Monday, September 9, 2013

FINDING THE MAGIC KEY



Romance author, Anna Sugden, is my guest today. She visits the blog on various occasions but I'm thrilled to have her visiting today with her debut novel, A Perfect Distraction. Yay Anna! 

Writing is Anna's third career, the first was working as a Marketing executive for a multi-national corporation, then as a primary teacher (we call them elementary teachers here), and now a published author. She started getting serious about writing shortly after 9-11. I'd like to tell you she was an overnight success but...well, I'll let her tell you about that and what it took to get to this point.




Thanks so much, Sia for letting me visit today. Your blog has always been a great place to hang out, so it’s especially nice to be able to visit as a published author, to celebrate the release of my first book, A Perfect Distraction! (Happy squee!)
Like many authors, I took a long time to sell my first book. Nine years, eight full manuscripts and four partial-and-synopsis proposals to be precise. That doesn't include all the revisions I did on most of those. As for rejections, let’s just say I could wallpaper my office quite nicely ;). During that time, I also had a lot of success -- I finalled in or won almost every prestigious writing contest for unpublished authors, including three Golden Heart finals. My manuscripts were passed up and across, but for a variety of reasons always failed at the final hurdle.

No-one ever said writing was an easy profession, and they were right!

One of the things you think, as you go round and round in that holding pattern of ‘nearly there’, is that you must be missing something -- a magic key that would unlock the door to that first sale. If you could just find that elusive magic key, you would finally get The Call.
You’re all expecting me to tell you that there is no such thing. Actually, there is. J In fact, there are several. The trick isn't finding a magic key, it’s figuring out which one will work for you. That’s part of the writer’s journey - trying out those keys until you find the right one.

So what are these magic keys?

1.    Perseverance. Writing is hard work. Fact. It’s hard for everyone, from Nora Roberts to the newbie starting their first manuscript. There are numerous inspirational talks from famous authors telling you about their journey to success. They will also tell you how they still have to battle every day for every book. Yes, you need a little bit of luck to succeed - the right book, landing on the right editor’s desk at the right time - but, to paraphrase Samuel Goldwyn the harder you work, the luckier you’ll get. Those who succeed are the ones who don’t give up. Obvious? Perhaps. But as my lovely husband always says - the only way to guarantee you won’t be published is to give up.
2.    Keep on learning. It’s not enough to work hard if you keep making the same mistakes. No-one writes a perfect book. There are many ways to learn - craft books, workshops, critique partners. Yes, even those of us who think we've seen, heard and read it all can learn something new from an expert. One of the ways I was able to make the necessary changes to my work was through expert advice - I bought a critique from a well known author in a charity auction. I also managed to get a fantastic agent, who provided me with excellent insight into what I needed to fix.
3.    Be prepared to change. Sometimes, as the saying goes, a change is as good as a rest. It may be that you should try writing something different - I learned a lot by writing romantic suspense and still hope to get some of those books published J. It could be that you need to try writing for a different line/editor/publisher. I started off targeting Special Edition, but switched to Super Romance because that line was a better fit for my writing. It may be that your strategy for getting your work to the right people has to change. I had more success through contests and editor agent pitches than direct submission or queries.
4.    It’s okay to take a break. Sometimes we just need to stop and rest. That’s not a bad thing, especially if you use that time to refill your creative well and re-energize your muse. After all, we are all chasing our dream. What is the point of hating every minute of it? Take some time off and read, watch movies, go for long walks, whatever it takes to recharge your writing batteries. Trust me, you’ll be back writing sooner than you think.
5.    Write the book of your heart. We all have the book we dream of writing. In fact, most of us have several. But, we also all have an excuse for not writing that book - the market isn't right, you need more writing experience, everyone is writing that kind of book, no-one is buying that kind of book etc. The truth is that you don’t need to write the book of your heart for anyone but yourself. Write it, enjoy it. You never know, things change all the time in publishing, so maybe one day, the book of your heart will be the book that sells. Mine was. Everyone told me that I’d never sell a sports romance, let alone one featuring a hockey player. J


