For years I wanted to be a romance writer without actually doing much about it. I read ‘how to’ books and attended NZ romance writers’ conferences, then wrote a paragraph and rested until next year. I waited for it to become effortless but it never did. Once I decided to make a concerted effort it still took five years before SuperRomance bought my third completed manuscript.
The key lessons from the wilderness years were:
- Small writing goals are better than no writing goals – Thirty minutes at the computer does make a difference. Prolific author Nora Roberts says, You can fix a bad page but you can’t fix a blank page.
- The story is the only thing that will get you sold… concentrate on writing, and getting better at it.
- Finish a book. Writing beginnings won’t teach you how to write middles and endings.
- In romance, plot turning points need to be emotional. Base them on the characters’ greatest fears and values.
- You need craft, patience and practice to make the book in your head match the one on the page. Give yourself that time. It takes an average of five years and 4.5 manuscripts before romance authors get their first sale.
- Take the heat off yourself and accept you’re going to get rejected. Everyone does. It’s not personal.
- Never give up on a book. Use advice you receive from rejections or contest judges to keep improving it. If you’ve exhausted every avenue put it aside. As you become a better writer you will see how to fix it. Or the market may change and become more receptive to that story.
- Studies have shown that perseverance, endurance and hard work are as important as ability and creativity in gauging future success.
- Competitions are a microcosm of publishing – they help you get used to having your work read, and teach you how to handle rejection and act on constructive criticism.
- Keep a life going in tandem with your writing. Your family will like it and it will help you keep rejections in perspective.
- Remember – you’re doing this for FUN.
Favorite craft books
- Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain
- Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
- On Writing by Stephen King
- Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
- The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
- Heroes and Heroines by Cowden, LaFever, Vivers
- The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler
- Story by Robert McKee