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?