2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 49,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 11 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Group Grants 2012

Applications for Group Grants are now open.


What can my group apply for?


The possibilities are endless, but here are a few suggestions:

a visiting speaker/author

fees for group members to attend conferences/online classes

texts for a group library

venue and equipment hire for workshops/retreats

or anything else that supports group members in their writing.


Is my group eligible for a grant?


No matter what size the group, whether it’s online or face-to-face, if it fits the criteria below, a group can apply.


Criteria for a group to be considered


be an Affiliated or Associated RWA group

be registered with RWA Group Liaison and have supplied a Group Statement


(to check if you group is registered email groupliaison@gmail.com)



How does our group apply?


All relevant details and a downloadable application form are available on the Romance Writers of Australia website (Members Only)


Don’t delay! Act now! Applications close 29th February 2012.


For more information contact Group Grants Coordinator Janette Whitehead at

groupgrants @romanceaustralia.com

The Emerald (Category) 2012 – 2nd round placegetters

Romance Writers of Australia congratulates the Second Round placegetters in  the Emerald 2012 (Category).

They are listed below in alphabetical order.

Many thanks to Leisl Leighton, Section Manager.

Elise Ackers
Charmaine Atalla
Lee Christine
Tina Marie Clark
Carolyn De Ridder
Kew Gibson
Bernice Greenham
Kristie Jones
Jennifer St George x 2

2012 STALI Winners

Romance Writers of Australia congratulates the winners of the STALI 2012:

1. Diane Hester
2. Imelda Evans
3. Claire Boston

Many thanks to final judge Ali Watts and to contest coordinator Gayle Ash who coped valiantly with delays and email problems.


Today, Anne Gracie is our guest blogger, with a craft article.

A lot of writers claim they don’t plot; they write by the seat of their pants, or just “fly into the mist.” I’m one of them, although I prefer to use Robyn Donald’s term — an organic writer. (“Pantser” carries too much of a visual of my granny’s bloomers flapping on the clothesline.)

It’s not quite true, however, that we don’t plot. We don’t pre-plot. We don’t sit down before we write a book, work out a detailed plot and then flesh it out in the writing. Pre-plotting works well for many writers, but there’s no one right way, just whatever works for each of us.

I’ve tried the pre-plotting method and for me, it doesn’t work. I can work out a perfectly good, detailed plot, but the moment I start writing it either the characters morph and take the plot in a different direction, or I get bored because I already know what’s going to happen.

But pantsers do plot. At least the good ones do. Some people pants blind.


The Problem with Blind Pantsing


Some pantsers get all fired up by an idea and write like fury until they run out of steam, and then get another idea and think, “Oooh yes, I can have this happen” and write like fury until they run out of steam and then they think, “What about this?” and they write like fury etc. etc.

And sometimes it works. And sometimes it doesn’t.

The trouble with that method is you can waste a lot of time heading up blind alleys. And doing a LOT of rewriting.

Worse, you can end up with a story that’s a rambling series of sequential events, where the end bears little relation to the beginning, a directionless muddle.

Yes, a story is a series of connected events, but a story must also mean something.

Sometimes I’m almost half way through a story before I know what the story really means, what it’s really about, and then I have to go back to the start to tweak it, change the angle slightly on some earlier scenes, subtly emphasize some aspect.

You can save yourself a lot of trouble by sitting down and asking yourself some questions quite early in the writing stage. Maybe at the first point you’ve run out of steam. I know a lot of people need to start writing, to have the characters interacting on the page before they know who this story is about. Romance, after all, is a character driven genre.

Play before you write

I’d suggest, though, that you play with your characters a little more, rewrite some of those early scenes — not to polish your writing, but trying different scenes and settings to see what is going to bring out the best in your characters. Don’t think of those early scenes as the beginning of your book, but just some practice writing.

You have them meet in an office? Try having them meet somewhere else — a gym, or a train station, or at the scene of an accident. Choose a setting/situation that will bring out a particular characteristic of at least one of your characters, something that’s fun/interesting/exciting/dramatic.

You want your first scene to be a fabulous, “suck-me-into-your-world” scene, and that takes work and thought and rewriting. And something fresh.

You also want your opening scene to give the reader a clear sense of what the book is going to be about.

Once you’ve played with a few possibilities, you’ll know more about the kind of story you want it to be, that kind that will stretch and challenge your particular characters. This will help you define the kind of conflict that will be at the core of the story.

While your characters are coming to life in those early “play” scenes, ask yourself what does each of them want and why they can’t have it? If a character has a visible goal, it helps clarify things enormously. Then you ask yourself what might they do to achieve that goal? How might they change and develop through the story? Playing with possibilities…

What Kind of Story is it?

