Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Previous posts

If you enjoyed the agent story, please look below starting at Day One (utterly clueless) for more crazy stories from my writing life. Thanks!

How to get an agent banned from RWA conferences

Okay, this header is a bit misleading. I didn't get him banned on purpose, I swear! This is what happened.

I was in DC at my second conference. Still wet behind the ears, I went to my first one-on-one pitch appt. After an introduction, I began to nervously pitch my book. It was about a Native American heroine and a former soldier, set in Michigan during a troubling time in our history. Lots of action, lots of sexy romance, danger, etc. When I finished, he stared at me for a few seconds then said something about how it sounded like a cross between Pocahontas and some other character I can't remember. Wait. Just because the heroine was Native American did not make her Pocahontas! It was my time to stare. Wasn't he listening? Then he proceeds to tell me that he wouldn't know where to market a historical romance anyway since he was more of a science fiction and mystery guy.

Um. Did he take a wrong turn on his way to the Mystery Writers conference? After leaving him, I stewed. Then I stewed some more. Now, I didn't want to make waves, but I was mad. This guy didn't know where to market historical romance? What was he doing taking pitch appts at an RWA conference? A free vacation? So I went to the check-in desk and told the lady my story. It felt good to vent. Then I forgot about it and happily moved on.

Sure. A few days after the conference, I got a phone call from national. They had several complaints about him and wanted to know my story. To this day, I never saw him taking pitches an RWA conference again. But don't feel bad, he has not suffered the loss of RWA. His agency is successful, he agents his favorite sci-fi and mystery writers, and he no longer has to take pitches from a romance writers like me!   

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

First Conference

My first RWA conference was in Chicago in 1999 and I took the family with me. I don't remember much about that conference other than I had a group pitch (thank goodness) with a Pocket editor. She requested from almost everyone. The memorable part came when my younger daughter (age 2) wouldn't stop crying one afternoon and hotel security came to our room. If we couldn't quiet her down, we had to go. Nice! It took some work, but everything worked out. She was good the rest of the week.

It was fun and I was hooked on RWA conferences. I wish I could have taken home one of the cows that the city had placed along the streets. They were very cool.

Coming up: Washington D.C. and the disaster pitch. Hint: It wasn't my fault! 

Monday, November 21, 2011

First Contest

Good morning. Okay, so I ran off to my computer to look up RWA and discovered a wonderful world of other romance authors. Who knew there were so many of us out there? And just as quickly, I also discovered RWA writers contests. So I picked out one and entered. When the scores came back, they confirmed what the editors (and now agents, too!) were saying. My book was no where near ready for publication. I had so much to learn.

Here are some of the judge P-9's comments:

Opening is good
Premise is diluted with too much thinking about background.
Needs tightening
I could get excited when it focuses!  
(Score 23/40 points)

Judge U-7 said this:

I did not get hooked until page 5 when the rifle shot is heard
Both characters were very well described
Point of view is sometimes confusing
(Score 26/40 points)

Though I'm sure I grumbled a bit during this time, I knew if I was serious about writing as a career, I needed to keep going forward. I consider this book a first try in the learning process. So Catherine's Choice went into a file and I moved on.

**By the way, while going through my rejection letters, I realized I've been literally rejected by almost everyone in publishing at one time or another! More rejection letters to come!

Friday, November 18, 2011

RWA and Submissions

As previously mentioned, my book (Catherine's Choice) started out on a typewriter, then a word processor, then a computer. During the 5 years spent writing this book, I got married, had kids and worked a job with an airline. But I did eventually finish the book of a billion pages (Okay more like 500 or so) and had no idea what to do with it. So I went to Literary Marketplace and started my hunt for a publisher who took romance novels.
After making a list of prospective publishers, I sent out queries and chapters. When the rejection letters came back, they all went something like this:

Dear Author or Dear Writer

Thank you for your query. Unfortunately...

Signed, The editorial department

It was enough to make me give up writing all together. I'd spend 5 year on this book and  no one wanted it? How could that be? 

After the flurry of rejections died down, I realized that I needed an agent, someone who would see the beauty of my manuscript and get me sold. So I cold called (yes, yes, I did) the first agent I could find who took romance. I wish I'd written down her name because she changed my life. After asking her about submission for her agency, there are a long pause on her end, then, "Have you ever heard of Romance Writers of America?" 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Day one (utterly clueless)

I didn't start writing because of a lifelong dream. I was bored. I admit it. One afternoon, there was nothing on TV and I was out of books, so I decided to write my own. I had a typewriter (for anyone too young to know what that is, check Google) collecting dust, and always loved cowboy books, so I decided to write the great American cowboy romance. Not the best idea for someone who worships spell check and can't type without looking at the keys. But we did have pre-spellcheck back then to save me. It was called Whiteout.

 I started this book about 20 years ago. I knew absolutely nothing about writing novels, manuscript formatting, word counts. Zero. Word for word, funky punctuation and all, here is how it all began:

(Yes, this book starts from a horse's point of view)

Something was not right. Was it a smell or a whispered word that sent his nose twitching and his ears seeking out the source. He did not know. Almost as quickly as it came it was gone. He could not voice his growing fear or question the reason for it, yet generations of careful breeding told him something was not right on the wind. He sniffed the air for something that was no longer there. Perhaps it was nothing at all.

It would ultimately take me 5 years, writing part time, to finish this book. More tomorrow!

Launching Cheryl Ann Smith Raw

Hi everyone. I am starting something new today. Promo is hard for a little fish in a big ocean of writers and books. Everyone Facebook's or Tweets or has a website. How do readers dig through the haystack of big name authors and bestselling books to find a new author like me? A beautiful cover? An ad? Who knows?

While pondering this, I remembered a saying that went something like this, "She tells two people and they tell two people and so on, and so on, and so on..."

So starting today, I plan to start from the beginning of my writing journey and take my readers on a ride that is hopefully like no other author has done before me. I won't give out too many details (trade secrets and all :)) but I will tell you this, it will be in insider look at things readers don't always see, bumps and all!

See next post!