Realities of Rejection

 

Gentle Readers,

It’s been a long time since I’ve joined you and so much has happened! Blogging and updating regularly has been a real challenge for me, but it’s progress, not perfection, that’s a new motto in my life. Some of you will recognize that term!

Anyways, let me update you on a few things. Number one, the manuscript was finished! It shall never be totally finished until it becomes published and on a shelf, but I worked on it enough to submit it to an agent and to an editor, after pitching them successfully earlier this year. It took all I had to write daily past that inner critic and just get the words on the page. Thanks to another program that I’m following in my life, I’m learning that a little bit of work done each day is a whole lot better than work done in fits and starts and never finished.

SO the book got rejected. I thought I’d just slide that in there. Rejection is part of the process, we know this. It’s inevitable and won’t be the last time. Know that too. But there’s always that teeny tiny bit of a glimmer of hope that you’ll be different! You’ll be the first person ever in the history of the world to write a perfectly edited book with all the right tone, color, character, and plot to make it perfect to the eyes of an agent or editor. They’ll snap you up, give you a $50,000 advance and you’ll be off to join the ranks of Nora Roberts and Danielle Steele. Ha. A girl can dream.

But realistically I know it wasn’t my best work. The challenge wasn’t about holding on to that book for the two or three more years of craft learning and experience that I’ll have to have to make it perfect. It was about sending it out, allowing it to leave my hands and show up somewhere else. Let the eyes of a professional read it and say “Hey, this needs work.” It does. And I’m okay with that. I’m a work in progress, too.
More coming soon!

Until next time,

 

~V


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FAITH AND FINISHING IT

You sort of need one in order to have the other. You have to believe you can finish a novel before you can actually execute. You will have to look at and consider approximately 80,000 words, in addition to 10,000 commas and myriad other punctuation. You have to consider the future of the characters beyond the pages you are writing right now. You have to see the potential for the stories and for your career. You have to sort of believe in things you cannot see if you want to be a writer in any event. So if you want to be published you have to have two things—Faith, and a Finished Manuscript. The rest is just noise.

When I walked into RWA my novel wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t finished. Sure, the words “The End” had been written. But I needed to do massive editing. Some writers are brave enough to submit a manuscript that they know needs work, trusting that the story and the voice of the author will shine through over grammar errors and POV slips. I’m not that girl. I knew the novel would never be perfect before submission, but I just had to get it as close as possible before I could put it in the hands of someone else.

I have no idea as I write this whether any meetings I had at RWA will go anywhere. I do know that I’m coming home with tons more information than I went there with. I do know that living the life of a writer uninterrupted for four days is fantastic. I do know that I’m where I’m supposed to be and doing what I’m supposed to be doing. And the rest is just noise.

So if I disappear again for a few more weeks, and I promise I’ll try to stick around, just have a little faith in me that I’m finishing it.

Until next time,
~V


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RWA! RWA! RWA!

Ya’ll. It’s FINALLY time for the RWA conference! IF you’re a part of the romance writing world, you know all about what I’m talking about.  If you’re not, then you’re just reading this blog because you know me and you love me, so HEY!

The Romance Writers of America puts this conference on in a different city every year. Hundreds of authors come from all over the globe to talk turkey for a week. We go to lectures, workshops, and parties. We give awards. We get books signed. We get tons of new ideas on craft and the business. And then, if we’re lucky AND brave, we meet with an agent or editor.

If you’ve been reading this blog you know that I’m currently losing my mind over the giddiness and anticipation as well as the WORK that is going into preparation. By the time this blog goes live I’ll be mere moments away from meeting with my first agent and editor to pitch this novel. I won’t bother with telling you the title now, because it’s changed 50 times. But by that day it’ll have a definite title that will be on the business cards I printed.

Dance a rain dance for me, say a prayer, throw some salt over your shoulder, or just close your eyes and make a wish that I remember to be brave, pleasant, and that I remember what my book is about. The order of the day is to perfect the pitch, go buy some note cards, and finish the synopsis. I’ve gone through all the notes and feedback from beta readers and now is the time to take what I want from the notes and leave the rest.

Conference for newbies is undoubtedly overwhelming, but I have my pals at LARA that will be traveling this road of happy destiny with me and I will surely see them in the halls as they march on toward their dreams.

Happy Conferencing! More on all the details when I return!

Until next time,
~V


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THE YEAR I LOST IT

That’s going to be the title of the first non-fiction book I write. I think. Probably. Unless it’s not. But you get the idea. Somewhere along the way I decided it would be a super good idea to turn 30, lose 100lbs, and write a book all in the same year. Hahahaha! I laugh now too. But back in January this seemed like a foregone conclusion.

