I had two books out, a romance and a romantic comedy, both self-published, both doing okay. Out of the blue, Amazon picked one of my titles, Better Off Without Him, for a month-long promotion. Needless to say, it changed my life. The book stayed on the bestseller list for over a month, I got a TV/movie option out of the deal, and Montlake publishing offered me a contract on my next book.
Here’s the thing – I didn’t really have a next book. I had about three chapters of an idea that I really liked. So, I sent them the first chapter, they liked it, and I signed on the dotted line.
There was a lot more to it than that, of course. There were negotiations and phone calls, e-mails back and forth. I handed everything over to my agent and slunk downstairs to my office to spend the winter writing. Last spring I emerged with a manuscript. And I was going to be handing it over to a total stranger.
Now, I’d only written two books before this, and, as any self-pubbed author knows, they were a lot of work. I’m not very computer-savvy. In fact, when I worked on my husband’s PC, I would often call him down to fix something, and he would look at me in amazement.
“What did you DO?”
“I don’t know – I just pushed the button!”
Anyone who had this much trouble with Word had serious computer issues.
I hated formatting. Still do. I would rather gouge out my left eye with a burning stick than put page numbers in a manuscript for CreateSpace. I finally got a hand on Calibre, but there would still be problems.
I hated covers. I didn’t want to invest in Photoshop – I didn’t have the money then, and I couldn’t imagine trying to teach myself something that complicated. So, I did my first two covers in Paint. And it was still torture for me. Cropping and re-cropping, trying to center the text, those damn ‘bleed lines’…
Really. Some people are born to be all-round book publishers. The rest of us are not.
Which is one of the many reasons I jumped at the chance to work with Montlake. I wouldn’t have to worry about formatting. Or a cover. And they would edit it for me? Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Here was my baby. I had poured the usual amount of blood, sweat and tears into this work. This represented hopes, dreams, and, lets face it, money. Because that was another reason for going with Montlake. NOBODY sells books like Amazon. I had quit my day job to stay home and write this full time, and I could really not afford to fail.
I was done writing A Slight Change of Plan. At least, I though I was. My agent had read it and offered some great suggestions. We agreed it was looking good. So, when the appointed day came, I pressed ‘Send’, burned my paperback copy of Atlas Shrugged as a sacrifice to the Zon gods, and waited.
Now, I had worked with a line editor before. My agent put me in touch with one for Better Off Without Him. I sent her my paper manuscript, and after three months, she sent it back. There was a comment, correction or suggestion on every page. The book, after I went through the re-write based on her work, was one hundred percent better.
But – seriously – when the manuscript came back from Montlake, I had no idea what to do next. I had never heard of track changes. I didn’t even know you could do stuff like that. Style sheet? What was that? OH MY GOD!
But – as my sixteen-year-old daughter has often said - when in doubt, Google. So, I did. Found out all about track changes. Wow – are they cool! I read the comments, made several of my own, had a few disagreements, felt embarrassed by my stupid mistakes – but all-in-all, I thought the whole experience was great. And then I got to the end, and read what my editor, Tiffany, felt about my ending, and what she thought the ending should be.
It was like the sun bursting through the storm clouds, to suddenly show the way.
There had been something nagging in the back of my mind throughout the whole story. A friend who had read it – and I completely trusted her judgment – had told me she wasn’t really satisfied with how it ended. Reading Tiffany’s notes made me sit back and look at my whole story differently. And the ending changed, just like that.
After that, I flew through the re-write. I was SO much happier. I liked my heroine, Kate, so much more. The story went from a simple boy-meets-girl etc. kind of story to something more honest and bittersweet.
It’s funny how you can love something so much and be so blind to it’s flaws. Being a writer is not just about being able to tell the story. It is – or it should be – about finding the right way to tell the story, about seeing what the journey is really about, and adjusting your path.
Kate Everett is about to begin her “second act.” She’s been a widow for eight years and thinks it might be time to start looking for someone to share her life with again. She quits her high-pressure job for something that will allow her more leisure time. She gets rid of the huge family home and moves into a fabulous condo that’s smaller and easier to manage. She’s pretty much got the rest of her life figured out. All she has to do is sit back, relax, and let the pieces fall into place.
But her real life never gets the memo. First, her son moves back in with her—along with his girlfriend. Her dream job falls through, leaving her unemployed. Her mother, whom she hadn’t spoken to in years, can no longer live alone and has to move into her basement. And her only daughter is planning the smallest and simplest wedding in the history of all weddings, much to Kate’s dismay.
Kate thinks that she and Jake, her former college love who has reemerged on an online dating site, of all places, can build something real, and that maybe her happy ending is in front of her at last. But the arrival of Edward, her daughter’s future father-in-law, presents Kate with an unexpected choice.
It looks like real happiness may require a slight change of plan.