by Shauna Roberts
Todayâ€™s Guest: Sandra Kay
Sandra Kayâ€™s first book, Heart of Stone, was released in digital format on October 3rd by The Wild Rose Press. The print release will be on January 3, 2009. Heart of Stone won First Place in the Fort Bend (Texas) Writer’s Guild contest. She has been writing contemporary romance for about nine years and has belonged to the Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America since 2000. She served on the Board of Directors for three years, two as Ways and Means Director and one as Secretary.
Sandra, if you could travel back in time to before you were first published, what advice would you give yourself?
An interesting questionâ€”one that I had to think extensively about. As a first-time published author, I read with interest the insightful answers given by the multipublished authors of OCC. And, thatâ€™s where I found my #1 answer:
1. I would not be so reticent about networking with published authors. What a font of information we have readily available in OCC. From Ask an Author, to critiques, to workshops, and simply answering questions, these ladies volunteer their time and expertise to help others obtain the dream.
I would also urge new writers to:
2. Never stop learning. I have to say that I did follow this rule. I took Creative Writing classes. I scribbled copious notes while listening to our meeting speakers. I attended workshops. And I continue to take online classes, most recently one on HTML to make promotion and managing my Website easier.
3. Find a good critique group or partner. Make sure that you donâ€™t settle into a group that isnâ€™t really helping you, just because youâ€™ve become comfortable with it. That can be very detrimental to your writing career. Find a way to politely bow out of that type of situation and move on to a group or partner that will give you constructive critiques. If you can connect with a group that has at least one published author in it, you will benefit from that personâ€™s knowledge of the industry.
4. Become active in your local chapter of RWA. I began by selling used books at OCC and went on to serve for three years on the Board of Directors. I learned so much from the group of ladies I served with. And serving makes it easier to meet knew members.
5. Keep on writing. When you break through and sell that first book, you want to have others in reserve. Heart of Stone is part of a four-book series, and I had written three of them before I sold the first one. You donâ€™t want to find yourself desperately playing catch-up to get that second book to your editor.
6. Read in your genre! I think someone else mentioned this, but I just want to reiterate how important it is to stay abreast of the market in your select genre. You need to be familiar with the publishing houses and know what they are selling. Know the correct house to send your manuscript to. Having said that…
8. Learn promotion. You may not think you need to know about promotion yet, but when your book is released youâ€™ll wish you had some knowledge on the subject, especially if youâ€™re an epub. There are many books you can purchase on promotion.
9. Donâ€™t let rejection letters stop you. Rejection letters are just part of the business. You have to learn to think of them as a learning process. Iâ€™ve received some wonderfully informative rejection letters over the years. Of course, that doesnâ€™t mean I wasnâ€™t terribly disappointed. I was, but enjoying a pity party wonâ€™t get us far in this business. Limit the amount of time you allow yourself to attend that â€œparty.â€
10. Enjoy the process. This is a great business; have fun with it.
To learn more about Sandra, please visit her Website at http://www.sandrakayauthor.com, her blog at http://www.sandrakayauthor.blogspot.com, or her MySpace page at http://www.myspace.com/_sandrakay. Her new book, Heart of Stone, can be ordered online from The Wild Rose Press, Amazon.com, and Barnes & Noble.
by Shauna Roberts
Todayâ€™s Guest: Charlene Sands
Charlene Sands writes Silhouette Desires and Harlequin Historicals. To date, she has penned 25 romances, and her books have won the National Readersâ€™ Choice Award and The Cataromance Reviewers Choice Award, and, this year, she won the 2008 Booksellers Best Award.
Her current release, Do Not Disturb Until Christmas (Silhouette Desire), a Romantic Times Top Pick, is a Borders/Waldenbooks and eHarlequin.com bestseller for November. Her next book, Reserved for the Tycoon (Silhouette Desire), finishes the series in February 2009. Presently she is working on the Texas Cattlemanâ€™s Club continuity for Desire.
Charlene, if you could travel back in time to before you were first published, what advice would you give yourself?
ALWAYS write. There are so many distractions now with the Internet and family issues, but itâ€™s imperative to make writing one of the priorities in your life. You canâ€™t sell if you donâ€™t write. Enjoy the process and find ways to add extra writing in. There is more time in the day than you think. As I write this blog, I have the kitchen timer set for 20 minutes. Iâ€™m early getting ready for an appointment and so here I am at the computer, getting those extra few minutes in before I have to leave. Remember, if you are serious about being published, then you have to write!
NEVER allow yourself more than a day or two to bemoan a rejection. Yes, youâ€™re allowed to feel badly and yes, youâ€™re allowed a few moments of depression. Heck, youâ€™ve earned it. You worked hard on that last manuscript and put your hopes and dreams into it as well. Give yourself a day or two to recover. Then forge on. Pick yourself up and most importantly learn from the comments the editor took the time to write. If youâ€™re given advice and tips, by all means take it to heart. Implement their feedback into your next story and keep at it.
ALWAYS take workshops and attend lectures about craft. After penning 25 published novels, Iâ€™m still learning. I learn something new and different each time I listen to a lecture or read a good book. Try to figure out at least one important way to implement what youâ€™ve learned into your writing. Look for ways to constantly improve. Be honest with yourself. If you know your weak points, then by all means, try to fix the problem. Authors are very generous with their knowledge. If you are lucky enough to attend classes, and there are many out there, both online and in person, then absorb as much knowledge as you possibly can from reliable sources.
NEVER allow jealousy and envy to creep into your daily life. Remember, youâ€™re only in competition with yourself. I live by this creed and feel truly happy when others I know make great strides. Theyâ€™ve earned it and you will too. If I can say one good thing about competition, itâ€™s that it makes me try harder to be successful. Itâ€™s okay to have the â€œIf she can do it, so can Iâ€ attitude as long as itâ€™s not mean-spirited.
