Welcome to Fortifying Friday, the day here at Seriously Write devoted to sharing journeys to publication and encouragement to writers. We celebrate that every author’s success story is a little different. God has a unique plan for each of us. That’s exciting! At the same time, we can all learn something from each other. Enjoy as author Roxanne Rustand shares her personal experiences. ~ Dawn
Encouraging Aspiring Authors
by Roxanne Rustand
No one is born published. For most of us, making a first sale can take years. For a few, the Call may come quickly. But is that a good thing? It wouldn't have been for me.
I never dreamed of becoming a writer until a friend of mine started sharing novels with me, then invited me to join her critique group. It was fun, writing fiction into the wee hours after the kids were in bed, but I couldn't imagine having the courage to submit to a publisher, much less imagine the possibility of making a first sale.
And then, I learned about RWA. Being published still seemed like an impossible dream, but I thought the Golden Heart contest would be a chance to see if I was even in the ballpark with other aspiring writers. If the judges thought my manuscript was dreadful, then I'd know that my writing was a foolish waste of time. That shows how little I knew back then—I was ready to stake my future writing efforts on the opinion of just a few people.
Well, I wrote night and day, and many nights, I fell asleep over the keyboard. When that manuscript was finished—just in time—friends asked if it was hard to write the love scenes. A love scene? I was so exhausted, I didn't remember if I'd written one!
The day the telephone rang I nearly fainted. The finals? How could it be possible? And on that incredible night in Hawaii, when my name was called, I was frozen with disbelief. Thrilled beyond measure. I held that beautiful Golden Heart pendant in my hand and knew that surely there'd been a clerical error, and RWA would soon call and want that pendant back.
The Golden Heart contest was a fabulous experience, and one for which I will be forever grateful. It pushed me to reach ''The End" for the very first time, and it provided wonderful connections that were helpful in the future. But for months afterward, I lost my confidence, sure I could never measure up to the standard that award implied. Four editors requested the full manuscript during the contest, and my insecurities were validated when not one, not two, but all four of them rejected that manuscript. But you know what? Those rejections were the luckiest break I could have had.
I'd had three well-polished chapters for the contest, but the judges hadn't seen the rest. It was rough—a beginner's effort my critique group hadn't even read. I didn’t yet have the skills or experience to revise it, even if it had sold.
During the next three years, when it seemed my dreams would never come true (and when every other Golden Heart winner from my year sold but me), I continued to write, learn more about the business, and go to conferences. I entered dozens of contests and took every contest score sheet to heart. I bought critiques from every fundraiser I could find, and begged those authors to be as harsh as they could. I wanted to learn, not receive praise. I worked on new stories and contested them. And when I entered the Golden Heart a second time and finaled, that led to my double first sale to Superromance. And this time around, I was more ready.
My advice to aspiring authors?
1. Finish your book! Make it to "The End" then revise, polish and submit. Then start another, finish it, and start over.
2. Take online classes, enter contests, and listen to what contest judges say. Save every penny and go to conferences, and immerse yourself in the workshops. Develop a thick skin and an open attitude of wanting to learn and grow.
3. I have a lot of PDF handouts on my website, from various writing workshops I've given over the years, so feel free to help yourself. But one of the best tips? READ YOUR MANUSCRIPT ALOUD.
Best wishes to everyone!
Roxanne Rustand is the author of thirty novels. She writes romance and romantic suspense. Two of her books are nominees for RT Bookclub magazine's Reviewer's Choice Award for Best Love Inspired Suspense of 2011, one of her Superromances won RT's Reviewer's Choice Award for Best Superromance of 2006, and she was a nominee for RT's Career Achievement Award in 2005. She has given numerous workshops at the RWA national conference, the RT Conventions, as well as many regional and local conferences. She had six books out in 2011, including The Loner's Thanksgiving Wish (November, 2011) and Duty to Protect (December, 2011)
To learn more about Roxanne and her books, please visit:
www.roxannerustand.com (website & The All Creatures Great and Small blog)