Monday, November 16, 2015

Robin Gianna's Writing Journey

Please welcome Robin Gianna back to the blog today!

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My writing journey started with a summer beach read, and the epiphany that I wanted to write fiction.  
A formerly voracious reader, it was the first novel I’d read in quite a few years, mostly just picking up the occasional magazine while my children were small.  I know some mothers take time for themselves through books, but to me, being interrupted all the time in the middle of a story made it much less enjoyable!
But my youngest was no longer a toddler, and I grabbed a book to take on the trip.  After I read it, I
found myself lying on the beach deeply thinking about the characters. Then, back at home, oddly and obsessively creating new scenes in my head while I was cooking, driving, doing laundry. Weird! I thought maybe I was losing it until I realized these were someone else’s characters and I needed to come up with my own.  Clearly, I needed to write a book!
And so it began.  It didn’t seem so crazy, right?  I’d write a book, then sell it.  I had a journalism degree, after all, so I was a pretty good writer.  I’d read a lot.  How hard could it be?
Well, the answer is, pretty hard! :-) For me, the learning curve to writing fiction was much longer than I ever dreamed it would be.  Early in the journey, I began reading a lot of romances again and remember looking at websites of authors I liked, to learn about them.  Then was flabbergasted that it had taken some of them five or seven years to get published! *gasp*  How was that possible?  
My attitude makes me laugh now, because I know the answer.  Books are hard to write, and competition is fierce when it comes to having an agent or editor become interested in your work.  The number of years between my epiphany and selling?  Nine.  Yep, nine, though I wrote in fits and starts, often letting life get in the way.  Even when I wasn’t writing, though, I kept studying the craft.
In January of 2012, I decided it was time to either get serious about getting published by writing and submitting more, or quit.  I gave myself until the end of that year for a positive sign that I should keep going, in the form of landing an agent or having serious interest from a publisher.  In the midst of working on a single title, I saw that Harlequin Mills & Boon was having a Fast Track submission event for their medical line, where writers could submit just one chapter and a synopsis, and get feedback within a month.  Considering one could turn gray between submitting and getting a response, sometimes, that seemed like a great thing!  And my husband and many of our relatives and friends are physicians and nurses, so I’d have people to bother for research.  Why not? 
Then I pondered how to stand out in the crowd.  I decided that an unusual location would catch attention, but to stick with a popular trope so as not to stick out in a sore-thumb kind of way.  I set the book in Benin, West Africa because my husband had worked in a mission hospital there long ago, and went with a secret baby storyline.  
I was asked for two more chapters.  Woot!  Shortly after, an agent who had requested a single title of mine the prior year offered me representation, which I happily accepted.  Then Harlequin wanted the full manuscript.  These were the signs I’d asked for—obviously, I wasn’t supposed to quit!
In May of 2013, I got THE CALL.  So thrilling!  So happy!  Frankly, though?  Pretty quickly, it became a bit of a ‘Be careful what you wish for’ thing, because my life could not have been busier at that moment.  My father-in-law had experienced a life-threatening heart problem, and was living with us for a few months to recover. My mother fell and was in the hospital, then rehab. My son was graduating from high school, for which I was planning a backyard party and cooking gobs of food, and my daughter was interviewing in NYC for internships, with me accompanying her to help her move in, etc. 
 
Oh, and I had that new writing career taking up a lot of time, but I didn’t remove anything from my already busy life to accommodate that change.  Can you say stressful?
My daughter still laughs about the morning I got an email from my editor, saying they were going to tweet about their new author, and what was my Twitter account?  I went tearing up to her room, shouting like the house was on fire, telling her she had to set up a Twitter account for me. :-)
So, what I’ve learned that I’d like to pass on?  Get a website set up in advance, even if you don’t publish it until you’ve sold.  Get your social media in order.  Know you will have deadlines to meet and edits to do and promotion for releases that can come pretty fast and furious.  Figure out what you can delegate to others, and what things in your life you might have to do away with.  Ask for help from family members, because they can’t read your mind about what house responsibilities might be pushing you over the edge.  Most of all?  Take care of yourself.  Don’t let one of the things you drop be the exercise you used to do.  Re-energize by engaging with friends, because writing can be a lonely business.
One more bit of honesty?  I’ve had some tough things to deal with personally over the past year and a half, and there have been a few times when I thought maybe it wasn’t worth it.  That I’d gotten ‘get published’ off my bucket list and I was done.
But then my box of books would come, and let me say, that’s a great feeling.  A reader will tell me how much she enjoyed my book.  A bit of a paycheck shows up in the mail.  The book I’m working on comes together, and it feels wonderful when that happens.  All of that makes me smile, and that’s when I know.
It’s worth it.
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About Robin
After completing a degree in journalism, working in the advertising industry, then becoming a stay-at-home mom, Robin Gianna had what she likes to call her ‘awakening’. She decided she wanted to write the romance novels she’d loved since her teens.  Robin embarked on that quest by joining RWA and a local chapter, and working hard at learning the craft of fiction writing.
Robin loves pushing her characters toward their own happily-ever-afters! When she’s not writing, Robin’s life is filled with a happily messy kitchen, a needy garden, a wonderful husband, three great kids, a drooling bulldog and one grouchy Siamese cat.
Robin Gianna on the web:

Website             Facebook         Twitter

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***

Thanks Robin for a glimpse into your journey. Love the Twitter story! 
I just finished Her Christmas Baby Bump and it's a Terrific story!! If you're looking for a great contemporary romance with characters with heart, you need to pick up a copy - loved it!

