Monday, May 13, 2013


5 Surprises I Found As I Neared the Finish Line with The Loyalist’s Wife

Are you one of those writers who talks about your writing journey with all of its stops along
the way? Do you find as you near your destination the trip seems harder and longer with many
unexpected twists and turns? What was your biggest surprise as you neared the publishing goal?

Writing is such a voyage of self-discovery I shouldn’t have had any surprises. The long haul to
publishing was and still is full of learning and leaning into yet another curve until I felt less like
a race car driver rushing to the finish line and more like the putting along little engine that could

Here are 5 surprises I got on my publishing journey.

1. Critiques pointed out dozens of errors I had made. Not grammatical but writing errors
which I had made because I really had no idea how to write for my readers. I am a
perfectionist, I admit it, and when I took my draft to critique partners, their reactions
floored me. Yes. So much so that I stopped working on my historical for about three
months until I learned enough about writing to deal with constructive criticism.
Hurdling my lack of knowledge was huge.
2. My newfound ability to listen to critiques actually worked against me. Once I realized
that being a life-long reader of historical fiction and a teacher of senior English
students were not enough, I became a willing student and sought help in courses,
critique groups, and by inviting about ten people I knew to be readers of my novel.
Everything they said, I assumed was correct. Well, almost everything. I did recognize
that some of them just didn’t understand historical fiction and their comments made
no sense. What I realize now is that listening politely to others’ comments is useful
only if the writer has enough confidence to throw out suggestions which do not apply.
My most famous example of that was the person well-known in writing circles, who
had me change my opening to a format not geared to historical fiction. That was
an interesting exercise but was not me and was not good for my story. I felt The
Loyalist’s Wife had lost its zip. Finally I listened to my own inner voice and rewrote
the opening once more, incorporating what I had learned but trusting my thirty years
of reading historical fiction to guide me. The new opening was true to my voice, my
story, and my own extensive knowledge of what a historical novel should sound like.
3. I never thought getting my book to the publishing stage would take this long. Indeed,
I almost gave up entirely when a writing friend told me ten years was a reasonable
time period to get a writer’s work to publication. Now I understand and feel my six
years is only due to my education and my experience teaching the language itself
before I started this novel. And if you look at my website, you’ll see I have now
speeded up the process with books two and three in The Loyalist Trilogy coming out
next year and the year after. But I would never be planning those dates if I hadn’t put
in the time and effort already to learn with the first book.

4. I learned to lose my timidity and identify myself as a writer. In the beginning I did as
my mother taught me as a little girl. I put myself last, didn’t talk about my abilities
or my writing dreams, and certainly kept quiet that I was a writer. The more time I
spent, however, with my butt in chair, the more I realized I was a writer, published or
not. And I loved to talk about writing. Soon I initiated conversations about writing,
took in many classes and conferences, stepped right up and talked to strangers
until saying I was a writer was as easy as saying I was a teacher. I grew into my
new avocation. By doing this I even met a fellow writer at a wedding and we have
remained friends and fellow writers since then. I expect to see her at an upcoming
conference where we will catch up on our respective careers.
5. My biggest surprise was experiencing a different kind of fear. All my life I have
been out there, as they say. I’m a singer, a teacher, an outspoken committee member,
a person who has conquered the many trips to the washroom before a singing or
speaking engagement. I know that fear is a great motivator and helps me do my best.
What I didn’t expect, however, was my absolute fright at pushing Send and finally
emailing my final manuscript to the printer. Who knew I would be paralyzed by
the fear that I might not have found all of the errors, that I might have completely
overlooked some part of the history of the American Revolution and my Loyalist
characters? But I did it. Knowing that I would get one more proof saved me. And
wanting to feel that book in my hands.

The Loyalist’s Wife by Elaine Cougler

When American colonists resort to war against Britain and her colonial attitudes,
a young couple caught in the crossfire must find a way to survive. Pioneers in the
wilds of New York State, John and Lucy face a bitter separation and the fear of losing
everything, even their lives, when he joins Butler’s Rangers to fight for the King
and leaves her to care for their isolated farm. As the war in the Americas ramps up,
ruffians roam the colonies looking to snap up Loyalist land. Alone, pregnant, and
fearing John is dead, Lucy must fight with every weapon she has.
With vivid scenes of desperation, heroism, and personal angst, Elaine Cougler
takes us back to the beginnings of one great country and the planting of Loyalist
seeds for another. The Loyalist’s Wife transcends the fighting between nations to
show us the individual cost of such battles.

Photo by Paula Tizzard

The Loyalist’s Wife paperback: May 15, 2013 and e-book: June 15, 2013

Contact Elaine:



  1. Hello My Dear,
    What a nice surprise to see you hear and to hear that your first book is finished. Congratulations and as soon as the ebook copy is available, I will be one of the first purchasers.

    I love the way you described some of the last few steps of writer that is about to be published and had to laugh at your trips to the bathroom when you are appearing somewhere in concert. I do those same things when I appear in concert or have to play keyboards. It seems as if my bladder is continuously full. I know it is the stage fright, and it would seem like after all of my years of experience, I would have conquered it, but I too see it now as a pleasant warning that keeps my feet on solid ground and I live with it.

    Your tips about listening and learning are also right on target. I realized that I had a big deficient in my writing that I needed to correct and I set about doing it. It is one thing to have someone critique your book, and it is another thing to know whether their critique has any value to your work and your voice. The only way you can identify what is right for you when others critique you is to know your handwork. That means burning some necessary midnight oil learning those things you need to know to support your craft.

    The fact that it took you six years is also encouraging to me. In comparison to your six years, I have been at it for four years and am encouraged to keep going. I also had no idea that bringing a book to publication has a average of ten years. This also encouraged me.

