Thursday, September 03, 2009

This is Only the Beginning...

I attempted my first manuscript in junior high, and have been jotting down ideas for bits and pieces of novels for at least twenty-five years. But it wasn’t until last January--nearly a year after quitting my full-time job--that I decided to try again seriously.

I used to read mainly spy thrillers, mysteries, and legal dramas, but for some reason, I didn’t feel like I could write those. Romance novels weren’t around my house growing up, so I didn’t have a lot of exposure to the genre.

By chance, I picked up a couple of historical romances from the free book pile at the library late last year. They were old, and not very well written, but I suddenly realized that the stories in my head were love stories, and that there was a market for them.

After picking up a sampling of romance books from the library, I also realized that they had come a long way from the stereotype of Harlequin novels that I’d picked up along the way.

Devouring romances by the handful (from authors like Brockmann, Kleypas, Dodds, St. John, Howard, and Stuart), and daydreaming for inspiration, I finally sat down and knocked out a 40,000-word manuscript. It’s pretty bad, with lots of autobiographical elements and a poorly structured plot, but it got me started.

Realizing I needed some help, I checked out books from the library about romance and fiction writing. I remember being surprised and inspired when I read that Janet Evanovich (a favorite of mine) had started out as a romance writer. She recommended RWA in her book, “How I Write”, so I looked them up.

Once I decided I was serious about this writing thing, I joined RWA in March and started my second manuscript. I finished in May with about 65,000 words this time, and I’m pretty happy with the result, but knew I needed more help.

My Air Force husband had orders to Alabama for July, so I waited anxiously for our move so I could join the Southern Magic chapter. It was worth it! In my two months as a member of SM, I have learned so many valuable things that I don’t regret a single dollar or hour spent.

My burning question about how to calculate word count in the modern era? Answered, not five minutes after I sat down for my first meeting. (Thanks, Jennifer!)

Questions about plotting and character development? A well-timed workshop last month did wonders for my writing approach. (Mary and Dianna, you rock!)

How to write the dreaded synopsis? A friend of a member has a great plan. (Much gratitude, Christine.)

Ideas for moving into romantic suspense? A published author was ready with advice and encouragement. (Danke, Laura!)

Best of all, I’ve learned that romance writers are incredibly giving people who honestly want to help others succeed. I spent months reading how-to books, but nothing beats the help and support from the great writers in my chapter.

Thanks to everyone for welcoming me so heartily, and giving me hope that I might be able to do something with the ideas floating around in my head!

Now, back to book three…


Carla Swafford said...

I so understand what you mean, Gwen. I did the same. Reading HOW TO manuals are not the same as having someone who knows explain the process, market and so many of things an author needs to know. I wrote for years and never really improved until I joined RWA, started going to chapter meetings and joined a critique group. It makes all the difference in the world.

Christine said...

The support you'll receive from RWA/SM and more is invaluable. I was totally prepared for the national conference this year because of the Pitch workshops and the advice about what to wear and do.

If you don't have Evanovich's book (own it), I think I may have a spare copy. I met her at the conference, and she was the keynote speaker. She signed a new copy of her book for me. *fan girl moment*

Your journey is off to a fabulous start!

Callie James said...

You're so right, Gwen. I feel the same way. Jennifer Echols alone taught me so much in her query workshop, wow, I think it was last year. Maybe the year before? I don't think I told her, either. Jenn, thanks so much. (She continues to give me great advice, too!)

I read many agent/editor blogs and have found her advice repeated throughout these blogs. I've also never had the success with my queries as I have since incorporating her suggestions.

And I've received so much wonderful advice from many others in our group. RWA/SM is invaluable to anyone writing romance (or just fiction in general, if you ask me).

So glad to have you with us!

JoAnn said...

Great post, Gwen! We're so happy to have you in Southern Magic. :)

M.V.Freeman said...

:-) I agree with you Gwen, if it wasn't for those I have met along the way, I would not be here as a writer...its a wonderful learning journey!