Posted On February 23, 2010 by Print This Post

A Debut Author’s Journey with Laurie London: Transforming Myself into a “Real Writer”

Today at RU, we’re kicking off a new bi-monthly series where we’ll follow debut author Laurie London on her journey from a newbie writer to publication. For our readers who are new to the writing arena, we hope you’ll learn many useful tips from Laurie’s journey. For those with more experience, you may find you have much in common with Laurie. Regardless, we think you’ll enjoy traveling the path to publication with her!

Thank you so much, Kelsey, Adrienne, and Tracey, for inviting me to Romance University. I’m thrilled to be here.

I hope you’ll see yourself in some of my experiences that took me from being a new writer to a soon-to-be-published author. Either that, or you’ll laugh at my dumb mistakes and, at the very least, give you hope.  

Although I’d written off and on since I was a kid and have always been an avid reader, I never took it seriously or considered myself a real writer. On a whim, I signed up for an online writing class in 2007. No one knew what I was doing—not my husband, my writer sister (I’ll talk more about her in a minute), my kids, or any of my friends. The instructor told us, if you write, you’re a writer. Fine. I was a writer, but I wasn’t going to tell anyone.

At some point, I finally broke down and told my sister, Rebecca J. Clark. Becky’s been a member of RWA for a number of years and is a fantastic writer. (She’s gone on to sell her first book too!) She offered to read my work and give me feedback. Her early critiques went like this: “Laur, you might want to avoid using all these adverbs and find a strong verb instead. In this part, you’re telling me what’s happening—I want you to show me. This sentence structure is considered passive. Can you reword it to make it active?” Beginner stuff, but new to me.  

Flash forward to March of 2008. Becky’s manuscript finaled in RWA’s Golden Heart contest and she wanted me to attend the national conference with her. We screamed, we cried, and then it dawned on me. I wasn’t a member of RWA, I’d never been to a writer’s meeting, and I still didn’t consider myself a real writer. Yes, I was thrilled for her, told her I’d go, but I hung up, thinking I was a little bit crazy.

Knowing I’d feel like a fraud attending a huge conference with writers and industry professionals, this is what I did to transform myself.

1. I wrote every day. Not brilliant masterpieces of literature, just plain old crap. Your brain is like a muscle. You can train it to get better, stronger, faster (props to you if you know that reference :))

2. I joined RWA national and my local GSRWA chapter, attending every meeting, book signing, author event, and free library workshop I heard about. I inhaled craft books, took online classes, and stayed late at events, hoping to learn anything that would help me feel like a real writer.

3. I discovered my Writer’s Voice. At one of these early meetings, I had the wonderful fortune to meet best-selling paranormal author Alexis Morgan. She was warm, approachable, and didn’t act like my questions were stupid, even though they probably were. That day, she shared with me the first of many wonderful pieces of advice.

She told me to write what I loved to read.

Basic, yes, but I’d been stumbling through trying to write middle-grade fiction, young adult mysteries, and contemporary romance. Many of my stories were about horses. I’d heard you were supposed to write what you know, and I knew about horses. But my stories didn’t flow and my voice sounded stilted.

For years I’d been a fan of paranormal fiction and movies—ghosts, vampires, psychics, witches, aliens, and werewolves, but for some reason, I never tried writing it. I vaguely recall Becky telling me I should write paranormal romance. Obviously, I didn’t listen to her at the time, but I listened to Alexis.

4. I learned to set goals and made my own hard deadlines. With the motivation of the looming conference, I put my head down, wrote the kind of story I loved to read, and typed THE END the day before Becky and I climbed on the plane to the national conference.

I also joined Amy Atwell’s Goal in a Month group where writers post their weekly goals and accomplishments. If I say to the group I’m going to write X number of pages that week, I make sure to do it. Setting goals and being accountable is crucial when you get a publishing contract, so I’m glad I took it seriously prior to selling.

5. I got honest opinions about my work. In addition to joining a critique group and having beta readers, I entered a few contests. I was thrilled to final and win a few of them. Judges comments ranged from “I can’t wait to see this published” to “I could hardly finish reading this.” Although the harsh comments hurt, I received enough accolades to make me think it had potential. A few people liked my writing, and, hey, they weren’t my sister.

6. I teamed up with other writers to support each other and brainstorm ideas. After a library event with local romance authors, NYT bestselling author Cherry Adair invited GSRWA members over to her house for tea. In fact, I think she announced it to the whole library, inviting anyone who wanted to come. Can you imagine? The library was in the Seattle area with lots of people in attendance!

Anyone who knows Cherry knows just how generous, fun, and vivacious she is. Her energy is infectious, and I love that! A major goal of hers is to see other writers succeed, and she’ll do just about anything to make that happen. (At the Emerald City Writers Conference, she sponsors the Cherry Adair Write the Damn Book Challenge to encourage writers to write, finish, and polish a manuscript in a year.) Of course, I jumped at the opportunity. At her home, a few of us hung around later than most, and we asked her all sorts of questions.

I’m not sure what she saw in us (I like to think she saw talent, determination, hopes and dreams in our eyes, but it could’ve been that she wanted us to leave). She asked us stragglers if we’d like to start a plotting group, coming to her beach home every other month to help each other plan our stories. And thus, the CherryPlotters were born.

Although our group is a closed one, I encourage you to put together a plotting group of your own. People’s ideas feed off each other. Others can see problems with your conflict that you don’t, and they can suggest ways to improve it. Plus, you may find your story taking directions you never would’ve come up with on your own.

