Monday 31 October 2016

7 Must-Have Writing Craft Books

With Marilyn Forsyth

Image courtesy of Giphy

Writers all have a favourite craft book (or two, or ten *grin*) that has helped us along our journey towards publication. Here are the faves of the Breathless group.


The book I've chosen is The Mental Game of Writing by James Scott Bell.

Writing is a mental game (goodness knows my muse often refuses to play fair) but Bell breaks it down into manageable chapters, covering topics such as Burn Out, Stress, Inspiration, Speed, Envy, and many more. He gives some great advice and warns of the many pitfalls a writer can fall into. I was pleasantly surprised by this book and will refer to it when necessary.


If you are a perfectionist writer (I’ll admit to being one of those), always editing and re-editing in search of the perfect word/s, and you want to break out of that never-ending cycle I recommend this reference book to teach you how to silence your inner critic and let your muse embrace creativity so you can get on and write the book!

Inspired Writer: How to Create Magic with Your Words by Bryan Hutchinson reveals in an easy-to-read format how to embrace your creative side and embrace it with a passion that will not let you go as you write. Wonderful, helpful advice.


Writing Screenplays That Sell: The Complete Guide to Turning Story Concepts into Movie and Television Deals by Michael Hauge is my favourite writing craft book. Even though this book is written for the screenwriter, it works for writers in all genres. In it, Hauge (screenwriter of some of the best Hollywood movies of all time) details not only how to develop your story but also how to emote it, make it believable, and how to make viewers/readers absolutely love it! His 3 act structure makes it all so simple. Check out his website Story Mastery for more tips and tools.

Michael’s website:


The Art of Romance Writing by Valerie Parv is my favourite "how to" book. Valerie begins with a spirited defence of Romantic Novels then goes on to summarise some of the diversity within the genre. Her clear, articulate, engaging writing style enables her to impart important information while empowering her readers.


I love Writing Romance by Vanessa Grant. She manages to make everything seem simple and clear about romance writing, and gives excellent suggestions and tips. This one was published some years ago, but it still resonates with me. She gives examples from her own work that illustrate every point. She talks about everything from planning your book to selling it, and also explains the romantic sub-genres. Everything here to make a start, then continue on writing to fulfil your dreams!


I like Editing Made Easy by Bruce Kaplan.
This book is a practical guide for writers and editors. It explains adjectives, turning nouns into verbs, words to avoid, how to avoid word confusion, punctuation, plural traps, getting to the point, and also gives an editing checklist for when polishing your manuscript. English classes were a while ago so this book serves me in that it is a reminder of the basic rules of writing.


Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook is a brilliant writing course in a book. He covers Character Development, Plot Development and General Story Techniques with a stimulating exercise at the end of each chapter. I particularly like his 22 steps to create a book outline. It’s suitable for writers with either a work-in-progress or a completed manuscript. (PS: Although it’s an adjunct to Writing the Breakout Novel, you don’t need to have read it to gain from the workbook.)

Do you have a favourite writing craft book? At Breathless we're always on the lookout for great books to add to our professional library so please feel free to add your favourite craft book in a comment.

Love to Love receiving my first sales statement from Harlequin MIRA. HUGE thanks to all my lovely readers!

Love to Laugh at Halloween creativity.

Love to Learn about Making Facebook My Friend with Sarah Hood (an RWAus OWL course). Sarah has a wealth of knowledge about marketing and the course was very helpful. Follow this link to her website

Monday 24 October 2016

Back to the Drawing Board...

By Karen M. Davis

So, I finished my third Lexie Rogers novel, Fatal Mistake, in the middle of July and I've now done everything on my "To-do-when-I'm-finished-the-novel-and-have-some-time" list.  I've done spring- cleaning, gardening, exercise etc and should really get back into writing before the first edit comes back to me, but I  must say, my motivation is lacking. Starting again with a whole new story seems somewhat overwhelming.
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Deep breath... I sat down the other day and thought and thought and thought, waiting for inspiration. When this didn't happen straight away - I am not overly patient - I asked myself, "What do you want to write about next?" And myself answered... "I want to write something other than crime fiction. I want to write about new characters in a different setting with a whole fresh set of dramas and conflict."