  • Have you found a magic key that worked for you, either for writing or something else? 
  • Or, tell us about something you've worked hard at and succeeded in.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
BUY: AMAZON, B&N, iTUNES,THE BOOK DEPOSITORY 
A PERFECT DISTRACTION
Anna Sugden
A face-off—head vs. heart 
For Jake Badoletti, this year is all about his career. He has a rare second chance to make the most of being a pro hockey player, so no parties, no scandals. Too bad he's met a woman who could sideline those plans. Maggie Goodman is not his usual type—right down to being a single mom. Still, the sizzling connection with this gorgeous brunette can't be ignored. 
With a little juggling and a lot of focus, Jake manages to have the game and Maggie. Then his performance on the ice suffers and a scandal erupts. Now he can't afford the distraction of Maggie…even if she is perfect for him. 
Romance Times – 4 stars!
                                                                                                                          


Anna Sugden, is a three-time Golden Heart finalist who loves reading and writing happy endings as much as hockey! When not reading or watching hockey, she loves football, good food and wine, making simple cross-stitch projects and collecting memorabilia, penguins, and fab shoes.

Anna lives in Cambridge, England, with her husband and two bossy cats. 
You can find Anna: WebsiteFacebook, Goodreads, TwitterRomance Bandits

40 comments:

~Sia McKye~ said...

Anna, welcome to the special guest side of Over Coffee! I'm so glad to have you visiting and thrilled to see all your hard work pay off.

I loved your article. Realistic but so encouraging.

I have been fortunate to possess several magic keys in my life. Writing, I'm still working on and I definitely took a break from writing--for various reasons. I've also gone through several changes as to style and genres. But, writing is something I enjoy if I can make the adventure fun and interesting to me. It's been a learning experience. :-)

Anna Sugden said...

Hi Sia - thanks so much again for having me over!

Writing is certainly an interesting learning experience. I think the problem is partly that it's not a smooth ride - there are so many highs and lows. It's hard to remember you're meant to be enjoying yourself after a rejection, a contest bomb-out or a crit that rips your work to shreds. Not to mention the days when you think all you write is drivel.

But, I'm a firm believer in the view that without those lows, the highs wouldn't be as wonderful either.

Plus, it's all good learning for when you're published - because, things don't change! The lows are just different - tough deadlines, bad reviews, poor market conditions, publishers issues ... and thinking that everything you write is drivel!

I have to say - it was all worth it for the joy of selling my first book ... and three more since! :)

Shelley Munro said...

Great post. I think if something is important to you, you just need to suck it up and keep going, despite rejections or setbacks. It's that perseverance word again :)

Anna Sugden said...

Thanks, Shelley! I think you're right. In fact, I believe if it's that important to you, you can't stop for long - I've 'given up' writing a few times, but within days I'm back at it - even if it's only writing something for myself that I know will never be published.

One of the most fun manuscripts I ever wrote was one of those - it's called Gay by Day and is about a guy who goes undercover on a show like Queer Eye, to expose the fake gay, and gets sucked into faking it himself to save the show! The heroine is the show's producer. Sadly, I'm not funny enough to do the concept justice - but I loved writing it for myself :)

L.G. Smith said...

"After all, we are all chasing our dream. What is the point of hating every minute of it?"

I kind of needed to hear those words today. Thanks! And congrats on your success. :)

Anna Sugden said...

Hi LG - thanks for stopping by.

I'm so glad those words struck a chord with you and helped in some small way. :)

The other thing to remember is that, like a roller-coaster, you always come up after after being low!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hi Sia! Hi Anna! So great to see you here, Anna, as Ms. Debut Author! WOOT!! I'm thrilled not only for A Perfect Distraction, but for the three more books they've asked you for! WOOT!! You've said everything so well. Like LG, I think I needed to hear a couple of these things today, even being in the writing game for a while. Sometimes you need to remember that coming to the page may be hard on occasion, but the results are SO worth it in the end. :>

Congrats, again!!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Congratulations, Anna!
Sometimes the key is out of our control, such as timing.
The key to books' success - continued presence.

Susan Sey said...

