Write Romance Novels that Sell, manuscript critiques, fiction coaching, Adrienne deWolfe

Before I was a successful Romance author, my published mentors would lecture me: “You must finish your first Romance so you can learn how to write book-length fiction. You must finish your second Romance to get published.”

Needless to say, this advice rankled. I was already an award-winning journalist. Getting my first Romance contract was taking entirely too long.

Yes, I’m stubborn.

But more importantly, I loved that plot! I adored those characters! My unpublished manuscript was my baby.  As far as I was concerned, the nine Legacy editors who’d rejected it were all “ediots.”

Ignoring the wisdom of my bestselling mentors (yes, I’m a Dweeb,) I tucked my masterpiece into a box, slid it under my bed, and secretly plotted my revenge.

“Those ‘ediots’ will be sorry,” I cackled to myself. “The minute I’m a successful Romance author, I’m going to publish that book and make mega-millions!”

Now let’s fast-forward a couple of years…

At long last, I was published in commercial Romance. My first bestselling trilogy (Wild Texas Nights) had won national awards, and Bantam was pestering me for a fourth book proposal.

Suddenly, I remembered my old manuscript.

True confessions time:  I hate writing book proposals, mainly because I despise writing synopses. A synopsis will make even the mildest-mannered Romance author contemplate murder with a paperclip.

So I asked myself, “Why go through the hassle of imagining new characters and a new plot, when I have an Historical masterpiece, gathering dust under my bed?”

I figured Brilliance in a Box (as I’d secretly dubbed it) was a shoe-in for success. After all, literary critics were hailing me as a master storyteller (ha!)

Yes, I was confident that I could sell Brilliance in a Box to my Bantam editor and she’d pay me enough money to buy a private island. (Or at least, to pay off my car.)

I confided my grand and glorious scheme to one of my published friends. (We’ll call her “Jayla.”) I figured that Jayla, who had become a New York Times bestseller, would support my plan. After all, Jayla’s first manuscript had been a finalist in the Golden Heart contest the same year that Brilliance in a Box had been a finalist.

However, Jayla’s Contemporary manuscript had earned a publishing contract from Harlequin, while Brilliance in a Box had languished (unfairly!) under my bed, denied its rightful place in the Annals of Historical Bestsellerdom.

Enthusiastically, I described how I planned to “wow” my Bantam editor with Brilliance in a Box.

Jayla actually blanched. 

“Uh, have you read your first unpublished manuscript, Adrienne?”

“Well, of course I have!” I exclaimed, undaunted by Jayla’s ghostly whiteness. “Oodles of times!”

“Uh-huh.” Jayla didn’t look convinced. “Have you read that manuscript lately?”

I frowned. I was beginning to notice her less-than-encouraging demeanor. “Well…no,” I admitted.

“Maybe you should,” she said gently. “Before you shoot yourself in the foot.”

I’m pretty sure my jaw hit the carpet. Jayla had never read Brilliance in a Box. “What do you mean?” 

“I wish my first manuscript had never been published,” she confided uncomfortably. “It embarrasses me. I’m a much better writer now.”


Sheepishly, I drove home and read Brilliance in a Box.

You know what?

Jayla’s advice saved my career.

That unpublished manuscript was an appalling example of amateur writing: story bloat; background dumping; secondary characters, who eclipsed the hero and heroine; subplots that distracted from the love story…the list of defects went on and on!

As a newbie, I didn’t have the analytical skills to fix that manuscript. As a published professional, I was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of revisions that were needed to ready that book for the marketplace. Plotting a whole new novel would have been easier!

So with great reluctance, I finally (permanently!) scrapped Brilliance in a Box and began plotting Scoundrel for Hire. That move was one of the best business decisions of my career. Eventually, Scoundrel for Hire won awards and topped the bestseller charts.

The moral of this story?

Don’t bulldoze your way onto Amazon by self-publishing a book that will kill your career! Take the time to study your craft.

If you’ve already been contracted by a Legacy House, exercise restraint. Self-publishing a poorly written manuscript from your “newbie days,” will alienate fans. Their reviews will lambaste your writing, and worse, they might even warn other readers not to waste their money.

You can’t afford such negative publicity. Reviews are the lifeblood of your sales!

So if your goal is to write a Romance novel that sells, be brave, be objective…and let go of that stale, old manuscript that isn’t working.