Keli Gwyn
Benefits of Joining Romance Writers of America

My 2008 RWA Conference Badge

Because I’m an inspirational romance writer who is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers as well as Romance Writers of America®, I’ve been asked a number of times why I belong to both organizations. Other inspy romance writers who are considering joining RWA® are curious what I see as the benefits.

Here’s my answer in a nutshell. Okay, make that a good-sized coconut shell. =)

RWA is one of the most organized and highly respected writer organizations in the publishing world. The over 10,000 members include published and unpublished writers as well as industry professionals.

There are 145 local, online, and special-interest chapters. I’m a member of the Sacramento Valley Rose chapter in northern California. This is the only romance writers group in my area. There are other writers groups, but I can’t get the genre-specific instruction from them I get at our SVR meetings. I enjoy the face-to-face contact with others who are writing romance. They’re quite supportive and share in my joy when I receive good news.

Keli with Sacrament Valley Rose chapter mate Brenda Novak

Because I write inspirational romance, I’m a member of the Faith, Hope and Love chapter, which is comprised of others writing in the sub-genre. We have an online loop where we interact. We get to meet in person at the RWA conference when the FH&L chapter holds its annual meeting, and we enjoy a special time of fellowship.

Keli with FH&L members and Seekers Sandra Leesmith, Myra Johnson, Janet Dean, Ruth Logan Herne, and Missy Tippens

The conference is amazing. Over 2,000 writers and industry professionals gather for instruction from some of the top names in romance. At Nationals this year, to be held in New York City, we will be able to choose from over 100 workshops.

One of the much-anticipated events at Nationals is the Literacy Autographing. Over 400 authors fill hundreds of tables, signing copies of their books for eager fans. This two-hour event is open to the public, and the proceeds are donated to various literacy organizations.

Keli with Deeanne Gist at the 2008 Literacy Autographing

The culmination of the conference is the Awards Ceremony, which has been likened to the Oscars. As is the case at the ACFW conference, we gather in our finery for the presentation of the awards. RWA has two annual contests, the RITA for published romance authors and the Golden Heart for unpublished writers. Each contest has around 1,200 entrants in 10 categories. A final in the RITA is a boost to one’s career, and a final in the Golden Heart can open doors for the finalists.

Keli with Anne Barton, her awesome critique partner and treasured friend at the 2010 Awards Ceremony.

There are a number of smaller contests sponsored by RWA chapters, which give published and unpublished romance novelists opportunities to see how their work fares against their peers. Most of the unpublished contests provide feedback from the preliminary round judges, which can help the entrants learn what their strengths and weaknesses are. If an entry makes it to the final round, the writer’s work will be seen by the agents and editors who volunteer their time to serve as judges. If they see a promising entry, they might request a partial or a full, which have led to some offers of representations and first sales.

At this point, those who are members of ACFW might be wondering what the difference is. After all, ACFW has a number of chapters, holds an annual conference, offers high caliber-instruction, and sponsors the prestigious Carol Awards contest for published fiction authors and Genesis for unpublished writers.

While ACFW began as an organization of inspirational romance writers, it now includes  fiction writers in all genres, so the instruction is not geared primarily to those writing romance. Much still applies, but the focus at RWA Nationals is on romance alone.

Some ACFW chapters have begun to sponsor contests, but there aren’t nearly as many as are sponsored by RWA chapters at this point. Since my offer of representation came as a result of an RWA chapter-sponsored contest, this was an important factor for me.

The editors who attend the ACFW conference are generally there representing houses that  produce books for the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) market. For those authors  considering expanding from the CBA market to the broader market of the ABA (American Booksellers Association), the RWA conference will offer them opportunities to meet ABA editors, whereas they’ll have fewer opportunities at the ACFW conference.

I’ve listed a number of benefits for being a member of RWA. One of the most important to me are the people. I was a member of RWA long before I knew about ACFW. I’ve made hundreds of friends in RWA. Many don’t share my faith or write for the inspirational market as I do, but they are some of the most generous and talented people I know who accept me readily and have blessed me in many ways.

I’m a member of RWA who is grateful to the organization and the wonderful people who make it what it is. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Is it for you? That’s for you to decide, but I’m a member who plans to remain one for a long time to come.

