Please welcome Kelli Newby, our second REBELLES FROM THE HEART guest who shares with us what being a Golden Heart® Finalist means for her.
In the world of LitFic, the writer is a solitary creature, struggling alone (probably in a cabin, definitely with scotch). In the world of romance, the writer is a member of a boisterous and supportive community. I discovered this in 2014 when I stumbled from my (hypothetical) cabin into the world of romance (definitely with scotch) upon meeting a group of romance writers through #PitchWars, an online contest run by Brenda Drake. They were incredibly cool, and I wanted to stay in romance-land. Or at least visit a lot. That meant writing a romance novel.
While I never looked askance at genre or bragged I could write a romance novel in a weekend, I’ll admit that I didn’t think writing romance would be any harder than writing a novel in general. In fact, I hoped the guidelines—central love relationship, emotionally satisfying ending—would keep my pantser-self focused. I soon discovered, though, that like sonnets, the romance genre has a familiar frame, but requires mastery of hundreds of tiny moving parts you don’t realize are there until you try to get them all working together. On top of that, you have to keep apart two people who are irresistibly drawn to each other and meant to be together forever in a believable and entertaining way. For 80,000 words.
When I got to the end of the first draft of Mounting the Marquis, I knew I needed to start completely over, so I did. Second draft, I sent to one of the awesome romance writers I met through #PitchWars (and a fellow GH finalist). She said it was a perfectly fine book, but not a romance novel, and she gave me a list of reasons why. I revised. Third draft went to a different romance friend who said the same thing, only the problems were far more subtle this time. Fourth draft got sent to a team of romance writers in a different writing contest (#TeamFrance of #FicFest), and they gave me a new list of adjustments to make. Sometime in there, I joined the Capital Region RWA chapter and found even more revisions to make on my own, as well as an incredible group of welcoming writers.
Fifth draft, well, it’s a Golden Heart® finalist.
And what does finaling mean to me? Community. I’ve made a lot of friends working on this book that I would not have made otherwise, from the #PitchWars people who became my CPs to the folks in CR-RWA to the community of 2017 GH finalists bonding right now. And community, more than anything else, keeps a writer going. (Even more than scotch, as it turns out.) Sure, I still like to sneak off to my solitary writer’s cabin, but now I do it with the knowledge that I’m never alone.
Kelli Newby is an adjunct English professor of composition, drama, and fantasy by day, and a novelist, playwright, and actor by night. She’s repped by Rena Rossner of the Deborah Harris Agency and is the secretary of the Capital Region chapter of RWA.