Monday 29 February 2016

Writing Gaols…er, um, I mean…Goals

by Dee Scully

It’s February. Where are you at with your writing goals? 

Yep, we’ve already flipped over two months of the 2016 calendar. Poof! Two months gone. Just like that! 

Image courtesy of YouTube

It’s amazing how time clicks by, isn’t it? One day you’re making goals, the next you’re breaking them.

Ever noticed how close gaol is to the word goal? 

Even with the best of intentions our writing goals get pushed to the side and are all too often forgotten. Every now and again you think of them. Your shoulders slump and you look surreptitiously behind you. You’re certain the goal police are about to nab you. They know you’ve broken the promises you made to yourself at the end of 2015 and they’re just ready to pounce and put you in the shackles you deserve. 

After all breaking writing goals is one of the worst crimes you can commit (as a writer).

Well, never fear. I’m here to give you one last chance to get those goals back on track before the goal police throw you in the clinker for crimes against humanity. Yes, your unfulfilled goals are being likened to crimes against humanity because as long as you're not making those goals work, you’re not living a full and happy life. Further, you’re not blessing the world with the gift of your story! Now that’s a crime if I ever heard of one.

So...go, get your goals out. I mean it. Go get them. I know you’ve written them down somewhere or filed them away on your hard drive and probably not looked at them since, but now’s the time to get them out again.

A lot of us (and I do mean the you and me kind of “us”) have neatly typed them; colour coded them and set them in a pretty little frame. (See below, but…please, don’t judge me.) You might have even stuck them right beside your computer or on your bathroom mirror, somewhere you were sure to see them EVERY day. After all, breaking writing goals is one of the worst crimes you can commit (as a writer) and you wouldn't willingly want to do that!

But somewhere along the way they’ve been covered with a pile of work or splashed beyond recognition with toothpaste.

No matter. Push the books onto the floor and scrape that Colgate off and let’s have a look at them. Let’s remind ourselves what we wanted early in January (and maybe even what we’ve wanted all our lives).

Okay. Got 'em? Cool. Now read them. Read them again. Commit them to memory. Now tear them up. Yes, I mean it. Tear them up.

I’ve got the one sure fire way to get the goal police forever off your back.

No, it’s not a twelve-step program for writers or even a five easy steps to getting your goals back on track. I’m going to give you the one step—the only step—you need to get your writing done. And here it is: write.

Yeah. It’s that simple. Just write.

Now, go do it. Write NOW.

Image courtesy of 

Simple fact: writing just 500 words a day, for (any) five days of the week, will give you 130,000 words at the end of the year. We’ve lost two months, but that still leaves 44 weeks. Writing five days a week for those 44 weeks will give you 110,000 words at the end of 2016. That’s more than you need for most single title books.

Who’s with me? Who's ready to do the one thing you need to get your book finished? Who's ready to write?

Love to love…watching the beautiful (yet quite squawky) Australian native birds in my front yard.

Love to laugh…at the first writing goals I ever made. (I was going to complete my first manuscript in four months time and have it submitted and published within six months. That was before I knew anything about POV, active v. passive, character arcs and more.)

Love to learn…new crossfit routines. They keep my asthma at bay and push me to keep going even when everything inside me screams “Just quit.”

Monday 22 February 2016

Romance Readers Unite!

with Debbie Phillips from ARRA

When we established the Australian Romance Readers Association (ARRA) in 2007 we had just 17 members. Having all met online, we started the association to organise an event for Australian romance readers. Who better than romance readers and authors to put on an event that met our needs? We didn’t know if it would work—nor have any idea of how much work would be involved—but we decided to have a go.

ARRC09 in Melbourne was truly awesome! Along with the hard work of our committee members we had support from the amazing community of romance authors. A number of international guests—Sherrilyn Kenyon, Dianna Love, MaryJanice Davidson, Susan Grant, Liz Maverick—came to the event (at their own expense)—and we were delighted to welcome them as keynote speakers. Add in a host of our favourite local authors—such as Keri Arthur, Stephanie Laurens, Anna Campbell and Melanie Milburne—and we ended up with about 30 romance authors attending. There were speeches, panels, giveaways and a mass book-signing event—the first of its kind in Australia. And, of course, we held our inaugural awards. ( All in an environment that celebrated romance—where not one person sneered at another person’s choice of reading matter.

Inaugural Australian Romance Readers Convention

The huge success of that convention boosted our membership; by the end of 2009 we had over 150 members. We had also established a monthly newsletter, regular lunches in some cities, and we had started planning our first RWA/ARRA signing event. But in the meantime we had to consider what to do about our annual awards—they could hardly be annual if only held at our biennial convention.

People's Choice Awards 2013
Anna Campbell, Amy Andrews, M J Scott, Anne Gracie

Each year ARRA members nominate and vote in their very own awards. That’s right—not only do they vote for the winners, but all nominated titles are put forward by ARRA members. When the awards started in 2009 there were 5 categories. That later expanded to 9, with an additional 3 ‘fun’ Members’ Choice awards selected by members each year.

