April OWLs

Hoot, hoot, hoot, its the April OWLs (with apologies to ‘Little April Showers).

Once again, we had two fantastic OWLs for the month, one for before you’ve finished your book and one for after, with two fantastic presenters.  Details are below, so check them out!

Please note: our booking system doesn’t allow us to take bookings after the courses start, which, in both cases, is the 3rd of April – so don’t delay!


You’ve written a manuscript – how to get it to the next stage? Self-editing bootcamp for writers will show you how to be objective about your own work. Structure is your friend! Edit your own manuscript: More details and booking here


Spielberg Eat Your Heart Out!
Whether you’re a novice or more seasoned writer (mmm, seasoned), most authors face a major challenge: ‘How to successfully promote hundreds of pages of written text into one effective cover image, blurb, post, tweet…’. The answer is simple: You create a highly shareable, HD Book Trailer of Epic Awesomeness! Join our short course by clicking the link below on creating your very own Book Trailer so you can begin to get your books noticed! …Awesome Book Trailers: more details and booking here

TWO Magnificent OWLS in March

Whether it’s your manuscript or your writing business that needs work, we have you covered with our next two OWLS.  They start next Monday, so don’t delay or dither – decide!

lanaBuilding Your WordPress Author Website
From the Ground Up

with Lana Pecherczyk

Take control of your career and learn how to manage a simple WordPress website and blog then turn it into a successful self-managed powerhouse for your author business. Learn via easy walkthrough videos as Lana builds an author website before your eyes, and talks about content creation, e-commerce, traffic acquirement and more. Downloadable PDFs and worksheets will be available so you can revise at your leisure. Whether you’re a digital immigrant or an author just wanting the latest hot tips on WordPress, you can get the author targeted advice from the current RWA Webmistress Lana Pecherczyk. Each student must be prepared to either set up a free WordPress.org account, or purchase a domain and hosting (explained how to inside the course).

Register and get more details here


Bring your story into focus:
why ‘show don’t tell’ is a layer cake

with Sandy Vaile

Bring your story into focus

Why ‘show don’t tell’ is like a layer cake.

‘Show don’t tell’ is the lynch-pin of great writing. I’m sure you’ve all heard the term, but are you applying it effectively? Delve into the vivid realm of showing, and realise a balance between description and brevity that will captivate readers and not let them go.

This course best suits modern fiction writers.

Register and get more details here

Hoot Hoot! Two OWLs!

Manuscript getting away from you? Characters confused about their Goals, Motivations & Conflicts? You need our February Owls! For GMC, see http://romanceaustralia.com/a-sparkling-guide-to-gripping-goal-motivation-conflict/ and Aeon Timeline, see http://romanceaustralia.com/quickly-learn-aeon-timeline-for-fiction-writers-authors/

Make Facebook Your Friend: Ask me how!

Actually, don’t ask me, ask Sara Hood.  Better still, sign up for her October OWL and learn it from her!  Social media is a fact of life for writers these days, but it can be mystifying and frustrating for the uninitiated.  So an online workshop with this title has to be a good idea!

Make Facebook your friend: six ways to make Facebook work for you as a writer, without mortgaging your home

Registration is now open and you can sign up here: http://www.romanceaustralia.com/new/showowls.asp

But now, over to Sara!


Of all the articies I’ve written for Hearts Talk*, by far the one that generated the most response was earlier this year where I busted some of the most commonly believed Facebook myths.

Frequently (and sadly) those myths are based on a misunderstanding of what Facebook is and how it works. Or even a misunderstanding about why Facebook is there in the first place. (Clue: it’s not out to force you to advertise by wilfully restricting who gets to see your posts, but it’s also not a charity.)

When people ask me ‘is it worth being on Facebook?’ my reply is always ‘with 1.6 billion accounts what’s not to like?’.

Let’s get this straight: it is very easy to get Facebook wrong.  It doesn’t help that Facebook itself doesn’t communicate that well and there is a tsunami of ‘experts’ who fill the void, some of whom are little more than snakeoil salesmen, and directly contradict each other. Or have a ‘guaranteed’ strategy that costs a mere $50 per lead. All that does is confuse and bewilder and frustrate.

So the most critical challenge for a writer when trying to make Facebook work for you is working out who to listen to and how to succeed without wasting money and driving yourself nuts.

That’s where this OWL comes in. Six ways to make Facebook your friend. They’re not hard. They won’t require you to first complete a PhD in rocket science. Nor will they cost gargantuan amounts of money to implement.

The OWL also won’t suck up your precious time. It’s a series of PDFs, released each week from 3 October, which you can work through in your own time. There’s then a Facebook group where you can ask questions (and I promise to be there at least once a day) and at the end an online live webinar for you to ask the questions that couldn’t be answered in the Facebook group. We can share screens and look at the back end of Facebook, live.

I won’t over promise: Facebook is harder now that before because there are so many more people competing for screen time, it takes time and it takes commitment.  This OWL will also show you how to track if you’re making a difference.

It starts on 3 October and runs all month, with the webinar scheduled for the last week. It will be recorded and if you can’t make it you are invited send your questions in and I’ll answer them in the session.

If you’re an aspiring writer this is a great way to start to get your marketing foundations in place. For emerging and established writers it’s a great way to make sure you’re hitting all the right buttons.

