Saturday, July 2, 2011

A WRITER’S JOURNEY BY VONNIE DAVIS

This is my first post on Voices of the Heart, and I’m thrilled to be a regular part of this dynamic blog. I’ll confess to stressing out for weeks over what I could have to say of interest to other writers. Odd for a writer to admit, but there you have it.
Many of you are published; many are not. Even so, collectively we are all prodding toward publication. Even those of us who are published carry a heavy dose of “fear baggage” with us on this journey. We have a strong fear of what if I can’t get another book published? What if I can never move up from a small publisher to a large publisher? What if I stop growing as a writer? Angst. Insecurities. Fears. We’ve all got them in one form or another. It is these creative insecurities fueled by our ambitions that form our sisterhood.
If I were to dole out advice to new writers, I would lay it out in bullet format.

 First decision: decide what name you will write under. Yours or a pen name. Start promoting that name. In your writing career, you will push a book, but ultimately and most importantly, you are selling yourself. A personal example, if I may. I have always hated my first name. How many times have I heard, “Vonnie? Is that with a V or a B or C?” I decided I’d write under something more feminine and easier spelled: Renee, Isabella or Olivia. But, by the time I was ready to submit, I already had my blog, facebook and twitter accounts under Vonnie Davis. I already had a handful of people who knew me by my real name. Would I lose them if I were suddenly Renee Davis? So, decide upfront what name will my writing persona have?

 Start a blog. Make it a direct reflection of yourself. If you love scuba diving, include pictures to showcase that. I love flowers and traveling. Vintage Vonnie reflects those interests. Make your blog readable. If a black background with green printing floats your boat, know that some visitors to your site won’t stay long. I’m a busy writer who devotes an hour a day to visiting blogs and leaving comments. If I have to squint to read your post, I’m not staying. You have to decide which is more important to you, cool fonts and colors OR attracting readers and, thus, a following. Work hard to increase your readership by hosting other writers, having contests/giveaways and changing things on your site on a regular basis.

 Utilize social media. Facebook. Twitter. Also, set up a website. You must sell yourself and promote your books. Your publisher won’t do it for you. Writing is the easy part of this journey. Self-promotion is time consuming, costly and painful. Can you tell I hate it?

 Present a professional image so potential readership takes you seriously. Get an email account in your name. Do you want your fans to email you at toejam @ yahoo? Or drank2muchagain @ hotmail? If you want to be a professional writer, project a professional image.

 Join groups. If a writers group is in your area, join. Join online writer groups. Get a critique partner. If you feel insecure about your writing abilities, find a mentor.

 Take online classes to improve your craft. I started college as a grandma, majoring in English with a concentration in Technical Writing. I earned all “A’s” on every paper. I knew HOW to write. What I didn’t know was the CRAFT of writing—character development, character arc, internal and external conflict, zippy dialogue and conflict resolution. Oh, and don’t even get me started on point of view… Believe me, swallowing my pride and admitting my ignorance was a painful process.

 Research. Research the publishing industry. Which publishers want the sub-genre you write? What are their submission requirements? If they don’t like books over 90,000 words, don’t write a 128,000 word manuscript.
Will you want an agent? Research them. Pay attention here! Never, ever pay an agent! If an agent charges reading fees, RUN! If an agent charges you a monthly retainer fee, RUN! If an agent charges you for editing services, RUN! Find out how accessible an agent will be. How soon will he or she respond to your emails? You want to be treated as a person, not a potential dollar sign.

 What you write the first time does not have to be perfect. Nor will it be perfect the second or third time. Writing is rewriting. But here’s the thing: don’t rewrite the spirit of YOU out of your book. I used to think I had to have every word, every comma, every emotion perfect in a scene before I could move on. I used to go over and over that scene until I thought if I had to read it one more time, I’d throw-up. And the results were awful. My book lacked spark. I’d rewritten my sense of humor and my gentle nature right out of the manuscript. My husband, also a published author, told me to write the whole book and then go back and start rewrites. I’m a born fiddler; I have to keep tweaking things. Taking his advice took some real effort. Professional growth always does.

 Taking all I’d learned after that painful “boy, do I have a lot to learn” moment, I wrote my debut novel, STORM'S INTERLUDE, in three months. My agent loved it. We went back and forth with edits until she was satisfied. Two weeks after she started “shopping it out,” I had two contract offers—and one delightful rejection letter from a Harlequin editor who said I wrote very much like Linda Lael Miller. What a compliment!

