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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

RWA-PRO: A Step Closer to Publication

As I near the end of my third manuscript, I can’t help but recall how I felt completing my first novel. I was elated. I think I did a victory lap inside my house. I’m certain there were some celebratory dance moves and a lot of cheering, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” It was almost as exciting as finally giving birth after months of anticipation. And as my dad always says, “My crows are the blackest,” meaning my first story was near perfection. (Snort!)

Once I finished my masterpiece, I was ready for the next step, so I did an internet search to find out exactly what was the next step. I had visions of sending my work to some mysterious editor who dresses in all black and wears a beret. He or she, either gender can pull off a beret, would love my characters as much as I do, do a happy dance and call me immediately to gush over my brilliance. Oops. Minor set back. First, I probably needed to find an agent. Um. All right. I could do that. But before finding an agent, I needed to find a critique group. Oh, dear. How did one go about finding a critique group?

Lucky me, I stumbled upon this great historical romance critique group. I say lucky me, because did I ever need help. My group was incredibly kind and made comments like, “It’s interesting you chose to start your story here,” which now I know is code for “This stinks.” I also learned I still needed 20,000 words. What? Talk about bursting my bubble. I couldn’t believe it. I wandered around in a fog for days. Twenty thousand more words? What more could I possibly add? I finally came around and got to work on adding more scenes.

Later, I had questions such as, “What is a query?”, “How do I write a synopsis?”, “How do I know what agents to query?”, “What constitutes a hook?” and “What is branding?” Everyone was so generous with her advice, but our own Lydia Dare especially took pity upon me and stepped into the role of mentor – some say supportive nagger. I say, why split hairs?

One thing she highly encouraged me to do was to apply for PRO Membership through Romance Writers of America. If you are unfamiliar with RWA-PRO, it focuses on the business aspects of writing. To qualify for PRO designation, you must be a member of RWA (no brainer there) and have completed at least one manuscript of 40,000 words or more and still be waiting for “the call” from a publisher.

I put off joining RWA-PRO for a while, thinking it would be more difficult than it actually was. All I had to do was mail my application form, a copy of the completed manuscript on CD and a printed version of a rejection letter from an agent. Anyone have one of those lying around? (Check the RWA website for more details and options.) I was only out the cost of mailing and before I knew it, I had my PRO designation.

Why is PRO membership important? For one thing, you get the nifty letters on your badge at conferences that announce to everyone that you’ve completed a manuscript. PROfessional finish line crosser! Secondly, the designation moves you up on the totem pole, just under current and recent RITA and Golden Heart finalists, when signing up for editor and agent appointments at the National Conference. Lastly, the annual PRO Retreat held at the RWA National Convention has great information. I can’t wait to attend again this year.

There are other benefits as well, so I encourage you to check it out on the RWA website under Member Resources. If you’ve completed a manuscript and aren’t in RWA-PRO now is the time to join. Don’t wait another day, especially if you are attending this year’s National Convention in Nashville. You should have enough time to still get your designation and improve your chances of getting an appointment with your dream editor and/or agent.

Now that I have my RWA-PRO designation, I can focus on celebrating when I complete my third manuscript. But not for long, because I've already started number four.

If you’ve complete a manuscript, what was it like for you to cross the finish line? Do you do anything special when you finish a story?


  1. Samantha,
    You are hilarious! Thank you for making me laugh at myself because I know I made all the same mistakes you did. I don't know what it's like to finish a manuscript because I never finish revising until someone takes it away from me.

  2. One thing I'll have whenever I'm finally able to join RWA is almost instantaneous RWA-PRO status. LOL. I'm working on completing my third manuscript, too, and I have plenty of rejection letters sitting around.

    When I finish a manuscript, I tend to celebrate by having dinner out with friends or family. Right now, I'm trying to decide how I'll celebrate when I get that call from an agent - because I have to believe I'm not too far from it. I think that deserves drinks with dinner. LOL.

