I think there are two significant steps I took as an aspiring author that helped me reach my goal of being published: I joined Romance Writers of America and took part in all the online classes, genre-specific loops, and comraderie I could absorb; and secondly, I joined a local critique of like-minded writers.
Initially, my critique partners (CPs) met every two weeks, with each writer bringing 10-15 pages of her WIP (work-in-progress) for review and comment. After a year or so, I dropped out to focus on family and my day job. When I ran into one of my former CPs a few years later -- at a bookstore signing for her latest release -- she invited me to rejoin the group and I quickly took her up on the offer.
We still review about 10-15 pages of each other's work, though that varies. Over time, we've segmented into different romantic genres and the differences in our writing styles are very apparent. Mind you, this is not about your best friend's assessment of the book of your heart. We focus on plot, characterization, flow, etc. It's not personal (though we do like each other and that helps!). Because I write supernatural stories, I also belong to an online RWA critique group that focuses specifically on my sub-genre.
Both affiliations are more than worthwhile: they are motivational, inspirational and corrective when necessary. To say thanks for their support, my CPs are called out in the dedication for Where Souls Collide. Additionally, I've selected my friend and colleague, Karen White-Owens (a multi-published author) to launch my monthly author interview segment here.
Q) Karen, how long have you been writing and what made you start?
A) I've been writing for appropriately fourteen years. I started writing when I took a family medical leave to be with my mother during the last months of her life.
Q) What is the most important lesson you've learned as an author that you want to share with aspiring writers?
A) I think it's very important for an aspiring writer to become part of a writing community. Join a critique group. Go to writing conferences and find authors that write in the same genre to help you.
Q) Do you have a favorite character?
A) Cameron from As Long As There is Love is my favorite character. She made mistakes, but continued to strive for a better life for herself and her daughter.
Q) How would you describe your stories overall?
A) I believe I write contemporary mainstream novels with a twist of romance.
Q) Tell us about The Way You Aren't: What was your motivation/inspiration for the story?
A) The Way You Aren't was inspired by the Best Buy Geek Squad. I was driving along beside on of those Volkswagen Bugs with Geek Squad on the side and I started thinking about how geeks are always portrayed by men. I began to think about how a female version of the normal geek would act. By the time I arrived at work, I had outlined a story idea.
Q) What do you want readers to take away from the story? When will it be released?
A) The Way You Aren't will be released October 1st. I'd like readers to realize that we all have a little geek in us and to learn to practice tolerance with people who are different from you.
Q) How can readers contact you?
A) There's several ways to reach me. If you go to my website, Karenwhiteowens.com, you can e-mail me from there. Or, you can e-mail me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks, Karen! Best of luck with The Way You Aren't!
Live. Love. Dream!