I am taking bookings for my next email Romance Writing course, which starts on 1st February 2014. There's an early bird offer of £20 off the cost of the £120 fee for anyone who books and pays by 31st December 2013, so the fee would be just £100 for a three month course that involves critiques of 6 tutor marked assignments.
Details can be found on my blog.
Saturday, 30 November 2013
Wednesday, 27 November 2013
Because I'm in the midst of typing up all the scribbled notes and plotting ideas and snatches of scenes and dialogue for about a dozen potential novels I've tossed into files over the years, I thought it timely to discuss titles and cover pictures.
My first interest in a book is drawn by both title and cover. As we all know, appearances and perceptions really do matter. Then I flip over to the back cover for the blurb to see if the accompanying story sounds interesting. If it passes those tests, then I read the first page or two. So without drawing in a potential reader through both title and cover images, we risk losing our audience.
I can't start a novel until I have the title. I've been fortunate in that none of mine have ever been changed and we don't often have more than a token input over the choice of book cover if it's published traditionally. In the case of my own self published ebooks, I've been lucky to find pictures that come close to my ideal of what I believe conveys the feel of the story .
My two favourite covers for my own trad published works are the My Weekly Pocket Novel cover for WOMBAT CREEK and the Linford Romance cover for STARTING AGAIN.
For the upcoming large print Linford Romance of GRACE'S COTTAGE, I have sent Ulverscroft the image I used to self publish and they are going to consider using it for continuity of covers across all editions of the novel - paperback, ebook and large print. I can't wait to see how they adapt the image.
I was also ecstatic to discover what I considered the perfect image of a peacock sitting on a bluestone wall for my Australian saga PEACOCKS ON THE LAWN. The homestead was bluestone and the epitome of success as judged by the early sheep squatters which was the theme of my novel was having "peacocks strutting across the lawn". For GRACE'S COTTAGE there is a mystery behind it so I thought the gate leading into it and not knowing what lies beyond captured the essence of the story.
I would like to hear what your favourite titles and covers are for your own books.
Tuesday, 26 November 2013
Writing in the Now
When I presented a workshop for the lovely Write Place Writing School at the beginning of November, I touched briefly on ‘writing in the now’ and wanted to explore that point further, because I didn't have much time in class to do so.
As it wouldn’t be fair to share my students’ ideas I have come up with a scenario to explain what I mean. This is a bit off the cuff, so may not be perfect, though I did find I kept adding bits to it as the story grew!
Annie and James meet in university when they join the same band, with Annie as the lead singer and James as the lead guitarist/singer. They are each other’s first love, but at the end of university life they go their separate ways because James decides to move to America to pursue his musical career. Ten years later they meet up again, and James is a huge star, whilst Annie is a backing singer, working to keep a roof over her and her young son’s head. Annie is still hurt that James left her and thought his career more important than their love and she is also angry that he stole the song that they wrote together and which became his biggest hit. She has been too proud to sue him for her rights and is certainly not going to ask him now! It is revealed that James left because he had reason to believe that Annie was cheating on him and he had taken the song as revenge. When he meets Annie’s son, he automatically assumes the child is the other guy’s, but Annie knows better. Not that she’s going to admit that to James after he cheated her out of millions of pounds…
If you were writing the novel to this short summary, where would you begin?
When one of the students came up with a scenario that charted all her hero and heroine’s romantic life, I suggested to her that she would be much better starting the story in the now; at the point where their conflict is about to come to a head. That adds immediacy to a story, and helps speed up the pace of reading.
A chronological story that begins with the hero and heroine falling in love, maybe getting married or living together for years before conflict rears its ugly head may be more realistic. After all, in real life, falling in love and getting married is generally the easy bit. It’s only afterwards when children and the resulting lack of money come along that conflict starts. But if you started at the very beginning, it would make the first chapters rather slow. Of course if your hero and heroine do meet and are immediately faced with a conflict, then it will speed up the pace. But if you’re describing a relationship that began then ended several years before for some reason, the time to start the story is when they meet again.
So if I were writing the story I’ve outlined above, I’d start where Annie and James meet up again, at a recording studio perhaps. I’d introduce the conflict from their past very quickly, avoiding flashbacks, which also slow down the pace of a story. Let the past come out in dialogue (whilst avoiding ‘information drop’).
There are some novels, particularly family sagas, in which you can start from the year dot – or when the heroine was born – but even they will hint at some conflict. Maybe the hero or heroine has displaced an elder sibling or cousin who was due to inherit. Or there is a question over their parentage that will inform the rest of their lives until such conflict is resolved. Even then the story will more than likely jump forward ten years or so at a time, missing out the boring bits.
It doesn’t matter if you’re writing historical romance. The ‘now’ is the ‘present’ time in any era. So in my novel, Loving Protector, the story starts when the heroine and her family are saved from a highwayman by the dashing hero. So yes, it is the first time they meet and then goes on to chart their romance, but it very quickly sets up the conflict (the heroine’s nasty stepsister) and hints at further conflicts. Plus the romance happens over weeks, not years. I’ve heard criticism about romances that happen too quickly, but to me that’s what writing romantic fiction is about. It’s about falling in love at first sight, but being faced with a conflict that tests that notion.
If every romantic novel had the same pace as a real life romance, then it would be very boring for the reader. It can be done, however. The film Same Time Next Year by Bernard Slade, starring Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn, used the conceit of a couple meeting the same time every year to carry on an illicit romance, and it showed how they both changed over the years. But each ‘episode’ of the romance took place at the time they met – in the now - and missed out all the bits in between, simply feeding information to the audience through dialogue.
So try to write in the now, when the real conflict begins. That may well be at the beginning of a romance, but it may well be ten years down the line when the hero and heroine meet again and are forced to deal with the problems that parted them before.
Wednesday, 20 November 2013
The beginning has gone fine. Filled with enthusiasm, I am having difficulty tapping the keys fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. This is going great! All I have to do now is fill the pages between that wonderful beginning and what I know is going to be a simply spectacular ending.
The first three chapters have hooked the reader: she is not going to be able to put the book down.The characters are beginning to take on a personality of their own, the heroine is coping with everything I throw at her and the hero is strong and manly enough to win her love in the end.
Then everything starts to disintegrate for no reason at all.
Although the first few chapters looked pretty good to start with, I know they are really a load of rubbish. No one is going to want to read a book that is so boring even the characters have given up and gone to sleep. Their names are all wrong too, they keep telling me that, and the setting is dull and uninteresting. The plot? I have no idea what possessed me to think an idea like that would make a readable novel.
I have come to the middle.
I know I will get over it. At least I think I will get over it because, somehow, I always do. I can leave the bit in the middle and write the end, then try and fill in the middle bit. That might work. Or I can scrap everything I’ve written so far and start again. That is probably the best idea. But it won’t help, because the next story is going to have a middle as well, and I’m going to get stuck all over again.