WisRWA Calendar

Meeting Times

May 01
2019
Green Bay
11:30-3 at 1951 Restaurant, 1951 Bond Street, Green Bay, WI

Querying

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May 04
2019
Chippewa Falls
10-12:30 at Deb's Cafe, 1120 122nd St, Chippewa Falls, WI

Conference Highlights

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May 18
2019
Milwaukee
10 – 12:30 at Red Oak Writing Studio 11709 W Cleveland Ave. West Allis

Is a Developmental Editor for You?

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WisRWA Newsletter



General

Will writing in different genres kill your career?

I’d just finished reading a passage of my WIP to my writing group, and one member was like, “Wow, Dave, it’s amazing to see you write a book with no sex or swearing.”

And I was like, “Hell-o. My Fairy Dogmother.”

And then everyone in the group was like, “Oh, yeah.”

The experience illustrates a problem any writer who doesn’t stick strictly to one genre is likely to encounter. The previous four books I’d brought to my group were snarky novellas about a horny, potty-mouthed, screw-up witch. The WIP has all the snark, horniness and blue language of a Hallmark Christmas movie. But so did My Fairy Dogmother, which I wrote before The Incompetent Witch Series.

So what gives? Am I daring or just stupid? Is it wise to write spicy and sweet, Paranormal and Regency, Romantic Suspense and Romantic Fantasy?

Writing guru Kimberly Grabas says that exploring multiple genres “equals more work (and often) less income. It’s hard to build traction in one genre, let alone several. Switching or jumping genres leads to building multiple smaller audiences instead of steadily building a larger, more engaged fan base. Momentum is your friend, and sticking to one genre and writing books in a series (and releasing them back-to-back) is more lucrative, and builds a readership faster, than diversifying.”

New York Times Best-Selling Author Rebecca Zanetti kinda sorta disagrees, arguing that indie publishing has changed the game. “A few years ago, conventional wisdom dictated that an author should only write in one genre—at least until becoming well established. With the advent of ebooks, many authors have published across genres quite successfully. What’s fascinating is watching how readers committed to one genre will follow an author into another imaginary realm just because they enjoy that author’s work.”

The takeaway might be that writing in multiple genres could be either daring or dumb, but nobody knows until you do it.

My first series falls under the heading Contemporary Romance, the most popular genre when I wrote it. It’s set in Hollywood, so there’s plenty o’ carnality and cursing. The second series, listed as Humorous Supernatural Romance, was originally published in the Kindle Worlds program as a spinoff of books penned by a very successful Amazon author. The audience for those already existed, so I had expectations to meet.

Meanwhile, My Fairy Dogmother and my WIP are targeted toward much different readers and their expectations, and I intend to use both to test the trad publishing waters.

The marketing gurus—including Gabras, Zanetti and multi-platinum author HM Ward—say is that it’s not bad to write in different genres, but suggest a few things to keep in mind if you do.

  • Know the genres you write in.
  • Remember that your voice makes your writing unique.
  • Write books that no other author could have written.
  • Venturing into new territory leads to personal and professional growth.

In addition, keeping up on marketing trends can help. “Branding,” Grabas says, “isn’t nearly as corporate or commercial as it’s believed to be. It’s your style, your unique voice, and the combination of recurrent themes, character types, settings, and ideas that make up the familiar elements characteristic to your writing.” It includes things like your website colors, logo design and tagline and social media presence and the tone of your newsletter.

Zanetti notes that having the right cover design and book descriptions go a long way in telling readers what your books and series are about, lest they become confused and buy a book they’re likely to despise. On the other hand, Ward says that many readers might be willing to explore a genre they never considered just because they like you!

And then, there’s this: Tastes change. Contemporary Romance fell out of favor for a while, so it probably wouldn’t have been a great idea for me to keep flogging that horse. The supernatural Kindle Worlds books sold pretty well until Amazon killed the Kindle Worlds program—and I had a lot of fun writing them.

