Posted On April 20, 2011 by Print This Post

Turning Points are More Fun in Fiction

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.

Right.

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.

***

Bio:

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!)

You can find Becke’s website here. Her new Facebook writer page is here. She’s on Twitter as both Becke_Davis and Becke_Martin. (Split personality, anyone?)

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Discussion

72 Responses to “Turning Points are More Fun in Fiction”

  1. Wonderful thoughts and thank you for sharing. You are so right. If only those scoffers out there who believe writing romance is so easy – please, let them share their secret. I am fortunate in that I have four novels published but, I too, remember my first attempt; 170, 000 of messy pov issues and rambling prose and endless pages of raunch. To all those agents and pubs to whom I submitted – my humblest apologies. BUT, I learned {I think} and I perservered. Now, 7 years on, I go return to that first MS with a little more experience. Its a good story. I hope now I can do it justice. My point – believe in yourself, be willing to learn and it will come

    Viviane Brentanos

    Posted by Viviane Brentanos | April 20, 2011, 1:26 am
    • Viviane – Congratulations on your four books! Even though my first story was a lot shorter than yours, I remember being a little obsessive about the word count. (Some things never change!) I looked up the formula to calculate how many words on a type page compare to those on a printed page – at that time I had no idea what a typical word count was, so I kept converting it so I would know when it approached the length of the romances that line my bookshelves.

      I did a LOT of things wrong with my earlier stories, but I did a few things right, too. I still want to go back and revise OVER EASY – and one of my CPs is always after me to finish FINDING DAISY, another RWA contest finalist.

      Oh! Speaking of contests, the coolest thing happened recently. A woman who judged OVER EASY in one of those contests it finaled in contacted me to see what was happening with it. She remembered it three years later!

      Back to your 170,000 story – has that one been revised and published? Can you share the first line with us?

      Posted by Becke Martin Davis | April 20, 2011, 7:20 am
      • First line? Lol. I have changed it so many times but here goes with the current one. Okay, I will be presumptious and offer up a paragraph.

        Max Jackson rested his head against the mullioned windowpane, watching the rain drum out its incessant beat. He wondered if he would ever get used to England’s capricious climate. A mundane deliberation, really. The weather was the least of his worries. What did he know about teaching? Ok, it wasn’t as if he was a total novice but all the degrees in the world couldn’t make up for hard experience.

        Enjoy.

        Viviane

        Posted by Viviane Brentanos | April 20, 2011, 7:44 am
        • Since the rain is currently drumming the heck out of my non-mullioned window panes right now, this came instantly to life for me! What’s the title for this story? Is it a contracted story – do you have a release date?

          I have to say, I don’t think I ever met a Max in real life, but I love it as a hero’s name!

          Posted by BeckeMartinDavis | April 20, 2011, 7:48 am
          • Oh I was it was contracted. Of all my stories, this is the one I am most emotionally attached to. maybe it is because the protagonist reminds me a little of my 18 year old self while I was at sixth form college. I am working hard to revise it and make it acceptable for publication but the romance world seems to shy away from an 18 yr old involved with an older man – although at 27 I don’t believe its out of the realms of possibility.Also, I don’t view my tale as straight romance, maybe more womens fiction. Rebecca is a girl dealing with monsters from her past. Max becomed her saviour. Their relationship goes beyond the physical. As for Max -I adore him. Think Russell Crowe in Gladiator and you have him

            Viv

            Posted by Viviane Brentanos | April 20, 2011, 8:07 am
      • By the way, sorry about the unusual icon – I used the wrong sign in! (Not quite awake – the tornado sirens were going half the night, so I’m a zombie this morning.)

        Posted by BeckeMartinDavis | April 20, 2011, 7:45 am
  2. Hi Becke,

    Thanks for the great post! A co-worker of mine has the exact same plaque in her office — love it.

    I’m so glad you pushed through the rejections and kept writing. If ever Mr. Imposter comes sniffing around again, our Adrienne knows a few people who will, umm, see to him. It’s always good to have a Jersey girl as a friend…

    Tracey

    Posted by TraceyDevlyn | April 20, 2011, 4:29 am
  3. Becke, I’m worth more chocolate now that I’ve gained *cough* six more pounds.

