In Which I Reveal . . . the Plot!

The Penguin Fall 2010 catalog is officially out in the world, so I'm finally going to share with you WHAT MY NOVEL IS ABOUT.


It's about . . .


Hardy har har. I am so mean/lame.

Okay, here's the REAL DESCRIPTION:

A contemporary romance set in the City of Light, guaranteed to make toes tingle and hearts melt

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris — until she meets Étienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna — and readers — have long awaited?

Do you know what my favorite part is? Can you guess?


I am very, very excited about my novel, of course, but I am waaaaay more excited about Étienne St. Clair. I had so much fun writing him! I hope you'll like him, too. Also, two notes about the catalog:

(1) His name is spelled wrong. This version here, on my website, is correct.

(2) There's one part I cut, because it's sort of misleading:

"Étienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible."

It makes it sound like his accent is tri-cultural. He's certainly tri-cultural (and swoon-worthy!), but he has only one accent.

And that accent . . . is English.

HBM for the win!

(DISCLAIMER: Étienne St. Clair does not wear breeches nor cravats. But he does have a T-shirt with Napoleon on it. So that's something.)

In related news, according to Amazon, Anna will be released one week earlier, on December 2nd. I haven't been able to get this confirmed — there's a good chance it could still slide one way or the other — but for now, YAY! Earlier is better!

Sooooo, let's see. What have I been up to?

I'm back from Minneapolis after a surprise overnight layover in Atlanta. My first flight was delayed on the runway, which meant I missed my connecting flight. By ten minutes. That lost ten minutes? Yeah. It cost TEN HOURS. Which was super fun.

Alone. In an airport. For ten hours. With a sore throat, a cold, and propensity to cry in public. I know the situation could have been far worse, but it was certainly . . . unpleasant. And when I staggered home, my copy edits were waiting on my porch.


Which leads me to this. After a recent post, the fabulous Katie asked:

I have an editing question: I am thinking you are past the revising part where you have to make up new stuff so why is this editing business so hard? You are my second friend to talk about how utterly draining it is. Why?

Like, there must be some kind of horrible stage between what I would call "major revision" and "editing commas."

Do explain.

First . . . HA!

Second . . . ah, okay. I think the easiest way for me to answer this question is to explain each stage of editing that I've been through. Sorry. This already long post is about to get much longer:

November 2007 — I wrote a novel for NaNoWriMo. It was not called Anna and the French Kiss, but that's what it would become. And I use the word "novel" extremely loosely.

December 2007 to September 2008 — I turned that scrap of a novel into something functional. Bit by bit, piece by piece. There were rewrites in here, but these were still of the "figuring out the major plot" variety. There were also several times that I shared chapters or scenes with critique partners, who gave me feedback. But there weren't any HUGE overhaul revisions. I was still just figuring out the basics.

October 2008 — I show the completed (again, loose definition) Anna to three critique partners. This is the first time I am given MAJOR feedback that requires MAJOR revision. Big things are cut, new things are added, the last third of my novel is rewritten. (It will be rewritten several more times.)

November 2008 to January 2009Anna is put into the hands of my dream agent. I begin work on my second novel, Lola and the Boy Next Door. In early January, my dream agent signs me! The world explodes.

January 2009 to February 2009 — I do another revision for my agent. This one is also large and intimidating, but exciting as well. My agent has ideas. I have ideas. They match up. Things look good!

March 2009 to April 2009Anna is placed into the hands of two editors. Both are interested. (OMG.) Both say my novel needs serious revision. (Yes. It did.) One editor wants to talk with me about these revisions, to see if our thoughts are aligning. The other asks me to do a revision now. I cut 10,000 words in one week. THAT was a crazy revision. I'm fortunate enough to receive offers from both editors. I accept with the editor I did not do the revision for, but now I have a shiny new copy to share! I send my editor another revision — it's almost like the last one, but with two scenes I'd cut added back in. (One of these scenes is still in the book. The other is not.)

