Friday, December 30, 2011

Exciting News

After months of submitting all over the place have had two requests for full Manuscripts.

And wouldn't you know it both publishers are requesting the same book! It appears Murphy's law is a live and well.

The request is for the manuscript highly commended in The Clendon Award which is another affirmation that competitions really do pay off.

So It's back to the keyboard and my editing.

A great way to start the New Year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas--Done and Dusted

Xmas Elf, Leo with Great Grandpop and Anne

Charlotte and Elizabeth Check out the goldfish pond
Christmas is now a happy memory... we had a fun day with lots of family, lots of food and much love and laughter. The weather co-operated with a lovely 24 deg C day.

It was great to see the great grandies growing like little mushrooms, exploring and happy.

My heart goes out to the people of Christchurch...after thinking the worst was over the city was rattled by three big earthquakes on Christmas Eve....not the Christmas Cantabrians were wanting. Facing more damage, liquifaction, stress and heartache.


My kindle has been put to good use. I've downloaded several books and it's so neat to see a new book by a favourite author, buy it with one click and start reading it minutes later.  No rushing off to the bookstore or having to wait until it appears on shop shelves "down under". And often they takes ages of arrive and quite often  booksellers here think they are not a goer and we never see them at all.

And this burns me no end...to hear about a good read and not be able to get it without paying three times the value of the item in postage.

My latest read is Kris Pearson's second book.  And this is an author who is guaranteed to deliver a fabulous romance every time.  Below are the links  for both new books from this author.

The Wrong Sister - http://amzn.com/B006MZH7XU

Seduction on the Cards - http://amzn.com/B006FEABQS

Now that Christmas is over I have to finish the revisions on my WIP and soon it may be my book link here for readers to enjoy.

So after the holiday...it's back to hard work.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Book List

The best advice given to writer is to read. What have you been reading lately?
I've always been a voracious reader and my book list for the last month.

Seduction on the Cards By Kris Pearson....I gave this a 5 star review on Amazon

Lessons in Seduction by Sandra Hyatt....I shed a tear reading this one...the last book by a dear friend.

Two Brothers by Christine Wolfer...I gave this a 4 star review.

Chase the Moon by Dinah McCall. This is one of my all time favourite reads.

On a Wild Night by  Stephanie Laurens one of her Cynster Regencies.

I have several other book on my TBR pile...no wonder my revisions are taking so long.

Any book recommendations always welcome. I love gritty stories...not so much the vampires

Friday, December 16, 2011

Wow! Santa & the Birthday Fairy

Being a Christmas baby I've often felt short changed in the celebration stakes.

Not this year.  My wishes have been well and truly heeded. I am now the proud owner of a Kindle eReader. And I'm now able to download so many yummy books.

My bedside table will never look the same....no more piles of books in danger of toppling  over or collecting dust bunnies

So what have I downloaded first: One of my all time favourite books:

Chase the Moon by Sharon Sala writing as Diana McCall.

And because I like variety I downloaded a book by a new author.

Seduction on The Cards  by Kris Pearson.  http://amzn.com/B006FEABQS

Wow! What a sexy, explosive  story. I couldn't put it down and I found myself reading into the wee small hours.

Kris, a born story teller, and finalist in The Clendon Award run in conjunction with Romance Writers of New Zealand, has ventured into the world of self publishing on Amazon.

This beautifully formatted and edited book is a joy to read.

Set in New Zealand this is the story of a compulsive gambler who falls for a man, the son of a gambler, whose philanthropic bequest is aimed at helping problem gamblers, like Kerri. But the sexy French hero is hiding a few secrets of his own.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a great read by a compelling new voice. It is a fun read, with sometimes serious undertones.
Her second book is just as compelling:
The Wrong Sister by  Kris Pearson http://amzn.com/B006MZH7XU

My next download will be another superb New Zealand Author  Diana Fraser   The Italian's Perfect Lover  http://dianafraser.net/dianafraser.net/Books.html

I am so looking forward to being able to download and read many more of these wonderful books by great storytellers who have fallen through the cracks of the traditional publishing world.

Do download this one, you won't regret it.

Ah, I can't wait to download more books by new authors and lose myself in great new voices of authors who dare to be different.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Revision versus Editing.

Finally.
It's done.  How many times do we say those fatal words?  When I sent out a manuscript  to an editor recently it was returned, but the editor requested I revise the manuscript and resubmit.
Wow. A rejection with the possibility of acceptance if I revised it?

I was like any two year old,  excited and yet ready to throw a tantrum. A friend pointed me in the direction of a book by Theodore Cheney. Getting the Words Right.


And I discovered a whole new way of editing. Instead of regarding it as drudgery I looked on it as a chance to strengthen an already good story and make it even better. I identified weak passages where  the intent of a character was not clear and during this revision, rewrote and strengthened those areas.
I found and deleted redundancies that previously escaped my notice.

The difference to the manuscript is incredible.
And to quote Cheney, "The reader won't know or miss that unnecessary thread you've pared away from the whole.  And in pruning the wordy underbrush a reader can see the stature of the trees.

I would recommend this book to anyone.   Along with a hefty dose of courage to put his advice into practice.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas Comes in Summer

Once again December has dawned with hot, sticky weather.

And once again we're bombarded with images of Christmas lights, snow scenes and adverts with people singing Christmas carols wrapped up in winter gear and mufflers...and I feel a dose of heat stroke coming on.  When I look at old photographs of pioneer women, in neck to ankle gowns, and see those large families sitting down to huge roast turkey and plum puddings, I can truly sympathise.

Now those of us who live in the Southern Hemisphere, are a little wiser: Our Christmas menus are more suited to our climate. barbecues and salads, or cold cuts make a lot more sense. And the deserts: pavlova, fresh fruit salad  and ice-cream have replaced the heavy steamed puddings.  Decadent and Yum.

I vividly recall a conversation with a new New Zealander who was mourning the missing smells and scenes of an English Christmas. And I sniffed and smelled new mown hay, blazing sunshine, fresh mint peas, fresh dug potatoes... and assured her it smelled exactly like Christmas.

But some things don't change regardless of the hemisphere we live in. Families. Midnight carol service, Christmas trees,  fun and laughter.   I have two things are high on my bucket list... to see snow falling...and to experience a white Christmas at least once in my lifetime.

 

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Ten stages of Intimacy...creating sexual/emotional tension

Often writers get rejections that say in essence not enough emotional tension.


So what is strange creature "Emotional Tension"  It is the No 1 essential ingredient. It's what hooks your readers...and keeps them turning the page.  In romance...it equates to sexual tension.
So how do you create it?
The first thing a writer should do, and this applies to most books, is familiarise yourself with  the ten stages of intimacy.  There are many definitions with varying degrees of emphasis as to the physical implications. Here is a simplified version I use as a rough guide...according to the plot of my book.

