Monday, March 22, 2010

Journey to the Call~~~Part Three


How to get on the Write path?

So, after all those classes about improving my craft and all that research about queries and pitches and how to sell your manuscript...what ultimately worked for me?

In the end...all my writing successes can be attributed to 3 key elements:

1. Finding your routine.

For me, this consists of sitting my bootie on the sofa with my laptop (behind a desk never inspired me) and just writing. Never stopping to consider what I'm writing, just getting it down on the screen. If I want to really rock and roll, I set a timer and write until the time is up. Typically in 15 minute intervals. You'd be surprised how many words you can get through.

I don't go back and reread what I've written or start doing re-writes or edits until I have a complete first draft. No joke. This will only slow you down. You could literally spend forever rewriting the same first three chapters (and some folks do just that).

I'm definitely a "pantser" rather than a plotter. I've tried just about every single writing software on the market to help me outline my book and "get organized". What I've found happen with these great products is that I spend so much time typing my information and character specifics into the program that I have no time left to write. Once I get my whole book set up, I don't feel like writing it any longer. I've wasted countless hours doing this. For some, it is the ticket but for me it was a time drain that led me to nowhere.

The important thing to remember here is to find what works for you. You might need the organization of a neatly planned computer program. You might need music playing in the background (I prefer eating SweetTarts by the box full). You might need to write the ending first and then start the story from the beginning after that. I ALWAYS name my book before I write it. I've written entire novels based on the title alone! (Of course, don't get too attached to the title because publishers always have the right to change it for marketing purposes!)

Decide on your plan of action and just do it.

2. Chapters & Networking.

After joining RWA, over 5 years ago...I considered myself "serious" about getting published. I also joined the closest local chapter that I could find but at the time it was several hours away from me. So, as much as I wanted to attend monthly meetings and absorb all that knowledge--I rarely made it there. If you do have a local chapter and you can get deeply involved with them, I highly recommend it.

BUT...what if you can't do that...for whatever reason?

It wasn't until about 3 years ago that I discovered special interest chapters. They are listed on the RWA website and they are as numerous as the many genres of books we write. At one time I belonged to about 7 of them simultaneously. I've belonged to one for erotica writers, historical writers, Celtic writers, paranormal writers, suspense writers, and just about everything in between.

What I've found about chapters is...when you find the one that is right for you...it is an absolute blessing. They will not all be the right fit for you. You have to find the right group of people who want to support you and help you with your journey.

I can tell you that my Celtic Hearts Romance Writers chapter is like a real family to me. They've been there every step of the way. Through the good and the bad and the multitude of rejections they've "had my back". When it comes time to celebrate you'd better believe they're there to join in on the happy dance as well. You will never meet a finer group of writers and women than this one.

Meanwhile, my Futuristic, Fantasy & Paranormal chapter has done more to help me further my writing career than any of my other chapters. They are extremely proactive in helping writers achieve their PRO status with RWA and in setting up exclusive pitch sessions with both agents and editors! You cannot beat a chapter that will do any or all of these things for you. They've been indispensable and might I add...we've had many many chapter members getting "the call" recently. That speaks for itself.

If you've joined RWA and have not joined a chapter...I recommend doing so ASAP. They are always a great networking source for advice, comfort, support, help with finding critique partners, and a fabulous resource for industry news. Hands down...one of the major reasons I'm published today!

3. Contests.

Now, let's chat a minute about CONTESTS!

There are chapter contests (where you pay a fee and enter part of your manuscript) which are usually judged in two rounds. The first round is judged by anyone from readers to unpublished authors to published authors who narrow the field on entrants down to three finalists per category (genre). Then, if you make it to the finals...you'll get your work in front of either an agent or an editor. In my opinion, that is by far the biggest benefit to these type of contests.

BUT...again...you have to make it the top three in your category. The competition is fierce and judging is highly subjective as there are usually so many entries that the first round is judged by a wide variety of judges.

I've never had much luck with these contests. While some folks have gone on to get an agent and/or get published due to them. I think they are a great experience and you can usually get some good critiques back from the judges. They can be costly and you should pay special attention to the entry requirements. Again, some contests will work more to your benefit than others (just like some chapters will be a better fit for you than others).

