by Bobbi Dumas
(Bobbi Dumas is a regular columnist at The How To Write Shop, covering the romance beat. This is her first post.)
While this regular post will be about all things romance (from a writing perspective), I wanted to start out with a simple overview of some things that might help you get started.
A lot of this will have to do with writing in general, so that’s why I put the “romance” in the title in parentheses. The simple truth of the matter is, if you want to get published, you have to do some writing.
So. To get published, write.
Sorry. There seem to be a lot of people out there who think they’re gonna get published one day, but if you ask them about their work, they don’t really have any. Believe me, I love everything there is about writing. I love craft. I love storytelling. I love the wonderful camaraderie of having friends who are writers, published and unpublished. I love writing conferences and book signings. And I love to write.
You don’t have to love to write to be a writer. (Though it helps.) But you do have to write.
Yeah, some days it’s hard. Some days, no words seem to want to fit together in any coherent order. Or at least in any way that makes an impact and/or moves the story forward. But at the end of the day, or the week, or the month – you have to have a few sentences down on paper.
Yes, there are always things to learn. Yes, I have it on good authority that even the best writers have bad days, and sometimes even bad months. But guess what? If you want to be a published author, you have to write.
So, if you think you’re ready to commit to actually doing some writing, here are some hints that may help you get there.
Write. (Not to put too fine a point on it.) However, if you’re not quite sure how to go about that, another great thing to do is READ. Study your favorite books. Analyze scenes. I keep a selection of Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Eva Ibbotson books on hand (my own personal favorites) whenever I’m writing, and especially if I’m working on difficult or emotional scenes. (Warning: Must learn to focus on one or two scenes, and not sit for hours rereading the whole book. At least if you want to get some serious WRITING done.)
Find a community. If you’re thinking of breaking into romance, sit down at your computer and download entry forms for RWA (Romance Writers of America) right now. (Oh, look, you’re already AT your computer. How handy! http://www.rwanational.org/ Go. Now. ) Even if you’re not thinking romance, RWA is a great resource for writers. They are (I think, though I am hugely biased) the most generous, organized, and together writing group out there. Also, search for the closest local affiliate to you, and consider joining them. If their meetings are good, you’ll learn a lot. If you’re really lucky, you’ll meet like-minded, fun, generous women who help you stay focused and motivated, and share in your writing journey in a soul-enhancing way. (As you may have guessed, I’ve been very, very lucky!)
Consider a critique partner or a critique group. Now, this can be complicated and if you’re not with a good match for your skill level and skin-type (as in, you’re very thin-skinned where critiques are concerned and you’ve matched up with a bulldozer), then the critique experience can do more harm than good. So consider this carefully and move into the process with eyes wide-open. If it’s not a good match, get out.
Understand that any community only works for you if it’s a good match. Never, ever lose sight of the fact that if you want to be a writer, then it is your responsibility to do, learn and understand the things you need in order to be successful. While a community can help you in your process, it is not your mother and it isn’t going to make your bed for you. That’s your job. (And if the community isn’t working for you, find another one. Taking care of your needs is also your job.)
Write. Okay, I know this is getting old. But really, the best way to learn what you know how to do and what you don’t know how to do, is to sit down and try to do it. So, I’m going to stop here. More tips next time. But right now, I’ll challenge you. Sit down and get started. Write a short story. Begin a novel.
Check out National Novel Writing Month ( http://www.nanowrimo.org/ ), a national program designed to help people just like you all across the nation write a 50,000 word novel in a month – November. (Speaking of resources, they have some great ones!)
If you want to be a writer, you’ve come to the right place. The people here are great, the talent is fantastic, the wisdom is deep. But, in the end, it’s all about you.
Get started. Learn. Keep going.