  1. Eye contact --the first meeting where strangers look at each other
  2. Deeper eye contact---the soulful looks poets talk about
  3. Hand touches hand---contact usually light but lingering
  4. Hand to shoulder --- This is within socially acceptable boundaries. Up until this point either side can withdraw without loss of face.
  5. Arm circles waist ---this signifies a greater degree of intimacy, both given and accepted. Once it is accepted things progress at a rapid pace.
  6. Mouth touches mouth ---Once a kiss is exchanged, chemical information is passed from partner to partner. Kissing adds more senses to the intimacy mix. Smell, Taste and body temperature.
  7. Hand caresses head. Women tend to reach for the head before men. Hand caressing head indicates increasing trust...heads are vulnerable. And touching is something we share only with people we feel comfortable being around.
  8. Hand to body. Either through clothes or exploring under them. Often happens with eyes closed so participants can concentrate more on heat and smell. Maintaining eyes contact is even more powerful.
  9. Mouth to body---when this stage is reached both parties have demonstrated trust in each other and sexual intercourse is a likely outcome---given the right circumstances.
  10. Hand to genitals and genital to genital. This is the final and most potent stage of intimacy. And when it is reached each party should, in an ideal world, completely trust each other.


A writer should never labour these points but if you have them in the back of your mind you can up the emotional tension in your book by incorporating these stages. Your readers may not know them, but they will very quickly sense something is off between your characters if you skip them.

When a critique partner pointed out that it was too soon for my hero to touch my heroine...I went back to this list and sure enough, I had skipped several vital stages.

One last comment, Sexual or Emotional tension is not about a guy or a gal, having sexual thoughts...it's about building the tension between your characters by developing a growing sense of intimacy. This grows out of increased intimacy...not racy thoughts.

If you harbour doubts about the veracity of this, sit in a cafe  and watch customers interact. Watch how they look at each other, holding hands, a man with his hand on a woman's back...those stages are all there.

Conversely watch two people quarrelling...their body language is very revealing. 

And skipping steps can add a huge friction  between your characters. By having a good understanding of these steps a writer can utilise them to her advantage to up the tempo in both good and bad ways between her characters.  We've all seen the peeved heroine in a movie turns her head aside to prevent the hero kissing her...she's exercising her displeasure a his expectation of intimacy.




Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Critique Partners-----the value of fresh eyes.

It is always a thrill when I get a chapter returned by my critique partners. 
As I scroll through and see their comments...I find myself saying out loud, 'Now why didn't I see that?'  or 'Of course she's right. It's too soon for my hero and heroine to touch.'


Yesterday I was returning the favour----and having some-one knowledgeable critique your work is a huge favour----I was picking up on so many things---quite often little things that would make my partner's already interesting story sing. 


But one mistake I see repeated over and over, both in my partners' writing and in contests I've helped judge is writers mistaking sexual thoughts for sexual tension when they are very different aspects.  
Sexual tension is where the vibes between characters almost leaps off the page and can be triggered by the smallest gesture...like a knuckle grazing down a cheek or the touch of a hand on hair. 
A guy having lascivious thoughts page after page doesn't equate to the sexual tension an editor expects from a romance. It is a fine line to draw---but when a writer strikes the right balance it guarantees the reader a great read.  



Thursday, November 17, 2011

Self-editing

Self editing of any work is the most painstaking exercise. It takes a very keen eye to see every detail in a work so familiar, you can almost recite it in your sleep.

As my dear friend Sandra Hyatt commented "An author works on a manuscript until she hates it, so readers will love it."   So very apt. (Very loud sigh)  So how do you catch the errors and  typos that inevitably creep into any written work that you, as the author, are so familiar with you do not see the mistakes?

In a recent blog I read changing the font and text makes mistakes much easier to spot so I tried the text and font below:
Beyond the open window, the roll and snarl of the ocean added to the tension in the shabby farmhouse kitchen.  Brother and sister faced each other across the scarred kitchen table. 
And I'm amazed how much easier the errors are to pick up. But, even after doing this, mistakes creep in...leaving me tearing my hair out. 
Now I have found the answer. A critique partner who teaches English.... And after receiving back my first chapter with errors highlighted, I am quite literally, in seventh heaven. Anything that, as a reader, jars with her is highlighted. Commas magically appear in the right places... and odd grammatical errors are corrected.
I am hopeful the combination will solve what has been a recurring dilemma for me. And by carefully studying what the English teacher points out, I sincerely hope my grammar and punctuation will improve.  

And this time around English grammar will be assiduously studied. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Death of a Much Loved Sister

There are times when life becomes overwhelming. Received the sad news that my sister Pat has lost her battle with cancer. The hardest part is that she and her entire family live in Australia and although I've been over to visit her twice in the past year and had many many phone conversations the distance and logistics creates  difficulties. Times like this you need physical contact. All my other siblings are here in New Zealand and three of us, who live in the same town, sat and mourned together last night.

Pat's favourite flowers are roses and irises and I went out into my garden and picked a bowl of bearded irises and brought them inside.

My dearest memory...when I visited her last and couldn't sleep we spent half the night sharing her double bed holding hands and talking. She recounted the memory when I was a baby in hospital with pneumonia, before antibiotics. My dad visited me and found me cold, wet and crying in the cot. Horrified by the neglect, he put me under his great coat and brought me home so mum could  care for me properly.  When he got home he opened his coat and the whole family laughed and cried at the surprise he brought them.
I don't remember, but each of my older sisters have shared this memory with me so it must be true.

Sleep well Pat, and may you enjoy the flowers in God's Garden. We will miss you.
The petals of life may softly fall but gently God stoops and gathers them all.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Revisions and American spelling and grammar.

Yesterday was a red letter day for me----all because of a rejection.

After a slew of rejections, a much more positive response.  An editor really liked my characters, like my plot and thought my writing showed great promise ---- and only other writers will get the huge boost of confidence such words bring.

She asked me to revise my manuscript and resubmit it to her ---- then went the extra mile going through the first few pages and showing me what she required.  She suggested I tone down the emotion....and then showed me how many words I'd used that intimated anger---and I freely admit to being surprised.  

But other mistakes present more difficulty... you see, as a New Zealander, I think and write in English grammar and spelling and not American spelling and grammar.

And the differences range from subtle to huge.  

Take the humble ? In English it is followed by a capital letter.  "You don't say?" She asked. (English) As opposed to,  "You don't say?" she asked. (American)
 Then there are the ou words. Colour, labour, foetus etc and the ise words... realise, recognise, fantasise and all the ll  words...towelling, appalling, modelling etc.  And these are only a very few of the differences between the two forms of English.  Neither is wrong they are just different.

