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September 27, 2007
Romance Was My Issac
**BEHIND THE SCENES, Part 6b**
Last week we began a discussion of "What Made You Switch From General Market to Inspirational?"
I've been a romantic at heart my whole life. My favorite fairy tales all included Prince Charming saving the day. My favorite movies were Sound of Music and Oklahoma. My favorite part of Nancy Drew books were the on-again-off-again relationship she had with dreamy Ned Nickerson.
When I discovered romance novels at the age of sixteen, there was no looking back. At that time, the majority of heroines were of high moral fiber. As the years went on, however, the moral bar for these women kept creeping lower and lower until at one point I thought, Lord, what if my baby girls turn out to be romantics? They'll read about these women who live outside our value circle and have no qualms about it whatsoever.
Now mind you, I'm not saying I haven't stepped outside that "value circle" many a time. I have. The difference between me and the characters in the books, though, was that at some point, I began to feel remorse over my choice. And would then begin to back peddle (or as we Christians like to call it, "repent"). Yet, these characters were perfectly fine with their choices and went on to live Happily Ever After.
So, the Lord challenged me to write a mainstream romance that had all the components of a general market romance, except that both my protagonists were Christians. That's it. Other than that, He gave me full creative license. So that's what I did.
In the meanwhile, I was voraciously devouring every romance novel I could get my hands on. You should have seen my collection of novels. It read like a "Who's Who" in the romance industry--many of them signed. This love affair with romance novels went on for about twenty-plus years, until one day the Lord revealed to me that these novels had a stronghold on me.
I would literally read one, after another, after another without any break in between. I would forsake my duties at home. No hot meals, no clean house, no clean clothes, no bedtime stories. Nothing was more important to me than my romance novels. And God was a bit annoyed.
He convicted me big time (a story too long to tell here, but which I share when speaking to various groups) and the long and the short of it was ... I'd placed my love for consuming those books above Him. They were, in fact, an idol. I had to give them up. Completely.
This was a kind of Abraham and Isaac story. You know, where God makes Abraham take his son up the mountain and offer him as a sacrifice? Same kind of thing, except, pathetic as it sounds, my "son" was my consumption of romance novels.
You'd have thought I had lost a loved one. I balled. I begged. I pleaded. And before that day was through, I had filled dozens of lawn-and-leaf bags with my idols ... and drove them down the street and put them in the recycling bin. The hard covers. The soft covers. The signed copies. All of them.
This all happened while I was doing my chore system thing. On Monday, what happened next.
This past weekend I was at the ACFW conference in Dallas. I saw many good buddies (that's a picture of me and Leanna Ellis). When we are all through here with our "Journey To Publication" with its "Behind the Scenes" extras, I'm going to have a lot to catch you up on.
So, stay tuned this fall for more on:
Our family's cruise vacation
Meanwhile, this here's a sneak peak at ACFW (And guess what? Elvis was in the building!!)
"What Made You Switch From General Market to Inspirational?"
I finished Bride in 1997 and got an agent shortly thereafter. I had every intention of sitting down and writing the next novel. Even got so far as completing Chapter One of The Measure of a Lady. Then, life happened.
We decided to build a new home 8 miles north of where we currently lived. That involved selling the old one, moving our family of six into a 2-bedroom apartment, acquiring a new puppy, and keeping on top of my journalism.
Once into the new home, I, of course, needed new stuff. I abhor paying full price for anything. So, in order to get all my stuff wholesale, I opened a home accessory business in an antique mall. (This is about the time my mama decided my hubby was a candidate for sainthood merely because he put up with my foolishness.)
Then the Lord pressed upon my heart to package and sell the chore system I had used in my home for the past nine years. That involved writing a business plan, and articles of incorporation and, of course, money. Lots and lots of money. Money we did not have and no one, for some odd reason, wanted to give me. (More stuff for the hubby to list on his Sainthood application.)
So, I did what every enthusiastic entrepreneur does and borrowed the money. The hubby co-signed. And I was off into the wild world of developing, manufacturing, marketing and selling chore systems. Needless to say, I wasn't getting a lot of fiction writing done (though I was still doing journalism.)
That was in 2001. At this point, my agent had been pitching Bride to the secular market, but had received no bites. So, I asked him to send the manuscript back to me. I knew if I sold, they'd want edits, promotional time and more books. I couldn't do that and run a corporation, too.
Well, this is sorta where the general market v. inspirational market part comes in, but I hate posts a million miles long. So, maybe we better get to that part Monday. Okay?
"What Made You Decide To Switch From Journalism To Fiction?"
I was first published in a magazine called Family Fun way back in the early nineties. I continued to have a successful journalism career for many years thereafter. But journalism was something that more or less supported my "fiction habit." Fiction had always been my first love.