These are some of the steps I took in order to feel like a “real writer.” When you started writing, what did you do? Do you have any of these same experiences? Any different ones you’d like to share?

Laurie’s Bio:

A graduate of Western Washington University with a BA in Business Administration and a former tester/programmer for a Fortune 500 company, Laurie London now writes from her home near Seattle where she lives with her husband and two children.

Her debut novel, BONDED BY BLOOD, A Sweetblood Novel, is tentatively scheduled for publication February 2011 by HQN. EMBRACED BY BLOOD, the second book in the series, is coming July 2011.

Her writing has won and been a finalist in several prestigious contests including the Beacon, the Emerald City Opener, the Marlene, and the Orange Rose.

She’s a member of GSRWA, RWA, RWAOnline, SCBWI, and two book clubs – one of which she helps coordinate live online author chats with readers from around the world.

When not writing, she can be found running, reading, or riding and showing her horse. Someday she hopes to qualify for the Quarter Horse World Show – that is, if her horse doesn’t get hurt again.

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85 Responses to “A Debut Author’s Journey with Laurie London: Transforming Myself into a “Real Writer””

  1. Hi Laurie,

    Thanks for sharing your journey with us!

    I started feeling like a writer when I joined my local RWA chapter and when I wrote The End on my first manuscript. Those two things showed me that I was committed to writing.

    Cherry Adair sounds like a wonderful mentor. Kelsey, Adrienne and I are planning to have a plotting session(s) at Nationals. Do you have any tips for us on how to organize, etc.?


    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | February 23, 2010, 6:44 am
  2. Laurie –

    We’re so happy to have you at RU!

    I suppose I had a few benchmarks on my “feeling like a writer” measure:

    1. When I sent pages of my first MS to an editor and then talked with her on the phone (the wonderful late Kate Duffy)
    2. When I finished my first MS
    3. When I finaled in my first writing contest
    4. When I made a commitment to my psuedonym

    I still have days when I ask myself if I’m a “real writer,” but I suppose as long as I keep at it, I am one!


    Posted by Kelsey Browning | February 23, 2010, 7:59 am
  3. Great story on your journey, Laurie! As for the real writer thing, it’s a looong story – most of it accidental. 😉

    Posted by Vicky Dreiling | February 23, 2010, 9:41 am
  4. morning laurie! thanks for the great post….cherry adair sounds like a wonderful person.

    but i gotta ask, what happened to your horse?



    Posted by carrie | February 23, 2010, 9:48 am
  5. Hi Laurie, I loved hearing your journey so far. I’ve been thinking of brainstorming with writers I know from the internet, but maybe I should get together with local writers. Probably reading books on craft was one of the first things I did to get me started as a writer. It took awhile to join RWA. I wish I’d known about it sooner.

    Posted by Edie | February 23, 2010, 10:10 am
  6. Thanks for sharing your journey so far, Laurie! I look forward to future installments….like how it feels to win the RITA and make the New York Times Bestsellers list!!!

    My first step toward thinking I could be a writer took place two years ago when I joined RWA and registered for a class on fiction writing at my local community college. Since then I’ve finaled and placed in a few RWA contests, completed two manuscripts and submitted partials to a handful of agents/editors. It wasn’t until I started my own blog (12/09) and joined the writer community via blogs like this one and groups like WritingGIAMx4 that I’ve had the courage to tell my friends and family that writing is not just a hobby, and I am actively seeking publication.

    Posted by Wendy Marcus | February 23, 2010, 10:19 am
  7. Hi Tracey! Thanks for having me here. Just getting up on the West Coast and having my first latte.

    Okay, regarding plotting sessions. We’ve tried a few different formats and this is what we’re using now. One person is the “secretary.” She transcribes the story into a Word document as people are firing off different ideas. We also pitched in and bought a digital recorder. At the end of the session, one of our tech gurus copies it onto that person’s computer. Both of these are crucial, because you won’t remember things when you get home.

    Then the format depends on the individual writer. Sometimes we use a plot board with colored post it notes. This helps you visualize if your story needs more danger (bright orange post it) or sex (hot pink–Cherry is in charge of this color 😉 .Sometimes we don’t use a board and just talk the story out, offering up various ideas. It’s good to write up a short character sketch ahead of time and outline the major conflict (if you know it). Give this to people to read and refer to throughout the session.

    Also, don’t be afraid to speak up if what’s being tossed around doesn’t feel right to you. After all, it’s your story, not theirs.

    I’m excited because we just scheduled a weekend session in a few months. We’re going to plot quite a few stories, and we’ll have a chance to do a lot of writing. Then, if we have questions or need clarification, we can get some help.

    Posted by Laurie London | February 23, 2010, 10:30 am
  8. Hi Kelsey!

    Aw, thanks for having me.

    Those are all great milestones. Wow, Kate Duffy actually called you? How awesome is that! Can you tell us any details?

    Posted by Laurie London | February 23, 2010, 10:36 am
    • Well…she told me I could write and that she wanted to see the full when it was done. That being said, ultimately she didn’t buy it. However, she was gracious and enthusiastic on the phone. And I’m thankful I had the chance to “meet” such an amazing person, even if only for fifteen airwave minutes.

      Her interest in my work kept me writing when I might have just tossed it away as an amusing hobby.

      Great stuff, Laurie. This is a wonderful conversation. I’ll check back in with you morning my time!