May 2009 to September 2009 — I work on Lola. This is not my happiest nor most productive period. In late September I learn Anna's publishing date has been bumped up a year. Yippee! Which means my editor and I have a LOT of work to do. And not much time to do it. (Not so yippee.)

October 2009 — I edit the bajeezus out of Anna. This is a HUGE HUGE HUGE revision. Multiple chapters cut! Big scenes rewritten! Blah blah blah! Stressssss!! I want to die!!! But then . . . I'm sitting on my prettiest copy of Anna ever. Happy, happy, happy.

November 2009 to February 2010 — I start my third novel. And then I have a month in Paris! And then more Lola. Also, I spend a lot of time catching up on my friends' projects.

March 2010 — I receive my line edits. Line edits are the first time an editor corrects things at a sentence level. For some writers, this round goes smoothly and quickly. And then there are others. I am an other. I'm honestly thankful for this — I wanted to work with my editor because I knew she'd challenge me — but ohmyword. I had a little more than two weeks (one of which was spent in NYC, and was essentially lost) to rewrite the first chapter, cut an entire chapter, and fix . . . everything else. This was another big one. Done in a week. Maddening and heartbreaking and exhilarating.

April 2010 — Welcome to the present! I'm currently working on my first round of copy edits. There will be multiple rounds, but I'm not sure how many. Copy edits are the tinier edits. IMPORTANT edits. But, yes, commas and capitalization and grammar and fact-checking and such, which is far less stressful.

Less stressful, unless you happen to be either Kiersten White or Manning Krull, both of whom are on the receiving end of my endless emails.

To Kiersten: This or that? This or that? This or that?
To Manning: French iz sooooo haaaarrddd. Helllpppp.

Novels are NOT written by one person. I would gladly add the names of at least a dozen people (hello Kiersten, hello Manning) to my cover. Including my copy editor. Whomever you are, dear copy editor, thank you for being awesome. I'm learning so much from you!

So — now that I've taken this question way too far — yes. There is a horrible stage between "major revision" and "editing commas." The name for that stage? MORE GIGANTICALLY HUGE INTIMIDATING REVISIONS. FOR YEARS. IT DOESN'T END. EVER. AND IT WANTS TO DESTROY YOUR SOUL!!

On that happy note, I need to get back to work. Bye!


  1. ^ This is far more intense than you made it sound (except for that one week of 20-some-hour workdays). Holy moly.

    Good luck with the copyedits!

    And thanks for sharing the news about the book. I realize now that I never really knew what it's about, but now I do. Success.

  2. all i can do is smile while reading this post ;)

  3. But I luuuuuurve the emails because I could not possible love this novel anymore unless it came with a) Parisian chocolate or b) my own personal Etienne St. Clair.


    LOVE LOVE LOVE this book. And you. And your emails.

  4. THE HBM HAS A NAME!!! Hello, Étienne St. Clair! I've been waiting so long to hear about you!

  5. Love your plot, love Paris, love you!
    (Also stole that comment format from the adorable Kiersten White, whom I also love.)

    Can't wait for French Kiss!


  6. You know earlier today I was thinking it would be awesome to read how a conversation would go between you and your boy masterpiece. And then today like magic I get an introduction. Hello Etienne!

  7. Eaahhhhhhhhhheeeeeeee! If you can hear a squeal from 40 miles away, that's what it sounded like. I'm SO excited for Anna, and so incredibly excited for you. :)

  8. Good luck with the copy edits! Loved hearing about your journey!

  9. Umm, err, and upon re-reading I realize that my comment could possibly be read as "I can't love this book anymore," as in I've given up loving it. Which would only happen if I was just TOO OVERWHELMED with how much I loved it and so I went into a loving coma and could no longer love it because Etienne St. Clair destroyed all of my higher brain functions.

    So, to clarify: I could not possibly love this book any more unless it fed me chocolates on a bench in Paris.

  10. Came across you quite by accident but this book looks fabulous! Can't wait!

  11. Like Weronika, I never realized that I hadn't read the plot of the book at some point. Weird. I mean, I knew it was about Anna, and a French boy and a kiss. I think the plot kind of formed in my head of its own accord.

