The novel took me a long time to write. Probably longer than it should have, had I known what I was doing. However, I had no idea what I was doing. In many ways, I totally recreated myself as a writer. I pieced together how to write fiction and how to write a long story instead of a short one. Though I took online workshops and a few fiction-writing classes, this time I had no critique group to help me along.
Since the story that had gifted itself to me was fantasy, my literary fiction and nonfiction network, though supportive friends, were of little help.
I was all alone in this effort. Looking back, I think that was an important part of my journey.
I made things up as I went along. Feeling my way through, I discovered ways to access my imagination and to drive the story forward. My only readers were friends who liked to read the genre—and by that I mean readers of romance and of fantasy/science fiction. I had some readers of each, not realizing how much I was muddling between the genres. My readers didn’t seem to care. They just told me what they did and didn’t like in the story.
When I finished the novel, I shopped it around to agents. I knew how to do the submissions part of the business, having queried so many magazines over the years. At first agents were wonderful to me. They saw my literary nonfiction credentials and loved my book concept.
Unfortunately, they hated the book itself.
The agents did not appreciate the way I’d muddled genres. And my voice and style were not suitable for genre fiction. I went to my first Romance Writers of America (RWA) convention in the summer of 2008. My nametag labeled me as unpublished, because RWA requirements count only publication credits in the genre. I was a brand new writer, all over again.
Gradually I became friends with romance writers and writers of speculative fiction. RWA is full of wonderfully supportive people—more so than any other writing community I’ve been a part of. They told me I have a strong voice and that meant my first sale would be long in coming. They also encouraged me by saying that, once I did make that sale, that same strong voice would serve me well.
Through RWA, I became involved in the online special interest chapter for Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Romance. I met—mostly online—other speculative fiction writers in this group, who are now my critique partners and part of my daily support network. Interestingly, a lot of the writers in this group include greater or lesser amounts of romance in their books, but RWA as a whole provides support for “unpublished” writers that’s unparalleled anywhere else I’ve looked.
I revised and sent out the novel again. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
During this time, I wish I’d started writing a new novel. I went back to writing short pieces and spent a lot of time revising and querying. Since then, I’ve often heard the advice that novelists should start a new book while shopping the finished one. It’s good advice. Advice I’ve followed since. As soon as I call something finished and start shopping it, I start something new.
When I finally made that “first sale,” it wasn’t the novel.
Tomorrow: Jeffe Kennedy Day 6 - First Fiction Publication
Jeffe Kennedy took the crooked road to writing, stopping off at neurobiology, religious studies and environmental consulting before her creative writing began appearing in places like Redbook, Puerto del Sol, Wyoming Wildlife, Under the Sun and Aeon. An erotic novella, Petals and Thorns, came out under her pen name of Jennifer Paris in 2010, heralding yet another branch of her path, into erotica and romantic fantasy fiction. Since then, an erotic short, Feeding the Vampire, and another erotic novella, Sapphire, have hit the shelves. Her contemporary fantasy novel, Rogue’s Pawn, book one in A Covenant of Thorns, will be published in July, 2012. Jeffe lives in Santa Fe, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and frequently serves as a guinea pig for an acupuncturist-in-training.