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Keli Gwyn
One Surefire Way to Increase Your Productivity

Would you like to get more done in the time you have available? Who wouldn’t?

Over the past few days I’ve been editing my critique partner’s latest book, thirty action-packed chapters with characters I love. Reading for Jody Hedlund is a treat.

I embarked on the edit, averaging 2-4 chapters a day with a high of 6. I reached a point recently, though, where I needed to wrap things up and shift my attention to my work-in-progress. I had one day left to devote to the read, and yet I had 10 chapters to go.

Could I do it? That was the question.

The answer surprised and delighted me. Yes. I could. And I did. Here’s how.

Implementing one technique, I nearly doubled my highest daily output.

Before I began, I set myself up for success. I had a well-defined goal: edit 10 chapters in a single day. I woke early and got right to work.

Sure, I’ve done that many times and yet not accomplished half of what I’d planned. What made that day different?


I kept my mind on the task, my backside in the chair, and my eyes on the screen.

I avoided the temptation to do other things. Even though I allowed myself a few breaks to check email and take a peek at Twitter, I kept them brief: 2-3 minutes at most.

When interrupted, I returned to the task without delay. I received a call from a dear friend and another from a relative, calls I didn’t want to miss. After they were over, I fought the tendency to do other things, reminded myself of my goal, and got back to work.

I used my success as reinforcement. When I’d finished editing the first of the chapters in just over an hour, a record for me since I give a detailed read with numerous comments, I gave myself an atta girl, and I plowed into the next chapter pronto.

I enlisted support. I told Jody I wanted to finish the read that day, so she sent uplifting emails each time she received a chapter, which was a great source of encouragement.

I began the read at 5 a.m. and finished in time to get dinner started at 6 p.m. The calls and breaks took an hour, so I edited 10 chapters in 10 hours, which is a record for me.

What enabled me to do so was staying focused.

How do you increase your productivity?

Do you have a productivity success story to share?

What are your biggest obstacles when it comes to getting things done?

Image from Wikimedia Commons
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Keli Gwyn
Critique Feedback: Accentuate the Positives

Your email program boinks, your critique partner’s name appears in your in-box, and your stomach does a somersault. This is the file you’ve been waiting for, one that includes her feedback on your work-in-progress.

With a trembling finger you open the document, eager for good news but fearing bad. Did your CP love the story, or did it fall flat?

One way to ease the angst for our critique partners is to offer positive comments along with our suggestions and corrections. I refer to these as smiley face comments. I do my best to include plenty of them in each file I return to my critique partners, and they do the same when they read my work. I include smiley comments in contest entries I judge, too.

Since I use the comment bubble feature of Word to leave my comments, I make sure the positive ones stand out by putting a smile face at the beginning. To make doing so quick and easy, I “copy” a smile face so I can simply click “paste” when I want to add one.

To speed up the process of leaving comments, I rarely capitalize, don’t write in complete sentences, and use punctuation only when needed for clarity. I do, however, make liberal use of exclamation points! I use some abbreviations, which I explain to my CPs each time I introduce one. For example, nice sensory detail becomes NSD.

I’ll share some examples of the type of comments I leave for my CPs.

Positive general comments

LOVE this!
this made me smile
this made me chuckle

Three types of more specific “You rock!” comments I leave my CPs are: technique-related, character-related, and story-related. I look for opportunities to leave some of each.

Positive technique-related comments

nice sensory detail
nice description
nice simile/metaphor
nice alliteration
nice personification

Positive character-related comments

love the heroine’s way of speaking – you’ve given her a great voice
nice job showing the attraction the heroine feels for the hero
love the way you’re bringing your character’s fun quirk into play
great job making your hero a sympathetic character
love how the hero is taking the heroine into consideration

Positive story-related comments

nice job ramping up the tension
great chapter ending – can’t wait to read more
great use of foreshadowing – am eager to see how this comes into play
wonderful showing of the heroine’s goal and motivation
ooh! you’ve really added a great element of conflict

What are some positive comments you’ve received that made your day?

What types of positive comments do you like to give?

What are some comments you’d love to get?

image from Wikimedia Commons
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Keli Gwyn
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