OWL 2 for November. Have you heard about Miss Jones? Understanding character-driven plotting through analysing Bridget Jones’s Diary.


Have You Heard About Miss Jones? Understanding Character Driven Plotting Through Analysing Bridget Jones’ Diary with Samantha Bond.

You’re probably familiar with the phrase: “the plot thickens”. But exactly what is plot and how, as a writer, do you come up with your own original, compelling plots?

Let’s hand over to the amazing Samantha Bond so she can tell us…

Do you love writing but find that you either:

  1. a) have trouble coming up with ideas for stories, or
  2. b) start stories only to run out of steam part-way through?

I had both of those issues once too.

In fact, the main thing that scared the bejesus out of me when I started my first novel was knowing just what to write. I had the kernel of an idea and a few characters, but how was I going to spin this into 300-400 pages of novel? “Outline it”, I was told. Plot it out so you don’t have to face the terror of the blank page.

Great advice, if you know how to do it.

At that point in my writing career, I didn’t know how to plot or outline, so I invested many hours in learning how plot works. I read and I did courses and I hassled people far more learned than me, and I discovered that there’s so much information on plot that it can be overwhelming and therefore not very useful. But the good news for any of you considering doing my Bridget Jones inspired OWL on plotting, is that I’ve filtered through lots of that information for you. The result is what I believe to be a simple and workable model for understanding and using plot.

Because she’s awesome, I’ve drawn inspiration from iconic chic lit character, Bridget Jones, to demonstrate ideas and explain the concept of character-led plotting. And to demonstrate that character-led plotting works for just about every type of story, not just Rom Com’s, I’ve also used 80s action hunk, Bruce Willis, and his equally iconic character from Die Hard, John McLane, to show it in, ahem, action in action stories.

If you were lucky enough to see Michael Hauge at the RWA convention in August, then some of the theory in this course will be familiar. That’s because this isn’t new information. Information about plotting and how story works has been around forever. But what is different about my course is its practical application. I’m an action gal — I want to know how to USE information, not just read it. And so the focus for this OWL is on getting you to put character-led plotting theories into action to generate your own original plots. All the theory in the world is great, but if you can’t easily apply it, it’s really not that much good to you. So while I’m certainly not claiming to be any Micheal Hauge, I do think this is a good adjunct to his wonderful workshop because it shows you the nuts and bolts of things and how you can get that theory working for you in a practical sense.

Basically, by the end of this OWL, I want you to have an understanding of what plot is, how it functions in fiction, and how you can generate your own plots in your writing. I want you to never fear the blank page again because, once you’ve done this when someone wisely advises you to “outline it”, you’ll know exactly how.

Hope to see you over at my November OWL, Have you heard about Miss Jones? Understanding character-driven plotting through analysing Bridget Jones’s Diary. It’s gonna be a blast with big knickers!


Course Dates: 01/11/2016 – 28/11/2016

Cost: RWA Member – $30. Non-RWA Member – $40.

Register at:  http://www.romanceaustralia.com/owl/26

The trick is to understand the difference between ‘story’ and ‘plot’. In this workshop, Samantha will demonstrate how plot works through an analysis of arguably the greatest chick-lit novel of all time, Bridget Jones’ Diary. But more than simply analyse, this workshop will arm participants with tools to create their own plots through an understanding of how characters reacting to challenge results in plot. While this course will examine theory, it is a hands-on practical course designed to get you writing.

Samantha Bond is a reformed corporate lawyer, now writer and public servant. Her creative work has been published in numerous national literary journals, anthologies and magazines. She has an Advanced Diploma of Professional Writing winning the award for Highest Overall Achievement for her graduating class, and now teaches in that course. Samantha also writes reviews for the Indaily and Glam Adelaide and between these two publications, has had over 200 reviews published. Samantha does freelance corporate writing work as well as creative writing mentoring and if you’d like her services, she’s contactable through her website www.samanthastaceybond.com). Finally, Samantha is a busy mum of two littlies, is an unapologetic chocolate addict, believes that Buffy would so slay Edward (which perhaps shows her age) and is a writers’ festival groupie.

