George pretending to be the groom—shortly after this meeting).
|2005||While working full time and serving as vice president of ACFW (an almost 30-40 hour/week volunteer job), I am forced by my “contract” for the semester to “finish” Happy Endings, Inc.. I learn what it is to spend a weekend on an adrenaline-fueled-panic high while trying to finish the last 10-15,000 words in order to meet my deadline. I write what would be some of my favorite scenes in the book (which are still in there!).|
|2006||After spending my second year of grad school rewriting and revising HEI (and starting Ransome’s Honor), I receive my master’s degree. I enter HEI in the ACFW Genesis contest and take 2nd place in the Contemporary Romance category. I submit the proposal for HEI to two agents.|
|2007|| January—I sign with literary agent Chip MacGregor. I decide not to enter Ransome’s Honor in the Genesis contest that year because Chip assures me that HEI should sell quickly.
September—At the ACFW conference, I pitch HEI to Becky Germany at Barbour and RH to Kim Moore at Harvest House (after having had a contemporary women’s fiction sample go to pub board with them a few weeks before).
December 7—I receive a phone call from Chip that Barbour wants to acquire HEI. I wait until Christmas to tell my family (and to announce publicly) that I’ve received a publishing contract.
|2008||We rename HEI Stand-In Groom. I am in a weird limboland of being contracted but not published. I sign an additional contract for Menu for Romance, and A Case for Love.
November—After a requested rewrite (in April), being laid off my full-time editing job (July), and a lot of waiting, I receive an offer from Harvest House for the Ransome Trilogy. Book 1, Ransome’s Honor, goes up on Amazon before I’ve even received, much less signed and returned, the contract!
|2009||December 2008/January 2009—Stand-In Groom releases. I begin to learn that being published is not a lot different than being unpublished, except now there’s a lot more work that has to be done instead of just being able to concentrate on writing the next book(s).
June—Menu for Romance and Ransome’s Honor release.
I write A Case for Love, Ransome’s Crossing. I sign a second contract with Barbour and begin Love Remains.
|2010||Releases: A Case for Love, Ransome’s Crossing, and Love Remains.
Writing: Finish Love Remains; write Ransome’s Quest; start The Art of Romance, which is due October 15, 2010. On November 4, 2010, when I fall and break my ankle, Art is not finished. I relocate temporarily to Arkansas to convalesce in my parents’ home and write.
|2011||January 3: Turn in The Art of Romance; spend next months rewriting/revising it and researching the Great Exhibition and writing the proposal and sample chapters for that series.
Releases: The Art of Romance, Ransome’s Quest, and Turnabout’s Fair Play.
August: Sign contract with B&H for The Great Exhibition Series. Start writing Follow the Heart in earnest.
|2012||April—After four years of self-/un-/part-time employment, lots of anger toward God, and severe depression, I start work full-time—about a month before Follow the Heart is due. After almost a year of not having a new story idea and feeling completely burned out, I come up with the Five Golden Rings idea. Would rather work on that, but turn my attention to GE #2, An Honest Heart.|
|2013||I turn in the manuscript for An Honest Heart (a few months late) and force myself to start on the third book. Follow the Heart releases May 1. On May 2, I learn through the writing-group grapevine that B&H is closing their fiction line. It is almost 48 hours before I officially hear (from my agent) that I do not have to keep writing the third book—which is good, because I was sitting on about 20,000 words with only a month left before deadline.
August/September—I have a sudden flash of inspiration for the story my readers have been asking me about for a long time—that of Jennifer Guidry, younger sister/cousin of Meredith, Forbes, and Anne from the Bonneterre series. At the ACFW conference in September, I get even more excited about it after talking to my former B&H editor, Julie Gwinn, and my agent.
|2014||Um, I think I’ll keep these plans under wraps for now . . .|
What’s your writing timeline?