New releases from members this August

It’s August – the last official month of winter. Sometimes wind and rain sweeps down. Sometimes the daffodils come early. Always there is the RWA conference to motivate and inspire a novelist. If you’re looking for something to read on the plane on the way to Brisbane, your fellow members have obliged with a swag of new releases.



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 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 and Aeon Timeline, see

A Writer’s Life: Plotting, with Helen Bianchin

This fabulous (italics mine because I think it’s fabulous – Ed.) article first appeared in the September 2016 edition of Hearts Talk, the journal of the Romance Writers of Australia.  For more info on the column, and on RWA membership, see the end of this post!  But for now, over to Helen…


Plotting with Helen Bianchin

I spent the first year of my writing career convinced a book had to be written from page one through to the end. I stalled so many times, eventually threw my hands in the air, muttered something pithy in Italian, then vowed out loud: where does it say there’s a rule a book has to be written consecutively from start to finish?

Remember, in the early 1970s, there were few ‘how-to write’ books around, and the only other M&B authors I knew were Essie Summers and Gloria Bevan. That was until one day Robyn Donald and her husband were in Auckland, discovered there was only one Bianchin in the phonebook and rang me. They visited that very day, and a friendship was forged, which has lasted until the present. Not long after that, Daphne Clair began her Ring o’ Roses newsletter and there was contact!

I tried the pantser route way back when, and ended up with sentences, paragraphs, pages all over the place. Soon I discovered it was a method that didn’t work for me.

What did work was to choose a premise (or it would choose me) and I’d make notes, choose names, setting, get it all handwritten into a notebook, think about it (including procrastination), compose a supposedly perfect scene on the edge of sleep, positive I’d remember it in glorious detail on waking the next morning. Yes, well, we know how that goes…

Through trial and error, I discovered I think in scenes—usually out of sequence. I have to say curling up in a comfy chair with pen and notepad works. The ideas happen and I scribble them down. Then I key them into the computer while the ideas are fresh and there’s hope I can decipher my scribble—or at least get the gist of it, editing as I go along, expanding, enhancing, numbering each draft scene before printing it out. It’s a weird method, and you wouldn’t believe how many times I vow to discard it and write in a professional manner (whatever that is!)

However, I have tried other methods. I know Joy Dingwell used to hand-write on the right side of a lined notebook—mainly all dialogue—then she’d go back and handwrite on the left side of the lined notebook the emotional bits, the scenery, etc. and balloon each bit into where it should fit. When the handwritten notebook was complete, she’d edit, add, then type it all out on an old typewriter in what passed for MS format at that time.

I know of authors who have adapted a similar methodology with handwriting on the right side of a lined notebook (or unlined) and use different-coloured sticky-pad sheets containing handwritten emotion, scenery etc, high and low points, and stick them onto the left side of the notebook. At least with the latter, the sticky-pad sheets can be easily moved and switched around. When the current long-languishing MS is finally finished, I think I’ll give this method a try.

Others use a whiteboard—I think if I tried that, I’d end up erasing something deep and meaningful to be lost forevermore.

Then there’s Scrivener. Some authors swear by it. Others try it and decide it’s not for them. I bought the program with the intention of trialling it when the long-languishing MS finally travels through the ether to London. I even upgraded to the latest version. I’ll let you know how I go (just don’t hold your breath!).

I must admit I witness the published output of varying authors and wonder if they sleep. Writing must occupy every waking minute of their lives…or they have glorious brainpower whereby they key in the right words with the speed of light.

In conclusion, there is no right way. There’s only your way. Even so experimenting with different ways may work really well.

– Helen Bianchin


A long-time bestseller for Harlequin Mills & Boon, Helen Bianchin’s books are sold in 26 languages in more than 109 countries. Helen is much beloved in the romance writing community, and was RWA’s first-ever Hall of Fame author. She’s always been a huge supporter of new writers as well as established authors and still participates on the RWA email loops.

