21 December 2011

Putting things on hold (Merry Christmas!)

I've finished Nano, but not the novel.
I was going to get it all ready for SYTYCW but this year they wanted the complete book and there was no way I could have my Nano Draft 0 all polished and sent off by 15/12.
But I can still get it ready for The Clendon Award next year.

I was going to work on my draft this week and during my Christmas break, but preparations for my new job, as well as for the uni course (ohmegod, have I really got on to an MBA program??) are taking up a lot of time. All that on top of quite a lot of stress in my old job.
So the Nano Draft 0 is on hold.

I still want to write and I'm going to finish that b***y book in time for The Clendon Award. I need to however put on hold all twittering and blogging etc non-essential activities.
I will keep my Romance Writing Competition calendar updated though, and continue 'publishing' The Romance Writers Daily on Twitter. I also check my emails regularly, if case anyone wanted to get in touch.

Pohutukawa - NZ Christmas tree
by Kate Kyle

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Writing Year!!

13 November 2011

Inspiration vs perspiration

So You Think You Can Write is over, but the website with the wealth of information is still there and if you haven't had a chance to look at it, I strongly encourage you.

I love Harlequin/Mills&Boons for being so new-writers friendly. This was one of the reasons I've decided to try my hand at writing for them.  All the published/contracted authors I've encountered at RWNZ conferences spoke highly of H/M&B's editors and how they practically learnt craft from them while revising/rewriting their books.
Those, who like me were still trying, were also very enthusiastic. SYTYCW and New Voices (in which I couldn't participate because according to the contest rules I was deemed published) are perfect examples of how supportive these publishers are.

For those of you, aspiring romance/woman's fiction writers who don;'t know yet I also recommend eHarlequin site - with writing advice, free online reads, and many pitching opportunities (check the For - particularlyThe Write Stuff section). great for inspiration.

I haven't had much time to seek inspiration as I have been heavily perspiring, working on my new NaNoWriMo project and rushing to get my SYTYCW assignments sent off before the deadline. I must admit I'm lagging behind with my NaNo- due to some health issues, and also SYTYCW. But I've managed to complete four out of 5 assignment - the opening page, gripping scene, synopsis and query letter, which will make my 5th assignment - actual submission in December much easier.

Anyway, since I'd managed to plot my novel almost completely prior to Nano, I don't have to wait for inspiration, just sit at my laptop and sweat the words out.
My novel is set in rural Northumberland, which is rather quite far away from where I now live. So I'm using this little space-travelling technique:

Eglingham Moor, Northumberland, England
by Kate Kyle

(this place plays an important role in development of attraction between my hero and heroine)

I've never had any of my SYTYCW assignments picked up for critique, whether last or this year, but I've read the editors' feedback with great interest- great stuff to learn from.
I've learnt bits and pieces from blog post and chats, too. My favorite was the article on synopsis and query letter. I'm still not an expert on any of them, by any means, but I'm feeling just a little bit more confident. And I'm sure I'll come back next year, even if I'll managed to get a contract with M&B by then :)

Have you been picked up for critique? Did you enjoy the event? Did you learn anything new?

30 October 2011

It's nearly November

I've hardly noticed October - been so busy sorting out my next day job. Actually I've ben so busy that I've put writing on hold completely. But now, since I've got a new job (some call it promotion), went through the mill of a Very Important Assessment, sent my application to yet-another-uni-course in and awaiting results, and the spring is finally in the air it's time to go back to writing.

It's November - NaNoWriMo month again and I'm definetely taking part again this year. I'm also going to do SoYouThinkYouCanWrite2 with Harlequin again as I enjoyed SYTYCW1 last year.
I'm writing another medical romance - since the target length of 50-55,000 is ideal for Nano. I also hope I will be able to submit it at the end of SYTYCW2.

I have been neglecting my blog lately and unfortunately this is likely to continue in November because of Nano, but after that I should have more time for writing.
In the meantime, for those of you who are looking for an interesting writing workshop in November - have a look at a fellow romance writer Lacey Devlin's blog for inspiration.
I'm off to get prepared for NaNo - I've got heaps of stuff to do.

Nano preparation checklist for plotters:
1. Story premise - check
2. Title - check
3. Heroine's goals, motivations and conflict - check
4. Heroine's arc - needs some work
5. Hero's goals,  motivations, and conflict - check
6. Hero's arc - needs some work
7. Plot outline - very patchy, several plot holes - needs fixing
8. Minor characters - haven't been conceived yet.
9. Happily Ever After - check!
10. A week off day job - request not submitted yet!
11. Put a new word counting widget on my blog - not done yet!

I haven't included a supply of chocolate as I have to lose weight I've put on during all that work-related stress in October but will have to find something to fuel my during those long early morning hours.

Who else is doing Nano this year? Are you a plotter or a pantser? How are you preparing?

