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"Good stories are not written. They are rewritten."

By Marcella Simmons
Editor/Publisher, Cahaba River Literary Journal

firstwriter.com – Tuesday May 20, 2014

Back in 2005, I started several romance suspense novel projects that lay unfinished in file folders until 2012. The rough drafts were anything but good, so drudgingly, I tore the first manuscript apart, page by page, paragraph by paragraph, word by word, until it was a much better read than the first two rewrites. I sent it out via email to ten different publishers, one being Harlequin Romance. "This is the book that will make me famous," I declared that day. Weeks passed, and rejection after rejection poured in until eight publishers had declined. Some weeks later, Harlequin finally rejected it and I gave up hope. "I'm not cut out to be a book writer," I repeatedly reminded myself.

By then I figured it was over, so I shoved the manuscript away in a file somewhere thinking it wasn't fit to be published. A few days later, I received an email from a Itoh Press LLC requesting my permission to publish my novel Anywhere But There. "What do I have to lose?" I asked. "At least someone is willing to take a chance on me." I emailed Carol back and told her to go ahead with it, and let me know what I needed to do on this end.

Soon after (February 2012), I received a contract via email. There would be no upfront royalties, although I would get commission on each book sold. She informed me that the ebook would be available at the following locations: Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble website, Smashwords and through the publisher.

Since the book (at this point) had been rewritten three times, and been turned down nine out of ten times, I never signed the contract and didn't think it was publishable material. The contract lay hidden, unsigned and basically forgotten in a drawer of papers that some months later I would toss in the trash. In April 2013, I was spring cleaning and ran across the contract and emailed Carol (Editor/Publisher) and asked if she was still interested in the book. She emailed me a new contract which I did sign immediately and emailed it back to her.

During this time, I started revising (rewriting the entire book for the fourth time) because I knew eventually she'd request it to be edited for final preparations before publishing it, so once it was done, I emailed it to her. The in-house editor assigned to my manuscript emailed me a compliment saying, "Looks like you hired a professional to edit your manuscript. Nice job. I wish I could get all my manuscripts this clean. There are only a few flaws. Proofing instructions follow."

With the final proofing, there were a few paragraphs that had to be rewritten due to discrepancies that I didn't catch in any of the rewrites, nor did the in-house editor. One of my minor characters was seven years old at one point but ended up being five in different places throughout different chapters in the manuscript. When I made the changes, several whole paragraphs at a time, it really set my editor off because she had the proofs already set for publishing in ebook format but had to change everything because of my recent changes. She explained that I was only to make a few minor changes not whole blocks of text or paragraphs. I explained that my readers would catch the discrepancies and I didn't want any bad reviews because Itoh Press was publishing my next novel, Till Death Do Us Part, tentatively in August 2014, and so on. So the changes were made and my book Anywhere But There is available now. After five complete rewrites, the final version is born and ready for romance readers who like a touch of suspense!

Phyllis Whitney couldn't have said it better when she stated that "Good stories are not written. They are rewritten". I wanted my book to be good and pleasing, and because I am the author of this work of art, I want it to be as error-free as possible. If I cramped someone's style because of that, excuse me. If a company represents me, I, in turn, want to produce a perfect merchandise to put out there for my readers.

No author is perfect. I rewrote this manuscript five times, proofed and revised it at least ten times, and I guarantee there are still a few minor mistakes somewhere in the book.

If you are working on a book, then don't settle for less than perfect.
Revise and rewrite as many times as possible to get the story right. But try not to lose sight of what your novel is about. "Good stories are not written. They are rewritten."

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About the Author

Marcella has over 650 published credits nationwide in hundreds of small press publications and newspapers. She is the Editor/Publisher of Cahaba River Literary Journal at http://cahabariverliteraryjournal.com/.

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