Thursday, March 19, 2009

Michele Dunaway: Ten Lessons

Michele Dunaway
Twins for the Teacher
Publisher: Harlequin American Romance
Pub date: March 2009
Agent: Jessica Faust

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Author Web/Blog links: &

I hit a milestone this month, and it wasn’t a birthday. I saw the publication of my twentieth book, Twins for the Teacher. It seems like yesterday, not October 2000, that my first book hit the shelves. I also realized that Jessica and I had been together since book 15, and that a few years had flown by.

Where did the time go?

I’ve learned a few things since I first started, and thought I’d share ten things with you.

1. Trust your voice and your vision. That old "if it feels right, don’t change it, or if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it," has kept me out of a lot of trouble over the years.

2. Don’t get hung up on the rules. They’ll say don’t break them, and then someone always does. So again, trust your gut. You’ll know when it’s your turn to be a wild child. Although remember that there are a few cardinal sins, like sliding your manuscript under a bathroom door, that are never ever excusable.

3. Be persistent. Too many people give up the first time things get rough. I’ve written through divorce, job changes, and child angst. If you are a writer, you write. Don’t let one or one hundred rejections get you down.

4. Prioritize. It’s the only way I get things done. When my priorities are out of whack, things don’t go right. Writing is #3 on my list, after family and day job.

5. Be kind and polite. That old “you catch more flies with honey” adage is true, true true. If you can’t say something nice, bite your tongue and keep quiet. That way it won’t come back later and bite your butt.

6. Say no. While being kind is important, you don’t have to say yes to everything. You don’t have to attend every meeting. The wrong offer can be a bad offer, the wrong agent can hurt your career. Agreeing to every committee or social engagement can keep you from writing.

7. Say thank you. Thank everyone and let them know how grateful you are for the opportunities you’ve had.

8. Respect yourself. This goes along with #1. Don’t try to be something you’re not just to make a sale. Think long term.

9. Writing should be fun. If you’re not having fun, you’re burning out. And PS—have friends from outside of the world of writing.

10. Write. You don’t have to write every day, but you do have to write. Whether you submit or not, that’s up to you.

Also, if you’re interested, I have a 20 questions interview at It was posted on March 12.

Twins for the Teacher is Michele Dunaway’s 20th book for Harlequin. Michele is currently revising her 22nd novel, all while balancing teaching full-time, writing an article for Communication: Journalism Education Today, and, most important, being a mom. Her next release is this July’s Bachelor CEO.


Anita said...

Thank you for taking time to enlighten's to another 20books!

Michele Dunaway said...

Thanks Anita. Anyone else, I will be popping by today if you have questions. I won't guarantee I have an answer, but I'll try.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Congrats on your twentieth book. How exciting.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Michele, thank you for these wonderful tips. It's nice to hear these things and know that I'm on the right track. You sound amazing and so does your work. Good luck with all your work!

Anonymous said...

I'm so happy for you (and I don't even know you). Keep at it and good luck to you in the years to come!

Anonymous said...

P.S. And congrats to you, too, Jessica (so sorry I left you out!)
Anon 10:42

L.C. Gant said...

Thanks for the great post! Congrats on having your twentieth book published. What an achievement! Very exciting :)

Michele Dunaway said...

Thanks everyone. You are too kind. It is a bit surreal. I remember when I set the goal at one. Then two. Then five. Then ten. Now the goal is 25, and it's 3 books away. I really should be working on those today...

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

Michele, I just read your 20-question interview and found it informative and inspiring. I'm currently in the querying process, looking for an agent for my women's fiction/humor novel. I know there are a lot of people out there doing the same. Do you have any advice for us? (Other than suggesting we all have Jessica as our agent! Unfortunately, all of us can't be so blessed...)

Congrats on #20! I wish you continued good luck on your successful career.(You might want to up your goal to 50. That way you won't have to keep changing it every couple of years!)

jdsanc said...

Thanks for such a great post. I'm deep in the query process myself, and I admit it is one tough gig. I find myself question, rewriting, revamping, reformatting, re-everything-ing every time I read another article telling me what agents want. So, thanks, for reminding me that losing myself, my voice, will more than likely make my writing less original, less attractive.
So congratulations on 20.
Wishing you 25, and then some.

Sookie said...

Flash to the future--the far away future--and the wet road of your writing career is shining back at you. Was there a road you didn't take and now regret?

Confucius say; he who refuses to listen is lying.

Michele Dunaway said...

The query process is hard. Even with my track record, I had agents turn me down. It's a lot like dating, and finding that one person who fits you and believes in you.

And trust your instinct with that person. Early on, I went to many conferences. One agent said, we edit everything and make our authors do tons of revisions. I skipped that agency in my queries because while an agent will help you polish and make suggestions, I'd already had a relationship with my editor and felt that was her job. My fear was that the agency would edit away my voice, thus sucking out what my editor loved about me. Perhaps not, but I didn't want two rounds of revisions.

Another agent fawned all over me at a conference, but then something said "???" in my gut. I sent her what became my 4th book anyway, and she turned it down saying (I'm not making this up) "This will never sell." It was not a nice rejection letter.

My editor bought that same proposaltwo weeks later and offered me a continuity book for sale 3 & 4. So be careful. You want that one person who believes in you and believes that when the time is right, magic happens.

And don't be discouraged when they don't respond. Seems typical nowadays.

Michele Dunaway said...


Great question. It's like that Robert Frost poem. Two roads diverged in a yellow wood...

Perhaps I wish I would have had finished that single title earlier, but then at the same time, as it's not done, maybe not.

I know it's a great book, but if I finished it and Jessica had sold it, and it became big (we can all dream) then I'm on a different treadmill of produce, produce. My own two kids need me right now, and as I love teaching, I'm not ready (and this economy refuse) to give that up.

So I choose not to look backwards. I will finish the book, it will sell, when the time is right.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on number 20!

Your ten lessons really show that it's important to know who you are as a writer and as a person to keep going in the long run. With so much success, do you still get anxious over every submission? What's the next milestone you're looking forward to? (other than #25, which I'm sure you'll hit!)

Sookie said...

Successfully navigating the twisted road of child-rearing leaves a lasting impression on the world long after a book. Good call. And good luck with the single title when the time is right.

Confucius say; he who eat cookie in bed wake up feeling crumby

Michele Dunaway said...


I absolutely worry about every submission. There is nothing guaranteed in this business, unless maybe you're Nora Roberts.

I haven't gotten past the 25 book milestone yet, so I'm not looking past that. When I get there, I'm going to reassess. It might be single title writing time, or maybe something else. I never plan too far, because you know what they say about mice/men and best laid plans. (You can tell I teach English and journalism...)

Michele Dunaway said...

Thanks Sooki. I've discovered the older kids get, the more they need you. Although, I'm only years from them leaving the nest.

Rick Chesler said...

Great post, thanks!

Traci said...

Wonderful advice! Wishing you many more years of success!! :-)

Renee said...

Great top 10! This should be posted for every newbie writer out there.

Congratulations on your 20th!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post! It's good to see that having your family come first can still mean success! My kids range from 4 months to ALMOST 18, lol. I'm publishing my first book soon, waiting on cover art, and can barely imagine the idea of more than 20. Congratulations!

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