If you get to know a group of romance writers, you’ll find they’re pretty much like everyone else in the world. Some are fantastic people to know, some are not. Some are self-serving and ego driven from the get-go, and some are just plain nice people who’ll work overtime, helping out a fellow writer.
I’d like to tell you the really successful ones are the fantastic, nice, helpful writers. I wish that were true. I will tell you that the people I talked to for these words of wisdom are successful as well as fantastically nice. They have my sincere gratitude.
The writers groups I belong to have newbies writers join every so often. (For some reason, only nice newbies hang around. We send the not-so-nice ones down the road.)
I so enjoy watching the way newbies go about learning the craft. (I enjoy learning from them, too.)
Some attack learning like they’re going after a college degree, studying and internalizing how-to-write books. Others write and critique and write again. Still others take a lot of classes and go to every conference they can afford.
Usually, it’s a mix of all those things.
So I got to wondering, which is the best way? I might not have the answer, but I know people who do. I decided to ask.
“What kind of advice would your successful author self (today) give your beginner writer self if she were just getting started?”
Here’s how they answered. (In no particular order.)
I don’t know that I would do anything really differently. I would read a lot. And I would submit. I don’t think, if I were unpubbed right now, that I would have the nerve to enter contests because there’s no way I could have done that before. I would read all the advice that came directly from the editors of the house I wanted to sell to, like taking up residence on eHarlequin, etc. And I would probably read certain blogs.
I definitely wouldn’t take online classes and probably not in-person ones. The one online class I took was a huge waste of time, and I doubt if I were completely writer-friendless, I wouldn’t have the courage to take an in-person class or go to a conference/workshop.
HOLIDAY PROTECTOR in Christmas Confidential, Harlequin Romantic Suspense, 12/2012
COPPER LAKE CONFIDENTIAL, Harlequin Romantic Suspense, 4/2013
A HERO TO COME HOME TO (Tuesday Night Margarita Club 1)
Forever Romance, 6/2013
As for classes, books, etc., I wouldn’t use as many as I did when I was clueless, but NOBODY knows everything and, since the market is always changing, I’d want to keep current.
Based on knowing what I already know about the publishing biz, I would STILL probably go for publishing with one of the big six…just to be able to claim I had been published with them. I just wouldn’t wait so long to epub the book IF the rejection was a “good” one.
Read – a lot. But read like a writer. How did the author handle a situation. Change viewpoint. Describe something that you could see in your mind’s eye. How does she write dialogue? Take a book you loved apart, analyse it. And I have some writer tips on my blog this week – http://lizfielding.blogspot.com/
Wild Justice–Beaumont Brides
Liz Fielding’s Little Book of Writing Romance
I don’t think my suggestions for writing, for becoming published would change now. I know there are a lot more options out there in terms of publishing, but the craft of writing remains the same. Study your genre. Read a lot…read widely. And most importantly, write every day. That’s always been my go-to suggestion for someone who wants to write. It sounds trite, as if I’m blowing off their question. But writing is a craft, and like any craft it needs to be honed and refined. The only way to do that is to write on a regular basis.
And the writing…that has to come first. Publishing comes after. There are more options, but without the writing, the publishing options don’t matter.
Everything But a Dog (Just in time for Christmas!)
Just got back from a week in Dallas at the ACFW conference. My answer would be to join a writers group. All the other stuff is great—reading books, taking classes, etc—but there’s no substitute for getting out and being among other writers.
Daddy’s Little Matchmakers
I’d advise taking a two-pronged approach: 1) hone your craft by joining the best writers’ organizations you can find and taking advantage of classes, workshops, etc. and 2) read and listen extensively to authors who are doing both traditional and indie publishing. The publishing business is in tremendous flux these days, and it behooves you to be as informed as possible. There is no one way to do this, no one size fits all.
BUT… never get so busy learning the business that you don’t do the most important thing, which is to WRITE. And write. And write. Learn to revise, learn when to listen to others and when to listen to your heart. You have to believe in yourself more than anyone else in the world does, because at the end of the day, it’s the power of your story that matters much more than any business details. You need both–sad, but true–but without a powerful story that comes straight from your heart, you have nothing. Protect the work and protect your joy in it.
And never, ever give up.
Best of luck to you!
The Goddess of Fried Okra
So, what would I tell my newbie self?
1- Find a mentor if there’s any way you can. I’ve been extremely blessed to have Marilyn Pappano in my life. I think she’ll get a few extra stars in her crown for all the help and support she’s given me over the years. She’s the greatest!
2- Find a critique group you can trust. I’ve been so lucky with most of my critiquing friends. You quickly learn who you can trust and who you can’t. Cling to the first like a nylon slip on a cold, windy day and kick the rest to the curb.
3- Remember, what comes around goes around. (Just sayin’.)
4- Never give up; never surrender. Remember, tenacity is the key. If you want it badly enough, work hard and have a willingness to learn, it will come.
So . . . do YOU have any advice you can share with new writers?
Thank you to all the ladies who answered my question. You guys are the best! (I really mean it.)
Ps: All the pictures here are mine–with the exception of Liz Fielding’s. Liz, I found yours online and thought it was beautiful. Hope it’s okay that I used it.