Monday 28 March 2016

Where to Start???

By Karen M. Davis

This is a question I've been asked a lot since my first book was published in 2013: where did you start?   

 If you ask ten authors how they start a manuscript you'll probably get ten different answers. As we all know, sometimes ideas pop into our head when we least expect it. For me this is usually in the form of a memory that comes out of nowhere in the middle of the night (which is why I now keep a notepad and pen next to my bed so I can jot it down before I forget it). I started Sinister Intent , which took four years to write, with two characters and no story. I had a young policewoman and a bikie who was going to be her "unlikely alliance" - which was the first title of the book.

My story ideas mostly come from an incident or situation I have experienced during my police career and it builds from there. Many scenes in my books are very close to the truth. I like to turn reality into fiction because in my experience real life is stranger than fiction, and I feel more confident writing about something that I know actually did happen, so if someone said, ''That's a bit far-fetched; that wouldn't happen'', I can assure them that it can and did. I start with a real criminal incident, change the facts, the location, the characters, and start typing.... I don't start making notes until the story starts to develop. That is when I start plotting chapters.

My friend Anna Romer (author of Thornwood House and Lyrebird Hill) is much more creative. She starts a manuscript with a new notebook she fills with articles, timelines and maps. She  creates detailed dossiers of her characters and builds histories around them. The bones of her stories come from her favourite themes - forbidden love, obsession, scandal and family secrets. She also takes a fairy tale and weaves it through the plot. When she is finished brainstorming, she has told me that her pile of notes is bigger than a telephone directory. Amazing and exhausting...

My mother (the late Lynne Wilding, author of thirteen best sellers) used to have a file where she kept newspaper clippings and magazine articles that caught her interest. She would use them for ideas and was always looking ahead to her next story. I remember her telling me the plot for her next book while she was still working on her present manuscript. I wish I was that organised. I don't start thinking of the next book until the one I'm working on is finished.

As I said different authors have different ways of starting a manuscript. Where do you start?

I love to love  Meerkats, they are so cute.

I love to laugh as much as possible, especially at our Breathless meetings.
I love to learn how other authors do things.


Monday 21 March 2016

World Building: Bringing your Fictional World to Life!

with Enisa Haines

Image courtesy of:

It's often said that stories are about characters and the conflicts they face. For example: Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy, each immersed in an emotional tug of war between their preconceived ideas of each other and the feelings they struggle against, in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Or Eve and Roarke, both fighting distrust and the emotional chaos attraction brings, in J.D. Robb's In Death series.

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Why are these characters so fascinating, and unforgettable? It's the world they live in. Who the characters are, what shaped them and what happens to them all depend on their imaginary world. For Mr Darcy and Elizabeth it's the customs, constraints and influences of Regency England. A technology-advanced, gritty New York City in 2058 is the backdrop for Eve and Roarke. Worlds that come alive in the reader's mind, worlds that are credible.

What makes them feel so real that readers are intrigued and willing to suspend disbelief and engage in the stories? World building, a term associated with fantasy, paranormal and dystopian tales and known in other genres as creating a sense of space, is the key.

How do we build a world?

  • Start with a setting and time period. Visit or research the place if it exists today. If you're writing historical, discover everything you can about location and era. Use your imagination to create a planet/universe/alternate reality if you're writing fantasy/paranormal or dystopian.
  • Add the main characters and the surrounding community. Learn how they function, what they value.
  • Know past events that influence what happens in the present.
  • Add conflict that results in chaos.
  • Discover how the environment impacts on the characters and their conflict.

Spend some time on these details, add them together and you'll have a deep and complex world, one that has its own identity, its own unique sounds and smells and sights. You don't have to reveal everything about your world. Your characters and what they are experiencing are what's most important. Keep them in focus and show the details as a backdrop or implied. A backdrop such as the stage where rock star David Ferris performs with his band in Kylie Scott's Lick. Or the Highlands of 18th Century Scotland where former combat nurse Claire Randall is hurled through time into the lead-up to the Jacobite Rebellion in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander.

Image courtesy of:

Image courtesy of:

World building is your guide to your world. It's the essence of your story. It gives it the supporting framework and, most important of all, it make your story real to readers.

Is world building an enjoyable process for you or do you find it a chore?

Love to Love - inspirational quotes. A great boost for my writing muse.

Love to Laugh - sometimes reality is as amazing as imagination.

Image courtesy of: Notebook

Love to Learn - about the fantastic worlds authors imagine. I'm in awe of George R.R.
                                       Martin's Game of Thrones. 

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Monday 14 March 2016

It’s not rocket science, but that doesn’t make it easy!

with guest blogger Rachael Johns
Australian women's fiction author Rachael Johns

Excuse me if this blog post is a little all over the place. My house almost burnt down this week, I’m in the midst of HELLISH revisions for my next women’s fiction, and the proposal for my next category romance was just rejected. That’s right, rejection happens even after you’re published and it hurts just as bad. Needless to say, this week things have been a little hectic in my life – my brain switching between dealing with insurance companies, trying to make The Art of Keeping Secrets (next WF) even better, and working out a total new plot for my next category romance (a Special Edition in my new series The McKinnels of Jewell Rock).

These days I’m a commercial fiction writer – I do this gig for my full-time job and I get paid (yay) to do it. This sounds like a dream come true, right? And, of course, in many ways it is. But things have changed from when I was first writing ALL those years ago (1997 to be exact) and only dreaming of being published.

