Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My Almost-year of Writing Glacially by Colette Auclair

Today Chiseled in Rock is pleased to feature a guest post from a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.

A native of Pittsburgh, Colette Auclair now lives in the Denver suburb of Westminster with her actor-husband and serious Portuguese water dog. She makes a living writing advertising copy. She also writes contemporary single-title romance novels that often include horses. 

Colette hopes to have her first novel, Thrown—a 2012 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award finalist—published soon. Her second novel, Love in the Time of Colic, is now getting some love after being pushed aside as she finished Thrown

Besides writing, Colette loves riding her horse, eating (especially bacon), drinking wine, cooking, hiking with the aforementioned spouse and dog and not weeding her garden.


My Almost-year of Writing Glacially by Colette Auclair

If you’re a writer—and I assume you likely are—this post will make you feel better. Trust me.

I finished revising my very first manuscript a few days ago. I started writing this thing three years and one month ago. If my book were a human, it would be gearing up for preschool. If it were a mouse, it would be in assisted living.

This is a tale of the cheetah and the sloth.

When I started writing this in September of 2009, I finished a first draft to the tune of 130,000 words in four months. It was easy! It was fun! It was a traipse through Candyland. I went to my first Romance Writers of America (RWA) national conference with a baby book. I eagerly attended workshops and returned fortified with more tools to hone my novel.

I wrote a second draft. Armed with my word machete, I whacked my way through the sentence jungle until the thing was an acceptable 100,000 words. Again, still a joy to write. Still fun! I was a cheetah! What were these whiners talking about, who hated to write? Who struggled to put words on a page (screen)? Who thought writing was hard? By December of 2010, I was ready to send my baby into the world.

Enter Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers member Joanne Kennedy, who I met at that RWA conference. She read my manuscript and gave me six pages of notes. I set about revising anew, re-energized. I went to the 2010 RWA conference in New York and pitched. After all, I had been revising for ages. Oh, and my book won a regional romance novel contest! This writing stuff was great!

I sent my manuscript to a toddler-sized handful of agents. The agent who repped one of my favorite authors asked for revisions. I was crestfallen, until someone pointed out that she liked my work enough to request revisions! I was then delighted. On cloud nine. A giddy cheetah once more.

Well… Um… The cheetah morphed into a tree sloth. I was stumped by one of the revision requests, even though I agreed with it. The holidays came—an automatic speed bump/excuse. The winter of 2012 wore on, and I wasn’t writing. Not at all. It went on for months. My book and I were no longer on speaking terms. We had retreated to our corners to reassess our relationship. My novel waited, completely passive. Would I be able to fix it? Would my characters hate me? What had happened to my boundless enthusiasm? Here I brought this novel into the world, and now I had abandoned it.

After months of telling kind friends that I was “still revising” (which was, technically, a lie—I should have said, “I’m still banging my head against the wall and feeling guilty about not writing, unless you count cutting a word here and there when by some miracle I manage to open the file”), inspiration struck. A friend had an idea for how to solve the issue that had stumped me. I wrote the scene and—poke!—the cheetah stirred. Stretched. Scanned the savannah and spotted a tasty gazelle.

And took off.

Whoosh! I was writing again! And in the nick of time, because in July I attended the 2012 RWA conference, this time as a finalist in the Golden Heart contest. Agents and editors were interested, so the sloth had to become a cheetah. Pardon another animal reference, but I became a social mole, turned down all invitations, and wrote wrote wrote to get the manuscript ready for public consumption.

At the beginning of this post I said you’d feel better. Why? Because either you’ve had this happen to you and now feel better because another poor schlub has been through the dark forest too. Or you’ve never had it happen or you’ve overcome with more aplomb than I. Either way, don’t you feel better now? Oh, and you’re welcome! Here’s hoping we are all cheetahs more often than sloths.


Thanks for submitting this fun post, Colette. I was in the sloth phase all summer, but my cheetah side has put in an appearance just in time for NaNoWriMo.

For more information about Colette, visit her website/blog. She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted by Pat Stoltey. Pictures of the cheetah (credit Malene Thyssen) and sloth were found on Wickimedia Commons, a site you might want to check out. I have Collette to thank for pointing the way to another great resource for bloggers.


Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - Thanks for hosting Colette.

