Monday, July 11, 2011

RWA 2011 Round up

I recently attended my second Romance Writers of America National Conference, held this year at the Marriot Marquis in NYC.

First, I want to say that every time I get around romance writers and industry workers, I am utterly impressed with their intelligence, generosity, and passion. These are people who support each other, who write, represent, and help produce damn good books.

The RWA is a huge conference. Four days filled with workshops and talks from industry leaders, with a huge representation of agents and editors.

Focus is usually split down the middle, with three main interests: that of the unpublished writer in search of an agent, the agented writer waiting for a publisher to snatch her up, and the published writer who is networking and/or interacting with her fans.

Given that the main interest for two of these factions is getting published, I’m keeping my focus on that particular aspect of the conference.

So then, this is what I picked up at the RWA in regards to publication. Or, to put it another way:

The RWA, in which one hears a plethora of contradictory information


Agents and writers say:

Have your manuscript as polished as it can be. Mistakes lead to rejection. Don’t send it out too early. Polish, polish, polish!

Editors say: (as quoted from Dear Author)

“Editors think that authors self censor too much (and that critique partners may be doing more harm than good). I heard more than one editor say that the manuscripts that they like best are ones where they can see the raw voice of the author. Many times, submissions come in that are polished so much that they are too smooth to be interesting. Write with raw passion, authors. This is an industry built on emotion and the manuscripts have to show this.”

(I heard much of the same from my own house.)

Subject material


Write the story that calls to you but keep the market in mind


Ditto –but make sure you are writing what you love


Ditto as well –add to this: take a new spin on an old tale


What agents and editors say off record: we know when we know. If the story has it, if we love the voice, we offer.



XYZ is hot right now. So hot the market is flooded. Don’t try XYZ unless you’re really good.



ABC is not hot right now. You may have problems selling it.

Editor’s sudden aside:

Except I just bought an ABC book and we’re really excited about it.

To which agent adds:

Yes! Too true, and I just picked up a writer who does excellent ABC.


In answer to the question: I’m working on a manuscript that has X,Y, Z elements. Will it sell?


We’ll know when we read it.

Yeah. It’s a wonder this question still gets asked because the answer is always the same.

In answer to the question: how long should my manuscript be?


I won’t look at a manuscript over 100k, not matter how good the story and writing may be.

Same editor:

That said, I recently purchased a manuscript over 100k and love it.

Sensing a pattern here?

It really isn’t my intention to come off as snarky here. What I am really trying to get across is that there is NO formula for success. None. Writers often search for it because we want some sort of control in a world where our success is often decided by outside parties. But we only end up spinning our wheels.

The only thing we have control of is the moment we sit down to tell our stories. Some stories will succeed, some will fail.

Your query or manuscript may fall on the desk at the precise moment an agent/editor is having a crap day and doesn’t want to read another thing. Whoosh, out it goes.

OTOH. It may be the precise moment an agent/editor has had her favorite sandwich for lunch, discovered a twenty in her pocket, and is dreaming of reading a really good dark, Orwellian novel featuring a pink pony and, would you look at that! Here is a plot with those exact elements. Whoopie!

Yes. It can be that fickle. Yes, it can. Or it could be that your story and craft aren’t there yet. It’s hard to tell. And you may never know.

So, keep doing what you’re doing. Write. Get better at the craft. Gut it out. Write. Get better. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Some day, with a little luck, and a lot of perseverance, you may hit it. :)


  1. Fantastic advice! Loved this post. We get so caught up in what others want - what others say. But what we want to hear isn't always what we need to do. ;)

  2. Awesome post, and oh so true! I heard once that opportunity is 80% skill and 20% luck, with an emphasis on the 20%! Thanks for a great post!

  3. Maddening, isn't it? Just write. Breath. And just write. ; ) I'm trying. I guess it helps that I have no clue what my WIP's genre is. I can't obsess over what I don't know I'm missing.

  4. "if you aren't working on your best story than you are doing it wrong" - the best advice I ever received.
    we can't worry about what the current trends are. they shift the moment something new sells. write YOUR best story now.

  5. Ah, this is so true. But while it's frustrating, it's also a strange relief that so much in the publishing game is out of our hands - leaves us with more time to concentrate on the only thing we can control, and that's getting the damn book written!

    Excellent post, Kristen. :-)

  6. Thanks for this post Kristen! Just goes to show, all we can do is write the best book we can and then...

  7. Great stuff, Kristen- knowing how much luck is involved is a strangely freeing thing in the end.

  8. Loved this Kristen. Especially as my MS on submission has elements of XYZ and...ooops, even some ABC. And my agent asked me to rewrite it even though it took me over 100K. Hey, who am I to argue with an agent...

    There are always exceptions to every single 'rule'. Sigh.