I’m so lucky to be part of an awesome RWA chapter, the Rose City Romance Writers. Not only are these gals (and guys!) some of the most supportive, creative, talented group of writers, they also know how to have fun. 🙂
As the Christmas season comes to a close, here are a few pics from our holiday get-together.
Sometimes, things get so intense that we forget that writing, like life, should be fun, and the creative process a discovery of self as much as storytelling. On this particular day, taking the time to talk shop, family, challenges, and just being together did wonders for re-filling the creative well. Love when that happens!
So this year, one of my personal challenges will be to take some time out to hang with my fellow roses!
Author friend Jessa Slade was kind enough to take time out from her uber-busy schedule (I have my doubts she sleeps. . ..) to guest post for me this week, ’cause, you know, she’s really cool that way. 🙂
There is an element of luck to getting published. While talent, endurance, connections, and business savvy can also play a role, luck matters too. Writers talk about “the lightning strike”—an out-of-nowhere energy that boosts your story electrons to the next level.
Thinking you might have to rely on a random act of nature to get noticed is depressing, but you CAN increase your chances of getting struck by lightning. In real life, you might run around on a beach in the middle of a thunderstorm, clutching a lightning rod in both hands and belting out “Singing in the Rain.” (Cuz, really, who doesn’t want to throw lightning bolts at someone singing “Singing in the Rain” in the rain?) To court the lightning in storyworld, a writer might consider entering a writing contest.
Entering your story in a writing contest takes you out of the safe world of your writing desk and exposes you to the elements. Comfortable? Maybe not. Guaranteed success? Definitely not. But what is writing if not taking chances?
I always had bad luck with writing contests. I tended to split judges: For every judge that liked my story, another judged loathed me, virulently and vociferously. (Probably because I used words like virulent and vociferous waaaaaay too much.) Being loathed sucks, but still, I entered the Rose City Romance Writers’ Golden Rose writing contest because I found the feedback more useful than not. Also, I knew if you want to get struck by lightning, you gotta be willing to run out into the wind and rain.
In 2007, lightning struck. I finaled in the Golden Rose! Me, who couldn’t get past first-round judges! (Full disclosure: Technically, I didn’t get past the first-round judges this time either. My entry had to go to a discrepancy judge because my low-end score was so low.) And then I won! Not only did I get a real-life shiny gold-dipped rose, the final-round judge asked for the complete.
I’d been struck by lightning AND I was on fire! Oh sure, I had to do another seven or so rounds of revisions (urg) before SEDUCED BY SHADOWS hit the bookstores in 2009 and sometimes the fire burned low, but that initial jolt ignited my writing life. And it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t thrown myself out there.
The Golden Rose is one of my favorite contests, not just because I’m a member of Rose City Romance Writers, but because of the quality of the feedback and of the final-round judges. And the shiny golden rose is pretty fabulous too 😉 But just as important is learning to open yourself to the lightning.
Jessa Slade writes urban fantasy romance (the Marked Souls series with NAL Signet Eclipse), paranormal romance (the Steel Born series with Harlequin Nocturne Cravings) and science fiction romance (the Sheerways novellas in the “Hotter on the Edge” anthologies). Her third Steel Born book—and her first werewolf book!—MATED BY MOONLIGHT, comes out in July.
Ah, the holidays. Presents. And decorations. And parties – the best part! Recently, my RWA chapter, Rose City Romance Writers, got together to celebrate – minus the holiday champagne. I was having such a great time sucking in writing brilliance from my chapter mates, I didn’t snap pics of EVERYTHING. (Surprising, I know!)
Anywho, a couple of pics, great writing friends, and awesome conversation, and the party was over too quickly. (Personally, I like Jessa Slade’s suggestion that we party once a quarter!) Some snippets of conversational wisdom:
1. Rejection is a good thing. When rejections are announced, we all cheer, ’cause it means a writer is getting her precious work out into the world.
2. In a world of rejections, writers need to remember to bask in the things that do go well — meeting deadlines, a positive comment from a critique partner, or even one from the editor / agent who rejected the submission. It’s too easy to get pulled down in this business, and without looking at the positive things we do well, no matter how small, our writing could suffer. We definitely don’t want that!
3. Having a debut book is crazy exciting! Ask any author. 🙂
4. Lightning strikes create bestsellers. Authors should be out there with a lightning rod AND an umbrella. The book needs a certain “something something” that causes it to take off, besides good writing, ’cause, let’s face it, there are always books we all feel should be best sellers — like our own! 😉
5. Roses are generous people. Not only were writing and industry advice freely given, we also collected donations for a women’s shelter. Whether we like it or not, there are those around us who are in far greater need than we could even imagine.
The holidays are busy. I get that. But it should also be a time to slow down enough to visit with family and friends, and to reflect on what makes this time of year special for each of us. You know, you gotta stop and drink the champagne!
Our meeting place: The mother ship, that beacon of brick and mortar that draws writers and readers into it, sucking hours of life away in continuous bliss – Powell’s Books. At least, that’s where we were the first three hours.
Over coffee, lunch, and drinking chocolates, we shared our writing process, what makes us excited about writing, and the importance of chocolate.
And so I give you our nuggets of wisdom:
– Chocolate, we all agreed, stimulates creativity, so for writers, this is a must. (That one was easy!) Which was why Jessa and Lily later decided we deserved lots of it for each chapter we completed. Lily suggested 160 ozs. per book (8 ozs. per chapter x 20 chapters). Personally, I go through waaay more than that! (Life’s short. Books take a long time to produce. Why have limits?)
– Writing is hard. You know that saying we writers have heard over and over? About how splitting a vein open is easier than writing? Personally, I think that’s true. Yet we pound away at the computer, we agonize over sentence structure, we give up sleep, and we help our process along with a lot of chocolate (see the first nugget above). And in spite of the relatively low return (unless you happen to like rejection), we do it over and over again.
Jessa said, “If you can be happy doing something else, do that. . .. Then again, happy is overrated.”
Lily said, “What I like and don’t like about writing is the the same thing: it requires a level of focus I don’t find anywhere else.”
– Why do we write? Lily admitted, “I love the feeling of falling in love.”
Jessa was blatantly honest. (Would you expect anything else?) “I like hot guys.”
I write because I can’t seem to quit. It’s an addiction, this driving need to commit words to paper in some form that makes a reader smile. Besides, in this crazy world, where life sometimes spirals out of control, I’m a sucker for a happily-ever-after.
– In choosing story structure, Lily builds around a scene that comes to her. She has to know the hero first (like I do!), what makes him tick, and why. The heroine comes next because, as she stated with a grin, “I’m always the heroine.”
For Jessa, she starts with an idea. “But that’s a bad thing. Why? Starting with an idea can lead to preaching, whereas starting with a character or situation has story implicit in it and gives you a stronger start.”
– Bestseller lists. What author doesn’t dream of hitting the bestseller lists? When she does, Lily said, “I’m buying a waterfront home for my family to enjoy.”
After careful thought, Jessa piped in with “a lake front home, a mountain home, a beach home. All with housekeepers!”
Me? I’ll take a custom-made pair of Christian Louboutin shoes. Oh, and what Jessa said. But I’d like a cook and a gardener, too! 😉
After wandering through Powell’s Books, eating lunch al fresco, and consuming the perfect drinking chocolate at Cacao Drink Chocolate, I felt refreshed, reconnected, and strangely validated as a writer. Then again, books, food, chocolate, and the company of fabulously supportive writer friends will do it every time!