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  • Debbie Macomber on Starting Out, Romance and Journaling
This blog was featured on 07/23/2019
Debbie Macomber on Starting Out, Romance and Journaling
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
July 2019
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
July 2019

Debbie Macomber is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of books most often centered around and celebrating relationships – those of family, romance and friendship – all while filled with connection and hope. With more than 200 million copies of her books in print, she has said she believes it has always been her destiny to write.

“Someone once asked me what I least liked about being a writer, and I had no answer,” she told Women on Writing. “I love creating plots and characters, enjoy revisions, meeting readers and communicating with readers. I really believe God created me to be a writer.”

On Starting Out

While she believes writing was what she was meant to do, it didn’t necessarily come easy.

“I rented a typewriter and worked at the kitchen table, moving it at meal times. I had all these ideas floating in my head. I assumed I would put my hands on the keys, and magic would occur. The ideas would float to the end of my fingertips and come out on the page; but of course, they didn’t. 

I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know another writer. So, I took four romance novels that I loved, and I dissected them – scene by scene, chapter by chapter. I outlined the plots and learned a lot about plot and structure.

I published my first book, Heartsong, in 1982. I wrote for five years before I was published. Those were really dark times.”

In order to contribute to the family’s finances, she began writing and selling articles. One of which sold to Woman’s Day for $350 that year. From there, she attended writers conferences and met an editor who encouraged her to toss her book and get a fresh start.

“Instead, I sent off that same manuscript to Silhouette Books, and they bought it. It was such a moment of joy and unspeakable excitement.”

This excerpt was originally published on Women on Writing. Read the full interview here.

On Rejection

On her website, Macomber is a supporter of aspiring writers, providing guidance on the hard stuff that writers inevitably face. Here she shares about how to swallow rejection and move on:

“Sharing your writing can be an altogether terrifying experience. What you’ve written is a reflection of yourself, and therefore when someone reacts negatively, it’s hard not to feel that they have not only rejected your work but also rejected you. As is the case with all kinds of artists, writers must believe in themselves and never give up. When I was a struggling writer, I used to receive rejection letters so fast they’d nearly hit me in the back of the head on my way home from the post office. I had to learn to receive rejection and move on. Never give up. Sometimes the editor writing the rejection letter would take the time to offer constructive criticism, which I took to heart and it made my writing and story better. Be willing to listen to criticism and learn from it. You want your writing to be the best it can be.”

On Writing Romance

"First and foremost, I consider myself a storyteller. And I'm endlessly fascinated with people, with what they do and why... and how they feel about it. Which means I'm interested in romance fiction,” she wrote in Publishers Weekly.

“I believe that romance fulfills two separate but complementary human needs - for story and for hope. It's a way of looking at life, one that offers optimism and at least the possibility of ‘happy endings.’”

Macomber reflects on how romance has changed and expanded in the 30-plus years since she wrote her first novel. Today, romance is limitless, from vampires to the Wild West, to the boardroom and beyond to other worlds.

“Back then, romance was more narrowly defined and typically marketed as either a Harlequin or Silhouette series romance or a single title historical. Many exciting changes came about as writers pushed those original boundaries and broadened them. My personal journey in the genre has gone from Silhouette and Harlequin romances to single-title mass market releases to hardcover fiction. As I have grown as an author, so has my audience.”

On Storytelling & Writing

"I’ve often said there are storytellers and there are writers, but rarely is someone both to begin with,” she writes on her website in a post titled 5 Ways to Improve Your Writing.

“A storyteller is someone who is brimming with stories. They feel as though they’ll burst if they don’t find a way to get their stories out. I’m a natural born storyteller. I have so many characters and stories swirling around inside, I doubt I’ll ever be able to pen them all. A writer is someone who possesses the skill to beautifully articulate anything. A writer can take a drab, boring idea and breathe color, life, and poetry into it nearly effortlessly."

Both skills are needed to be a great writer, she says, but most people must dedicate a significant amount of time and energy to developing the skill they lack.

On Prioritizing

She also reminds writers to create practical priorities and to write every day.

"Don’t worry about finding an agent until you have a publisher interested in your work. The best way to get published is to read and to write. Write every single day. Find a writing group – I suggest your local chapter of Romance Writers of America (visit rwa.org to find a chapter close to you) – and learn your craft. Believe in yourself and the power of your dreams. You can do this, but you have to be persistent.”

This excerpt was originally published in GoodReads in response to a reader’s question. Read the full post here.

On Journaling

Macomber has made it a habit to journal daily, separate from her novel writing. “Research has shown that we’re more likely to remember things when we write them down by hand,” she says. And so, for more than 40 years, she has done just that each morning. “My journals are personal to me – unlike the books I publish. They’re so precious that I’ve stored the old ones in a safe.”

She encourages others to make journaling a habit, sharpening your talent and while doing so, allowing oneself to embrace gratitude.

“Don’t just say it to yourself; make a record of it. There are plenty of mornings when I wake up feeling out of sorts. I’ve faced devastating losses and wondered how I could go on. Reminding myself of what I’m grateful for is essential. Every day I write down five things. And if I can’t think of five things, then I’m not being grateful enough.”

This excerpt was originally published on Guideposts. Read her full post here.

This month Macomber releases Window on the Bay, about a single mom whose kids have moved away, forcing her to rediscover herself in the most unexpected of ways. 

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