Recently Jessica negotiated the sale of my first book, Under Fire, to Carina Press. I’m asked how long I’ve been writing. What my path to being published was. What advice do I have. Here’s my story.
To get over a series of shattering events, I lost myself in reading. Two and three books a week, sometimes more. In one of those flash-bang-aha moments, I thought I’d just sit down and write a book. It can’t be that hard. After all, those people living in my head in that parallel world will certainly have a lot to say.
By chance, I saw a Beginning Romance Writing online class. Fate for sure, so I enrolled. The class instructor strongly suggested I join RWA. I did and went to work writing my first manuscript. In my obnoxious enthusiasm, I made a plan:
- Finish book.
- Enter contests for feedback.
- Enter RWA’s Golden Heart.
- Get an agent to represent me.
- Sign a contract in two years.
- Snap. Snap. Easy. Easy.
I finished the manuscript.
Eight months after starting the book I began entering contests. My budget allowed me to enter six chapter contests and RWA’s Golden Heart. My goal was to final in two of the contests and the Golden Heart. Under Fire finaled in three chapter contests with mixed feedback.
For two months I researched agents. In February 2009 the great agent quest began. March 25, 2009, I was notified my entry was a Golden Heart finalist. Feet didn’t touch the floor for three days.
Four months and thirty-nine “No thanks, not for me” letters (more commonly called rejections) later, I signed with Jessica. Insert big smile and happy face here. This is when publishing started to shift and I was forced to change the time line for signing a contract to three years.
Three years and eleven days after I started that romance writing class and writing my book, Jessica called to say Carina Press made an offer.
I’m happy to say I’m very pleased and impressed with the professionalism and support of the Carina family.
Advice? Set your goals and be realistic. Face it, if you are a single parent of five children and the only caregiver of infirmed grandparents, saying you will write five thousand words a day is not going to work, unless you’re a superhero.
Surround yourself with people who are supportive of your goals. The very best part of being a Golden Heart finalist is meeting and making friends with other authors who are on the same path. We’ve formed a close supportive bond and blog together on the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood to assist other writers.
Be mindful of getting stuck in one place of your process. I understand it’s comfortable. But if you have entered a gazillion contests and finaled and/or won in each of them and have half a gazillion requests from agents and editors and haven’t sent a single one out, you are stuck. Get the courage to move to that next level.
“Learn to embrace rejection,” says the deep voice from beyond the curtain. It will come at every level of this business. No one escapes it. Not saying you shouldn’t get upset, but don’t let it wipe the floor with you. Find a way to deal. Pity party, my personal favorite. Champagne. Wait, that may be my favorite. Chocolate, oh, what the heck, they’re all my favorite and all at once is even better.
No one can teach you to be a storyteller. That’s already inside you, in your heart and mind.
If, like me, you had no idea what the romance genre required, learn the writing basics. Look to your favorite authors for advice. Many successful authors offer free writing tips on their web pages. If your dream is to write like them, study every book they’ve written. What works, what doesn’t.
Listen to industry professionals. Follow agents and editors on their blogs, Facebook, and Twitter to stay current. Don’t rely on how it was done last year or even last month. Things in this business seem to change at light speed. Keep an eye on the future.
If you don’t want to blog, don’t. If you don’t want a web page until you’ve sold, don’t have one. Work on marketing when your book is finished. Don’t worry about what is selling and what isn’t.
The absolute, single most important thing is write a good book.
Writing is journey. You learn who you are and who you want to be. There is no one way to do this. Seek and find your own path. If you see me on the way, wave.