The other type of contests are those run by websites, publishers, blogs, etc... It is these type of contests (all were totally free of charge) that have done the most for my career. They can be contests for votes (by the public), best first line contests on blogs (often judged by published authors and/or editors), or even pitch contests (judged by agents or editors).

Take a look at what is being offered up and sometimes it is something as small as a critique of your first three chapters or as large as a publishing contract. The point is...can this contest get your name out there or your work read/noticed by the industry?

If the answer is 'yes' to either of those questions, I recommending entering as many of these type of contests as possible.

The first publisher sponsored contest that I ever entered won me my first e-book contract for Miss Taken. The largest publisher sponsored contest I ever entered won me the "notice" of an editor at Dorchester and even though I didn't win the contest it garnered me the ever elusive "call".

In fact, an interesting tidbit on both of these sales (my first e-book sale and my first BIG NY sale) is that I placed 3rd in both of those contests! Lucky number 3?

Honestly, I truly believe that I finally got the call because I was hardheaded and stubborn. I simply refused to take "no" for a final answer. If one person doesn't like it--the very next person might love it.

If you give up now, you'll never know what could have been. If one project has gone cold--start something new.

If you've hit a wall of writer's block--take a look around and see what publishers are looking for in their submission calls. Never thought you could write both erotic historicals and paranormal inspirationals? I'm here to tell you that you can--I sure did.

Is your muse failing to communicate? Try genre hopping. Pick a genre that is as far from what you consider to be your niche as possible and just give it a go. You might just write your first bestseller.

The bottom line? I love to write and it is something that I simply must do. If you feel the same way--you're on the right path--or maybe you're on the write path..

Today I’m adding the final prizes to the "Journey to the Call" prize pack which already includes the following prizes:
  • A book entitled: How to Write Attention Grabbing Query & Cover Letters;
  • (1) free critique of your query letter;
  • (1) free copy of my first published book entitled Miss Taken;
  • (1) free online writer workshop (details to be provided);
  • (1) free critique of the first 3 chapters of your manuscript; and
  • (1) free copy of my award winning romance novella entitled The Saucy Celt

The third set of prizes to be added to the bundle are as follows:

  • (1) Entire month of personal mentorship including unlimited e-mail contact for 1 month exclusively for you! Need help with your pitch? Want to talk over your manuscript submission or a contest entry? I'll be there for you.
  • (1) Personalized writing plan (We'll develop your future goals in a time line plan!)
  • (1) Personally autographed copy of my newest release in PRINT Cross Check My Heart now available from Eternal Press!

In order to be eligible to win the prize pack, you must follow my 3 part blog post journey (every Monday for 3 weeks) here at the Book Boost Blog. You’ll gain entry to the prize pack drawing only if you post a comment or question each week for each week of the post. If you missed week one or week two, there is still time to comment! Contest is closed for new comments on 03/31/2010 and winner will be announced here at the blog shortly thereafter.

The entire prize pack bundle is designed to help “pre-published” authors who are still seeking that elusive “call”.


For this week, tell me about your writing routine or about contest experiences you've had. I enjoy hearing from each of you and if you've left a prior week's comment--I've responded to each of you.

Always remember this...no matter what journey you take or what destination you reach...NEVER give up on your dreams.

28 comments:

Tami said...

My writing routine is nearly nonexistant right now! I've spent too much time telling myself that I don't have time, and hence make it so. I need to get off my butt and just do it! You know, like the Nike commercial! I've been told by a publisher that my outline is solid and I should write, but something holds me back! I need the support of a writing group, I had one in NC when I lived there, but when I moved to NY I can't find anything! It's so rural up here that there's not much of anything....but I can't keep making excuses and expect my book to get written! Thanks for the inspiration! I love ya girlie! :)

Diane said...

Excellent post!!!
My routine is unique. I have two jobs right now so I carry steno notebooks around with me and write during breaks, when I get an AHA moment, even while driving. Then on Saturdays and Sundays I then put all my handwritten chapters on my laptop and add/subtract emotions, action, etc. as I'm writing then. Not editing really because like you said, I'd get caught up in the perfect word, action and everything.

