As mentioned, I had now discovered what “real” editing entails. I’d survived my first lengthy revision letter (substantive edits) and line edits and copy edits and first pass pages/typeset galley proofs. The book was made the better for it.
By late 1991/early 1992, I had written 15 novels and 12 had been released. Of those 15, one was set in the Civil War era; eight were western romances (mining towns, Oregon Trail, cattle drive, etc.); one was a medieval; one was set after the turn of the century (heroine was on the Titanic); one was a Gothic Victorian; one was a Regency; one was a Zorro-inspired story set in Spanish California; and one was a pirate novel.
It occurred to me as I looked at the careers of other authors that those who did well usually built a readership with a certain kind of story. Later, as their careers developed, they could branch out and faithful readers would follow. Me, I’d been writing all over the map. Adventure. Saga. Gothic. Swashbuckler. Western. While I might have been enjoying the variety, it wasn’t smart marketing. Nor did it allow me to find my “voice” because the styles were all so different.
It was right about then that my agent suggested I analyze my writing. What were my strengths? What was it I did best and what didn’t I do at all? So I sat down and thought about it. What I didn’t do was easy. I definitely didn’t write sexy books, and I didn’t write humor. My characters were my greatest strength. Readers cared about them, judging by my reader mail. But the main thing I did as a writer was make my readers cry. I tugged the heartstrings.
My next step was to decide what was the best sub-genre to showcase my perceived strengths. The answer for me was Americana historical romances. And it was in those stories that I discovered my true voice.