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Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author

October 22, 2009 by in category Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author tagged as ,

by Shauna Roberts

Today’s Guest: Shauna Roberts

No author wanted to be featured this month, so I am in the odd position of interviewing myself, in the third person no less.

Shauna Roberts has been a professional nonfiction writer for more than twenty years and has won several awards for her magazine columns. Her first novel, Like Mayflies in a Stream (Hadley Rille Books)—a historical novel with romantic elements—was released earlier this month. She has lived all over the country and currently resides in Riverside, California.

If you could travel back in time to before you were first published, what advice would you give yourself?

I was in the fortunate position of having another writer, an RWA member, to advise me when I first started thinking about writing a novel. She told me to join RWA, and I did, before I wrote a word. As a result, I have no advice to give my past self; instead, I’ll list five pieces of excellent advice I received as a result of my RWA membership.

1. Network. I’m an introvert, and it took some time to make friends with my fellow RWA chapter members—years in some cases. But doing so paid off in big ways. I made friends for life, people who enjoy reading and talking about books as much as I do. I was invited to join a critique group that has helped my writing, and my career, immensely. And by the time I finally got a book offer, I knew well-respected authors who were willing to blurb my book.

2. Volunteer. I volunteered at my RWA chapter for special projects and as an officer. Working together was a great way to get to know my fellow writers better.

3. Attend the annual RWA meeting. I’ve met some RWA members who don’t want to attend an RWA national meeting until they have sold a book. They believe, incorrectly, that meeting attendance benefits published authors most. My experience, though, has been that the annual meeting benefits newbie writers more. The pubbed writers go to see their friends and have meeting with their editor and agent. The newbie and PRO writers go to learn basic fiction techniques and conventions—nearly everything I know about writing fiction I learned at RWA national meetings—as well as get practical information such as how to query, how to write a synopsis, and how to brand oneself. The newbies and PROs also get to meet others at the same career level and be charged by their enthusiasm.

4. Work on marketing from the beginning. It may seem premature to study marketing when you haven’t finished a book. But I did, and I’m glad. By the time I needed to find an agent, and then later when I needed to market a novel, I knew how to present myself and my book. I learned how other people marketed their just-published novels, and when I got a novel contract, I already had ideas for finding an audience for that novel.

5. Establish an Internet presence early. Your friends and family will buy your book, but who else will? Strangers. Strangers who, in all likelihood, prefer to buy books by people they’ve heard of. It’s up to you to make your name familiar, and the earlier you start, the more people you’ll reach. Some good ways of doing so involve the Internet: Join some RWA online chapters and the PRO loop, and post; set up a Website; start a blog; visit other people’s blogs and post thoughtful comments; put your Website and blog addresses in your email signature file. You’ll repeatedly get your name in front of lots of people and establish a reputation (good or bad, preferably the former) based on what you write and how you write it.


To learn more about Shauna Roberts, please visit her Web page at or her blog at You can find Like Mayflies in a Stream online at (hardcover, trade paperback) and at Barnes & Noble (hardcover, trade paperback).

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Are you ready for some NaNo

October 19, 2009 by in category Blogs

by Monica Stoner, member at large

What’s NaNo?

A month of not always controlled insanity, where you put aside everything but your creativity. Words flow from your creativity to the screen, without stopping for filtering by your brain. Why no filtering? Mainly because we are our own worst enemies when it comes to finding reasons not to write, and the best reason we can come up with is “It’s not quite good enough.”

NaNo grants you permission to write badly. Permission to throw words on a page and see what sticks. Permission to make up characters on the fly, change their hair color, change their names, and plot without logic.

For those who outline in detail prior to putting the first word on the page, NaNo can be either frightening or exhilarating, or a heady combination of both. For those “pantsers”, writing by the seat of their pants and catching up with logic later, NaNo can bring a sense of camaraderie. After all, they’re pantsing with millions of people around the world. Most of all, NaNo gives a reason, or maybe an excuse, to write.

At the end of the month, those who have achieved the minimum goal of 50,000 words in the sprint marathon writing challenge can tell the writing world they’ve established and reached a goal, and in the process have at least the bare bones of a real, finished book.

And isn’t that better than spending the month watching re-runs?

For more information on NaNo, including how to sign up, go to:

Monica Stoner
You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something.
-Winston Churchill

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e-maginings: Naming My Muse

October 16, 2009 by in category The Romance Journey tagged as , ,

Hi all,

We had a great OCC Birthday Party on Saturday though I had to leave early and missed the yummy looking cake. While there I signed up for the new online class called Muse Therapy by D. D. Scott. D.D. has given us some interesting homework assignments, and I’m going to share what I’ve learned about my muse so far.

D.D. suggested we name our muse. Mine is a 1960’s flower child, so she needed a hippie name. I considered Sunshine and Starshine, but those are both too constant for this fickle little lady. So I decided on Zephyr since she’s about as easy to pin down as a gentle breeze.