To combat this I have begun work in American English when submitting to American publishers but revert to English spelling and grammar when submitting to English Publishers.

And you thought English a universal language.  Dream on!
The language differences make life more difficult for English grammar writers submitting to American markets.  And unfortunately I find it easy to get confused.

Ah well them's the breaks.  (NZ colloquialism )

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Misty Provencher...Nothing Cannot Happen Today

Misty is the author of Cornerstone an intriguing novel that has me wondering where the story is going.  She lost her agent and decided to publish her novel on her blog, a chapter a week.

It is an intriguing tale of an ordinary girl who is leading an extraordinary life. Nalena lives with her mother, a compulsive hoarder of paper.  They live in a house where reams of paper form towers that fill every room. The bath and the disconnected stove become repositories for paper each sheet filled with one sentence novels.

Nalena is sure her mother is insane.... and who can blame her.... and struggles to believe her mother's explanation.  I can't wait for the next episode....

This is a novel that should have found a publisher but when Misty lost her agent she decided to publish it for free on her blog and judging by her fan base it has been a popular decision.

Her decision is a courageous one and, as a fellow author who has been battling rejections for far too long, I can sympathise with Misty and I applaud her for her decision....and wish her well with her future as an author.
This is the link for her novel.

Cornerstone-- Nothing Cannot Happen Today
 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Nanowrimo...

Today is the start of National Novel Writing month and I signed up...but rather than start a whole new novel I decided to pull out one I have half finished and make a bird on getting that one done.

So far it's working.

Day one: 2245 words and I'll map out scenes for my next chapter later.
Day two:    550 words. Not so much today...the lure of spring and the garden

Unfortunately the novel  isn't going to happen this year as I have to fly to Australia for my sister's funeral.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Romance...the most maligned genre

Why is romance such a popular genre....this is a question that has occupied many a mind over the centuries.

In the Georgian and Victorian eras husbands exhorted wives not to allow their daughters to fill their minds with trashy romance novels. Why?

Girls were paraded through the Marriage Marts of the day and marriages were arranged for them, for many reasons. Land. Money. To form or strengthen alliances between families. Or,  in the case of the Aristocracy, countries.
And while some fathers would take their daughter's feelings into consideration....to many men, such sentiments were irrelevant.   Heaven forbid any girl should entertain the notion that she could actually marry a man and expect happiness. This lay behind mothers counselling their daughters before they married, when their husbands demanded intimacy, to lie back and think of England.      

This prejudice, although it has abated somewhat during the century just past, continues to be levelled at the romance genre. It's okay  for men to read mysteries, thrillers, westerns and other popular fiction but when a woman picks up a romance for sheer, escapist pleasure it is frowned on as being trash.

I went into a book store recently and asked where they placed their selection of popular category romance and was subjected to a lecture. Such trashy fiction was a waste of valuable shop shelf space.

Excuse me?  As a reader and writer of such "trash" I was taken aback to say the least.

Today I visited my terminally ill brother in law and during the week had a scare with my daughter being hospitalised after a suspected stroke... and I realised why I love reading and writing romance.

Because, first and last in life, it's family that matters.  And the romance genre is all about reaffirming and  celebrating family values. I really enjoy reading how love and commitment  triumphs over adversity.    

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Rugby World Cup

What a thrilling nail biting finale to the Rugby World Cup. There was dead silence in our lounge during those last tense ten minutes when one mistake could have cost us so dearly.  But our boys in Black did New Zealand proud.    They beat the French 8-7. Go the mighty All Blacks!!!!!

In case you're wondering no I'm not a sports fanatic but I'm sure no one in this country wasn't aware we were a nation caught up in rugby fever. For the past forty five days we could push to one side the tragedies of the past twelve months....the devastating Canterbury earthquakes, the tragedy of  Pike River and the wreck of the Rena that has caused such havoc to our coasts.... and relax and enjoy the rugby.

All the problems still lie in wait for us.... the men of Pike River have yet to be brought home for their families... the massive rebuild of Christchurch still has to be accomplished and the Rena still lies wrecked on the Astrolabe Reef and we now have to face a general election and a financial crisis.... but for a few blissful days we pushed all that aside and enjoyed a fantastic spectacle.  And seeing Richie McCaw lift the Webb Ellis Trohpy lifted the spirits of this weary nation.

The hosting of the World Cup put New Zealand on the world stage for all the right reasons. And The Chairman of the IRB summed it up in one sentence. We, this small nation of 4 million people, have set the bar by which all future World Cups will be judged.

The the finest accolade of all.  Well done  New Zealand.  I am so very proud to be a New Zealander.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Exciting news

All excited this week to have submitted two requested manuscripts to two publishers so now its a waiting game....but at least my work is out there.

It's a strange business Publishing....so much effort goes in to producing the work and yet once a book leaves your hands your position as an author change. You, the author, go from having total control  to the position of handing control over to an objective third party.

And that third part judges your work by a whole different criteria.

An exciting and different phase for me.

Friday, October 14, 2011

New Voices Competition- Chapter Two up now

After failing to final in M&B New Voices contest I've put the second chapter up on my blog.

So many people have asked to read on so it's there for everyone to enjoy.

And please feel free to leave comments.

Shirley

Disaster Strikes Our Shores- The Rena how Did It Happen!

I usually steer clear of contentious issues here but The Rena disaster is far too close to home for me.

This is our beach, right at our back door...a place that holds so many of my dearest memories.

My family have spent so many happy hours on the wide sandy beaches of the Bay Of Plenty. In summer after milking we'd go off to the beach for a barbecue and picnic and when the dark came roast marshmallows over the charcoals before packing up five sandy tired kids and heading home.

They were happy carefree days. Even now my husband and I go out to Waihi Beach at least twice most weeks summer and winter and walk on the beach....it's wonderful release from everyday tensions.

To see it now littered with containers of cargo, oil and debris and police cordons keeping everyone off the beach breaks my heart. And leaves me and everyone else with one question.....How could such a disaster happen in this day and age.

And a one word summary......
SHAME.  SHAME on the captain and crew.....SHAME on the shipping line and their paltry apology....SHAME of the company who chartered the vessel and the way they absolve themselves of all and any responsibility.

We will recover....Kiwis love and own their beaches...and there's not one among us who won't do their bit to clean up this God-Awful mess.    

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What we can learn from competitions

The M&B New Voices Competitions have closed with 1092 entries. Wow!
It never ceases to amaze me just how many people have a yen to become published writers! And I recalled that infamous quote from Oscar Wilde....There's a book in every one of us...and that's where 99.9% should stay!    As a reader am I ever glad that so many authors ignored his cynical advice.