Good morning, Sia & Anna!

I'm pushing hard to get the last hundred or so pages of story on the page today, & I so needed to hear these words of wisdom, Anna! My key? (Today's key, at least.) I had to switch back to long-hand and the old spiral notebook for an hour or two. Something about writing long-hand tells my brain it's time to invent rather than write. I feel like these are two different but related things, & sometimes when the story won't come, I have to forcibly remind my brain that we're inventing stuff here. Get creative up there!

And, interestingly, it usually works. Isn't it funny? Your brain is such a sophisticated piece of equipment, but you can trick it so easily...

Then again, maybe my brain's not as sophisticated as most. :-)

But thanks again for saying exactly what I needed to hear today, & huge congrats on finding your own key. Can't wait to see what's next for you & the Hockey Hunks!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Jeanne, I couldn't agree more. Sometimes coming to the page is hard. and this article was a great one to read. It reminds us to keep writing. It's always good to see the success of another writer on the journey. It does encourage.

ALEX--very true. But nothing will get out there timing or presence aside unless we keep writing. :-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Susan--I do pull out the notebook frequently. Especially when I'm trying to work through something that's giving me fits. It seems to unlock something in my brain and poof--there's the solution. I also use the notebook when starting something new--creating. It does help.

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Anna! Hi Sia!
This is a wonderful and spot-on post in so many ways. I think one of the keys is that after you've made your current project as good as you can - move on to the next project. You learn something new, improve your craft, with every book written so it's important to get to that next book!

One of the things I love about the romance industry is that every author I've ever met has been so giving and helpful, i.e. the critique you mentioned. In my "other" profession - that of a CPA - no one shares and helps another industry member quite like we do in Romance. We're all heroines in that way (grin).

Love that A Perfect Distraction is out and available to the wide world at last.

jo robertson said...

Wonderful advice, Anna, and congratulations again for your debut publication. I love that picture of you holding the book! So delightful!

Hi, Sia, good to "see" you again.

I'd only underscore the concept of perseverance. It's trite, but true; you'll only fail if you give up. Growth is part of everything we do. We wouldn't expect Tiger Woods to stop practicing his swing! Writing is a skill like golfing and you must work at it every day.

Yolanda Renee said...

Congratulations Anna, great advice. I love that you suggested to write the book of your heart! So important!

And these words should be written in gold!

"Plus, it's all good learning for when you're published - because, things don't change! The lows are just different - tough deadlines, bad reviews, poor market conditions, publishers issues ... and thinking that everything you write is drivel!"

So true! So very true!

Anna Sugden said...

Hey Jeanne, my lovely Bandita sister! Thanks for stopping by and for helping me celebrate!

For me, the comfort is that all writers and authors have days when coming to the page is hard (like the scene I'm writing today!) - it makes me feel better to know that Nora struggles too :)

Anna Sugden said...

Hi Alex! I'm a classic example of someone whose journey was so long because of things outside my control. LOL In the end, though, I'm a great believer in things happening for a reason. And not just the 'no pain, no gain' reason :)

Anna Sugden said...

Hi Susan - another wonderful Bandita sister! Funnily enough, I've been doing exactly that today too - writing in longhand to tackle the aforementioned difficult scene. I see things differently on paper and physically writing.

We both obviously have easily trickable brains!

Can't wait for your next book, so glad that you're getting your brain to work on those last 100pp!

Anna Sugden said...

Hi Donna - thanks for stopping by! It's a fun Bandita gathering today!

I think your advice is spot on for two reasons - first to keep growing and learning with something new, of course. But also to give you space from the other project. Sometimes, a bit of distance helps you to see that first project more clearly.

Our industry is the most pay-it-forward group I've ever come across!

Anna Sugden said...

Hi Jo! It's great to see you here today! That's a great way to look at it - we need to keep honing and toning our writing muscles!

I have to say that both my agent and my editor have taught me so much - they're like having your own personal trainer - just as tough too :)

Anna Sugden said...