    Seriously–you know I’m a big believer in “finding your tribe.” Without OVRWA, Gabriella Edwards and you I wouldn’t be published either. I think where English degrees fail (and I have one) is that they don’t teach writers the basics of connecting with each other. Or anything about the publishing business at all. At. All.

    I want to read that story about Alison, BTW–you haven’t shown it to me yet!

    Posted by Keri Stevens | April 20, 2011, 4:49 am
    • Keri – As you can see, that chocolate plaque you gave me has had a deep impact on my writing. Good thing it wasn’t actually made out of chocolate or that baby would be long gone!

      You and Gabriella have been wonderful critique partners for so long, I’m sure you’ve earned all kinds of good karma for bearing with me during this epic struggle. “Learning-by-writing” seems to be my process, which may be why I have so many CPs – I burn you all out!

      Meeting you and Rosie changed my life – and look how our circle of writing friends has grown! ((hugs))

      Posted by BeckeMartinDavis | April 20, 2011, 7:36 am
    • Aww, shucks! You and Becke are the best! I cannot imagine taking this journey without either of you. How many times have you each talked me down from and into something that could have stopped me from living my dream of becoming published?

      I adore my CPs! Thank you so much!

      Posted by Gabriella Edwards | April 20, 2011, 6:07 pm
      • Anything I might have done for you has been greatly exceeded by all you’ve done for me. I don’t want to try and guess how many pages you’ve critiqued for me. And you always point out my cringe-worthy mistakes without making me feel like a dunce. It was a lucky day when I met you!

        Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | April 20, 2011, 6:22 pm
  4. Morning Becke –

    Great post! And all of it soooo soooo true. (esp the chocolate) It’s a huge learning curve, and I don’t think the learning ever stops. Stick with it and someday you’ll be published! I believe! =)

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | April 20, 2011, 6:02 am
    • Thanks, Carrie! I have a feeling you’ll be published long before I am – I love the excerpt I read of your story!

      As to the learning curve, sometimes it feels like the loop on a racetrack – it’s only the momentum that keeps me from crashing and burning!

      Posted by BeckeMartinDavis | April 20, 2011, 7:41 am
  5. Becke, I have the Imposter Syndrome days, too. If your books are as good as your blogs, you will surely sell soon.

    Posted by Edie Ramer | April 20, 2011, 6:04 am
  6. Hi Becke. I loved this post. I think every writer has imposter days. I was on Twitter not long ago and saw a tweet from Harlan Coben that said something like “I used to be so good at this.” Harlan Coben! That gave me such a boost because if a writer with his talents has those thoughts, I’m not doing half bad.

    Great post!

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | April 20, 2011, 6:20 am
    • Adrienne – I saw that Harlan Coben post, too! In some ways it makes me feel part of a whole circle-of-write when I see famous authors angst about their writing. In other ways it scares me to death, because it reminds me that, oh hell no, this does NOT get easier.

      I subscribe to Jenny Crusie’s Argh Ink blog, and when she writes about her own battles as a writer I always freak out a little. I mean, if SHE gets stuck/has doubts, what does that mean for the rest of us? (Example:
      http://www.arghink.com/2011/01/28/sneaky-peeks/)

      When that happens I Google “writer quotes” – if nothing else, it reminds me that even in my angstier moments, I’m not alone.

      So, Adrienne (I sooo badly wanted to say “Yo, Adrienne” but I’ll resist the impulse…), as a soon to be published author (twice!), do you have any advice to offer those of us still struggling to write a publishable book?

      Posted by BeckeMartinDavis | April 20, 2011, 8:02 am
  7. Hello Becke. I absolutely loved this post and related one hundred percent. As they say great minds think alike, I’ve been doing a two part thing on The Writer’s Life, on my blog.

    These are the questions that drive nails in our heads,chase us in dreams and yet in the end, we can’t stop. I can’t stop wanting to find the other end of this amazing process. Longer than I thought? Gees, yes. Harder than I could have imagined? You bet’cha.

    And worth every single moment :)

    Posted by Florence Fois | April 20, 2011, 7:57 am
    • Go Florence! (Doing a virtual high-five knuckle-bump.) That’s it, exactly! One positive aspect to writing almost balances out the ripping-my-hair-out parts, and that is the wonderful sense of community I’ve found since Day One of this journey.