    Congrats though!

    And thanks for the insight into the endless editing/revision process!

  12. I've been anticipating this book for a looong time, and I just realized I didn't know the plot. You're very sparse with details, indeed. :)


    that is all .

    ps i have just discovered a BRAND NEW ( at least to me ) HBM !! The new doctor who , matt smith . so so so pretty .

  14. Rosa Taylor9:40 PM GMT-5

    Dear December,

    You are too far away. Please come sooner. Perhaps you could talk with July and switch places.

    Thank you,

    P.S. The Boy really does sound like he's going to be a masterpiece. Although I think by this point, name or no name, he's always just going to be "The Boy" to me. Sigh.


  15. You're making me feel oh so much better about my own revision process. Thanks, Steph!

    Your plot description aligns nicely with what I've absorbed from your blog posts and FB messages. And an earlier release date is definitely better!

  16. I love reading about your editing journey! I remember reading a post you did last year about your path to finding an agent and it was so comforting and affirming:) I hope that you'll continue to share these ups and downs as you progress in your writing career. Congrats!

  17. Oh I love hearing all about revisions and the stages of revision---that sounds intense...woooo!

  18. Suddenly I want to put my novel back in its drawer and never ever ever think about trying to get published again!
    *deep, calming breath*
    Okay, panic moment over. Whatever it takes, right? Whatever it takes.
    I applaud you, because that sounds completely exhausting, and you still had energy to blog about it. *claps wildly*

  19. SOOOOO Excited to know more about your novel! SQUEAL! I'm waiting for my PREORDER. Oh, yeah. I want, I want, I want! So excited!

    I'm composing myself now. I freaking love the name of the boy.


  20. So excited to finally find out about the novel's plot! It sounds great, and I DO absolutely adore men with British accents.

  21. stacythompsonschuck10:29 AM GMT-5

    and after copy editing(s) come proof reading! I am excited about your book - when will ARC's be available and how can I get one?

  22. Dangit!!!!! I just posted a long comment and it said, "Error found" Grrr...

    I feel like I have been waiting for your book forever! When can I meet the smoking hot boy with the smokin' hot name? Not to mention the uber cool accent. When? When?

    And thanks for explaining the edits. Whew! No wonder you're tired.


  23. AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!AWESOME, AWESOME, AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I can't wait to read this!

  24. Very excited for Anna (and the kissing that will no doubt ensue). Yay!

    The info on editing was so helpful! Finishing up draft zero of my novel, I now know of the horror which is coming. I'm equal parts excited and nauseated!

  25. Yay! What a great early Christmas present this will be. I can't wait to read Anna and Etienne's story.

  26. Yay, yay, yay!! So exciting - for you AND for those of us waiting to read your beautiful words. :)

  27. That sounds like a great plot! :) Very exciting...I'm looking forward to seeing it in stores and reading it myself. <3



  28. this post made me laugh out loud way, way more than once. And now I am making THE MEN OF AUSTEN my desktop picture. day-um.

  29. Ooh la la! Can't wait to meet Mr. St. Clair--even without a cravat.

  30. Totally delayed comment --- but yayyyy you have a description! I can't wait to read your book, especially because it's a contemporary in a world of bestselling paranormals. You give me hope for my novel!

    And I love the overview of your timeline -- thanks for taking the time to do that!

  31. So much goes into a novel. It's a shame most of us read so fast. You're awesome. I can't wait to read your book. Christmas present.

  32. I like helping you with French! Never hesitate to ask.

  33. Being multicultural myself (British and American are two of mine!) I am totally crazy about this idea, and I'm popping it onto my TBR list.

    Sadly, if there's one thing I've learned during my time at boarding school in the UK, it's that truly attractive British accents... are much rarer than people think. :(

  34. Anonymous6:05 AM GMT-5

    Wow, what a lovely inspiring blog you've got Stephanie, someone gave me the link to it and I am so glad!
    Congratulations. Very happy for you and thank you for taking the time to explain how much work this really is.