Jaycee Lee

Pamper Your Heart

No more! *sigh* Fine. Just once more.

For this exercise, Ms. Jennifer Probst asks her readers to examine a time in their writing career when they’d wanted to give up, and how they’d gotten through it.

This exercise is most timely for yours truly since the lowest point in my two-year writing career happened a mere 16 days ago. Before I go into details about private pit-of-despair, I will tell you the best way to not give up and keep on writing. Here it is: SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVE INFLUENCES. In other words, you need to find a support group to commiserate and celebrate with. A mentor and/or a critique partner who know exactly what you’re going through because they have gone through the same. I can’t help but notice how similar writing is to everything that is painfully hard but rewarding (e.g., weight loss, exercise). You can’t do it alone. Find people who will pick you up and drag you onward if they have to. People who would never give up on you.

Okay, so here’s a short history of my writing career. I sat and wrote my first novel (a category romance) in May of 2015. I finished in about two months and wrote another category romance in five months. In November of 2015, I was selected to participate in an on-line critique session with a talented and dynamic editorial director with four other writers. After reading their writing samples, I was humbled and somewhat mortified. I felt way out of my depth. But you know what? Every writer in the critique group was so supportive and encouraging that my heart soared. And a miracle of sorts happened. The editorial director told me point-blank that she had “no doubt” in her mind that I will be a published romance writer, and a busy one at that. Imagine. Less than 6 months into my writing career, I was told I have what it takes to make it. I got goosebumps all over my arms.

In November of 2015, an editor requested my full manuscript after seeing my pitch on the #PitMad Twitter party. The MS was presented to the editorial director then presented to the acquisition board. In the end, the publisher passed in May of 2016. Another editor had requested the full MS of my second novel in April of 2016, so I wasn’t completely devastated.

This other editor wanted to revise & rewrite parts of my MS. She loved my voice and writing, and she wanted to know about series potential and novellas about secondary characters in between the sequels. We talked for more than an hour just braining storming and getting excited over the MS. The MS was revised and presented to the senior editor in August of 2016, who passed despite seeing “immense potential.”

Then my manuscripts continued to receive partial and full requests from various publishers and editors, and thoughtful rejection letters praising my “talent” and “potential” but still no thanks.

Another chance arrived for my second novel in December of 2016 when I got a full MS request. The wonderful editor wanted me to consider some major revisions, so I got right on it. I resubmitted my new and improved MS during Memorial Day weekend 2017. *Gosh, it’s exhausting just rehashing through all this.* I didn’t hear back on my resubmission until August of 2017 when the editor informed me the MS is being presented to the editorial director. A month later I got another revision request to tweak the synopsis. Once the editorial director gave the MS “two big thumbs up,” it went to the acquisition board for the publisher to decide whether or not to buy my book. Three weeks later, the editor informed me that everyone fell in love with my story, but… (WHY? I hate buts!) they wanted one “little hiccup” revised. I made the revisions and the editor liked it (yay!) so she discussed the changes with the publisher. In October of 2017, I got “bittersweet” news about the MS still missing something. In my exhaustion, I mistook this R&R request as a pass.

That, my friends, did me in. I wanted to curl into a fetal position and stare into the void. Hide in the dark. 10 months, 2 major rewrites (like 25k words cut and rewritten – twice), 2 revisions to the synopsis, and all those days and nights of waiting. Torturous, painful waiting. For 10 months. I was exhausted, frustrated and ready to burn the MS. I seriously considered taking a long break from writing. A break I may never have come back from.

But you know what, I have the secret formula for surviving as a writer. Friends. My mentor and my newly published writer friend first commiserated with me and gave me lots of virtual hugs, wine and chocolate, then they got me to get off my butt and put on my #amrevising cap on. And guess what? I came up with a new twist that I love and care about, and I just emailed the revised synopsis to the editor. Now I wait. Again. If she likes it, then I need to revise the MS and resubmit. Again. Then wait. So much waiting.

Traditional publishing is an endurance race. Pace yourselves. Stay hydrated with coffee and wine. Ugly cry yourself to sleep when you’re exhausted inside and out. Whine to your friends, read some books by your favorite authors, then get your butt back in your chair and start writing.

Don’t Mope. Celebrate!

In the next exercise in “Write Naked,” Jennifer tells her readers not to let the green eyed monster strangle you. She encourages us to celebrate every accomplishment, big and small.

Writing truly is not a contest. Another’s success isn’t your loss. I think most of us in the romance writing community already get that. Really get that. That’s why it’s such a supportive and uplifting group. I am currently in the dumps. Major major dumps. And I already know what my mentor, beta readers, critique partners, and writer friends will tell me.

“You. Are. Amazing. Do not forget that.”

