Welcome to another of our Conference Spotlights from the DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER conference.
Ally Blake is a bestselling, multi-award winning novelist who has been published in over twenty languages with more than three million books sold world-wide. Her fun, fresh, flirty books are published by Harlequin Mills and Boon. She and her family, including three boisterous toddlers, share a property in the leafy western suburbs of Brisbane with kookaburras, cockatoos, lorikeets and the occasional creepy crawly. When not writing she loves eating M&Ms, watching The West Wing reruns, playing hide and seek, and barracking til hoarse for the Collingwood Magpies AFL team.
At Diamonds Are Forever, Ally is presenting a workshop aimed at ALL writers called REVISIONS: REWRITING, EDITING, PROOF-READING…OH MY!
Whether on your first book or your 51st, revisions are a part of the writing process. Self-imposed, or requested, rewrites are a good thing. Not a necessary evil, but one of the most important tools you have in your creative arsenal. Like any tool, the ability to self-edit effectively needs honing, practice, confidence in the wielding. Find your best revising method within this abundance of hints on how to manage revisions with a smile. (Or, at the very least, less than mortal dread.)
Tell us about yourself in 10 words or less.
Writer. Mum. Collingwood-fanatic. Ex-cheerleader. Married in Vegas. Dreamer, procrastinator, M&Maholic.
What prompted you to put together this workshop for “Diamonds are Forever”?
I was smack bang in the middle of a second round of revisions on my latest book when the call came out for workshops speakers and it felt like serendipity. Because while I know from many chats with many author friends how frustrating revising can be, the truth is, I have a soft spot for revisions. Honestly. I mean, of course every time I send in a book I cross everything that this will be the one my editor believes is pure perfection as is. Every writer’s dream, right? Yet there’s always one scene, one character, one something – or perhaps even a hundred somethings – that I secretly hope I get the chance to have another pass at as it just never felt quite right.
But that’s not even the half of it. Because, even from your very first word, so much of writing is rewriting. The more I thought about it, the more I believed how great it would be to find out how different authors get from idea to finished product, how, in fact, they go about rewriting their novels in order to glean clues on how to make it easier for the rest of us to do the same.
Have you presented sessions at previous conferences, for RWA or other organisations?
I’ve presented sessions at RWA on topics such as writing sexy or sweet and secrets of the newly published. I’ve given talks at literary writing festivals about the current state of romantic literature and hosted a panel at the inaugural Australian Romance Readers Convention on writing romantic comedy. I’ve been commissioned to hold romance writing workshops at the Victorian Writers Centre and at libraries around the country. And I was even, at one time, coaxed into hosting the RWA Awards dinner! I can’t quite remember how that happened. I’m thinking perhaps wine was involved.
Do you use examples (from your own books, other books, movies etc)?
I’ll be sharing real revision experiences of my own, as well as deciphering “revision code” with my editors, and chatting to fellow authors about their experiences in the trenches giving attendees a plethora of revising tools to take home with them.
Which members will benefit most from this session?
Anyone who’s ever written an imperfect first draft. So, basically, anyone. Because whether self-imposed, by way of a critique partner, or via – yay! – an editor, revisions are a part of the writing process. Everybody does it!
Even now, with more than twenty published books to my name, I find other writers’ processes fascinating. It can be a comfort when someone else’s process mirrors your own. How nice would it be to know you’re not the only one who writes with rows of colour-coded M&Ms at your side while wearing a floral garland on your head? That’s just a random example of course. And finding weird and wonderful ways to stretch your writing muscles when you stumble upon a process you’ve never heard of before can be like a little sprinkle of fairy dust over musty methods.
So come one come all!
Any advice for conference first-timers?
I remember my first conference vividly. I knew nothing and nobody and was totally terrified. I’d just received a full manuscript request – for what would end up being my first published book, actually – and I didn’t recognise at the time what that really meant, so it ended up being a great conversation topic, because man do those conference attendees love talking about writing and romance and…where had they been all my life?!?!? That energy and excitement gave me the confidence to accidentally had lengthy conversation with bigwigs from Harlequin Australia and Canada, with multi-published authors, and blushing newbies I’m still in contact with today.
My advice to first timers? Take a big deep breath, close you eyes and jump. You’re in for the ride of your life!
What is your latest/current/upcoming book release and where can members find out more about you?
Out in Australia and New Zealand this August – awesome timing, huh? – is THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT, a Harlequin Mills and Boon Sexy Romance which went through 2 rounds of requested revisions, no telling how much was rewritten by yours truly along the way. You can find out more at www.allyblake.com.
I’m also having a ball doing a monthly retrospective on backlist books which have now been released as ebooks. This month it’s all about THE MAGNATE’S INDECENT PROPOSAL which was a Waldenbooks Bestseller, a Romantic Times top pick, and Desert Island Keeper at All About Romance. Check out my blog for behind the scenes stuff.
And to any attendees of my workshop who would like to know anything in particular about the revision process, please don’t hesitate to get in touch beforehand at email@example.com and I’ll endeavour to cover it in my talk.
Just can’t wait to see y’all there.
Thank you, Ally.
Our next Conference Spotlight is with the Penguin Rural Panel on 14th March.