What is the worst writing advice I’ve ever received?
Well, let me introduce you to Jessica and Alex Meyers. They’re the main characters in Forbidden Fantasies, and I think they resonate with a lot of people. After all, who hasn’t felt this way on occasion?
Like most married couples, their sex life often suffered from too much to do, too little time, and no energy to do much about it, but their marriage was rock solid. And she wanted to keep it that way, because when she’d said forever, she’d meant forever.
But, rock solid or not, married couples still have challenges. What if your husband gets laid off? Or if your wife’s job suddenly includes a lot of travel? Or, as happens quite often to long-married couples, you discover new things you love to do — but your partner does not?
And it’s conflict that’s at the root of all stories, so I decided to give my idea for Forbidden Fantasies a go.
Instant success, right? Nope. While this has turned out to be my most popular story, it wasn’t easy getting there. The first time I submitted it, it was rejected for exactly this reason: “no one will buy a romance about a couple who’s already married.”
Then I had the chance to pitch it to Angela James at Carina Press, and I was asked to submit the full manuscript. It went to Deborah Nemeth, my fabulous editor, and…
Instant success, right? Nope.
She liked it, but it needed something more. So she gave me the chance to do a revise and resubmit, a challenge which I gratefully accepted It took me a while — probably six months— but I resubmitted it to her, and was offered a contract.
I would love to tell you that it was easy-peasy after that, but that would be a lie. I had developmental edits after that before we got down to line edits and copy edits. By the time we were done, I’d ripped the whole story apart at the seams, but what came of it was a much stronger, deeper story.
The rest is history.
I was also given advice about another story that fit the same pattern…. “stories about X don’t sell.” In that situation, I made a mistake. I didn’t fight for what I believed, and the story that ended up published is not the story I’d originally intended to tell. The only person I have to blame for that is myself, for not feeling secure enough to go for it. That’s not to say I don’t love the outcome of the story I did tell —I absolutely do— but I do wonder what would’ve happened if I’d taken a stronger stance. Would it have been a bigger seller? Would I have gotten better reviews? Would I not have been given a contract? I don’t know, and I’ll never know now, and that’s all on me.
The bottom line is that you have to decide which advice to keep and which to ignore. Sometimes someone else does know better than you. And sometimes, you know better. And it’s not always going to be an easy choice…but that choice belongs to you.