Zephyr loves: history, science fiction & fantasy, anything paranormal or New Age (astrology, Tarot cards, etc.), books, movies & music (folk, rock, New Age, movie soundtracks, some classical, a little country Western but no rap or hip hop). Music helps the two of us get anchored in a story, and I usually pick a movie soundtrack for each new book or story.

Like me, she lacks patience and stick-to-itiveness (not good traits for either a writer or a muse). Also like me, she’s easily distracted.

Zephyr loves the ocean and mountains, is OK with the desert if it’s not too hot (she really loves Sedona). Big cities are fun once in a while but too distracting. So much to do and see.

Unlike me, she doesn’t seem to have a temper, but she can sulk big time, not to mention just disappearing on me for long periods of time. It’s very passive aggressive of her, lol. She’s been AWOL for a while now, but recently made a reappearance. Problem is, every time she shows up, it’s usually with a new story idea, not how to finish the current WIP.

She’s earthy with a dirty mind as well as a potty mouth, and an active sense of humor. She does have a serious side, though, and a surprisingly formal writing voice. Or maybe that’s because it’s all filtered through my more logical brain.

What form does your muse take?

Linda McLaughlin
w/a Lyndi Lamont

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The Golden Heart Contest

October 14, 2009 by in category Blogs tagged as ,

by Debra Holland

It’s Autumn, the time of year for unpublished writers to consider entering the RWA Golden Heart contest. The entry forms are due on November 16. The Golden Heart is RWA’s most prestigious unpublished contest. Finaling not only opens doors for your writing career, but is a LOT of fun.

When the GH call comes, the good news gives you a happy, bubbly thrill. It’s a great feeling to share with your family and friends. The high can last for weeks.

The days after the GH results are announced are a good time to send queries to agents and editors about your finaling manuscript. Finaling makes your queries stand out, leading to quicker responses. It also gives agents and editors more of a reason to request your book.

If your manuscript is already with an agent or editor, it’s good to call or email with the news. This can motivate the agent or editor to hunt through their slush pile to find your manuscript, instead of waiting the months, or even years, it might take them to get to it.

It’s not uncommon to have five to ten finalists sell their books in the months between the announcement and the national conference. During that time about the same amount of writers also sign with agents.

Sometimes an editor who is judging the contest likes what he or she is reading and directly buys the entry–before the winners are even announced at the awards ceremony in the national conference.

The finalists organize themselves into a yahoo group and begin to get to know each other. They share stories of their “call” and of their books. They support each other through rejections and acceptances and celebrate if one of them sells. By the time the conference rolls around, the group has become friends.

At the national conference, GH finalists get to wear pink finaling ribbons on their name badges and be princesses for five days. The ribbon identifies them to other conference attendees, agents, and editors, and they get a lot of people asking about their entry. There is also a special reception for the GH and Rita finalists.

At the awards night, the finalists dress up in beautiful formal gowns and sit in reserved seating in the front of the theatre. As each finalist’s name is announced, two overhead screens show her professional photo and the name of her book–a great way to build name recognition.

Winners receive a beautiful necklace with a golden heart. Once a winner places that necklace around her neck, she is forever a Golden Heart winner. The necklace is a symbol of her accomplishment that other writers can recognize whenever she wears it. However, it’s also a tangible reminder when future doubts creep in–yes, she is a good writer.

As I see it, there’s only two cons to entering the GH. One is the entry price. $50.00 can be a bit steep on an unpublished writer’s budget, especially in this economy. Multiple entries can really add up. Make sure you follow all the rules. If you break a rule, your manuscript will be disqualified, and your money won’t be refunded.

The second drawback of the GH is that the only feedback you will receive are numerical scores. You’ll never know why you received a 9 from one judge and a 4 from another.

How do you know if you are ready to enter the Golden Heart contest?

Is your manuscript completed or nearly completed? A completed manuscript is a requirement for the GH, making it different from RWA chapter contests. This weeds out the people who have completely polished the first few chapters and synopsis of their books, and enter them in all the local contests, but have never completed the manuscripts. These entries might be multiple winners in local contests, but the GH is for finishers, which gives you a different caliber of competition, and much more respect when you final.

I have used entering the Golden Heart as a spur to completing a manuscript. As a finishing-the-book tool, this has worked very well. Actually there have been several years when I was writing right until the deadline to overnight the entry in order to have it arrive the next day. In other words, the ending was done, but not polished. However, one of these books still finaled, and the other finaled the next year when it was polished. But don’t do this unless you are confident you can finish. Otherwise, your entry will be disqualified.

Make sure the first fifty-five pages, including your synopsis, are polished. Have a critique partner or two or ten go over your entry. In the first round, it won’t matter how much you’ve edited the rest of your book. The first round of judges only sees the first fifty-five pages, which includes the synopsis. You probably won’t win if the quality of the rest of the manuscript isn’t as good as the beginning, but winning is just a bonus to being a finalist.

So challenge yourself. Get out those manuscripts, finish them, polish them, and enter the Golden Heart Contest!
Debra Holland is a three-time Golden Heart finalist. In 2001, her book, Wild Montana Sky, won the short historical category. Debra’s website is and you can also follow her on Twitter at

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