Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Writer's Wednesday - THE SECRET

Today, Harlequin Romance author Donna Alward reveals her not-so-secret to getting published!

No, I’m not going to blog about the book that’s already taken the world by storm. I’m going to talk about how to make YOUR book take the world by storm. I’m going to chat briefly today on what it is that makes authors published.

Writers write.

There! All done! Can I go home now?

Of course I’m not going to leave it at that, but the point is that it really is that simple.

But wait! I can hear the minds working now. “There’s so much to know! What about character development, knowing the market, finding your voice, plotting vs seat of your pants, showing vs telling, conflict and motivations….” There are a million valid questions, all leaving you banging your head against the wall.

And I say again…writers write.

Twice in the last few weeks I’ve had this belief confirmed. Most recently Julie Cohen said it in a blog post elsewhere. And before that, Brenda Novak said it in essence at a workshop she gave to our local RWA chapter (and by the way, she was FABULOUS!).

It is SO easy to get caught up in the little things when you are trying to reach publication. I know it – I’ve BEEN there! My first manuscript…oh my. It was horrible. Full of inactive scenes, cardboard characters, missing motivations and without a distinctive voice…I do not even want to venture a guess where I’ve put the floppy it’s saved on. It’s truly horrible. Sometimes I could I have let this happen??????

But now I look back at it and acknowledge it as my starting point. So, how did I get from there to here?

I get asked a lot what people should do. Is there a secret? Some insider knowledge that can speed up the process? Some magical kernel of wisdom that is suddenly going to make it easier?

Well, yeah, I guess there is, but you’re not gonna like it. The secret is work. You've got to get in the trenches.

You have to keep writing. And writing. And writing some more. And I don’t mean taking that first manuscript and beating it to death with revision upon revision. I mean letting it go and starting something new. You can read about how to write all you want and you can attend workshops every weekend but they won’t make you a better writer unless you park your butt in that chair and put down the words.

That’s all there is to it. You will learn more by doing it than by reading about it and thinking about it. You WILL improve with each book and you WILL find your voice. You will submit, and likely be rejected, and perhaps get some feedback, and apply that knowledge to a new manuscript. You will gain confidence. Do I still write crap? ABSOLUTELY. I do. Did I used to freak about it? You bet. But one thing experience has taught me is that I can allow myself to write dreck because I have the ability to fix it. I am confident I can shape it and mold it into a decent story, and then my editor will help me get it the rest of the way when I’ve faltered. There was no shortcut to that. It was all from experience. At last count, I’ve been writing for six years, one month and some number of days, and am working on my 15th manuscript.

You need to put in the time. Full stop.

Now this might sound a little harsh and perhaps even discouraging. No shortcuts. No insider secrets. But wait a minute. I’d argue that this is LIBERATING.

Because this means there’s not something you’re missing. It means that this whole business is an equal opportunity venture. You can do this! EVERYONE can put their butt in the chair and hands on the keyboard. All you need from this point…the one where you’re staring at the screen, hands poised over the keys…is the determination and dedication to the goal. You write, and learn, and write, and learn.

November was NaNoWriMo. I would argue that rather than one month a year to challenge yourself, do it every month, week, day. You can do it! Writers write, so what are you waiting for?


  1. Great post, Donna. Writing is what it's all about. So many people say they want to be a writer/write a book yet they don't put words on the page.

    I have three manuscripts that took me years to finish. They suck and will never see the light of day again, but they were the first three I wrote and taught me so much. Even though they were all rejected, and rightly so thank goodness, they helped me learn to write, find my voice and keep writing.

  2. Exactly Melissa! It's all about learning and not giving up. I think Romance bought my 9th or 10th manuscript. I'm sure if you read them all back to back, painful as that would be, there'd be a progression.