So, even if I’m being stupid, I have no regrets. And, who knows, maybe someday the discussion will be about genre-hoppers and niche-specialists, much in the way “outlining” and “pantsing” are now both recognized as legitimate approaches to writing a first draft. It may just come down to who you are and/or what you’re writing at the moment.

by: Dave Thome

Dave lives in Shorewood, Wisconsin, where he and his wife Mary Jo run a writing business. An automotive news writer by day, he’s penned several screenplays, including a few that came this close to being made into movies, and has indie-published several novels under the name DC Thome, including the Fast Lane Romance Series. He’s currently republishing The Incompetent Witch Series, which originally appeared as Kindle Worlds books

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2019 Write Touch Finalists

Write Touch Readers Award Contest

Wisconsin Romance Writers of America is pleased to announce the finalists of the 2019 Write Touch Readers’ Award Contest!. Winners will be announced at the Write Touch Conference in Milwaukee, April 4-7. Congratulations to all our finalists, and a big thank you to all our participants, judges and volunteers!

**denotes WisRWA member

Contemporary – Short

  • Desperate Strangers by Carla Cassidy
  • The Hashtag Hunt by Kristina Seek
  • Three Day Fiancée by Marissa Clarke

Contemporary – Mid-Length (tie for third place)

  • A Cowboy’s Christmas Proposal by Cathy McDavid
  • Headlights, Dipsticks, & My Ex’s Brother by Heather Novak
  • Marrying the Rebel Prince by Janet Gover
  • Mischief & Mayhem by L. E. Rico

Contemporary – Long

  • Deep Blue by Kristy McCaffrey
  • To My Future Number 1 Fan by L. A. Witt
  • Within Six Months by Cleo Scornavacca

Erotic

  • Indecent Proposal by Sarah McGregor
  • Fading to Black by V. H. Luis
  • Waking to Black by V. H. Luis

Historical

  • A Wolfe Among Dragons by Kathryn Le Veque
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Duke by Janna MacGregor
  • The Missing Marquess of Althorn by Chasity Bowlin

Paranormal

  • Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon by Kerrelyn Sparks
  • Hellfire and Handbaskets by Kathryn Hills
  • Winds of Time by Lilly Gayle

Inspirational

  • For the Love of Laura Beth by Aubrey Wynne
  • From Shards to Sea Glass by Michele Wilder
  • Primary Suspect by Laura Scott **

Romantic Suspense (tie for third place)

  • Buried Lies by Kaylea Cross
  • Her Darkest Fear by Ava Bradley
  • Love With a Side of Crazy by Tina Susedik **
  • Missing Out on Life by Val Clarizio **

Mainstream Fiction

  • Race for the Sun by Minette Lauren
  • Storm Crossed by Dani Harper
  • Town Hall by Gini Athey **

Young Adult (tie for third place)

  • Between Silk and Sand by Marissa Doyle
  • Friended by Kilby Blades
  • The Dating Debate by Chris Cannon
  • This Heart of Mine by C. C. Hunter

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Wisconsin Authors at #WisRWA19

WisRWA Write Touch Conference Logo

The Write Touch Conference is “Write” Around the Corner.

April 4th-7th, talented writers from all over the country will be heading into Milwaukee to hobnob at WisRWA’s Daring and Decadent Conference.

We’re excited to show off some of Wisconsin’s home-town writing talents!

Amy Reichert, Valerie Biel, Angie Stanton, and Bobbi Dumas will be presenting sessions at the conference and they are all proud to call Wisconsin their home.

Author Amy E. Reichert’s 1st book, The Coincidence of Coconut Cake is often used as a guide for Milwaukee visitors! Amy is a true fan of our terrific city so it was only natural for her to give it a starring role in her book.  Set in Milwaukee, her story highlights the Brewers, Milwaukee’s food scene with its array of terrific restaurants, the summer festivals, custard, the scenic lakefront and the amazing Calatrava. Before dinner Friday April 5th, Amy will be welcoming conference attendees to Milwaukee. On Saturday April 6th, Amy will work with writers on their editing skills.

Since “Coincidence” was published, Amy has penned three more books: Luck, Love & Lemon Pie, The Simplicity of Cider and The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go. All are placed in or around our great state of Wisconsin.  Get to know Amy here: www.amyereichert.com

Once upon a time, Valerie Biel graduated from the University of Wisconsin with degrees in journalism and political science. Now she lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband and children, and writes…a lot. Her debut novel Circle of Nine – Beltany was honored as a 2015 Kindle Book Award Finalist and has won other awards.

#WisRWA19 is excited to have Val present a workshop on Saturday April 6th .

If you’re attending the conference and looking to self-publish your book baby, Val’s workshop, Indie Publishing Blueprint: 1st Steps to Publication, is perfect for you.

