It was the Mills and Boon Voice of Africa romance writing competition that turned my attention to writing romance ‘proper’. Before that moment, any romance had been strictly confined to my wobbly love life rather than anything that might end up in print. But in 2011, I thought to myself, maybe give this a try. And I won. I was out skating with my sister when the editor of Essentials mag phoned to tell me this fabulous news. Admittedly, I was pretty useless for the rest of the day.
In May this year I decided to enter the first ever Imbali awards, a ROSA (Romance Organisation of South Africa) award that recognises excellence in romance writing. Saturday night the winner was announced by multi-bestselling, multi-award winning dynamo Mary Jo Putney at ROSACon2016. Hells bells, said winner was me.
Anyone who knows me, knows that despite having had some luck with raffles and things in the past, I generally don't win anything. So I’ve been doing rather a number of happy dances since that announcement on Saturday.
Writing is very much its own reward. But to be acknowledged as well. Marvellous. Delighted. Overwhelmed.
And the fabulous award itself? Next to my Catwoman statue, of course.
Journey of a writer
The ROSA Annual Conference is coming up in September. If you’re a romance writer, you should be there. Why? Because it covers so many of the aspects of the writer’s journey, including craft, marketing, and talks from heavyweights such as Mary-Jo Putney.
All writers know this journey. Sure it varies here and there, but overall, there’s a certain commonality.
Here’s what mine looks like:
Step 1: Write, write, write, gargle copious amounts of coffee, write some more, have an attack of self-doubt, carry on writing, read something crap someone else wrote, hell-I-can-do-way-better-than-that, write like a maniac, finish novel, party, party, print it out and stroke it lovingly, leave it in a coffee shop (which they then throw out), make another copy, send it out, rejection, rejection, rejection, more rejection.
Step 2: Head back to neglected love life, more rejection, read something brilliant, have pity party that involves red wine and the entire bag of Quality Street that you normally only devour at Christmas, read about writing courses.
Step 3: Realise you know nothing about the craft of writing. Nothing. Shell out what feels like your entire life-savings to attend said writing course. Start writing next novel, write, write, write, attend another course, organiser waxes lyrical about your writing, feel invincible, hammer out rest of the next novel, this time will be different, yep, even more rejection, rejection, rejection.
Step 4: Write, write, write, try out saying you’re a writer at parties, no-one cares unless you’re JK Rowling or that Game of Thrones guy, write, write, write, reject, reject, reject.
Step 5: Repeat steps 1-4
Step 6: Minor success. Instead of getting rejections that run along the lines of “don’t ever send us this sad-arsed tripe again, stick to the day job corporate drone”, you start to get things like “I love your voice, I’d be happy to see anything else you’ve written,” or “such a great hero - he’s hot.”
Step 7: Discover a writing mentor who writes scripts for Hollywood. Actual Hollywood. Structure takes on a whole new meaning. Write like maniac, write, write, write, revisions requested by publisher. Revisions? Revisions! Progress, yay.
Step 8: Repeat steps 1-4, this time with more trips to the Lindt store.
In fact, the write-reject pattern starts to become the soothing backdrop of your life. You do get warned - every writer gets rejected. Which makes you want to torch someone to death with a ghd when you hear of someone just whipping up their crime drama between the school runs, and then just happening to bump into a book editor at one of those tiresome little get-togethers where Word of Mouth should have been the caterers but weren’t, and gosh, what do you know, the editor just lurved the book idea, and well, you know the rest, you can read it as the women’s hobby-careers covered by Woman & Home. Invariably this person will never write another word.
Step 9: Success. You win a writing competition. Yeah! You’re the recipient of a publishing contract. Woo. Hoo.
There’s a popular misconception that this is where things get easy. You can kick back and quaff champagne and quit the day job. Ha! So not the case.
Step 10: Realise from other published writers, that this is when you start refining your craft in a big way, and begin forging out a career as a writer. This is when publishing houses start considering your previous successes as part-and-parcel of their potential offer - I kid you not.
Step 11: Repeat steps 1-10 ad infinitum, except with more wariness of the industry - not all agents and publishers are legit, sad to say.
That’s it. No-one has to tell you to get off your expanding butt to pay homage to the word count goddess. Stories will keep appearing from the ether, characters will start with their jabber-jabbering, and ideas will knock a-knock on your consciousness.
Where was I? Oh yes, write, write, write…