Monday 25 March 2019

Writing by Hand and Creativity

by Enisa Haines

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When I first started writing, I wrote by hand. I was immersed fully in the stories, my imagination let loose, and the words flowed easily from my pen to each page. Sure, there was text I thought could have been better, but no part of me ever thought to criticise what I had written.

I grew older. The obligations of university, work and life crept in, stealing time away from writing. But the stories didn't leave. They niggled at me, pestering for release until I caved in. I was going to write again.

But writing by hand is slow. Typing is faster. So I typed...and a strange thing happened. It began when I first used a typewriter, got worse when I swapped the typewriter for a computer keyboard.

This voice in my head, the inner critic - also known as every writer's internal enemy - appeared. A whisper that soon became a roar. Criticism, ever present, always harsh:

"That word is too simplistic. The phrase sounds silly."
"That's not a grammatically correct sentence. The sentences don't flow into each other."
"Do you really think anyone will want to read this? It's nowhere near the standard of published authors."
"Why do you do this to yourself? You are so not good enough."

Youtuber, Blogger, Screenwriter
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I didn't like hearing that inner critic. I had to make it stay quiet. So it only followed that I had to write the perfect word, sentence, paragraph, chapter. The critic was silent then. But this way of writing, a vicious cycle of write, edit, write, edit, as I sought perfection, played havoc with my creativity. My stories did not progress.

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I was frustrated, living my own version of Groundhog Day, and then a breakthrough came. A writing course that promised to unlock creativity. Wow, the course sure lived up to its promise, showing me how. Get away from the keyboard, relax, pick up a pen and the words will come.

Authors JK RowlingAnna Campbell and George RR Martin each write by hand, I learned. If they could do it, well, I wrote that way once and I would try it again. The words came, slowly at first and then faster. My creativity was back, the inner critic gone.

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There, right there, was the answer I had searched for in freeing my creativity. Writing by hand. This technique allowed me to:
  • put a leash on my inner critic, taking away any power to interrupt or the right to criticise as I wrote
  • let go of the desire to look at words as I wrote them
  • stop feeling the need to change them if they didn't 'feel' right
  • relax, focus and be 'in the moment' and simply write down the words that rush forward, consuming my thoughts
Though it may not work for everyone, it works for me and my creative muse is all the happier for it.
Where before I struggled to get the words out, now with a pen in my hand my muse is ready and the words flow into a story. Not a perfect draft at first run, but one that lets the faults stay until later editing, and I'm all the happier for that.

How about you? Have you tried or gone back to writing by hand? 

I love to love that writing by hand silences my inner critic.

I love to laugh at Gogglebox. A truly amusing TV show.

I love to learn how other writers write.

Monday 18 March 2019

Seasoned Romance: The Way It Really Is.

By Sandra Antonelli

Maybe you haven’t noticed. People over the age of 40 fall in love. Middle age and beyond does not, despite what you see (or don’t see) portrayed in film and fiction, spell the end to love or sex, or the need for love or sex or fun or adventure. That’s why some of us are writing what we like to call ‘Seasoned Romance’.

Culture creates content, and content creates culture. The books you read, the movies you watch, the advertising you see everywhere matters, it shapes our identities, colours our view of the world. As studies indicate, from childhood we are susceptible to the influence of entertainment’s content, and through the content we consume we have developed inaccurate views about age and ageing that persist throughout our lives. Without noticing, we have become comfortable with a society that subtly stigmatises ageing, treats it as a disease to be fought, and derides human beings—particularly women—for getting older.

In fact, we accept the roles older women are assigned to—you know, granny, harpy, cougar, cat lady, menopausal loon—as accurate, often without realising because, as Naomi MacDougall Jones says about Hollywood’s ageist and sexist presentations, “That’s just the way it is.” I’ll go further to say that if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll only get what you’ve always got. Age is often overlooked as an issue of diversity, but in the discussion about diversity and inclusion, ageism and sexism matter. And it’s time to change what ‘we’ve always got’ with Seasoned Romance.

What’s Seasoned Romance? Easy. A central love story where couples (m/m, f/f, m/f) of ‘a certain age’ are front and centre, and by front and centre I mean as lead characters in a story that comes with all the hallmarks you love and expect in a romance, novel, right down to sexy times and the all-important Happily Ever After. I write Seasoned Romance with an emphasis on the portrayal of women over 40 as romance heroines, and I always have, long before Seasoned Romance had a name. In fact, my latest release At Your Service and upcoming release Forever in Your Service feature a middle-aged female butler and the slightly younger spy who loves her.

If you said ‘ewww’ to the idea of a 50-year-old woman falling in love and getting it on with a 46-year-old ‘silver fox’ spy hero, then have another look at how you think about yourself as you get older. If you’re a woman, do you honestly think that, once you hit 40, you’re all washed up in life, that your better days are behind you, that love and sex dry up because peri-menopause, menopause or incontinence or whatever anti-wrinkle product you’ve been told you need to reclaim youth because youth was so fantastic, and getting older is dead?

Again, the images you see, the books you read shape our identity and older people, and older women are not tokens, comic foils, secondary characters, or stereotypes. Men have had the advantage of being silver foxes, but now, women of a certain age are finally being positioned as protagonists who challenge ageism, rather than as a stereotype or joke. A female audience is beginning to see themselves as intelligent, interesting, confident, powerful, sensual, sexual, whole human beings who just happen to be older.

Isn’t this what we want in our lives, in our romance, to see ourselves represented? Seasoned Romance is going to be huge. If you’re looking to read (or write) Seasoned Romance check out our Facebook group for books & authors! Here's the link:
Seasoned Romance Facebook Group

How you feel about romance fiction with older characters as the leads?