Keep Writing – by Anne Gracie

Today we have a guest blogger, the lovely Anne Gracie, with a post on getting yourself going – just in time for 50k in 30 days!
If you like this, and want more Anne, she is involved in a Winter Writing Workshop this June in Melbourne.  Details at the bottom of this post.

Hi all, Anne Gracie here. I’ve spoken in a few places about the importance of writing regularly — I firmly believe that writing is like a muscle, and the more you do the better you get. The trouble is, it’s sometimes hard to find the time to write.

Or is it?

How much time do you really need to write?

I take quite a lot of writing classes, and in almost all of them I ask participants to do at least one writing exercise. To start with, we talk about some idea, toss around a few possibilities to get the mind spinning, and then I say, “Write.” (Oh, the power <g>)

And for 10—15 minutes, people write. Sometimes it takes them a few minutes to get going, sometimes there’s a false start or two, but usually after a few minutes everyone is writing. And by the time I say “Stop.” most people aren’t ready to stop — they could go on for quite a bit longer. But in that 10—15 minutes most people write around a page — some do more, others less, but for most people, it’s around 250 words.

If you wrote 250 words a day every day for a year, you’d have a novel.

Or, to put it another way, if you wrote for 15 minutes a day, every day for a year, you’d have a novel.

Ok, you’d probably need to put in some longer stints, and do some rewriting, but the hardest thing about starting writing is . . . starting.

I know. I’m a champion procrastinator. I tend to put off starting, knowing I’m going to be chained to the computer for the rest of the day — or thinking it. It’s not actually true. But even if I’m seated at my computer, all ready to work, I still come up with all sorts of reasons why I’m not going to start writing just yet — I need to check my email and see if my editor or agent has written, I should just pop into facebook or twitter for a moment, after all, social networking is important, etc. — the excuses could go on for hours.

So for me, the way to start is to do a writing exercise of some kind. Just for fifteen minutes.

One of my favorite writing routines is what I call “doing Dorothea.” It’s explained more fully here ( http://www.annegracie.com/writing/DorotheaBrande.html ) but basically it involves doing two planned stints of writing every day. The first is first thing in the morning, and the second is when you make an appointment to write — you look at your schedule for the day and work out a time when you’ll have 15 minutes free to write. And then you keep that appointment religiously.

Once you start doing that for a week or so — the morning writing and the appointment to write — you’ll find that your resistance to starting is slowly disappearing. And your writing muscle is getting stronger.

So most mornings, whether I’m doing Dorothea or not, I’ll sit down at the table, set the alarm for 15 minutes, and write. I’m not a great typist — I’m fast but the typos fly —and for me, handwriting is the easiest because the typos invite in the internal editor, and for this exercise, I don’t want that internal editor anywhere near me. But there’s no right way to do it — go with whatever suits you best.

And by the time the timer goes off, I’m well into the writing zone.

There’s also a secret to making your fifteen minutes really productive.

Remember when I said that in my writing classes, we talk about the scene we’re going to write, and toss around some ideas before we start. It really helps if you can think a bit about your scene before you try to write it. Once you get into the habit of this, you’ll find you can plot while you’re going all sorts of other things, and then, when you come to write, the scene will just flow out of you.

Start by writing a list of “what-ifs” — brainstorming possibilities for the scene.

If you find yourself unable to decide whose point of view, or whether to have the scene on a bus or in the bedroom, or make them fight or make love, just toss a coin and go with the flow. You can always rewrite, and it’ll be stronger for the rewriting.

And if you don’t have a scene in mind, try the “classic” kind of writing exercises:

* mood pieces inspired by scents or sounds or places:

eg the smell of a bakery early in the morning

eg sound of rain on the roof at night, a feeling of safety, a time to dream…

* write an ‘in-the-moment’ piece from your character’s point of view.