      Posted by Kelsey Browning | February 23, 2010, 1:01 pm
      • Sometimes hearing from someone you respect who thinks you have potential can keep you going through all the hard times. Wow! Kate Duffy actually called you. I know I’m being redundant, but that’s just so cool.

        Even though she didn’t buy that story, that just means you got it, girl, and you’re so close. Maybe that particular story at that particular time for that particular publisher didn’t work, but that’s not to say that same story won’t work for someone else. Or your next one.

        Posted by Laurie London | February 23, 2010, 1:29 pm
  9. Hey Vicky!

    Accidental? Or maybe just meant to be.

    Posted by Laurie London | February 23, 2010, 10:38 am
  10. Laurie–Great post! It’s been fun watching your career as a writer develop ever since that first night we met.

    I think I first felt like a real writer when I finished my first manuscript, one that’s never sold. However, since it was a western with aliens in it, I did write what I loved. 😉 Unfortunately, editors didn’t–there wasn’t a paranormal genre back then, so no market for it. Still, writing “the end” and moving on to write my next book made the whole thing seem real to me.

    Congratulations on all your success.

    Posted by Alexis Morgan | February 23, 2010, 10:39 am
  11. Hi Carrie,

    Yes, Cherry is one of those rare people in your life that you thank God every day that you know her. Seriously. She is so generous and caring to us young, fragile, and eager writers. If you ever get a chance to hear her speak, you MUST GO. We hope we’re giving back to her as much as we get. We plotted the first book in her next series and, wow, all I can say is it’s going to be awesome.

    Regarding my horse, she was injured in a fluke accident while at my trainer’s barn. Tore a muscle in her back leg three days before the last and biggest show of the season. We were doing so well and I was going to ride her hunt seat too (I ride western), going for lots of all-around points. Alas, I had to haul her home and she was on stall rest for 6 months. She’s better now, fully healed, and I do plan to take her back at some point, but it’s fun having her home. (My trainer is 2 1/2 hours away.)

    Posted by Laurie London | February 23, 2010, 10:49 am
  12. Hi Edie,
    I’ve actually not tried brainstorming online, although it could work. There’s something magical and electric about getting together in person. People feed off each other’s ideas and the energy is invigorating. Also, they can see if an idea isn’t gelling with you. A few times this weekend as people were throwing out ideas for my story, Cherry looked at me and said, “This isn’t working for you, is it? Tell me what doesn’t feel right.” You wouldn’t get this if you did it online.

    Posted by Laurie London | February 23, 2010, 10:53 am
  13. Aw, thanks Wendy. I wish that for all of us!

    You sound exactly like me regarding what you did to feel like a real writer.

    Posted by Laurie London | February 23, 2010, 10:56 am
  14. Hi Laurie!
    What a great blog! I know just what you mean about having someone (gently) explain that perhaps telling isn’t the best way to *tell* a story. lol

    Like you, two of the things than made me feel more like a *real* writer were typing THE END (what a wonderful pair of words) and joining the RWA once I typed THE END. I told myself I couldn’t justify joining until I’d actually finished something because I wasn’t a real writer, but honestly, I wish I’d joined earlier. There are so many opportunities to learn as a memeber, and I might not have as many revisions to do now if I’d joined earlier.

    Great blog.
    Merissa (a fellow GIAMer)

    Posted by Merissa | February 23, 2010, 10:56 am
  15. Oh my gosh, Alexis! Thanks for coming. ((hugs))

    Your advice came at such an important time for me (it always does). Do you remember when you told me to write what I love to read? I said, “But I love reading about vampires and everyone’s writing about them.” You told me to not worry about that too much to “just write the story you want to write.”

    I did what you said, and it turned out that someone (first, my agent and then HQN) was looking for that exact type of story and the way I told it.

    I still say I’d love to read a story involving cowboys and aliens! I could help you on the horse details. 😉

    Posted by Laurie London | February 23, 2010, 11:03 am
  16. Hi Merissa! *waves to fellow GIAMer*

    Yes! That’s exactly what I think. Why didn’t I join a writers’ group earlier? I could’ve learned so much. In talking to friends and family who now know I’m writing and am about to be published, several people have come to me for my advice and opinion. One of the first things I tell them is to find a writers’ organization (local if possible) that specializes in their genre.

    Writers are some of the most generous people I’ve ever met. In what other industry would you find such wonderful support and mentorship?

    Posted by Laurie London | February 23, 2010, 11:15 am
  17. Laurie,
    Hello! Thanks for sharing your advise. I am a puzzler writer, I write little scenes and weave them together, eventually I do finish a book LOL! My question for you or anyone, How do you stay focused on ONE project at a time? Or do you? I tend to think of oh yet another great idea for a story and I start to wonder over to that manuscript. Has anyone else had this problem? Would love some advise.

    Posted by Jane L | February 23, 2010, 11:27 am
  18. Laurie, I am so excited for you! Congratulations! Since I’m a blonde, I had no idea Rebecca is your sister… 😳 Yeah, it’s hard for me.

    The best advice I ever got was to just keep writing. Nora Roberts says that any of us can fix a bad page, we can’t fix an empty page, and that’s it in a nutshell. Just keep writing.

    I could never repay Cherry for all the time and encouragement she’s given me, and everyone else at GSRWA.

    I’ll look forward to seeing you all soon.


    Posted by Julie | February 23, 2010, 11:49 am
  19. Jane L–I think most of us have a hard time shutting off new ideas when we need to be focusing on the current project. If that happens to me, I’ve learned to take the time to write out what’s basically a synopsis for the new idea–character descriptions, setting, brief plot summary. By getting it down on paper (or at least in a computer file), I find I can set it aside and get back to work. I might play with it some more, but only when I’ve gotten my pages done for the day.


