posted on January 27, 2014 by Alyssa Alexander

How To Give Yourself A Massive Headache

9780425269527_medium_The_Smuggler_Wore_Silk(1)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 SeatedSince I’m waxing nostalgic, I’m offering up a signed copy of THE SMUGGLER WORE SILK to a lucky commenter!

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!

Alyssa Alexander

Alyssa Alexander

Despite being a native Michigander, I’m pretty certain I belong somewhere sunny. And tropical. Where drinks are served with little paper umbrellas. But alas, I will not be living on a white sandy beach anytime in the near future. To keep myself busy until that day, I survive the cold Michigan winters by penning romance novels that always include a bit of adventure.

I’m married to a real life hero who is tolerant of my over-flowing bookshelves and eating pizza for dinner on a regular basis. I also live with a not-so-smart cat and an active four year old boy who is most often found wearing a knight in shining armor costume.

When I’m not working at my day job, writing, cleaning house, scaling Mount Laundry or doing any of the other tasks a wife, mother and writer must do, I can usually be found sitting on my deck overlooking the hay fields behind my house. Or, in the winter, I’m staring out the window at my deck and wishing the foot of snow would melt. Either way, I’m likely to have a book in my hand. And maybe a drink with a paper umbrella.

22 thoughts on “How To Give Yourself A Massive Headache”

  1. Tina says:

    Wow..that is amazing. I really have no excuse for not writing in my journal if you can do all that!

    1. Well, I don’t know about ‘all that.’ It took me a year because I kept falling asleep sitting up at the keyboard! Hence the coffee. 🙂 Good luck on the journal writing, and thanks for stopping by!

  2. Kristen says:

    Wow – it looks like that hard work paid off, Alyssa! I got some similar feedback on my latest ms (“If you could just make character x THIS instead of THAT and character y do THESE instead of THOSE, that would be great…) and my brain just about melted. Thanks for sharing and for the book giveaway. 🙂

    1. That kind feedback absolutely does melt your brain! But after the brain melt, sometimes you realize it’s correct. And…sometimes it’s not. At the very least, it makes you take a good look at your ms and decide why your characters are doing what they do–and that’s always a good thing! Happy writing, Kristen!

  3. Jenny Vandepoel says:

    Alyssa, it was great fun reading your story behind the story; this is my very favorite kind of writing from published authors apart from their books themselves. Such backstories are like gold to anyone who has author dreams. Your book sounds like a fun read. I will be looking for it when I’m out shopping. Thank you!

    1. Hi, Jenny! Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to read my little backstory. Writing is hard work, but worth every minute of it to see the dream come true. If you have those author dreams, best of luck to you!

  4. Carrie Vasquez says:

    It is always better to do it right and be happy with your results than to do it quickly and half way. Good luck with your next book.

    1. Too true! Thanks for stopping by, Carrie!

  5. Diane Burton says:

    I love reading the stories behind the story. You did such a seamless job of cutting and polishing this book I never saw anything missing. I’ve said often that I love this book & can’t wait for the next one. With even half the determination you put into the SWS, your next book will shine.

    1. Oh, thanks Diane!! That means a lot. As for determination, Mr. Alexander is more likely to say ‘stubborn’, so thanks for letting me spin that one at my house tonight!

  6. Alyssa, I have the book and am really looking forward to reading it. But most of all, I want you to know I’m so darn proud of you and what your perseverance has accomplished! May your talent keep shining and your success soar!

    1. Thank you, Loralee, though my perseverance is nothing compared to your own strength!!

  7. Louise O' Hanlon says:

    wow! Well done you!!!!

    1. Thanks so much, Louise!

  8. Penny Mettert says:

    The middles always seem treacherous. I have a writer friend who talks about being mired in the middle again. Glad you got it figured out!! 🙂

    1. They do indeed! Some writers call it the sagging middle, and I completely believe it!

  9. melissakeir says:

    Wonderful post. It’s hard to cut, like you are chopping pieces of your heart off. But I’m glad you were able to work on it and make it better!

    1. It definitely made the book better, and I learned a lot in the process. So worth every cut word!

  10. Lynne says:

    This book looks so good! It’s been so long since I’ve read a good romance.

    1. Welcome back to romance, Lynne! And thanks for stopping by!

  11. Patti says:

    I loved reading this! As a writer who just finished her novel…and I’m thinking..woohoo! It’s all done! It’s not done! Not by a long shot!! Sometimes the editing is harder than the actual writing of the story!! Can’t wait to read your book! Keep up the good work!!

    1. Congrats on finishing the manuscript! That’s the hardest part. The editing isn’t easy, for sure, but you have something to work with. Be proud of finishing, and best of luck to you!

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