I’ve been writing fiction seriously for about three years, and when I first started I kept hearing people talk about ‘Call Stories’ but I had no idea what they were. I soon discovered that The Call is when a publisher offers you a contract for your manuscript, even if it happens to be via email. By the time I’d finished my first manuscript I was hooked on writing and hoped that one day I’d be writing about my own Call Story.
Three manuscripts later that day arrived!
But let me backtrack a little…
Late in 2011 I started getting ideas for a new book which would be my third. I came up with the premise (an image-conscious young woman wakes on her birthday to find she’s a middle-aged housewife married to the also middle-aged high school nerd), and let it simmer for a while. Gradually, the character developed in my mind and I came up with the title, Fast Forward. I was also playing around with another couple of book ideas at the time and getting started on some major revisions for my first manuscript.
At the start of 2012 (New Years Day to be exact), I was staying with family and planning on taking a few days off to relax and read a few books, but my muse had other ideas.
Over breakfast, I flipped through one of my mother’s many home and lifestyle magazines and an advertisement caught my eye. It was for an interior design course and showed pictures of beautiful furniture and homewares. Before that day, I had decided that my main character would be involved in designing homewares, so on a whim I cut out the ad for inspiration. I still hadn’t decided yet which book idea I would pursue and was pondering my options as I flipped through the magazine. I asked myself, ‘Which book should I start next?’ (and by next I meant in another few weeks or so), and on the very next page in the magazine was an article titled: Fast Forward.
I had my answer.
And I cut out that title too. (I’m sure my mother didn’t mind me getting all scissor-happy with her magazines ;))
I took this as a sign, or more accurately; a direct kick-in-the-pants to get started on this story, so instead of curling up with a book I opened my laptop and began writing. The first few chapters flew from my fingers to the keyboard over the next three days.
For the rest of the month I worked on editing a different manuscript and put Fast Forward aside until February, at around the same time as I found myself a fantastic critique partner. She read my chapters and enjoyed them and spurred me on to write more. I didn’t work on it every day, but rarely a week went by when I didn’t add more to the story. I couldn’t believe how fun and fast this story was to write. Sometimes I’d stay up till 2 or 3am because I was enjoying myself so much (although I suffered the next day). Don’t get me wrong, parts of it were plain hard work – especially figuring out how to make a 300-ish page story take place over just one day in the character’s life (I constructed a timeline in fifteen-minute increments!).
By the time June came around I only had another 20,000 words to go, so I signed up for RWA’s 50k in 30 days challenge and vowed to finish it by the end of the month.
Half way through June I typed ‘The End’. Overall it took me about four months to write.
I sent the rest off to my critique partner who gave me some very helpful suggestions and I went straight to work editing it. I didn’t want to put it aside for a while like many authors (rightfully) recommend. My heart was still in this story and I wanted to work on it while it felt fresh.
I edited the first three chapters many more times until I was happy with the beginning, and did a final read through. I then entered online pitch contests and began the time-consuming process of researching agents, publishers, and sending out queries. All in all I got about twenty agent rejections and two editor rejections, but received feedback and took (most of it) on board, tweaking some parts of the manuscript.
Then I pitched it at the RWA conference on the Gold Coast in August, and while I was there, learned of Harlequin Australia’s new digital-first imprint, Escape. At first I didn’t think my story would be suitable (for starters, my hero was a nerd!) and I went home and sent off my other submissions. After seeing Escape’s tweets on twitter, I decided I should check out their submission guidelines anyway and they seemed fairly open-minded about different genres and mixed genres as long as it had a significant romance and happy ending. Mine was a combination of women’s fiction, chick lit, hen lit, comedy, romance, futuristic, and paranormal (what was I thinking?!). In the end I decided on romantic comedy and sent off a partial submission, knowing I’d find out in two weeks if it wasn’t suitable.
Much to my surprise I got a full manuscript request less than two weeks later, and three weeks after that I got an offer of publication. 🙂
On that wonderful day I remembered I’d actually had a dream about Harlequin Escape the night before – talk about prophetic! I checked my email as usual first thing in the morning, but there was nothing interesting. I decided to sit outside in the sun for a while to soak up some vitamin D and brought my iPhone with me. My email made that sound telling me I had new email and I glanced at the screen expecting it to be yet another ‘20% off all dresses, today only!’ or a very tempting ‘Booktopia Clearance Sale!’. But it was from Escape.
I mentally prepared myself for another rejection. All I could see was a couple of lines of a message preview:
‘Thank you for submitting Fast Forward to Harlequin Escape. I am delig…’
Delig? Was that part of the word I thought it was? …Delighted?
Then I thought it might say: “I am delighted that you wrote this story but unfortunately it is not right for us.’
But I knew it wouldn’t. I knew what it was going to say and my hand shook as I pressed the screen to open the message.
‘I am delighted to accept it for publication.’
The shaking intensified and lots of ‘Ohmygod’s’ spewed repeatedly from my mouth. I’m sure my neighbours thought I was having a heart attack. It was a really humid day and my palms were so sweaty from heat and excitement I could barely scroll the screen down to read the rest of the message!
I had to keep the news fairly quiet at first so I just rang my parents (who sent me a huge bunch of flowers later that day), and then my critique partner (90% of our conversation was the word ‘exciting’), and spent the rest of the day with a permanent grin on my face and completely unable to do anything productive.
It still amazes me that it was only less than a year ago I started writing this story and now it’s about to be released. I love how fast digital publishing works and I’m looking forward to getting this story out into the big wide world of the internet! I’m also excited to be involved with Harlequin, a company who has such a strong foundation and worldwide brand.
To all the writers out there – keep writing, editing, polishing, and submitting, and embrace the digital age.
To all the readers – keep reading, reviewing, and telling your friends about great books.
Thanks for reading my call story! 🙂
…To celebrate this milestone I feel like being generous and giving away stuff! To win some goodies, keep an eye on the blog (or subscribe if you like) for a giveaway coming very soon…