Where are they? What are they seeing, smelling , hearing, touching, etc.

* recreate an important memory from your character’s childhood:

– have them tell someone.

* write a conversation between two characters where one of them is trying to conceal something

* a piece of sexy flirting – just hurl the dialogue down. It might sound stiff at first, but soon it’ll flow.

* your character comes into a room unexpectedly and finds. . .

* think about a situation a character would hate and put them into it. Then write the scene.

Start a file of possible exercises. I have a box of little cards with idea and writing exercises on them. There are times when I just want to write something different, and so I pull one out at random and write in response.

It doesn’t matter if you never use any of these scenes — it’s only 15 minutes of your day, and you’ve strengthened your writing muscles anyway and added to your toolbox of writing techniques. But I bet you’ll find that you use a lot.

So start exercising those writing muscles and get into a routine of writing. There’s only one way to write a novel — word by word, page by page, fifteen minutes by fifteen minutes.

Winter Writing Workshop

Anne Gracie is taking writing workshops in Melbourne on the weekend of June 15th—17th, along with Crime writer Shane Maloney and Kate Forsyth.

It sounds like a wonderful weekend of workshops and Melbourne Uni is a lovely venue (Ed.)

More information here:


First published by Harlequin, Anne Gracie is now with Berkley USA/Penguin Australia. She’s a three-time RITA finalist, has twice won the Romantic Book of the Year (Australia) and the National Reader’s Choice Award in the USA, and was listed in Library Journal (USA) best books of the year. Five of her books have received DIK (Desert Island Keepers) status on All About Romance, and she’s been translated into sixteen different languages. Anne is proud to be a Lifetime Member of Romance Writers of Australia.


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!

5DI Wrap-Up

For all those wondering how it went, here is a wrap of the inaugral 5DI. The week ran from the 10th – 16th July and participants were divided into three pods according to genre (category, historical/mainstream, suspense/paranormal). Below three participants, one from each pod, give their perspective:


Pod: The Lara’s (Paranormal/Suspense)  Mentor: Fiona Brand  Manuscript genre: Paranormal

Why you entered 5DI: I have come close in comps and have had partials and whole ms requests from editors, but just haven’t been able to take that final step. I figured I was missing something or wasn’t understanding some crucial thing they are looking for and thought that if I got into the 5DI, my mentor might be able to help me with this and help me take a bigger step down the path.

The highlight of your week: I loved the whole week, but there are three things that really stand out.

1)Spending time each day with Fiona was fantastic. I actually had one of those ‘light bulb’ moments in regards to the whole first section of my ms – I’d written it in a passive voice because my main character was quite young, but just by making her a little older and changing the prologue into an inciting incident, it changed everything that came after and turned the writing from passive into active. I really began to understand this concept that I’ve struggled with and learning how to cut for pace, something Fiona is really very good at. She’s a great book doctor. I feel like I can take what I learned and apply it to other things I’ve written and will write in the future.

2) Having actual time to write every day was pretty special too. Usually I’m trying to squeeze it around kids and work and time with the hubby and family and housework (although that very often only gets a quick going over! LOL). Actually having whole days to spend on something I love was just invigorating. I feel rejuvenated and enthused about everything now, not just my writing. Really must carve out some time for myself!

3) I also just loved the whole atmosphere of being among like-minded people and being able to walk down the hall and have a chat or a brainstorm with someone, either on my work or on someone else’s. It was an incredibly positive creative experience and I’d love to do it all again.

The toughest thing about the week: I didn’t really have a tough thing. I suppose, waiting to be given the report was pretty nerve-wracking. Everyone disappeared pretty quickly after that and I have to say, I didn’t sleep much the first night. My brain was going into overdrive thinking over what had been said and ways I could try to embrace Fiona’s suggestions without losing what I feel is integral to the book. It was all good though. Even with lack of sleep, I was enthused and ready to go and give the new stuff a try and see if I could make it all work. And it did! It was pretty cool.