Learn more about Valerie Biel here: http://www.valeriebiel.com/

Angie Stanton lives in Madison. Her 1st career plan was to be a Rockette, but living in the Midwest, dancing didn’t quite work out. So she took her daydreams, perfected them into stories in her head and started to write them down. Even though she never made it on a stage to kick up her heels, she’s still, a huge fan of musicals. Her latest book, If Ever, takes readers on a dream ride from a reality dance show to a Broadway musical. Angie will be presenting two workshops at #WisRWA19. She’ll guide you through the publishing process when your book baby is first born and she’ll help you create another revenue stream for your book with an audio version. To find out more about Angie go here:    https://www.harpercollins.com/author/cr-107475/angie-stanton/

Bobbi Dumas lives in Madison, WI and we are excited to have her join us in Milwaukee at #WisRWA19. Bobbi is a freelance writer, book reviewer, and a huge romance advocate. Bobbi founded Read-A-Romance Month and writes about books and romance for NPR, The Huffington Post and Kirkus. On Saturday April 6th, Bobbi will be presenting an interactive workshop to help writers get to, “Know Thyself!” She’ll work with writers and guide them through the often twisty journey that comes along with being a writer. Bobbi loves to talk about books and writing and will share it all with attendees at #WisRWA19!  You can read Bobbi’s latest Kirkus review here:  https://www.kirkusreviews.com/features/author/bobbi-dumas/

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New Release Tuesday March 2019

Congratulations to the following WisRWA members on their new releases this month.

Saving the Scot by Jennifer Trethewey

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The Write Touch Conference is “Write” Around the Corner!

This exciting conference weekend in Milwaukee is coming up so fast it’s making my head spin.

There will be so many opportunities to meet your writer squad, rejuvenate your writing spirit, learn your craft, relax and discuss your passion for writing and love of storytelling!

Storyteller, Lisa Cron is excited, too!

We are so happy to introduce everyone to Lisa Cron, author of Story Genius and Wired for Story.

Lisa Cron’s writing intensive kicks off on Friday morning April 5th at 9am. Originally, Lisa’s intensive was scheduled only for the morning, but she loves talking about writing and to writers. So Lisa is going to work with writers all day at this workshop.  All day!

We’ll kick off the intensive at 9 am and go until 4:30 pm on Friday April 5th. As we don’t want anyone to suffer from information overload, we’ve planned a coffee break in the middle of the morning and afternoon sessions and a lunch break from 12-1:30 pm.

If all day is just too much for you, relax. You can jump in and participate in the intensive in the morning or afternoon, whenever you’re most comfortable or most inspired!

There will be plenty of time to meet Lisa, talk about writing with her, work on your own writing and ultimately, you’ll become a better storyteller!

Here’s the description of Lisa Cron’s intensive so you’ll have a solid idea of what to expect when attending the workshop:

WHAT YOUR READER REALLY WANTS: 8 STEPS TO WRITING AN IRRESISTIBLE NOVEL (OR MEMOIR, SCREENPLAY OR SHORT STORY)

“Every writer wants two things: to tell a story that hooks readers and never lets them go, and to find a way to accomplish that without going through the long slog of endlessly writing draft after draft. This workshop will give you actionable ways to meet both goals. Instead of rooting around in your “plot” for the story, you’ll unearth the key elements specific to your story that will then create the plot, bring it to life, drive it forward, and give it meaning. These elements have little to do with the surface events or “writing well” and everything to do with what we’re hardwired to respond to in every story we read (turns out the brain is far less picky about lyrical language than we’ve been lead to believe).  You’ll be able to zero in on what your story is actually about before you write word one, or if you’re in the midst of your umpteenth rewrite, before you write another word. You’ll not only produce a more powerful novel, chances are you’ll drastically reduce your rewrite time.”

For more information about the conference, Lisa Cron’s intensive, and to register, click here.

by: Tricia Quinnies, Write Touch Conference Coordinator

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Combat Writer’s Block with an Idea Factory

If you’ve ever experienced the heaviness of writer’s block, you know you’ll never want to stare at a blank page, without an idea, ever again, period.

Let’s learn from the bad times and turn them into something good. Here are a few tips I use to build an idea factory, when writer’s block may hit again.