I set myself a task of trying to read all the first chapter entries...but I fell abysmally short.  This competition hammered home to me the importance of your opening paragraphs. Just reading the entries was an education in itself. And in trying to read all the entries I now have a far greater insight in an editor's lot.

How do they not reach overload?  As I read through entry after entry I found myself becoming more and more critical so by the time I'd read about 400 entires by paragraph three I had decided if I wanted to read on or not.  In many entries it was all back story....that is what happened up until the moment the story started.
In others, punctuation was almost absent...it's very difficult for a reader to get into a story when you have to mentally punctuate writing before it makes sense.

Don't get me wrong there were some fantastic entries....and to me this is where a competition like this sucks. Big Time.  You get swept up in a really good entry  and you want to keep reading to see what happens next and.......waaaahhhh you reach the end of chapter one.

The other big surprise for me was actually how much of the craft of writing I've learned. I kept shaking my head.....saying basic error...basic error... So I really did try to leave constructive feedback where I could.

It is the first time I've ever entered a competition like this and it was truly an amazing learning curve. The feedback from readers was great. There are always the negative ones but sometimes they can be the spur a writer needs....but the ones who annoyed me were the nit pickers....especially one commenter who had the arrogance to call herself the grammar police.

I've always maintained grammar can be fixed.....but that wonderful inspirational creative voice is a gift from heaven and should be both treasured and nurtured.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

New Voices Competition

For the first time I've entered Mills & Boon new voices competition. An interesting exercise on two fronts.

There are some truly fascinating entries by some very talented writers on the romance is not dead site. Readers are encouraged to leave comments and evaluate out of 100%. And the comments themselves are a fascinating insight into how writers evaluate other writers.

There are the people who offer insightful and valuable analysis to assist an obviously new writer and then there are the other ones who nitpick....one even going so far as to provide a half page list of every grammatical error... and yet another who commented that one writer's effort was chunder-bucket worthy.
Ouch!    Even more so when I read that critical commenter's entry...it was a clever expose of language with no emotion or heart. The entry she was so critical of was a fantastic effort that brought tears to my eyes. 

To me this is so unkind and unnecessary and neither helpful or encouraging. It's always been my policy when leaving comments to look for the positives and make positive helpful comments. You can always get editorial assistance to fix up the nuts and bolts of grammar ...it's a hell of a lot harder to inject heart into glib, superficial writing.     

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Experiencing The Thrill...and The Sorrow

Once some one asked me what I loved most....my reply is invariably family, reading, gardening,reading, writing reading oh and just in case you didn't get it reading. Today I really appreciate being able to say I've enjoyed what to me is a timeless thrill...a good read.


Never has this been more poignant and underscored as I watched my younger brother struggling to make himself understood. He is twelve months past a massive stroke....and like every member in our family he was an avid reader...now he can't read or understand a word. 


But we should and do rejoice....he is alive and not too physically impaired...and every time we see him we see a noticeable improvement in his speech...and his comprehension is improving. We live in hope some of his former competency with the written word will return.  


So for me to be able to sit down and enjoy losing myself in a good book....is a blessing. And one I will never again take for granted.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Character Takes Over My Mind

I can't shake this woman? Why? When she appeared in my last book I didn't like her at all...she is holier than thou and so supercilious, and she thinks she's a cut above everyone else. Her own mother said she's a pretentious snob....

Ah...the higher the climb the harder the fall.

In real life a person like this would barely impinge on my radar and definitely a person I would not regard as a friend.

And yet here she is taking shape in my mind and pushing aside Heath...whose story I have to finish. The last in my Katherine Bay trilogy that an editor is waiting for. So all day yesterday  I alternated between the two working first on one and then on the other. And there is a touch of the supernatural creeping in.

I've never been a fan of the supernatural in my reading and yet when I have a character who blacks out and then wakes up and thinks she's with the Devil....  And then when I switch back to the first book I find she's tainted it and this taint is giving my hero an edge that is edgier than sharp....

Who am I to complain....I'm merely the writer...and it looks like osmosis is working here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Characters that annoy

Sitting at my desk attacking my WIP and I'm getting sidetracked by a really annoying character. She won't let me be...perhaps because she's in danger standing atop of a waterfall debating with herself whether or not to Jump.   


When I sat down to write Heath's story I promised myself I was not going to wander off at a tangent but concentrate on "Finishing the damn Book". 


But Genevieve has other ideas....I keep telling her "Don't Jump". I'm trying to persuade her not to make a permanent solution out of what is a solvable problem.... trouble is I can't quite picture who the hero is who will prevent her taking that fatal leap.  Is this character determined to spoil her sibling's happiness by committing suicide almost on her doorstep. 
I want to tell her to go away but her very real danger keeps calling to me.


Surely writers have to question their mental health....we not only have conversations with imaginary people....we write them down for others to read.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ten Things I love About Writing.

I got to thinking about  this a couple of weeks ago. What is it about writing that keeps me at my keyboard? I'm not a great lover of lists but I'll give it a go.

  • Words....I love words. and when I come across a new one its treasure. I've worn out one dictionary an Oxford Illustrated and have a well thumbed second one.
  • The cadence of the written word...the sound of words. Any parent who's read to a child knows that books that sound great become favourites. Beatrix Potter and Dr Seuss are proof of this.
  • The visual effect of words on a page...its so structural...white paper with squiggly lines people can read and enjoy.
  • Writing give expression to the voices in my head. Not so sure what it says about my mental health  when I not only talk to the imaginary people I write down their conversations!
  • One great pleasure is watching a character grow and mature. I'm always surprised how characters develop quirks and foibles and how often a throwaway line will shape a character.
  •   Writing feeds my curiosity...my mother said it was a failing....but what ifs...are the spice of life.
  • Writing lets me indulge in people watching. People fascinate me. I love sitting in a side walk cafe watching people...coffee optional.   
  • Writing feeds my imagination...fleshing out snatches of overheard conversations...some overheard gems are priceless...it's great fun to continue such conversations through your characters.
  • Writing gives me licence as an armchair psychologist, put characters through hoops, drop them in untenable situations and indulge my dark side.     
  • Last but not least writing give me immense satisfaction. Writing The End knowing you've created something  readers will either love or hate. 
Now I need to know what excites readers... please leave a comment 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Gift of Storytelling ...the elusive X factor

Is it better to plot a book before you start writing or let it evolve as you go?  The answer is as simple as a writer chooses to make it. Both methods are useful and each has its place. Do I plot.....well sort of.  And if that sounds like a half arse answer...it actually is.

Once and once only I wrote a detailed  outline for a book. By the time I got to the end of that outline I'd killed that poor effort....a little like the fish that died of drowning. It was too much of a good thing.