As I said a few paragraphs ago, with 1.6 billion accounts what’s not to love about Facebook? You just have to learn how to make friends with it first.

So, if any of this sounds like you, see you next month for the October OWL.

It’s going to be fun!
Registration is now open.  http://www.romanceaustralia.com/new/owlrego.asp?id=23

$30 for RWA members and $40 for those who aren’t.

* In case you haven’t noticed, I write a book marketing article in each issue of Hearts Talk! Feel free to send in a question and I’ll do my best to answer it. (And for those who don’t know, Hearts Talk is the member journal for RWA.  You can join RWA here.)

Sara Hood has been a member of RWA for 8 years, is still thoroughly unpublished and knows all too well that finishing a manuscript might be a good idea. She’s also a longstanding member of the Melbourne Romance Writers Guild, and RWA-auspiced writing group, the Saturday Ladies Bridge Club.  She’s worked in marketing for more than thirty years and runs a consultancy providing marketing services for organisations in the wider music sector.  She spent half of July this year in Glasgow running the social media for an international conference of music educators.

Special Guest Interview: Michael Hauge

I had the privilege of interviewing Michael Hauge via Skype recently, and today I am thrilled to share this interview with you on the RWA blog. Michael will be visiting Australia in March when he presents his Advanced Story Mastery seminar, which is sure to be a valuable day for all writers wanting to give their stories the structure, emotion, and authenticity needed to be successful.

MICHAEL HAUGE is a story consultant, author and lecturer who works with screenwriters, novelists, filmmakers and executives. He has coached writers, producers, stars and directors on projects for Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon and Morgan Freeman, and is currently on retainer with Will Smith’s company, Overbrook Productions, where he was involved in the development of I AM LEGEND, HANCOCK and THE KARATE KID.

Michael is the best selling author of Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read, as well as the new 20th Anniversary Edition of his classic book Writing Screenplays That Sell. A number of Michael’s seminars, including The Hero’s 2 Journeys with Christopher Vogler, are available on DVD and CD at bookstores worldwide, and through his web site below. For information on his consultation services, products or lecture schedule, go to www.StoryMastery.com.


1. Welcome Michael! Can you tell us why your six stage plot structure is so important in creating a great story, and how does the process differ for novels and screenplays?

Structure is essential. All structure really means is ‘what’s the sequence of events?’. A writer’s goal has to be to create an emotional experience for the reader, and that applies whether you’re a romance writer, a general fiction writer, or a screenwriter.

Certain structural patterns have proven to be effective and consistently present in successful stories, certainly from the beginning of the twentieth century, and even further back than that, probably all the way to Aristotle. My six stage structure  is just my way of approaching that. It’s a way that I figured out by looking at lots of movies and novels, and working out how to maximise the emotional experience. Other people have other structural approaches, and what I have found is all of the different approaches are fairly consistent. We don’t really contradict each other, we just have different ways of looking at it, and mine is developed in a way that I hope will be simple enough that it’s really easy to master, but still valuable enough that it gives new insights and people can really use it. It’s more than a three act structure, there’s a lot more to it than that, but it should still be simple and straightforward, and I have found in the reactions from people who’ve heard me lecture, or clients I’ve had, that it has proven really helpful to them.

Now the second part of your question, how does it apply to novel writing… the basic six stages I talk about are going to be present in any kind of story, so long as it’s a story where there’s a protagonist pursuing a clear goal with a clearly defined end point.

For instance, in a romance novel, the goal of the hero or heroine (I don’t really distinguish between those two terms), is to win the love of another character. So once you have that goal defined (because we know what that would look like at the end of the story), it’s like having a destination to your hero’s journey, and now you can break that down into the steps it takes to get there, and the key turning points that they have to encounter on that journey.

The key difference between novel structure and screenplay structure is that in a screenplay, the turning points always occur at exactly the same place, the same percentage of time into the story. What happens twenty-five percent of the way into Avatar is the same thing that’s going to happen twenty-five percent of the way into Rango. But those percentages are much more fluid when it comes to novel writing, so novelists need only learn the six stages and have the awareness that they can be a bit more flexible about where those turning points might occur. Although usually, they’re not far off. When I’m teaching a class and I talk about what the mid-point is, which I call ‘the point of no return’, I’ll often ask if anybody has a novel with them, and somebody always does, so I’ll turn to the very middle page and read it, and almost always we see that it’s directly related to what should happen at the mid-point of the story.

2. Is there any difference in the process between writing a novel to writing a screenplay?

No, not that I can think of. The outcome or the product will be different, but the way you get there is the same. As my father-in-law who was a screenwriter for fifty years used to say, “The key to success is the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair”. You’re either sitting down writing, developing characters, a plot, dialogue, action, and description, or you’re not! I’ve never got a feeling when I’ve coached novelists that they approach it in any significantly different way than a screenwriter does. It’s just all about getting in there and doing it.

3. Can you name two or three main elements that every successful novel must have?

I can name three elements that every story must have. Stories to me are built on character, desire, and conflict. Every well told story has to have a protagonist, or a hero – someone that we’re emotionally connected to, that we empathise with – who is going to be our vehicle for experiencing the events and the emotion. That character has to want something desperately. And they have to face seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve it. I would challenge anybody to think of a successful novel, movie, play, or opera that lacks any one of those three things.