    Posted by Alexis Morgan | February 23, 2010, 12:06 pm
  20. Hi Jane L,

    I know lots of people who write that way. They write the scenes that interest them at the moment, then bridge them later. I *think* Stephenie Meyer writes this way, as well as Laurel K. Hamilton.

    As far as how to finish when other ideas seem so compelling: I’d say spend a short time writing your idea into an idea file so you don’t forget it, then go back to your story. You’ve got to make yourself a hard deadline (like what I did when I wanted to go to National) and stick to it. Even if you think what you’re writing is terrible, you’ve got to muscle through it. That’s what authors on deadline do.

    My sister told me she knew tons of people who never finished their stories. They kept revising those first few chapters over and over again. But you must move forward. Always! Like an advancing army, destroying everything in its path and taking no prisoners. You must move forward and stop looking back. Those crappy pages will be there for you to fix later. They’re not going anywhere.

    Posted by Laurie London | February 23, 2010, 12:08 pm
  21. Laur! How exciting to read this blog. I’m SO friggin’ proud of you. Jealous and a little green with envy, too, but proud. 🙂

    What a great story to publication you’re having. I’m sure you’ll inspire many fellow writers. You sure inspire me.

    As to when I felt like a “real” writer? Hmm. After all these years at it, you’d think I’d feel like one now, wouldn’t you?


    Posted by Rebecca J. Clark | February 23, 2010, 12:11 pm
  22. I’m sort of fangirling here… *breathe, Laurie, breathe*

    I love Alexis! And her books!

    She’s the master of time management as she’s currently writing THREE paranormal series. Can you even imagine? Two for Pocket and one for Silhouette Nocturne. Drafting one, editing another, promoting yet another. Uh, wow!

    Posted by Laurie London | February 23, 2010, 12:17 pm
  23. Hey Julie! Thanks for coming by!

    Yes, Becky (see above comment by her) is my sister. (Don’t worry–you’re not the only one who was surprised to learn we’re sisters. She’s the smart one and I just tag along.) I feel like she’s paved the way for me and all I did was do what she told me to do. Having her believe in me is the ONLY reason I’m at this point, because I never would’ve thought I was good enough to even try.

    That’s great advice, Julie. You can’t fix an empty page.

    Posted by Laurie London | February 23, 2010, 12:26 pm
  24. Aw, Beck. I’m so happy with all the writing success you’ve been having too!

    It’s got to be so exciting seeing your first book in print. (Becky’s first book released two weeks ago and it’s awesome!) See, I’m living vicariously through you with every milestone and learning by what you’re doing. Although I’m a little ticked that you say the idea for this book was inspired by OUR relationship when we were younger. I say you’ve got a terrible memory.

    And can I just say that I’m soooo glad your book came out first. Becky is breaking in the family and friends who may not have ever read a sexy romance before. So when Mom reads my book, she’s not going to be as stunned because you broke her in. LOL

    Posted by Laurie London | February 23, 2010, 12:38 pm
    • Laurie & Becky –

      Can you give us the deets on this newly released book that going to shock your mom (yet make her proud!)?


      Posted by Kelsey Browning | February 23, 2010, 1:14 pm
      • Becky’s book is about two sisters–an ordinary one and a glamorous one. The ordinary sister switches places with the glamorous one and falls in love with her sister’s fiance.

        There’s sex (as in a lot). There’s swearing. Becky was sweating it out when she knew our mom was reading it. Neither of us swear or cuss much (well, at least I don’t) and we certainly don’t talk about much steamy stuff around our mom. For instance, the last time she visited, I sort of pushed it when we watched the movie The Hangover. She commented that they said the eff-word way too many times. I turned off the credits at the end so she didn’t see all those explicit pictures.

        Maybe Becky will come back on and tell you what Mom said when she read it. Hearing her comments made me breathe a huge sigh of relief. Yay, my sister is paving the way again. All I need to do is follow her.

        Posted by Laurie London | February 23, 2010, 1:45 pm
        • Darn it! Lost the first comment I added here!

          Well, Becky’s book will be on my auto-buy list now. As Adrienne and Tracey will tell you, many of my characters have potty mouths (no idea where they inherited that!) and I do love me some hot sex.

          Congrats to Becky!

          PS – Even I was a little thrown by the pics at the end of The Hangover. My sister & I were laughing so hard we had to pick our jaws up off the sticky movie theater floor!

          Posted by KelseyBrowning | February 23, 2010, 10:41 pm
  25. Hi Laurie,
    I absolutely love hearing about your journey–and look forward to reading more as it continues. As a fellow GIAMer I agree about accountability–plus I have great CPs that help keep me going.

    So true– the comment you made to Jane L about muscling through, even when we think what we’re writing is terrible. Many a night I’ve forced myself to get just a few more words down, even tho it’s schlock. Then the next day–it didn’t look so bad 😯

    Thanks for being here. Your energy is contagious. Good luck!

    Posted by Barb Huddleston | February 23, 2010, 1:05 pm
    • Hi Barb and fellow GIAM buddy!

      I hope I won’t be boring recounting my journey. Right now, 12 months from my release date, things are starting to happen. We’re talking covers (I did some things regarding covers that my editor thought was great and I’ll share that later) and some exciting and unique promo ideas have sort of dropped in my lap. I’ll be talking about all of it. And I have a tendency to talk a lot (although you knew that already). Hopefully I won’t share stuff I’m not supposed to or make me sound like a total newbie even though I am, but I really want to show (not tell) what this whole exciting process is like. Thanks for sharing this journey with me!