Anne Gracie’s A Writer’s Life is a regular column featured in Romance Writers of Australia’s monthly journal, Hearts Talk. Packed full of articles on craft, the publishing industry and interviews with romance authors, Hearts Talk is a valued and much-loved benefit to your RWA membership. If you’re not already an RWA member, join up here [].


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 ( ) 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.

December Hearts Talk Wrap Up

The latest edition of Hearts Talk is out now.

Our monthly member-only magazine has the latest news and information for writers.

Here is a little peek….

Mel Teshco chats to Jaid Black

Jaid Black is a USA TODAY bestselling author of numerous erotic romance novels, as well as the owner and founder of the erotic fiction publisher, Ellora’s Cave. She has been honoured by Romantic Times Magazine with their first ever Trailblazer Award for her contribution to the romance genre, Romantica® (Ellora’s Cave registered trademark name for erotic romance), and her significant role in popularising e-books.

She has over thirty books to her name and has received numerous distinctions, including the Henry Miller Award for the best literary sex scene written in the English language.

Hi Jaid, thank you for taking time out from your very busy schedule. Not only are you a mother of two girls, a writer, editor and business owner, you’re also an active campaigner for the  disadvantaged and have recently started a new venture co-hosting a once weekly, in your face radio show, Cave Chaos, about women and their sexual experiences. Could you tell us a little about your busy day and fill us mere mortals in on how you juggle your time?

Firstly, it’s my pleasure to be interviewed by you 🙂 Secondly, and to answer your question, what seems to work best for me is concentrating on one aspect of my professional life per day. I have the radio show on Mondays, I plan the next week on Tuesdays, write on Wednesdays, edit on Thursdays, etc. That’s not a hard and fast rule because things always crop up that  require my full attention for a few days at a time, but it’s the schedule I try to stick to. For instance, when RomantiCon 2011 was coming up, my entire life pretty much revolved around that!

For full article, go to our website. For members only.

Friendly Rivalry: Bec McMasters (Skrabl) & Michelle de Rooy 

Unless you’ve been living deep in your writer’s cave over the past 18 months, you’ll be familiar with the names Michelle De Rooy and Bec Skrabl (now writing as Bec McMaster). These talented young ladies agreed to speak candidly about being critique partners, best friends, and contest divas who found themselves competing against each other for contest wins, and the chance to catch an editor’s or agent’s attention. Michelle and Bec wrote their articles separately, but their responses were uncannily—and perhaps unsurprisingly—in tune.

For full article, go to our website. For members only.

RWA Noticeboard

Conference 2012: Guest Speakers 

Keynote Speaker: Eloisa James

Friday Workshop: Alexandra Sokoloff

Reminder: 2012 Conference Workshop Proposals Closing Soon!

If you’re intending to submit a proposal for a workshop, panel or other breakout session for the 2012 Diamonds are Forever Conference on the Gold Coast, you’d best get your skates on.

Submissions close Friday 9th December 2011.

Full details can be found in November’s Hearts Talk or on the Romance Australia Website:

Email your completed proposal to

Have you visited the new RWA forums lately?

Promote your books or blog, chat with other writers, both published and aspiring, ask those niggling industry questions, or share the ups and downs of your writing life.

Just go through the simple registration process or login to get started:

Romantic Book of the Year (R*BY)

It isn’t only Christmas that’s just around the corner: the Romantic Book of the Year (R*BY) Award will soon be open to entries. Books first published between 1st January 2011 and 31st December 2011 are eligible.

Competition opens Monday 2nd January 2012 Competition closes Friday 3rd February 2012

*Entry forms and guidelines will be available on the RWA website from sometime in mid-December*

Help a Fellow Writer

Many of our members, due to their location or other circumstances, can’t afford the travel, accommodation and registration fees to attend RWA events such as conference, 5DI and roadshows. Each year RWA’s Members Assistance Fund is used to help several such members. You can help by contributing to the fund. All donations, small or a little more, are welcome and will allow us to assist more members in 2012.

For the details, go to our website. For members only.

How to Write a Fight Scene by Susanna Rogers

Once upon a time I was invincible. I was a young mum, truly, madly, deeply in love with writing. But my writing had to fit around my life. I had a day job, a husband whose career meant he was seldom home, young kids, ailing elders, an acre of garden, dogs, cats, chooks, commitments.