      In a sense, all writers are competitors, especially in today’s publishing market. (Not that anyone has to worry about me bumping them off the new release shelf for awhile.)What has surprised me – no, that’s not strong enough. What has left me completely gobsmacked is the generosity of other writers, from relative newbies like myself to New York Times Best Selling authors. Everyone is so unfailingly helpful and friendly, willing to answer my stupid questions and, in some cases, to read and advise, that I have a serious case of warm fuzzies whenever I think about writers as a group.

      Okay, I’m not a total Pollyana but I’ve worked a lot of jobs and I’ve never come across anything like this in other industries. Writers rock!

      Posted by BeckeMartinDavis | April 20, 2011, 8:12 am
  8. Hi Becke,

    I entered my first writing contest when I was 12. Talk about naive. Writing has haunted me for most of my life. I’ve watched movies and tv, read books, and attended plays. I edited them in my head and actually convinced myself to try. One year ago, I got published. A writer’s journey is long, hard, boring, and lonely. And in a crazy way, worth it.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | April 20, 2011, 8:22 am
    • Congratulations on your success, Mary Jo! I love it when I hear about writers who push through until they get it right.

      I don’t love it QUITE as much when writers say they struggled for ten, twenty, thirty years before they got published. I’m hoping I won’t have one hand on a Zimmer frame when I finally toast my first sale!

      Posted by BeckeMartinDavis | April 20, 2011, 8:28 am
  9. Becke –

    Luckily, my first serious romance writing attempt was…ah…”purged” from my old computer during an upgrade. That story was never finished, but I’m sure Tracey and Adrienne are going to laugh when they hear the first thing I wrote was a love scene :D.

    I’ve pondered publication a great deal lately, and I wonder–at least for me–whether it’s publication per se or just the opportunity to be read that we seek. Yes – most of us want to see our books on the shelf or on someone’s Kindle, and we’d like to make a little moolah doing it. But what we really want is to share what we created.

    I’ve read your writing, too, and you can just elbow Impostor Boy outta the way because you’re going to blow by him someday.

    Hugs,
    Kelsey

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | April 20, 2011, 9:00 am
    • Oh, Kelsey, I wish you still had that love scene. I’d love to read it!

      It’s funny, I got married at 19 so all my experience with dating was in high school. I had serious doubts that I could write believably about that process, and I wasn’t at all sure I could open up enough to write honest emotion or hot sex.

      It just goes to show, writing is an educational experience in more ways than one. Turns out I jumped right in to those scenes, no holds barred, but had a tendency to over-plot.

      I’ve had incredible luck/karma/good timing in that every time I hit a wall, I find the perfect answer to my problems. I’ve been tackling some issues about the hero’s motivation in my current WIP (as you know). I’d been trying to find a copy of Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation & Conflict for years, and a few weeks ago I found it through a small publisher. When my frustration peaked, I called a halt to my writing and read Deb’s book instead. I felt like she was talking to me directly, and – voilà – I’ve not only solved the problem, but several others I didn’t realize I had!

      You’ve hit the nail on the head about our need to be read as opposed to being published. Publishing is just validation, in many ways. I don’t need to see my name on a book cover – been there, done that. (Not that it wouldn’t be fun!) I’ve been paid to write for years, but if my husband and I had to rely on my income to survive, we’d be in pretty dire straights. I don’t expect to get rich doing this. In fact, if I factor in my expenses for conferences, etc., I might just break even.

      Sure, it would be nice to get published. It would be nice to get paid, too. But that’s not why I write. I’d say anyone who is writing with that as a motivation is likely to be disappointed.

      Posted by BeckeMartinDavis | April 20, 2011, 9:47 am
  10. Hi, Becke
    I’ve been at this writing gig for a loooong time. Took me nine years to get published in romance and now I’m doing mystery for Berkley Prime Crime.

    Love the title The Goddess of Michigan Ave. Sounds like a blast.

    Posted by Duffy Brown | April 20, 2011, 9:49 am
    • Duffy – Now YOU are someone who really deserves to be called a goddess! You are such an inspiration to me! You were so supportive as I was struggling with my romantic suspense story last fall. When I finish this story, I’ll probably go back to that one again. (Or I might see if I can salvage OVER EASY, my first story.)