If I could have predicted what would happen I probably would have just gone back to bed that day instead of embarking on this new journey. But I am glad I didn’t. Nothing in my life today is like it was in January and I am pretty darn grateful for that.

Writing a book is like birthing a baby. And I don’t know nothin’ bout birthin’ no babies. (I had to say that line because everyone who has written anything ever in the world has to write it sometime, right? Now I never have to do it again). But seriously—it IS like giving birth. But more to the point, it’s like being pregnant for 100 years, or however long it takes to finish that book and send it out. But just like being born, the work on the book doesn’t stop. The childrearing has to begin.

I have to edit this puppy. And editing might be—definitely IS—much harder than the first draft. It’s a process that is so unfamiliar to me that I have stumbled a few times. I’ve put the pen down. I’ve been locked in fear and self-doubt about my abilities. But the difference between me as a writer this year and all the other years before, is that I would’ve just put this whole project down and proceeded to get distracted by shiny things. That almost happened.

Friends intervened though, God love ‘em!  They believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. They asked to read it, and I let them, and they told me what they thought. And they had a lot to say. But you know that none of them said I should learn a trade. And that’s the positive in the mix with all the work I still have to do. Facing that there’s more work to do is a hard thing for your pride, and it’s a hard thing for your mind.

The weight is going to go one pound at a time. The words are going to come one at a time. And then they’re going to get edited and may not even make it to the final draft. The point is I’m nowhere near where I was when I started this thing. I am not in control of the timeline. If I were, I’d be done by now. But one foot in front of the other and I am trusting that the Universe is going to bring me what I need!

Until next time,

 

~V


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On Fear

So I disappeared for a bit. I’m sure ya’ll understand why. See, writers are very sensitive people. We’re also bakers, DVR-monsters, runners, parents, besties, and employees with regular 9-5s. Most of those apply to me. But one thing we writers are, though sometimes we loathe to admit it, especially when we are new, is AFRAID. That’s right, we’re chock full of fear.

For a few weeks I just could not bring myself to look at or work on my novel. The amount of work it took to finish it overwhelmed me from even fixing one paragraph or writing a fresh page of dialogue. Was I really sure I wanted this dream? But then I remembered something. Nothing worth having is easy. And if I wanted this dream of becoming a writer, who was going to take it away from me, but me?

So I talked to my therapist, ha-more on that later, and I joined another group that involves people, places, and things, and it took me a while, but one day I had that “lightning bolt” moment. I wrote six pages and edited them in the span of one morning. After finishing a wonderful craft book on opening hooks, the whole beginning of my book changed. A scene I hadn’t even conceived of last year when I wrote the words “The End” for the first time, suddenly formed in my mind.

The scene was not perfect and even as I write this blog post to you there are still many things to be done. But the point is I wrote it. And then I was brave enough to send it out into the world.

Gentle readers, that’s what I want to tell you most of all in this post. You’ve got to just get out of your own way and let your words out in the world. Because the help that you need to fix the pages is out there in the world. Believe it or not, no matter how long you pour over the words, you’re going to make some mistakes. Shocking, I know. But people won’t hate you for them. And they won’t stop reading your work or giving you advice just because they don’t get a perfect first draft.

I’m going to have a lot of thank-you’s to put in this first novel of mine, WHEN it hits the shelves.

 

Until next time,
~V


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The Big Jump

So today I did something CRAZY. It was insane. I really probably shouldn’t have done it. Someone should have stopped me. OK. You can’t un-ring a bell, so I’m just going to say it. I set a meeting with an agent and an editor. That’s right—when I go to RWA in July I will be meeting with an agent and an editor to pitch them my novel.

That silence you hear is me sitting and staring blankly at the computer screen when that window that read ‘appointment set’ flashed on my screen. I got caught up, you see. The RWA members that placed in the Golden Heart contest got first dibs, then PRO and PAN members, and then general membership. I figured that by today there would be so many slots taken up that I better try immediately to get my name down or I might not have a chance at all.

Turns out I was both right and wrong. Editor appointments seemed to have been filled so quickly that I went through several selections before I found a window of time that worked. It’s important to remember if you’re a newbie out there (well newer than me anyway) that you cannot just pitch to anyone. The line, publisher, editor, agent must all be looking for material that your novel fits. If not, it doesn’t matter if you’ve written the next Gone with the Wind, if that agent is only looking YA, you’re out of luck in that meeting.