Collect ideas as they flow. You may be on vacation, at a restaurant, in bed at 2 a.m., and plot ideas, conversations, scenes, and characters are falling at your feet. Write them down right away! Grab a pad of paper, record thoughts on your voicemail, send yourself an email or text. Don’t let those great ideas slip away. You’re a writer, those ideas are interesting to you, they will be interesting to your readers.

For example, I was filling my soda cup at a fast food restaurant when a young girl stepped up next to me. The way she moved with grace and confidence reminded me of the main character of a story I was working on. I went back to my table and recorded my observations, her hair color, the way she moved, how she dressed.

Here’s another example. I was at an art museum and a strange exhibit captured my attention. The folk-art I studied that day became the background of a story. I hurried to the museum coffee shop to write down the essence of the exhibit. What attracted me to it. How I felt about it. How it looked. Then I searched websites for more information. I still have those notes and refer to them as I edit.

Eavesdrop. When you hear an interesting conversation, tune your ear to the cadence of the discussion. Everyone knows that one person who uses unique turns of phrase, or thinks differently than anyone else. Channel them the next time you are stuck in a rut and need to add new patterns to your dialog.

Seek your characters in magazines, newspapers, or the internet as you move through your day. Cut pictures of your characters out of department store ads when you find them. Download photos. Hang them on a wall where you write, along with their bios.  When you need inspiration, take a good long look at the pictures again.

Watch for situations that are stranger than fiction. What happened to your co-worker, neighbor, children? Does your friend have a litany of stories about her bad dates? Ask her if you can borrow some for your next book.

Immerse yourself in research. Search websites for more information about the setting of your story. If it’s set in a Victorian era home, tour one near you. Record your impressions.

Ask questions. When you find someone knowledgeable about the subject of your book, like that historic home, talk to them. When they go on a tangent, follow it by asking questions. They’ll likely bring up a tidbit of information no one knows about, but it would be perfect for your story. Maybe there was a secret tunnel that used to connect a barn to the home’s cellar. Is that the way your main character snuck into the home on that fateful night?

Now that you’ve got raw material to work with, peel back the onion. While your ideas are still fresh, ask yourself why the person in the ad captivates you? Is it his stormy eyes, his wavy hair? What part of the old house interested you most? The hand carved furniture? The exquisite fireplace mantel? The patterned wallpaper? What would it be like to crawl though the secret tunnel?

Take time to write down details as they appear in your life. Don’t let them go. Save them so that the next time you experience writer’s block, pat yourself on the back. You now have an idea factory ready to propel you forward.

by: Laura Dritlein

Laura Dritlein is a former freelance reporter for local newspapers and magazines. She is currently working on editing two novels with the goal of publishing them. She is constantly in search of new characters and story ideas.

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New Release Tuesday – January 2019

Congratulations to the following WisRWA members on their new releases this month.

Succubus Heart (Succubus Sirens Book Two) by Lina Jubilee

Beneath the Assassin’s Touch by Katherine Hastings

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Book Review Etiquette

It’s happened to every reader. You have the weekend off. Rain is pouring down. The coffee pot is sputtering, and those tantalizing smells seduce you to crawl under a blanket and pick out your next great read. So, you hop online, go to your favorite bookstore and start scanning those covers. One calls out to you, so you click, excited to see what it’s about. The blurb looks exciting, you’re ready to buy, but you decide to glance at all those reviews just a short scroll away. Five stars. Not bad! You read a few sentences in and… gasp! They just revealed the plot twist! Ruined the ending! Stole the joy you would have gotten from uncovering it yourself. The horror! Now that the plot is revealed before you even opened the first page, you back out and buy another book.

As a reader, I’m infuriated when someone’s spoiler review appears without warning. As a writer, I’m sad for the author who will no longer get the sale of that book from me, and perhaps more books if I enjoyed it and sought out the rest. All because a reviewer didn’t realize they had broken proper book reviewing etiquette.

Last night I was on a message forum where a well-known author came on and she was devastated a reviewer put the who-dun-it in the first review of her new release. Ouch. Not only is that devastating for an author who worked hard to craft a story and unveil information to you piece by piece, it’s sad for the readers who will no longer get to enjoy the surprise that one reviewer got to experience. On that post, author after author, and reader after reader came forward with similar sob stories. And as a reader who won’t read a book that’s been spoiled, I felt awful knowing authors will inevitably lose sales because of it. And the saddest part? Most of these were five-star, raving reviews. Reviewers who enjoyed the book and wanted to support the author by taking the time to write a review had accidentally cost them sales and caused them heartache as well as ruined the experience for those who would read it after them. It was then I realized, maybe people just don’t understand book review etiquette. Maybe we just need to spread the word! So, after polling authors and readers, we have compiled the list of things you should and shouldn’t do when you review your next read.