My writing time was thus when the kids went to bed. At eight I’d slip into my fantasy world and it was mine, all mine. When my eyes couldn’t stay open I’d fall into bed. Five hours writing time was normal, and I often didn’t raise my head for the entire five.

This was not good for my body. Sucks to my body; I was in love.

My neck ached. I’d take pain killers and keep writing. My neck hurt more. I took stronger pain killers and wrote more. I was thirty-five, fit, I was in charge, not my body.

How Critique Groups Maintain Their Groove by Doreen Sullivan

Romance novels end when The One has been found. The heroine and hero live happily ever after.

Romance writers seek to find the one perfect fit between the writer and agent, publisher—or critique group.

With critique groups, what happens once you’ve found that perfect group? For groups that have been together for awhile, established for four or more years, how do participants maintain momentum? How do you know when—or if—you should leave?

For full article, go to our website. For members only.

Of course don’t forget our regular columns:

    • From the Prez with Rachel Bailey
    • Events Calendar with Doreen Sullivan
    • Member Spotlight with Suzanne Brandyn > Featured this month is Kasey Rowe
    • Contest Page with Lis Hoorweg> Includes First Kiss Contest Tips
    • Market Watch with Sami Lee
    • News & Releases with Bronwyn Stuart
    • The Last Word with Jo McAlister
    • Ask Auntie Fi with Fiona Lowe

Dear Auntie Fi, …If (and it is a very big “if”) I receive an offer from the Aussie publisher I presume I would need an Australian agent too. However, if there is no offer I would be better with a US agent. Should I start querying Aussie agents now or wait to see what the Australian publisher does? What if the US agents I have already queried want to represent me? How does the whole international  publisher/ agent deal work? ~Confused from Coolbinia

Dear Auntie Fi, … The question is – if one is having trouble writing the genre one would most like to write, and suspects a different genre may be more manageable, what are some pros and cons of persevering with the original plan? ~Techno Thriller Trouble

For full columns, go to our website. For members only.


Not a member? Please view our sample issue from January 2011.

To receive our wonderful monthly newsletter, we invite you to Join RWA for all the details.

July Hearts Talk

The latest edition of Hearts Talk is here. This is available only to members, but here is a little peek….

R*BY Finalists!!

Short Sweet

Sharon Archer – Single Father: Wife and Mother Wanted

Sharon Archer – Marriage Reunited: Baby on the Way

CC Coburn – Colorado Christmas

Emily Forbes –  Wanted: A Father for Her Twins

Short Sexy

Amy Andrews  – A Doctor, A Nurse: A Christmas Baby

Robyn Grady – Bedded by Blackmail

Kelly Hunter – Playboy Boss, Live-in Mistress

Tessa Radley – Billion-Dollar Baby Bargain

Long Romance

Sophia James – Mistletoe Magic

Stephanie Laurens – Temptation and Surrender

Stephanie Laurens – Mastered by Love

Christine Wells – Wicked Little Game

Romantic Elements

Fleur McDonald – Red Dust

Tracey O’Hara – Night’s Cold Kiss

Bronwyn Parry – Dark Country

Katherine Scholes – The Hunter’s Wife

For full article, go to our website. For members only.

The Natural Order of Things by Nikki Logan

As an author, it’s not enough to assume that your engagement with your story will translate to readers. Ask anyone who’s had a low competition score or a stinging rejection whether they lacked interest in their story. They didn’t.

If you want readers to buy your characters’ emotion you have to make them feel it.

For full article, go to our website. For members only.

Conference Update – Pitching to Jennifer Schober?

Jennifer shares her pitch preferences.

“I look for a really strong story with amazing characters and a fresh vibrant hook. When someone is pitching in person, I look for their ability to articulate the story they are pitching and I also look for an author that ‘knows’ her market, and how her work fits into the market. I love enthusiasm for the work too… through experience I have found that authors that are enthusiastic for their work tend to reach me more in their writing. What turns me off is not knowing what I am taking, what I represent and pitching work that is not complete. Always research the agent by way of their website to see the most up to date and credible info on what they are looking for.”