I’ve been writing novels for the past two years or so. I completes two category length contemporary romance in about seven months. I’ve been revising and rewriting those two books for the past year and a half. And learning. Learning so so much. I started a new MS a couple weeks ago, and I hope to apply what I’ve learned about the craft to write an awesome book. And I hope every subsequent book is more awesomer than the prior.

So here are some things I’m proud of in my writing journey:

  1. I sat down and wrote a romance novel in two months.
  2. Then I wrote another book in five months.
  3. My 1st MS was requested by an awesome publisher and went all the way to the acquisition stage.
  4. My 2nd MS was requested by my dream publisher, underwent a revise and rewrite, and made it to the senior editor’s desk. She ultimately passed but gave me a detailed feed back and much encouragement.
  5. My 1st and 2nd MS’s also were favorited by multiple agents and editors in the #PitMad Twitter contests I entered. This led to multiple partial and full MS requests.
  6. My 2nd MS underwent down-to-the-studs R&R for two months, cutting and rewriting at least 25% of the book. Twice.
  7. My new and improved 2nd MS has made it to yet another acquisition stage. Results of the acquisition meeting is still up in the air. I actually don’t know if the meeting has been set or has gone forwards. YES, I’M GOING CRAZY WITH THE WAIT! Always the wait.
  8. I haven’t given up. I still love writing. It is my passion and my dream.

In conclusion, I am so very blessed. Writing books that could uplift others is a privilege and an honor, and I intend to write many, many books for that amazing privilege.

Take off All Your Clothes – “Write Naked” Exercise Two

I know.

It totally freaked me out when the second writing exercise began with “take off all your clothes.” It sounds like something a sexy alpha hero would say to the spitfire heroine, who defiantly whips off her t-shirt,  terrified and exhilaratingly turned on at the same time.

For me, after a moment of panic and brief consideration of disrobing, I read on “… nah, just kidding!” Ha, ha. Funny, Ms. Probst. Very funny.

She does, however, ask that we – in this instance – I write something extremely personal to me, and to remember that it’s for my eyes only. Little did she know when she wrote this that I would be doing all her exercises on my blog.

*Name dropping pause*

Jennifer Probst now knows that I am posting all my writing exercises based on “Write Naked” on my blog. Because I told her. In person. At the #RWA17. Eeeek!!!

*Back to exercise*

Shoot. I want to make this post authentic but what can I share that is extremely personal but not a secret I must take to my grave?

No one wants to recognize the small, petty side of one’s self and I seriously never told anyone about this until a couple years ago.

I was about four or five, and my cousin, who was about a year younger than me, came to stay with my family for a bit because her mom had just passed away. We were close in age, so we did everything together. She was such a sweet, lovely child. Even a spoiled, princess like me could see that. She never cried or whined even though she must’ve been heartbroken by her loss, and she never asked for her dad or older sister. I actually don’t know why she couldn’t be with her family. At the time, she came and my parents said she was staying for a while, so I just shrugged and went with it.

At first, I made her my project and insisted on taking care of her every little need. After all, I was after all her “unni” (Korean for older sister – but used to cousins and older female friends, etc.) I would help wash her face, brush her hair, and shared all my toys with her. I even shared my little room with her. One night, she fell of the bed and began crying in the middle of the night. My parents ran into my room to find Little Cousin on the floor beside the bed. My dad lifted her off the floor, tucked her back in bed, and soothed her until her sobbing became sleepy hiccups.

The next morning, my mom was brushing Little Cousin’s hair to give us matching pigtails when the comb caught on something on Little Cousin’s head. She promptly began sniffling again. It turned out that she’d gone to bed wearing a small hair pin and a piece of the metal click-clock closure was embedded in her scalp. My mom screamed for my dad, and my dad was able to quickly get the small fragment out. I saw my mom holding back tears and my parents gave the sweet little girl the much needed and deserved love and attention.

Five year old me did not like that. (Freaking brat.)

Eventually, my uncle reclaimed his daughter and I had my room back to myself, but I felt like I had unfinished business. One night, I decided to pretend to fall off my bed and I cried like a banshee until my parents stormed into my room. I hammed it up and was properly fussed over. Satisfied, I went back to sleep.

I can’t recall why, but my parents and I were talking about our family back in Korea one day, and I suddenly remember what my devious five-year-old self had done all those years ago. Half laughing and 100% embarrassed, I told my parents that I never fell of my bed. I’d only been pretending because I was jealous of Little Cousin. They almost fell off the sofa laughing. They thought it was adorable.

But we all know if wasn’t cute. It was small. It was petty. I was so stupid. Shame on me for resenting a sweet girl who’d lost her mom.

I pray that the adult me is a little less possessive, self-centered and prone to crazy. At the very least, I strive to be a sympathetic, caring, and giving human being.