1) Review that book

This is a post about etiquette, yes. But it’s important to remind people just how much your reviews help support authors. The good, the bad, and the ugly. We want your opinion and your feedback. Your reviews boost book sales and help rank. If you enjoyed a book, give the author the biggest gift you can… your review. But when you do, just be mindful of other eager readers who want to enjoy the surprises.

2) A Book Review is not A Book Report

No one is quite sure how this came to be, but when writing a review, people don’t want a play-by-play of the book. They want to know your overall thoughts on story, craft, and characters. Let them learn the play-by-play as it’s intended… by reading it. A review that reads like Cliff’s Notes is most definitely laced with spoilers and the bottom line is no reader wants to know that stuff before they read a book. Do you?

I’m going to put two reviews below as an example.

EXAMPLE BLURB:
When a handsome swordsman comes to Camelot, he discovers the one thing he can’t battle away… his feelings for the beautiful Guinevere. Their growing passion for one another could destroy them both, and they must each choose between their loyalty to their King or loyalty to their hearts.  But when Arthur’s old enemy returns with a vengeance, it’s up to Lancelot to put aside his feelings and fight beside his king to defend not only Queen Guinevere, but all of Camelot.

Proper Review:

Wow! This book has all the feels. It’s a gripping historical romance novel filled with action, adventure, and romance. The writing is beautiful. I practically felt like I was back in Camelot. The characters were wonderfully crafted, and I rooted for them every step of the way. The pacing was perfect, and I had trouble putting it down. I loved this book and highly recommend it for anyone who wants to get on an emotional roller coaster and never get off!

Improper Review:

This book starts in Camelot and Guinevere is betrothed to the King. She really seems to love him, but then she meets Lancelot, his newest knight. After she’s kidnapped by King Arthur’s enemy, Arthur sends Lancelot to find her and they end up succumbing to their love. She cheats on her husband with Lancelot and when he finds out he’s devastated. Eventually she chooses her husband over Lancelot and he’s banished, but when Arthur dies at the end she gets to be with Lancelot after all. It was a great story and I highly recommend it.

Can you see the difference? One reads like a book report while the other tells us nothing to spoil the story but tells us how the reader FELT about the book. And that’s the most important part! Did you like the story? Too fast? Too slow? Could you identify with the characters? These are all very safe things to address, and they are actually helpful to potential readers. But let’s leave those book reports back in High School.

3) If it’s not in the blurb, don’t put it in the review

This is the safest way to make sure you don’t ruin a book for anyone else. Blurbs are carefully crafted to give away just enough info to make a book enticing, but not too much to take away the fun of discovery a reader gets to enjoy when they read a new book. When writing a review, I’m careful to never disclose anything specific the blurb hasn’t already told us. I don’t add in plot twists, endings, who-dun-it’s, or anything you wouldn’t have gotten from the blurb.

In the two reviews above, you’ll see in the first one no spoilers were leaked but you still got an idea of my feelings on the book, as well as an idea of what it’s about. It’s action, adventure and romance. Emotional. Hard to put down. In the second one, I told you exactly what happens! As a new reader, when you open that book you already know many of the major conflicts AND you even know how it ends. As a reader, if I read that first review, I would put that book in my cart. If I read the second review, I would shout curses at that reviewer for ruining a book it sounds like I would have loved. I would back out without buying it and go find another book. So, when you review, if it’s not in the blurb, find a way to get your point across without revealing any additional information.

4) Write the review you would want to read

Having a hard time coming up with a review that isn’t a book report? Try to think about what you wish you would have known before you started it. Without giving away too much, try to help the next readers decide if this is the right book for them. Do you hate cliffhangers, and it ended in one? Tell us that! Don’t tell us what the cliffhanger was but tell us you were disappointed it requires you to purchase book two in order to get the ending. Do you love sex scenes and this writer did a fantastic job? That’s a great thing to add and can help readers decide if they want a book with steamy sex scenes or not. Was it too violent for you? Say that. Readers who like violence in books will purchase it, and it will steer away those who don’t have a taste for it. These are all things that can help you write a book review that actually helps guide buyers and doesn’t ruin the book for the people who read it.

