Monday 30 July 2018

When Characters Have a Mind of Their Own

by Enisa Haines

I had believed myself a plotter when I wrote my first manuscript. I planned out the plot - 'What if this?' and 'What if that?' - in comprehensive detail. I knew the characters and what would happen and when and where. I worked on the outline, the events of each chapter, the synopsis. I wrote the book and I wrote it fast, but when I reached 'The End' something about the process didn't feel right. 

Image courtesy of: CCO Creative Commons

I spent many an hour wondering why. Too rigid and methodical, I realised, for a writer like me, happiest when my creativity is spontaneous. And in that happy state, my imagination let loose a vision. I saw this guy on a motor bike travelling down a winding road and I got to thinking: Who is he? Why is he on the road? Where is he going? The answers and the visions that then appeared gave me my second manuscript, and another revelation.

I'm not a plotter or a pantser, 'flying by the seat of my pants' planning only the basics or nothing at all. I'm not a plantser, plotting some of the story. I am a scener. I imagine scenes. They come in no particular order so there's some juggling done for them to make sense but they and the characters they reveal are the story.

Image courtesy of: archanN on  Wikimedia Commons 

That's not all. One day I was thinking of a character and he spoke to me. Yes, I had visualised him, a product of my imagination,  but he wanted things done his way. At first I ignored his urging - characters don't speak to their writers - and wrote the scenes as I had imagined them. But he was persistent, rejecting what I'd written so I gave in and wrote what he wanted me to write and introduced another character I had not envisaged. A character I knew immediately was pivotal to the plot and the happy-ever-after ending my hero character deserved.

I soon understood that characters, though coming into existence from my subconscious, are real in my mind. They take on a life of their own with their own thoughts and feelings and react in their own ways to situations they find themselves in. Maybe it's weird but I believe their stories are not my stories. I just write them and that, in itself, is magic.

Do your characters speak to you, ordering you to write as they want? Do you let them shape the story or do you rein them in?

Love to love: reading, immersing myself in the tales of characters imagined and yet feeling so real.

Love to laugh: at the often-strange-and-funny quirks fictional characters have.

Love to learn: about the many differences that make the characters who they are.

Monday 23 July 2018

Overcoming The Fear

At first glance writing may not seem like the scariest of endeavours. But writers, whether published or not, face an immense mental challenge, and this can turn into a crippling fear.

The first challenge is the empty screen. That flashing cursor waiting patiently for you to fill the page with brilliance.  

Then once you start writing the niggle that the story isn't quite right, that your middle will sag, that your middle does sag, that you're spending hours every day working on something that is an appalling pile of nonsense, even that somewhere there's another writer writing a story almost identical to yours... I call these the Doubt Demons.

The standard advice is to just keep writing... 

While I take Mr Bradbury's point, this kind of advice doesn't help when I'm teetering on the brink of an anxiety attack, consumed with self doubt and scrubbing the toilet as a virtuous form of procrastination.

Fear not, though.  I know way to overcome the dreaded doubt demons.

Its habit.

Humans are habit driven creatures.  Check out The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg for a heap of fascinating research on this subject.  

In my writing I have harnessed this characteristic of habit, and used it to keep motivated and overcome the Doubt Demons.

Motivation-wise I've developed a habit of showing up.  8am, for one hour, I will sit down at my computer to write.  That is my habit.

All I ask of myself is that I show up. That's it. I don't have a word count goal. I don't expect anything else of myself except that at 8am I am seated in front of my laptop.  Sometimes the hour flies by, and I'm there for another two.  Sometimes I've got nothing and spend the time researching (which is fine, the goal is to move the story forward and research will always do this).  Sometimes I'm overwhelmed with self-doubt and can only focus on the washing that needs folding, the toilet that need scrubbing or the dogs who need walking...

This is where I also use habit.

Self doubt, negative self talk, overwhelm, anxiety... this fear, or negative mental state is a habit.  For me, as soon as I lose where the plot is heading, struggle with a scene, or have anything be remotely challenging the Doubt Demons take over my inner dialogue.

These issues are always going to be there when I'm writing. A plot never goes smoothly. Scenes suck. Challenges come out of nowhere.  I cannot change the 'trigger' for the negative self-talk habit.

However, I can (and have) changed my reaction.

First, I don't let myself entertain the negative self-talk.  As soon the inner dialogue starts I redirect it.  I refuse to think negatively.  Generally I give focussing back on the story a go.  Sometimes that works. But not always, so...

Secondly, I think 'ooh a problem to be solved.'  I turn the negativity into something positive and interesting.  I like to solve problems. I find it engaging and enjoyable.  I take time to pick apart the problem, and nut out solutions.

