Last week, Jeanne shared news of The Demon Always Wins finaling in two contests! I’m excited to announce that the first book in my HFF series, Too Clever by Half, is a finalist in one of those contests, GDRWA Booksellers’ Best Contest, in the novella category!
This came on the heels of a very good sales week in the beginning of May, when I offered Too Clever for free and the next book in the series, One Kiss from Ruin, at a discounted price. The promotion put Too Clever at #1 in a few Amazon categories for approximately three days, which meant thousands of downloads (and page reads in Kindle Unlimited, which are continuing). It raised series visibility, drove some traffic to my newsletter, and actually made some money (because of much higher than usual book sales on One Kiss).
All in all, my little series-launching novella has had a good month. It’s especially gratifying because a year and a half ago, I wasn’t sure I would be able to turn the early draft of the manuscript into a readable book. I didn’t make the contest rounds with the story because, frankly, it just wouldn’t have done well. My beta readers were a godsend, pinpointing the issues, which included a hero who didn’t have much motivation for what he wanted (to win the Duke’s Trust prize to fund Harrow School scholarships), and a heroine who started out pretty self-involved and didn’t arc throughout the course of the story. While such character issues would be problematic for any fiction genre, they are absolute deal-breakers for one as character-centric as romance.
That was the bad news. The worse news was that it took me months to wrap my head around how to fix my broken little book. But as I learned from Lisa Cron’s story genius method, when all else fails, start asking why. Not the obvious question: Why the hell isn’t this working? But “why” as it relates to the characters, for example: Why was James desperate to win the prize? Why was Tessa desperate to do the same? Why this prize, at this point in time? Why would losing cause their figurative death? Once I answered these questions and went back to the story board with my characters, I was able to keep my plot, which was pretty solid and remains mostly unchanged, but improve the story, because plot + character = story. If either of those components is weak, the story fails. And I would argue that a weak plot can be saved by great characters, but it takes a heck of a killer plot to paper over problem characters.
A year after nearly abandoning the novella, I had instead ruthlessly revised it, sent it through developmental and copy editing, commissioned a cover (actually, two thus far), and published it to the world. It’s slowly but surely finding its audience. Now I get to add this fun banner to the Too Clever by Half book page on my website. And most importantly to me, every week, I hear from readers who love James and Tessa’s story! I couldn’t ask for much more from this little book.