4. Would you say it is more or less difficult to sell a novel than to sell a screenplay?

Less difficult. And the reason is only because of numbers. In Hollywood, there might be around two hundred movies produced in any given year, compared to the large number of novels published. If you just look at romance novels, the numbers are quite great, because of the method in which a lot of romance fiction is sold, with series titles and the rotating stock…etc, so just the numbers game favours novelists compared to screenwriters.

5. As many screenplays are adapted from novels, how can a writer give their book the best chance of it being optioned for film?

The first thing is to make absolutely sure that the novel has a visible goal for the hero to achieve by the end. It can’t just be about the character’s inner journey. It can’t just be about the transformation of the character. An additional thing I’ve noticed about a key difference between Hollywood love stories or romantic comedies and romance novels, is in romance fiction, the idea of winning the love of the other character seems to consume the bulk of the novel, and the obstacles that stand in the character’s way are primarily inner conflicts. They’ve been burned in the past, they’re reeling from a bad relationship, the person who broke their heart before has come back into their life…etc. Now, I’m not talking about all genres of romantic fiction. If it’s a romantic suspense, then you’re going to have something a bit closer to a movie. In Hollywood love stories and romantic comedies, almost without exception, the protagonist is pursuing another goal, and then they meet the love interest, who is intertwined with that goal. So both goals retain their importance throughout the story.

Take a movie like Working Girl, which is a classic, formulaic romantic comedy. The primary story concept is all about Tess putting together that deal, and although the romance becomes the most important thing in the end, the screenplay never loses sight of what her original objective was, which is to put that deal together and get credit for it so she can be a broker. Whereas, I’ve read a number of romance novels where there might be a visible goal for the hero besides winning the love of the romance character, but that original goal diminishes as the story goes on. That sort of approach makes it much more difficult to have a novel adapted in Hollywood, because movies aren’t just about inner conflict or love affairs. The most successful love story on the screen financially would be Avatar, followed by Titanic, and in both of those movies the goal is clear apart from the love story and it dominates each story.

6. Can you give some examples of good movies that are helpful to analyse for writers of romantic or women’s fiction?

First of all, narrow the search in terms of the genre you’re writing, because in romance fiction there are all these different categories. When I first went to the RWA Nationals Awards Night, I was astonished, because I thought there were just ‘romance novels’ and I didn’t know there were all these different categories, like inspirational, urban, paranormal, and Regency. I didn’t even know what Regency was! So what you want to look for are antecedents, or models that are as close in terms of genre and style, not necessarily the plot itself, to what you write.

Romantic comedies have certain elements that can be very helpful in eliciting emotion even if you’re not writing a romantic comedy. One of the particular elements in Hollywood romantic comedies is the idea of deception. Almost all successful Hollywood romantic comedies, at least of recent vintage, involve somebody either keeping a big secret, or lying to somebody about something. For instance in Working Girl, she’s pretending to be a broker and she’s really a secretary, so if the truth comes out the repercussions will be huge. And that’s true in Tootsie, and in The Nutty Professor, and even in a movie like Sleepless in Seattle which is a more serious kind of approach with more dramatic elements, but Annie Reed is still keeping a secret from her fiancé, that she’s searching for this other guy she heard on the radio.

If you’re writing contemporary women’s fiction, you also want to look for Hollywood movies that have been successful with female heroes pursuing goals. For example, look at Sandra Bullock in The Proposal or The Blind Side, or Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich. You need to ask yourself what the key elements of your novel are and then search out successful movies that have that element, and look at how they created conflict and how they dealt with the plot issues that they were facing.

One of the key questions I always ask somebody when I’m working with them is, what are the antecedents for this story? In other words what can you point to and say, well that made money, so mine will make money. The reason I ask writers to think in those terms is because publishers and producers think that way. Publishers and producers may not have a great story sense, so when they don’t, or even if they do, what they want to do is replicate success. It’s not for nothing that The Hunger Games got published and was a big success on the heels of the Twilight series, which came along on the heels of Harry Potter. The other reason I ask what the antecedents are, is that in my coaching it allows us to look at movies or novels that the writer is familiar with, and I can say, look how they dealt with this situation, or, the thing this movie does that you’re not doing is___, whatever that might be. And then we can see if that example would offer a helpful change to make in my client’s novel or screenplay.

7. Movies show us the action as it unfolds, whereas novels have to conjure an image in the reader’s mind. How can writers get that vivid movie-like imagery in their stories so the reader feels they’re watching it as it happens?

This may be simplistic, but I think you answered your own question because you called it imagery. The number one thing is, think about what we would be seeing if this were a movie.

There isn’t as big a difference as you might think between movies and novels, because screenwriters are not writing for an audience, they’re writing for readers. It’s just that their readers are the people who can say ‘yes’ to the screenplay, and then somebody else makes it into a movie. So, a helpful tip for novelists is to actually read screenplays. Because a screenwriter has to be able to succinctly create images that show what’s going to be on the screen, and they have to do this within length constraints and without talking about the interior thoughts of a character. And if you read a good action passage in a novel, that’s going to do the same thing.

It’s one of the reasons by the way that a lot of novels have been adapted into bad movies, because the novel is very good at creating imagery in the mind of the reader, and the reader feels like she’s just seen a movie projected inside her head, so she assumes it would make a great movie, but that’s not always the case. That’s not all that goes into creating a great movie.

