Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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October 17, 2011

PUBLICATION: 9 Lessons for the Road

Today we're excited to have with us Judy Duarte, two-time RITA finalist and author of over 40 novels.

And she comes bearing gifts! Judy will give away a copy of her latest book, CHRISTMAS ON NUTCRACKER COURT to a lucky commenter!

Here's Judy:

I can’t remember when I first dreamed of writing a book, but the desire to create a story and have it published grew until it was impossible to ignore.

But since English was my least favorite subject in school, I didn’t know very much about crafting fiction.  And to make matters worse, I had no idea where to start.

Lesson # 1: God doesn’t give a person a dream without also giving them opportunities and the power to make that dream come true.

In 1996, while scanning a class schedule for the UC Irvine Office of Extended Studies, I noticed a weekend course called “How to Write a Romance Novel.” I was in luck! I was going to learn everything I needed to know—in one single weekend!

Lesson # 2: There’s something to learn every day—and being published doesn’t change that.

Had I realized how little I knew about craft and how long my first sale would take, I might not have made that trip to Irvine that day. But when I climbed into my car, I was enthusiastic and hopeful.

At the class, I met other aspiring romance novelists. One woman was writing a paranormal time travel. I didn’t read or particularly like paranormals, but something drew me to her. She was the only one who seemed to share the same burning desire to make our dreams come true. So I volunteered to read her work if she would read mine.

Lesson # 3: When it comes to finding the right critique partner, it’s not a matter of searching for someone who lives nearby and has Thursday evenings free. It’s more important to find someone who shares the same dream and who’s willing to be your “teammate” in every sense of the word.

One of our classmates mentioned Romance Writers of America. And can you believe it? There was a chapter that met at a restaurant only 45 miles from my house!

After attending my first meeting, I was in awe. I went home that day and blocked out every second Saturday of the month on my calendar. There was now a wealth of knowledge and resources available to me, so I watched my pennies and attended every meeting, signed up for every conference I could afford, and learned all that I could.

Lesson # 4: Seize every opportunity to hone your craft and to network with other authors.

Several months later, I finished my first manuscript and went to the San Diego State University Writer’s Conference, hoping to meet an editor who would buy my book. I knew it was just a matter of time before a publisher snatched up my masterpiece.

And the conference paid off! A New York editor asked for a proposal! I hurried home, printed out my pages, and mailed it to her. Once I knew the package had arrived in New York, I waited for the telephone to ring—and I jumped each time it did. Before long, I began to wonder if she’d ever call.

Lesson # 5: The journey will probably take longer than you think, so try to use the time wisely.

Instead of placing “the call,” the editor returned my manuscript and said, “I wasn’t taken with the writing.”

Lesson # 6: Expect to get discouraged at times—it’s part of the trip.

I polished that story and sent it out again. This time, while I waited, I started writing a second book and continued to hone my craft.

Lesson # 7: Just because God placed the dream to be published on your heart doesn’t mean He won’t require a great deal of work on your part.

One of my critique partners sold her first book, then her second. I was thrilled for her. We were a team, remember? And I wanted it as badly for her as I did for me. I was even more determined to follow in her footsteps.

When my second critique partner sold, I was thrilled for her as well. Never once did I feel jealous. But as the two of them continued to sell, seeds of doubt began to grow. Was my work as good as they insisted it was? Would I ever get the call?

Lesson # 8: As Gary Provost said: You need three things for success…talent, good luck, and persistence.  If you have persistence, you only need one of the other two.

Four manuscripts, a scrapbook full of rejections, fifteen conferences and a hundred RWA meetings later, the rejection letters became more and more promising, the contest scores closer to the top. Then on May 7, 2001, while on vicodin and pumped full of an antibiotic because of a pending root canal, I got “the call.” Silhouette Special Edition wanted to buy my first book.

More than thirty-five sales later, the desire to write and sell is still strong, the wait on word from my editor about a proposal is still nerve wracking, and the call with an offer is still nearly as exciting as the first.

But can I let you in on a secret? I’m convinced that there are a lot of unpublished authors in the world who have more talent and skill than I do, but for one reason or another they became discouraged and quit writing.

Lesson # 9: Never quit dreaming, never quit trying, never quit honing your craft. Dreams come true—but not if you give up.


Judy Duarte always knew there was a book inside her, but since English was her least favorite subject in school, she never considered herself a writer.  An avid reader who enjoys a happy ending, Judy couldn’t shake the dream of creating a book of her own.

That dream became a reality in 2002, when Silhouette released her first Special Edition.  Since then, more than forty of her books have hit the shelves, including four women’s fiction novels and two novellas.