New Beginning – “Write Naked” Exercise One

I made by human debut in Seoul, Korea in the mid-1970s.  My mom told me I was born in the early evening after a long, arduous labor. She recalled rushing to the hospital (it was a private labor & delivery hospital) in the middle of the night. All through the night, I dug in my heels and refused to come out. The delivery nurse got desperate and fed my mom two raw eggs to make me come out faster. I guess her logic was that the raw eggs will make me even more slippery than I already was covered with amniotic fluid and fetus goo. Unfortunately, the eggs went to my mom’s poor nauseous stomach and not to the birth canal. When I finally made my grand entrance, my mom realized why it was so hard to pop me out. I was a solid ten-pounder.

During out stay at the hospital, my mom’s ob-gyn had a four year old son, who became friends with my four year old brother, during our stay at the hospital. My brother said that they ran around the small hospital with toy guns playing pretend soldiers. He was too busy playing to meet me right away but when he caught a glimpse of me in the hallway, he said he was shocked. I was a giant monster baby compared to the other tiny, pink ones. To his four year old self, his baby sister was enormous. I think he was a little traumatized but he got over it quickly, because there are a lot of pictures of him carrying me, a  fat and squishy Michelin tire baby with tender love.

It was over thirty-nine years later that I finally sat down to write my 1st novel. At the time, I was juggling an all-consuming and uber stressful job as a litigation attorney, while raising two young boys. I was stretched so thin, I was transparent. Invisible. A ghost of my old-self. Any little thing would have shattered my fragile hold on control, but life decided to smash me to powder in style. An unexpected and heartbreaking revelation floored me.

I began writing to stay alive. Someone I love was hurting and there was nothing I could do to help him hurt less. Writing was the only place that I could find hints of my best self. To feel joy. Suddenly, I was soaring without physical form and unconstrained by time.  Not having read a single book or taken a single class in fiction writing, I completed my first novel in two-months. Since I had not read a single book or taken a single writing class, it wasn’t the most well-structured story, but it was enough to show me that I had a voice and a capacity tell compelling stories. I wrote my second novel in four-months. It was better but I finally understood that writing was a craft and I had a LOT to learn.

I’ve spend the last year-and-a-half revising and rewriting those two manuscripts. It has been humbling and thrilling. It has been two-years and two-weeks since I set off on this writing journey, and my most important discovery is that it’s a journey I wan’t take alone. The generous, loving writing community, and my incredible Mentor 1 and Mentor 2, have taken me under their wings and has made me a better writer. And I can’t wait to learn more each day and someday soon share my journey with my readers. I imagine those who know me intimately by my writing to read each of my successive books and see my growth as a writer and a person. And the journey will never end because there is always more room for growth and more stories to tell.

Yowza! I’m a bloggin’!

This is my blog. On my author website. It is freakin’ mind blowing.

Now that I’ve finished editing my contemporary romance manuscript – and I mean, tear a chunk of your heart out and patch it up then tear some more out kind of editing – I am ready to bare my soul to the world (or at least to one other person who isn’t me or my mom).

I recently finished reading Jennifer Probst’s “Write Naked.” Funnily enough, I read “Write Naked” before the “The Wedding Bargain,” which means I read “Write Naked” (hereinafter referred to as “Naked”) as an author aspiring to become a career author – to learn – not as a fan. The issue discussed in my review won’be *squeak* “I love you, Jennifer!” *dead feint* but does “Naked” allow you to walk away with practical tools to help you sell books?

The verdict? Dang right, it does. Plus, now I’m a Jennifer Probst fan. *squeak* “I love you, Jennifer!” *dead feint*

I’m an attorney during the day (what? you hadn’t guessed from the “hereinafter referred to as”?) and it helps me to see a logical, well-organized list of issues to tackle. “Naked” does just that.

Her advice on the craft of writing is succinct and to the point, but honestly, it’ll take years of hands on experience to truly “get” what she’s saying. But her advice on being a full-time author is like The Ring to Rule Them All – precious and powerful.

This website is in part inspired by the advice in “Naked.” She convinced me that branding and media-presence aren’t just modern mumbo-jumbo phrases to throw around. It is crucial to becoming a successful author in this day and age, and to be a successful career author, success means selling books. *ducks rotten tomato thrown at face*

Look, folks. I LOVE to write. I NEED to write. There’s nothing I want more than to write full-time. Even if I become a New York Times Bestselling author, I probably won’t make more than what I make as an attorney. But it’s not about the money. If I could just make enough to make ends meet, I’d throw my steady income out the window. So. Don’t. Judge.

As far as reviews go, this is all pretty vague. As far as sharing the impact “Naked” had on me, it is soul baring.

In the spirit of writing naked, my next blogs will be dedicated to doing each and every one of the exercises in “Naked” in public. Naked in public. Ha!

Hope to see you all soon.

© 2017 Jaycee Lee

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