Years ago I entered a Romance Writers of America “first chapter” contest by the group in Houston. I won!
Four years ago, I was searching for a different old story idea when I found Abby’s chapter. It was good!
Jackson had a different name. But a few things in the first two chapters of Welcome Home, Abby came from that contest entry.
His eyes reminding Abby of coffee with cream. The scene where he is talking to his dog after he sees her for the first time.
My first version of the story had Abby’s family moving to California before she was born. She was a whistleblower about a boss who was taking kickbacks. That puts her in a dangerous situation. She had never been to Laughing Falls but moves there to feel safe.
She and Jackson get together but they had never met before. He faces arguments from his family because she’s a McPherson. But he hires her to work for him. When the criminal comes to town, he rescues her. And the title was Abby’s Heart.
Then I joined a Facebook group, The Writing Gals, and learned there are certain steps or “beats” in a romance. I didn’t have any of them. And I learned clean romances cannot have sex, swearing, or violence.
I wrote three more versions and finally thought I had it all figured out. I sent it to the editor who had reviewed a middle grade book I attempted. I love this woman. She said Jackson was such a jerk that she wanted to Abby to walk out on him. He needed some personality work.
You can imagine how close I feel to Abby. I wrote the book four times before the fifth version worked!