Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How to become an urban romance writer

I noticed that alot of people who have stumbled upon my fair bloggidy blog aren't coming to learn more about me or my work (*sigh LOL) but how to get into writing urban romance. (And by "urban", I mean black, African American, "brown complected"! This is very different from "urban lit", which I don't write. If there's is a "wifey", "mamas", or a surperfluous "Z" in the title somewhere then you've probably picked up an urban lit novel.) Well the simple answer is getting into urban romance is much like getting into any other literary genre. Those steps include but aren't limited to:

1) Read, read, and read some more. Specifically, read books that are in the genre in which you wish to write to get a true feel for the genre and the market. Believe it or not there are rules for this stuff. (Who knew?!?) If you've gone to enough writers' blogs or workshops, you'll see that there is a basic format for romance, chick lit, horror, mystery, etc. -- at least those that fit commercially within these genres. If you want to make your work marketable, I suggest you stick to these formats as close as possible but give it your own creative spin (which is the true talent of a good writer).

2) Write, edit, rinse and repeat. Very few writers can pen a stellar manuscript in the first draft. Once you've finished writing your manuscript, now comes the task of editing it for grammar, syntax, consistency, character development, etc. I like to edit every few pages as I'm writing, and then once the full manuscript is completed, I do a few more edits, looking at the book in its entirety to ensure consistency. (Did I make sure I spelled the character's nickname the same way throughout the book? One character doesn't have a Texan accent that completely disappears by Chapter 12, does it? Is it raining at the beginning of the scene and then it's suddenly sunny by the end of the scene?)

3) Get a good, HONEST sounding board. Have someone else read your work, but make sure you pick someone who likes and is familiar with the genre in which you're writing. Having a second, third, or fourth pair of eyes on your manuscript can never hurt. Sometimes feedback can an eye-opening (or painful LOL) experience, but I consider it invaluable.

4) The dreaded "wait and see". Now you've written your book. You've done your edits. You've gotten critiques from fellow writers or a trusted friend who you know will be honest with you. You've done more tweaks based on their feedback. Now maybe... just maybe, your manuscript is ready for submission to agents and/or publishers. Wait! Actually, thanks to modern technology and the free market, you can entirely skip this step. All hail to the Createspace and Smashwords of the world! Now you can upload your masterpiece and sell it directly to consumers. But for those who wish to work with traditional, New York based publishing houses, you'll probably going to need either an agent or to submit to the publishers who are willing to accept unagented work.

I've done both: submitted to agents and to publishers. So far, I've had better luck with submitting to publishers directly. (That's how I had two short stories published with the Arabesque line of BET Books back in 2001 and 2003 and had two novels published by Genesis Press last year.) But I wouldn't discount agents entirely.

This submission process usually follows a gauntlet of 3 steps: 1) the query letter, 2) the partial manuscript submission and synopsis, 3) the full manuscript submission. At either of these steps you could get a rejection from an agent or a publisher. (And frankly most writers do.) I'll go more into the gory details about the submission process in my next post.

I hope this post helps to those interested.

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