Thursday, November 13, 2008

Words of Wisdom

We all know that the Internet has enhanced the romance community in a fabulous way. When I first started to write, I knew absolutely nothing about anything. I'd even stopped reading romances. So I gingerly clicked for advice, finding Jenna Peterson's Passionate Pen, which is a great, generous place for aspiring writers. In the intervening years I've had online and e-mail contact with some of the best names in the business. It never ceases to amaze me that Eloisa James wrote back to me about flawed heroes or that Karen Hawkins complimented me on a snippet I wrote or that Christine Merrill appreciated a comment I left about her. She's even sent me her latest, Miss Winthorpe's Elopement. A couple of the things she said really resonated:

So if you’ve got an agent to love you, don’t worry too much on what’s ahead. Really, I think that editor rejections are much easier to take than criticism from the unpublished, who can be unmerciful. Editors tend to break things down into “will make money” or “won’t make money”. Good or bad doesn’t enter into it as often as it should. And nothing works for everyone, so don’t worry on that account. The stronger your voice, the more likely you are to get off the wall criticism. So the out of left field, sand-bagging can be written off as ‘not your reader’.

In another e-mail she writes:

In my experience, you are in the worst stage of the writing/publishing process. The spot right before you sell is a lot harder than anything, IMHO. And it feels like it goes on forever, while everyone around you gets a call.

There’s the learning curve, where you have to figure out how to write, and you suck but don’t know it, and get a bunch of rejections.

And there’s all the stuff that published people whine about, like reviews and sales numbers.

But in between there’s the point where you reach a level of competence sufficient to write a good saleable book, but the rejections are still coming. It’s not like your craft won’t continue to improve as long as you write. But I think the style can mature years before the market is ready to buy. Or maybe it all happens over night. There’s really no telling. And it’s hard because you won’t be able to make the changes that some of the editors will be looking for, because they either won’t serve you story, or they will be just plain crazy. If you have an agent who gets your work, that is half the battle.

But welcome to limbo. When it feels crazy, remember, it’s not your fault.

Word to live by! I knew I was innocent, LOL! In my ivory tower, AKA writing room, I'm apt to forget writing is a business as well as an art.(*snort*...forgive my hubris...I know I'm not Jane Austen) In this iffy economy, there might not be an HEA for every writer. But I'm willing to keep trying and typing until "The End."

Here's hoping there's an HEA for Vauxhall Vixen Tiffany Chalmers, who just signed with the Cornerstone Literary Agency! Yay, Tiff! Welcome to limbo!

And here's a chance to give kudos to your real-life writer heroines who inspire you. What have you read lately that you love? Go read Christine Merrill's books right this instant! I can't wait to dive into Miss Winthorpe's Elopement. But first---I am finally reading Outlander. I know, where have I been? Only 410 pages to go....


Tiffany Chalmers said...

Ah, thanks again Maggie. And I love what she says. It's all so true!

I am still reading the Monk, by Matthew Lewis, and loving every moment of it.

shhh don't tell anyone I'm blogging while at work!

Janga said...

Maggie, Christine Merrill has become an auto-buy for me, and I first read her when you recommended her. I loved her gothic novella in Halloween Husbands, and I am eagerly awaiting The Mistletoe Wager, which should be out soon.

I think romance authors are an incredibly generous gracious group. At a point where I was so discouraged I was ready to give up, Anne Gracie emailed me with kind words about my writing and good advice about not stressing out concerning subgenre labels. Every time I complete a chapter, I remember how much I owe her.

J.K. Coi said...

Wonderful post, Maggie and so true. You hang in there because you must, but that doesn't make it easy.

My writer hero is Stephen King. Not because he's absolutely famous, or because of his writing style. But because I loved his book On Writing, and everything I've ever read about his early years makes me admire his perseverance. He wrote for years and years without seeing anything. On a broken-down old-style typewriter in the closet of their tiny little apartment while teaching full time. Even after he was published it wasn't easy.

And it's never easy. Enjoy limbo, because once you publish, there's a whole new set of trials to face,
but they're all rewarding.

Elyssa Papa said...

Congrats again to Tiff!! (It still hasn't gotten old).

Those are great words from Christine Merrill. She's so smart and savvy. And she reminds us that once we sign with an agent, it's only one more step of waiting.

Great blog, Maggie! And you're going to love The Outlander!

Santa said...

I've always said the writing community is an amazingly supportive one. Kudos on the ARC. I've loved everything I've read by Christine Merrill and can't wait for more.

Much like I can't wait for the fabulous VV books to come!

Maggie Robinson said...

Tiff, my lips are sealed. I think they'd understand though when you're one of the "stars" of the post. Yay to Chris Merrill whose words make up half the post!

Janga, so glad you like her! I have not read the novellas yet, but her three books I've read so far were great. Especially loved An Unladylike Offer. Great redemption of the hero from the first book.

Kris, for all of you who don't know, is on a whirlwind tour of the Internet for publicity of her Immortals books---so she knows what she's talking about! I actually know someone who knew SK when he was a high school/UMaine student, and you are right---he overcame huge odds.

Ely, the only problem I've having with Outlander---now I've got to read the rest of the series, LOL.

Santa! Love to 'see' you!You are one of the great ones of the romance community yourself!

terrio said...

Missed the chance to SQUEEEE over here for Tiff yesterday. Stupid work getting in the way of my blog surfing. So SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE!

I've been fortunate to make friends with terrific people in this industry. The Romance Bandits are always supportive and inspiring and especially Aunty Cindy (Loucinda McGary's The Wild Sight in stores now!) who gave me the best crit ever and is always pushing me to keep going and get to THE END.

How great that this author has given you these words of wisdom. As others have said, this is one of the most generous industries I've ever seen. No wonder there are so many of us struggling to get into the sand box and play.