What about you? Anyone else give themselves a deadline for success? Or get a family member to set up the social media?

I know none of us are giving up - and it WILL be worth it!

30 comments:

  1. Wow, what a journey! Despite how stressful it's been, it sounds like it's been pretty rewarding, too. Congrats, Robin!

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    1. I suspect any journey worth taking has some stress involved at times, don't you think, Heather? :-) Thanks for your congrats!

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  2. Good thing you took advantage of the Fast Track. And I can relate about not having a social media presence beforehand. (I do now!)

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    1. Hi, Alex! Yes, any time you can take advantage of a special submission process, do it! :-) As for social media, I'd heard so many times to get a website together prior to publication but a few other unpublished friends and I couldn't figure out what we would put on it. After I was published, I later read about getting it together without worrying about content until you were published - sure wish I'd thought of that!

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  3. Great tips here. I like the one about asking family members to help out with things. I always expect them to be mind readers, too! But they're happy to help when asked.

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    1. It's so true, isn't it, Elizabeth? I think many women are used to wearing so many hats and trying to take care of everyone that even when things get overwhelming, we still take it on ourselves to keep doing it all. Not a good plan for our stress levels :-)

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  4. It is worth it.

    My husband is a trooper and will help with whatever I need around the house.

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    1. That's wonderful to hear, Diane - lucky you! :-)

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  5. Heather - I agree!

    Alex - me too :)

    Elizabeth - I expect mind readers as well!

    Diane - it is! :)

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  6. Congrats, Robin! It all sounds very exciting. I wish you continued success!

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  7. Oh, those mindless chores are just GREAT for in-the-head story construction, aren't they? Thanks for sharing your story, Robin!

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    1. They are, Jeff. Also good for procrastination - I found a burning need to scrub the kitchen floor grout last week instead of figuring out why I was stuck in my story ;-) Thanks for stopping by!

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  8. This is so honest it really hits the spot. Thanks for telling us about your writing journey Robin. I entered that medical romance contest too, but with no resources to call on in such a short time, it fizzled. So great for you!! You gave it the thought it needed.

    Yeah, it is hard for women, especially, to have a writing career, so I take my hat off to the young mums who actually keep writing when their kids are young! And when they're older, there are still those demands on 'your' time. :-)

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    1. That is so true, Denise! I've found, surprisingly, that there is so much to do and deal with now that my kids are older, it's more time consuming than when they were little!

      You should give the various contests another try. I'm not certain, but I believe the medical line will be having another fast track next year. It's truly worth it, so check it out - best of luck!

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  9. I could so relate to the naive notions of "how hard could this be?" when one has the degrees (mine are in English and journalism) plus years of nonfiction professional experience. Fiction is just a different animal and the learning curve! Oy!

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    1. So true, Laurel! Crazy, isn't it? It truly is different. But when we finally round the curve enough to finally write a pretty good book? Nothing like it :-)

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  10. You are so awesome! Nine years!!!!??? My hero! I've been sweating because I'm at the end of 5 years. Phew, I have plenty of time. ;)

    I just love all your books so keep writing, please.

    xoxo,
    Riley

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    1. Five years? Just a baby, Riley ;-) Thanks so much for your sweet words, and I just know you're going to be knocking editors dead soon, and readers even more xoxo

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  11. Loved hearing your story, Robin. It revved up my "hang in there" engine.

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    1. I'm glad, Leslie! I heard someone say once that it truly is a question of perseverance - that if you keep at it and keep writing and learning, it will happen. I truly believe that :-) I do fear that in this age of self-publishing, although it can be a great option for writers, it can also encourage people to skip the 'learning' part and put their first book out there. Let's face it - a person can't learn a musical instrument, or a second language, or become good at visual arts or any number of things in six months. Writing is the same way, so I'm impressed at your 'hang in there' engine, because you're obviously doing it right! Best of luck!

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  12. Congrats Robin, loved your story :-)

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  13. So wonderful to learn about Robin and her path to becoming a published writer. It is definitely a long process and it takes determination for sure. Great advice about a website and getting social media in order. Thanks for sharing and best of luck to Robin. :)
    ~Jess

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    1. Thank you, Jess! I appreciate your stopping by :-)

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  14. I felt the excitement of the call and email. Even with the downs, those ups keep us going.

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  15. We need those ups, for sure, Medeia - even if they're little ones like a good score in a contest, or a compliment from an agent who likes your work, but isn't interested in repping you. Nice to hear from you again - thanks for stopping by! :-)

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  16. Congratulations to Robin! I laughed when I read about her asking for help with her twitter account. I haven't done that exact thing, but I've certainly asked my teenage daughter for lots of social media help!

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  17. Hi Jemi!

    Great post from Robin Gianna. We learn so much new stuff from author posts like this. Thanks for hosting Robin.

    Congratulations on the release of your fantastic book Robin!

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