So You Want to be a Real Writer, II

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.)

Marilyn Pappano—

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


 Jackie Kramer—

 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.

 Warrior’s Heart

Liz Fielding—

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 –

Wild Justice–Beaumont Brides

Liz Fielding’s Little Book of Writing Romance

Holly Jacobs—

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!)

Kathleen Y’Barbo-Turner—

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

Jean Brashear— 

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!

Texas Star

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.







6 thoughts on “So You Want to be a Real Writer, II

  1. Wonderful blog, Susan! Everyone gave such great advice and I noticed how varied it was. Just like each of us are so different, so are the methods of learning that work for us. One thing was clear, though. In order to become a good writer, we have to WRITE. Guess that’s what it all boils down to, isn’t it?

    Thanks for the inspirational this morning!
    Linda Trout

    • Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!
      You get it, Linda!
      And the prize is . . . a publishing career.
      How many people have we known over the years who wanted to be a writer, but didn’t write? It just can’t happen.
      I always wonder–If a person doesn’t enjoy writing, why would they do it? There are way too many other fun things in the world to beat yourself up doing something you don’t like.
      Glad you got it. 🙂

  2. Thanks for your kind words, Susan. I appreciate them — and you — so much! It’s so interesting how different things work for different people. I’m better at reading/analyzing than listening to workshop speakers or taking classes. (Which explains my lackluster high school and college career! Teachers start talking, and I start writing scenes in my head.)

    Like you and others said, the one key thing is to write. Write again. Write more. Amazing how many people do all the other stuff, but forget to do that.

    • I know. And when you stop and think about it, that makes no sense AT ALL.
      The other thing I can’t figure is people who get the best suggestions/comments/help to be had who only get upset and blow it off.
      What’s up with that?

  3. Susan, thanks for including me! I probably should have pointed out that I myself didn’t do one of the things I advise–I don’t do classes or read writing how-to books because it freezes me up, sadly, so my method was just to write and write and learn by doing. NOT the smartest way, probably, but how I have to do it. (In my next life, I’m going to learn to love reading directions.;))

    The learning is a never-ending process–I look back at my first books and, despite the acclaim they got, I realize that my writing has definitely grown. Which is how it should be! We should never stop learning or growing.

    • LOL! According to my mama, we should, “Do as I say, not as I do.” 🙂 Like Linda mentioned, we all have to find the way that’s best for us. Your suggestions were spot on! For somebody.
      Thanks again for the help. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

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