Where to from here: Fiona told me my novel was ready to send out and encouraged me to approach agents with it. I’ve been busy writing a query letter and synopsis and compiling lists of agents I want to submit to (with my wonderful husbands help). It’s pretty nerve-wracking, trying to express my 100,000 word novel, my voice, my characters’ GMC’s, my major plot themes etc etc etc into a few pages. But I’ve got some great crit partners from a writing group and Sue, who was also in the paranormal pod, has been fantastic, looking over this stuff and giving me feedback. So, I’m pretty lucky really.

Other: I just want to say that if anyone is toying with the idea of entering the 5DI next year, just go for it. What have you got to lose? – you could have a whole lot to gain. I know I had a really positive experience that doesn’t represent everyone’s experience, but if you want to learn, to improve, to gain fresh and new insights, and to spend time with other writers in an informal atmosphere where writing and talking writing and being with others who are the same as you in trying to fit writing into their everyday life with all its ups and downs (in other words, people who have great insight into what your life is like and not only sympathise, but empathise) then this is for you. I loved it. I would do it again tomorrow if I could. And now I know for certain that my writing is good enough to get published and that has given me the impetus I needed to keep charging ahead toward that goal despite all the difficulties and road blocks that are put up in a very challenging industry.


Pod: The Bon Ton (Historical/Mainstream) Mentor: Sophia James Manuscript genre: Historical/Mainstream

Why you entered 5DI: Due to my on-going studies in writing at university, I decided that 2009 I would have a year off from all writing. Having given myself this time out, I found that at the beginning of 2010 I was ready to re-connect with my writing, and to give myself time to explore a variety of opportunities that might be out there for an emerging writer. Initally, I was accepted into a 6 week Writer’s course with the South Australian Writer’s Centre which commenced in Feruary, and during this time I was able to have the beginnings of my attempt at historical writing critiqued by group members. As a result of the feedback received, I re-wrote my first chapter. At about this time I received the RWA Newsletter advising of the 5DI. I had always thought attending a residential writing program would be a great way to challenge myself as a writer, and challenge whether I thought I had any ability in this field as well. I only submitted the chapter at about 11.00 pm (ish) the night of the 5DI closing date.

When I received the email advising that I had been accepted into 5DI, I think you could have heard the screams from Adelaide! However, reality suddenly set in, as I also realised that I need to produce a first draft manuscript in less than 2 months – and at that stage I literally only had 1.5 chapters! That, in itself was very sobering, and I set myself the challenge of meeting the manuscript deadline.

The highlight of your week: It is very hard for me to distinguish one particular highlight during the 5DI week, because when I look back at it – as corny and cliched as it might sound, there were quite a few highlights for me that were very personal. After the first night, I woke up on the Sunday morning, and realised probably for the first time in my life, that I didn’t have to be at work, didn’t have to care for children, didn’t have to clean, cook or look after other people’s needs, and although it might sound incredibly selfish, it was a very liberating experience, as I realised that I had time to just write; to just let thoughts, ideas, etc simmer and that I had the luxury of setting my own agenda for the week.

On that first night, when I first read my report about my manuscript from my mentor, I realised that all of the elements, feedback and recommendations provided by Sophia, where very much what I had realised in my own work. After I had finished my manuscript and submitted it in mid-May, I deliberately did not look at it again until 5DI, as I wanted the time to just let things sit, and to re-visit it during my time away, perhaps looking at it with fresh eyes.

The ultimate highlight for me, was when I was reading Sophia my re-written pieces and she started to cry, and said ‘you’ve just got it!’. That really resonated with me. 