      Posted by Laurie London | February 23, 2010, 1:54 pm
  26. Hi Laurie! As one of your fellow CherryPlotters I can definitely report that your upcoming books are going to be brilliant, and I can’t wait to dig into them! Having just gotten a sneak peak into the plots, I encourage everyone to run out and buy them up as soon as they hit the shelves! 😀

    Sometimes I can’t believe our good fortune for having been in the right place at the right time to be a part of such a helpful, supportive, encouraging and inspiring group of plotters. Having a group of other like-minded writers willing to help each other find plot holes and/or plug those holes is so valuable. I encourage others to form their own similar groups. As you pointed out, Laurie, not everything suggested will fit in someone’s book, but it never fails to drive momentum forward during the brainstorm to find the right solutions to whatever problem areas the writer is facing with their plot.

    Hugs to you Laurie! 😀

    Posted by Christina Arbini | February 23, 2010, 1:07 pm
  27. Hi, Laurie! Wow I didn’t even know half that stuff about you! You made it really fast! Super big congrats on all your success, and I’m so thrilled to be in the Cherry Plotters with you!

    Posted by Shelli Stevens | February 23, 2010, 1:23 pm
  28. Laurie I love hearing how you got started and your fabulous advice. I’m at the beginning (just finishing my first local community ed writing class and hardly told a soul sorta thing) and am getting excited to just create and enjoy.
    Can’t wait to read your book!

    Posted by Debbie/Cranberryfries | February 23, 2010, 1:32 pm
  29. Thanks so much, Christina! Saturday’s plotting session was so fun. Still can’t wait to read that awesome story we plotted of yours a few months ago. Will you finish it so I can read it?!

    Yes, Shelli, I’m a bit of a newbie. Can’t you tell? And it’s been fun plotting your story too. Can’t wait to see it on the shelves.

    Debbie! Thanks so much for coming here! How fun to see you. I’m so excited you’re doing a writing class (I’ve been following your comments about writing on FB and Twitter). It’s wonderful getting around others who love to write, isn’t it? It makes you feel like you can do it. Do many family members know what you’re doing or are you keeping it mainly to yourself for now?

    Posted by Laurie London | February 23, 2010, 2:03 pm
  30. What a great story about your journey to getting a contract, Laurie! I can’t wait to read the book! 😀

    Posted by Gina Robinson | February 23, 2010, 2:09 pm
  31. Congrats Laurie a long way from German class! we need more classy writers look forward to reading the book. Jay

    Posted by Jay Entsminger | February 23, 2010, 2:43 pm
  32. Thanks, Gina! I sure appreciate it! I sure hope you’re doing another author signing soon. Couldn’t make it on Saturday and my copy of Spy Candy needs your siggie. 😎

    Hi Jay, yes it is! Wonder what Herr Swanberg would say. 😯 Thanks for stopping by!

    Posted by Laurie London | February 23, 2010, 2:48 pm
  33. Hi Laurie and thank you for a wonderful post! This is an amazing conversation and I’m learning so much.

    I love what you said about being thankful Cherry came into your life. I feel that way about Theresa Stevens and there are times when I have to stop and ask myself how I got so darn lucky. It inspires me that there are such generous people in the writing community.

    I am so looking forward to your upcoming posts. Thanks for being a part of our little RU family!

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | February 23, 2010, 3:45 pm
  34. Laurie,
    It was fascinating to read about your journey; I am so happy for you! I didn’t know all that about you either!
    You are an amazing person, and I am so excited about the success of your writing! I know I will tear up in the store when I see your name on the books!
    Thanks for letting me share in your journey.
    I love that you are “talking covers”!
    xo, Kathy

    Posted by Kathy H. | February 23, 2010, 3:51 pm
  35. I loved reading about your journey! I am excited to watch and support you as you continue on your way. I am going to share the link with a writer friend of mine in hopes that it inspires her.

    Keep writing!


    Posted by Sheri D Orts | February 23, 2010, 3:59 pm
    • Sheri!

      Thank you so much for stopping by. Yes, please share the link with your friend. This RU blog (even if she doesn’t write romance) is filled with lots of great writing advice. They’ve got an incredible line-up of experts each week and you can ask them all sorts of questions.


      Posted by Laurie London | February 23, 2010, 4:24 pm
  36. Hi again,
    Laurie made me come back on, even though this is “her” day. I just wanted to share our mom’s reactions to my book. It’s quite steamy, quite graphic, and even though I’d warned her repeatedly in advance (secretly hoping she wouldn’t read it), she did read it. Her first comment, “Wow, honey. You’re right. That was, um, steamy.” She later said, “Just because I don’t do those things doesn’t mean I don’t like reading about them.” Holy cow! My mother said that!!! If you knew our mom, you’d know why that’s so shocking.

    So, Laur, I’m glad to pave the way for our family. By the time your book comes out, they’ll barely lift an eyebrow at all the steamy sex. Been there, done that. 🙂

    Love you!!!!

    Posted by Rebecca J. Clark | February 23, 2010, 4:08 pm
  37. Laurie it is so awesome to read all the details of your journey. I am SO proud of you! However I must say, not surprised at your success. You work so hard, and you’re incredibly talented.

    Reading over everyone’s “I’m a real writer” moments make me smile. When I first wrote THE END, I felt it, then realized I wasn’t and had a long way to go 😛 Now, I know that more than anything I want to BE a real writer, so I’m doing everything I can to make that happen.