    Finally, like you it took some time for me to recognize myself as a writer. It was one of those things that I really struggled with. Today, I am happy to say I am a writer, regardless of whether I am published or not. It is like music, one of those precious gifts given to me to exercise in life.

    Thank you so much for this opportunity to read about The Loyalist. Thank you for hanging in their and sharing some of your struggles. I admire you greatly Elaine and today, what you have written has increased the sparks of fire in me to keep going.


  2. Thank you Elaine for your most intriguing description of the process - one which many of us can, I think, readily identify with. It is quite a delicate balance seeking constructive-critical feedback but learning to trust in our own authorial voice. Not an easy task! Your novel sounds utterly marvelous, I look forward to looking it up when it becomes available.
    With the warmest of wishes and congratulations,

    1. PJ, thanks for your lovely comments above! You are right--learning to trust in our own authorial voice is not an easy task, but it's one we must master if we are to succeed. And finally we just have to trust ourselves and put our work out there. My paper copy is held up a little but both should be available by June 15. All best, Elaine

  3. @Patti How fitting that you would be the first to comment here on Marta's blog! Your web presence is awesome. I know that you can identify with my struggles as they are yours, too, and we have wandered the writing road together, haven't we, Patti?
    I am so glad you'll keep plugging, especially with your excellent way of facing the world with joy. Thanks for your comments, Patti!

  4. Hi Elaine, you wrote a great article on the trials and tribulations of writing and publishing a book. What memories it brough back to me and my own experience so similar to yours. Both of us were told to do something "the right" way and both of us followed our gut instinct and wrote it our way. I see it has worked for you as well as me. Knowing that built my own confidence up and I was less qualified to write than you are. Again, thanks for a most enjoyable and helpful imput.

    Micki Peluso

  5. I'm posting on behalf of Sarah Mallery, who cannot enter her comment.


    Your ‘points’ --so spot on for me--were very well expressed! You captured perfectly what so many of us writers, particularly first time ones, go through. As for your book, The Loyalist’s Wife, it sounds very interesting to me, being as I love American history so much. That Revolutionary period involving the American Colonists vs. the British was fascinating; you never quite knew who your neighbor was siding with. In fact, in case you’ve never seen it, The Devil’s Disciple with Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, and Sir Lawrence Olivier was just about the complexities of that time, albeit with a George Bernard Shaw sense of humor.

    I will definitely check out your book when I get the chance. Meanwhile, best of luck to you!

    Sarah Mallery (S.R. Mallery)

  6. Congratulations on publishing your novel Elaine, there are valuable lessons to be learned especially involving writing groups and critiques. At the end of the day it is up to you to decide what to take on board and if it doesn't feel right, well, you do what you have to. I took on all the ideas and comments about the bricks and mortar of writing, I had a lot to learn. When it comes to your voice and style, that is something that comes from within.

  7. @Sarah Thanks for your lovely comments, Sarah, and for your suggestion of a related movie. I haven't seen that but will look for it. I am so appreciative that you took the time to get Marta to post for you when you were having troubles. That means a lot to me.

    @Micki, I love your comment about following your gut instinct as a writer. Of course we have to learn so many things but at the end of the day/book/writing session we must satisfy ourselves. You have learned that as have I.

    @Laurie, thanks for your kudos. You are a loyal follower and I appreciate your comments full of wisdom and been-there knowledge. I especially like that our writing has to feel right to us and that we develop our own voice and style from within. Isn't it sometimes a bit of a trial to trust that stuff from within? For me this journey has been about gaining that confidence through learning and trying and then trusting myself.

    Thanks, all three of you for your comments!

  8. Elaine, great post and you capture so many of the nuances of getting to publication. Even though it's a road many have traveled before us, we all still need to slog thru the mud of our fear and insecurity. I think your point about accepting or rejecting constructive criticism is right on. In one of my novels, the publisher made 3 corrections. I can only describe my process as taking the suggestions into my heart--getting them out of my head and taking them into my emotional core--and FEELING how they fit into the rest of the book. I realized that one was dead on, and I changed that. The second was valid, but I changed it in a way that worked for me, not the publisher's way. The third suggestion I refused altogether, as it would not have been true to my character. This process helped me to realize that, as "expert" as a publisher might be, they are not omnipotent and I am the final authority on my book. Valuable lesson and one I'm glad I learned early!

    1. Melissa, your experience is a great addition to my post. Good for you for working through the editing scenario you describe. Thanks for commenting here for us all to share.

  9. May I say DITTO on this entire post? Thank you. That saves me some time in agreeing with the discoveries at every point. As for #2, it's easy to listen too much. Then you end up changing your work to fit someone else's vision.

    1. Ever the one to pack a lot into a day, of course you may use ditto, Brinda. I can see I hit a nerve with point number 2!

  10. A voyage of self-discovery. Well put, Elaine. A little bit of the writer's soul ends up on every page, I think, and it is interesting to learn what others see on that page, and more, what is reflected back at us when we take a look ourselves. I'm amazed you only have five items on your list. I'm sure I have a gazillion.

    Lovely cover.

    1. Yup, this post could have been 10,000 words, but I tried to keep it short. Thanks for your cover comments, Sherry,--hope it works well!

  11. I love the cover, and the plot sounds engaging. Congratulations on making it to the finish line!

  12. The plot sounds fascinating.
    Thanks for sharing the five surprises. I can corroborate them, but especially pushing send. I have had trouble all my writing life putting the manuscript in the envelope. I have even sealed it, stamped it and torn it open again just to check some miniscule thing.
    Congratulations on the book. I look forward to reading it.

    1. Elizabeth, so lovely to read your comments. I especially liked that you've ripped open a stamped envelope just to make sure of some minuscule detail. I guess I'm not the only perfectionist around here, eh?