What you’re doing is looking for settings, objects, and visible character details (like clothing or body language) that are not only vivid but are going to be reflective of the psychological make-up of the character that occupies that setting, or wears those clothes.

In the romance fiction that I’ve read, this hasn’t been an issue. I’ve rarely read something that hasn’t allowed me to picture what’s going on, so maybe that’s encouraging! Don’t dwell on what the characters (or you) are feeling about what you’re writing, don’t get caught up in words to describe that. Think of what we would see if we were in that situation, and what would convey the feeling, or create the emotion that you want to create.

8. As writers we know how important conflict is in a story, but you also mention the benefits of having a reflection character; someone who helps the main character achieve their goal. Is this something every story should have, and why is it important?

A reflection character isn’t something every story should have, it’s just a tool you can use. In the same way that every story doesn’t need a love story, or a villain. But the first argument for using a reflection character is that often it will add credibility to a story. Remember, the obstacles the character faces have to seem insurmountable, but they have to figure out a way to overcome them anyway, and if they have help, then that can make your story more believable. Take a movie like The Karate Kid – if he didn’t have Mr. Miyagi (or Mr. Han in the more recent movie), then he’s never going to be able to stop that bully and win that tournament.

The second advantage to having a reflection character is that it gives the hero someone to talk to. Because at times, we want to know what the hero is planning, what they’re struggling with, and how they feel about things. There’s going to be a lot of stuff going on in a love story that the hero is not going to want to share with the person they’re attracted to, so with a reflection character they can have somebody else to talk things through with. It gives you a way to provide exposition or get inside the character without resorting to omniscient author narration.

The third reason is that a good reflection character must hold your hero’s feet to the fire. To point out when the protagonist is reverting to what I call, her identity – when she’s retreating into the safe existence that she was stuck in at the beginning of the story. Her emotional armour is preventing her from going after what will bring real fulfilment (such as the love of the romance character). You’ll see examples of this again and again in movies. My favourite reflection character is Donkey in Shrek. He’s repeatedly encouraging Shrek to peel back all those ‘layers’ and go after Princess Fiona.

In Good Will Hunting, the reflection character is Sean, the Robin Williams character. Why is he there? It’s primarily to keep encouraging Will Hunting to stop chickening out, to stop pretending he’s not who he is, and to stop retreating from his feelings for this woman, and getting him to finally find the courage to open up and let people see him for who he truly is.

The thing I want to point out is, you predicated the question by saying we all know there’s a need for conflict, but I talk about the value of a reflection character, as if the reflection provides the hero with some kind of trouble free support. But a good reflection character is a source of great conflict for the hero. Just because the reflection character is supporting the hero, does not mean they’re not in conflict because a good reflection character is going to keep pushing the hero towards fulfilling his destiny, and towards being authentic, rather than living inside the emotional armour that is protecting him at the start of the story. I can’t think of any good love story that doesn’t have an arc for the hero/heroine. And that arc is about finding the courage to move out of that protected state and moving into a state of really being yourself and standing up for who you truly are. It’s the reflection character who’s going to push the hero toward that, and the hero does not want that. We want our friends to be there for us but we don’t want them to try and change us. But if they’re really good friends, they’re going to be pointing out to us when we need to stop what we’re doing and do what’s going to ultimately bring us the greatest fulfilment or happiness.

So if your hero has a sidekick or best friend that she gets along with wonderfully throughout your novel, then that reflection isn’t doing her job.

9. You have seminars coming up in Sydney and Melbourne in March, can you tell us the benefits a novelist will get out of these events, and for those who have been to your previous seminars, will you be presenting any new information?

The number one thing, for novelists as well as screenwriters, is that you’ll be hearing my particular approach to story, and I talk in terms of story principles that are applicable to novels as well as film. Another thing is, I think it can be very helpful to hear the principles of story presented from a different point of view than a frame of reference that has always been from romance fiction, because I’m taking a Hollywood point of view. I’ll be showing movie clips, and when you see these principles in action in something from another context, and see how directly applicable it is to romance fiction, I think that can be fun, different, and helpful, and help shift your point of view to look at what you’re doing in a new way.

The other thing, and one of the reasons I’m comfortable saying this, is the reason I first went to the RWA Nationals about five or six years ago in the US, the first time I’d ever spoken to a romance writers group, I’d been giving lectures on love stories and romantic comedies for screenwriters, and the principles seemed like they would apply, so I thought it would be worth a try. The reception was really positive, and since then I’ve been to numerous chapter conferences and other RWA national conferences, and I consistently hear how helpful these principles have been to novelists. So I can say with confidence that romance writers are going to learn stuff that they will be able to apply to their own fiction. And what most people, especially romance writers, seem to like is the way I approach the inner journey of the character and how it intertwines with the outer journey. In other words, the character arc or transformation and how that is intertwined with this visible journey of pursuing a visible goal, and then how that is essential to creating powerful love stories.

One of the things I discuss is what I consider to be the biggest weakness in most love stories, and how if you understand how a character arc works, you can solve that problem and avoid that weakness, and really create two people who belong together, rather than just two people who fall for each other because they’re sexy and because you want them to. Because it’s never about sex. Sex can be the spark that starts it, but it’s always about intimacy. Another way to look at it is that it’s never about getting naked, it’s about getting really naked; exposing the truth of who you are and finding the courage to reveal that to your partner. And I think people have found that extremely helpful.

