Rosanne Bittner: Heart of the West
Advice to Writers
I am frequently asked how I got started writing. Well, I couldn't NOT write. I have so many stories to tell, I have to write! The entire process can seem overwhelming to beginners, though. Here are a few tips for those of you who have stories of your own to tell but need a little help getting them down on paper.
In a nutshell -- Write what you love!!! Always write what you love!!! Do NOT write for the most popular genre. Write what you love! I cant say that enough. And be enthusiasitic about your story when presenting it to an editor or agent. Let your own excitement get him or her excited!
Next advice Just sit down and finish the book before you worry about editing. If you constantly stop to edit every single chapter before going on to the next, youll never finish the story and some of your enthusiasm for the story will fade. Also never worry about a sagging middle or stop writing because you've come to an indecision about how to handle a particular situation. You KEEP WRITING!! Even if it sound stupid, if you write yourself through a particular rough spot, almost always it will come to you what youve done wrong or how you should fix the situation. I NEVER PLAN A STORY!! I start a book and let it take me where it wants to go. I never fret over what will happen? or how will I solve this particular situation? It will solve itself as you write. You will have that light bulb A-HA!moment.
As for the technical aspects -- first of all, find a special working space that's yours alone. That might be just a corner of the kitchen where you can sit undisturbed with a notepad and pencil or a word processor, or an extra bedroom that also doubles as your sewing room. For many years, I had an office in my home. However, since I've expanded to need more room than is available there, I've moved into the building housing the family small business (Michigan Mold, Inc.). Pictured on this page is my office, with a very modern work space surrounded by the antique furnishings of a Victorian parlor, to get me into the "mood" of the historical period in which I set my novels.
It's tough getting started, but, first and foremost, you must write every day! When I first started writing seriously in 1979, I was secretary to the manager of a nuclear power plant, wife, and mother of two growing sons. "Free" time was severely limited, so I traded sleep for hours at the typewriter-- sometimes, I would wake up with my head on the keys! Now that I have established myself as a writer and can pursue it full-time, I am usually up by 5:00 a.m. and write until noon, then more from 2:00 - 4:00, including weekends. No days off when I am working on a book!
Where do I get my ideas? Most come from research. Maintaining authenticity and keeping the flavor of the time period is very important to me; many readers have written to thank me for the "painless" history lessons contained in my stories. Conversely, if I make any type of error, my readers politely but firmly point them out to me. Over the past 20 years, therefore, I have collected a vast personal library of historical and reference books, and am a member of such organizations as: the Mid-Michigan Romance Writers of America, The Council on America's Military Past, Oregon-California Trails Association, Romance Writers of America®, Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, the Nebraska State Historical Society, and the Montana Historical Society. My husband and I also make frequent research trips to the locales I'm writing about so that I can get a "feel" for the settings. In turn, places I have visited and even seemingly minor footnotes in the history books have sparked "what ifs" for future books. As for characters--most pop to life from my imagination, but occasionally, a suggestion from a fan sparks a description, as in the case of Wandering Star, a handsome young Native American boy who is the son of one of my readers.
When you have a completed, polished manuscript in hand, it's time to contact a publisher or agent (I sold my first 15 books without an agent.). Familiarize yourself with the market, write to the various publishers for their tip sheets and authors' guidelines, and go for it! Don't let rejections get you down. I collected 100 rejection slips for my first nine novels before I made my first sale. But, when I was rejected, I got mad, not discouraged. I thought, "This is a good story. Somebody is going to want it." Perseverance paid off in 1982 when I made my first sale, Sweet Prairie Passion, my ninth manuscript which became Book #1 of the Savage Destiny Series. I have since reworked several of those first unsold manuscripts for publication, and the rest reside in a drawer for possible future use!
How do you know what publishers to contact and how to get those all-important tip sheets? The first places to start are your favorite bookstores, and your local library. Seek out books that fit the type you have written, and copy the publisher's name and address from the copyright page. Most publishers also have web sites, and list their writers' guidelines on-line--all you have to do is print them out. Or, look for helpful how-to books such as: Writers Market Guide & Fiction Writers Market and Inside Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents. These books are updated every year, so ask for the latest edition.
You might also want to check out the Romance Writers of America® website for information about membership, which includes a subscription to their magazine, Romance Writers Report, and info about local RWA writers' groups.
Most of all, you must be dedicated and determined. Don't give up, and good luck!
For more of my own comments and insights on writing, you might also be interested in reading my articles and blog entries. You will find a list of these, with links, on my Articles pages!
As many of you already know, I was selected as the September 2013 Spotlight Author on fellow romance- writer Winnie Griggs' website, "Small Towns, Big Hearts, Amazing Grace." Winnie writes inspirational historicals for Love Inspired, and she conducted a very extensive interview with me about my life and my writing. If you missed it, you can still read the interview here!
I am also honored to have been interviewed on 28 July 2014 for Romance Books 4 Us. You can read that interview here!
My "wall of weapons": Big knife in a beaded sheath - the handle is made from the jawbone of a buffalo. 1860's sword, quiver of arrows, bow and arrows, Colt .45 - what most of my heroes would use. Also, a Native American peace pipe, a bone hairpipe necklace, a turtle rattle and a quirt.
PLEASE NOTE: Because I am so busy with my own writing schedule, I no longer have the time to accept other manuscripts for critiquing.
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