Doubt Demons do not have to have a place in your writing life.  They are a habit.  And habits, with patience, persistence and practice can be changed.

Monday 16 July 2018

The Trouble with Choices - the Backstory for the New Story

by Trish Morey

Once upon a time there was a family called Faraday living in the Adelaide Hills. There was big brother Dan, twin younger sisters, Hannah and Beth, and little sister, Sophie. Dan was a serious (read: grumpy) cherry orchardist who needed casual pickers. Enter Lucy - fresh out of the US - blonde, tattooed and nose-studded, two out of three of those things just about an indictable offence in Dan's book. Dan and Lucy were polar opposites, but is it they say about opposites attracting? Yep, bam, despite all their efforts, they ended up slap bang in love.

The book was Cherry Season, and it came out in 2015 (that's like, years ago!)

Anyway, while Dan and Lucy were out there luxuriating in their happy ever after, the three girls were all sitting at home twiddling their thumbs. They weren't too happy about it either. Eventually they got together and formed a lobby group, and the next thing is, they're all banging on in my ear about wanting their own happy ever afters. Crikeys, you should have heard the din!

I finally relented, thinking I could do them all one at a time, but you should have heard them then. It was all, "Pick me." "No, me." "Move over, you bitches. Me, first!" Things got pretty catty there for a while, and I realised there was only one way to shut them up, and that was to tell all three stories in one book. Yep, three romances in one book - talk about value for money! Of course, they all wanted to star in the first chapter. (I made them draw straws for that - they couldn't argue with me then.) They still bitched about it, of course - especially when they others learned that Sophie abused the privilege and went and got herself drunk at brother Dan's wedding. Oh, boy. Hannah went right off.

Eventually I managed to get them all sorted. I think. And now Sophie, Hannah and Beth all star in their own book, The Trouble with Choices, (along with their octogenarian grandparents, who are having issues of their own, a male cat named Fat Cat, a gorgeous Irishman called Declan who is looking after a baby joey kangaroo (aw!), a big-hearted, bushy-haired handyman called Harry, and a sexy apple orchardist called Nick. Plus a couple of cute kids, a sweet little dog called Boo and a Vacola bottling outfit. Yep, this book's got everything, including the kitchen sink!

The trouble wit they come with consequences.
Three sisters, three tough choices, and the ties that bind a family together.

The Trouble with Choices is out now. It's the kind of book you want to read with a box of chocolates, a bottle of Prosecco and a box of tissues, just in case.


I love to love...romance. Just a happy ending.

I love to laugh...I do, which is why I adore romantic comedy. Love and laughter - what's not to love?

I love to many characters are going to get to their very own happy endings. Three-quarters of the way through a book, I often wonder.

Monday 9 July 2018

Conversion Romance!

Miranda's July Musings

I adore curling up in a comfy chair with a drink and a book, summer and winter, and reading the afternoon away. You? Well, yes, gorgeous people, of course you do. Otherwise you wouldn't be reading this. But some people aren't reading romance...! Shockingly sad fact. 

How to convert them to the treasures you love to read?! No-one shares your exact reading taste, but finding the right romance can set your new BFFs along a new and very happy reading path. The trouble is, which ones? 

Here are a few conversion suggestions. Limiting myself is killing me, a truly horrible dilemma, because I'm leaving hundreds and thousands out and it pains me to my soul. However...


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Flowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale has to be one of the most beloved historicals ever. Christian Langland, Duke of Jerveaux, is a brilliant mathematician, but he's also a bit of a naughty boy (code for 'rake'). Horrifyingly, he's afflicted by a sudden stroke and his family thinks he's gone insane and lock him up in an asylum. Enter beautiful, quiet Quaker Maddy, who will be his saviour. This one will bring you to your knees, people. A beautiful, enduring story. 

Romantic Suspense 

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Open Seaon by Linda Howard is a fun pick. I could have chosen from a zillion others, like favourties Karen Robards or Nora Roberts, but this is an old bestie. It features librarian Daisy and Jack, a cop, two must-read characters. Boring old Daisy (she's not really, but she thinks she is) gives herself a make-over for her 34th birthday and goes out to party her new look at a nightclub. When she suddenly sees something she's not supposed to, and the villains know she saw it, Jack  comes to the rescue. This is a perfect combination of romantic suspense and humour. Tell your friends!


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None better here than Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, set in California's Gold Rush territory in the 1850's. Angel was sold into prostitution as a child, so imagine the life she's living. Along comes Michael Hosea, who obeys God's word to marry Angel and love her. This is not an easy road, folks, but it is beautiful. One to cherish.