If it goes well in July, I’ll post about the meetings and reveal the identities of who I am meeting with. Until then, I figure I better not jinx myself. In the meantime I will be doing LOTS of research on the agent and editor and making sure that my work fits their niche.

Confirming these appointments is a big step for me. It’s a big step for any new writer. I feel so official. I also want to run away and hide and say “I’ll try again next year.” A year and a half seems such a comfortable distance right now. Nine weeks, or 75 days seems crazy. Finish this manuscript in 75 days? Really? Well, the words “The End” are already written but there’s much work to be done! Maybe it will never be perfect but I can get it a lot closer. I have moved onto the couch of a coffee shop for eight hours a day to ensure this. OK my stomach hurts now so I’m going to move on to think about something else. My characters are eating beignets and drinking Louisiana coffee with chicory–probably because that’s what I would like to be doing right now.

Tell me, gentle readers, have you ever taken a big career leap that felt scary? If you are a writer, what happened the first time you did a professional writing pitch? I will be doing my first and most important two in the same day! I could use your advice!

Until Next Time,
~V


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RECOMMITMENT

To all my lovely published authors out there, how many times did you actually commit to being a romance writer before it actually happened for you? It probably happened more than once. It probably happened more than 100 times.  This is something that baby authors, no matter what the genre, come to realize a few weeks into a serious pursuit of a career. It is in fact so completely obvious that I am shocked I didn’t think of it before. Not only does completing a novel require actual work, it also requires recommitment every day.

Sometimes when I wake up in the morning I don’t really feel all that much like putting on my author’s cap. I’d rather be a counselor, chef, or wellness expert that day. Some days I want to be a sloth. Sloths have it good. When it’s a sloth kind of day, I still have deadlines to meet and a workout to get in. On those days I evoke the Sloth Rule.

The Sloth Rule is “Get up and do it before your mind knows what’s going on.” This applies to writing, exercising and even choosing the right foods to eat. It sort of saves me when ice cream for breakfast sounds like a good idea. Choosing every day to keep moving forward before your brain knows what the hell is happening is essential.  Sometimes that means putting the exercise DVD in the player before I go to bed so I don’t stumble around for it, and putting my shoes and weights by the door so they don’t hide from me under the bed. I set two alarms. I put a reminder in my phone that by noon I should be blogging for the week if I have not already done it. I make my lunch before I go to bed so that I don’t ask myself at 3pm, “What do I feel like eating?” That answer will always be red velvet cake. It’s less than nutritional.

How can it be that living your dream, eating a beautiful meal, or moving your body in an invigorating way FEEL like it’s infringing on your fun? What was once simply a fun hobby, a beautiful and tasty simple salad, or just a walk on the beach is now at best a job you treat with the same casual distance as your regular 9 to 5 and at worst it is the MAMMOTH CHORE OF THE YEAR. Our brains are tricky like that. I have to open up the computer and start reading edits before I consider whether or not I want to. No one wants to edit their book. Ha. But I DO want a beautiful finished product. I want a healthy body, I want that Victorian overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge or that condo on The Embarcadero and I want to look good IN IT, so I better get crackin’ before my brain decides it wants to watch that Dog the Bounty Hunter marathon. Tomorrow morning I will have to get up and decide over again.

 

Until Next Time,

 

~V


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The Return of Revenge

Ya’ll. This is supposed to be a blog about uncovering the path to publication. Most of the time it will be, I promise. But occasionally something fabulous comes along and I just have to share my enthusiasm with you!  Revenge.

Revenge is the hottest new television show on ABC primetime. In addition to it being cast with hot young Hollywood, it is like the BEST.ROMANCE.NOVEL.EVER. I promise. It has all the elements—a strong heroine played by Emily Van Camp, a hottie hero played by Joshua Bowman and an equally hot and rugged competitor for her affections played by Nick Weschel. Why am I waxing poetic about this show on my blog? Because after a long hiatus (six weeks?!) it is finally BACK on my television. I get to gleefully slide back into the murder, intrigue and love triangles of the rich and famous residents of the fictional corner of Hamptons these characters inhabit.

Everything I love about romance novels also makes me love Revenge and if you’re a fan of the romance genre but haven’t given this show a try you totally should! There’s a murder mystery, mistaken identity, money, sex, glamorous dinner parties, and golden retrievers! Wouldn’t you pick up that book in the romance section of your local Barnes & Noble?