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The problem was: where to start? Then I thought - in one of those few moments when an idea comes out of nowhere - I want to write a murder mystery slash psychological thriller. I sat at the computer and just started to write. I pictured an old house full of secrets perched on a hill overlooking lush countryside. Byron Bay - perfect setting, I thought: twin girls with a tragic past - one good, one not so good, living in this house with their grandparents. Add into the mix a couple of ghosts, a rekindled romance, a bit of jealousy and greed, and a wicked stepmother... Not quite, but a wicked somebody... and all that's left to do is fill in the rest...

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If only it was that easy. I'm open to any ideas, by the way...
How do you feel about the prospect of starting again when one manuscript is complete and it's time to start afresh?

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I love to love being outside in my garden this time of year.

I love to laugh as often as possible.

I love to learn about how and where other writers get their inspiration.
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Monday 17 October 2016

Habits and Rituals of the Resident Writer

By Cassandra Samuels

Greetings Dear Readers!

Today I delve into the habits and rituals of some of our favourite authors. We all have them, those little things we do to prepare to let the words flow. Some are simple, some are perhaps even a little odd, but if they help us get the words down who is to complain?

Victor Hugo, who wrote Les Miserables, liked to work in the nude. It meant he couldn't leave the house and had to stay home and write.

Truman Capote,  author of In Cold Blood, liked to write lying down with a coffee and a cigarette. I guess he had formulated a rhythm of sip, puff, and write.

For me, I have to listen to music. I have several playlists but, generally, it is Two Steps from Hell (strangely enough, not a punk rock band but a group that do soundtracks to movies and games).

Once I am writing, the music fades into the background like white noise and I can concentrate on what I am doing without being distracted by the sounds of the house around me (phones ringing, doors banging, conversations etc).

Here are what some fellow authors have said about their writing habits and/or rituals.

Alyssa J Montgomery

I don't think I've got any particularly interesting or remarkable writing rituals. I do like to have made any important phone calls/attended to anything important before I sit down to write, and I always sit down with a cup of tea. I generally read back over the chapter I've left off at to get me into the character voices again and to refresh my mind so I'm not repeating word choices. I look at my plot outline (I've adapted a colour system I learned from Cherry Adair when I attended her plotting by colour workshop in Dallas a couple of years ago). Once I have firmly in my mind where I am, I just write. Chocolate was definitely a welcome part of the ritual but since my last cholesterol reading was too high, that is now sadly lacking when I write!
Alli Sinclair
I never used to have a ritual when writing but a year ago I saw a Reiki Master and mentioned how I was feeling blocked on my story. She asked how I like to write - which is usually on the couch with my laptop - and she said to try writing at my desk with my feet placed firmly on the ground as it is supposed to help with the flow of creativity. I gave it a go and, lo and behold, the words came out fast and furious and the block I'd been suffering disappeared into the ether. I've been sitting with my feet firmly placed on the floor for a year now and my productivity has increased tenfold!
Narelle Atkins
I plug my headphones into my iPhone and listen to 80's music when I write. I mix up the playlists, depending on my mood.  
Cathleen Ross

I take the dog for a walk and then write until about 4 p.m. for six days a week. I aim for 1000 words a day unless I have to do research. Because the book I'm currently working on requires a lot of research, I do as much study at night. 
Amy Rose Bennett
I don’t need much to get me into a writing mood other than booting up my laptop and turning off social media. Fortunately, I can pretty much write anywhere, anytime; in fact, I actually don’t have a particular writing desk or space. The only ‘must-have’ I can think of is making sure I have a good cup of coffee at hand. Then I’m good-to-go.

Maggie Nash
I think my most successful method of preparing to write is not to prepare at all. Sometimes I am guilty of overthinking 🙂 I find I get a lot more done when I don't prepare and just make that decision to sit down and write, and get on with it.

Do you have any habits or rituals before writing?Please do tell!

I love to love: Watching Poldark Season 2

I love to laugh: At old guys dancing.

I love to learn: About the writing habits and rituals of other authors - hence this post!

Monday 10 October 2016

WHOOO...are you? (How Characters Come to Life)

**GIVEAWAY WINNER** Huge congratulations to Melissa Woods, winner of the boxed set, An Aussie Summer Christmas. Please email with your contact details and we will pass them along to Narelle Atkins. Thank you for commentingEnjoy!

by Enisa Haines

I love immersing myself in stories where I'm plunged straight into the midst of action from the first page, where I meet characters that yank at my emotions and, as events unfold, I experience what they experience and feel what they feel.