Something fun

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Manhunting alerted me to relatively new author (back then) Jennifer Crusie. This made me laugh from beginning to end. Business woman Kate goes looking for Mr Right all wrong, to the amusement of Jake, who's sworn off high powered people like Kate forever. A lot of people converted when they read Crusie's Getting Rid of Bradley, but this one is even more fun, IMHO.

Something intense

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Darkling I Listen by Katherine Sutcliffe will grab hold of you and not let you go. Bad boy Hollywood actor Brandon, a flawed hero if there ever was one, is released from gaol, only to discover the dark forces that worked to put him in there are still out there... Alyson, a reporter, stumbles into this dark mess and the two get caught up in very tense things. Very tense. Very. Read it with the doors locked. 

Something supernaturally vampire-y

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Dark Lover by JR Ward made a lot of people sit up and discover there's more to supernatural romance than ever before. These are the good guys (vampires, think Angel on steroids +) battling big bad guys (vampire slayers). BIG bad guys. The Black Dagger Brotherhood is intense and compelling. You'll just want to keep reading the series because they're all amazing.

Wild card 

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The Hating Game by Sally Thorne was a wonderful discovery. This is fresh, fun, flirty and inventive, a game changer in romance. It's an office romance (love them) between a geek and a chronic crowd-pleaser, at war with each other. Ridiculous scenarios ensue that somehow work fabulously well.

There's so many I've left off, so heartbreaking not to even mention them in this conversion kit. Happily, if none of these appeal there are lists out there, such as: All About Romance's top 100, and always fun recommendations on Smart Bitches Trashy Books and Book Thingo. So much to choose from.

What would you choose? Have you got a Top 5? What romances would you use to convert to a non-romance reader?

Tell all darlings,

Love from Miranda xx

Love to love: Game changer romances.

Love to laugh: At Marilyn's game name here: 'oodle' fun. My new name according to the rules is Moodleroodlendoodle. I could get used to that! 😊

Love to learn: What you've been reading lately. Any conversion romances? 

Monday 2 July 2018

Avoiding Isolation as a Writer

By Alyssa J. Montgomery

Ernest Hemingway said, "Writing at its best, is a lonely life." I can see it might be but I'm grateful for our wonderful Romance Writers of Australia organisation and the work the committee members do to ensure it's not a lonely life.

Next month (August 17th-19th), romance authors, aspiring authors, readers and industry professionals will descend on Sydney for the RWA annual conference. I attended my first conference in 2003 as an aspiring author and was blown away by the positive energy and friendly vibe of the event. More than a little in awe at meeting and actually being able to speak to authors whose books I'd devoured since my early teens, I couldn't believe how supportive everyone was in giving me tips to help me achieve my dream of publication.

All these years later, I'm still excited to be attending the RWA Conference. Whilst being able to work in my
pyjamas, not having limits on the hours or location of work, and having the ability to work without interruption are all very attractive aspects of the writing lifestyle, the monthly meetings I attend as part of the Breathless in the Bush Group, and the annual conference give me vital face-to-face contact with my fellow writers. Much more satisfying than contact through social media!!

Hemingway also said, "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." That may well be a quote only other writers can understand. There's a definite sisterhood in romance writing as we've all travelled/are travelling the journey through initial rejection to the thrill of first publishing contract. We all know how deflating those rejection letters and poor reviews can be, how thrilling it is to reach publication and to have a reader make contact to say they've stayed up all night turning the pages of your novel because they simply couldn't put it down.

Other writers understand that an author's not really schizophrenic or delusional when they hear characters in the novel speak to them, and they're not certifiable when they sometimes feel they've merely channeled the story!

For the other days of the year I'll embrace the solitude of my hours spent writing, however this August I'll get dressed up and rejoice at being among a group of lively, lovely romance writers. I'll revel in being part of the Harlequin stable as I catch up with other Harlequin authors at the annual get together, and generally enjoy the camaraderie, networking, enduring friendships and stories of the frustrations and joys of both the actual romance writing and the industry. Will I see you there?

Love to Love: Connecting with this fabulous group of romance writers and celebrating their successes, and helping aspiring authors.

Love to Laugh: With author/writer friends over a cocktail or two.

Love to Learn: The latest news from the romance industry.

Postscript: Due to a change in blog schedules, I will be overseas when this blog goes 'live'. I'd love you to leave a comment on your thoughts, but if I don't respond it is due to lack of internet access as I'll be exploring the Amazon!