09 October 2011

Take a cliche and twist it... (how to create unpredictability in romantic fiction)

I have just finished reading Emily March Hummingbird Lake novel. Although it starts a little too slow for my liking, I'm pleased I stuck with it, because I've really enjoyed the book, and the main reason for that is the Heroine - Sage. She is an interesting mixture of soft and feisty, full of internal conflict (great way of contrasting her paintings as a metaphor to Sage's own internal contrasts) and carries a heart-wrenching secret. The story (and Sage's secret and internal conflict) unfolds in a way that the reader is bound to empathise with Sage and root for her, even when she's really mean to the Hero.
Great job, Ms March!

Sage's story made me go back to my notes from RWNZ conference in August and Lucy Gilmour's from Mills &Boon presentation on unpredictability in romantic fiction. Sage is a twist on one of romance favourite archetypes - The Wounded Hero. The twist is simple - just the gender swap, but for me it was enough to keep me turning the pages.

Photo by Digitalart
via www.freedigitalphotos.net

Lucy's presentation was in the context of preparations for New Voices competitions, and highlighted unpredictability as one of 6 relevant elements of a good story. Interestingly, unpredictability features also in the newest ebook prepared for New Voices contestants and anyone who wants to write Mills& Boon romance (Secrets uncovered - scroll down to the bottom of the page to download).

Many people reject romance as a genre because of its predictability. It's true - romance readers like their favourite plots and themes, 'dark and broody heros' or feisty heroines. They buy M&B's books because they know they are going to get what they expect and there is a Happily Ever After at the end. And since everything has already been done it's not easy for a writer to come up with new twists and turns.

So how to create unpredictability in romantic fiction?
1. Take a character (an archetype, trope or stereotype) and give them a twist: change the gender (I'm brewing a 'in-love-with- Boss' story with the role reversal), let your Cinderella be a man, make the most suspected person the culprit (a twist on the Dog was the Mastermind trope I'd love to read!), give your sweet, naive Red Riding Hood a few wrinkles and 'I-should-have-known-better', or just make your hero younger and less experienced than your heroine.

2. Take a well known plot and twist it.
Oh, how much I'd love to read a story about a Girl meeting Mr Right and then realising she doesn't really want to get married and have children, at least not before she travels the world (with him)! Or how about a genuinely loving couple who marry for convenience and what is the impact of it on the relationship afterwards (I know of a couple who got married after a few years of living happily together because as a married couple they would pay less tax; unfortunately, I don't know what was the impact of those wedding vows on the romance in their relationship, but just imagine the possibilities...). Or add some infidelity to the mixture (apparently the attitude to infidelity in M&B romance is changing).

3. Twist the setting.
Since I moved to New Zealand and have all those 'exotic' pacific islands within a couple of hours flight at most, the word 'exotic' has got a new meaning. I've spoken to a Kiwi woman once who told me that the dream of her life is to travel to Austria - the country where her favourite film, The Sound of Music was made. Quite an eye opener for someone like me, who spend the majority of her life in central Europe.
Twist the meaning behind a setting. Tired of sweet little towns? Show your H/h struggling with not-so-positive aspects of those close-knitted communities. Or how about a glam chick story set in a little town? Or a boy coming home to a modern, fragmented family in a big city?

4. A fresh POV
Give your Heroine a unique ability or disability that will affect the way she perceives the world (not a romance, but a great way of introducing unpredictability The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time ); introduce different formats (diary entry, txt mssgs, emails); or even EVEN (yes, Lucy DID say it) use the 1st person narration.

I love twisting and turning cliches and reading stories that turn out to be not what they appear to be. I'm currently writing a story, which was originally 'conceived' as a chick-lit story, but chick-lit has fallen out of fashion since (I'm way too slow for those trends!) so I'm setting it in a small town instead! As I said, I'm also brewing a reverse 'in-love-with-Boss' story.

Have you twisted any cliches? What is your favourite way of creating unpredictability in romance? Which cliches would you like to twist?

26 September 2011

Romance writing competitions

Looking for romance or women's fiction writing competition?
Check my calendar - just updated it with more upcoming contests. Every note contains a web link to the contest site - check it for more details.

Good luck!

Ps. After much deliberation and asking around, I've decided that I wasn't eligible for New Voices, so I'm not entering (but reading entries). Instead, I've entered Strictly single competition (RWNZ) again this year. This year I've entered a completely new story, something I've thought out a couple of years ago as a chick-lit, but since chick-lit is no longer hot (or even worse: editors are not buying new authors any more), and since my story was never conceived as a bit city story I've changed some elements. Now, it's a (single title) contemporary romance, set in a small town (apparently this is HOT!). The characters' arcs have changed, too and becuase I haven't had much time to smooth it out, they're not as goo as they could be.
It was a bit of a touch-and-go with the deadline, as I completely forgoten about it. But I've managed to churn out 6,500 words and a synopsis.
Fingers crossed.
Now, back to my current WIP, which I've been writing for... let me think... 7 years now.

Have any of you entered or is going to enter any contest now? Any of you doing New Voices?