Tuesday, August 01, 2006

What turned the corner?

A comment by Janet G (who incidentally is a writer from my hometown) has prompted the subject for today. She said, "After you got a couple of published authors as your CPs did your writing change in any major way?... What piece of advice gave you the lightbulb moment when you knew what you were doing wrong...was it the crit from Michelle (the one you mentioned made you cry and think about quitting) that made you realise what you needed to do to get published? Or was it a combination of things you learned as you exchanged crits with Trish and Michelle?"

I can honestly say that I learned something new from every ms I wrote, about what worked and what didn't. About where my strengths lie and what needs work. But I would have written for a darned long time without great CP's to help. So yes, my writing changed in a major way...getting a lot more requests for fulls for one thing.

When I thought about quitting, it was because reading that crit was hard news to take. I wondered if I would ever be able to do it, so why bother? And so I learned a few things about myself in the days that followed. First of all, hard crits are necessary and the best thing to do is let them simmer for a few days and go back and see if you can see what your CP is saying. When I went back a week later, I could see the truth in it as much as it stung. I also learned something about myself...I'm damned stubborn. (Shocking, I know.) I was determined to do this and that meant swallowing some pride, and, horror of horrors, admitting I might have been wrong!

If I could offer one piece of advice to any aspiring writer, just ONE, it would be to learn how to take criticism and make it work for you. Listen to what CP's, other authors, and editors have to say. Think about what they've said and why they've said it, and look at how you can apply that to your own work. For some writers, things can change overnight. I was a little slower. Michelle has been my cp for 2 years, Trish for 1. But they've taught me lots about showing emotion, upping conflict, developing strong yet sympathetic characters. And I learn *almost* as much from reading their work. I see things and point them out and can then use that in my own work.

I can honestly say that there wasn't any one lightbulb moment that I knew what I was doing wrong. Each ms has its challenges. One thing Michelle was on me for all the time when we started was to add physical beats and introspection. In other words, to SHOW and not TELL. Sounds easy, right? It's not. It was something I really had to work at, and now that's not so much a problem.

The one lightbulb moment I DID have was when I found my voice. I just KNEW. Every ms since then has been developing that voice to a point where it was ready for publication. One of the comments I got in my last rejection from M&B was to keep developing my distinctive voice. When I got my revision letter, they said they loved my voice. So that's really, really important.

And believe me, selling is not magical. I am so far from having it all figured out! LOL Right now my struggles are to keep conflict going and making sure I have strong heroes!

I hope that answered your question, Janet!


  1. Janet G11:32 a.m.

    Ha!! It's Janet G. I feel kind of famous being on your blog.

    Just wanted to say a hearty congrats on your sale to Harl. So cool to watch someone go the whole route and then succeed!!!

    I'll watch for your book and be sure to tell everyone you're a "local writer"

    Janet G

  2. Congrats on the sale Donna--may there be many more :)

  3. Great advice, Donna!! (Ok, get ready, because we are all about to start fawning over your advice now that you've "crossed over"! :))

    I really mean it, though!
    Best of luck with Romance - looking forward to hearing all the details of your journey!

  4. Donna, had to hop over and congratulate you. HUGE congrats for your Harlequin sale! Hurrah!

  5. AAAAHHHH!!! Donna, I missed the sell! Congratulations!!! How exciting!!

  6. Anonymous7:44 a.m.

    Hi Donna, The question came from me, Janet Ch :)(I came here via e-harlequin message boards) I didn't think to say which Janet. I just added my name so it wouldn't be an anonymous post! Previous Janet posts were from me too.

    Great reply. Thank you. I realised from reading it that my last H probably wasn't strong enough.

    Janet Ch.

  7. Gosh, sorry Janet! I think I'm so used to seeing the "other" Janet around that I thought it was her! LOL Well whoever sent it, it was a great question anyway and earned a post all on its own!

    Glad that it helped....my heroes are routinely told to toughen up...I did realize in revisions that it can be as easy as changing a little body language sometimes, so that's reassuring!

  8. Donna! I was over at Julie Cohen's blog and saw that you sold to HQ. CONGRATS.
    I haven't been on the HQ boards very much. I've been hard at work. I'm so thrilled to hear that you've finally made it. I know you were waiting.....and waiting.
    Again, congratulations. You deserve it.
    And your blog was great today. I've learned to take crits in all forms, but the tougher ones were the ones that helped the most.

  9. Janet G11:54 p.m.

    Hee hee hee hee.

    This is the other Janet again...Janet G. I have my answer now. I was thinking...wow, did I really ask that question. I feel so intelligent. Except I couldn't remember asking. I summed it up to turning 40 and was really worried about how much I would be forgetting by 60.

    Thank goodness it was another Janet. Glad there's more than one....

    Janet G