 As soon as you submit, take a breather for a couple days and then start another project.
STORM’S INTERLUDE comes out July 15th. I already have a full-length manuscript and a novella (38,000 words) before editors. I’m half-way into another book. Write. The more you write, the better you’ll get. It’s a journey of starts and stops, joys and tears, dreams and nightmares. Frankly, would you want it any other way?

18 comments:

Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

Wow, Vonnie, GREAT post! Everything you said is true!!

Congratulations on having an agent and selling your book with its upcoming release!!

I so agree about names--I had written my first 2 YA under my maiden name, but soon realized just as many YA were reading my adult wolf books, and so I figured I should have just used my married name for all my books. Which I'm doing now.

And I loved your comment about the email addy. I see so many online pitches to agents and editors with email addies that are sooo unprofessional. Use your author's name. Nothing cutsey. Something easy for readers, editors, agents, and other authors to follow.

Super post!

Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

I meant, nothing cutesy. :)O Not cutsey. *sigh* Back to writing and editing!

Ana Morgan said...

Great post, Vonnie. Investing time wisely is essential for writers with day (or night) jobs. Your succinct list is right on!

Vonnie Davis said...

Terry, thanks for the lovely comments. I think one of the sweetest perks from this journey to publication had been meeting super-nice and super-helpful writers. The smiles, the chuckles, the support they've given are priceless.

Vonnie Davis said...

Ana, thanks for taking the time to comment. Time investment is something I struggle with; at times I stick to my schedule well and, at others, I spend more time self-promoting than writing. I keep telling myself I'll get better at this. My kids are grown, and I'm retired, so the pressures of mommyhood and job are gone. I look at all you younger writers with so very much on your plate and I marvel at ALL of you. Awesome is all I can say!!

Jill James said...

Vonnie, great job. You laid it all out there. Just keep writing! Very important to remember. Thanks.

Vonnie Davis said...

Thanks, Jill. I agree, the more we write, the more our distinctive voice emerges.

Sheila Tenold said...

Hi, Vonnie. What a terrfic post. I'm tickled you've joined our blog. Now we're blog sisters.

Your list reminded me I need to finish creating my website. A time-consuming, but necessary, task.

Thank you!

Melinda Elmore said...

Vonnie,

I love this post!!! It strikes everything a writer really goes through. I long to get an agent and I hope with "Death in Coyote Canyon" draws one in.

As far as a mentor, I agree you should have one. You are the greatest

I must have your book when it comes out...
Oh I did learn something from this post...To have an email with your name I never thought of that

Thank you for everything

Walk in harmony,
Melinda

Vonnie Davis said...

Hi Sheila! **waves madly** Thanks for stopping by. I know what you mean about taking time out to tweak your website. I was waiting for "Storm's Interlude" to go up on Amazon before I added the "buy" links. It went up today!! Now that I've sent OMG emails to my grown children, I need to get those buy links added.

Vonnie Davis said...

Melinda, I've loved being your mentor. You've gotten so much stronger as a writer, not because of me, but because of your deep desire to improve. You're not afraid to work at it and change old habits. Your writing is starting to sparkle, just like you. You're finding your voice.

Melinda Elmore said...

Vonnie,

I have to say you have changed me in a lot of ways. You are the best. I am forever grateful.

You are one in a million
I went and got a new email with my name because of your post here today

It is melindaelmore@ymail.com

Love you bunches
Melinda

Mona Risk said...

Vonnie, what a wonderful post. I wish you the best on your coming book. I know it will a big success because you are so thourough in what you are doing.

Vonnie Davis said...

Thanks, Mona...the lady who helped me enjoy Russia via "Prescription in Russian." I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned my book will sell. I keep asking myself how will I, a grandmother in Virginia, get a romance reader in Idaho or California to read what I write? Selling oneself is no easy matter...sigh.

Calvin Davis said...

Hi, my angel, I just had to pop in and say how proud I am of you. You've perservered. Well done. Soon you'll be holding your book and, if I know you, crying.
Calvin

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

How nice to have you posting with us, Vonnie. It is hard to think of something 'brilliant' to say sometimes, but you certainly overcame that difficulty today. Lots of great information there.

Great cover on your book, too!

Vonnie Davis said...

Thanks, Paisley. I've learned a lot on this journey...mainly that I have a lot more to learn.

Calvin, sometimes you surprise the heck out of me. You're really getting into this aren't you? Ladies, my husband is the best cheerleader--sans the little skirt, of course.

Josie said...

Vonnie,
You are so right. I tweak so much that I tweak myself right out of the scene. It's a good idea to keep writing and not fiddle so much with every word and comma.

Thanks for a thought-provoking post.