This then helps to clarify what kind of story you’re writing. Is it a convenient marriage story? Or a forced marriage? A secret baby story? Second chance at love? Revenge? Friends to lovers? Wounded soul? There are dozens of beloved tropes in romance and readers like to know what they’re getting. They also like a fresh take on a beloved trope.

Once you’ve worked out what kind of story you’re writing, you can make a list of some of the pivotal scenes that you expect will go with that kind of story. Eg. the scene where she tells the hero he has a child. The scene where he meets that child. And so on. And then you can decide how you’re going to handle this scene your particular way.

They’ll form the bare bones of your plot. Again they’re just possibilities, not requirements.

Your story needs structure

Next, I think about the three act structure (or the 5 act structure if you prefer) because I know my story is going to roughly conform to that, because all the stories I’ve ever written have, even though I never consciously applied it when I was writing most of them.

I have a noticeboard in my workroom, with a grid drawn up for my current story plan. It has 20 squares, because generally my books have roughly 20 chapters.

The squares are labelled in different colors, for the 3 act structure. (Google the term if this is new to you.) You could also use Blake’s Snyder’s beat sheet as a structure if you wanted — I’ve also found my books conform roughly to his breakdown, too.  Structure, not determinism.


All it means is that I know when I’m getting to chapter 4 (for instance) that pretty soon I’m going to want to add some new element to shift the parameters of the story; a turning point, a new character, a new piece of knowledge, a change of pace or setting, or the rise of a subplot for instance.

Don’t think of this as a must. Thinking “must” is deadly to pantsers, we need to let our muses roam free. It helps me to recall that my earliest books all had this structure. Even though I thought the three act structure was for playwrights and nothing to do with me or my writing, pure story-telling instinct (developed by reading thousands of books) had led me there anyway. Structure is my friend, not my jailer.

So when I’m writing chapter 3 or 4, some part of my brain is sifting possibilities for future chapters or scenes, coming up with possible subplots or turning points, a black moment, whatever.

I always write down these thoughts when they come to me. Sometimes they’re just snatches of dialogue, sometimes whole scenes. And I’ll make a note on a yellow sticky and put it on my story chart.  Some never get used, some become the central guiding light in my story, where everything heads toward that point.

Summing up

All the time I’m writing, some part of my brain is plotting; thinking ahead and narrowing choices between the many possibilities depending on what kind of story I’m writing, what the central thread of conflict and the emerging theme is, and how my characters and story are developing. Like a scout exploring ahead for the best routes.

And thus I plot. Not a firm plan set in stone, but a constantly evolving range of exciting  possibilities.

For another take on “flying into the mist” go to Jo Beverley’s excellent article


So, what about you — are you a plotter or a pantser, and what difficulties have you found with your method?

Anne Gracie’s latest book Bride by Mistake is out now.

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 50,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 19 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

High Five 2012 Winners

Romance Writers of Australia is pleased to announce the winners of the High Five competition 2012.

Congratulations to

1 Cornelia Kamp
2 Melissa Smith
3 Bernice Greenham
Final Judge Charles Griemsman of HM&B has requested material from the top two placegettters.

A big thank you to Deb Bennetto for managing the contest.


The High Five competition is sponsored by Harlequin


STALI 2012 Finalists

Romance Writers of Australia congratulates the finalists of the 2012 STALI competition (Single Title and Loving It):

Congratulations to:

Claire Boston

Tina Clark

Imelda Evans

Diane Hester

Leisl Leighton

Jennifer McGregor

Thank-you to Gayle Ash who successfully managed her first contest for RWA this year. The finalist’s entries are being ranked by Ali Watts of Penguin Australia.


2012 Selling Synopsis Winners

RWA is delighted to announce the winner and placings for the 2012 Selling Synopsis Contest as ranked by agent Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary LLC.
Congratulations to:

1 Eloise Shannon
2 Clare Jude
3 Marilyn Forsythe

Thank you to everyone who entered or judged and a big thank-you to Manager Jenn McLeod. Thank-you to Laura Bradford for her very quick return of results complete with comments for the finalists.

Selling Synopsis 2012 Finalists

Romance Writers of Australia is pleased to announce the finalists for the Selling Synopsis 2012.

Congratulations go to:

Marilyn Forsyth
Clare Jude
Eloise Shannon x 2
Christine Taylor
Alison Withers

Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary Agency will be ranking our finalists. Thank-you to Jenn McLeod for managing the contest.

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