Lucie Simone is the author of short story A Taste of Italy and novella The Waterdance. Her forthcoming debut novel, Hollywood Ending, is set for release on October 19th from her own independent press Simon and Fig. She also has four book projects in the works and a blog. Lucie was kind enough to write our first guest post. She discusses her inspiration for Hollywood Ending, the process of writing the book, and the ups and downs on the road to publication. We hope you enjoy reading about Lucie's journey from idea to print.
Hollywood Ending…From the Beginning
I began writing my first novel, Hollywood Ending, in May 2003 right after graduating from a prestigious film school with a Master of Fine Arts. Just like my main character, Trina, in Hollywood Ending, I could not find a job even remotely associated to my very costly degree, and instead taught English as a Second Language. So, basically, Hollywood Ending grew out of my frustration with life in Hollywood and my never-ending search for something more.
I eventually found a somewhat more lucrative day job, though no nearer to Showbiz than teaching English was, and spent my spare time scribbling away at my desk on a little 5x8 notepad and transferring all those ramblings to my computer once I got home after work. Essentially, my story started out as a long, meandering rant with a little romance and comedy thrown in for good measure. And it was pure crap.
Luckily, I recognized the garbage that was my manuscript and joined a writing group where I learned so, so much! Having studied screenwriting in Film School and not prose, I was in the head space of a screenwriter - not an author. For instance, I routinely left out descriptions of people and places (in screenwriting, this info is minimal and left up to the director to fill in visually), I did little to transition the reader from one scene to the next, and I knew nothing about how to “chapter” a book. In my original manuscript, my chapters were simply scenes, which meant I had about a hundred of them!
There were several times when I abandoned Hollywood Ending in favor of writing something else, including my short story, A Taste of Italy, which garnered me an award from the New York Book Festival for Best E-Book, and my novella, The Waterdance. But I just couldn’t give up on Hollywood Ending. I’d put my heart and soul into it, and even though I’d tried to shove it in a sock drawer and never look at it again, it just kept gnawing at me.
It took a lot of work, a lot of educating, and a lot of time to sculpt my novel into something I could be proud of. It went through four massive revisions, including a change in tense, POV, and the elimination of two main characters. Hollywood Ending went from one woman’s diatribe on the hard-knock life that is Hollywood to a tale of ambition and love and how the two are often mutually exclusive where Showbiz is concerned. So, in August 2009, I sent it out into the world where it was promptly rejected by fifty-one literary agents!
But those rejections weren’t because of the quality of the work. In fact, most of them were accompanied with glowing critiques, calling my story “fresh” and “entertaining” and “fun.” So, what was the problem? After a lot of thought on the topic, I came to the conclusion that two factors were at play in scoring me those rejections. First, I was relatively unknown. Yes, I’d had two stories published, but they were e-books. And like it or not, agents still don’t give much clout to electronic literature. Secondly, and probably more importantly, my book is Chick Lit, which, according to the publishing industry, is dead-on-arrival.
What’s a girl to do? Give up? Stuff that manuscript in the sock drawer for good? Or, put her money where her mouth is? I chose the latter, forming my own small press and publishing Hollywood Ending as my first release. I know that Chick Lit is not dead. I read it. Almost exclusively. And new books are released regularly. So, I’m putting Hollywood Ending to the test. Can it please other Chick Lit readers? Can it hold its own amongst heavy-hitters like Jennifer Weiner and Sophie Kinsella? Okay. Let’s not get crazy. I know my sales won’t come anywhere near those giants, but maybe I can make my money back. And maybe I can even make a profit – enough to publish other Chick Lit books by other authors who are getting snubbed by New York despite having a “fresh” and “entertaining” story. Only time will tell. And that time is now!
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Lucie!
What do you think of Lucie's post? Have you had any similar experiences? How was your journey different? How do you know when to persevere with your manuscript despite rejections and when to let it go? Please share your thoughts with us.