  3. LOL I always tell people just because you've finished a ms doesn't mean you've written a book :-) That's when the work just gets started.

    I'm 25K away from finishing my latest book. What will I do? Rest my brain a few days then start revisions and maybe write the opening chapter on a new project. I don't really celebrate until the project is given a contract, and even then it's iffy LOL

    Glamorous? Nope :-)

    My RWA-PRO status expired this year and I didn't have the money to re-up. Maybe someday.

  4. Gail, I should have clarified. I get that rush when I complete the first draft. Revising is another level of the process. I usually just breathe a deep sigh of relief and want to toss it to the side to never look at it again.

    Cat, I'm thinking drinks, dinner and dessert!

  5. Samantha -

    You're so sweet to say I mentored you. You're making me blush. But...

    You did also say I'm a nag. Between you and Catherine Gayle, I'm going to get a complex. LOL

    I'm glad you got your PRO status and I'm glad you're encouraging others to get theirs. It is another step toward publication and you get so many benefits from the membership.

    I'm in complete agreement about the PRO-Retreat at Nationals. Some of the best information I've ever gotten has been at the PRO-Retreat and it is for members only.

    So - if you are a member of RWA, you've completed a manuscript, and you've got one or ten rejections letters sitting around - do get your PRO status, you won't regret it.

  6. Sandra,
    You are so right. Writing isn't nearly as glamorous as I thought. LOL. Okay. It isn't glamorous at all, but I did get in a shower before starting my writing today. :)

    The work really does just begin when finishing that first draft, and it seems never ending at times. But I don't need much excuse to celebrate, especially if dancing is involved. LOL.

    Thank you so much for visiting today.

  7. Lydia - I love your nagging. It has been very good for my writing. LOL. Please don't stop. How about we rephrase it? Insistent encouragement?

    Samantha - dessert, too? But then what will I do to celebrate my first sale?

  8. I've completed three books total as well, one will never see the light of day. I always say it was practice lol. I've joined RWA and have several rejections from years ago when I attempted to submit my second ms. I qualify for Pro status but have not attempted to do it. Why? I'm not sure, I can come up with a dozen excuses I guess but I guess the main one is seeing the benefits of having someone call me pro. I've been writing for fifteen years and I still have so much to learn, so I really am not comfortable with the title pro. I'm still learning and probably always will be. I guess I have an issue with people thinking they can finish a ms and think they're pro. There really is so much more to learn.
    Another reason I guess is I don't quite have anything yet to submit at Nationals that I am happy with, and so probably won't go this year either. I am shooting and planning for next year though. Maybe by then, I will feel a little more comfortable with my writing and can join RWA Pro. But these are just my own feelings and my own ideas. I think everyone will feel differently about their work and be at different stages. Someone may finish one ms and feel ready for pro status and others like me won't. It's all an individual choice. =)

  9. Great post and I really should get on that Pro thing. I've been meaning to do that for two years (and as soon as Lydia reads this, I will be back on the nagging list - unless she gave up on me - lol).

    I was so excited when I finished my first manuscript because then I knew it could be done. It will never see the light of day because it would be easeir to rewrite than edit all the mistakes. But, when I finished I called my hubby (at work) then my mom, sister and brother. I could not reach any of them. I next called a very good friend. She showed up with a bottle of champagne. We drank that while watching a Cub game.

  10. Great post, Samantha! Lydia nagged-I mean, encouraged me-to join PRO, too! LOL!

    The first time I finished an ms, I was kind of disappointed. It felt anticlimactic, even though it should have been such an exciting moment. But knowing that I had so much work ahead of me kind of put a damper on things. Now when I finish something, I'm lucky if I even remember to tell my hubby. It's one of those "Oh, by the way, I finished the book today." LOL! However, that phrase is usually followed by a celebratory glass of wine :)

  11. Lydia,
    I love your nagging. It has helped me in so many ways. :)

    Your work doesn't have to be perfect to get your PRO designation. The fact that you are capable of completing three manuscripts makes you PRO material. We all still need to edit and polish our work until it blinds. The purpose of PRO is to take another step toward publication. You learn so much from being a member, especially if you attend Nationals. Also, you don't have to pitch at Nationals to get something out of the conference. Plus, I think you are being hard on yourself. I've read your work and you don't give yourself enough credit. Don't make me tattle to Lydia. :)

    Amy???? Do I need to say more?

