by Susan Sey
I hit a writing milestone just before Christmas. I turned in Book 2 on my first contract. Now you'd think Book 1 would be the milestone, wouldn't you? The first one, the big kahuna. The one that merited The Call we writers love to talk about for years and years to come. But I'll tell you the truth--it's Book 2 that I'm really proud of.
And why am I prouder of Book 2 than Book 1? Because I wrote Book 1 (Money, Honey, coming July 6 from Berkley Sensation--have I mentioned that?) under absolutely no pressure. Nobody cared if I wrote it, nobody cared if I finished it, nobody cared what I did between "once upon a time" and "happily ever after." It was my book, my baby, & somebody--goodness only knows why--liked it enough to buy it. That was lucky. Not that I'm knocking luck--I'm darn grateful for it--but with Book 1, I presented the publishing world with a done deal.
Book 2, though? That's a different story. That one you write with somebody looking over your shoulder from start to finish. It's the one you have to outline before you write, & get the outline approved. Then you have to write something approximating the outline, and pray you've managed to turn the outline into a story that has even a little bit of the verve & charm that sold people on the first book.
It wasn't easy, I'll tell you that much. I wrote Book 2 two separate times--not two drafts so much as in two completely separate books. I wrote it the first time in about eight months. I wrote it the second time in two months. I don't recall anything between Halloween & Christmas, I truly do not. But I finally got it right. I did the work & I'm proud of it.
I thought I was in for a well-deserved vacation but my agent has recently informed me that we should now be thinking about what we want to propose to my editor for a follow up to Book 2 (now sitting on her desk awaiting jugment.) So for the past two weeks, I've been racking my addled brains for fresh story ideas. For some gorgeous, high-concept pitch that's going to convince the powers that be to take another flier on me in an economy that (to put it politely) blows.
I'll tell you this--for all the flack romance gets for being formulaic, this was not as easy as it should have been. If there's a secret formula out there for writing a best-selling romance, will somebody please send it my way?
In fact, hey, why don't you? If you had to write a recipe for your perfect romance novel, what would it look like? Do you like your heros dark & broody? Funny & smart? Dangerous & suave? What about your heroines? Shy & sheltered? Kick butt & unapologetic? When a dog takes center stage, do you cringe or melt? Give us the skinny!