Both venues are a lot of work and of the two, I prefer fiction. In journalism, you can't submit the same idea to multiple magazines at one time. It's not a pretty sight if a magazine editor calls you wanting you to write the article you pitched to him and you have to tell him his competitor bought that article last week. In the end, you only hurt yourself because the editor on the short end of the stick will never buy from you again.
So, I would brainstorm and come up with 14 or 15 different article ideas and send them to 14 or 15 different magazine editors. As soon as the rejection came back, I'd think up another idea and send it off to them. I made sure I had a continuous flow of queries on the desks of those magazines. If you sell one article for every 10 queries you send out, you are doing really well.
Some folks love this process. I did not. So, while I was waiting for the rejections to hit the mailbox, I would write fiction. Over the course of my journalism career, I wrote articles for People Magazine, Parents, Parenting, Family Fun, Houston Chronicle, Orlando Sentinel, and whoever else would pay me.
When I started doing my chore system, I began to wean myself away from the journalism. The honest truth is ... I don't miss it. Not at all.
Next: What made me switch from the general market to the inspirational market.
I get emails all the time from people wanting to specifically know what I did to hone my craft. The answer is: Lots of things.
The biggest contributor to this was a writers organization I joined called Romance Writers of America. They have chapters all over the country that meet on a monthly basis offering writing contests (many of which are judged by editors), workshops, newsletters, tape cassette libraries and networking. Then once a year all the local chapters meet at a designated spot for the big National Conference.
I did it all. I joined; I entered contests; I went to workshops; I read the newsletters; I listened to the tape cassettes; I went to the conferences; and I networked with published authors, aspiring authors and publishing industry professionals.
From there, I read lots of how-to books. And I joined a critique group. This critique group was made up of two other aspiring authors. We would meet once a week and come to the meeting with one completed chapter. Then, we would all critique each other's chapters.
Lastly, I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote. Then I would rewrite and rewrite and rewrite.
It took me three full years to finish Bride. Now I'm on contract to complete one book per year through 2011. That took some adjustment at first, but now I've kind of got a groove going. I research for 4 months, write the first draft in 6 months, then edit, revise and polish for 2 months. Afterwards, I start all over again!
Next: What made me switch from journalism to fiction?
Okay, that's not a picture of me. That's what I wanted to be when I grew up. Didn't happen. I had four kids in four years and began my writing career during "naptime" when they were 6, 5, 4 & 2. (They are now 20, 19, 18 & 16.)
You know the adage "if you want something done, ask a busy person?" Well, that was me (looking significantly more harried than SuperMom there). Anyhoo, I was so busy with all those kids that I was forced to manage my time down to the Nth degree--making naptime sacred. Nothing was allowed to interfere.
When they got a bit older and didn't require constant supervision, I could extend my writing time bit by bit. They always let me know if I was spending too much time at the computer, though. I will never forget my youngest at a very young age approaching me as I typed away. He placed both hands on my cheeks and turned my head so that I was looking him in the eye.
"Are you listening, Mommy?" (My fingers were still going even though my eyes were on him.)
And that's when I knew. It was time to shut her down and be a mommy again. Though my kids no longer have to resort to such tactics, the dear husband has been known to do this if he is feeling like I love my computer more than I love him. :-)
To date, both girls have read my books. My oldest boy always asks for a copy and even has a cover-flat of BRIDE posted up on the wall of his apartment, but has yet to crack any of them open. My youngest boy has no plans whatsoever to read it. After all, why on earth would anyone read anything if it wasn't required by school??
The biggest adjustment for them has been believing me when I say I'm working. In their mind, I'm not working, I'm only writing.
On Thursday, we'll talk about specific things I did to hone my craft.
Well, I went through that whole Journey of Publication series without ever mentioning God. It wasn't an oversight, nor was He missing from that journey. It was a conscious decision to wait and tell this part of the journey separately.
I'd been taught since I was a wee little lass to give everything to God. Everything. Myself, my loved ones, my relationships, my worldly goods, my decisions, my pride, my desires, my everything. Needless to say, I haven't always done what I was taught.
Bit by bit, though, I would lay down certain areas of my life and give them to Him (usually the areas I had tried to control and had then failed miserably at). Eventually I caught on: It was best to give Him these things right from the get-go so He could run them.
After all, His perspective was so much better. He had a heavenly view of the whole sha-bang. I had a teeny-weeny view of only what was in front of my nose. He had the power. I had control over zilch. He knew what was best for me. I only thought I knew what was best for me.
So when I started my writing career way back in the early nineties, I gave that career to Him. It was in His hands. He could do with it whatever He wanted. Amen.