For people who have been to any of my previous seminars, I wanted this workshop to be valuable for them, so I added new elements to it. I’m still presenting the core aspects of my approach which is the six stage structure, the intertwining inner journey and outer journey, character arc, and the idea of this tug-of-war between the identity of the protective self and the essence or truth that the characters are hiding. But I’m presenting the information in a different way, and adding elements to talk about scene writing, choosing concepts, what makes a high concept story, and pitching. One of my books is called ‘Selling Your Story in Sixty Seconds, and I’m going to include a segment on those principles, about how to get somebody to read your manuscript when you’ve only got about sixty seconds or so to persuade them. And how to take advantage of that opportunity in such a way that will guarantee that the person wants to read your manuscript.

One of things I’ll say is that if you’ve got say five minutes to pitch, one of the biggest mistakes writers make is to take five minutes! That’s not what you should do with that time, so I talk about how you need to be able to pitch it in under two minutes, and what to do after that two minutes is over, and why it needs to be that brief. The other thing I’ll be adding, and this may not be as big a deal to romance writers as to screenwriters, but I’m going to use clips from an Australian movie, Red Dog, which was the most successful Australian movie at last year’s box office. I will also discuss an Australian television series as an example of creating ongoing characters and writing episodic scripts.

10. You also do one on one coaching for writers. What can a writer expect to receive from your coaching packages, and how might this differ from working with a freelance editor?

Although I always give a lot of style suggestions on manuscripts or screenplays, I’m not an editor, so when I work with novelists, what they usually want and what I feel is most valuable for them to get from me is dealing with their story. Not so much their style in presenting it, because there are editors who can really help them with things like wordiness, or typos and punctuation, or dialogue. What I’m doing is coaching novelists on the concept of the story at an early stage in the process. They’ve come up with an idea and they want to know if it’s going to work. Or, I’ll take their story concept and work with them to improve the structure of the story and the arc for the protagonist. Those are the things I feel are my strong points.

Often what I’ll tell a novelist that if they have a completed manuscript, instead of paying me for all the time it takes to read the whole manuscript, let me read two chapters and a brief outline, because that’s enough for me to get the tone of it and some sense of the style and how you want it to read, and enough so we can get down to the core issues of structure and character development.

What I’ll often recommend initially, instead of getting one of the coaching packages that you see on my website (www.storymastery.com), is to book an hour of my time first. Give me a one page outline of the story, and we’ll talk for an hour. We can accomplish so much in this time. I very rarely advise someone not to follow through with their story, but we can find the weaknesses in the concept if they’re there, and figure out if the story you want to do has commercial potential. In an hour I can usually get to the point where I can identify the five key turning points, and then if you know what that basic overall six stage structure is, and you know the concept is solid, and you know the kind of arc you’re taking the character through, then you’ve got a lot to work with and a lot more confidence going into the first draft of the manuscript. Then, after you get further into the story, you can get a package, send me some chapters and a full outline and we can go into more detail with it. Starting out with a one hour session allows writers to put their foot in the water and see if the process is helpful, and can save a lot of time by making sure the story is worth pursuing before putting all that time and energy into it.


Thank you, Michael, for taking the time to speak with us, I’ve learned a lot personally so I know the other members of RWA will find the information and tips you’ve given us very valuable.

This was fun! And you came up with some of the best questions I’ve heard. You never asked me how I got my start, or what I think the state of Hollywood movies is. I find all those things so boring. But you asked about story, and things that can actually help writers, and I think that’s really cool.


Michael Hauge will be presenting his one-day seminar, Advanced Story Mastery: Creating Stories that Sell, in Sydney and Melbourne in March. It has been designed for both screenwriters and novelists, and is very relevant to writers of romance fiction. For the Melbourne event, RWA members are entitled to a discount (please see the RWA forum for details).

Sydney: March 17th 9am-6pm at AFTRS http://www.open.aftrs.edu.au/course/mh02

Melbourne: March 24th 9am-6pm at RMIT http://www.epiphany.com.au/

Michael’s website: www.storymastery.com

Perfect Pitch – Byron Bay Writers Festival – Guest Post by Annette Kendall

My heart pounds, my mouth is dry and my head swims as I imagine standing in front of a 200 strong crowd to deliver my manuscript pitch, and it’s still 5 days away.  I am delighted and already feel like a winner having been selected to pitch my manuscript ‘Lost in Kakadu’ at the Bryon Bay Writers Festival. But of course I want to deliver a pitch that is both entertaining and gives me the best chance of a manuscript request from one or all three publishers that will be watching.

I agonised over the perfect words to deliver and thankfully the pitch workshop four days before the big event gave me focus, direction and some great tips. Last year’s pitcher – Neil Young told us of his experience and subsequent publication and Author Jesse Blackadder detailed the do’s and don’t of a perfect pitch. The evening was fun and informative and a great opportunity to meet the other five winners.  For two days after that I rehearsed my pitch over and over until I knew it off by heart, but at the same time I was grateful that a rostrum would be on the stage to hold me up should my knees fail and hold my notes should I forget my speech.

