Inspiration and Perspiration
By Deborah Cooke
There are two phases to becoming a published author. The first is becoming a writer and the second is pursuing – and finding – publication. Many authors have great dramatic stories of how they realized they were authors, or even of how they became published authors. Not me. I became a published author the old-fashioned way – I kept writing and revising and sending the work out until an editor offered to publish my work.
Let’s call the two phases inspiration and perspiration.
Inspiration is the easy part for me. I’ve always been a writer. I’ve always composed stories – sometimes writing them down and sometimes not – and I’ve always liked to play with words. I made up stories in my head and scribbled them down all through my childhood. I was taught, though, that being a writer wasn’t a reasonable career choice. It wasn’t practical. It might not pay the rent. I was encouraged to go to college and get a “real” job.
I did go to college and got a “real” job. I liked the college part - later I went back to university and earned a second degree. The problem was that I never really liked any of my “real” jobs. I could do them and do them well, but they didn’t hold my interest – even if they did pay the rent. The truth was that I was still tempted by the prospect of becoming a writer - however impractical it might be. The tipping point came when I
a/ had a lousy day at work
b/ decided to lose myself in a novel that night
c/ thought the book in question was so badly written that I was sure I could do better.
That was the beginning of the perspiration phase.
Writing a book is hard work. It requires a lot of research and a dedication of time to create a novel that is 100,000 words long. But that’s just the beginning: once the book is written and the author loves it, the author has to find an editor who loves it enough to publish it. This usually means a lot of revising and re-imagining. Perspiration. I was reading a lot of historical romances when this quest began, so it made sense that I would try to write an historical romance. I wrote a medieval romance, set during the Crusades.
Once I’d written that book, made my first round of queries and sent the manuscript into the world, I didn’t know what to do next. My reference guide was HOW TO WRITE A ROMANCE AND GET IT PUBLISHED by Kathryn Falk, and according to that book, it would take a while to hear back from industry professionals. Why not write another book? I was also reading a lot of long contemporary romances at that time, so I thought I’d hedge my bets and write one of those. When that one was completed and sent out into the world, the rejection letters for the medieval were landing on the porch.
Ugh. These were not fun to read. But having half a dozen of them at once made it clear that publishing was very subjective. One editor would praise an element of the book that another editor would declare to be terrible. I lined all those letters up and looked for common ground. I figured if they all agreed that one part of the book was awful, they must be right. They agreed on a few things, so I made a plan and revised the book. Then I took a deep breath and sent it out again.
You can guess what was happening by then. Yes, the rejection letters for the second book were arriving in my mailbox.
For about a year and a half, I had a steady work pattern. I would revise one of these manuscripts, send it out again, then revise the next one. Finally, perspiration paid off - I sold the medieval romance to Harlequin Historicals. THE ROMANCE OF THE ROSE by Claire Delacroix was published in March 1993. That’s my publication story – inspiration and perspiration.
The thing is that this pattern never changes. There is always the flash of inspiration, followed by a lot of perspiration to bring the story into the world as a book. And then there is the effort of marketing it to a publisher and revising the work, sometimes over and over again. The cycle doesn’t stop with the sale of that first book, and really, I would be disappointed if it did. Inspiration shows the way and feeds enthusiasm, while perspiration gives satisfaction and solid results. The mix works.
The funny thing is that sometimes a bit of inspiration continues to haunt an author. Recently, I came across the manuscript for my long contemporary romance, the one that never sold. The idea seduced me all over again. I can guess now why it didn’t sell – it was a paranormal romantic suspense, and there was very little interest in that subgenre at that time. But after a few days of pushing it around, taking the plot apart and fitting it together a different way, it seems to me that all that book needs is a little more perspiration…
Which do you think is more important: inspiration or perspiration? Does that just apply to the writing of books, or to other endeavors?
Deborah Cooke (http://www.deborahcooke.com) has always been fascinated with dragons, although she has never understood why they have to be the bad guys. She has an honours degree in history, with a focus on medieval studies. She is an avid reader of medieval vernacular literature, fairy tales and fantasy novels, and has written over forty romance novels and novellas. In October and November 2009, Deborah was the writer in residence for the Toronto Public Library, the first time that the library has hosted a residency focused on the romance genre. Deborah has also been published under the names Claire Cross (http://www.clairecross.com ) and Claire Delacroix (http://www.delacroix.net).
Deborah makes her home in Canada with her husband. When she isn't writing, she can be found knitting, sewing or hunting for vintage patterns.
Deborah’s current release is DARKFIRE KISS, book #6 in her Dragonfire series of contemporary paranormal romances featuring dragon shape shifter heroes. That series continues with FLASHFIRE in January 2012 and Dragonfire #8 in October 2012. (http://www.deborahcooke.com) Deborah’s new YA trilogy, The Dragon Diaries, is loosely linked to Dragonfire, focusing on the coming of age of the new Wyvern, the only female dragon shifter. FLYING BLIND will be a June release, followed by WINGING IT in December and book 3 in June 2012. (http://www.thedragondiaries.com)
To read the reviews RomFan Reviews has done for the Darkfire series, click on the titles below.
Kiss of Fire
Kiss of Fury
Kiss of Fate