Let’s fly through a few years. I sold my third novel when it was approximately half written. I sold my fourth book (a sequel to Books #1 and #2) on a proposal. Then I negotiated my first multi-book contract. That was a stressful negotiation. It’s hard to be a tough businesswoman with your editor while you hammer out details of a contract, then switch to a warm working relationship once you start writing. That was when I knew I wanted to get an agent before it was time to go to contract again.
Book #4 was published in early 1986 with Book #5 set for release in October 1986. In April of that year, several writers (published and unpublished) who I’d met during the previous couple of years got together to form the first Idaho chapter of Romance Writers of America. I was no longer alone with stories rattling around in my head. I now knew other people who understood me and the process of writing a novel. Oh, happy day!
And that summer I attended my first RWA conference; it was in Minneapolis. I met many of my favorite authors and attended some fabulous workshops. But the big thing for me was hearing authors talking about “revision letters” and “line edits” and “copy edits” and “first pass pages.” Huh? Remember, my books thus far hadn’t been edited at all.
After hearing authors talking about these things, I finally turned to a friend and said, “I think I’ve been cheated.” And I was being cheated. No author is so good she doesn’t need edited. Not that editing is fun or easy. But it’s like eating your vegetables. It’s good for you. Sadly, I would not be really edited until Book #11, and that was still several years away.
My dream was that someday I could make enough money to quit my full time job and support myself with my writing. That wasn’t going to happen with the $1500 per book advance I got for my last contract.
At this point, I guess I should answer the question of what my writing day looked like back then. Since I had a Monday through Friday, 8 to 5 job, plus two teenagers (in 1986 they were 17 and 15), plus deadlines to keep, I had to be disciplined with my time while still not shutting out my family.
Monday through Thursday, I came home from work, fixed dinner, ate with the family, then while my daughters did the dishes, I went off to my office to write. I wrote from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. I had an “open door” policy. My daughters could interrupt me at any time (there’s some funny stories that go with that, but too hard to tell without voice and hand gestures). Friday nights were reserved for family. Saturday mornings I wrote (teenagers like to sleep late), and Saturday afternoons/evenings were for family. Sundays were for church and family.
With that routine, I managed to write a novel every eight months in my “spare time.” I was learning a lot with every book I wrote. I studied how-to books and analyzed the novels I read. Still, I needed a good editor’s attention (an editor’s good attention?), so it was slow going.