We’re sorry about the change of topic, but Julia Coblentz of PubIt! has had to reschedule – stay tuned for more details. Today Becke Martin Davis, RU’s newest faculty member, talks about her journey as a writer.
Ashton Winchell’s left leg, which was currently wrapped around her husband’s neck, was getting a cramp.
With those words, written on December 11, 2007, I took my first baby steps into the world of romance writing. I considered myself a professional writer—after all, I’d written six non-fiction books, including two book club selections, and well over 1,000 articles. I figured I knew a thing or two about putting words on paper.
It’s okay—go ahead and laugh at my naiveté. If I’d known then what I know now, I might have shut down the computer and gone back to reading romances instead of trying to write them. My blind ignorance served me well, since I didn’t realize how clueless I was. It’s like the old Garth Brooks’ song—I could have missed the pain, but then I would have missed the dance.
I didn’t start my fiction writing career until I was well into *cough* middle age. (Assuming I live to be 100…) I made up for my late start by writing fast. I completed my first novel on January 6, 2008—the first in a long series of my own, personal NaNoWriMos. As soon as I finished the first draft, I joined RWA National and the Ohio Valley chapter of RWA—the best decision I ever made—and that’s when the roller coaster ride really began.
I called my contemporary romance OVER EASY. I didn’t have any critique partners, so I entered OVER EASY in three contests, figuring it was well worth the cost to get impartial feedback. No one was more shocked than I was when it finaled in all three contests. My second story didn’t do so well—in fact, it came in dead last in the only contest I entered it in. It was the first of many reality checks.
Three years and five months on, I’m still not published—thank God! I look back on my old stories and break out into a cold sweat when I realize I submitted those to agents and editors. Back then, I thought those manuscripts were pretty darn good. I thought they were finished, polished, ready to hit the publishing world by storm. Oh yeah—kill me now.
Those rejections, the same ones that left me with a sick feeling when I opened the emails, were actually a gift. Because of those rejections, I was forced to go back and figure out what I was doing wrong. As I pored over books on writing craft and took workshop after workshop, I began to wonder if I was doing anything right.
The dreaded Imposter Syndrome set in. Who did I think I was, someone without so much as an English degree trying to write books? Did I honestly think anyone would shell out hard cash to read this drivel? Then I’d read books by my favorite authors—Jennifer Crusie, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Suzanne Brockmann, for example—to see how the masters did it. It was enough to drive me to drink.
Then I had a light bulb moment: this was goal, motivation and conflict in spades. I wasn’t losing my mind, I’d just hit a turning point. I’d accepted the freaking call, and there was no turning back. That’s when I knew I was in this for the long haul. I might be writing dreck, but dreck can be revised.
I’ve learned so much it kind of scares me, because there’s so much more I’m struggling to master. I think my writing skills have improved a lot, but Imposter Syndrome is always hovering in the background, waiting to smack me upside the head.
Can I trust my judgment? It’s hard not to second-guess myself. Not so long ago I thought my early stories were good. At least now I have the benefit of some excellent critique partners. A lot of critique partners, in fact—so many that if I ever do sell, I’ll need a whole separate book to thank them all.
If I had Dorothy Parker’s way with words, I’d leave you with a few sparkling words of wisdom, but if I had her way with words I’d be published by now. Instead, I’ll share a few things I’ve learned:
*Good critique partners are worth their weight in chocolate
*You can always revise, but you have to write it first
*Every writer has days when they think they can’t write. Every one of us.
*Time spent in Google searches is directly proportionate to the amount of free time you have (I can spend an entire afternoon trying to find the perfect name for a character.)
*The times it’s hardest to persevere are the times you need perseverance most
*An over-abundance of dialogue tags can put the brakes on a scene
*Keep an eye out for overused words: like, but, was, had, just
*After a certain point, taking workshops becomes avoidance. Trust yourself and write.
*Write. And write. And write. Because writing isn’t just what we do—it’s who we are.
Above my computer is a plaque my friend Keri gave me. It says, “I’d give up chocolate, but I’m no quitter.” Let’s face it—if writing were chocolate, none of us would quit.
Writing is not easy. Next to giving birth, it’s the hardest thing I’ve done. It doesn’t get easier, but aren’t all good books full of conflict? My current WIP is a wolfish paranormal romance called THE GODDESS OF MICHIGAN AVENUE. It’s not quite there yet, but I’m getting closer to achieving my goal. This time, I want to get it right, whatever it takes. Bring on that next turning point, baby—a little conflict will make the happy ending even sweeter.
How long have you been on your journey as a writer? Do you remember the first line you ever wrote?
Join us on Thursday when author Allie Pleiter shares her experiences writing for Harlequin. On Friday, editor Theresa Stevens blogs about habits and processes.
Becke Davis writes as Becke Martin, but somehow the two names merged into Becke Martin Davis. She is still a garden writer, which will come in handy if she needs a toxic herb to kill off a victim in one of her stories.
Becke has been an obsessive reader of romance, mystery and paranormals for years. She moderates Barnes & Noble’s Mystery Forum at BN.com when she’s not writing or hanging out here.
Becke’s husband, son and daughter have learned not to snicker at the bare-chested males on the books mom is reading. (She loves them dearly, but every woman needs some sculpted chests in her life!)
- Weekly Lecture Schedule for June 4 – June 8, 2012
- Weekly Lecture Schedule for September 12-16, 2011
- Weekly Lecture Schedule December 31, 2012-January 4, 2013
- Romance University in 2011
- The Submission Process: One Author’s Perspective