In those days I stole time to write on weekends, when my kids napped or when my husband watched TV at night, but these days I wave my tribe off to school and work, and then I sit down at the computer and write. I do this whether I want to or not, whether the muse is playing nice or AWOL, because I have contracts, deadlines and private school fees to pay.

And like any job, it’s NOT ALWAYS EASY.

There are bad reviews, edits from publishers that make you want to throw yourself off cliffs and sometimes a book you really want to write isn’t the book your employer wants you to write, so you have to come up with something new. You have to manufacture an idea. I find this particularly hard because I am not one of those writers who has exercise books full of ideas for future novels. And the more books I write, the more I doubt about whether I’m actually any good at writing books at all.

You have to have a tough skin and you have to be resilient to write fiction for a living; a bunch of really wonderful writing friends who understand the highs and lows is also a must. You have to be able to write through crippling self-doubt and disappointment, and even when your muse is nowhere in sight.

With being a full-time writer comes the responsibility of being able to keep coming up with fresh story ideas, to write a book that is even BETTER than your last one. I’m blessed to have a whole host of devoted readers who are waiting for my next book, but with this comes a kind of pressure that wasn’t there when writing was essentially a hobby. It might not be brain surgery or rocket science but life as a commercial fiction writer is NOT for the faint-hearted.

A few of Rachael Johns published works

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot I love about being an author – getting new covers, seeing my books on shelves, getting reader letters from die-hard fans, and of course the fact I get to work from home in my PJs. But I just want to get it out there that getting published might seem like a massive hurdle when you’re first starting out, but be prepared for the fact that publication is only the first mountain you will have to climb.

Love to Love: Nashville (totally addicted at the moment). Oh, and my house not burning down this week – that was pretty cool!

Love to Laugh: With English comedian, Michael McIntyre – his stand-up skits about parenting are hilarious (check it out:

Love to Learn: about plot. I love craft books and usually I buy them and barely look at them, but right now I’m reading AlexandraSokoloff’s Writing Love: Screenwriting Tricks for Authors 2 and I’m thoroughly enjoying it! 

An excerpt from Rachael Johns' March 2016 release...
Outback Sisters

Frankie and Simone are sisters and best friends. Could a new man in town drive a wedge between them for the first time ever?

Cafe owner Frankie has been unlucky in love all her life. It’s hard in a small town like Bunyip Bay to meet prospective partners. Her sister, Simone, lost the love of her life years before and is now devoted to raising their two teenage girls, leaving little time for romance. When Frankie is kissed by a handsome stranger who calls her Simone, it’s a case of mistaken identity – but who is this man and how does he know Simone?

Read more and purchase via Rachael's website.

Monday 7 March 2016

Miranda's March Musings: Romance Reference Books To Love!

Darlings, did you catch Dee's post last week about setting goals in your writing? Thanks Dee, great stuff. So, where to start with your writing?

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This month I'm going to show you some terrific writing reference books that have helped us at Breathless in the Bush - or that I simply loved to read. Though I'm a reader first, I love and adore reading books about writing. The two go hand in hand, don't they? One of them might just provide the spark to kickstart your writing. So go, you...!

One of the first books I read was the beautiful (but sadly out of print) To Writers With Love by Mary Wibberley, who wrote a lot of gentle Mills & Boon in the 1970s and 80s. Like Dee's post last week, this is an inspirational book to get you going and to think and plan, but mostly to enjoy your romance writing. If you can find it in a used version I'm sure you'll love it.

What about more modern (and available!) How-To's? The fabulous Valerie Parv AM has written a superb book everyone needs to read: The Art Of Romance Writing. Go to the top of the queue to attend a course by her or to hear her speak (thank me later). Valerie, for all the love you've given romance writers - and readers - all over the world, we salute you.

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Bear with me... I want to let people know about three more incredibly helpful books. The first is a special favourite, The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler. Even if you're not a writer you'll be fascinated by the way Vogler works out structure and analyses mythology's influence on books and movies. It mesmerised me the first time I read it, and it hasn't lost any of that allure. Makes writing seem almost easy. ...Almost!

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I really enjoyed The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines by Tami Cowden. If you're struggling with your hero or heroine, and can't work out 'who' you want them to be, this book is your answer. Terrific in-depth stuff that will have your pen itching to hit the page. Or your fingers dance along the keyboard...

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I could go on and on - honestly, once you start about writing books, the list is absolutely endless - but the last one I want to mention is the amazing GMC by Debra Dixon. Every scene in your book should have a goal, a motivation, and a conflict. Sound too hard? Not the way Debra describes it. Read it and your writing will take on a new verve and interest.

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...And I haven't even mentioned The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, or Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, or Vanessa Grant's Writing Romance, or reference books such as What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool, or.. or....

Every writer I know has their absolute favourite How-To's. What are yours? Do share with us: let us know what motivational or reference book has helped your writing journey - and it just might help someone else as well.

STOP PRESS! Valerie Parv is giving away a copy of her book The Art Of Romance Writing to one lucky commenter. So post those comments now!

Till next time my lovelies,

Miranda xx

I love to love: Jane Austen! Just re-read Northanger Abbey and loved it all over again.

I love to laugh: at funny cat videos on the internet. Yes, I'm a tragic...

I love to learn: what people are reading. Seriously. Please share.