Saturday morning rolls around fast and as the crowd gathers in the tent I am delighted by the energetic vibe and begin to relax, knowing that as long as I get my first sentence out I’ll be okay.  The other five pitchers are just as nervous as I am and we are comforted by last year’s winner who assures us that the crowd wants us to do well.

After a brief introduction I’m finally on the stage, the publishers sit to my left and I realise that not only is every seat full but every available space in the marquee is occupied with someone standing. As I look around at the crowd I feel their genuine interest in my story and this is exactly what I’m here for – to get my novel into the public arena. I begin: “My name is Annette Kendall, and I’m passionate about our Australian wilderness and I love a thrilling adventure, this is why I wrote – Lost in Kakadu.” Great – the first sentence is out and I’m on my way. During my pitch I felt like I engaged the crowd, locking eyes with people who nod with interest, and they laugh when they were supposed to and everyone clapped with genuine applause at the end.

All three publishers gave me great feedback and John Hunter from UQ Press commented that my story was a cross between and I quote ‘Queer Eye for a Straight Guy, Masterchef and Survivor’ and he is spot on with this comment so I know my job here is done.

The whole experience was exhilarating and best of all, Allen and Unwin requested a copy of my manuscript.  I would like to thank Northern Rivers Writers Centre and The Byron Bay Writers Festival for giving me this wonderful experience and I look forward to going to the festival again next year.

Michael Hauge ~ The Story Mastery Seminar

Posted on behalf of Dana Fletcher-Scully

Are you looking for that one seminar or workshop that will put it all together for you and get your writing noticed?  Well 2011 is your lucky year and March is the month it will happen for you!

On Saturday, 12 March (9:00am-5:00pm), renowned Hollywood script and story consultant Michael Hauge, best-selling author of Writing Screenplays That Sell and Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read, will present The Story Mastery Seminar.  This is his unique approach to creating compelling fiction and to eliciting emotion in readers. Using clips from recent blockbuster love stories and romantic comedies, along with hands on exercises, Michael will help you strengthen yo

ur story concepts, plot structure, love stories, character development and themes.

Workshop alumni Barbara Hannay and Marion Lennox had this to say about Michael’s unique brand of romance writing teaching…

“The Michael Hauge workshop I attended in Melbourne last year was inspirational! I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a clearer analysis of the romance genre.

In many ways Michael tells us what we already know, that eliciting emotion is key, that characters must grow and change, that we must be brave enough to tackle REALLY STRONG conflict.

However, Michael’s precise explanations and his extremely helpful examples turn on light bulb after light bulb. Romance writers at every level of experience will be excited by his insights.” Barbara Hannay is a multi-published, award-winning, bestselling author of thirty-seven novels published in over twenty-five languages worldwide.  Her new release Molly Cooper’s Dream Date (Mills & Boon) is in stores NOW—February 2011.

“After more than eighty published novels, you’d think I know stuff.  Sadly for me, I simply write stuff and hope.  Some of it works.  A whole lot ends up as trash.   One value packed seminar with Michael, however,  and I finally have insight into why my writing’s hit and miss.   Michael’s discussion of identity and essence, his guidance through steps in developing story, his reassurance that formula is my friend, these were all eye-openers.  Light bulbs exploded, left and centre.  His workshop left me feeling like I’m about to waste a whole lot less time, and I can’t recommend his teaching highly enough.” Double RITA and RUBY winner, Marion Lennox, is a best-selling author with over 80 romances published with Harlequin Mills & Boon!  Watch out for her upcoming releases–Abby and the Bachelor Cop (Mills & Boon April 2011) and Misty and the Single Dad (Mills & Boon April 2011).

In addition to The Story Mastery seminar on Saturday, Michael will also be presenting The Story Mastery Workshop especially for RWA members!  Each of the twelve participants in this unique event will submit a 1-2 page outline of a novel or screenplay, which will be read in advance by Michael and all the other participants*. During the workshop Michael will provide individual guidance to each member of the group, followed by some group discussion of each of the projects. Particular attention will be paid to applying Michael’s principles for story concept, plot structure, character arc, love stories, underlying theme and commercial potential, and to helping each writer realize his or her personal vision for the story.

*This event may run overtime in order to cover all individual works.  Participants email addresses will be provided to the entire group, and outlines must be submitted no later than 10 days prior to the event. It is understood that participants agree to read everyone else’s work prior to commencement of the day.

WhereAspire Hotel Ultimo Sydney http://www.aspirehotel.com/

Costs—Saturday only:  RWA Members $150; Non-members  $200

Sunday only:  $250 (RWA Members only)

Saturday and Sunday: $375

Hurry enrolment is limited!

If you only attend one writing seminar this year, make it this one!

Don’t miss out on this exciting opportunity to learn

from one of the industry’s best!

Book online at: http://www.romanceaustralia.com/seminars.html

Critiquing? Let’s brainstorm (with Anne Gracie)

Hi, Anne Gracie here, thinking about how critique groups and critique partners have become such a huge part of a writing life.

I know I can’t get along without the help of my writing mates. I have a book just out (The Accidental Wedding — and it has a beeeyoutiful cover! Yay!)  On the dedication page is a list of some of the people who helped me get it there.

The longer I’ve been published the less I know about what editors want —  so leave the possibilities open and be your friend’s incredibly helpful reader, not their teacher, mentor or advisor.

