We love hearing stories about a writer’s path to publication. Today, we welcome Avon author Codi Gary, who shares her first book experience with us.
Welcome to RU, Codi!
The first manuscript I ever finished was 120,000 words and written during the first six months I lived in Idaho as a stay-at-home mom. We had one car that my husband used for work most days, and it was too cold to go outside. I found myself hooked to my laptop a lot, posting pictures of the kids to family and friends, and reading through my library of books. Finally, I was tired of sitting on my laurels with nothing to show for it. I was almost thirty and since I was eleven, I had wanted to write.
So one day in early January, I found myself finally fulfilling my dream.
When I finished the book in August, I was exhilarated to finally write “The End”! It was fantastic! It was amazing! It was going to be a best-seller.
Boy, was I a dope.
When I read it now, it was awful. I was all over the place and my editing was so basic, I could slap myself on the forehead for even turning it in to agents. During my querying period, I just happened to be snooping around on Facebook when, as big fan of Avon Books, I saw their call for submissions. Excited, I looked through, but there were no categories for a novel as big as mine.
But then I saw a call for Valentine’s Day novellas. I had a town already in my head filled with fun characters, right? I could do this.
For three weeks, I sat and stared at my computer. Writing and editing, writing and editing, until finally I submitted it and waited for ten days, checking my email over and over. Until I got the email that changed my life.
When “The Trouble With Sexy” was picked up as part of the anthology Kiss Me, I was so excited I’d done something right. I had received eight rejections for my “masterpiece” and couldn’t wait to get started. That first night, I stayed up all night working on the edits my editor, Chelsey, had requested, even though they weren’t due for a week. I think I scared her with my enthusiasm. She advised that I take the week, look them over slowly and thoroughly. As I went through the edits again, page by page, and read the novella several times, I caught some things I’d missed and improved on others. When I sent it in the next week, I was grateful for the extra time and wanted to kick myself for being an over-eager freak.
Once the edits were done for “The Trouble with Sexy,” I had four months until the release, so I kept writing. After all, I had been picked up by AVON! So anything I wrote was going to be absolutely incredible, right? I participated in NaNoWriMo and wrote all the way through until by the time February rolled in I had submitted four books between 40,000-50,000 words. Being a newb, I wasn’t aware that common courtesy dictates you send in one submission at a time. Whoops. I felt like a huge tool and wanted to kick myself again. Who would want to work with such a spaztastic nut?
The good news is, one of those books had a hook my editor loved and she emailed me to call her about the submissions. Although she passed on the other manuscripts, she picked up Things Good Girls Don’t Do, and we got started on the editing process. I remember waiting anxiously for the book’s return and when it did, I sat down and stared at the massive amounts of red on each page and gulped with trepidation! What had I done? How was I going to turn this mess into something someone would adore?
One step at a time. I went through edits slowly this time, fixing what she asked page by page. I didn’t know if that was the right way to work on my edits, but it seemed to work for me. I took the entire time she’d allotted me, and felt good about my changes. Adding scenes and amping up the sexual tension, before I knew it, I had added 25,000 words to a 43,000 word manuscript. Again, big whoops.
When I sent it back, I warned her how much I had added and thankfully, my editor took it in stride and suggested we push back the release so we could be sure and put out the shiniest version possible. I was more than okay with that. This was my debut solo full length novel! I wanted people to love it and, indirectly, me! (What can I say? I’m needy!)
One more round of edits and the finished manuscript was just under 75,000 words and off to the copy editor. I was nervous about what would happen when the book ended up in readers’ hands. When I was introduced to other Avon authors and editors, publicists, and the fantastic magicians who create the fan-tabulous covers, I was surprised when several of them told me they had read the book and loved it.
Really?! I had started the whole process as this impulsive dorkmeister, and now was rubbing elbows with legends like Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Eloisa James, and Rachel Gibson. How did I get here?
Still, I had so much to learn. In between those edits and copy edits, I had been working on my next Rock Canyon Romance in the hopes that Things Good Girls Don’t Do would do well. I wanted it to be shiny and as clean as I could make it. I did not want to make any more mistakes.
I was lucky to have the amazing Jaclyn Hatcher, my Kiss Me co-author, to brainstorm with and read scenes that I was wondering about during the process. She has been my friend, rock, and my ego-fluffer. We had traded chapters and ideas many times over Twitter and email and I can’t tell you how important it is to have that. As a new writer still gaining experience, I knew nothing about critique groups or writing partners. When I was asked to join one after RWA, I was excited and flattered.
The fantastic K.C. Klein was in my critique group and we swapped our first three chapters and she gave me some great feedback. In August, I let the spectacular author Ellie Macdonald read the full manuscript and she loved it. I was over the moon and glad I had asked for help. Now I understand what everyone was talking about when they say beta-readers are dynamic!
Finally, I was ready.
Even though I started my career in a hurry, I am grateful for the experience. It taught me to slow down, take my time, and put out the best love story I can. I learned how to create a “catch your attention” story, and my writing flow has improved a lot! (Thank you, Chelsey!)
As I work on revisions for Good Girls Don’t Date Rock Stars, I continue to ask questions, to brainstorm. Even though my writing has improved, it doesn’t mean there isn’t more to learn.
When you make mistakes, do you learn from them or are you a repeater? Share your first book experiences!
Authors RaeAnn Thayne and Molly O’Keefe join us on Friday, November 8th.
Here’s a blurb on Codi’s latest book, which released on September 3rd.
Good girls don’t steal. Good girls don’t visit sex shops. Good girls don’t have one night stands.
For Katie Conners, being a good girl just isn’t worth it anymore. It used to mean getting the life you always wanted. But that was before she got dumped and her ex got engaged to his rebound. One evening, after a bad day and one too many mojitos, Katie starts making a list of things a girl like her would never do, not in a million years.
As a tattoo artist with a monster motorcycle, Chase Trepasso isn’t the kind of guy you bring home to Mom and Dad. And when he finds Katie’s list in a bar, he’s more than happy to help her check off a few items. Especially the ones on the naughtier side.
Katie’s more than tempted by Chase’s offer, as long as they keep things uncomplicated. But as they spend more time together, Katie might just wind up breaking the most important rule of all: Good girls don’t fall in love with bad boys.
Bio: An obsessive bookworm for twenty years, Codi Gary likes to write sexy small-town contemporary romances with humor, grand gestures, and blush-worthy moments. When she’s not writing, she can be found reading her favorite authors, squealing over her must-watch shows and playing with her children. She lives in Idaho with her family. Visit her website for latest news, social media, or just to say hi! Follow Codi on Twitter and on Facebook.