      I’m so excited for your Consignment: Murder series to come out. I feel like a doting aunt or a godmother to those books, since I kind of witnessed their birth!

      Posted by BeckeMartinDavis | April 20, 2011, 9:54 am
  11. Thanks Becke. You are too kind. :-)
    The best part of writing is the people I’ve met along the way…like you!
    I love your books. 2011 is going to be YOUR year to get “the” call, I just know it.

    Posted by Duffy Brown | April 20, 2011, 10:01 am
  12. Hi, Becke! I love your words of wisdom, especially the ones about perseverance being most needed when it’s the hardest to muster up. It’s so hard to know when you need a break & when to just keep pushing.

    I have no idea what the first line I ever wrote was, but I remember the opening scene of my second book. (I’ve blocked the first book from my mind in its dreadful entirety.) My hero was driving drunk. Enough said. :-)

    Keep writing. I look forward to buying your debut novel one of these days.

    Posted by Susan Sey | April 20, 2011, 10:16 am
    • Hi Susan! Oh man, I can really relate. I entered a romantic suspense story in a contest once and got reamed by the judges for opening it with a murder. I guess mystery readers are okay with that, but not so much romance readers.

      And my second story was universally hated, except for one of my critique partners (who thinks I should get to work on it again). It was a revenge plot, and I’ve since learned that there are many pitfalls in that type of story.

      I doubt your first book was remotely dreadful – I love your writing!

      Posted by BeckeMartinDavis | April 20, 2011, 10:24 am
  13. Hi Becke, great story, great insight into how your mind works. I have read several of your short stories and I consider the short story one of the most difficult to write, well to write well anyway, because you have some 100 or so or sometimes even less pages to build not just a plot but characters and scenes and whatever else and yours are wonderful. I’ve also seen a hint of a novel in the works and I swear if you can’t find an agent and publisher they all need their heads examined.
    Just keep kicking down those doors, someone will eventually let you in.

    Deb

    Posted by debbie haupt | April 20, 2011, 12:31 pm
    • Thanks so much, Debbie! I’ve always liked short stories, especially mystery short stories. Romance short stories are a little trickier, because you don’t have much time to develop the emotional connection.

      The first story I remember writing was an Alfred Hitchcock-type mystery when I was about fifteen. Over the years I tried to write mystery shorts (and short-shorts) a couple of times, but was never satisfied with the result.

      Oddly enough, I had very good response to a VERY short (600 word) piece I submitted to NPR’s Three Minute Mysteries contest. (Thanks to Susan/VermontCozy at BN.com for telling me about it.) I wrote it in about 20 minutes, rushing to beat their deadline. They had 3,000+ entries, so I was thrilled when mine was one of ten they chose to publish. Here’s the link:

      http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124418000

      (Typo alert – it should say “my own: The Big Apple. New York.”)

      I write short stories as writing exercises, too – I LOVE writing to prompts!

      Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | April 20, 2011, 12:43 pm
  14. Hi Becke,

    I loved reading about your writing journey. You have a wonderful attitude and sassy tenacity that I admire. Next time I have an ‘Imposter’ day, I’m going to remember this post—and have a slab of chocolate! :)

    Posted by Tracy March | April 20, 2011, 3:28 pm
  15. Hola Becke!

    Great post! I can identify with everything you’ve said.

    Okay, I’ll own up to being a sentimental pack rat. I dug up an old manila envelope and found some old exams AND some stories from the first fiction class I took in college. OMG. Major cringing going on! These weren’t the first stories I wrote as a kid…but they are almost as bad.

    First line… The trunk door slammed shut with a bang.

    The prof said I had a great voice and an attempt to improve it would be futile. Heh. The story was just awful and full of unneccesary dialogue. He must have been drunk or had some good drugs because he gave me an A.

    I’ve been writing seriously for over a year. You made a valid point about trusting yourself and just writing. I’ve taken lots of workshops, received tons of judges’ comments from contests, but I’ve discovered a big part of writing is instinctual. The more I write, the more confident I am about trusting my own judgment.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | April 20, 2011, 4:17 pm
    • Jennifer – In your case I think your staggering number of contests finals and wins is a good indication you’re on the right track! I love your voice and hope you’ll get published soon, so I can say I knew you when!