Thanks so much, Yolanda. I think one of the mistakes fairly new writers make is to write what they think they should instead of what they want to write. I know we're always given the advice to take advantage of market trends, but honestly, by the time we see the trends, it's often too late! Plus, it's obvious if you're not writing what you love.

LOL Like I said - if Nora feels like that, I'm in good company! :)

Joan said...

Good afternoon Anna and Sia!

I've been with Anna these past years as she held onto her convictions and wielded her writing talent into the marvoulous "Hockey Hunk" series. Can't wait to read it.

Oh and magic key? Chocolate. And cats. :D

~Sia McKye~ said...

I love my Banditas! Not only do they write fabulous books (I can always find a good one to read there) but they're such a fun group!

I've noticed the same about the romance community. Definitely a helping and supportive community! Love it!

JO- Great to *see* you too! That's a great way to put it. Nothing we do well comes without practice and applying lessons learned. I bet you Tiger, even with all the wins, practices at least 8 hours a day to keep in shape.

DONNA--getting on to the next story and not letting the *this is drivel* stop you from taking on the next story. There's been times I've looked back at a MS that had flaws I could figure out how to see much less fix. The experience from the next MS or the one after that, sometimes gives you what you need to take care of one of the others.

JOAN-- definitely Chocolate, lol!

Anna Campbell said...

Hi Sia! Hi my Bandita sister Anna! Huge congratulations on the release of A PERFECT DISTRACTION. I'm perfectly hopeful that it will finally turn up in the mail today. I'm still convinced the postie has been reading it and that's why it's taking so long to get here. What wonderful advice for aspiring writers. One of the things I really admire about you (many things!)is your tenacity. You kept your eye on the prize and you stuck to your guns. Bravo, you!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Yolanda, I think writing from the heart is always good. Certainly, it makes a better story. :-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Anna, I meant to tell you, I just LOVE that picture with you holding up your books. Your face is just filled with the thrill of it all.

ANNA CAMPBELL! Good to see you here. You sure one of your pool boys haven't snatched up the book to read first? Hope the book is there today.

Jane said...

Congrats on your debut release, Anna. I'm so happy that sports romances are popular and your hockey romance sold. Hockey heroes are the absolute best.

Johanna Garth said...

Congratulations Anna, your book looks great :)

I was thinking the first three keys you mentioned are also magic keys for general success in any chosen career.

Anna Sugden said...

Aww thank you Joanie - right back at ya, babe with your fabulous Romans!

And, yes - chocolate and cats! :)

Anna Sugden said...

Anna! My Aussie twin! Thanks for stopping by - just want to say that my postie delivered A Rake's Midnight Kiss this morning (na na ne na na) - it's my 'get this ~@%$£ book' finished treat!

Aww thank you - with you and my other Bandita sisters to inspire me and keep me going, I couldn't fail!

Anna Sugden said...

Thanks so much, Sia - my lovely hubby always takes the best pics of me. :) That was a magical day, for sure!

Anna Sugden said...

Hi Jane - my fellow hockey addict! Thanks so much - your support over the long years has been wonderful! :)

Anna Sugden said...

Hi Johanna - thanks for stopping by and for liking the sound of Jake and Maggie's story. :)

I think that's what makes them magic - they do apply in all walks of life and in achieving all kinds of dreams.

Anna Campbell said...

Sia, I ALWAYS blame the pool boys when the postie isn't around to blame. Thanks for saying you like the photo!

Anna Campbell said...

Anna, I hope you enjoy Rake - a few more jokes than usual!

Anna Sugden said...

Anna - just as long as there aren't too many puns! ;)

~Sia McKye~ said...

JOHANNA--that's true, those keys work do work in other disciplines. And so does the idea that if you want to be successful in any career it takes dedication to learning your job and perseverance. It's rarely ever handed to you unless daddy is the CEO, lol!

Anna Sugden said...

Thanks you so much for having me over to visit, Sia - such fun :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

It all comes down to effort and being willing to change and grow.

Peaches Ledwidge said...

I really like what you said that "The trick isn't finding a magic key, it’s figuring out which one will work for you."
Congrats on your accomplishments.

Tonja said...

Great tips. Congrats on your success.