Why else is Revenge important? Well, believe it or not, I believe it could actually help the romance industry. The success the show has received while competing with reality shows and crime procedurals tells me that the television viewing audience (specifically the Female 18-34 demographic) is craving more material like it. Don’t get me wrong—like in anything, the material has to be GOOD—but Revenge is about little more than a central female character trying to figure out who she is, and who she is in love with. If that’s not your standard contemporary romance I don’t know what is.

Ok—you get it—watch Revenge and enjoy the eye candy. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Until Next Time,

 

~V


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The Importance of Being Nature Adjacent

Gentle Readers,

As you (hopefully!) noticed, I took a break from my blog for a couple of weeks. Some things in my life changed and I found myself with more unintentional time to write. To say it was a blessing in disguise is the understatement of the year. This reshuffling of the deck reset my priorities and in order to have some serious reflection and get away from the craziness of LA I decided to take to the woods!  If you know me, you know that my idea of camping is a nice Hilton with a few of the woods from ten floors up.  I decided to get a little closer to redwoods though and flew up to San Francisco to spend a few days staring up at trees and listening to the rain fall.

Tucked away in a cabin in Santa Cruz (fully equipped with internet and cable of course) having girl talk, playing board games, drinking mimosas and occasionally thinking about my manuscript, I contemplated running away from life forever. (As we “glamped” that’s glamour-camping to you), I thought about turning my life upside down even more. Maybe I could just get a simple job in the small town of Santa Cruz (well, small compared to Los Angeles) and live in a cabin in the woods and disappear from responsibility. Huzzah! I’d found it. I would continue drinking wine, eating amazing pasta and baking cookies and just never bother with this whole writing thing. Crisis averted!

When I finished with a day or two of indulgent navel gazing and comfort food consuming, I got my second wind after spending an invigorating day walking around metropolitan San Francisco. I was inspired for an entirely new novel as we drove over bridges and coast lines and ate in diners with ocean views and drove down the most crooked street in the world.

What did I learn from this weekend away? Well, first I realized I needed to get back to Los Angeles and keep working on this manuscript if I have any hope of getting my query letter and first three chapters ready for my mentor’s review by tax day. Gotta love a deadline. Then I realized that what I love about San Francisco is being nature adjacent. I can see the trees and hear the rain from the safety of my cabin without putting stakes into the ground and freezing to death. It was kind of a big realization.

Before a recent turn of events, I thought there was only one road towards my becoming a published romance author. I thought I had figured that plan out, and then someone who wasn’t necessarily in on that plan came in and threw me for a loop. I thought that my easy route was gone, but now I can see that it has simply changed—evolved—into an equally exciting and fun journey—with perhaps more twists and turns than I could have imagined even for a heroine in one of my stories.  So now I’m back in LA, back to blogging and longing for the next stop on this path—THE QUERY LETTER!

Until next time,

~V


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Meaningful Work

What does romance writing mean to you? I was asked this question by my friend and aspiring talk show host, Caroline Donahue. Surprisingly, I had not really given much thought to what is meaningful to me from the writer’s perspective. I knew what romance meant to me as a reader—I had been lost in so many stories, inspired, entertained, and even angered, by stories that I have read over the years. Whether a book made me cry, throw it across the room, or jump for joy, as a reader I have always loved and appreciated books and found the written word supremely meaningful;  but what about from the writer’s perspective?

In my interview with Caroline (which you can download for free from iTunes at the link below), we discussed the meaning in writing about love and romance.  Love is just about the most exciting, tragic, fun, terrifying, and at times hilarious experience a person can go through. Reflecting those journeys on the page is a rare gift and making readers identify and enjoy a character’s journey is a special and unique responsibility in my opinion.

This time in my life has brought that responsibility into stark relief. Right now I find myself with nothing but ample time on my hands to edit my work, write a query letter, and start the submission process in order to earn my PRO status in LARA (the Los Angeles chapter of Romance Writers of America). More than ever I am reading and writing and consulting the best and most successful writers in the business to carve out my career and they all say the same thing—they do it because they love it and because people love to read about romance. It’s one of the few genres of publishing that is not hurting but actually thriving. When people are willing to spend money on a kindle download or a paperback even in the face of not being able to afford car payments and mortgages that tells me that no matter what, we will always need a little love in the afternoon. As authors it is our responsibility to create those worlds, stories, and characters. I’d say that’s pretty meaningful work, indeed.

To hear my interview with Caroline Donahue on her show Living the Question, download episode 7 for free at: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/live-the-questions/id512111692


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