I love to love coffee.

I love to laugh and I laugh a lot—usually at the most inappropriate times.

I love to learn and this is evident by how I wound up with a BA, MA and PhD, the former focused on the overlooked audience of romance readers wanting romance featuring older leads, and the latter on the portrayal of older women as romance heroines.

Teaser: Forever in Your Service: A heartbroken butler. A dead spy. A randy little dog. Can true love survive a game of cowboys & charlatans?

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Monday 11 March 2019

The Art of Rejection

by Jayne Kingsley

Rejection is hard to take. You spend hours, blood, sweat and tears, pouring words out of your soul to create your masterful romantic manuscript, only to send it off and after waiting patiently, (or if you’re like me, not so patiently!) to receive a thank you, but no thank you. 

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It’s hard.

I’ve been writing now for about three years, and I’ve spoken to many published and unpublished authors, all who have said rejection is part of the business. And no mistaking it – becoming a published author is a business and should be treated like one. Last year I took the plunge and finally pitched a manuscript at the Romance Writers of Australia conference, I received a request for the full manuscript and dutifully sent it off a few days later. 

I waited and waited. I followed up, and then about 8 weeks later I received a very pleasant, and encouraging, No. I won’t lie, at the time I was upset, and allowed myself to wallow for about five minutes, (ok, internally I maybe wallowed longer than that) then I got on my treadmill and I sweated my way into a more positive mood. I decided this was to be a stepping stone for me on my road to publication. Which is what it is. 

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Very few authors gain a publishing contract on their first submission. What is important, is how you view the rejection and what you learn from it. Writing romance is a creative craft, and the best authors I know have all said it’s a continuous journey, one where learning is constant and necessary. 

For my part, I set aside the rejected MS and decided to work on a smaller project. A friend had shared an anthology call out – themed Kissing in the Rain – Springtime in America. I love the idea of kissing in the rain, running in the rain; really, I just love rain, so this was a perfect theme for getting those creative juices running. 

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And I’m happy to say that project has received a more positive response. 

So: I’ve gone out and done a little digging on what others think about rejection – I’ve found this quite interesting and hope you do too. (Please note I have included only constructive comments here – I figured ‘drink copious amounts of wine and eat chocolate for three days’ was a given, right?) 

-      Take it as a learning
-      Were there specific comments? Are they true to your voice and your branding?
-      Persistence is key. Writing is a long journey, multi published authors all say this, the first deal does not mean instant success for life. It may do for a select few, but for most of us, turning writing into a profession means a lot of work. And persistence. Did I mention persistence?
-      Accept the fact that though you love your work, it may not be suitable for a particular publisher, and that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with it. Publishers reject manuscripts for a multitude of reasons that are outside your writing control:
o  Their publishing calendar is full
o  They’ve just signed something very similar
o  The sales dept has said sales in that genre have tanked
o  The timing was just plain wrong. 
-      Just keep writing. Write something new but keep writing. 

How about you? Have you any fabulous suggestions on how to handle rejections in the world of romance writing? 

I love to love... 
starting a new story idea.
I love to laugh... at myself. Yes, I do this quite often.
I love to learn... how many rejections other amazing authors had before they became multi-published. Really, go Google – it’ll make any rejection feel loads better.

Monday 4 March 2019

Romance Across Time: Prehistory

by Sharon Bryant

Love in the Stone Age

I’ve always been fascinated by books set in prehistoric times. The world they describe is one of action, adventure and discovery. It was a time when Homo sapiens and Neanderthals coexisted, leading to a potential clash of civilisations. What was romance like during these times? Here are some details of my favourite prehistoric romance novels.

The Valley of Horses by Jean Auel

I discovered the Earth’s Children series when I was in my early 20s. The romance between Jondalar and Alya, and the fascinating historical information, kept me turning the pages through all six books. Alya, an orphaned Cro-Magnon girl is found and raised by Neanderthals. Eventually, she is exiled by the tribe, and travels in search of her own people known as the Others. Jondalar, one of the Others, is on a great journey. They meet when he is attacked by a cave lion, and Alya saves then heals him. Watching their relationship grow as Jondular battles his prejudice against Neanderthals whom Alya has the greatest respect for makes this book a fascinating read.

Transcendence by Shay Savage

Ehd is a strong, intelligent caveman living alone in the wilderness, when he discovers a young woman caught in a pit trap. It is simple logic as far as he is concerned that she should become his mate. She is wearing strange clothes, and she makes a lot of noise, but she is beautiful and brave, and he likes her so he carries her to his cave. Elizabeth is scared and frustrated, and doesn’t understand what has happened to her. She has no interest in this handsome prehistoric man’s advances, but he respects her wishes when she says no. He seems determined to provide for her. Winter is coming, and she has no choice but to stay. If only she could teach him to comprehend the simplest words. The struggle for coexistence, and the growth of love without verbal language makes this book a fascinating read.

The Cave of Lost Love by Morton Chalfy

This book intertwines a prehistoric romance with a contemporary one. Muta receives a sign that she must leave her tribe, and go on a journey, accompanied only by her husband, Rami. The future of the tribe depends on her respecting this omen. Together Muta and Rami find an amazing cave where their tribe could live in the future. Their lives change dramatically when Rami is injured while hunting. He now makes it his life’s work to create paintings depicting their tribal way of life and recording their knowledge. Rami’s cave drawings draw Matthew, an archaeologist, and Stella, a photographer together. The magical atmosphere of the cave and the fascinating discoveries they make set the scene for their growing romance.

Have you read any prehistoric romance novels? Which one was your favourite?

Love to love time with my family.

Love to laugh at the cute things children say.

Love to learn more about the craft of writing.