The second awards night was held in 2010 at the gorgeous Cello’s Restaurant in the Castlereagh Hotel, Sydney. Nalini Singh was our dinner speaker (and scooped up a good portion of the awards). We have also been back to Cello’s for the awards dinner in 2012 and 2014.

Shannon Curtis (top), Kat Mayo

The next awards dinner will be held on 19 March, once again at Cello’s restaurant, with Shannon Curtis as MC and guest speaker Kat Mayo from Book Thingo. If you haven't got your ticket yet, follow the link:

But in amongst all that we have been doing a lot of other things too. We’ve held three more romance reader conventions
2011 in Sydney
2013 in Brisbane
2015 in Canberra

And we’ve had some phenomenal keynote speakers—Cindy Gerard, Anna Campbell, Nalini Singh, Kristan Higgins, Rachel Vincent, Anne Gracie, Sylvia Day, Helene Young, Kelley Armstrong and Victoria Dahl.

Book Signing Event 2015

We’ve held 9 group book-signing events with as many as 90 authors attending, some held in conjunction with our convention, and others in conjunction with the RWA conference. We’ve held special reader events in Sydney and Melbourne with Julia Quinn, Sylvia Day, Maya Banks and Nalini Singh.

Today our membership has just passed 370 members. So we’re making progress reaching readers. But we are constantly looking for new ways to find and engage with romance readers. Our plan is pretty simple: more events, more promo, more competitions, more engagement.

Regency Fashion Parade 2015

Would you enjoy the opportunity to discuss romance books with other romance readers who ‘get it’? Why not come and join the Australian Romance Readers Association?

You can find us at Or chat with us on our Facebook group or Twitter.

We love to love ... romance books!

We love to laugh ... while reading romance books!

We love to learn ... about new romance authors!

Monday 15 February 2016

Newbies Corner: Dialogue and Narrative - Getting the Balance Right.

with Sharon Burke

Dialogue and narrative have important jobs to do. Are you using each writing style to best effect?

Achieving a balance between dialogue and narrative isn't easy. Image courtesy of Daily Mail.  

Many recent category romances are “dialogue driven”. Dialogue is interesting to read because it allows your characters to speak for themselves. It should seem natural, never stilted nor perfect. It is important to “show not tell”. Dialogue interwoven with narrative can do this very effectively. Try to avoid lengthy sections of narrative as these can make your work less reader friendly. Often narrative can be rewritten as dialogue, giving your story pace, and inviting greater reader interest.

It is important to give your characters distinctive voices reflecting their culture and personality. A common trap is excessive use of tags like “he/she said”; many can be replaced with facial expressions or short descriptions of what the character is doing. Tags with adverbs, e.g. “she said angrily”, are best avoided. Rather, the words used should convey the characters emotions. Sometimes narrative can convey irony, when the character means something different to the message his/her words convey.

In this excerpt from Down Outback Roads by Alissa Callen, there are no tags but it is clear who is speaking. Dialogue and narrative have been skilfully interwoven to create an impression far different from the spoken words alone. The narrative provides clues to the background and personalities of the hero and heroine. It is clear that Ewan (the hero) is attracted to Kree, even if he is not yet fully aware of it. The conversation heightens the tension between hero and heroine, and immediately arouses the reader’s interest.

“He met Kree's serious eyes. 'Tish isn't my wife.'
For some reason the denial left his mouth quicker than cattle through an open gate.
'Sorry, I mean partner, though she did introduce herself as Tish MacKenzie on the phone.'
'My brother's surname. Tish is my sister-in-law. The twins are my nephews.' His words slowed. 'Kree, I'm not married, and never will be. I'm a confirmed bachelor.'”

Balancing narrative and dialogue effectively is not easy. Too much dialogue risks your reader feeling bored and uninvolved in your story. It may not “ring true” and the reader won’t know why. On the other hand, with too little dialogue, your story may lack depth. The reader might feel that “something” is missing, and not know what it is.

Dialogue gives your story pace while narrative slows it down. However, without well-written narrative, the reader can never truly enter the mind of your viewpoint character and fully identify with them. Clearly, there is an art to writing good dialogue and narrative, and to appropriately balancing the two: an art worthy of your attention as an aspiring author.

Which do you find easiest to write: dialogue or narrative? Do you have trouble interweaving the two?

I love to love: We went on a South Pacific cruise with my father before Christmas. It was so special to spend extended time with him.

I love to laugh: I’m currently watching episodes from a boxed DVD set of the 1970s TV series Upstairs Downstairs. Mrs Bridges (the cook) is so funny. I wish I knew her.

I love to learn: Asking questions and finding the answers is fun. In this technological era answers come quickly but are not always accurate. This makes for great debates and discussions.