When a writer gets too hung up on plotting it can kill spontaneous creativity.  And creative spark is the heart of storytelling. If writers get too engrossed in craft and technique they can forget they are story tellers.
Writers need craft skills,plot to create memorable well rounded stories. Structure, grammar, punctuation and vocabulary are necessary tools.  But no craft skills can supplant the elusive hard to pin down x-factor that readers and publishers seek.

This x-factor?  The gift of storytelling. How often are writers told to write the book from their heart?
When my first book was published I went its Auckland launch. All the other authors had University Degrees and letters after their names. I a mere country farmer's wife more used to wrangling cows, kids and mud than the glitz and glamour of a book launch.

Feeling a tad inferior I said as much to a well known literary commentator. He looked at me with piercing grey eyes set under beetling brows and said, "Maybe so, my dear. But you have the edge....you are a storyteller."
And that is something I've never forgotten .
Every writer needs to remember....no amount of craft or plotting can replace the spontaneity of storytelling.   

I am interested to hear other people's views on this subject.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

How To Write Gripping Sex Scenes


Sex scenes are something a lot of writers struggle with, especially novice writers. A lot of this can be traced back to personal hang ups about sex in general.  For older writers who grew up thinking that sex was regarded as "dirty" there was good reason for stumbling over writing such scenes.


The days of the romance novel not venturing past the bedroom door has well and truly gone.

Current generations don't have the same hang ups over sex. And modern readers expect satisfying sizzle alongside their romance. And a writer needs to become more than just competent they need to ensure their sex scenes dazzle. 

So how does a writer put the sizzle in their sex scenes.  
At our recent RWNZ conference Bob Mayer gave us pearl of wisdom.  He said go to the experts....study how they've done it .... you don't copy you study, read and learn.  Stephanie Laurens is a current writer who does love scenes extraordinarily well. Any one of her books is a sizzling read....she is an excellent author to study how she pulls it off.  And if you read one of her scenes and clinically don't let yourself be drawn in...you'll see it's all in her choice of words and how she engages the senses.
Natalie Anderson who writes for M&B Sexy, is another modern writer whose sex scenes sizzle on the page.

A writer needs to get out of a character's head and into his or her character's body. 
     
Writing love scenes is all about utilising and engaging the five senses. Touch. Taste. Smell. Sound. Sight.  Every paragraph should utilize at least two and preferably three of these five senses.

What is you character seeing... their partner's excitement..the rise and fall of a chest...sculptured muscles...a soft breast....a tattoo alive and flexing on a bulging muscle...all of these are arousing sights.
What is your character feeling... skin texture calloused hand, rock hard muscles rippling beneath a hand.
What do they smell... woodsy cologne honest sweat 
Same with hearing...ragged breath...groan...a shout of completion... 
And finally taste....what is it they taste...the salt of sweat on skin...the flavour of a kiss...
You are only limited by your imagination. 
One other essential is your choice of words... forget the euphemisms ...you can be direct and straightforward and yet keep within terminology that you feel comfortable with and won't make a reader cringe.... My personal hates are manhood and maidenhead....terms guaranteed to turn me OFF reading any more.   

The other essential component is utilising the action - reaction... sequence. Every action creates a reaction...this is incredibly important in intimate scenes.  And most important of all....keep your scene in the present tense and don't let your characters...waffle off in their heads at the pivotal exciting point of the scene.

A good lover keeps his partner male or female totally engaged in the moment....and a writer must keep the reader totally engaged.  


I have posted an excerpt showing how to engage the senses.  





Thursday, September 15, 2011

New Project...an a new lease on life

Today is a special day on two fronts....


I've started on a new project writing the third book in my Katherine Bay trilogy...and the ideas are flowing thick and fast...among the characters that we are going  to meet again are Dave Scanlan the elderly proprietor of The Clam Shack and his affable but eccentric ginger tomcat Tom. I can't get the pesky creature out of my mind since I was pulled up on a POV change in Shadow Dance had to cut him out of that book.  And the irascible Mrs Wilson who Jace Mullein infamously accused of being "weaned on a lemon" an expression gleaned from my late twins....in reference to an aunt who shall remain nameless.


I do love this first creative rush when the words flow. And yes Bob Mayer I have the idea in twenty five words front and foremost in my mind.  I don't worry too much about editing at this stage.... I've taken Susan Mallory's words of wisdom to heart... "You can edit a page of words. It's very difficult  to edit a blank page."


The other reason today is special....I spent all day yesterday at the Cardiac Clinic at Waikato hospital and was given a heart health tick. It has been a worry for over a month now after visiting my GP with a heavy cold and ended up having an ECG.  
The nurse doing the procedure came around the corner of the screen and said to quite worried...."You have a pacemaker?"  More than a little startled my response was instantaneous..."Not unless the aliens have been at me, I haven't. I'm almost certain I would know if I had a pacemaker!"
Back came the response. "Well the machine says you have one."
A second nurse entered the clinic and redid the ECG the results of which  indicated part of my heart was not working.... well I was a little concerned after all people don't live long without a heart...it is kind of vital.
After having a workout on the treadmill and apart from being a tad puffed the cardiologist said my heart and arteries were in good shape.
Which leaves one very big question mark over the health of the machine that did the first test!
Looks like I'll live to "finish another damn book."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Launching My Baby Into the World...A Writer's Doubts

Well I've done it.

Launched my baby out into the hostile world...and now it has to sink or swim on it's own merit...

Pangs of guilt are hard to ignore ...it's a hostile and uncertain world out there.

Will my baby make it or will it be sent back to me bleeding and wounded... Or will it be snatched up and run with the crowd... buffeted and trumpeted from the rooftops....only to be shredded by critics...

With the best will in the world my baby is no longer safely on my computer hard drive...sheltered and protected from criticism and an editor's red pen.

And now after I've hit the send button the doubts creep in...


What makes you think your baby is anything special....
What makes you think your baby is special...deserving of consideration...what makes you think the editor won't just hit the delete button... and so the doubts gnaw and grow.


At least in the old days of snail mail...editors opened letters....maybe it took them six months to reply but hey the trusty mail always got through....and we learned to fear the fat envelope. Now with cyber post we sit and wait just as long as we ever did in the days of snail mail.

Did the e-mail arrive? did it get lost in cyberspace was that why we never received and acknowledgement?

Then when you do get a response...."I have it and will get to it soon"

Three years later?.... well I guess everyone's definition of soon does differ a little.

But with this latest submission....what do you know...a friendly personalised response by return email....giving me a specified time frame within which I should receive a reply.

And thanking me soooooooooo much... for all my effort.

Now I realise this is an automated response but it did leave me, disillusioned trouper that I am, with a warm and fuzzy feeling.  Long may it continue.

And it is the spur I need to work to get my next baby ready to meet the world.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sex Scenes my bete noir

I can't  believe it.