The toughest thing about the week: Isolation – when you are just in your little room, writing and working away, it is easy to withdraw and to stay that way. I was the only person from Adelaide, and at times I felt somewhat lonely. I got a bit emotional about the fourth day in, realising that I missed my two sons and my husband. Once I got over that, I was fine and actually made some wonderful friends!

Also, being very new to RWA; the historical genre and to the other genres, I found it difficult, at times to understand all of the acronyms and information that was being discussed. I guess there is an expectation that we are all on the same page (pardon the pun!) and to a ‘newbie’ this wasn’t always the case (but we survived!).

Where to from here: I have come back from 5DI with a renewed passion for my writing. Since my return I have tried to put more concentrated time aside for my writing, as it is so easy to let family, work and other things take over. The historical pod formed a great bond, and we have also set up our own chat group. I also now have a critique partner in one of the members of the pod, and I think we all had a tear or two when 5DI was over. In reflection, I needed 5DI to show me that there is more to life than the regular of 9 to 5 work, so much so, I have now set myself a goal to become published, and to continue to immerse myself in activities and events, that will nurture that goal.

Other: Sophia James was an incredibly generous mentor. Not only did she read all of our manuscripts once, but twice; and she provided us with 2 reports and a fully marked up copy of our manuscripts that we were able to take home with us for further reference. More than all of that she is a genuinely, lovely person, one that cares deeply about her profession, and the craft of writing. I’m sure I speak on behalf of other historical pod members when I say that she had a wonderful way of connecting with each of us, to nurture us along the writing path; whether it was making the significant male character more prominent, weaving more romance into the story, simplifying the plot, or developing character back stories – Sophia knew how to convey it to us in a professional, caring manner, and in all it has helped us all to improve ourselves and our writing abilities, and for that, I believe, we are all truly grateful! 

I would urge anyone out there considering 5DI in the future, to action the process. I was literally ‘scared stiff’ – but have now found that the experience has been incredibly liberating both personally and professionally. Just go for it – you might be very surprised!


Pod: The Janes (Category Romance) Mentor: Lilian Darcy Manuscript genre: M&B Sexy

 Why you entered 5DI: I jumped at it when I read about it in Hearts Talk – I wanted to be part of it. I saw it was a rare opportunity. An opportunity to get some unbiased feedback on my MS. I wanted to learn first hand from a successful writer what I needed to do to move forward with my MS and to grow as a writer. It isn’t often you get an chance to discuss your MS on a one to one basis with a published author.

The highlight of your week: For me it was the first meeting which was a Q&A session regarding the industry. The answers were heartfelt and honest and it proved to be a very interesting session 

The toughest thing about the week: Getting my work ready in time for Lillian each day!!!

Our daily lively discussions regarding character development and plotting meant re-writing either a new chapter or a new scene. It was challenging with long nights of re-plotting and re-writes.

Where to from here: Definitely more writing. I feel a more confident with my writing and with what I have to do to cross that magical line. I’ve learnt a lot, I took plenty of notes and will keep studying and writing – it’s hardly a chore.

 Other: It was great week and one I will never forget.

I loved the camaraderie and the fun of being with such an enthusiastic group of people who love not only reading books, but writing them.  

5DI 2011 has been confirmed. For 2011 you will be required to submit a completed manuscript as part of the application process. Watch out for full details of 5DI 2011 later this year.

Guest Blogger ~ Suzanne Brandyn

I’m pleased to share with you my release of ‘Heat in the Outback.’ I use to live in the outback, in the rural areas of N.S.W. and in the cities of Australia. I draw on these areas to make my novels authentic. The idea for the story came about when I thought of the many times I returned to visit my grandmother on the edge of the outback. Originally titled Going Home, I changed it to ‘Heat in the Outback.’

It’s a story of returning home and regret. Most people hold some type of regret, either minor or major. If only we could turn back the clock. Well my heroine Sarah Munro hopes to do just that, to grab onto what she had lost.

Here is part of a review and it sums up ‘Heat in the Outback’ superbly.