    You were, and are, a huge part of my growth. After your patience as I went through POV training, and head hopper therapy, I’m on a better path to success. I don’t know how anyone makes it though this crazy process without critique groups, writing groups, or successful authors who are happy to spend their time cheering you on and answering your questions.

    It’s really about how bad you want it, and how many times you are willing to be knocked down and still get back up. It’s a long hard journey, but man is it fun 😆

    Did I mention how excited I am for you?
    Hugs and smiles,

    Posted by Erin McCauley | February 23, 2010, 4:27 pm
    • Hey Erin! So fun to see you here. Aw, thank you so much! I heart you.

      Yes, typing THE END is one of the best feelings, isn’t it? I mean, lots of people on their death beds say one of their greatest regrets was never having written a book. It’s on many people’s bucket lists, but not many will actually do it. It’s a huge accomplishment and I never get tired of that elated feeling when I finish a manuscript (even, like you said, I’m not really done).

      It’s an exciting and sometimes frustrating journey, but together we can support each other. Can’t wait till you get The Call!


      Posted by Laurie London | February 23, 2010, 4:49 pm
      • I must admit, I do get all giddy when I type THE END. My dad said it best…. You’re already a success. You completed a book from start to finish. Even if it never sits on a shelf, you went for your dream. How many people can truly say they’ve done that?

        Then you watch the entire dream unfold for someone like you and it makes you keep pushing forward. Thank you for that.

        I can’t wait to get the call either! 😉

        Posted by Erin McCauley | February 23, 2010, 5:02 pm
  38. Hi Laurie,

    I love your story and as a fellow Cherry plotter wanted to stop by because I’m so proud of you and your accomplishments> I also agree that it’s wonderful to have the support of others through a writing chapter and from informal groups.

    FYI – My mother already told me she wants her own version of manuscripts with the steamy scenes and scary parts edited out. I’m not sure what that will leave for her to read with a romantic suspense though. 🙂


    Posted by Julia Hunter | February 23, 2010, 4:37 pm
    • Aw, thanks, Julia! (Also known as the woman who is writing the most amazing story that must get finished soon so that I can read it.)

      LOL on your mom! I think Margaret Mallory said she used a razor blade and cut out all the steamy parts before she let her mom read it. Yours and mine would just be two empty covers then.


      Posted by Laurie London | February 23, 2010, 4:52 pm
  39. I’m so excited to read your books!! Thanks for sharing your writing journey with us.

    Posted by Ciara | February 23, 2010, 4:44 pm
  40. Hi Laurie,

    I can’t wait until the day I can go into my local bookstore and pick up a copy of your Sweetblood books. I will be able to fangirl scream all over the place saying that I know the author!!

    Thank you so much for sharing all the information that you have posted today. It contains invaluable advice for beginner writers such as myself on how to organize and set priority goals and what your writing process entails.

    I can’t wait to hear the rest of the journey from when you wrote THE END to the stories being published and all the steps in between. Did you have an agent? How many people did you get your story in front of? etc., etc.

    You mention that you poured over any and all craft books. Are there any in particular that you felt really helped to hone your skills?

    Congratulations again on all your success, current and without a doubt, future!


    Posted by Janna | February 23, 2010, 4:56 pm
  41. Great story, Laurie! I entered a contest before submitting, and it was with M&B, and I entered another M&B contest while my submission was sitting in slush, and I didn’t even get feedback from either comp, but ended up published with M&B a year and a half after entering those contests. 🙂 So contests are quite subjective! But they did give me the determination to make it happen. I survived a type of rejection not placing or even getting feedback in them, and that gave me the guts to sub for real!

    Posted by Maisey Yates | February 23, 2010, 5:14 pm
    • Hey Maisey (another Debut Author), thanks for stopping by!

      That’s a great point about contests. They are so subjective. It’s just one person’s opinion, but the process helps get you accustomed to having your stuff out there.

      One of the last contests I’d entered came soon after I got an agent. After reading my synopsis, one judge brought up a point saying the ending should be different. Oh man, I stewed on that because I had wondered about it myself. When I mentioned it to my agent, she totally disagreed, and said the way I ended it was the only way it could end. She said that’s just ONE person’s opinion. She even told me this when my manuscript was out on submission and had garnered a few rejections. “Laurie, this is just one person’s opinion. I know we’ll find someone who loves it as much as we do.” And we did.

      Posted by Laurie London | February 23, 2010, 5:33 pm
      • Very good!! Or in the case of some contests, some people write a great first chapter, but maybe it doesn’t sustain well as a whole MS. There’s all sorts of variables with contests. 🙂

        Yep, we’re the new kids on the Harlequin block. 😉

        Posted by Maisey Yates | February 23, 2010, 8:05 pm
  42. Janna! (Can you hear me squeeeing?)

    Thank you so much for stopping by. It’s fun “seeing” you outside our normal stomping grounds. (We’re internet buddies who chat, email, and talk on forums together.) I hope you can see yourself in this position really soon, because you’re such a wonderful writer.

    Yes, I’ll be talking about all those things in upcoming posts. As it is, this one started out way too long and I had to pare it back. (Kelsey’s like, no kidding.)

    Regarding craft books, I’ve got a long list of my favorites on the FAQ page on my website. Just click on my name and I think it’ll take you there.