      It’s both fun and mortifying to come across old papers like that. When I was visiting my aunt in New Mexico recently, she dug out some thank you notes I’d sent her when I was a kid. My mom had stuck school papers in with some of them. (My aunt saved EVERYTHING.) One cracked me up – I’d written a paper (at age 10) about why I wouldn’t be a good candidate to go to the moon. Main premise? I was afraid of heights! I guess some things never change.

      Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | April 20, 2011, 4:38 pm
  16. Becke,

    This is wonderful. You share your journey, have humor, great advice, and such a positive attitude even I want to pull out an old story and write something.

    Can’t wait to read your new story.

    Mary

    Posted by Mary E. Ulrich | April 20, 2011, 4:37 pm
    • Mary – I know you have your hands full right now, but I really hope you do pull out those old stories or start new ones. Don’t undersell yourself – I’ve read some of your work, and you’re very talented!! Now I’ll say to you what you’re always telling me – finish those stories!!

      Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | April 20, 2011, 4:42 pm
  17. Becke, I had to laugh when I read your post. We were all so naive when we started before reality stepped in to give us a good swift kick. Writing is damn hard, and IMO, doesn’t get easier just because you sell. Actually, I think the pressure is worse. I once heard a multi-pubbed NY Times BS say that in the middle of every single book she writes, she gets a check ready to send back to the publisher. She says she is sure someone is going to let the cat out of the bag what an impostor she is. I so relate.

    I’m going to print out your points and paste them on my computer. We all need reminded every now and then.

    Posted by Liz Lipperman | April 20, 2011, 4:44 pm
    • Liz – The more authors I meet, the more I hear this. When I started writing, I thought getting published would be like scaling Mt. Everest. That may be so, but now I think if I ever reach that summit I’ll find it’s the only the beginner’s peak in a much more daunting mountain range.

      And let’s not even talk about reviews! (I can’t think that far ahead…and if I do, I’ll probably break out in hives.)

      Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | April 20, 2011, 5:08 pm
  18. Becke, what a wonderful post, and great food for thought. Every time i think i’ve summitted a new mountain, i find it is merely the foothill to a greater goal. And yet my biggest challenge is just to set the world aside and write. So your words give me inspiration to take up the climb again!

    Hugs, and thank you so much.
    ~J~

    Posted by Jenn | April 20, 2011, 4:47 pm
    • Hi Jenn – yikes! I must have subconsciously scanned your comment when I responded to Liz. Or maybe it’s a case of “great minds think alike!”

      I’m so excited about your sale, and you know I’ll be dogging your heels hoping some of your “published author” fairy dust brushes off on me.

      You’ve nailed the biggest issue, though. Finding time to write, then doing it. Always the hardest part.

      Bob Mayer made a comment during a workshop that really resonated with me. He mentioned that a lot of us are very conscientious about fulfilling our responsibilities at home and at work, but we often rationalize putting those things ahead of our writing. I’ve been working hard to make the writing a priority – I’m used to writing to deadlines, so now I set myself publicly announced goals to help keep me on track.

      Do you have any tips that work for you?

      Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | April 20, 2011, 5:15 pm
      • Becke, not yet–I am the one who is still rationalizing, though writing is now a legitimate job! What I know I must do is to *literally* put the writing first — i.e., first thing in the morning. The days I do this are always good days. The second is to make it a game. :) literally create a spreadsheet for revision or new writing, and start keeping score! Even though I’m only competing against myself, it helps. :)

        Posted by Jenn | April 20, 2011, 5:36 pm
        • I know what you mean about competing with yourself. When I get stuck, I’ll do writing sprints – see how many words I can write in an hour – or set a really high goal for the week and aim for that. It’s weird how we play these mind games with ourselves, but they do seem to work.

          Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | April 20, 2011, 5:39 pm
  19. Becke,

    Thanks so much for sharing your journey. I feel where you are coming from and I look back at some of my first manuscripts and cringe. I’ve always looked at writing as a dance, sometimes you step on toes, sometimes your toes get stepped on, but most of the time it’s a wonderful experience.

