Saturday, January 16, 2010

Coveted First Sale. Too soon?

When you've been around the writing community going on a dozen years as I have, you learn a thing or two. Constantly. I'm constantly making new friends and learning--not just about the craft and business and PATIENCE, but tidbits of wisdom.

My latest tidbit was brought home to me by friend, Kaki Warner. I first noticed Kaki from the contest circuit. She's a writing veteran, like myself. Just about every contest she entered she placed if not won, yet year after year she wasn't snatched up. I couldn't help wondering why not.

Well, I'm thrilled to say her time finally came and she was recognized in spades by Berkley with a three book contract! Now I wonder if she's a little bitter about not having sold earlier. She calls herself a 25yr overnight success. But is that really a bad thing????

25 years is a little excessive for a person of my limited patience (just ask any Scribe about Theresa-time), but . . . as I read her first book, Pieces of Sky, out this January. Maybe it was worth the wait. 'cause it's good. It's VERY good. And not just the cover, though that is beautiful as well.

Her first chapter opens with enough building conflict to make even Don Maass giddy. She is a master at using details to really pull me into scenes, without going overboard and slowing plot. Her prose is well-written and expressions so unique that I had to find out where she got all those crazy cowboy saings. Her sensual tension is sprinkled throughout with finesse and her love scenes quite tasteful. If you ever wonder how to write making your setting standout as a character, study Kaki's book. She does it beautifully. And, she writes each character with a different voice and personality--even the big silent type like Hank.

As a seasoned writer, I've become cynical and extremely picky about what I read, and Kaki's first book is extremely well done. I can't wait to read the next one, Open Country, out in June--I believe. So my point is not to push a friend's book, but it's to point out that she's given me real hope, because when Kaki finally sold, her book is really something she should be proud of.

There are a LOT of first time authors who are published and --in this readers opinion--couldn't say the same. It happened too earlier for them. Their first, and even second or third books, are not all that well written. Perhaps they would have been a little better off struggling and learning more about their craft before they snatched that brass ring. Not that any one of us would pass up that opportunity to publish if it fell into our laps. Let's be honest! Can you see it? No thank you Grand Central Editor, I really don't think my story is good enough to publish just yet, maybe next year.

So there's hope for this old writing veteran that when my time comes, I'm hoping I've learned and continue to learn so much about this craft that when that first book (and the others after it) are published, I'll hold my head up high and know that I've put out there a quality product. I'm hoping God's path similarly rewards my reluctant patience.

Tina Radcliff is another veteran (inspirational romance author) who has just sold her first book-- can't wait to see if she supports my theory. I bet she does!

What do you think? Does a little more author time spent in the trenches tend to produce better quality stories?


Donnell said...

Audra, what a thought-provoking post. Thanks for the book referral to Kaki Warner. I find word of mouth is one of the best ways to find new authors, and because I respect your opinion greatly, I'll add her to my TBR pile.

Regarding your question does a little more time in the trenches make you a better writer. IMO. Yes and no.

A new author may not have had time to be beaten down by all the so-called rules and the harsh critiques and still has a muse that runs free.

An older writer knows the rules, can decided when to accept and/or to break them, plus he/she has learned craft, and has had to have a talk a time or two with a unwieldy muse that wants to go off in various directions. I believe Tina learned focus and discipline in her years in the trenches. She studied and now she has several ms. ready to get out there.

She might laugh me silly at this one, but I think she'll be less stressed than she would be as a brand new author who got The Call earlier...

Anyway, I'm never decisive I know... But like writing, it's all so subjective!

Kaki said...

WOW, Theresa! What a lovely write-up. Thanks for the kind words.

I wish I could say I'd been in the trenches all those 25 years, but for well over half of them I didn't write at all. But I did get smarter and a little more stubborn, so that by the time I came back to it a few years ago, I had gained enough wisdom(?) to write the story I wanted to write, and on my terms, and in my own way.

That said, I sometimes wish I were younger and more energetic about marketing it. Nowadays it's all "social networking" which is a whole new realm for a plod-along writer like me. So I'm extra grateful for people like you, Theresa, and the other scribes here, who provide a forum for ideas and are willing to put in a good word for fellow writers. Thanks, all!

Donnell said...

Yikes, what was I smoking this morning, Theresa, my apologies! Yours was the thought-provoking post. I hope the rest of my comments still stand.

Kaki, can't wait to read your work!

Audra Harders said...

Ha, T! Donnell is having a tough time telling us apart. Is that a good thing??

Kaki I so applaud your patience and perserverance! I've been writing for 17 years, off and on, depending on what the kids were up to. In that time, I wrote, rewrote, rewrote and learned...lots. This business is not for the faint of heart!

Can't wait to read your book, Kaki. The right time came and now you're living your dream. Good for you!!

Now. About Theresa time. We all joke about T's impatience, but truth to tell, she's one of the most determined women I know. She writes, she queries, she submits. She waits, she accepts rejection, she learns from her mistakes.

And then she writes, she queries, she submits. I stand in awe at her perserverance.

T, big things are waiting for you. Don't give up now!!!

Theresa said...

Donnell, shame on you! Either you had addled brains or I'm getting soft. Must be you, friend!

Audra and I couldn't be more different! She's the sweet one full of mushy hugs and marshmellow happiness. I'm . . . well, not exactly the warm and fuzzy type.

As usual, you wonderfully pointed out the benefits of both paths and as with most big decisions, I learn to enjoy the path I took 'cause there's no use in whining and crying over what is done, I just try to learn from it and move on to be better.

Mom and Dad drilled the old saying into me, "the first time shame on them, the second time . . . shame on you." In other words learn and don't make the same mistake twice!

Kaki, again, I get confused with Audra! She's the kind one, I'm honest. If nothing else, I am absolutely sincere--perhaps to my pals' embarrassment at times, eh scribes? Audra acuses me of having no filter, but she's wrong. When I'm thinking something that would hurt someone's feelings, I try hard to choose my words carfully-(-which is why judging contests take me so damn long!), but with most things, what I think often just pops out of my mouth.

Audra, there ya go being sweet again. I am determined in pretty much everything I do. A Texan friend of mine called me a little pit bull. Since he's male and a Texan . . . I'm taking that as a compliment.

Re writing . . . it's FUN. And if it takes agents awhile to recognize my brillance and figure out how to best help me hone it to the maximum effect, well, then so be it ! I'll simply have fun writing another book.

Audra, I've always said I'll give up when it's not fun to write books anymore. And then it's not "giving up", it's moving on to something more fun than writing. But where else can I express my mean side without going to jail???