Thanks to Tracey O’Hara for sharing part of her interview with Jenn Schober. For full interview:

Silver Auction – Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation

Please donate items for auction at Sun, Surf & Sizzle—RWA 2010 Conference Silver auction/raffle hybrid to raise money for the cancer that takes one Australian woman every 10 hours.

| giftware | services | book packs | tools | character in next release | hamper | crits| lunch with the author

Please present items in silver and with full description and bring to conference with you.

Contact for more info or to let her know you’re donating something.

Writers’ Weekends by Emily Gee

Writing is a solitary pursuit—it’s just you and your laptop and the characters in your head—so why not take a little time out from your routine and go on a writers’ weekend? The company of other writers for a few days can be invigorating and productive—and an opportunity to laugh a lot!

I’ve participated in two different types of writers’ weekends; for simplicity’s sake, let’s call them type 1 and type 2. They’re quite different in terms of what we set out to achieve, but they’re both all about writing and they’re both loads of fun.

For full article, go to our website. For members only.

That’s A Wrap: Romancing The Novel. The Adelaide Roadshow by Helen Katsinis

Romancing the Novel, the second Adelaide Roadshow event promised to be an exciting day and it didn’t disappoint. It was a roaring success!

Over 40 people gathered at the SA Writers’ Centre on the 15th May to have a day of talkingshop. Bliss! People who understand the passion for writing. Double bliss! People who did not think it strange I have voices in my head—priceless!

For full information, go to our website. For members only.

Romance in Ancient & Unusual Historical Periods by Christina Phillips

Historical romance is alive, well and hot! But is there a market for this sub-genre outside of the enormously popular Regency era and the increasingly popular Victorian period? Do agents want authors who write in more unusual time frames and are editors buying romances set in ancient civilizations?

OK, but what exactly is an Ancient Historical Romance?

Very broadly speaking, ancient history is often referred to the period known as Classical Antiquity, the beginning of recorded Greek history in about 776 BC. By happy chance this roughly coincides with the traditional founding of Rome in 753 BC. Western scholars use the fall of the Roman Empire in AD 476 as the end of ancient European history and the start of the Middle Ages.

For full article go to our website. For members only.

Helen Bianchin’s Amazing Writerly Life by Marion Lennox

This month, breathless with awe, I’m talking to someone I suspect is Australia’s best loved romance writer, about her truly amazing writer’s life.

Helen, your first novel, The Willing Heart, was published in 1975. Can you tell us what was the impetus to sit down and write.

I guess you could say … A very different slant on life from my very normal upbringing in New Zealand. At age 21, I embarked on a working holiday to Australia, beginning with Melbourne, working there for over a year to fund a trip that encompassed several states before finishing up in Cairns with the intention to find work to fund the final leg to Sydney and then home. Instead I ended up in the tobacco farming community of Mareeba where I met and married my Italian husband … and my life took a 180 degree turn from legal secretary to sharefarmer’s wife, cooking for men during the season, rearing chickens, stringing tobacco, becoming acquainted with Italian, Yugoslav, Greek, Albanian friends, observing their differing cultures, and the number of arranged and convenient marriages where like and friendship came first, and burgeoned into love after marriage. It took a few years and a return to New Zealand before the idea to write a book was born.

For full article go to our website. For members only.

Of course don’t forget our regular columns:

From the Prez with Alison Ahearn

Market Watch with Pam Collings

Contest Page with Deb Bennetto

The Last Word with Christina Phillips

Member News & Releases with Rachel Blair

Member Spotlights with Doreen Sullivan – This month featuring Leisl Leighton

Events Calendar with Doreen Sullivan

Practicalities, Technicalities with Michelle Wood – This month featuring Emily Gee’s article (as above)

Ask Auntie Fi with Fiona Lowe

For full columns, go to our website. For members only.


Not a member? Please view our sample issue from February 2010.

You can join to receive our wonderful monthly newsletter.  Please go to our Join RWA page on our website for details.

