In March 2019, I was deep into writing Willow Falls series book three. The second book had been edited and approved for an early 2020 release. All we needed was a title and back cover copy.
Then in one heart-wrenching moment, everything screeched to a halt.
My managing editor moved on to new horizons and the new editor informed me the manuscript needed one, perhaps two substantive edits. My first reaction? Disbelief. Followed by frustration.
How could two professional editors have such different opinions?
My writing journey began following the tragic passing of a young woman who had drifted in and out of our lives for twenty-five years. As a cathartic exercise I started working on a fictional story based on her life, but with a happy ending. During the process something amazing happened. God planted a seed that led me to come out of retirement and launch a second career as an author. It didn’t take long to discover that seed needed a ton of water and huge quantity of fertilizer.
I studied the craft, sought feedback from published authors, attended conferences, and became a member of American Christian Fiction Writes and Word Weavers International.
After completing that first manuscript and beginning a second, an idea emerged for a contemporary multi-book series about three women, strangers from diverse backgrounds whose lives are united by tragedy and a long-held secret. I envisioned their appearances and chose names based on their birth years and personalities.
I chose Atlanta as home for the city-bred character, knowing I could draw on my own experiences as well as Google earth to accurately write scenes in locations readers would recognize. When choosing the second location, I opted for a fictional small town I could create to fit the story. Because I needed a visual to accurately describe scenes, I drew a map of the town, which expanded with each book in the series and evolved into an inanimate character with a soul reflecting its residents.
Although most of the secondary characters came into existence as each manuscript progressed, I created four of the most significant before typing the first word.
With the preliminary plotting finished, I began writing my third manuscript. Three years after becoming an author I was blessed with a contract from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolina’s for the first Willow Falls novel. Which brings me back to book two’s opposing editor dilemma. My third reaction was driven by pride. After all, The Secret of Willow Inn was selling well. It received several hundred positive reviews across Amazon, Goodreads, and Bookbub, and I had been invited to speak to organizations and book clubs about my writing journey.
When I reached out to my publisher, thinking he would approve the first edited version, I was forced to face a big dose of reality—both editors had valid points. The plot for book two was solid, however the story needed major revisions. I swallowed my pride and with Eddie Jones’ writerscoach.us expert guidance and feedback tackled the task. By mid-summer, the re-write was finished, the manuscript was edited, the release date was moved up to November 2019, and I received an LPC contract for Willow Falls series book three.
The lessons learned from that experience proved the most valuable in my new career. First, a published debut novel doesn’t guarantee subsequent success. Rather it sets a bar an author must strive to surpass. Each new manuscript should improve over the last to illustrate the author’s growth and maturity as a writer.
Second, feedback from Beta readers, critique partners, and editors is invaluable and must be taken to heart.
Third, confidence laced with a healthy dose of humility, and the willingness to continue studying the craft are essential ingredients in a successful writing journey.
What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned in your publishing career?
Retired from a twenty-seven-year corporate career, Pat Nichols is proving it’s never too late to follow your dreams. She draws on her experience in seven different management positions working with hundreds of amazing women from all walks of life to create stories about women facing tension-laced challenges and heart-warming triumphs in the pursuit of their dreams. Her debut novel, The Secret of Willow Inn, Willow Falls series book one, released January 2019, is a 2020 Selah Award finalist, debut novel category. Book two, The Trouble in Willow Falls, released November 2019. Books three and four are waiting release dates. Pat received a 2018 NGCWC Georgia Peach Award for her short story, The Vet and Valentine’s Day, and a 2019 NGCWC Georgia Peach Award for Willow Falls book three. She received the 2017 CRW Woman of the Year Award and has been featured on WATC Television Atlanta Alive and in Voyager Magazine.