Colette - Thanks for sharing your cheetah/sloth story. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who can't always quickly get past those speed bumps. I admire your perseverance.

Anonymous said...

I second the admiration for your perseverance. My sloth side shows up way too often!

By the way, I feel like your soul-sister. I'm a Pittsburgh native too, moved to Denver for many years and have been on the other side of the slope for the last 19. (Can you still sling "yens" around?)

TerriOsburn said...

Love this blog. Especially the part about you and your MS reassessing your relationship. Boy do I know that one.

I'm happy you stuck with it and finaled in the GH or else you never would have wondered into my life. Keep that cheetah in shape and well-fed. I'm waiting to pop over to one of these blogs and see that you've taken the publishing world by storm! (It's only a matter of time, after all. And then you'll have your own stalkers. *g*)

Cynthia Woolf said...

Great blog. I like the animal references. They are so appropriate. I go through the same process with each of my books.

Good luck with your book.

Karalee Long said...

Colette, I can identify with your cheetah/sloth situation. I'm glad your book has garnered interest, and I hope to be able to buy a copy soon.

Viola Estrella said...

Colette, funny post! Yes, I remember the time when I, too, was a cheetah. I miss those days... I love the title of your second novel! Clever and catchy. Good luck to you! (See you in the jungle soon??)

Tracy Brogan said...

Have you been peeking in my window?? I have been the Cheetah and the sloth,too!! :)

I find that writing is really, really easy - until we learn how to do it. Once we realize all the mistakes we are making, it slows us down and sometimes scares us off. Great job on getting your Cheetah back on!!!!!

Mary Gillgannon said...

Most of us who have been writing a long time have a book (or two) like this. Where we got stuck for months or years. Loved your animal analogies! Great post!

Susan M. Boyer said...

Colette, I can SO relate to your post. I've been all of those animals on various days. :)

I've got to get myself into cheetah mode...


A. J. Larrieu said...

Great post, Colette! I can always count on my cheetah to come out when there's something to chase. Like a big, fat Request Gazelle...

Joanne Kennedy said...

You have to get back in cheetah mode, because I'm ready to read the next Auclair opus. "Thrown" is still one of the best manuscripts I've ever read. (The more I like a manuscript, the more I pick it apart - lucky you!)The Golden Heart judges apparently agree!

Colette Auclair said...

It's Colette, replying to comments. Sorry about the delay--technical difficulties. Thank you all for reading!

For Margot: I found my time in slothdom to be especially disheartening because I'm a copywriter in real life, so I'm quite used to deadlines and having to produce copy no matter what. Thanks for your encouragement and kind words!

Colette Auclair said...

To Julie: Welcome, woman from the 'Burgh! I must admit, we didn't say "yunz" much in Glenshaw (Shaler Township, North Hills), but I sure miss Isaly's chipped ham now and then. I hope your sloth takes a vacation and lets your cheetah shine through.

To Terri: Thank you! I hope to soon reward you with a blog about my three-book deal(!). Then I can join the ranks of you published Firebirds.

To Cynthia: Thank you for your encouragement! I hope I don't see much of the sloth from here on in, but I suppose he has his place.

To Karalee: I hope you can buy a copy soon, too! Thank you for your encouragement. Now I'm wondering what other kinds of animals are going to show up on my writing journey...

To Viola: Thanks so much for stopping by! I value all the encouragement you've given me. Glad you like the title of novel #2. I wonder if they'll let me keep it?

To Tracy: Your comment about your window made me imagine looking in and seeing a cheetah running around, leaping on and off of couches, and a sloth hanging out on the chandelier. Did they both help you write CRAZY LITTLE THING?

To Mary: Thank you! I'm hoping the cheetah will eat the sloth and that will be that for the rest of my career. However, my friend told me sloths are slothful because they eat eucalyptus, which lulls them into a stupor. So it might be a question of diet for the poor things.

To Susan: Lure that cheetah in. Put a juicy, three-legged literary antelope near your WIP.

To A.J.: LOVE your image of the Request Gazelle! I might have to design one of those for inspiration, Maybe I can sell them at RWA in Atlanta next summer.

To Joanne: I'll see what I can do, but not everyone can churn out compelling novel after compelling novel like you do. That said, a team of cheetahs is running wind sprints as we speak. Thanks for commenting and for all your stupendous help!