    One favorite (gosh, I have so many) is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King. Opening it up to a random page, here’s what I have underlined (it’s from the chapter called Sophistication): “When you use two words, a weak verb and an adverb, to do the work of one strong verb, you dilute your writing and rob it if its potential power.”

    Another favorite is anything by James Scott Bell. His book Plot and Structure helped so much in teaching me how to construction a good story.

    Do you have any favorite craft books?


    Posted by Laurie London | February 23, 2010, 5:21 pm
  43. Excellent article. I’m looking forward to further installments. (For example, finding your agent & making the sale – I’ve just realized that although we share an agent I have no idea of that part of your story. Blind query? Pitch at Nationals? Referral by a friend?)

    Because I have a bottomless appetite for validation, I didn’t feel like I was really a writer until the first time I finaled in a contest. But the funny thing is, I don’t think I truly became a writer until the next year, when I failed to final in the same contest with a different MS. I spent about two days moping around feeling like a fraud, and then I forced myself to re-read the judges’ comments and get something out of them besides rejection.

    That was the moment that counted. “They’re right. This isn’t good enough. But these comments are pointing the way to how I can make it better.” It was sort of a watershed change in perspective for me.

    Posted by Cecilia Grant | February 23, 2010, 5:26 pm
    • Hi Cecilia!!! (Wow, another Debut Author) Thanks for stopping by.

      Hmmm, good questions. You’ll have to stay tuned for my next post because that’s what I plan to talk about. Oh, and it’s none of the above. How’s that for cryptic? 😎

      Ugh, I hear you on the validation thing. Why is it that one negative drowns out a sea of positive?

      One thing I learned about contests is to take the comments not as being “correct” but as just one person’s opinion. Sometimes they are so dang right that it hurts, but other times, if you changed what they thought you needed to, it’d mess with your Author Voice. You have to be strong, both in taking criticism and in standing your ground if you feel you’re right.


      Posted by Laurie London | February 23, 2010, 5:43 pm
  44. Laurie-

    I think it’s so amazing you were able to keep your writing secret when you first started! I am so proud of you and so very thrilled for your accomplishments. I can’t wait to see your book published and attend your signing…of course you are automatically required to be a guest author in chat… 😀


    Posted by Shelley/Blue | February 23, 2010, 5:27 pm
    • Fearless leader, Blue. (She runs a fabulous online book club.) Thanks for stopping by, chica!

      Honestly, when I told you guys I’d been writing, you were all so supportive that it did wonders for my confidence. And your feedback and opinions have meant the world to me and made my story so much better. Seriously. I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

      LOL on a signing. Hmmm, wonder if I can finagle my way out to your neck of the woods. At the very least, it’d be a business expense, right? I’d probably be guaranteed at least 3 books sold: you, your mom, and Elle.

      Hugs back,

      Posted by Laurie London | February 23, 2010, 5:50 pm
  45. Oh, Laurie!!!
    Janna and I will be fangirl squeeeing from opposite ends of North America the day your first book is released. I can’t tell you how exciting it is for me to spend hours on the phone with you listening to you say “oh, oh, oh, and what about…” and “he could do this” and “she could do that” and “but how am I going to get him here and her there?” I can picture you pacing the room, throwing your free arm in the air when you should be jotting it all down. We’ll have to make a plan to use speaker phone and a digital recorder next time one of us calls to say hi, because you know where we always end up.

    Your journey has been so amazing and so fast and I feel totally grateful that you’ve shared a part of it with me. I believe paranormal romance readers are an entirely different breed of reader and their philosophy toward their genre may be, (to quote one of my fave characters, Fox Mulder) “I want to believe” and willingly allow the author to take them on the journey. I know the journey your stories will take us on will be fantastic and I can hardly wait!

    LOVES & HUGS!!

    Posted by Mandy Capen | February 23, 2010, 5:28 pm
    • Aw, thank you my dearest Mandy. Honestly, girl! What can I say, but thank you. (Where’s the crying emoticon for this non-crier?)

      I hope others are as fortunate as I am to have such smart and talented friends to bounce ideas around. Talking things out with you makes such a difference for me. You make things come alive in my head and tell me when something works and if something doesn’t. I’m lucky to have you.

      Can’t wait till you’re in this same position because you’re so talented. I’ll be your biggest cheerleader.


      Posted by Laurie London | February 23, 2010, 5:59 pm
      • Thanks! 😳

        And Self Editing For Fiction Writers is a fantastic book! Thanks for recommending it to me. That was the first one I thought of when Janna asked. I can’t wait till you get to that portion of your journey blog to see what other books you have on your list. I know we’ve talked about them but dang if I can remember.

        BTW.. I found your crying emoticon… 😥

        Posted by Mandy Capen | February 23, 2010, 6:23 pm
  46. Thanks, everyone, especially Laurie, for the fabulous discussion!


    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | February 23, 2010, 8:15 pm
  47. Hi Laurie!

    I’m coming in late to this conversation, but I’m kind of glad about that because I learned so much not just in your blog, but in all the comments, too! As a fellow Cherry Plotter, I have to say that I feel so blessed to be part of the group and I love your story we just plotted — I can’t wait to read it!

    It took me a long time to feel like a real writer. I think I had three finished manuscripts under my bed before I had the courage to ask a friend for a critique. As scary as it was, getting that critique back was the best thing I could have done. Her feedback helped my writing improve immensely and her belief in me and my manuscript was the final ingredient in giving me the confidence to declare to the world that “I am a writer”. This was huge, actually, because most people outside of RWA who knew me, didn’t know I was a writer. After this I started including a signature line on all of my emails directing people to my blog. From cousins to my child’s teacher, everyone now knew I was writing and it felt like an important step in becoming a real writer. Now, I just need that elusive book contract! 😀

    Thanks for sharing your journey with us, Laurie! I look forward to reading more!