Craft: Dynamic Dialogue

How do you make your dialogue work? What works, what doesn’t? How can someone who’s new in the game develop their dialogue so it doesn’t jar the reader out of the story? What about dialogue tags? Should we stick to he said/she said or can we throw in a few “whispered/hissed” s just for fun? I asked these questions recently and received some great feedback which I’d love to share.

Jen Brumley said “I’ve always tried to follow the publisher guidelines by keeping to he/she said as much as possible with the occasional whispered or screeched here and there. And depending on the conversation and how many people it involves you may not have to use a tag line at all.   But I think the main thing to remember is that the dialogue has to have purpose. Inane chatter about stuff irrelevent to the story just gets in the way. Another thing I do (which my husband finds both amusing and weird) is say the dialogue out loud how you want the character to say it, and then figure out if you huffed it or spat it or just said it.”

Mary Dehaas replied that “I love dialogue in a story,  for some reason when written right, it helps me connect to a character. I like to read my lines out loud to no-one in particular. I may even ask an opinion,”would this be said this way??” or “how authentic does this sound?” or is it corny?” If I know my character well enough, I kinda get a sense of “something not sounding quite right.” Not true to that person. I also take note of how fav authors get their lines to grab my attention. Watching!! Listening!! In shopping lines, Dr offices, children at play. People arguing is really interesting (not cool) but VERY interesting.  Body language comes into play as well. Arms thrown out as she spat. ”

Ah so body language emphasizes dialogue, something that I need help with there.

CC Coburn said “The use of specific words for dialogue tags can very much rely on the line you’re writing for.   My editor changed most of my tags to – said – and quite frankly I agreed with her. I’ve used the occasional -murmured or whispered, but I think newbies need to be aware of overdoing speech tags.   One thing she pointed out – but I already knew and had still done it! you should pretty much get rid of ALL speech tags when it’s only two people speaking. Too many – he said, she said’s – can take the reader out of the story. To find out if it’s jarring and unnecessary – read your story out loud. That way will highlight speech tags very effectively.  ”

Anna Jacobs couldn’t resist joining (which we love) and shared “First you have to remember that dialogue can’t be totally realistic because  in real life we gesticulate, pull faces, have body language and utter a lot of short bits of sentences that needn’t be finished when the other person nods. Plus, in real life friends and family have ‘shorthand’ so use some special phrases to evoke wider understanding.
But dialogue still has to sound right, while doing more jobs than in real life. When it comes to written speech, it’d be boring if we only used ‘he/she said’. But it’s too much if we throw in every possible type of speech – murmured, yelled, hissed, etc. (And my first editor taught me that hissed should only be used with an s in the phrase.)
Variety is the spice of life, I reckon.
You don’t need speech tags all the time, not even half the time. In some parts it’s obvious who’s speaking, so why restate the obvious? But if a two-person conversation goes on for a while, you need to mark a speaker now
and then so that it’s easy to understand. I don’t usually let it go more than four or five comments before putting in an action marker to remind the reader who is speaking. I’ve read books where I’ve lost track of who is saying what and that’s annoying, pulls you right out of the story.
Example of action marker:
Paul stared at her in shock. ‘You can’t mean that!’
As others have said, if in doubt, say it aloud and see if it sounds good/natural/tense – whatever the effect you need.
And remember – practice makes perfect. The more you write the better you get. ”

Oh I need to remember this, practice, practice, practice.

Fiona Lowe and Janet Woods shared that finding the types of dialogue tags that work for you is important when writing. Janet also said “belonging to a critique group is an excellent way of discovering if areas such as speech tags are overworked or under worked. Too many tags with qualifiers attached tend to annoy me most. He said thoughtfully/she said prissily. I must admit I prefer he/she said, but I do have the occasional hiss or snap. A bit of variety doesn’t hurt at all.”

Shannon Stein and Diane Osbourne both said that they too read their dialogue out loud to see if it’s off.