I've finished the damn book...to quote Barbara Clendon.

Mind you I thought it was finished before I did this last lot of revisions.... then I got the feedback from Readers in the Clendon award took a hard critical look.

But I've worked it over and it's as polished as I can make it.
I've cut out anything that didn't work...I've given every minor character their day on the page.

One comment from the Clendon really hit home... there was not enough intimacy between the hero and heroine.

I must confess writing sex scenes give me the heebies.

One part of me says no way....it's voyeurism.  Another part says....people will think that's what my sex life is like....and yet another part says....at least my mother won't read it.

Then today for a break from my work I picked up a book from my conference goodie bag and started to read that...and my goodness....it was not hot.... it was enough to leave scorched earth in its wake...
A far cry from the early M&B where one never ventured past the bedroom door.

And I really enjoyed it...so what does that make me? A prude.  Worried I went back and re-read the sex scenes in my WIP.  And they aren't exactly tame...

Then I had a duh moment....by the time I've laboured over every word those scenes don't have the same zing as the ones in a book I'm reading for the first time.

My critique partner said my first kiss scene was one of the best she's ever read.

Now I await her verdict on the  the full blown sex scenes. And then I sincerely hope Sue Grimshaw  likes it too.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Tying Up Loose Ends

In every workshop we are bombarded by the the importance of the beginning.

It has to be crisp...it has to immediately engage the reader...it has to introduce the characters...set up the  conflict....delineate the plot...

And yet we have very few workshops and pointers on how to finish the damn book.
It is the part of writing that I find the most difficult. It's where I have to go back and ensure I've tied up every loose end....and make sure that every person mentioned had their own little cameo scenes and that the readers are not left hanging.

If you bring into your story the old guy who runs thecorner dairy you, as the writer, must ensure he has at least three scenes within the book's canvas so the reader is satisfied the old guy has played his role to the full and he's not just a bit player used to fill in a few pages to achieve a given word count.

I can hear some people asking why. Why is it so important to give these bit players this much consideration?

The reason I give these bit players so much importance is that they are a critical component in fleshing out your canvas...and every book is as much a canvas as an art board is to an artists.  Where artists use paint....writers use words.

And the bit players add a new and critical dimension to a story and breathe life into your main characters... they provide a background against which a writer can round out the principal characters.
All characters in even the greatest classical works start out as cardboard cut outs....It is the writer's skill that weaves them into a three dimensional character....and it the small bit players that form the rich backdrop that allow your main characters to becomes real... so real a reader not only can relate to that character they want to keep that character and your book on their keeper shelf.

As a reader there's nothing that annoys me more than reading about a character early in a book and then never meeting them again...and I'm left wondering what is their story? Why were they there?

And it is the way you deal with these bit characters and weave them throughout your book and ensure their  cameo scenes create a complete vignette that leaves a reader satisfied.... And as writers it's our to ensure every loose end is tied up in an ending that satisfies our readers and leaves them closing the book with that aahh feeling.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Deep Editing...getting the final draft as perfect as I can make it

Deep Editing is the hardest part of writing for me.

It is when a writer has to examine every phrase...ensure every word progresses the plot, adds emotional tension or moves the story forward.

It's hard work but so worthwhile. It's this final polish that makes a book an effortless and satisfying read...for the reader.

In this endeavour I have found my critique partner is invaluable....she will pull me up... And it's always the silly things. The ending of words that are wrong, Or most recently where in one sequence she said bluntly... this doesn't wash....

And she was so right.
It never ceases to amaze me what a fresh set of eyes picks up.

But with the best will in the world a writer becomes so familiar with their WIP (work in progress) that they just don't see the glaring mistakes that hit an unfamiliar reader smack in the eye.

I've taken the reader comments from the Clendon seriously.... And have added several steamy scenes to lift a compelling love story to the next level.

I've given the cute two year old twins a naughty side....as anyone who has ever lived through the terrible twos well knows they have....I'm sure the first word they learn is no...

And I've cut out one villain.... Three readers said there were one too many...and the heroine's father was a distraction the story didn't need.

As the original deadbeat dad , his influence or rather lack of... is the prime motivation of my heroine...so I am ambivalent about cutting him completely from the story.

I haven't reached the him yet but as I work through this final polish but I already suspect this astute reader has nailed it...and he will have to take a back seat.

So the WIP is fast becoming a final draft...and ready to wing it's way out into the world...



    

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Emotional Punch or Putting Conflict in Every Scene: Molly O'Keefe's Workshop

Molly O'Keefe's workshop at our RWNZ conference was brilliant.
She gave us her take on creating conflict in every scene.  Something that is particularly relevant to romance writers. 

I'm sure every writer has had one of those form rejections .... this submission lacks emotional punch....  And like every writer I've scratched my head... what is this elusive thing called emotional punch. 

To put it bluntly... your writing doesn't have sufficient conflict to create tension which in turn makes your writing lack emotional punch.  

Molly gave us her take on this tricky aspect of writing.  Here's her definition of conflict.
Conflict needs to come from a hole within a character caused by something that happened in their past (back story) and through which story events mirrors in the present.

Each scene must do three things: 

  • reveal character
  • advance the plot
  • reveal back story or foreshadow the future 
To create tension every scene needs to have these three things of at the very minimum two.   The more tension in every scene, the more conflict. 
And  the more conflict the more readers will want to keep turning every page desperate  to see what happens next.

A writer needs to create conflict going in to a story...from the first page.
To do this make a list of three character traits that describe each character.
For maximum impact make them opposites for each character.

The example she showed us 
Heroine's characteristics  Free spirited:  A Liar:    Compassionate       
Hero's characteristics:   Control freak:  Everything is black and white:  mourning the loss of his lifestyle

Using these characteristics create that elusive item writer's call A Character Arc.                                                                                                                  By the end of the story each character must have grown sufficiently to be able to display the opposite characteristic they went into the story with.

Hence the Control Freak will become more flexible; the liar will become truthful; the compassionate person a little more selfish.
  
To attach emotion to each scene she uses this sentence   
.....(character) will do anything for .... (character)..... except ......
And sentence needs to change as the story progresses and the characters change.
Every character introduced in a book must have at least 3 scenes.
  • establish the problem 
  • up the stakes in the conflict
  • resolution
She used the example:  A mother dating a man the daughter hates and can't forgive.
  • don't date that man ....establish the problem
  • I said don't date that man ...up the stakes of the conflict
  • Fine. Date that man... resolution 
And she added Bob Mayer's mantra to her workshop. 
The character arc should be such that if you dumped your characters as they were at the beginning of your story into the end scene and they would fail.