ALWAYS know your own limitations. Hereâ€™s where honesty is key. Vampires are hot, hot right now. But I know in my heart I wouldnâ€™t be happy writing those types of stories. Think about what you truly enjoy writing. It will be transparent in your writing style. You know when your story is going well. You know your comfort level, and thus youâ€™ll know your own limitations. They say, write what you know, but I say, write what you love! It may be one and the same, but maybe not. No one knows your limitations better than you.
NEVER stop reading books that inspire you. Find the time and enjoy those precious moments you tuck away for both fun and inspiration. Whether itâ€™s reading books about craft or motivation or simply diving into a new novel, keep reading. Itâ€™s something I try to do, but I will admit that I donâ€™t read as many books as I used to. My day is so busy writing, promoting, and answering mail that often my TBR (to be read) pile suffers. So with this one, do as I say, not as I do. â˜º
ALWAYS know your target line or publishing house. Know the guidelines and word count. Know the editors of the line. You canâ€™t sell your story to an editor if youâ€™re not sure your story fits into the framework and guidelines they are looking for. The best way to know if your story is viable is to read and read and read some more from that line. Know the authors and what kind of story works. If itâ€™s category, are you writing a sexy Blaze or a home-and-hearth Special Edition? If itâ€™s a romantic comedy or a thriller, are you sending to houses you know for certain publish those types of stories?
NEVER submit anything that isnâ€™t your own personal best. Be professional. Send in a clean and neatly polished manuscript and know that what youâ€™re sending to an editor is something you have struggled to make perfect. They will note your efforts and pay attention to details. Even if you donâ€™t sell that one, they will regard your work with respect and look forward to seeing your next project.
ALWAYS experience life! You canâ€™t write about life if youâ€™re stuck behind a computer every day. You need to get out, observe your surroundings, take trips, and make new friends. Each day is a new chance to learn and improve. Youâ€™ll revitalize your writing by your new experiences.
Iâ€™m always amazed what I learn from or about people when I do something new. Case in point, I recently took dance lessons at Arthur Murray Studios for my daughterâ€™s wedding. It was a great experience to share with my husband and daughter, so Iâ€™ll always have fond memories. And during that time, I was invited to write a book in a continuity series for Silhouette Desire. You can guess my surprise when I learned that the heroine in my story owned a chain of dance studios! I had all the firsthand knowledge I needed to write that story with authenticity, and if I needed any advice, I could simply call upon my dance instructor. Sometimes, life is so pleasantly surprising.
You can visit Charlene and enter her Suite Secrets Contest at http://www.charlenesands.com. Her newest book, Do Not Disturb Until Christmas, is available in stores and online at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.
by Shauna Roberts
Todayâ€™s Guest: Lynna Banning
Lynna Banning is the author of thirteen historical romance novels and a former RITA nominee. Her newest book, a September release from Harlequin Historical, is Templar Knight, Forbidden Bride.
Lynna, if you could travel back in time to before you were first published, what advice would you give yourself?
1. Read lots in my genre (historical romance). It’s helpful to see what other houses are publishing and how other writers handle problems of point of view, pacing, types of villain, etc. Keep up with changes in the overall market and your particular genre.
2. Read more outside my chosen genreâ€”nonfiction, literary fiction, trade and mass market popular fiction, and especially how-to books. Start with the “easy” ones: James Frey, How To Write a Damn Good Novel; Jack Bickham, Scene and Sequel; Syd Field, The Screen-Writer’s Workbook (good for plotting); and Ann Hood, Creating Character Emotions. Then move on beyond “the basics”: Linda Seger, Making a Good Script Great; Donald Maass, Writing the Breakout Novel and the Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook.
And keep reviewing these helpful books as you write!
3. Try to join the most advanced critique group you can find, preferably with published authors. You will suffer, but you will learn. However, protect yourself from critique groups that feel overtly or subtly “toxic.” Sometimes this is hard to recognize, but if you generally feel worse after the session (and not fired up and encouraged), give some hard thought to Why.
4. Do go to workshops, writing groups, and writing classes. Just keep your good sense about you, and your ego and your sense of “self” on an even keel. If your ego is very tender, protect yourself first and learn writing stuff later. Also consider getting some psychological counseling to help you retain perspective.
5. Brush up on the basics of grammar and punctuation. I highly recommend two reference books: (1) my old high school grammar text, Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition and (2) Jan Venolia’s Write Right. Both are easy to look up stuff in.
6. Learn to distinguish a “good” rejection letter from a “real rejection” letter. If the letter goes into any depth at all, they might consider a rewrite addressing those issues. Any letter that has even one line addressed specifically to you or your manuscript is a “good” rejection letter.
7. Learn not to see a manuscript’s rejection as anything but rejection of the manuscript itself, not of you personally. This sounds so easy, but it’s hard to detach one’s “person” from one’s â€œwork.â€ But do try. Squashed egos are not good for writers.
8. Try to write consistently, every day if you can manage it. Use even small blocks of time, such a lunch-hours at work, hours spent on airplanes, time in hotel rooms (it helps if you first hand-write, as I do, on yellow lined note pads, or use a laptop). Set a daily goal: Mine is four typewritten, double-spaced pages a day, about 1,000 words. (Caveat: If a child has the mumps or I have a migraine, I take that day off.)
To learn more about Lynna, please visit her Website at http://www.LynnaBanning.com. Her newest book, Templar Knight, Forbidden Bride, is available in September at major bookstores and can be ordered online from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and Borders.