Judy, a two-time Rita® finalist with MULBERRY PARK (2009) and ENTERTAINING ANGELS (2010), was awarded a two Maggies and a National Reader’s Choice Award for her heartwarming stories.

When she’s not cooped up in her writing cave, Judy spends time with her family near the beach in Southern California.

0 comments on “PUBLICATION: 9 Lessons for the Road”

  1. Very good read about Judy Duarte. Motivation and determination are something special and powerful in our lives.

  2. Judy, every single time I come to this blog I expect to be inspired, learn, and keep the dream alive.
    They say the times have changed, but the the path to our dreams is still the same. I am at the other end of the road and I can see you standing there with so many of the wonderful participants of this group ... you are like a light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you so much for "being" there 🙂

  3. You're welcome! Hang in there. Each time you send off a proposal or a manuscript, start working on something else. Keep the forward momentum. Before you know it, you'll be standing in the light with us, waving to those who are still on the road. 🙂

  4. Judy,
    Great lessons, even if they're hard to remember during those dark days. Thank you for the reminder to keep trying. For me, becoming published isn't so much about holding a book I wrote in my hand, but the right to call myself a professional writer--not just a stay-at-home mom who writes as a hobby. One question: did you really scrapbook your rejection letters (LOL)? Thanks again for the shot of inspiration!


  5. Thanks for the great reminders, Judy. I, too have a binder full of rejections for my first 2 mss.

    Persistence, embracing a writing community, and craft classes (duh! in retrospect) picked me up, dusted me off, and birthed a new WIP. For some reason, I feel it's my time. There are no "turns" (IMHO). That's what's great about writing communities. I don't have to lose for someone else to win. Hope it's everyone's turn to "win" this year. GREAT post.

    If not this book? Hmmm. There's another book. Can't imagine the trouble I'd get into if I didn't have my writing.

    p.s. Yes, I do know how to construct a complete sentence. Frags are my friend. 😉

  6. Great list. I especially have to agree with the critique partner. I was very lucky to find one in Catie Rhodes that's not only supportive but understands what I'm going through. She's become a friend as well, and so has Donna Galanti. Without the support of other writers, this whole publishing thing would be impossible for me!

  7. Stacy,

    Finding a good critique partner is really important. Our families just don't *get it* or even understand us. It's so nice to have someone who does!

  8. thanks so much for the encouragement Judy! I esp loved reading that although you were never jealous, seeds of doubt do sneak in. I think i'm struggling with that one, myself. I also forget that even the pubbed writers can still make room for learning. Wonderful post!

  9. Judy, what a tremendous blog! Great flow, good advice, and easy to read. You go, girl. (And keep blogging with us here at WITS...we like you. 🙂 )

  10. Loved this! I need as much encouragement as I can get, and since I'm like you, watching my lovely critique group pard'ners publish while I get left behind, I often wonder if I've chosen the right profession - should I have been an editor instead? Thanks to your words, I don't think so!!! --Stacey Goitia

  11. Great blog Judy. I'm hoping a few of those who have said, Oh, I'm going to write a book someday, like, Oh, I'm taking a vacation in Hawaii someday, will see this and realize that publishing is a "serious" dream. You either want it really bad or you're just paying lip service. 🙂

  12. Judy,
    This was so inspirational to me! So many times I read about people who have been writing since they could hold a pencil. They just sit down and go with it. That's great but it's nice to hear that I'm not the only one who had reservations at first. Before I actually started, the whole prospect of writing a book was daunting and I had no idea where to start. I am just about finished with my first manuscript and I'm thirty ( a late bloomer from what I can tell). After some editing and polishing I hope to send out my first query letter in February! Both exciting and terrifying!

    Thank you so much for sharing! I'm working hard so I can join you in the light one day!

  13. Excellent post! Thank you for sharing your journey to publication. It's always inspiring to read about success, especially when there is a long journey before the success. That's the reality of it.

    Thank you again for sharing!

  14. Judy,
    Reading your post a day late, but feeling kinship, so I had to comment. I followed the same course, during the same time period with the same organizations, OCCRWA, San Diego Writer's Conference, (who knows we might have passed each other during a workshop, I do remember Bob Mayer's Special Ops workshop), but the big difference is that you persisted!!!! Much too often, I have let my life get in the way of my writing, and continue to struggle to carve out the time. And I do believe God has placed this desire in my heart, as well as orchestrated many opportunities (providing an A++ critique group like no other). I've done the workshops, read ALL the books, and continue to do so. Today, in Jenny's post about 10 leadership tips, the tip on knowing when to stop reading and gaining knowledge is also important. It's easy for me to get caught up in learning the zillions of "how to's" rather than just "getting to it."
    You are an inspiration, thanks for sharing your journey.
    D. A. Watt

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