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Stories like Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. I lived that story as if it was real. When Claire Randall was hurtled back in time to 1743 Scotland, I tumbled with her. When raiding border clans clashed, I fought alongside Jamie Fraser. As Claire fell more and more in love with Jamie, their love story enthralled me.

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Sometimes I'll pick up a book but it doesn't captivate me. I'm drawn by the plot and the setting but the characters fail to pull at my emotions. I don't care about them, about what they say or do. Instead, I'm disappointed and in frustration I stop reading.

That's a reader reaction no author wants.

So how do you hold a reader's interest?

Know your characters. Visualise their external appearances and uncover who they are deep inside. Ascertain what they think, how they think, how they react in different situations. Discover their childhood backgrounds and how they relate to others. Identify their likes and dislikes, their habits and mannerisms, strengths and weaknesses, fears and secrets and goals.

Learn everything about them and then they'll be real. You will identify with them and care for them. And as you write about them, fleshing them out in your stories, they'll pull the readers in and grab at their emotions.

How do we learn about our characters?

Fill out character charts, listing basic details such as appearance, background, education, career, personality and desires.

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Interview your characters, asking a series of in-depth questions that will bring them to life.

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Get inside the minds of your characters. Put yourself completely into them, feeling what they feel, thinking what they think, seeing what they see. By being a character, getting deep into their point of view, you will show them to readers and they will experience everything the character experiences.

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Characters are the living heart of a story. Know them well, inside and out, and you'll pull readers into your stories, making them feel the emotions the characters feel, making them never want to put the books down.

That's the reader reaction authors want.

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How do you get to know your characters? Do you have a favourite technique?

Love to love: discovering all the different types of characters.

Love to laugh: when a character behaves in a way I don't expect.

Love to learn: what makes people who they are.

Monday 3 October 2016

An Aussie Summer Christmas by Narelle Atkins

BITB welcomes inspirational author Narelle Atkins!

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I love reading Christmas romances. I often dream about experiencing a white Christmas like the characters in the inspirational romances I read by my favourite North American authors. My real life Aussie Christmas experience is very different to the winter-themed stories.

I grew up on the northern beaches in Sydney. My aunt and uncle lived across the road from Long Reef Beach in Collaroy. When I was younger I'd enjoy our Christmas day family lunch with turkey and all the trimmings. After lunch I'd head to the beach with my sister and cousins. Swimming in the ocean on Christmas Day is a foreign concept to most of my friends who live in the Northern Hemisphere.

The contemporary inspirational romance novellas in An Aussie Summer Christmas are set in coastal Australia and reflect our hot summer Christmas. We play in the sun instead of the snow and love our outdoors lifestyle.

I've invited a few of my co-authors to share what they love about Christmas.

Andrea Grigg lives in Queensland. She says: 'I love our family barbecue brunches on Christmas Day and the fact we have a Christmas baby! She'll be 29 this year. It's a special time.'

Photo credit: Andrea Grigg

Meredith Resce lives in Victoria, and says: 'I love the warm summer Christmas Eve, where we get together with family and friends to sing carols outside, under the stars. If it's not too high fire danger, we might carry a candle as well.'

Marion Ueckermann lives in South Africa, and says: 'The Christmas Eve dinner - the table, the food, and then the presents - my favourite tradition, everyone's favourite memory. My latest favourite tradition is making a gingerbread house.'

Photo credit: Marion Ueckermann      
Photo credit: Marion Ueckermann


What do you love about Christmas? I'm giving away an Amazon Kindle copy of An Aussie Summer Christmas to a reader who leaves a comment on this post. (Winner announced on next week's blog!)


Narelle Atkins


Love to love:

Everything about Christmas. I agree with the song - It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. My family enjoys watching Carols by Candlelight on television on Christmas Eve and seeing the Christmas lights in our neighbourhood.

Photo credit: Narelle Atkins

Love to laugh:

...about how our daughter learned the truth about Santa at the age of five. She snuck out of bed and caught us wrapping presents at midnight! We made her promise not to share her discovery with her friends.

Love to learn:

More about the craft of fiction writing. My New Year's Resolutions always include professional development goals for my writing career.