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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Guest Blog: Marliss Melton: Evolutionary Stages of a Romance Writer

So, you want to write for a living? Wonderful! Just make sure you know what you’re getting into at the outset. The following stages are merely mile markers on your upcoming adventure. They will vary, of course, depending on intelligence, skill, and luck. But, for the most part, being a romance author is a process, sometimes a long one. Here are the stages in that process that stand out most clearly in my mind:

Fall in love with storytelling. For me, this happened at an early age. At age 13, I wrote my first full-length book, long-hand, in a spiral notebook. By the time I was sixteen, I’d written several more, and they’re all moldering in my attic.

Let life get in the way. Very few writers become successful overnight. And very few young people have enough life-experience to pen meaningful, full-length novels. So you get a job that affords you time to practice your craft. I became a teacher. Every summer, I wrote and wrote.

Decide to write for a living. When it becomes apparent that you’d rather write than eat or breathe, you make the decision to go for it. You network. You join writing associations. You submit your work to contests and to agents. And you get rejected. You think you’re wonderfully talented, but the truth is, you still need to practice. For some people, this stage lasts a year, for others it can last for several decades. For me, it lasted ten, painful years.

Believe in yourself, even when friends, colleagues, and even your spouse become annoyed by how much time you devote to writing, especially without getting paid for it. They may be trying to lessen your disappointment if you never succeed. They try their best to check your expectations and to drag you back into the mundane world. My advice? Don’t listen to them. You will have supporters—maybe your mother, fellow writers, your loyal dog. Listen to them instead.

Savor Validation Day. At long last, you make a sale. Your vision for yourself is affirmed. Either you get “the call” from an agent who wants to represent you or a from a prospective publisher, or you self-publish your own book. Then you wait with high expectations for the money to come rolling in… You wait. And you wait.

Be in it for the long haul. Realizing you won’t make any money by resting on your laurels, you throw yourself into marketing, but most importantly, you write more books. Never stop writing. Recognition comes slowly. The money comes even more slowly. Be patient. It took me ten years and nine published novels to earn more than $17,000 a year. Granted, that was with a traditional publisher paying me a mere 8% royalties, and that was before digital books became hot.

Hold your head up. Suddenly all your efforts come to fruition and you’re rewarded for your perseverance. Perhaps you win the RITA, or your sales go way up, but at long last, you’re getting the credit you are due. You always knew you were a writer. Now, everyone else does, too.

Don’t run on empty. By now, you’ve written over a dozen novels and you’re running out of plot ideas, along with new and exciting characters. You’re desperate to fill up your creative well. Perhaps you need to read more, travel the world, throw yourself into misadventures, and meet new people. If you don’t have time for that, pick the brains of your most loyal readers. My fans are the greatest people in the world. They have extraordinary ideas, and they are more than happy to share them. Find out how to replenish your creativity and make time to do it.

What stage are you in? Do you have what it takes to be a writer for the long haul? I hope you do. Writing for a living has got to be one of the most satisfying careers in the world. If it’s in your heart to be a writer, you can make a living at it just as I have!

Marliss Melton is the author of a dozen counterterrorist/romantic suspense stories, including a 7-book Navy SEALs series, a counterterrorist Taskforce Trilogy, two novellas, and two short stories. She relies on her experience as a military spouse and on her many contacts in the Spec Ops and Intelligence communities to pen realistic and heartfelt stories about America's elite warriors and fearless agency heroes. Daughter of a U.S. foreign officer, Melton grew up in various countries overseas. She has taught English, Spanish, ESL, and Linguistics at the College of William and Mary, her alma mater. She lives in historic Virginia with her husband and their youngest daughter, one of six children. Be sure to “friend” Marliss on Facebook! Visit for more information.

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Navy SEAL Vinny DeInnocentis has no idea his news reporter wife is keeping secrets. With her hard-won reputation for rooting out corruption, Ophelia can't let a little thing like her unexpected pregnancy get in the way of exposing Pennsylvania's lieutenant governor for the liar he is. But will her quest to publicize the truth - and her shocking discovery that her target is far more dangerous than she imagined - cost her more than she ever thought she'd lose?


Sandy said...

Marliss, you spelled out the hardship of becoming a writer very well. It took me 20 years, and I still am not making enough money to support myself.

Thank you for writing realistic stories about our military and the navy seals.

jean hart stewart said...

I'm with Sandy. Still trying after 29 years and certainly couldn't support myself. Wouldn't trade writing for anything, however. Love it, even though it's damned exasperating.

Cara Marsi said...

Marliss, what you said is spot-on and reflects close to what I went through. It took me ten years to publish and another almost ten years to make a profit. I too love writing and will continue to write, learn, and write some more. I love books about SEALS.

Rose Anderson said...

I enjoyed your post, Marliss. I may never support myself, but I still dream big. :) Thanks for joining us today. Best luck!

Sharon Hamilton said...

Such great advice Marliss! I love the "cover your head" or what another great friend said, "Put on your blood spatter apron and wait." And so important to celebrate all the little as well as big things.

Marlene S said...

What wonderful advise!

book quarry said...

Great advise :), I always enjoy reading your stories and your blog posts!

Melissa Keir said...

Thank you for sharing your insights. It's a hard road but so many of us are drawn to become writers no matter what the price. :)

Someday, that $17,000 a year will be great but until I get there, I'll keep writing!

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