Sarah returns home to tie up her father’s legal affairs and to sell the property she fled a decade before, only to find Ethan, the boy she loved now a man firmly entrenched in her family home. The painful choice Sarah was forced to make all those years ago refuses to stay buried and forgotten and no matter how hard she tries to ignore it, Ethan can still make her knees weak with just a single glance.  


The soaring temperature in the Outback is not the only heat Sarah Munro faces when she returns home for her father’s funeral. She wants to settle his affairs, sell the family’s homestead, Munro Cattle Station, and return to Sydney, and her fiancé, as quickly as possible. Sarah doesn’t want anyone to find out what she’d done in the past. She wants to close this chapter of her life for good. Then there will never be a reason to return to this dusty one horse town. She is wrong!

Ethan Wade, her first love is at the homestead. Ethan claims he owns half of Munro Station. Sarah wants him out! As they try to settle their differences, a raging attraction ignites.

Will Sarah and Ethan find each other again as their past explodes before them?


Their gaze locked for long moments and the sparkle of green in his eyes mesmerized her before she drowned in the delirious touch of warm, tender lips.

Desire swam deep, prodding her to respond, as she had no trouble remembering the last time he’d kissed her. A warm rush cascaded over her body. The kiss continued, leaving her breathless. Torture surged through her. She knew she had to break contact but found his intoxicating touch impossible to refuse. She rode with him, tasting him, feeling the male within, until her mind snapped back to reality. She jerked back. “I shouldn’t be doing this,” she spluttered.

She stood up, picked up her glass and sculled the remains of her drink. A light dizziness wound through her mind.

“You have to make up your mind, Sarah.”

She swung around and glared at him. “As I said, I didn’t come back for you.”

“No, you made your mind up about me a long time ago.”

Her eyes misted. His words tore her heart open. She blurted. “You don’t know the circumstances, Ethan.”

“I know more than you think I do.”

She shook her head. “Things have never changed with you, have they? You’re still the slow talkin’ cow cocky. Oh let me rephrase that, sheep cocky that is, that loves living on nothing but dust…the night I left was the night I told…”

Are you wondering why Sarah left?   

Purchase at: http://www.eternalpress.biz/people.php?author=371

Please come and visit me at http://www.suzannebrandyn.com for more information. To enter a competition to win a copy of ‘Heat in the Outback.http://suzanne-brandyn.blogspot.com  I’d love to see you there.

WOULDN’T IT BE NICE TO…. by Jane Beckenham

Wouldn’t it be nice if writing was like putting on trousers. You see, every day when I get dressed and put on my jeans (am a jeans girl, not a dress girl, in fact my kids laughed when they saw me in a skirt once, ‘mum you have legs!’) Anyway, I digress… but you see you put on your trousers one leg at a time and it doesn’t matter day it is, the action is always the same

So that’s what I was thinking, wouldn’t it be nice if writing were like that for each book.

But alas it’s definitely not. As the years passed and I got to figure out this writing craft stuff, I can remember thinking, yep I’ve cracked it, this story came together easy peasy. GMC – got it, POV, got that too, and the character arc.

Then it was onto the next book, with great enthusiasm. Trouble was I came to a grinding halt sometimes. What worked in the earlier book DID NOT WORK in this one.

No amount of plotting, story arcing etc, worked. The characters, blast their smart-as..d hides WOULD NOT talk to me.

I learned a valuable lesson. Just when you think you’ve cracked it, you’re put through the mill again, and again and again.

(Note to self. You thought this was just like that romance book formula everyone talked about – Joke!)

And in fact this has been the only thing that has remained the same in my writing years. That every book is different in its compilation and planning.

WOMAN OF VALOR my first (published) book which I co-authored with Ellen Ben-Sefer was written with 1200 miles of Tasman Sea between us, and said writers having not ever met. Books that followed, seemed to flow easily, little vignettes in my head that wouldn’t let me sleep until I trained myself NOT to have to get up in the middle of the night and write them down, but remember specific words that would remind me the next day.