As for contests, I was the runner up in the 100-word Paranormal Romance/Fantasy contest, dated February 25, 2008 on The Bookends Blog.

I've entered many a blurb or first line contests: First line: mine was, Some days having wings is a bitch.

I want to enter the contests but I was unsure of how many other authors do the same. Now I know.

Thank you for sharing your journey with all of us. I can't wait until I get to experience it and look forward to keeping track of how you're doing.

Diane

Chris said...

Great post, Kerri!

I've done well in contests, gotten great feedback, had some conversations with editors and agents as a result. I agree contests can be a huge help!

My routine? I too write a rough draft before any rewriting. I can't outline because I get bored and never want to finish the story. I joined NaNoWriMo last November and discovered how much I love writing a rough draft in a month. So when I pick up the pen again to start writing (I'm on hiatus), I'm going to revise the November story and then do another Novel in a Month.

Nicole Zoltack said...

My writing routine? Staying up late after hubby and baby are sleeping. I'm pregnant so during the first trimester, it was hard to find the energy to stay up late and type but I'm five months now and getting back into the swing of things.

I also write the first draft before editing. Otherwise I would get too bogged down and never reach a part where I could continue writing.

As for contests, I haven't entered any (yet) although I have judged two in the past and am judging for one right now. I really enjoy being a first round judge.

Linda Andrews said...

More excellent advice. Now to look into those RWA chapters you mentioned.

Boone Brux said...

Kerri, I'm so thrilled for you and all you've learned and achieved. It's times like these that we look back and say, "I'm so glad I stuck with it, but boy I am glad I don't have to start do it all again." Wisdom comes with age and experience. Thank God! I'd hate to have all this experience and have nothing to show for it but a few deep wrinkles. Can't wait to read your book. The biggest congrats ever.

Boone

Eliza Knight said...

Just wanted to drop by and tell you how proud I am of you! You've done a fabulous job :)

kerribookwriter said...

Hello Tami!

You are so very welcome. Whatever I can do to help. :-)

Yep, sometimes the toughest part is just making yourself write something. Even if you don't think it is good...just get it down. You can always tweak it and do rewrites later on.

It is more important to keep your fingers and mind connected and moving.

Thanks for the kind words.

--K.

kerribookwriter said...

G'mornin' Diane!

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your routine with us.

I have done that in the past with WIP notebooks. Of course, I'm always lugging around tons of diaper bags and supplies for the kids. So, I either lose the notebook in the Bermuda Triangle that is my car OR spill fruit juice or something on it! LOL

It sounds like you are very organized and that is wonderful. If it works for you--then you've got the first huge step in getting it done right. Good for you!

Way to go on the contests! Keep entering. I don't believe that it can do anything other than make you a better writer, gain you a following, and might even lead you to reach the goals you're aiming for.

Stay in touch, won't you?

--K.

kerribookwriter said...

Hey Chris!

Glad you stopped by!

I love NaNoWriMo and there's no reason why you can't do something similar all year round. If you just write 2000 words a day you could pen a 60K novel in one month and that's fantastic.

Keep up the great work and let me know how you're getting along!

--K.

kerribookwriter said...

Hello Nicole, my friend!

I didn't know you were expecting! Awe! Congrats, hon!

I've just had my 3rd and final baby and he's the thief of my heart and my sleep but I ADORE him!

I'm a little sad about not having any more babies but I know that this is enough for me.

So happy for you and thanks for sharing with us today!

Hugs,
K.

kerribookwriter said...

Linda A.~

Well, there are so many wonderful chapters that you can join. It has taken me several years to find the ones that I can't live without.

I'm sure you'll find a chapter family that will love to have you.

Thanks for your comment.

--K.

kerribookwriter said...

Boone B.~

Hi hon! Always a pleasure to see you here at my blog. You are super talented and a true friend. I'm lucky to know you.

Thanks for the congrats and encouragement along the way.

The road to publication is a tough one but so worth it!

Biggest hugs,
K.

kerribookwriter said...

Smooches to Eliza~~

I adore my Celtic wife...uh I mean sister! LOL

How're those littlest ones, my sweet? Mine are sleeping too few hours, drinking/eating too much food, but still beautiful beyond belief.

