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Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author

November 22, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as ,

by Shauna Roberts

Today’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 Readers’ 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 Cattleman’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?

When it comes to writing, I have my ALWAYS and NEVER rules to live by.

ALWAYS write. There are so many distractions now with the Internet and family issues, but it’s imperative to make writing one of the priorities in your life. You can’t sell if you don’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. I’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, you’re allowed to feel badly and yes, you’re allowed a few moments of depression. Heck, you’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 you’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, I’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 you’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, you’re only in competition with yourself. I live by this creed and feel truly happy when others I know make great strides. They’ve earned it and you will too. If I can say one good thing about competition, it’s that it makes me try harder to be successful. It’s okay to have the “If she can do it, so can I” attitude as long as it’s not mean-spirited.

ALWAYS know your own limitations. Here’s where honesty is key. Vampires are hot, hot right now. But I know in my heart I wouldn’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 you’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 it’s reading books about craft or motivation or simply diving into a new novel, keep reading. It’s something I try to do, but I will admit that I don’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. ☺

ALWAYS know your target line or publishing house. Know the guidelines and word count. Know the editors of the line. You can’t sell your story to an editor if you’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 it’s category, are you writing a sexy Blaze or a home-and-hearth Special Edition? If it’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 isn’t your own personal best. Be professional. Send in a clean and neatly polished manuscript and know that what you’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 don’t sell that one, they will regard your work with respect and look forward to seeing your next project.

ALWAYS experience life! You can’t write about life if you’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. You’ll revitalize your writing by your new experiences.

I’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 daughter’s wedding. It was a great experience to share with my husband and daughter, so I’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.

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