There I was, circa 2009, with a finished manuscript. Not my first, but close enough. I was giddy with excitement. I’d written the majority of it during maternity leave and while parenting a newborn, even writing at 2am with one hand while feeding the child with the other. But what to do now with this finished manuscript? How do I know if it’s ready to send out into the world? I’d been writing since middle school and still, I was green as grass and not sure what the next step was. So I signed up for a self-editing class, thinking it would help me polish the manuscript so I would know it was ready to go.
It was wonderful. Wonderful, amazing, brilliant and taught me so much about my writing, my process and editing in general.
Unfortunately, it also showed me the middle of my book was sagging. Not just sagging. It was boring. As part of the class, I evaluated the book chapter by chapter, scene by scene. My comments at the end of the evaluation were “I have some very low levels of forward action between Chapters 4 and 22. Ouch. That’s a lot of rewriting,” and “There are about 100 pages that should be condensed into 20 pages. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite so boring.” So I re-read those 100 pages, culled the dialogue and scenes I wanted, and condensed it.
But this left me about 80 pages short of a novel. And with a throbbing headache.
So I rewrote the rest of the book. And when I say rewrote, I mean it. I added a new scene, then another, and suddenly the book had a new trajectory. Everything that came after it had to be modified to make room for the new scenes. Fast forward a year or so, add a lot of pizza, a messy house and an 18 month old, and the end result was THE SMUGGLER WORE SILK as you see it today. It’s my first published manuscript, but I put so much time and effort into it that I feel like I wrote two books. Maybe even three.
Sometimes, when I think of the moments late at night with a sleeping child in my arms and a notepad propped on the arm of the chair while I drafted a scene, I can’t believe I’ve come this far. I can’t believe the dream I dreamed at 2am and 4am and 6am actually came true. My child may never understand what it took for me to get this far, or know about hours I spent writing while he slept.
But I know.
All the work was worth every minute. Julian and Grace’s story blossomed and it wouldn’t be the book you see on the shelves today without that editing class and a very hard look at the manuscript. That doesn’t mean taking out 100 pages is easy. Those pages still had to be rewritten. I sweated and suffered, drank copious amounts of coffee and got up at 4:30 am to rewrite those pages and make them shine. Still, it was the right decision, no matter how difficult.
I hope the results are enjoyable! And to introduce you to Julian and Grace as they are today, here is a little bit about the book:
After he is betrayed by one of his own, British spy Julian Travers, Earl of Langford, refuses to retire without a fight, vowing to find the traitor. But when the trail leads to his childhood home, Julian is forced to return to a place he swore he’d never see again, and meet a woman who may be his quarry—in more ways than one.
Though she may appear a poor young woman dependent on charity, Grace Hannah’s private life is far more interesting. By night, she finds friendship and freedom as a member of a smuggling ring. But when the handsome Julian arrives, she finds her façade slipping, and she is soon compromised, as well as intrigued.
As she and Julian continue the hunt, Grace finds herself falling in love with the man behind the spy. Yet Julian’s past holds a dark secret. And when he must make a choice between love and espionage, that secret may tear them apart.
Alyssa Alexander lives in Michigan, where she parents a kindergartener by day and pens romance novels by night to ward away the (currently very!) cold winters. Her debut novel, THE SMUGGLER WORE SILK, released January 2014 and garnered 4.5 Stars and TOP PICK from the Romantic Times. Watch for the next book in the series, IN BED WITH A SPY, in late 2014!