I'm proud and honored to call you my friend. Thank you for always being there for me.

xoxo,
K.

Sandra Cox said...

Wow, what a great blog, Kerri. Very insightful.

Mellanie Szereto said...

Great story of your journey, Kerri!

I am a "plantser" - I plot in my head, sometimes on paper, then start at the beginning, end, or middle : ) I do some editing as I write (I can't help myself). Many times I read parts of my WIP before I write the next scene. I have multiple WIPs so if I get stuck on one, I can work on another. I have also set writing goals for myself (1000 words a day average each month, finish a manuscript, etc.).

My routine--Sit on the couch with my laptop while my son does his schoolwork (I'm homeschooling). A cup of tea, short breaks now and then to stretch, and write, write, write. I usually also write for a few hours in the evening.

Contests and chapters--I'm fairly new to RWA and haven't really started the contest thing, but I love my local chapter. We support, encourage, and educate each other. Hope to meet you at Nationals!

Mellanie Szereto said...

Just got an email from the agent with the partial. Another rejection...Time to send out more queries.

lynnrush said...

IT's been fun sharing your journey these three weeks. Gosh, I couldn't agree more about chapters and contests. They are invaluable.

Great post

Sarah said...

Thanks for the fabulous advice in part 3! I've just started submitting to contests, and I hope those benefits will eventually come through.

I'm still at the beginning of my journey, and my successful routines are unsustainable. I fly along for a month, then squeak along for the second (still writing, but making up for all those to do list items I skipped the month before), then realize what I need to do to fix my priorities...rinse, repeat. Hoping to find an equilibrium that I'll be able to work with over longer stretches of time, but I'm still learning.

Congrats on your call again!!

C.J. Ellisson said...

Excellent Post! All three in fact!

If it wasn't for contests you and I never would have chatted. Remember that first one we were in together? I got a 46 out of 150 points from one judge and I was annoyed scores that low were sent out to entrants- the same entry that won in one contest, was runner up in three more and landed me an agent.

You're advice in theses posts is dead on. I'm so happy to see your dreams coming true and I'll be proud when I can say "I knew her when."

Rebecca Lynn said...

Great post, Kerri! It was so helpful for me right where I am right now. It made my Top Posts of the week on my blog. I think it could be helpful for a ton of new writers! Great series in general, but this was by far my favorite.

kerribookwriter said...

Hey Sandra~~my pal!

Thanks for the lovely comment! Glad you enjoyed the post.

Hugs,
K.

kerribookwriter said...

Mellanie~~

Sounds like you have both a great plan of action and a great attitude! Keep those WIPs flowing and keep submitting all along the way. File those rejections away (I have an e-mail folder labeled "rejections smejections") and keep your chin up and your fingers working that keyboard.

You'll get there--I know it!

Big hugs and much appreciation for your participation!

--K.

kerribookwriter said...

Hey Lynn~

Great to see you again! I appreciate your comments very much.

Smiles,
K.

kerribookwriter said...

Sarah~~

I believe that routines are so important. Sometimes, we allow ourselves to put our own dreams on the back burner due to life's challenges. BUT never forget that your goals and aspirations are just as important as anything else in your life. Never give up on them.

Best of luck in your recent contest entries. Let us know how things are going, won't you?

My best,
Kerri

kerribookwriter said...

Hiya my friend and future blogmate CJ!

We're "old" contest pros, aren't we? In fact, we are proof positive that you don't have to WIN the contest to make it work for you.

Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate your kind words and continued encouragement.

xoxo,
K.

P.S. Don't forget that I want a walk on role in your movie! (wink)

kerribookwriter said...

Rebecca Lynn!

I'm honored and thrilled to have been named as one of your TOP Posts! I visited your blog (both, in fact) and checked it out. WOW! I'd love to guest blog with you sometime--if you'll have me?

Thanks so much for your amazingly generous comment and kudos!

Don't be a stranger!


Big hugs,
Kerri

Sarah said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Kerri! I've got myself on a new routine that's actually working--and wound up finding a plot for my next book. Guess who's back in the chair with new words?