Now all I need to do is translate all this wisdom into practical application.
Thank you Molly.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sandra Hyatt...gifted writer cherished wife and mother and a dear friend

It is with great sorrow I post this blog on the loss of a dear friend.   Sandra had such a warm bubbly personality. Nothing was too much trouble and as she moved into the arena of becoming a world famous author she never forgot the friends she'd made along the journey.

She was a gifted writer and it was no surprise to those of us who had the chance to read her early work...the promise was always there.

My heart goes out to her husband and two children...they were the light of her life.

As a member of Romance Writers of New Zealand  Sandra will be sorely missed and I will always be grateful that I had the chance on Friday evening to tell her of the stunning request I'd received from Sue Grimshaw from Ballantine Bantam Dell....she was so very happy for me...and that was pure Sandra.

Warm, genuine and caring.

Rest In Peace Sandra.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Home again...exhausted but exhilarated

Receiving Highly Commended Certificate For Clendon Award 2011 
Left to right Diana Holmes, Nicola Davidson, Sandii Manning, Shirley Wine, Maria Snyder

Conference is over for another year...a full on learning experience... a gab fest with friends...a catch up on industry trends.  If there was one thing I took out of conference this year it is that the publishing industry itself is not sure in which direction it is headed.

It is going to be interesting to watch and see how the industry shakes down and which way it will emerge from its current crisis.

In my last blog I admitted my nervousness at submitting a query letter for Bob Mayer's critique. It was with fear and trembling that I watched my one come up on the screen. To my delight he said he would only change one word...
The query launched straight into the tag line and pitch. followed by word length, target market followed by a brief bio of writing credits. So apart from that minor change I received a pass mark... oh the relief.  And the validation that I was right to trust my instincts.

It was also a very productive weekend. I received my Clendon award rosettes to add to my now very colourful wall. On a very positive note to end with, I have two requests for full manuscripts another request for a partial so I am cautiously optimistic. As others have commented...watch this space.

I cannot finish this post without mentioning my friend and writing compatriot...Sandra Hyatt who, during the conference, was rushed to hospital gravely ill.... our love and prayers are with Sandra and her family at this difficult time.
  



  

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Conference Time

The countdown is well and truly on....one more sleep!!!
My bag is packed...my clothes sorted although I have to confess to struggling with anything that would make me look regal... a bag of books to put on the table...items to add to the raffle table....a stock of $2 coins... was there anything else....

Darn it... I almost forgot my pitches.

This year I have three pitches...my editor and agent hunt is well underway.

My first Pitch is with the lovely Lucy Gilmore from Harelquin Mills and Boon London office. Lucy is taking pitches across all of Harlequin's lines and as I aim my writing at Special Edition and Super Romance  lines I am very excited about this one.

My second pitch is with Jessica Faust.
At the last minute I managed to secure a pitch with Jessica when someone else pulled out. From Bookend Literary Agency, Jessica has a wealth of information  on the publishing industry....I have been a longtime follower of her blog. If I have a query a scroll through her posts will almost always provide an answer.
I would love to secure her as an agent.... finger's and toes crossed.

And my third pitch is with  Angela James from Carina Press the digital arm of Harlequin. And if the way forward is with digital publishing this could be a very good place to be.

So it will be a busy weekend what with all the talking laughing catching up with writing buddies and attending so many wonderful workshops it will be a full on weekend.

And the reason for all the $2 coins...Sony have donated an e-reader to be raffled..... sigh....I'm dreaming....

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What I Can I Learn From Yet Another Rejection

Well shucks another rejection. This time for my partial that was with Harlequin Desire.  I know! I know! I hear what you're saying. Every writer has rejections.  But does that mean they don't suck?   No way Jose!

So what can I learn from this latest rejection.  And that's something else every writer also has to do. After I came down from the boughs and stopped stomping around the house and sat down and analysed  the rejection it did make sense.

"While I found much to like about this project...it's not suitable for Desire...."  Well that was pretty well stating the obvious....why else would I be receiving a rejection letter?
It was the second comment that really got me thinking.... "The initial premise that was so intriguing....isn't really what's delivered...."
 And the third comment reinforced the second.... "added to that there are a number of problematic plot elements that are ultimately too distracting from the main romance and conflict...."

Now this third comment did make immediate sense. Desire is a simple straight forward plot to the HEA. And I don't and never have written simple....so it was like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

As luck would have it on the same day this letter came so did an email from RWNZ with an attachment with  the notes for Bob Mayer's workshop to give us  time to study them prior to the workshop.  This is a superb idea...it allows us to take in more without information overload.  And there on page one of these notes was the answers to the questions raised by the comments in the rejection letter.


The importance of your original idea.   Can you write this original idea in 25 words or less? Now for anyone who had never tried to do this....believe me it is hard!   It is probably the hardest task a writer is asked to do.  Distill the essence of a book into 25 words or less. It's not impossible. It can be done.

The next gem on the work sheet:  Remembering this original idea keeps you focused.


And this was why my Desire submission  bombed....I hadn't kept focused on my original idea.
So for my next submission...which is already sent by the way... I've done just that....and as I revise the manuscript in expectation of being asked for a partial.... One never gives up hope in this business...you keep plodding on hoping that one day and editor will punch the air and say.....YES.

I've kept that 25 word original premise front and foremost  in my mind. Every scene has to build on this premise in some way. If it doesn't it gets the chop.

So thank you  Bob Mayer your workshop notes have already helped me and I'm so looking forward to the workshop.   And I've been very brave....I've put my latest query letter up for Bob to pull apart in his workshop....

Now I'm in fear and trembling.... Should I have waited until he'd dissected it before I sent it.....

No.  I have faith in my own judgement..... I just hope this very experienced novelist's judgement concurs with mine..... Check back after the conference and I will reveal all.

Warts and all.



Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Critique Partners and Life Skills

A writer's life can often be lonely.... sure we have the company of the imaginary people who live in your heads....but what do you do when they don't or won't talk back to you?

It's no use calling up your friends or your relatives and saying to them "Gregori" is acting up...he's not doing what I want him too... they're as likely to contact the funny farm as they are to laugh outright and point the finger.

Yet you know as you beaver away at your computer that your hero should be doing something extra or what he is doing, doesn't sit quite right.... so what can you do?

For me when characters are misbehaving my favourite pastime is to play a game or two of Spider Solitaire...it never ceases to amaze me how playing a few games frees up your creative process...if that doesn't work then I cruise my favourite blogs....Rachelle Gardener or Jessica Faust at Bookends always have some article that will stir the creative juices.

But recently I've found myself a critique partner...and I've lucked out and struck gold... Within a few days she's pointed out flaws a writer glosses over because they are too familiar with the work.... Such closeness  doesn't allow an author to stand back and take an objective look at their writing.

One legal issue, the backbone of the whole work, bugged me ... we tossed ideas back and forth... then I came up with a brainwave and went back a generation in my story....she asked her lawyer husband.... he said it would work....go for it.