It is so fun when the book flows, when the characters come alive and lead me without hesitation, when I can smell the setting, feel the emotions. It is not fun, when it doesn’t happen.

But if there is one thing I learned over the last few books and particularly with my coming release is to trust my characters. They know what they want to do, and who am I to argue, I’m just the wordsmith telling their story.

Taylor Sullivan in HE’S THE ONE, (Samhain May 2010) kept telling me she was a virgin. But I kinda didn’t listen for a time. I mean I write contemporary romance, and the woman was 24 or so, and a virgin! I don’t think so.

But she insisted she was, and I was only until I listened, (okay find me the straight jacket) that I really figured out her story. I learned to stop and listen. Let my mind go blank. I often would do this in a 20 minute meditation session I had begun to do once the family had left for work/school and then again in the afternoon before the onrush of chaos and they arrived home again. It was amazing what the enforced silence and breathing gave me. Time to let the voices in. To let my mind run free and listen. Taylor sure was a virgin, and it was because of living a lie.

A month ago I got a rejection. I was devastated. Did the chocolate run, and the tears etc. Also that rejection gave me permission to stop for a while – I have given myself a month off to simply read, relax and just BE. At one point in the last few weeks (okay I admit for quite a few days of those four weeks) I wondered if I would ever write again. Not because of the rejection, but because the voices had gone silent. The characters were not speaking.

Then last night, I changed my writing location. I took my laptop to bed! Sad, but hey what else do you do after 27 years of marriage. Anyways…..an exciting thing happened. They spoke to ME! Oh yay! They’re not dead, they’re still there.

They probably hadn’t gone away, but I had to re-learn the art of listening.

So voices….start chattering, pretty please. I really, really want to write.

Happy reading and writing.

Jane Beckenham

Bio:  In books Jane Beckenham discovered dreams and hope, stories that inspired in her a love of romance and happy ever after.  Years later, after a blind date, Jane found her own true love and married him eleven months later.  

Life has been a series of  ‘dreams’ for Jane.  Dreaming of learning to walk again after spending years in hospital. Dreaming of raising a family and subsequently flying to Russia to bring home her two adopted daughters. And of course, dreaming of writing.

Writing has become Jane’s addiction – and it sure beats housework.

You can contact Jane via her web site www.janebeckenham.com

or email her at neiljane@ihug.co.nz   

He’s the One

by Jane Beckenham

Genre: Contemporary Romance

ISBN: 978-1-60928-040-6
Length: Category
Price: 4.50
Publication Date: May 25, 2010
Virginity is overrated.

Taylor Sullivan doesn’t trust Cupid, but she plays one for a living. As a successful wedding consultant, she creates a couple’s ultimate fantasy—even though she’s never managed to create her own. And when her clients start asking her for wedding night advice, she’s sensible enough to know when to enlist help.

Cade Harper knows two things about women. They either abandon him, or use him as a walking bank. He doesn’t do commitment, and marriage is a dirty word—witness the string of broken hearts he’s left in his wake. Yet Taylor’s business proposition intrigues him. In exchange for one night of no-strings passion, she’ll develop a promotional plan for his business. Who could say no?

Never one to buy anything sight unseen, Taylor tests the waters with a kiss. In an instant she has the only answer she’s ever wanted—that Cade is the one she wants.

As business starts tumbling into pleasure, Cade finds himself falling hard and fast.

It’s a fantasy come true—if they can turn heartache into forever…

Warning: Contains explicit, straight-to-the-heart sex between a hopeless romantic heroine and an abandon-all-hope hero. No need to dress up for this party—just curl up with a glass of bubbly and a box of tissues!

A special thank you to Jane Beckenham for taking time to write this blog. If you what like to take part as a Guest Blogger you can contact blogmistress@romanceaustralia.com or webliaison@romanceaustralia.com

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