Tuesday, 16 December 2014

That final full stop.

Reaching the end of a book is definitely a moment of mixed feelings!  Like most romance writers I suspect, I am both glad and sad when I get to the end of a story.  Living for several months with two characters as they journey through the minefield of getting to know, trust, and finally love each other until they reach that happy ever after is as emotional for me as it is for them.  As a writer, you have to feel every pang of jealousy, every ripple of joy, every stab of pain and every surge of passion, just as they do, otherwise your characters won't come alive for you and they certainly won't touch, much less convince, the reader.

Time and again, I  hear comments from people about how easy it must be to write romance, and especially a  Mills and Boon  romance, but nothing could be further from the truth.  It's not an ordeal of blood, sweat and tears, exactly, but it's far from easy. Rather it's a 100% commitment of time, energy, determination and, most of all, belief that you are writing something that other people will want to read, starting with the editors!  But the upside of writing every day, even when you don't feel like it or when inspiration seems to have up and left you for good, is the completion of the 50,000 or so words that make up a novel you are proud of and that you hope with all your heart will finally be the one to make it to those hallowed bookshop shelves. It really is one of the best feelings in the world.

So, my current work in progress is now complete, ready for submission to the NWS come spring, and the next one is brewing away quietly at the back of my mind while I take some time away from the keyboard over the Festive Season.  Phew!

Happy Christmas and a Fabulous 2015!!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Identity Crisis ! 

As a writer, that is, or at least was, until I went on Kate Walker's writing course in Leeds last month (yes, another one, but you can't have too much of a good thing!)  As usual, the weekend proved invaluable and, of course, fun. We focused this time on polishing those crucial three chapters prior to submission to an editor and how to target your work to the appropriate market.  We also looked at the all-important synopsis and covering letter, which reminded me that I didn't send a letter with my last submission!! Ooops . . .  

There was also a very useful session on who we are as writers.  I always assumed I knew exactly who I was as a writer but it turns out I hadn't really thought about it.  In fact, during this illuminating exercise, I discovered that I was trying to be a certain type of writer but learned that I'm quite another altogether. Does it really matter though?  Romance is romance, isn't it?   Far from it!  Interestingly, everyone in the group, although all writing for the romance genre, had very different and very distinct styles, not only in the way we write but also in the sort of stories we want to tell.  I guess that's part of what editors and publishers mean when they talk about an author's 'unique voice.'

So, since the course, I've found a subtle shift in the way I'm writing, and instead of trying to squeeze my work into a pigeon hole called 'romance', I'm allowing myself to write more instinctively, in a way that feels authentic to me and, consequently I hope, to my characters. Wow!!

With Kate Walker - choosing a tea bag can be so difficult!

For info, Malaga Workshops  is running another writing retreat next March, 13-15th, again at Weetwood Hall in Leeds.  The cost has gone up a little, to £249 for an all-in weekend, but it really is fantastic value for money.  The accommodation is fab and the environment for writing is relaxing and stimulating at the same time and so welcoming :)

In the restaurant after a hard day's writing and still smiling !

Monday, 6 October 2014

A time for writing . . .

And that's exactly what I got last weekend on Kate Walker's Writing Retreat, located in the relaxing yet stimulating setting of Weetwood Hall on the outskirts of Leeds.  The retreat was organized by Malaga Workshops, which incidently ran the very first writing course I ever attended way back in 2007.  The hotel was lovely and the food absolutely delicious but it was the idea of having a whole weekend of quality, undistracted writing time that made me book a place on the course.  The two days were really well organized, with an initial session to introduce ourselves and our work, and then it was solo writing time interspersed with group meetings to touch base on how we were  progressing. We all had a generous one-to-one session with Kate which gave a useful and positive critique on the work  submitted.  There were, of course, equally  stimulating and enjoyable sessions in the bar!  Romance Writers, like anyone else, need their downtime !!  

Weetwood Hall Hotel

 Not only was it a time for writing but also an experiment in writing to time! Kate gave us all 'stop watches' in the form of neon coloured - and rather sexy - kitchen timers and off we went to our respective chosen 'writing corners' to try it out.  The writing process can so often be one of procrastination under the guise of waiting for inspiration or just plain staring at the screen desperate for ideas.  I found that setting the clock for 20 minutes and simply writing was instantly productive and did away with the frustrating and sometimes wasteful impulse to stop and edit every paragraph.  Result?  I came away on Monday with some fresh ideas to help iron out the sticking points in my current work in progress.  And, naturally, I've already invested in my own inspirational and very purple 'writing timer!'

Malaga Workshops is also running another writing course at the end of this month, also at Weetwood Hall and again run by Kate Walker, on polishing your work prior to submitting to an editor.  It is really good value for money and highly recommended.  And, of course, Kate's invaluable 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance is available from Amazon and on Kindle.  

And while you're shopping, check out Rachael Thomas's debut book for Mills and Boon Modern 'A Deal Before the Alter.'   Out this month, it is a fab read and will really keep you turning those pages.  I was having lunch with Rachael when she got 'The Call' from Mills and Boon, back in January, and it was great being able to share that happy and well-deserved moment with her.  Way to go, Rachael!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

My First RNA Conference

Last weekend was my first Romantic Novelists Association conference, held this year in Telford. 

I travelled up from Wales with my good friend and  fellow writer, Rachael Thomas http://www.rachaelthomas.co.uk and we were so busy chatting about dark desert heroes that we almost ended up in Ironbridge!  Rachael got her long-deserved Call from Mills and Boon earlier this year and her first Harlequin Presents book A Deal Before The Alter is due out in October.  

The conference itself was full on and fab from start to finish. I learned a lot about my writing and about myself as an aspiring author. The sessions were informative, informal and fun, and just being with other writers - published and yet to be published - was like an infusion of energy and enthusiasm.   The chance to have a one to one appointment with an editor or publisher is reason enough for joining the RNA's new writers scheme but the camaraderie to be found among its members is a joy.  Although a newbie, I didn't feel like one at all and the welcome I received from everyone was warm and supportive. 

I also got a chance to catch up with other writing friends and to talk about how we have all progressed apace since our last meeting at Kate Walker's romantic writing course at Fishguard.  Here are some of us  at the Saturday night Gala Dinner.  The food was lovely and the service excellent.  Harper Adams University, an agricultural college was a lovely choice of location, despite the smell of slurry which somehow always managed to catch you unawares just as you came around a corner!!

The importance of a synopsis

Like most writers, I hate writing synopses.  I find them hard and it's even harder to keep them down to a page of A4 while getting every...