I started entering romance writing contests this year amidst much trepidation. Was I ready? The only way to find out was to submit. Imagine my surprise and delight when the first response I received was that I had finaled! What a relief, and the validation felt good.
I also submitted two different versions of the opening to my story–one which I and others thought was much stronger. One version went to two contests, the other to two more. I’ve now heard from three of the four contests that I’ve entered and lost twice (the weaker version won). 🙁 Some of the comments I expected–I can’t write cops accurately. Nope. I’ve spent very little time talking to law enforcement. (I am looking for a compassionate US Marshal to talk to about my cop, you know, just in case someone knows of one.)
Reading comments the first time was gut wrenching and necessitated the solace of fermented grapes. Quit? No, just taking a short breather while I digest this. ALL writers experience failure. It’s part of the initiation, though that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow (wine does! 🙂 )
I remind myself there are plenty of mega-popular writers making a terrific living from their stories, but I don’t enjoy reading them at all. So, after a day or two I’ll get back to writing with great ideas for improving and the spirit to carry on. There is so much to learn and I want to imbue my story with emotion, setting, mood, atmosphere. Like a fine wine, my writing needs to age. (Pffft! I should really look into writing comedy.)
For now I’m sitting out contests over the summer while I grow as a writer. Being a finalist in the Daphne doesn’t seem possible, but there’s next year. Besides, I can’t let down all of these awesome followers I have on Twitter. And most of all, I want to celebrate accomplishments. That means I can’t give up!
I certainly didn’t start out to write romance stories, in fact I had never read a single romance in my life. Yet, my stories couldn’t exist without the heroine falling in love with the man who was perfect for her, protected her, and wanted to be part (a big part) of her happiness. I felt foolish at first, an imposter; but then I realized how wonderful it really was that I came this route naturally.
Not knowing how to write a romance–the “rules” of love–I had a lot to learn. I was learning to write: plotting, pacing, showing vs telling, action/reaction, scene and sequel, even basic sentence mechanics, so adding the specifics of this genre served to give my learning focus and a target. I love goals.
Starting as an avid cozy mystery reader, at first it seemed nothing really happened in romances. Though I love those happily ever after endings! But then I learned the depths of the intimate dance between emotion and conflict that was happening on the page whether the story involved cowboys, law enforcement, or the privileged upper class. There is as much mystery in who these lovers are, how they came to be these people, and how they discover the magic in their life together to keep me as interested as finding out “who done it”.
There is so much to learn about writing a novel. It’s daunting and quite frightening to put your thoughts out there for others to critique. And have you thought about the discipline it takes to get your butt in the chair every day, feel the emotion you’re trying to write, and create a setting?
I love this challenge and even more, the growth I see in myself. The confidence I’ve gained and the new experiences enrich me personally and professionally.
Giving myself a little pep talk this week and relating learning to write with learning to cook. No matter how much great food you eat, you’ll never learn to cook until you get in the kitchen, read a recipe, learn about ingredients, and get a few pots dirty.
So it is with writing. You’ll never learn to write until you put fingers to keyboard create characters, plot a story, write your scenes with goal-motive-conflict and sensory detail, and then burn a few drafts when you edit. It can be as difficult to digest as that first attempt at tuna noodle casserole. 🙂
But you take a few classes, learn about techniques, get to know your ingredients, and one day your husband or friends say “not bad!”.
I’m cooking up contest entries and the plot for my romantic suspense that I will write during Cherry Adair’s Finish The Damn Book challenge next month.
And to have more time for writing, I’m getting really good at those one-pot meals!