If you’re using Microsoft Word there is a way to get your computer to read out your mss to you.  Open your current mss, then down the bottom of your screen there’s a toolbar which has little icons of microphones etc.
There’s one which is a microphone with a piece of paper behind it, called SPEECH TOOLS, click on that.
Go to OPTIONS, then a separate box will come up which has TEXT TO SPEECH on it, click and then choose your voice, I have microsoft michael going at the moment, then hit APPLY and then OKAY.
Then go to the start of your mss, at the bottom there will be a little icon that when you scroll over it says SPEAK TEXT, click on it and the computer will start reading your text out to you (with a very bad accent by the way).

Hope this helps everyone. I know with NaNoWriMo coming up there are many worried brows hanging around the blog, but we shall prevail folks. Just remember not to stress about dialogue tags too much and as Di Curran reminded me, it’s Action, Visceral Response, Thought.

Cheers for now.

Craft: Paranormal/Fantasy some Do’s and Don’ts

I have loved reading paranormal/fantasy stories for a very long time. The ability to take the mundane and change it into something enticing is a great skill. When I think of fantasy stories that have romance in them Anne McCaffrey immediately comes to mind with her Dragon series. Paranormal has me reaching for a Julie Kenner “Soccer Mom” book, or something of that order.

I find though that when I go to create my own stories I have a hard time combining the right amount of fantasy with romance to be able to fit into the FantasyRom shelf. So this week I asked for ideas of what a Paranormal/Fantasy Romance needs. Here are a few answers –

Janet Woods said like any other genre of writing, the storyline and the characters should be able to stand alone, without the romance. However, the story is there to support the romance because it stems from the characters within the storyline.  Authors have to build up a world with a “history”. The characters might be able to do magic, change shape, fly or become invisible, but they have to make sure there’s strong motivation, so the reader suspends  his/her own beliefs and the unbelievable becomes believable.  If you take the word “fantasy” out of fantasy romance you’re left with a romance and no story to support it.  If you take the word “romance” out you should be left with a gripping, readable story with beginning, middle and end.

Pam G suggested that if a writer was trying to write a paranormal/fantasy romance then it has be a romance. Second,
Ellora’s Cave has it right. There has to be a plot/story. Third – World building is essential. While there may be certain constraints, especially if your story is in a contemporary setting, you as a writer have to flesh out the world this
story is set in.  Unlike aliens there are some standards to comply with though. Vampires  need to have fangs and drink blood. Werewolves sprout fur at some point. Fairies have wings, etc. After these basics,the writer has to decide what fits her story and what makes sense. Don’t skimp on this or it could bite you in the proverbial later.  As for whether vampires will continue to dominate – probably. Tall, dark, handsome, mysterious, kinda dangerous. Sounds like a romance. Werewolves (and shape-shifters in general) come in a big second. There is plenty of other scope though, a market for most paranormal/fantasy beings – as long as they can fall in love and live happily ever after (or happily for now).  What to avoid: bad story telling. If it’s well written and engages the reader then it’ll have a greater chance of being published.

Nicky Strickland spoke up about the abundance of fangs nowadays in romance  and shared this gem – the way fantasy works best,  regardless of what type of fantasy it is (contemporary, epic et al), the world is built like an iceberg. The writer knows the whole ‘berg and gives the reader enough to understand it but not info-dump them with the machinations of how it all works (unless it is critical to a plot point). As well, the laws of the world must be consistent e.g. magic, ability to fly, methods of travel.  The romance/fantasy balance is the same as if it were a mystery/fantasy or a crime/fantasy. It should follow the ‘rules’ (or should that be guidelines?) of the dominant genre. If a romance, the romance comes in slightly heavier than the fantasy.

Helen shared her opinion of world building which I tend to agree with – World building is so important. Who and why people can do things? If they have magical ability, is there a price to pay? Basically you can do whatever you want, it just has to suspend belief and has to be consistent. You can break conventions ­ e.g. vampires who can go out in daylight, but it has to have a belief about why you can.  Keri Arthur’s vampires ­ can go out at certain times in day the older they get.

Just a little bit of food for thought. Join us  on the Romaus forum for more craft discussions.

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