I’ve always been a writer in my soul, but it wasn’t until I turned forty that I decided it was time to get down to business. I think part of the reason for my late start is that writing wasn’t really seen as a job when I was growing up. You weren’t encouraged to be a writer. It’s not a job you can apply for; it doesn’t offer a steady income. Because of that, most writers have other jobs to pay the bills, one more complication that makes writing challenging.
But at forty I came to realize, most of the editors in those intimidating publishing houses were either my contemporaries, or younger than me, and somehow that made the proposition of approaching them less scary. So, I sat down and wrote twelve novels. Not all in one sitting, of course, but twelve full-length romance or romantic suspense novels. After finishing the last, my hubby gently suggested I “do” something with them.
At this point, I decided it was time to learn how to write. Yep, you heard me. I wrote twelve books and then I decided to learn how to write. Admittedly, kind of backwards, but, what’s a gal to do? I took several steps to improve my writing, and they were invaluable. I’d like to share those with you.
One of the first steps I took was becoming a member of my local RWA chapter (Romance Writers of America). One of the great services they provide is group critiquing. When I brought pages the first time, I was terrified. In fact, I’m pretty much terrified to bring in pages every time we meet. But the advice and encouragement I get helps me to become a better writer. So, I suck it up, and pass out my pages. It is critical to find a group like this, or a really good critique partner. Because, while you know what you intend to say, and you believe, wholeheartedly, that you’ve said it, until a reader, or readers, have read it, you don’t know for certain that you’ve made your message clear.
I also learned a lot from my chapter about the business of publication, about query letters and synopsizes, writing websites and blogs, agents and editors. When I first came to the meetings, I felt like they were speaking a foreign language. But now, I too, am fairly fluent in the language of publication. One of the distinct advantages of being a writer is the way other writers are so open to helping you. People who are further down the road than I am have constantly made efforts to pull me along with them. The generosity of writers is amazing!
The next important step I took was attending a writers’ workshop. The Antioch Writers’ Workshop in Yellow Springs, Ohio is a weeklong workshop offering classes in the mornings, and seminar groups in the afternoon. In the seminars you share your writing with a small group. Taking an entire week devoted to my writing was wonderful for two reasons. One, we seldom have a chunk of time like that to spend on our passion. And two, equally important, it makes you feel committed to your work; it makes you feel like a writer.
While I learned a lot about writing in general at the Antioch Workshop, I learned a lot about romance writing at the RWA conference in Chicago earlier this spring. I learned from keynotes speakers who were successful romance writers. I learned by pitching to editors and agents. And I learned from the other attendees of the conference, who were on the journey with me.
Then, one fine day, one of the writer friends that I had developed sent out a submissions call to Crimson Romance. I emailed a query letter and received a response quickly. Yesterday I published my first novel, “Taken by Storm.”
There are many different roads that lead to publication. Tell us about your road. Was it bumpy, or unusually smooth? What were the highlights? What were the low points? Who helped you along the way?