Wednesday, February 29, 2012

So You're a Writer Now?

Some of you have heard I wrote (or, depending on your definition, am writing) a novel. I get asked questions about it all the time so just thought I would share some details. Don’t worry I won’t subject you to any excerpts. 

Here’s the list of FAQ (Mom, that means Frequently Asked Questions) I get asked about my novel:

1) What’s the title?

It’s tentatively titled Unbreak My Heart. I will keep that unless I get convinced it’s stupid and come up with something better. Yes, I am aware it is a Toni Braxton song title.

2) What’s it about?

It’s a straight-up contemporary romance novel. There’s no heaving bosoms or Fabio. Nor any vampires or werewolves. It is not sexually graphic nor is it set in the Victorian Era (all questions I have been asked).  

Contemporary romance novels tend to be formulaic, mine is no different. The pattern:

Boy meets girl.

Boy does something stupid that hurts girl in some way.

Boy spends rest of book winning back girl’s trust and love and helping her combat adversaries (which can in the form of a person or other things: nature/a corporation/the past /fears).

Girl learns to believe in herself.

Boy and girl get together and live happily ever after.

In my book, boy’s “something stupid” was leaving her alone after their brief relationship together when they were younger (unaware he was leaving her in an abusive situation). The “adversaries” in my book are girl’s abusive step-father and her lack of education.

3) Is the book autobiographical?

Surprisingly, I get asked this all the time. No, the book is not autobiographical in any sense of the word. Except for my abusive stepfather and lack of education.*

4) What are the main characters names?

Again, a very popular question. My main characters are named Lakeesha and Tyrone. Got a problem with that?**

5) You say your book is 60,000 words. How long is that in real-people terms? 

What 60,000 words looks like
It’s an average sized paperback romance novel - about 250 pages, at an average of 250 words per page.  (If I print my book on regular paper one-sided, it is 215 double-spaced pages in Times New Roman 12-point font with 1-inch margins.)

6) When, why, how did you write it?

Towards the end of October 2011, a previous student posted on Facebook about something called National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo, which occurs every November. Basically, it is a world-wide support group for getting a book FINISHED in one month (not perfect, just finished – with an entire story arc: beginning, middle, and end). I have to say I love NaNoWriMo and how it is organized – and I am sure I will blog more about that at a later date.

With my husband’s support (& his agreement to watch and feed our four kids for most of the month of November) I dove in, in my typical FULL-ON STUPID  fashion: writing an average of 1,667 words (about 7 pages) each day in November.

Because I hadn’t even heard of NaNoWriMo until just a couple days before November 1st  when the writing starts, I did not have time to flesh out an entire new book, so I used an idea from a story I had started in 2008, but had never gotten through more than the first three chapters. I must admit, this is not the story I would’ve written if I had time to get something else ready, but I didn’t, so I wrote it.  And Unbreak My Heart was born.

7) Is it any good? What’s your plan for it?

Honestly, trying to figure that out is where I’m stuck right now. I’ve written it, then gone back and done a full editing to make sure everything makes sense and the story is complete. Now I have to decide how much more effort it is worth. Do I want to continue to work and polish it until it is possibly publishable? Or on the other end of the spectrum, do I want to just say, hey, I wrote a novel in a month, isn’t that cool? and just let it die unread?

I think my next step is to find some beta readers (besides my mother) who can give me basic, honest feedback about whether to continue revisions/edits it or just chalk it up to an experience and use what I’ve learned in my next NaNoWriMo adventure.

8) So are you a writer now? 

I wish I could put an audio file on here to give you the actual disparaging tone a distant family member used when asking me that question. I think what she meant was if I plan to make this my full-time profession and go on book tours and stuff. 

Am I quitting my day job to pursue writing full time? No. 

Am I published novelist? No. 

Do I plan to ever submit a novel to a publisher? Hopefully.

Is Unbreak My Heart a novel I will submit to a publisher? I truly do not know at this time. 

But am I a writer (said without disparaging tone)? Yes. Writers write

“Novels are written by everyday people who give themselves permission to write novels” – Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo

*Yeah, I don’t have any stepfather, abusive or otherwise. And I arguably have too much education.
**Actually my main characters’ names are Amanda and David


  1. Great Q&A, Jane. They resonate.

    I too often see "aspiring writer" on twitter bio's and Facebook. IMHO aspiring writers are those who say, "I want to write a book, a humor column, a memoir...somday."

    If you write, you are a writer. In my case, I'm a writer aspiring to be published. Best wishes on your decision, Jane. Write the next one! Go on!

    1. Thanks Gloria, you’re always such an encourager (to me and others!)

      What I’m struggling with now is coming to grips that editing is not writing. I need to edit, sure, but I also need to be writing on another WIP in conjunction. Writers write.

    2. Editing is writing. It's taking the words you put out there in your original draft and working your writing craft on them.

      If you EVER want some great craft lessons of writing page-turners, visit She has on-line lecture packets, but I LOVE taking her courses because of the feedback. Her daughter, Tiffany Lawson Inman also teaches craft lessons.

      When Sherry Isaac and I exchange goals, we include edits/rewrites/new scenes/plot corrections in our WRITING goals. It's part of a writer's process. I find it difficult to write a new novel while reworking a a first draft. It's hard to stay "in voice" with the book I'm polishing.

      Others? They have two in process at the same time. Just depends of your writing paradigm.

      In re: your question on my blog. Squee-key and I would be honored by a mention!

  2. For what it's worth - my sister in law randomly wrote a novel (not for NatWirMo (or whatever)). She sold it and everything. Historical Romance. Sunflowers by Sheramy Bundrick - at fine bookstores everywhere. So, writing one and getting it published can be done.

  3. Great post! I adore your frank sense of humor. If you're able to extend that in any fashion to your book, then I'd say you're already starting off well. I can't wait to see what happens in the future for you.. either with this book or perhaps with another. :)

  4. You know about Romance Writers of America, right? If not, that may be the next step.
    Contemporary romances are special again. Agents are looking for them.