And although it means rewriting and reshaping the overall effect takes the story to a new level and I've found the words literally flowing off my fingertips.

To test my hypothesis it would work I asked my young relatives the same age as my heroine what they knew about the issues my heroine was facing and the result was sobering....even the ones with young children had only the vaguest notions about wills...trusts...or where to go for such advice.....The only one who had any clues about legal issues was the young man who'd had a few run ins with the law.

So much for life skills taught to our young ones.

My critique partner sent me her first three chapters and I took to them with a red pen....and worried I'd been too harsh.... But the response was so reassuring.... "I think I've won the lottery. But I don't want our partnership to be one sided."  

She has a great story with one of the most fantastic opening lines I've ever read.... and believe me I've read a lot of opening lines. I was in absolute awe...but her writing was bogged down in repetition and excess verbiage....hence the red pen.  

Our relationship is in it's infancy but already for me it's worked miracles.  And don't worry my friend about it being one sided....it's not...you've given me the jab in the rear I've needed.



  

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Choosing an agent and a publisher

With Romance Writer's of New Zealand conference very close on the horizon this is a subject that is very much on most writers' minds. Those among our ranks lucky enough to be with a publishing house or have an agent have been through the nerve wracking process.

Despite dozens of queries I have yet to snare either. And my foray into publishing has been far from successful. With my first book I was admittedly as green as grass. The book was published in NZ and the firm promptly went belly up...and with it a lot of my blood sweat and tears.  It still burns me to see copies of that book being sold on online sites and I've never received a cent in royalties....

This has made me doubly cautious but when my second book was accepted by a e-book publisher in America in the first flush of excitement I overlooked a few very necessary details...  Research....research and yes you guessed it research.
And the results were depressingly predictable.
I can't deny the experience has somewhat shaken my confidence but I'm not from stubborn Irish stock for nothing..... you know the old motto...if at first you don't succeed try and try again.

It is often said third time lucky..... and one thing is certain...I'm done with walking into anything blind with trust.  This time around I've spent hours online researching agents.... reading different lines put out by different publishers trying my best to gauge where I think my work would comfortably sit.

And at our upcoming conference have secured pitches with both  an editor and an agent. I have my toes and pinkies crossed that the third time will prove to be the magic charm.

And as I stand outside the door hyperventilating I will repeat to myself..... editors and agents are people just like me.

So if anyone hears me looking worried and talking to myself .... don't take fright and call the men in white coats. But then that could be a life saver if I get in that room and my mind goes blank.

I hope it doesn't happen....I've already got my flash cards done and learned off by heart.



              

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Love, friendship and support of a writing community

After too many years to count deeply involved in writing,  and mixing and associating with other writers has arguably been the most rewarding experience of my life.

I read once that a philosopher said...and I've long since forgotten who... claimed that for a person to know true happiness they needed to accomplish three things.... Plant a tree...Have a child...And write a book.

By that definition I must be the happiest person on the planet... I've planted literally thousands of trees written several books and had nine children....and buried five of them...three of them in infancy.
This has taken an enormous personal toll on my husband I...and our surviving  children.
It is so against natural law for a parent to bury their children.
And during the very trying time after our twins sons died it was friends and family who were our salvation... and our writing community.
Not long after we buried our second twin Daphne Clair contacted me and said she had a vacancy in an advanced class at Kara School of Writing.... Did I feel up to attending? Looking back now I realize this hand of friendship extended across the abyss of grief not only saved my marriage it saved my sanity.
And I will be eternally grateful to Daphne and Robyn and that weekend... I'm sure they never knew how close I came to tipping over the edge...and that long weekend of learning, focusing on writing, the camaraderie and their unspoken but gentle sympathy tipped the balance for me in the right direction.

It was normality in a world far from normal.

The most comforting words during those very dark days was penned by a very dear friend....a friend whose only brother was shot down in Korea an hour after peace was declared.
She penned me a note that in essence said... Be glad you have to get up in the morning.  Make a meal. Wash the dishes... these small steps towards normality lead you slowly back towards the path of living.
I still take comfort every day from that small letter worn thin with time and buried under the paper in my handkerchief drawer along with two other treasures....my last two cards from my boys...

Writing and the many dear friends I've made on this journey is a reward in itself.

I've never met another group of people more willing to share their expertise, pass on hard earned knowledge and writing tips, applaud other writer's successes and commiserate with their disappointments.

In all the years belonging to Romance Writers of New Zealand  I've never heard or seen one nasty word or action or experienced any of the infighting and backstabbing so prevalent in other organisations.   Our writing community is a jewel to treasure...

Jean Drew created a gem when she had the courage and foresight to create a fledgling organisation that has grown into a beautiful and graceful swan.

It's strange this post turned out much differently than the one I intended to write ....but rest assured it flowed straight from my heart to the page.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Synopsis.... The Bane Of This Writer's Life and a Eureka Moment

Writing  a synopsis that wows an editor into wanting to read my manuscript is something  guaranteed to have me tearing out clumps of hair....and at times turning down right homicidal.

What do you put in and what do you leave out?

Five times I've sent a synopsis to my critique partner this week and five times it's come back underscored and crossed through with red ink. The last time she told me to cut anything that didn't affect the characters emotions.... oh and keep it under 700 words.

Like that's possible??

I almost reached for the arsenic bottle!!!! Luckily arsenic isn't readily available.  So bleary eyed I sat at my lap top and did what she suggested. I remembered an article on a ten sentence synopsis...... 

And had a Tui moment. Yeah Right! Then I thought what have I to lose? Nada. 
Hours later I had a synopsis

It was more than ten sentences but was under 700 words and in the present, no back story no character explanations just STORY that charted the characters emotional journey.
And this was my Eureka Moment.

I started with the initiating event that created conflict between the two main characters.... protagonist/antagonist just don't cut it for me. They sound like an unsavory disease. 

Next the event that set them against each other escalating the conflict.... And they reach the first turning point...where the conflict is more intense...the stakes higher.  

As the characters grow closer, the conflict is so much more desperate....and they reach the second turning point... where the characters have changed so much they've reached a point where they cannot turn back...yet not willing to take that next step forward....

 This leads to greater conflict with greater momentum because for each character the stakes are higher... until both characters reach a point of no return...where they've changed so much it projects them into even more conflict  that propels them to a crisis where all is lost... 

Both characters descended into a hell.... of their own making...the hero emerges victorious... heroine's lost everything....with nothing more to lose she makes one last desperate push which  brings her and hero together for the final showdown.... and of course the resolution. 

I began with on sentence for each point only fleshing it out where necessary for it to make sense.

The sense of achievement?  Huge! 

Now here's hoping the editor will like it.