    Posted by Kelli Estes | February 23, 2010, 8:26 pm
  48. Hi Kelli!

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Reaching out and asking for someone to critique your work is so hard to do for the first time, and yet so necessary. They can see things that you just don’t see or don’t know yet.

    You’re so right. Telling your non-writer friends is such a huge step in feeling like a real writer. People outside the writing business don’t understand that you don’t just write a book and someone publishes it. If only it were that simple!


    Posted by Laurie London | February 23, 2010, 9:02 pm
  49. Hi Laurie,

    Thanks for sharing how you got started in writing and the exciting build up to getting published. I’d love to learn more about your book clubs, they seem like such great supporters of your writing. I look forward to reading more in this series.

    Ann Charles,

    Posted by Ann Charles | February 23, 2010, 10:28 pm
    • Hey Ann,

      Thanks so much for popping in.

      My book club friends (I’m in two of them) are definitely huge supporters.

      One is an online club of about 30-40 women (I think, although not everyone is active all the time) and we share a love of paranormal romance. We discuss plot points, themes, and character growth as if we’re reading literary fiction. I even ran a few cover ideas past them to get their opinions–of which they felt very strongly about. They’re like my own personal market research group!

      My in-person bookclub meets in my hometown once a month. We read mainly literary fiction and non-fiction, although since I hosted last month, I made them read one of my favorite YA books (Unwind by Neal Schusterman) because of the theme and story questions raised. I was a little nervous telling this group I was writing because, frankly, we don’t read the kinds of books I write. People aren’t having a lot of sex or doing much swearing in the books we read. But they’ve been so supportive and excited for me.

      Posted by Laurie London | February 24, 2010, 12:53 am
  50. All –

    Feel free to keep posting (although many of you are probably in bed while I’m sipping my first cup of coffee), but I just wanted to say this has been a fantastic conversation! Thank you not only to Laurie, but many of her friends who have popped in to say hello.

    Now, I can’t wait for April and the next installment of Laurie’s column!

    Posted by KelseyBrowning | February 23, 2010, 10:45 pm
  51. Laurie,
    Great stuff. Thanks for sharing your story. It’s been so much fun to read your post and all the great comments! It’s going to be tough to wait a whole year for your book to come out. I can’t wait to read it!!! 😀
    Wishing you a smashing debut!

    Posted by Wendy Delaney | February 24, 2010, 1:22 am
  52. What a great post! It’s always helpful to see a writer’s journey, because like our stories every one is different and you learn a lot. I can still identify to that “am I a real writer” feeling despite lots of bylines in magazines, despite writing books for Harlequin’s Nocturne Bites line, because I still have yet to hold a physical book in my hands. But that’ll come. Next year, I’ll be there. Thanks for sharing with us!

    Posted by Theresa Meyers | February 24, 2010, 2:14 pm
    • Thanks so much, Theresa! This is where I hung out yesterday, neglecting my homework in your awesome Author Branding class. Busted! I feel like the teacher just caught me texting in class. 😯

      It’s actually really nice to hear that so many people had and still have feelings like I did. It’s sort of comforting to know I’m not the only one.

      Thanks for coming by! And I promise to do my homework after my pages are written today. 😉


      Posted by Laurie London | February 24, 2010, 4:33 pm
  53. Favourite craft books? I have not read a single one! I have a huge list of ones that I want to read but seem to get side tracked by all these damn steamy paranormal romances that this group, you might be familiar with them, keep recommending!

    I do hope to get back in the swing of things and get writing again soon. Thanks so much for your compliments. I’ve written one story (well, a 52 page story) and that’s it. I can only dream to be where you are today.

    I’m so impressed by your dedication and your work ethic with respect to writing. I strive to be like you! I made a goal to write today but ended up playing playdough for several hours. New tubs, super soft, how could I resist????

    Oh, and by the way, I’ll be doing a fangirl smackdown with you when Mandy gets published (because you will Mandy, only a matter of time). I’ll be her biggest fan. No, really, I will be. Okay, okay, we can both be!

    I am so looking forward to following your future posts! I’ve loved reading all the posts with this one.

    I will pop over to your bio and take a look at the books you recommend.

    Thanks for the advice!!

    And Mandy, if you are reading this, thanks for your book tip too!!!

    Posted by Janna | February 24, 2010, 10:50 pm
  54. THANK YOU so much for this! RWA is about six hours away from my house this year. When I considered going that is exactly how I felt…. like a fraud! Luckily I’ve found good writing pals on twitter who have made me feel so much better. If everything works out I’ll be there! I’m so glad to see that someone else had felt the same.

    Posted by Crystal Posey | March 7, 2010, 2:35 pm
    • Wow, Crystal, the National conference is practically in your own back yard! Once you start attending different conferences and going to writer’s meetings, I think you’ll find you’re not the “fraud” you thought you were. People range from brand new writers who don’t even know what they want to write to multi-published authors. So don’t worry about not fitting in, because you will!


      Posted by Laurie London | March 7, 2010, 3:20 pm


  1. […] the first step of my debut author’s journey, I talked about what I did to make myself feel like a real writer. Many of you weighed in and […]

  2. […] would be fun to follow a new writer on her journey to publication. Plus, the wonderful response to Laurie London’s  posts  didin’t […]

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