Monday, November 29, 2010

Grace's Secret Recipe

This has been the month for food recipes, but I pretty much stopped cooking when Beloved Offspring moved out. I can offer a recipe of a different sort, though, one having to do with my experiences in the past year as a debut author awaiting publication.

Here are some steps and ingredients that have made the road to publication a wonderful journey:

Submit your MS to a terrific contest, like the Georgia Romance Writer’s Maggie, which will see your work critiqued by several published authors who want to get you published almost as badly as you want to be published.

Attend a wonderful writer’s gathering, like the Washington Romance Writer’s Spring retreat, where you can learn the basics of pitching, some excellent craft, and some up to the nanosecond industry scuttlebutt from agents, editors, and your sister authors.

Make some writing friends from several points on the continuum, because though you’re unpublished, you can still beta read, critique, encourage, and otherwise contribute to other people’s success while you’re writing, writing, writing.

Read, and read, and read, just because you love to, but also because you can learn something from every book you pick up.

Pitch all those wonderful people at the conferences who are just panting to get their hands on the next bestseller (aka your MS in disguise—right?).

Have a couple White Russians before your impromptu pitch (this step is optional, but I’m not sure I could have pitched without it).

Write and write and write, because you love to but also because as soon as you submit that bestseller in disguise, you’re going to have to follow it up with a book that’s even better (no pressure).

Start blogging, because it’s fun (writers write—right?), and because you’re going to need that ability when your bestseller in disguise does sell (and it will) and you want to put the word out.

Practicing squealing and dancing around the kitchen, because when you get that Call, these steps are not optional.

Repeat as needed until publication results, and then repeat most of the foregoing some more, because it’s still relevant—also fun.

What about you? What were some of the ingredients and steps that lead to being published, and keep you writing even now?


  1. Grace~ I followed those steps exactly, well, almost exactly.

    I probably should have had a scotch before I pitched, maybe I would have done better. Believe it or not, I really suck at pitching. I don't think I ever would have sold had I had to pitch during a timed session. Now pitching at the bar, that I'm good at.

    I entered a lot of contests, The Star Contest, The Emily, The Sheila, The Marlene and The Golden Heart.

    I got requests from editors and agents who were the final judges of the contests and eventually sold to Deb after she judged my GH entry.

    Happy dances are a definite requirement as are writing friends and critique partners who can tell you if something sucks or threaten your life when you have the urge to do something to a perfectly good ending.

    What keeps me writing?

    The fans who write and tell me they stayed up all night reading and loved my book.

    The bills that come in the mail.

    My kids who sees me struggling to write when I don't feel like it, when I don't want to, when nothing is working. They see me rewriting and watch me continue to practice my craft. That way, when my Ballerina is told her soutenus are an embarrassment, she'll think back to her mom's five page revision letter and know her soutenus can be improved if she works hard enough.

    But mostly I write because I'm a writer. If it all fell apart, if I didn't sell another book, I'd still write. It's who I am, it's what I do. Fish swim, dancers dance, writers write.

  2. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, you forgot the part about Lovin' Dat Man, but you have a good point about the writing: It's like any job, even any great job--there are really, really hard, boring, grind-you-down parts to it. (At which point, White Russians, writing friends, and happy dances help). There's also a really cool You Tube on Alix Rickoff's blog today that got my week off to a lovely start.

  3. Fans definitely keep my writing! And deadlines! But mostly fans who want me to write faster. :) That they've already read Wolf Fever and want Heart of the Highland Wolf, now. And they want to see more of the same characters from earlier packs and more Highland stories, and more, more, more. :)How can I not write with that kind of an incentive??? :)

    My kids have flown the coop too, Grace, but we still had the turkey and the trimmings! Hmm-hm!

  4. Great advice, Grace. I don't have fans yet since the book isn't out, well, I have pre-fans, lots of people waiting on the book. But what keeps me writing it that I love writing. I just love creating a world and characters and plots.

  5. It has been a revelation to me to realize I HAVE fans--not fans of specific books yet (December 1 is my launch date for "The Heir") but all kinds of people who have taken an "It's about time you realized you're supposed to be writing romance novels" attitude about my writing. They also adopt an, "Of course your stuff will be good," approach that suggests I haven't been as aware of my friends and family as they have been of me. It's almost as if.... they've been waiting to have an opportunity to support me, cheer for me, and do some vicarious kitchen dances on my behalf. Who'd a thought?

  6. I set weekly page counts and stick to them.... the more I write, the more I'm able to write. Once I step away from the computer for too long, my brain seems to get out of "writing mode." (And I just flat out love my job!)

  7. Grace: I didn't do contests, critique groups or even RWA until after I'd sold books so my path was very different than yours. A timed pitch would have required a whole bottle of Jack Daniels. But the happy dance and the high pitched squealing every time I sell a book is the same!

    I write because if I don't I'm downright bitchy and no one in the family can stand me. It's who I am like Robin said about the fishes and the dancers. Can't swim or dance worth a damn so I write! LOL

  8. Carolyn, will you blog someday about the different path you took? It's easy to get a sense that there's a magic check list, and if you just find the right one--mine, somebody else's, your sister-in-law's--then surely, surely you'll get the Call, that big advance, or the bestseller to end all bestsellers.

    This is not so (I don't have a crit group either, never have), but it would be helpful to know what some of the different drummers did to end up published and stay that way.

  9. Grace, I don't have much to add to your recipe. It's pretty complete.

    I would underscore the entering contests part. Obviously, one doesn't have to, but I think of it as analogous to preheating the oven. You don't always have to do that either, but calculating how long it will take a recipe to get done is sure easier if you do preheat.

    You don't have to win or place--though it's very nice if you do! When your ms is scoring in the top five percent, it's ready to be served.

    By entering a few contests, you can save yourself a lot of rejection letters if your ms is not ready, and give you the confidence to keep submitting if it is.

  10. A great recipe, Grace.

    Wow, so many years ago for me. I just remember determined to write the books and my hopes they'd sell. Luckily, they did.

  11. Maybe we need a follow up recipe: How to stay sane and happy with the writing job one year later, five years later... Somebody out there must be working on the "how to survivie bestsellerdom" recipe? Ladies?

  12. Grace: You may have just given me the idea for my Dec. blog on the 6th! Thank you!

  13. Now that is one recipe I am familiar with. Great post!

  14. Great recipe! I followed many of the same steps. Now, I keep writing because I still like writing my own stories better than watching TV (most of the time!).

  15. Great recipe, but I think I skipped the White Russians part....

  16. Oh, Grace, the white russian is perfect! Calms the nerves for those pitches. :}

  17. I've never entered a RWA contest. Didn't join RWA until I got my first advance check, but the method works so well for so many, I've got to say it's a great recipe for success.