The winner from last week of the signed copy of The Farmer's Perfect Match by Marilyn Forsyth is Joanne. Congratulations! We'll be in touch.

Monday 8 February 2016

The Farmer's Perfect Match - My Journey to Publication

with Marilyn Forsyth

I’m as excited as all get-out! My debut book The Farmer’s Perfect Match was released a week ago, fulfilling a dream I’ve had since I was a teenager. The book was a long time in production; it took over two years to write, had a number of incarnations before I felt it was good enough for a successful pitch, and it required hours of research.

from Trailermade Production

But, man, was it worth it!

The initial inspiration for the story came from a reality match-making show. I was a Farmer Wants a Wife tragic! Each series tugged at my emotions; I desperately wanted every one of those lonely farmers to find their happy ever after. (Still do with the new series - except for that older guy!)

One particular season featured a pearl farmer, and I thought what an idyllic setting the Western Australia coast would make for a story. So, I had my hero and my setting, but I wanted a twist, so instead of my hero falling for one of the contestants I had him fall for one of the crew—inbuilt conflict from the start.

We made time for a few wines, too. :)

My characters began to evolve into real people over a retreat weekend with my writing group, Breathless in the Bush. The getaway was funded by an RWA Group Grant. (If you’re thinking about applying for one of those, do it! Such a fabulous RWA initiative.) We participated in a heap of writing-related activities, one of which was an Antagonist writing a letter of introduction to the reader. That’s when the narcissistic Chrissy sprang to life.

We also spent a session on Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages where we had to decide our main characters’ primary love language, why they developed that particular primary love language, and how the MCs would fulfil each other’s needs. That’s where my emotionally wounded Adam and empathetic healer, Evie, emerged.

We saw some amazing sights.

Researching was a whole other experience. I’d never been to the Kimberley, and had no knowledge of pearl-farming or the TV industry, but researching exotic locations and jobs I’ll never do, it’s…well, it’s nothing short of bliss for me. I had contacts that had either studied or worked within the TV/film industry who helped me with the details of an on-location shoot, and also a contact within a fostering agency for advice. The great people at the Kimberley Visitors Centre also happily answered my many questions. But actually holidaying in beautiful Broome and visiting a pearl farm helped make the setting that much more authentic.

After many meetings with my fabulous crit partners and having finalled in a couple of RWA contests, I decided my book was at last ready to find a home so, heart-in-mouth, I pitched to Sue Brockhoff (then acquiring editor of Harlequin MIRA Australia) at the 2014 RWA Conference. It was scary, but no one could have been lovelier than Sue, and when she asked me to send my entire ms, I was over the moon. It took quite a few months, but when the offer to publish came through it was like all my Christmases had come at once.

For those of you who will read or have read The Farmer’s Perfect Match, I sincerely hope you enjoy Evie and Adam’s story. (And don't forget to watch the new series of The Farmer Wants a Wife.)

I'm looking for a setting for my new book. What's your favourite part of Australia? 

To celebrate the release of The Farmer's Perfect Match I'm giving away a copy (paper book or e-book) to one lucky commenter. Winner to be chosen at random and announced next Monday (so don't forget to check back). Good luck!

You can visit Marilyn's website at where you'll find a fantastic book trailer from Trailermade Production and some other interesting stuff, or check out her Pinterest board for The Farmer's Perfect Match.

Love to love seeing my book in stores everywhere, alongside other authors I admire so much.

Love to laugh(and cry) with Nina Proudman and her wonderfully wacky family from Offspring. I've been binge-watching the early seasons in preparation for Season 6.

Love to learn about sites like I usually prefer to write with no noise but this site provides background music that actually helped me to focus on my writing without being distracted. You get 7 free sessions. Here's the link:  Try it out!

Monday 1 February 2016

Writing Life: Re-filling the Creative Well

with Cassandra Samuels

I don't know about you but last year was a hard one for me. There were lots of up and downs - more downs than ups it felt like at times - but here we are at the beginning of a new year. It's time to start over, start anew, begin again.

Sometimes it feels like we are always going at a million miles an hour.
After the craziness of Christmas and New Year it is nice to spend some time dreaming, reflecting, and relaxing not just the body, but the mind, too.


It's time to re-fill the creative well; the place in your head where all good things begin to grow.

How can you re-fill that creative well?

There are plenty of ways. What works best is really up to you.

  • Take a short break away from the everyday, get away from it all
  • Take time out to watch that TV series you have been recording all year
  • Read some of those books on the To Be Read (TBR) pile/shelf/bookcase/room
  • Perhaps take a long hot bath
  • Go for a walk along the beach
  • Go to the movies
  • Get a massage 
  • Go to a museum or art gallery
All these activities are relaxing and rejuvenating.

So are you in need of Refilling the Creative Well? How do you re-fill the well?

Love to Love: Growing my own fruit and Veg in my mini vege patch.

Love to Laugh: at Romantic comedies like Love Actually.

Love to Learn: new ways to re-fill my creative well.