And so it begins.

For years I’ve dabbled in writing, not taking it seriously, just enough that I could tell my friends that I write romance novels. It had a nice cache. However, there comes a time where you have to pony up and submit your work. That’s when you truly become a writer.

So let’s back up and start from the beginning. Like I said, I dabbled and that’s all it could really be called, until I joined a chapter of Romance Writers of America. Actually, I was one of the first members of Heartland Romance Authors, aka HeRA, and helped found the charter of the chapter. But that didn’t really make me a writer. I served as the first Vice President and held several board positions, including President. I still wasn’t a writer.

I toiled over a book for several years, yes, I said years. Nope, I hadn’t earned my bona fides yet.

No matter how much I wrote, I didn’t have the discipline or the craft to do justice to my stories. If you write, you know those annoying, yet exciting flashes that whiz around in your brain, the ones that refuse to quiet until they are down in black and white. They deserve the best opportunity to live and breathe in a book. However, it’s important to do it right.

The first thing you have to do is to make a commitment to write. Sit down in front of the computer each day, for as long as it takes, and work. Learn how to construct a good sentence, grammar, and most of all, how to plot. Find a good critique group to help keep you accountable, one that will tell you if your story stinks, lacks a plot point, or is amazing. Learn the craft of writing – I can’t tell you how important this is. Read, read, read.

The next step in my journey was to enter a contest. I submitted WAGES OF CYN, under protest, to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest for 2009. My friend and critique partner Julie, who entered in Young Adults, threatened to park her six kids on my doorstep if I didn’t. It worked. Still, I waited until the last minute of the last day to hit the send button.

Then I forgot about it. I mean, a one in ten thousand chance of winning? Not likely. Then, several weeks later, I was at another critique partner’s house and in the middle of a cream puff orgy, Shannon says, “How does it feel to be in the top five hundred?” I looked at her like a dog who doesn’t understand English, cocked my head to the side while I licked the Bavarian goodness off my fingers and said, “Huh?” “The quarter finals of the ABNA.” It took a few seconds to register what she’d said. I managed to place in the contest. I couldn’t believe it. I’d like to say I went on to make the next cut; I didn’t, but what it did give me was a kick in the butt. I got totally serious.

I sat down each day and wrote, kept a log of my word count, set aside time for research, and did critiques. In other words, this was my job and I had to treat it as such. And that leads to queries. The first one was the hardest. My heart froze when it came time to email my newest novel, SHADOWMAN. The next was easier. Then came the rejections, one after another, and I felt like my world was over. But you know, after a while you realize it’s all a part of the business. Nothing personal, just business. Julie told me it was like ice cream. You’re selling chocolate and they want strawberry. Go on to the next book.

I sent out queries for WAGES OF CYN with much the same results. Except the day I got an email from an agent asking for a partial. That’s when I felt giddy and unable to think for a few minutes. My legs were too wobbly for a victory dance. Then another asked for a full and then several other agents asked to see more of my work. At that point, it becomes business again. You still get a thrill when you’re asked for your work but you send it out knowing that the process is far from over. You may get more rejections, asked to change things and so on.

You have to work at writing. An agent isn’t going to miraculously send you an email or call saying you’re the next best thing since peanut butter and jelly sandwiches unless you query. Send out your work and maybe you might be the next best thing.

So far, I’m still without an agent but that won’t stop me. I’ll keep writing and sending out those queries. I might look at e-publishing as an alternative. This time I can really say I am a writer, my stories are solid and worthy of a chance to share with others.

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