    Heather

    Posted by Heather Long | April 20, 2011, 5:04 pm
    • Heather – congratulations on all your published books! I love your analogy, and I totally agree with you. Even though sometimes I feel like I’m dancing as fast as I can and not accomplishing anything but wearing a hole in the floor.

      Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | April 20, 2011, 5:18 pm
  20. Oh,Becke! I love all those sayings. I do remember the first line I ever wrote, and too ashamed to rewrite it here. Because I too had the same feelings. Why would anyone ever want to spend money reading all the stories in my head, or the funny characters. Seven manuscripts later, that first one still has a place in my heart and not off my hard drive like all the other ones that didn’t stay on the computer. It’s crap, but it’s my first crap and I love it. Becke, I love your journey!

    Posted by Tonya Kappes | April 20, 2011, 8:25 pm
  21. So true, especially the part about needing to get it written first. My mom (with whom I co-wrote my first eight books) had “don’t get it right, just get it written” taped to typewriter (yes, we began writing in the dark ages before computers). I don’t remember the first line of the first story I ever wrote (I’ve been writing since I was about eight) but I’m pretty sure the first line in my mom’s and my first published book (“The Widow’s Gambit”) was “I don’t know why you want to be widow, Livia. You don’t even want to get married.”

    Posted by Tracy Grant | April 20, 2011, 8:46 pm
  22. Tracy – That’s a fabulous first line! Is that from the book you sold back in college? I’m always in awe of anyone who can co-author a book. I drive myself nuts when I’m writing – I don’t think anyone could put up with me as a co-author!

    Your little friends in your profile photo are so cute! Are they your muses?

    BTW, your book covers are gorgeous! The detail in the dress on the cover of VIENNA WALTZ is breathtaking!

    Posted by BeckeMartinDavis | April 20, 2011, 9:17 pm
  23. Thanks, Becke! Yes, that line is from “The Widow’s Gambit” which my mom and I actually started working on when I was thirteen. We sold it when I was a junior in college and it was published (under the name Anthea Malcolm) just before I graduated. I don’t think I could co-write with anyone else, but my mom and I worked together really well. Our writing voices were really similar and developed together (though we probably fought more about writing stuff than mother-daughter stuff :-).

    The animals are great inspiration–and at times distraction. The cats like to walk in front of or on the computer when they want attention.

    I’ve been really fortunate in my covers, and I *adore* the VIENNA WALTZ cover. It really captures the over-the-top glamour of the Congress of Vienna, where the book is set. And it actually looks like Suzanne (the heroine).

    Posted by Tracy Grant | April 20, 2011, 9:25 pm
    • I’m kind of a cover junkie. I think that would be one of the most fun things about getting published – even more than seeing my name on the cover! The cover gods were definitely with you!

      Posted by BeckeMartinDavis | April 20, 2011, 9:28 pm
      • Seeing a cover for the first time is so exciting and so nerve-wracking. Up until that point the book’s mostly been the author’s–your editor has seen it and maybe your agent and critique partners. And then suddenly there’s this cover image designed by someone you’ve probably never met. And even though you send cover notes (the VIENNA WALTZ cover looks quite a bit like what I suggested) it’s never quite the same as you imagine. Hopefully (as with the VIENNA WALTZ cover), it’s better. And it does make the book being published seem very real!

        Posted by Tracy Grant | April 20, 2011, 9:34 pm
        • Tracy – I find it interesting that some authors are encouraged to provide a lot of input on their covers, while others aren’t allowed much say at all. That would be frustrating!

          Posted by BeckeMartinDavis | April 20, 2011, 10:04 pm
          • I understand why publishers have the final say over covers, because it really is a marketing decision. But I’ve always been able to send in notes and suggestions. In fact they seem to like it.

            Posted by Tracy Grant | April 20, 2011, 11:27 pm
  24. I love that first line, Becke! Mine must be pedestrian in comparison, because I don’t remember it. And all your tips rang true for me, but especially the one about perseverance. Kick that IS to the curb.

    Posted by Jan O'Hara | April 20, 2011, 10:05 pm
    • I’m working on it, Jan, but it’s like playing Whack-a-Mole. Darn thing keeps popping up again.

      How’s your writing coming? I’ve only read that one contest entry of yours but I still remember how good it was. And I ALWAYS love your blog posts!

