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Friday, November 12, 2010


If At First You Don’t Succeed:

The Trail From Endless Revisions to Publication

by A. Y. Stratton

Ever since my romantic suspense novel was published, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers who happen to show up at my book signings, ask me the one question I can’t answer. “How long did it take you to write Buried Heart?"

They assume I have written just one story and BINGO! Got it published. I always confess that I have written LOTS of stories--short, long and in between; mysteries, humor and romances--all rejected at least once.

My motto was: I am multiple-rejected, but poised to be an overnight success.

While I was fiddling with the first draft of Buried Heart (variously titled “Slaves of Time,” “The Last Codex,” or “Thick As Thieves”), I was still writing a monthly newspaper column and working as a volunteer for several charitable organizations. Somehow, the volunteer jobs grew to fill the hours, and “Slaves of Time” clomped along like a donkey pulling a heavy cart.

Eventually I submitted the story to some literary agents and publishers. Result: nice try, but no cigars; “At this time we are not seeking…”, etc.

About that time a friend mentioned that a colleague of his worked with authors on their manuscripts. I decided to give him a try. For six months I re-plotted, tightened, re-crafted, increased tension, heightened conflict, added and subtracted scenes (especially love scenes).

The waste basket bulged. The cost of paper went up. Trees died. I should have included the trees in my dedication.

The following June I attended the Wisconsin Romance Writers of America (WisRWA) conference in Green Bay, Wisconsin. During one of my pitch appointments, I announced the title of my romantic suspense story as “The Last Codex.”
The publisher gulped and raised her eyebrows. “The last Kotex?” she asked.
“Oh, no!” I blurted with a blush. “I guess I have to change that!”

My next pitch session was with Rhonda Penders, founder of a new, author-friendly publishing house. Switching to one of my other working titles, I gave my pitch. Like other agents and publishers had done in the past, she asked me to email her the first three chapters and a synopsis, and I did.

Three weeks later I was thrilled when Ms. Penders emailed me asking for the rest of the manuscript. Though other publishers had done the same in the past, I hoped this time could be THE time.

In late July I got an email request for the whole manuscript! As Sally Field said at the Oscars eons ago, “They liked me!”

Keeping a lid on my ecstatic effusion, I tinkered with the rest of the chapters and then shot the whole works to The Wild Rose Press. I assumed I wouldn’t hear anything for months.

In early September I got an email wondering why I hadn’t responded after they sent me a contract. Was I was still interested in publishing with them?

I replied in a panic. “Contract? OMG, I didn’t receive it!”

And the next day, there it was! A contract. Which I signed.

I had to decide on my pen name. I had to suggest ideas for a new title. I had to fill in details for the cover art. I had to get a web site going. I was expected to join the TWRP authors loop.

I needed blurbs and a bio. I needed a good head shot, something other than the cropped version of last year’s holiday card. Best of all, I had to tell every cousin, friend, neighbor, as well as all the strangers in the grocery store checkout line, that my novel, renamed Buried Heart, would be published!

What was the very best part of the process?

Holding my novel in my hands.
And seeing someone reading my novel on an airplane trip.
And signing my book for someone.
And hearing someone say: “Have you met Anne Stratton? She’s an author.”

P.S. I still don’t know exactly how long it took me to write that book, but I know how long it’s taken me to write this next one: eight months and counting.

A. Y. Stratton grew up in Glenview, Illinois, and in Elm Grove, Wisconsin. She graduated from Vassar College with a major in English Literature. As a child she had trouble sleeping, so she’d make up adventures starring herself as the heroine and imagined she’d write stories like those some day.

Inspired by her visits to Mayan dig sites, much of the action in Buried Heart, Stratton’s romantic suspense novel, takes place on a Mayan ruin in the Yucatan rain forest. She still makes up stories as she goes to sleep, but now she saves them in her computer.

Visit A.Y. at her website


Delaney Diamond said...

Anne, it was great reading about your journey. I can absolutely relate to having multiple books working at the same time. My motto is: Too many stories, not enough time."

A.Y. Stratton said...

Thanks for your comment. I have three or more chapters of two different stories sitting at the bottom of the stack on my desk. I imagine the characters hovering under the piles, hoping I'll let them into the action soon.

Mary Hughes said...

What a terrific story! It really demonstrates all the work that goes into being in the right place at the right time with the right stuff. BTW, I really enjoyed Buried Heart!

A.Y. Stratton said...

Oh, my gosh, Mary Hughes, thank you! Will you be my new best friend?

Sandy said...

What a wonderful journey, Anne.

It's tough getting that first book published, but I hear be tough after 15, 50 or 60. Huge Congrats on making it to publication.

Helen said...


Your journey mirrors mine to "first book" publication. I'm so glad our story lead to success even if we've taken the "scenic route." I'm with you on the joy of holding that book in your hands.

A.Y. Stratton said...

Thanks for the congratulations. "The scenic route" is a great way to describe it!

Donna Marie Rogers said...

Great interview, Anne! "I should have included the trees in my dedication." LOL Love this!

Helen Brenna said...

It is an amazing journey, Anne. Glad you stuck with it!

ccampbell said...

It's so great to hear from people who stuck with it and finally made it! Good for you! It gives hope to those of us who are still fighting the fight.