Tomorrow evening, I'll be giving a talk at a local library as part of their "Summer Reading Program for Adults." The librarians have asked me to talk about my some of my experiences reading and writing romance, so today I thought I'd give you all a little sneak preview of some of the things I'm going to say.
I like to say that I started writing at the age of nine. Before that, I printed.
From the time I learned to read, I made up stories. As a child, if I didn’t like the way a book ended, I made up my own ending. I guess that makes me one of those people who writes because they don’t know how to “not write.”
I’ve written all kinds of things, fiction, non-fiction, even poetry. I took creative writing in high school and college because it was an ‘easy A’ for me. I was one of those people who liked essay questions on tests and loved to write term papers.
But even though I loved to write, I didn't necessarily think of myself as a writer. That was an exhaulted title reserved for those very special people whose work was published in books and magazine. Those people belonged on a pedestal because they were not mere mortals such as me!
I was a 20something first-time, stay-at-home mom who was going stir crazy with just me and an infant. Desperate to get out of the house, I signed up for a one-day-a-week class through the local adult education program. It was called something like 'Writing Fiction and Non-Fiction for Publication.' The instructor was a sweet little grandmother who wrote non-fiction travel articles and 'nurse' romance novels.
I'll never forget the first day of class. This adorable white-haired lady stood up in front of us and said, "Other people get paid to write, and you can too." It was a revelation! Writers really were mere mortals after all.
I learned a lot in that nine week course, but two of the most important things I got out of it (besides the fact that writers were ordinary people) were 1) I learned how to write a query letter, and 2) I joined my very first critique group. Once I learned how to write a query letter, I began submitting things for publication. And after I joined my first critique group--3 non-fiction writers, another fiction writer and me (all women)--I learned how very little I actually knew about writing.
I began my journey of education myself on how to write. I read copious amounts of how-to books about writing, and I attended every kind of writing workshop and writing conference I could afford. One of the most interesting workshops I attended was taught by a professor of poetry from San Francisco State University. His name was Stan Rice and he was an excellent teacher whose insights and techniques I still employ in my writing. But I went to his workshop because I'd heard that his wife had just sold her first novel for what was then the largest advance for an original mass market paperback (I think it was $650,000) and I was curious what her husband might be like.
Oh, her name was Anne Rice and the book was Interview with the Vampire.
I learned a lot about writing over the years, and had a lot of starts and stops. At one point, I quit writing for about twelve years while I pursued my civil service career. But I was never able to completely quit, because I kept journals, wrote poetry, and even finished a couple of novels. Mostly, I continued to dream of the day when my book would be in the bookstores and library shelves.
Finally, in 2003 I was burned out in my career and decided since I definitely wasn't getting any younger, I needed to actually DO THIS THING. So I took a leap of faith (or maybe insanity, I'm still not sure which), quit my day job and made a serious commitment to writing and selling a novel... as soon as I took a much needed vacation!
In the Spring of 2004 I started writing the story that would eventually become The Treasures of Venice. I finished it a year later and started writing a second book. And when I finished that book, I started a third (in between vacations, of course). In September, 2007--almost four years to the day after I quit my dreaded day job--I sold that third book!
My dream came true last October when The Wild Sight was released.
So what was the ultimate thing I learned about writing after all these years?
My long-ago writing teacher said it best: The first million words are the hardest. Back then I thought she was kidding. Now I know she was serious. And she was right.
Oh, and one last thing I'll say about learning to write is that the single most valuable tool a writer can have is a good critique partner! I've had quite a few over the years. I have some great ones right now. Another writer's perspective can make all the difference in the world! And remember that first critique group I joined way-back-when? I am still in touch with two of the members. In fact, one of them served as my First Reader Extraordinaire for both The Wild Sight and The Treasures of Venice. Some relationships are meant to last!
Okay, now it's your turn! Share with Aunty and the other CasaBabes some of the things you've learned reading and writing romance!