Stacey Kayne on Sticking to Your Guns
- By: Jessica Faust | Date: Jul 10 2008
Nothing calls to my writer’s soul like the lawless untamed setting of the old west, where opportunity and danger lurk beyond every bend. Rugged, wild, resilient—there’s such an elemental connection between the wild west scenery and the characters. While those first pioneers were packing up all their belongings and heading into the wild frontier you know they had friends and neighbors who thought they’d lost their minds to take such risk, to venture into unknown territory. In a sense writing a book is a lot like answering that call of the wild. We are taking a leap into a great unknown and finding faith in ourselves when it seems the world is against us. For the aspiring author, keeping that faith can become a daunting challenge. Surrounded by nonwriters in our day-to-day life, as most of us are, believing in yourself in the face of rejection and constant doubt can become downright grueling.
I remember the exact moment I heard the call of wild . . . when I realized I wanted to be a published author. I had just turned thirty, my two rambunctious boys had just started school, and I’d gone back to college. My American History night class had spawned a flood of daydreams and there I was, huddled up to my first computer, writing out these daydreams into the wee hours of the morning—and it hit me. I wasn’t just writing out a daydream, I was writing a romance novel. My initial reaction to that revelation was sheer shock, followed by mild amusement: Who am I to think I could possibly publish a romance novel? And then utter self-sympathy. I mean, I really wanted this . . . what if I put in all that effort . . . and failed? But it was too late to go back. I’d heard the call and I had to answer.
I told NO ONE about my newly budding ambitions to become a published author. A few months later I had started several manuscripts and closet writing was starting to pose some challenges. How could I grow, learn, become a stronger writer if I didn’t step outside? So I took the plunge, truly answering the call of the wild by making the announcement: I’M GOING TO BE A PUBLISHED AUTHOR . . . of, uh . . . romance novels. (No one was more surprised than my husband.)
Over the next five years of pursuing my dream I came to expect the startled reactions of nonwriters to this audacious claim—you’d have thought I said I was headed to the woods to wrestle me a b’ar. Common replies were along the lines of, “Are you crazy? Publishing a book is like winning the lottery.” My favorite was that burst of laughter followed by rounded eyes and, “Oh, you’re serious?” Or the sympathetic smile and, “Oh, honey, if publishing a book was that easy, everyone would do it.” Well, that’s true. Writing a book isn’t easy and getting that book published isn’t for the faint of heart. And none of these reactions are entirely encouraging to the aspiring author. Compile that with years of rejections and near sales, and faith is going to waiver. In my first year of writing I entered several contests, finished two manuscripts, signed with an agent, and finaled in the Golden Heart—and then dug in for four frustrating, enlightening, and disappointing years. This business requires persistence and somehow we have to stick to our guns and overcome doubt. Which brings me to the first of FIVE important aspects of the writer’s life that helped me to keep pressing on when there were those urging me to turn back—YOU have to be the first believer.
Keeping That Dream Fully Loaded:
1. BELIEVE in your ability to publish—no one else is going to carry this torch—it’s up to us to find faith in our work, to keep learning, polishing, and to make writing part of our reality. One way to make writing “real” in your life is to tell people you’re a writer. Another is to give yourself a workspace—doesn’t matter if it’s a corner or an office—have your writer’s domain. Set some short-range goals, whether it’s to finish a chapter, outline a book, send work out to be read, enter a contest . . . and print them. Make your goals something you can touch. I placed a corkboard beside my desk and would tack up goals, which became SASE postcards for submissions and contest entries. SEE IT—BELIEVE IT—ACHIEVE IT.
2. ENGAGE—stepping into the writer’s world can be a powerful driving force and helps to keep the focus on writing. Interacting with published authors and aspiring authors is energizing and fuel for ambition. If you aren’t near any local writers’ groups look for online groups. For the Romance writer, the chapters and resources available through Romance Writers of America are phenomenal. If you can swing the expense, go to RWA National!
3. COMMISERATE—with other authors. Seriously, you have to be an aspiring author to understand the trials, tribulations, and achievements of this business. Your nonwriter friends and family may try to understand, but they can’t. It’s not their fault. Seek out other writers! A tight network of writers can be the best support. When I first started writing I used contests as my first critique partner—I could keep advice I believe in and toss the rest. I joined the Yahoo group ContestAlert and met other contest entrants online, which is where I met most of my pals at Writer’s At Play. We banded together as twenty disgruntled unpublished hopefuls. By sharing our experiences and struggles to overcome we learn from each other. More than half of us are now published and we still gripe, share, and cheer for one another—as well as cross-promote.
4. SUBMIT—to contests, critique partners, editors, agents—putting your work out there for feedback and criticism is the fastest way to grow, and likely the scariest step for any aspiring author. It’s best to go into submitting by first accepting this simple fact: No matter how brilliant the writing, not everyone is going to like your work. I don’t care who ya are—even the NYT Bestsellers have their tough critics. So suck it up, expect criticism, and revert back to step one whenever necessary.
5. KEEP WRITING—for anyone pursuing a career as an author, keep in mind that you aren’t selling A BOOK—you’re selling YOUR VOICE, your unique blend of energy, dialogue, prose, and pacing that creates compelling stories. If you have a manuscript in the hopper making submission rounds, be fast at work on the next one. With every completed manuscript we learn more about our strengths and weaknesses as writers, which helps to define and polish that voice. The only way to develop consistency is to keep finishing manuscripts. For me personally, I wasn’t able to see the elements that made up my voice until my fourth manuscript—which happened to be the first book I sold, Mustang Wild. I was then able to go back and polish my other three manuscripts to reflect the same style and voice—and I sold all of them. Every completed manuscript is more ammunition.
I have to admit I was surprised by the general negative reactions of nonwriters to my aspirations of publishing a book. It seemed most wanted to save me from my disillusions. Anyone else out there have similar experiences? Do you remember the moment you answered the call of the wild—to write a book? For those still pounding on publishers’ doors, stick to your guns and keep the faith! Persistence is EVERYTHING.
Stacey’s fourth western historical romance novel is in bookstores now!
What reviewers are saying about The Gunslinger’s Untamed Bride:
“This second installment in Kayne’s Bride series is fast-paced and laced with humor, action and sexual tension. The characters are well developed and the plot suspenseful as it rushes headlong to an exciting conclusion.” 4 Stars ~ Romantic Times
“Kayne’s ability to craft multi-faceted characters, intriguing plots, action-packed adventure and sizzling romance promises to keep her in the forefront of the western romance genre.” 5 SPURS ~ Love Western Romances
“The deep level of emotionality combined with everyday human complexity gives this book, and this author, a new dimension.” Grade: A ~ The Good, The Bad, And The Unread
“Stacey Kayne has brought to life two incredible characters with Lily and Juniper. Their learning and changing is what made this book such a delight. Witty conversations, non-stop action and romance at its best—The Gunslingers Untamed Bride has it all.” 4.5 Stars ~ CataRo