“Consider the postage stamp: its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there.” ~ Josh Billings
I’ve learned a lot about endurance, not only through physical training, but also through the vagaries of life. We all do. Being a parent, going through a difficult relationship or physical illness or death, losing a job, starting a new hobby, cooking dinner night after night even when you don’t want to—all of those things teach us endurance. But more than anything else, it is writing that has taught me how rewarding that strength, that willingness to keep pushing forward no matter what, truly is.
My latest release, Teach Me, is my fourth published book in the past year. It’s also the first book I ever actually completed. See, despite having a degree in English Lit (you can tell that from the title of this article, can’t you?) and writing here and there throughout my teens and early twenties, I hadn’t committed to finishing an entire book. I guess no complete story had really ever grabbed me that hard. But when I decided to leave my teaching job to stay home with my kids, my less frantic days sparked my creativity—and my determination. That year I had a story literally grab me by the throat, and without telling anyone, I started to write.
And so the journey began.
When the rough draft was finished, I sent it to my twin sister, romance author Dani Wade. I was like that kid in Despicable Me with the humongous eyes, staring up at her (or down; she’s almost an inch shorter than me), lip quivering, begging for approval. She loved it…and told me to revise. Ha! She’s good like that, never letting me get away with slacking. What occurred over the next couple of years—the next five years, actually, alongside writing other books (including two sequels and a whole other series)—was an ongoing process of revision that got me closer to what I wanted the book to be, but not quite what I had envisioned. Not to mention, my writing style was changing, growing, deepening, and that made me more dissatisfied with Teach Me’s content.
“Stubbornly persist, and you will find that the limits of your stubbornness go well beyond the stubbornness of your limits.” ~ Robert Brault
Now, don’t get me wrong; I’ve heard the “put your first book under the bed and forget about it” speech for beginning writers more times than I can count. I think, in some cases, that is very good advice. So why didn’t I take it? For one very good reason. This story, these characters never left my heart. They wanted their story told! They wanted to be shared with the world. They wouldn’t let me go, no matter how hard I tried to move on.
If that’s the case for you and a story you’ve written in the past, it might be that your particular story’s journey is one of perseverance rather than a dusty box under the bed. Just something to consider…
So what did I do? Well, between books, I kept coming back to Conlan and Jess. Last year I decided I wanted to try self-publishing, and this series wasn’t committed to any publisher (in fact, it had been rejected several times). Where better to start than with Teach Me? Except those rejections and my own gut told me this story wasn’t yet right. So I sent it to an editor. Her advice: Start over. All this time I’d been revising, and the old “junk” in the manuscript wouldn’t let me get past my rookie mistakes. So I took the characters (with deeper character development), took the plot (going heavier on the suspense), and started a fresh write. Not a rewrite. I began a whole new rough draft. And out of that hard work and sweat and tears and doubts and angst came a book I am very proud to say is mine. The rough draft wasn’t the end of it—no, I went through two rounds of edits, a line edit, critiques galore—but what finally emerged was the beautifully polished stone from a seriously rough rock.
And that, really, is the heart of perseverance. Only hard work, “nose to the grindstone until it’s a tiny nub” work, will make a rough book a gem. Not everyone feels the same way about their first book, and that’s okay. Not everyone feels the same way about their seventh book, and that’s also okay. Not every book’s fate is to be published. But when a book has you by the tender parts and just won’t let go, you can work to make it great. Thankfully, as we get more books under our belt and more skill and a much more refined gut instinct, our books don’t typically take this much angst to write. Sometimes they do. But if the story is worth it, you do it. You just do it, pain or no.
“Sometimes you must cross a bridge and other times you need to burn it. But, always keep building one.” ~ Dodinsky
I’m happy to say that, for Teach Me, the journey has been a success. Out of all my published books, it has performed the best, and at this time it hasn’t even been out a week. It fits the niche I was looking for all along, heavy on the suspense, heavy on the so-steamy romance. With this book, I’ve discovered my direction, my true “voice.” After all this time, Teach Me wasn’t the only part of this story that benefitted. It became a much better, even fantastic book (proud mama speaking here!), but I became a much better, much better writer. That’s perseverance for you. I guess, after six years, you could say perseverance had something to…um…Teach Me.
Ella Sheridan grew up in the Deep South, where books provided adventures, friends, and her first taste of romance. Now she writes her own romantic adventures, with plenty of hot alpha men and the women who love and challenge them. With a day job, a husband, two active teenagers, and two not so active cats, Ella is always busy, but getting the voices in her head down on paper is a top priority.
Shy researcher Jess Kingston spent the last eight weeks recovering from her ex-boyfriend’s brutal attack. Body healed, she’s ready to put her life back together—except her ex isn’t ready to let go. She won’t cower in a corner while Brit tortures her, but she’s powerless to fight back.
A man determined to resist…
Ex-military security specialist Conlan James avoids commitment like the plague. His job, his Harley, and the occasional one-night stand are all he needs, until the day he rescues Jess from a tense situation and realizes he can’t get her off his mind. He can teach her to protect herself, but protecting his heart is another matter.
A madman determined to win…
As the deadly game of cat-and-mouse with Brit heats up, so does the hunger between Con and Jess. Safety might be found in numbers, but in bed, all bets are off—and the wrong move could lead to heartbreak. Or death.