Monday 28 September 2015

5 Quotes from the RWA Get Fresh Conference 2015

with Marilyn Forsyth

It’s just over a month since the RWA ‘Get Fresh’ Conference, and would you believe it, I’m still digesting all the wonderful advice from so many fantastic speakers. I’m sure everyone who attended would have had their light bulb moments. Here are mine: five quotes (some paraphrased) that struck a chord with me.

‘Romance writers are makers of reader delight.’ C. S. Pacat.

Image courtesy of Giphy
What a lovely way to put it, C. S. (and great speech, by the way). The topic of ‘Love’ has been inspiring writers since…well, forever! And there’s a reason why Romance is the leading genre in fiction sales: its readers know the comfort and pure joy that a happy ending can bring. We owe it to our readers to write heart-warming, empowering stories with strong heroines whose self-worth is enriched by falling in love with the right man. Long live love!

‘Every secondary character thinks they’re the lead in their own story.’ Rachel Bailey.

Stereotypes are fine for cartoons but not for novels.
Thank you, Rachel, for such an important reminder. By ensuring all our characters are well-rounded, we create truly believable stories; stories readers will become invested in because they’re about ‘real’ people—people as genuine as their own friends and family, with the same motivations, the same flaws and the same desires. I have a tendency to let my secondary characters either fade into the background (usually because they’re not firmly fixed in my mind) or go on to steal a starring role (because they’re non-stereotypical and completely fascinating, dammit!). Achieving a balance with those secondary characters has just become my current aim in my wip.

‘If you must write, put writing first.’ Patricia McLinn.

My heatmap: Day one
Oh, Patricia, how right you are. So many distractions to stop us from writing! Day jobs, social media, family commitments, must-not-miss television series, the Internet, that spare room you’ve been meaning to declutter since Nanna disappeared in there last week, and on it goes. The thing is, all those distractions do need to be dealt with (especially finding Nan :)).

Once again I believe it’s a matter of balance. I have a family and an everyday life to be lived, but my writing time must also be sacrosanct. According to my Productivity Heatmap (see below for a link), I’m an afternoon person, so writing between 12 - 4 pm will leave my mornings free to do all the other real-world stuff. I’ll let you know how I go.

‘Find your true audience. Connect and engage through conversations, by asking questions, by contributing ideas, by sharing content i.e. provide entertainment and only promote occasionally.’ Angela Ackerman.

Angela went on to give some fabulous suggestions on how to find readers, which I will definitely be following up on. What I liked about this quote was the importance Angela placed on making a genuine connection with potential readers, rather than being just a ‘buy my book’ author. Great advice from a hugely successful author.

‘You’ll go home tomorrow and collapse like roadkill.’ Mary Jo Putney.


I’m including this because it made me laugh (and it was true). Love ya, Mary Jo!


So, what were your light bulb moments from the Conference? I’d love to hear what you learned.

Love to Love Sue Brockhoff, Annabel Blay and Kate James of Harlequin Mira for making me feel so welcome.

Love to Laugh at photos of animals caught by surprise. For more click on this link.

Love to Learn how to be more productive. Go to click on ‘free planners’ and you’ll find a Productive Heatmap. Basically, over a week or so, you colour-code your productivity from hour to hour. Supposedly it helps you find your best time to write. (Hope it works!)

Monday 21 September 2015

Writing life: Why Don't They Get It?

By Cassandra Samuels

I was talking to a writing friend the other day and we were lamenting the fact that sometimes our friends and family just don’t get it. What am I talking about? The writing process. 

It is hard for them to understand we need time to write, that in actual fact we can’t write and do other chores at the same time. It takes personal time away from them, costs money in memberships and courses, conferences and resources, and you haven't even finished your draft manuscript despite the fact you've been writing it for years.

Don't despair.

I'm so lucky my husband is very supportive, but it wasn't always easy for my family to understand why I wasn't sitting down watching tv with them at night. My kids still come in to ask me questions like do I know where they left their shoes/ipad/phone? even though they're aware I am writing. I can't blame them, I'm their mother first and a writer next, after all. (And I usually know where everything is!) Sometimes I think they worry about me and just need to make sure I haven't slumped over my keyboard. 

Writing is a mental task and often our family and friends get confused and think it must be like other types of mental tasking that they perform everyday, flitting from an email to FB, then to a YouTube video, and back to an email without too much mental stress. But creative writing is one of those things that is elemental and organic. The act of getting a story from the mind into a publishable manuscript is not easy. In fact, it's very, very hard.

 So, yes, sometimes they just don't get it. But here are some options you might consider:

  • Wait until they are all asleep. (If you are a night person or someone who needs little or no sleep this is a great option.)
  • Get up early while they are all asleep. (If you are a morning person and your brain works at 4am, go for it.)
  • Announce you are going to your desk to write and ask nicely not to be disturbed. (most kids and some adults don't understand this kind of request.)
  • Announce you are going to your desk to write and tell them you are not to be interrupted unless there is a fire or an injury requiring hospitalization. (Depending on the age of your family members this may be taken seriously, or not.)
  • Lock the door and hope for the best. (This could be dangerous if, like me, you write with headphones on, as you may not hear the smoke alarm/banging on the door and therefore fry to a crisp.)
  • Bribery - works best with smaller children who like sweets, and teens who want money. (This option could get you into all sorts of strife with the tooth fairy and your bank manager).
  • Bargain - This is where you bargain for some writing time in return for a nominated time of, for example, kicking the ball around the yard or watching a movie.
  • Put a sign on the outside of your closed (but not locked) door that reminds them you are inside creating. (You know, just in case they forget.)

Image courtesy Dee Scully

  • Sit them down and explain to them what writing is really like for you, how hard it is, and how important it is for you to be left alone to do it. This could be your best bet. You are a 'words' person so use those words to explain in a way that they might understand.
It won't happen over night but it will happen. You may have to persevere until they do grasp the concept. (Only other writers will truly get it.) Try explaining that you need to focus on the world you are in, the emotions of your characters, and the weaving in of crucial plot points, and that this is difficult when constantly interrupted. It requires time and concentration. It requires mental fortitude and it requires others to try and understand this process so that you can achieve your goals.

If your partner/husband isn’t particularly supportive of your venture into creative writing and you are serious about writing, you need to sit them down and tell them that this is not a just hobby for you. You need them to understand and respect that your aim is for publication and isn't about creating a story never to see the light of day. You want a published book, and then another and another. This can only be achieved by putting your backside in a chair and your fingers on a keyboard/pen to paper and doing the hours required to finish your story. 

This is your dream but it will be made easier if  you have the support of your family and friends, and their understanding, too. It is in a lot of ways a selfish dream. Let's face it, most creative dreams are. There is no promise of success, even after publication, but don’t let that stop you.

Please don't let it stop you.

Have you sat down and had the talk with your family and friends about your writing? Are they supportive or do they just not get it?

Love to love – going to the RWAust conference and meeting up with all my friends.
Love to learn – about how I can make my writing better.
Love to laugh – at early drafts of my work and silly typos.