The hardest part of the critique process comes after the beginner level is past. Often people are at a loss when they read someone’s work, especially if problems are few and far between. What if there are no typos, no grammar mistakes, no head hopping, no obvious problems? Where do you go then?

I think one of the most important things is to respond to a piece, not correct it.

I’m offering some suggestions here, but I’d love it if anyone reading the blog would add to the list. Maybe then we can put it all together and pop it in HeartsTalk for everyone to benefit from.


*What’s good about the piece?

What parts did you like? Tick the good bits.

Did you find any parts particularly interesting or striking in some way? eg dramatic, tense, funny, beautiful, clever, effective, etc.? Note the words in the manuscript that created this effect. This is really useful

If there’s any confusing bit, say you got confused, but leave it for them to fix.

*The Plot:

What’s the central conflict in the book? Brainstorm a log-line or premise and use it as a compass for your book.

Here’s an example from The Accidental Wedding (out now with a gorrrrgeous cover 😉

An injured man, a desperate woman…

She saves his life. He fakes amnesia…

Is there a core of conflict at the heart of each scene?

Is the plot moving along well?

How does this incident fit into the plot overall?

What are the emotional consequences of this incident for the hero / heroine?

What are the plot consequences of this incident?

Any weak or clichéd plot devices? Can they be improved? Twisted to make a surprise? Readers love good surprises.

Brainstorm some ‘what ifs’.

*The Characters:

Are the characters coming to life? What words, phrases, actions, etc. make them come to life?

What impressions do we get of the hero / heroine? Jot them down and link those impressions to the words actually on the page.

Over time, look at how the characters are developing through the story. Novels are about character change. How are these characters changing? What causes the change?

Are their actions convincing? Motivations clear? If not ask questions.

Attraction ratings of hero / heroine. What makes them attractive? Anything that puts you off them? Note the words in the manuscript that created this effect.

Minor characters – are they effective? There for a good reason? In danger of dominating?

*The Chapter:

Does it open well? Close well, with a hook to draw the reader on?

Questions raised in the reader’s mind make for a page-turner. What “story questions” or “scene questions” are operating in this piece?

How does it stand in relation to other chapters read?

Is the pacing working? Could the piece be tightened for pace?

Anything left out that could perhaps be included? Too much detail? Not enough detail?

* The Romance:

How well is it developing? Does it involve/intrigue/excite the reader?

Are their actions/responses well grounded and believable?

Is the reader barracking?

Are there any places it’s sagging? Suggestions for overcoming this.

Are the barriers to the protagonists’ happiness convincing? Original?

* Feel free to tell them it’s wonderful and that nothing needs redrafting. But only if it’s true.

So what about you? Do you have any suggestions for things people can comment on?

What’s a useful piece of advice you received about your writing?

I’ll give a copy of The Accidental Wedding (the book with the scrumptious cover!) to whoever offers a piece of advice I think is the most useful.

The Accidental Wedding

An injured man, a desperate woman…
She saves his life. He fakes amnesia…

When Nash Renfrew wakes in the bed of lovely Maddy Woodford, he has no memory.  In the days following his accident, he is charmed by her bright outlook on life, but he lives for the nights, when she joins him chastely—more or less—in her bed. When his memory returns, Nash asks for just one more night before he leaves. But it’s one night too many and it creates a scandal that leaves him no choice but to offer her marriage.

With five orphaned half-siblings in her charge, Maddy needs the security Nash offers and can’t resist the promise of passion she’s experienced in his embrace. Well born, but poverty-stricken, Maddy knows she’s not the wife he planned on, but he’s everything she’s ever dreamed of. But will passion be enough? He’s a diplomat who knows Czars and Princes and Grand-dukes and she’s just a country girl who’s never even been to a ball.  Can their new-found love survive , or will this accidental marriage destroy her dreams and his career?

  • Publisher: Berkley (October 5, 2010)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425233825

For more about Anne Gracie, visit her website.


And the winner of The Accidental Wedding is Bronwyn!

Guest Post: Erica Hayes

Today’s guest blogger is Erica Hayes. The third book in her Shadowfae Chronicles, Poison Kissed, was released yesterday.

Too many notes: how to fix overwriting

Emperor Josef once famously said to the genius composer Mozart, while critiquing a passage from his new opera: “There are too many notes!”

Mozart’s reply: “Which ones do you suggest I leave out?”

As writers, we can all relate to Mozart’s indignation. It’s a staple of rejection letters and obscure contest feedback: ‘this story is overwritten’. But what exactly does it mean, and how can you fix it?

For starters, the term is often poorly used.  People see a few adjectives and descriptive sentences and call it ‘overwritten’. But overwriting isn’t merely about adjectives. It’s any paragraph, sentence, even a single word, that isn’t doing its job.

Overwriting is excess words. Words that don’t add meaning. Words that inflate your word count and slow down your prose without doing anything to help. These parasitic words destroy pacing, invite the reader to skim and make your story boring. And none of us want that, right?

So forget adjectives for a moment. Check any passage in your WIP. You might have ‘that’s and ‘then’s and ‘up’s and ‘down’s that don’t need to be there. ‘He stood’ and ‘he stood up’ mean the same, don’t they? Kill the ‘up’ and lose a word. ‘Just’ and ‘only’ are parasite words too. ‘Of’ is another. Why say ‘the edge of the table’ when ‘the table’s edge’ will do? That’s two words gone.

