Today, it is my pleasure to introduce Cara Lynn James whose recently- released first book, Love on a Dime (Thomas Nelson Inc, 2010) was a 2009 Golden Heart Finalist. Her second book in the Ladies of Summerhill Series, Love on Assignment, is scheduled for release in January, 2011. A third book is contracted.
Cara was one of the first writers I met when I joined the Gulf Coast Chapter of RWA years ago. She’s one of those genuinely nice persons who is always supportive of the members and the chapter. She’s served for many years in GCC offices and as co-chair for our Silken Sands Conference. Cara will share with us how she became published and give us some hints on career development.
Cara, tell us about your path to publication.
I didn’t consider writing for publication until I moved to Florida with my family eight years ago. Since my kids were older I found I had more time and I didn’t want to spend it cleaning the house. Can anybody relate to that? I thought so. My first big step was to take myself seriously and tell my family I wanted to turn my hobby into some sort of career. They didn’t laugh. They even encouraged me. My son kept asking, “So, have you sold your book yet?” Um, no, I had to write it first. So I felt obligated to finish my manuscript.
Taking myself seriously meant joining RWA and the Gulf Coast Chapter of RWA, then American Christian Fiction Writers. I attended conferences, took on line writing classes, listened carefully at GCC meetings, entered contests and didn’t give up.
What was your smartest career move?
Joining GCC was my first smartest move because it got me started and it kept me motivated. So thank you GCC members! It was great meeting other writers at different stages of their writing careers. I’ve found writers are an amazing group—they’re supportive, helpful, knowledgeable etc. even though we’re all competitors! Listening to the advice of seasoned authors has helped me so much. I don’t have to do everything by trial and error. Writing is such a solitary experience it’s nice to talk to others who do the same thing as I do.
My last smartest move as an unpubbed writer was entering the Golden Heart. I didn’t win the contest, but I got a three book contract from Thomas Nelson which was the best award I could’ve received.
What was your worst career move?
Five years ago I won the American Christian Fiction Writers Noble Theme award in the historical category. In the inspirational romance world it’s comparable to the Golden Heart. A major publisher contacted me for a full of the manuscript. The problem was I’d only written 15,000 or so words. The contest didn’t require a completed manuscript, but it certainly would’ve helped if I’d already written the entire book before entering the contest. Also, I had two big surgeries that year and I was too sick to write a lot. The editor gave me all the time I needed, but I felt pressured to finish the book. I turned the manuscript in before it was really ready and I got rejected. It went to the pub board, but in the end they didn’t buy it. Sending it to the publisher before it was ready was a big mistake.
What advice would you give to a writer pursuing publication?
I’d say join writers organizations, take classes, join a critique group or find a critique partner, go to conferences, enter contests etc. When you get rejections—and you’ll probably get more than one—sulk for a while, then get back to work. Develop a tough skin and believe in your talent. Just because one editor or agent turns down your manuscript doesn’t mean another one will do the same. Don’t sell yourself short. And try to write something every day because those pages do add up.
Thank you, Cara, for blogging with us today and sharing lots of good advice. Tomorrow, Sourcebooks editor Deb Werksman will be our August Anniversary Celebration guest blogger. RitaVF