  12. When I finally finished my first manuscript (first draft), it was after 2 in the morning, and I just stared at the screen in wonder. On a whim, I checked iChat and saw that my west coast sister was awake and online. I chatted her, and when she came up I was already screaming. She knew I would be finishing soon, so her husband came running into her office with cowbells and we screamed together. That woke my husband up, who came out to join the party. It was one of the best moments of my life :)
    I actually just got my PRO status approved this week...looking forward to that elusive PAN status!
    Erin Rieber

  13. Erin,
    Yay! Congratulations on your PRO status!

    It's great to have those supportive people in our lives to celebrate each step along the way. There are lots of bumps along the way, so we need to recognize the moves forward to keep going, at least in my opinion.

    Thanks for stopping by today. :)

  14. *sigh*

    Amy De Trempe - I am going to have to add you to my daily nag log. That's right I have one.

    Melissa - There are so many good reason to be PRO. And you're already in RWA, so it doesn't cost you anything except the postage. This year they even started some free classes for PRO members. Adding you to the daily nag log too.

    And the people I nagged are happy I nagged them - right, Jerrica? Samantha? Julie?

    Erin - that's awesome you just got your PRO status! (And I'm doubly glad I didn't have to nag you.)

  15. Thanks for all the wonderful comments about the benefits of RWA-PRO. A community of practice like PRO is only as good as it's members...and we have some dynamite PROs.

    Have just finished putting together the PRO Retreat line-up for this year. Details will be in the next PRO Newsletter.

    And don't think you're alone in believing your first story was a masterpiece. I KNEW mine would shoot straight to the top as soon as anyone read it. Um, no...not so much. I cringe when I look at it now! It was fairly lousy.

    I look forward to meeting you in Nashville at PRO Retreat.

    Cynthia D'Alba
    (Current RWA PRO Liaison but writing this as a fellow RWA member!)

  16. Cynthia,

    Thank you so much for stopping by today. I look forward to meeting you as well, and I really can't wait for the PRO Retreat.

  17. When I typed the epilogue to my first book, I had tears streaming down my face, headphones on with Kenny G, and as I was almost to the end, my parents came in the door for a visit. I continued crying and writing. When finished, I looked up as if I was in a strange place, having just left a beautiful log cabin in the Allegheny Mountains with a happy hunk! I felt lost, like I had lost my best friend. Alas! I started a sequel!

  18. Mary,
    I completely understand what you mean. I had no idea I'd experience a sense of loss when I finished my first novel. The second wasn't as bad, because I was eager to start on the one I'm finishing up now. A lot of my friends shared that they start a new wip before finishing their current one, and I have found that to be helpful as well.

    I love your story of your first novel. It's beautiful. Thank you for sharing with us today. :)

  19. This post made me laugh with the memory of finishing my first manuscript. I was so excited and positive I would get published right away. sometimes, I look back at that first manuscript and shake my head at just how much I still had to learn about writing. This is not to say, I have learned it all, goodness no, but I know a heck of a lot more now then I did then. Now, when I finish a manuscript, I know that was just round one of many more edits to come. Yet a feeling of great accomplishment still fills me, and I do allow myself a day or two break and a glass of champagne.

  20. I was relieved to complete my first novel. I'd written it all long-hand (have no idea why now) but I dont think I celebrated. I still had to type it all out and I've vowed never to write long-hand again!

    My second novel was more memorable, I participated in NaNoWriMo and finished on day 29. I made a chiropractors apt to put me back into shape again. LOL

    I've had my pro-status for almost a year - its definately been a good experience!