5) Use Spoiler Alerts

If you decide you absolutely must write a review that includes info not already in the blurb, please PLEASE write in all caps at the very top of your review *SPOILER ALERT!* This gives any readers who like to be surprised plenty of warning to flip past your review and not have a book experience ruined.

That’s it! Those are the five simple rules to writing a review that will have both authors and readers singing your praises instead of cursing your screen name. Your reviews are SO IMPORTANT and we want to encourage you to come forward with how you felt about our books. But just be mindful when doing so and let the readers who come after you share in all the joy of discovering a story the way an author intended. Let them share in your surprise.

by: Katherine Hastings

Katherine Hastings loves love. It’s why she writes romance novels. Getting lost writing a romantic adventure is one of her favorite pastimes. When she’s not on an adventure with her characters, she can be found at her home in Wisconsin snuggling her husband, two Boston Terriers, and the world’s naughtiest cat. Two things make Katherine want to leave her happy home these days… going for rides on her dressage pony or floating at the beach in her big inflatable raft. Writing her novels while floating in the lake is one of her ultimate pleasures… that and Fried Wisconsin Cheese Curds, of course.

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The Discipline of Writing and the Fear of Failure

As the new year begins, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. One of the toughest things about becoming a writer is discipline. We all know a book doesn’t write itself and no matter how much praying we do, the words don’t always come. I have been writing a long time…well, sort of. I spent the first five years of my writing career talking about writing, researching, taking classes, attending conferences, perfecting my first three chapters and a synopsis, but I never finished a book. 

I used to blame my lack of productivity on my day job, my family, my dog, the neighbor’s dog, anyone and anything, instead of myself. Slowly, but surely all the writers in my critique group became published authors, while I kept on pretending that someday I would write a great book.  Even after publishing seven books and having others manuscripts looking for a publisher, I still struggle with sitting down to write.

Don't wish for it, work for it

Often what keeps me back from writing is fear of failure. I’m a sensitive sort and every time someone gives me a bad review or a rejection letter lands in my inbox, I crawl in my closet (literally) with my favorite candy (right now it’s peanut M & M’s), but the key is: I always crawl back out. And that’s the answer.

God says in the Bible we should not fear anything. (I write Christian fiction, so yeah, you’re going to get some God from me.) Not everybody is going to love me or embrace what I write, but that’s okay. If you put yourself out there you will be rewarded. Maybe it’s becoming a contest finalist, an email from a fan, a publishing contract or a hug from your hubby or the kids. Whatever it is, remember your talent is a gift. So use it!

Tips on how to finish a book:

  1. Keep a log of how many words or pages you write each day.
  2. Set a goal and tell someone who can hold you to it. (i.e. I will finish this book or these many pages by…)
  3. Carve out a writing time each day and stick to it. (Start with a half hour and work from there.)
  4. Exercise (Yes, taking a walk or doing a few sit ups gets the blood flowing and the brain working.)
  5. Remember, writing time is not plotting, research or marketing time. You can plot a new book when you have finished this one.

So stop reading this post and go write!

P.S. I’d love to hear your favorite writing strategy, email me at Oliviarae.books@gmail.com

Olivia Rae headshot

Olivia Rae is an award-winning author of historical and contemporary inspirational romance. She spent her school days dreaming of knights, princesses and far away kingdoms; it made those long, boring days in the classroom go by much faster. Nobody was more shocked than her when she decided to become a teacher. Besides getting her Master’s degree, marrying her own prince, and raising a couple of kids, Olivia decided to breathe a little more life into her childhood stories by adding in what she’s learned as an adult living in a small town on the edge of a big city. When not writing, she loves to travel, dragging her family to old castles and forts all across the world.

Olivia is the winner of the New England Readers’ Choice Award, the Golden Quill Award, and the American Fiction Awards. She has also been a finalist in many other writing contests, including the National Readers’ Choice Awards and the National Excellence in Romance.

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Entering the Fabulous Five Contest

From the prominent New York Times Best Selling author to the newbie who’s just begun their writing career, one of the scariest things you can tell a writer is that someone is going to judge their work. Sometimes just telling a writer that their work is going to be read sends them into conniption fits.

