So…my road to publication, eh? Would it be unusual to say it wasn’t pretty? No? You’re right. So many paths, all of them unique, and none of them smooth—that’s the world of writing for you! In any case, here’s mine:
I’ve always been a writer. No, really. I mean, always. I was that weird kid in elementary school who’d get excited when the teacher told the class to write a story. Actually, I was that weird kid who got excited at writing assignments all through school. It was pretty clear that, in college, I’d major in creative writing (and love it) and minor in theater arts (more love). Because drama! After a brief, misguided foray into teaching high school (that little adventure lasted only one year), I was back on the writing track, and I was fortunate enough to be employed as a writer for most of my career (even if it was writing catalog copy for three years).
But novels? Yeah, I dabbled. I couldn’t help it. Any lover of books dreams of writing her own one day, after all. I never completed one, though. Ironically, spending my workday writing meant that I didn’t have any energy or inclination to write during my off hours. Then came the time I spent as a stay-at-home-mom.
I love my son dearly. Truly, I do. But being at home alone with a 3-year-old, newly relocated in a small village where you know absolutely no one, does something to your brain. Something very unattractive. To retain my sanity, I did some freelance writing, but no fiction. Then came the magical convergence of two comments. First, a friend recommended I join National Novel Writing Month, where you pledge to write 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30. I laughed. But then, around the same time, my husband said (and yes, this is a real quote), “We need more money. Why don’t you take a weekend, knock out a few romance novels, and make a million? Should be simple.”
Ha! Ha ha ha! (He’s since been schooled.)
But I started to think that maybe, just maybe, I could write a book. What kind? Well, I did like romances—romantic comedies, to be more specific. Chick lit, by any other name. I could do one of those, couldn’t I? I decided to give it a shot. I decided to make my main character an interior designer and use the experiences I’d already had renovating three shoulda-been-condemned houses in a row. I mean, research? Ain’t nobody got time for that. I had 50,000 words to write, and it was already well into the first week of November. I had to get cracking.
With plenty of material to draw on, the story came easily. A little too easily, actually, because not only did I make the 50,000-word goal for NaNoWriMo, I wrote more, and then more. And somewhere along the line I ended up writing “The End” a mere (koff) 120,000 words in. What happened next? Cutting. Lots of cutting.
I edited, I joined a critique group, I edited some more. And then I edited even more. When I wasn’t editing, I was researching which agents to query. I had decided to go the traditional route, with an agent and a publisher, because the thought of all the work self-publishing entailed intimidated me, plus I didn’t have a fan base to draw on just yet. It turned out to be the right decision for me.
I used QueryTracker to make a list of all agents who were interested in romance, chick lit, and women’s fiction, and I sent out my query letter in small batches of eight or ten—and always, always one at a time, tailoring each letter to the agent’s preferences and requirements. Egad, it was a ton of work. And what did I get? No answer for months in some cases, insta-rejections in others. (Seriously—I think my fastest rejection clocked in at 28 seconds…and it came well after midnight!) Then again, I got heartening requests for partials and fulls, and those kept me going.
Finally, Jordy Albert of the Booker-Albert Literary Agency took me on, bless her. We reworked a bit of the manuscript, reduced the word count yet again, and she started submitting it to publishers. Kensington Publishing came back with a three-ebook offer in less than two weeks!
I was stunned. After all that time thinking about writing a book, then actually writing, editing, querying, sweating out each stage…I had a publisher before I could blink!
What happened next? All the hard work, of course. 😉 My first book, By Design, was published in May 2013; my second, Unscripted, in July; and my third, Down on Love, the first in my small-town Marsden series, in November. That was quite a year! Fortunately I had more time to write my fourth, Picture This, the second in my Marsden series, which came out last month.
Does it get any easier? No, it does not. But I wouldn’t have it any other way; in fact, I’m off to write my fifth book (the third in my Marsden series), Lucky for You. It should be out early next summer!
Jayne Denker divides her time between working hard to bring the funny in her romantic comedies and raising a young son who’s way too clever for his own good. She lives in a small village in western New York that is in no way, shape, or form related to the small village in her Marsden novels Down on Love and Picture This. When she’s not hard at work on another novel, the social media addict can usually be found frittering away startling amounts of time on Facebook (Jayne Denker Author) and Twitter (@JDenkerAuthor). Find her books at http://jaynedenker.com/jaynes-books