      Posted by BeckeMartinDavis | April 20, 2011, 10:11 pm
      • Oh, thanks, Becke. You’re very sweet, although I look at what I did then and would like to think I’ve come a long way, too.

        My fiction is finally coming along. I bought a program which seems to work with my brain. (WriteWay Pro. I gather it’s like Scrivener for the PC.) Hoping to have this first draft done by the end of next month, if I can figure out a few crucial scenes. I’m best at fighting the IS when I keep my momentum going and when I take a break from the non-fiction. I don’t know how you can switch gears so effortlessly!

        Posted by Jan O'Hara | April 20, 2011, 10:19 pm
        • “Hoping to have this first draft done by the end of next month, if I can figure out a few crucial scenes.”

          We’re on the same timeline – that’s my goal, too.

          “I’m best at fighting the IS when I keep my momentum going and when I take a break from the non-fiction.”

          This is so true. Whenever I go out of town it takes me at least a week to get back on track. It’s very hard balancing the non-fiction with the fiction. And even though all my work involves writing and is somewhat flexible, it can easily fill up the entire day if I let it get away from me. I’ll have to find a balance if I’m ever going to complete these stories.

          It’s especially hard because we’re often told to build a social media presence long before publication. It’s not that hard to do, but it IS time consuming. I think this is a problem all writers face – both published and not-yet-published.

          Posted by BeckeMartinDavis | April 20, 2011, 10:33 pm
  25. Great Post Becke: When we first met it was like Karma or something. Now I understand why. Our journeys are so similar as are our fears. I’m published with a mystery series but always have angst. My third book is to the publisher and I’m deathly afraid I’ll get it back with a note. “Sorry. This one sucks!” I know my publisher would never do that but the failure worry is always there hitting us in the back of the head like a NCIS Gibb’s slap. You are so write about naiveté being bliss. The more you learn the more you know there is to learn. Thanks for inspiration and now back to promoting. Another whole topic they never tell you when you decide to become a writer! Keep the chocolate handy… Wendy

    Posted by W.S. Gager | April 21, 2011, 8:13 am
  26. It was definitely karma, Wendy! That was my first mystery conference and I was very nervous. I had a lot more fun after the two of us connected!

    Good luck with your writing, and be sure to let me know when your next book comes out!

    I’ve been amazed at how often even mega-famous authors experience that self-doubt. I guess it’s just part of the creative process. And yes, promotion is now a huge part of an author’s life, both before and after selling.

    I wonder what it was like for authors back in the day. Do you suppose Jane Austen suffered from Imposter Syndrome?

    Posted by BeckeMartinDavis | April 21, 2011, 8:23 am
    • Somehow I can’t see it in Jane Austen with that self-possessed British air but then again she never stepped out and yelled I’m a writer. She did it all in secret. I’m so glad we have support and therapy groups. (We call them critic partners and writer’s groups.) Suffering in silence would be tough. Sharing the expereince really makes you realize you are not alone and your fears are shared.
      Wendy

      Posted by W.S. Gager | April 21, 2011, 9:43 am
  27. *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.

    These are great things to remember and to live by. Thanks for sharing this roller-coaster of a ride us. You know, as your fellow OVRWA writing buddy, I will always be there for you. So proud that you are at RU!

    Posted by Renee Vincent | April 21, 2011, 2:37 pm
  28. Which reminds me…don’t I have some reading to do, young lady?

    (Everyone, Becke is on a writer’s retreat–housesitting AlONE for weeks. I’m so jealous.)

    Posted by Keri Stevens | June 17, 2011, 4:33 am
  29. Hi Keri! Housesitting AND dog sitting, in one of my favorite cities: Chicago. (I used a dreaded colon again – yikes!)

    I bounce back up to Chicago next week on my virtual bungee cord – I’m up there about once a month these days.

    Besides playing with my son’s lovely King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, I plan to spend my time writing and walking and exploring the neighborhood. With the emphasis on writing!

    Ever since I got back from Chicago LAST week, I’ve been in a writing cave. I’m almost caught up with the non-fiction assignments, and I’ve made some fiction progress, too.

    Great to see you here – now, BACK TO THE CAVE!

    Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | June 17, 2011, 8:37 am

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