Have you included actions that aren’t required? ‘She walked to the fridge, opened the door, got out the milk, opened the carton, took a glass from the cupboard, and poured herself a glass of milk.’ That takes longer to read than to happen. Page time equals importance in the reader’s eyes, and if you spend that long, that reader will expect the milk to feature later on. If you say ‘she fetched a glass of milk’, readers will assume the rest.

Stephen King said the road to hell is paved with adverbs. They litter the road to overwriting, that’s for sure. Dig them up and find a stronger verb. ‘Walked quickly’ could be ‘strode’ or ‘marched’ or ‘hurried’, or just plain ‘walked’.

Check your dialogue. Do characters say each other’s names all the time? Not so in real life. Cut it. Do you have umms, ahhs, hesitations, half-sentences? Dialogue is not real speech, so you can cut anything that doesn’t further the story. Do you have dialogue attributions (he said, she said) where it’s clear from the context who’s speaking? Cut them.

Finally, we get to adjectives. Cut ’em all, right? Not necessarily. It depends on your style (or ‘voice’, as everyone insists on calling it). If you write in deep point of view, you’ll generally need more adjectives. Fewer if you’re writing a pure action scene. But examine each closely. You’re looking for words that don’t add anything. If you cut them, would meaning be lost? Would the scene lose colour or texture? Would anyone notice, in fact, except you?

You might find tautologies, or ‘big tall man disease’: multiple adjectives that mean the same thing. Pick one and cut the rest. Do you have multiple adjectives describing a small detail, giving it importance it doesn’t deserve? Remember that page time equals importance in a reader’s eyes. Pick the best descriptor and let it stand alone.

I can imagine those of you who’ve read my Shadowfae Chronicles books laughing and pointing sarcastic fingers at the idea of me cutting adjectives. Okay, yes. I admit it. I’m an out-and-proud adjective queen. Anyone who writes erotic fantasy about fairies isn’t exactly aspiring to be Hemingway. But in a way, that’s the point of my stories: they’re full of scents, sounds and rainbow colours that can bear a lot of heavy description before they lose lustre. And believe me, what you’re reading is the pared-down version. In the context of my genre, I’m as conscious of overwriting as anyone.

So getting rid of overwriting is about efficiency, and the best words for the job. But it’s also about style, and your style is your own. No one can teach you your voice. It’s like pruning a rose bush: if you don’t, it’ll get messy, but cut it back too harshly, and it’ll die.

But beware of trimming too neatly, and making your rose bush too much like everyone else’s. Editors already have a Julia Quinn and a J.R. Ward and a Linnea Sinclair in their garden. They don’t want another one. They want you. So be efficient with your words, and trim off the dead foliage – but don’t be afraid of that unexpected bloom.

POISON KISSED ~ Book 3 of the Shadowfae Chronicles

Beyond the veil of magic, a fairy otherworld pulses with glamour and dark beauty. It’s a place where passions run deep and dark and death is just one kiss away…

Mina is a banshee whose greatest power lies in her siren song. She’s beholden to her boss Joey, a snake-shifter who once saved her life and now employs her as a gang enforcer. She refuses to upset the fragile balance between them by admitting that she longs for him, that his embrace is the only thing she craves more than revenge for her mother’s death…

When Mina learns that Joey may have been involved in her mother’s murder, fury threatens to spill out of her, note by vicious note. She and Joey have always trusted each other to stay alive, but now she’s not sure what to believe. The evidence stacked against him — or the one man who haunts her dreams and burns in her blood…

You can find Erica on the net:

Website: http://www.shadowfae.net

Blog: http://faerylite.livejournal.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ericahayes

Erica is giving away a copy of Poison Kissed to one lucky commentator….so comment away!

Craft: Sprinting

Get ready, get set, go…… sprint! No, I don’t mean running but using sprint sessions to propel your writing forward.    

I have found especially in the last June Challenge organised by our lovely Sandie and Diane (50ks in 30 days Challenge), that sprinting sessions are a benefit to my writing. I can switch off the internal editor and go for it, and since I’m a pantser /flimmer/mister/freestyler – that is all right by me. It also fits into my routine (well my life I should say) and the way my mind works.

So how does it work? – well while I can do individual sprints, I have noticed it’s best when there is at least one other person sprinting at the same time (waves to the Bootcamp 101ers who did continue sprinting in July). The encouragement we give each other is a  real boost.

We meet in the relevant chat room, have a quick chat and set a time period for how long we want to sprint for – either 15 mins or 30 mins. We crack the whip! and away we go… That’s the whip in the chat room folks, I don’t know what you all were thinking. 😀

We sprint for the time period and come back to report. We may debrief and do some brainstorming and have a little chat, but usually we go for a second round.  Simple as that!

Because there is a start time and an end time it helps me move along and not waste time. I don’t look at emails, twitter, or other internet, & tell my family ‘I’m sprinting’ if they come into the room.

I managed over 17000 words in June, with my final week having a total of 10K. I finished off the first draft to my WIP in the first week of July and have been taking a break from first draft writing.  I do find it harder to edit in a sprint but have been known to try 🙂 but my first drafts seem to run smoother if I just chain up my internal editor. (La,la, la –  I can’t hear you internal editor!!!)

Once I’m in first draft mode again, I shall be on the track reading to sprint along.

What do you think of sprinting?

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