For me, the first of January isn’t just the start of a new year. I belong to a general state-wide writer’s organization called the Oklahoma Writer’s Federation, Inc.( www.owfi.org ) or OWFI for short. It’s a group of writers from all fields, fiction to non-fiction, adult to children, all genres.
Every year, they hold a writing contest that covers 32 categories, mostly unpublished works. Published and unpublished authors can compete and members can enter one piece in each category for a total fee of $20. Of course, each year, I try to enter the two romance categories (contemporary and historical), but I also like to enter other categories.
Why would I do that if I’m building a career in romance? Because I think it does several things to improve skills. One, it can keep your writing fresh. I’ve found that when I wrote nothing but romance, my writing tends to become stale. Two, it’s a challenge and what writer ever refused a challenge? But most important, when you write in one field, it’s like using only your right hand. Your muscles on that side become enlarged while your unused left side can atrophy.
Do I mean spend a lot of time writing in other fields? Nooo! After all, I AM trying to sustain a career in romance. But we’ve all had days when the writing seems to go badly. That’s when I pull out the SF or horror or confession story I’ve been working on for a couple of years. And I dedicate January to polishing off those I’ve finished or nearly finished, and sending those puppies in for the February 1st contest deadline.
Waste of time? Maybe. But since I started entering more than just the romance categories, I find myself feeling more empowered, more focused as a writer. I still want my career in romance, but now I consider myself as a writer…period. Not just a romance author, but one who’s flexible enough to face the fluid publishing market today. If nothing else, it gives me a target for all those pesky non-romance stories that sometime pester me to be written. And if they place, it pays off in money. And a couple of them, I actually sold!
So, for me, this New Year starts off with plenty of goals. Doesn’t mean I’ll neglect my romance book. It’s just my way of pumpin’ iron, writer’s style, so I can head into the future, buff and strong.