However, writing contests should be considered in a completely different light. Writing contests are an excellent way to receive constructive feedback on your WIP and (in many instances) get your work in front of industry professionals without having to write a query!

When I finally could dedicate time to writing again, I noticed that I felt more insecure about my writing than I ever had before. I was scared to write the stories I wanted to write. I was scared to put any words on the paper, for fear that they would suck. I almost considered giving writing up as a whole. And then I read a blog post about the pros of entering writing contests. I began researching all the writing contests I could potentially enter.  Ultimately, I ended up submitting two entries into the Fab Five Contest and it was one of the best decisions I made. I took the entire process as an opportunity to grow as a writer. I wanted to know what people thought of my work when they didn’t know it was mine. It was terrifying, but absolutely necessary.

Let me tell you why:

Each final judge reads all five finalist entries. They issue their own feedback form which includes a section for material requests. Essentially, you can get a partial or full request from an agent or an editor without having to write a query and wait months checking and rechecking your inbox. Now, am I saying that entering a contest should completely replace good old-fashioned querying? No. Not at all. Querying is an important process for a writer who wants to publish traditionally, but that’s a blog post for another time. I’m talking about entering contests, specifically the Fab Five contest opening on January 1st of 2019.

For all the benefits discussed, one may suspect that entry fees would break your budget. That is not the case. At $25 for WisRWA members and $30 for non-members, the Fab Five prices continue to be some of the most economical among similar contests. So, for a relatively small fee, you can get expert feedback from published authors and the chance to get your work seen (and maybe requested by) industry professionals. I can say from firsthand experience, entering the Fab Five Contest is worth the price and worth facing the fear of judgement. It just may change your life.

As an unpublished author with no critique partners, joining the Fabulous Five contest proved vital to my journey as a writer. In 2015 I took some time off of writing to completely change careers, go back to school, and get my master’s degree. During those years, I felt well…backed up. I wanted to write my own stories, but time and guilt restrained me. I had papers to write, tests to take, and a thesis to research. How could I take an hour or two to outline a romance novel, when I was barely even sleeping? I couldn’t. There was no time. As such, my mood plummeted, my anxiety spiked, and I was miserable.

My number one reason for entering the Fab Five contest was for the feedback, especially because I don’t really have critique partners. Most authors continue the same patterns from beginning to the end of the book and from WIP to WIP. Chances are the mistakes you’re making in chapter one, are the same ones you’re making in chapter twenty. The opportunity to get detailed and constructive feedback on the beginning of your WIP is invaluable. The Fab Five contest has some seriously qualified first round judges looking at all of the things a potential editor or agent would look for: a catchy opening, believable characters, a conflict driven plot, natural dialogue and active narrative, a sense rich setting, and a unique style. Say you are like me and don’t even realize that you have no dialogue in your WIP until about page five… Don’t worry, the judges will figure it out relatively quickly and tell you in their feedback. Perhaps you are a bit lacking in setting.  The judges will let you know. Maybe your work is absolutely fantastic, but only requires some grammatical tweaks. The judges will let you know that too. The Fab Five first round judges try their very best to give detailed and useful feedback on every entry they read, but even then they don’t always agree. Every judge is different and so are their opinions, which is why the lowest score is always dropped when calculating placement in the category (unless there’s a tie) That info is available in the official rules here: 2019 Fab Five Rules Once scores are complied, five finalists are selected in each category and sent to an agent and an editor for final judging.

This leads me to the second reason for entering: the opportunity to get one’s work in front of industry professionals without having to query first. If you’re anything like me, just the thought of writing a query letter, that may or may not lead to a request, sends you into cold sweats. It’s extremely intimidating to think that a few paragraphs can determine whether or not someone decides how interesting and worthy the project (you spent years trying to perfect) is. Entering the Fab Five contest and being a finalist means that both an agent and an editor are going to read the first 2,500 words of your manuscript! There are no queries or even a synopsis needed to enter, so the judging comes directly from that small snippet of your work. I know that last sentence will freak some people out, but consider this: if an entry finals, it has gone through three other judges who considered it worthy of potentially winning. That means those first few pages are filled with some seriously good writing. That alone is a huge confidence boosting compliment.

Headshot of Natalie Cana

by: Natalie Caña

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