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.

January 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….


Sophia James ~ Long Romance section 

How did you feel when you won the R♥BY?

I felt a huge mixture of emotions actually. Disbelief that my name was up on the screen, nervousness with the realisation I would have to make a speech and exhilaration because One Unashamed Night was a book I have always particularly loved and believed in.

Melanie Milburne ~ Short, Sweet category

How did you feel when you won the R♥BY?

I was stunned. I know everyone always says they never thought they would win, but I honestly didn’t think I had a chance in that category. There is nothing Sweet and Traditional about my voice, although that particular book did have a softer approach.

I generally write with the same level of sensuality in both Presents and Medicals so it was a complete and utter surprise.

Helene Young ~ Romantic Elements

How did you feel when you won the R♥BY?

Ecstatic, overwhelmed, surprised, delighted, humbled, but most tellingly I was left speechless. And anyone who knows me will confirm I’m never lost for words…

The cheer from the room was like a very warm, very rowdy group hug. It was wonderful.

Lindsay Armstrong ~ Short, Sexy category

We were unable to contact Lindsay Armstrong.

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

The Writing Journey With…Helen Lacey

I sent my first submission to Mills & Boon London in 1987. I was young and wet behind the ears and didn’t have a clue about submitting, so my oldest sister found the address for me and I sent the manuscript off. Of course I received a form letter back – my submission was way too short and really woeful. But it was the start of a 20+ year apprenticeship. My first book, Made for Marriage, comes out in January 2012.

Honestly, there were times over those years when I thought I just needed to forget all about being an author. But those moments were fleeting. I knew I wanted to be a Harlequin author when I was twelve years old and I read my first Mills & Boon. The desire to achieve that never seriously waned. I still love reading them when I’m not writing.

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

RWA Noticeboard

Email Professionalism

Email communication is the predominant way contact is made in the publishing industry…. Remember to always be professional with your email correspondence.

RWA Group Grants

The next round of RWA’s group grants will open in February 2012 so get your group together and apply. The Group Grants Scheme is a fund that any RWA Affiliated or RWA Associated Group can apply to in support of the wonderful work they do in advancing the careers of their RWA members.

Romantic Book of the Year (R*BY)

The 2012 R♥BY opens Monday 2 January 2012 and closes Friday 3 February 2012.

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

How to Write a Fight Scene, Part 2 by Susanna Rogers

The first article in this series looked at the reasons for including a fight scene in your story. Now we’re ready for a bit of ground and pound. Your kick-ass heroine has been training for years and she’s ready to take on the bad guys. She’s been cornered. She has no choice but to fight. And she’s ready. The gloves are off.

The importance of awareness

Awareness is your number one tool in self-defence. Not very exciting, but true. If your kick-ass heroine is smart—and she should be—she’ll know this. Above all, she’ll be aware of her surroundings. Without even consciously thinking about it, she’ll be scouring her environment and perhaps even considering escape routes and options. Make sure your protagonist has these characteristics. There may be times you wish to use this in a different way. For example, your heroine might be distraught after breaking up with the hero and then for that one moment when her guard is down, she leaves herself open to attack. Afterwards, she might be so angry with herself for letting this happen that she comes back harder and stronger. This would show your heroine is human and has made a mistake.

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

Conference Information with Helen Katsinis

Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend Cocktail Party

see blog post.

Diamonds Are Forever – Conference Catch Up 

Hearts Talk caught up with conference coordinator Fiona Gregory to talk about preparations for the conference.

Firstly, how are preparations for the conference going?

The Diamonds are Forever conference will be held between 16-19 August 2012 at the QT Gold Coast and our preparations are well underway. We’ve got Eloisa James (Keynote Speaker) and Alexandra Sokoloff (Friday Workshop) confirmed and are in final discussions with our remaining speakers. It’s going to be a fabulous line up.

Our recent call for workshops went really well and we’re in the process of reviewing submissions and working out the scheduling. Preparations are well underway for the Cocktail Party and Awards Dinner. Our cocktail party theme is “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” and as usual, we’d love our delegates to come in fancy dress. I, for one, can’t wait to see the costumes everyone comes up with.

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

A Writer’s Life ~ What I Learned From Television with Sarah Mayberry

Hello! For those of you who don’t know me, I write for Harlequin Super Romance and Blaze, and I also work as a freelance television script writer and story consultant. When the lovely ladies at Hearts Talk asked if I would be interested in writing the Writer’s Life column I was both chuffed and intimidated. But then I thought about it and realised that there are a few little things I’ve picked up along the way or thoughts I’ve had that I’d love to share with my fellow writers (whether you like it or not!). So here I am. I’ve got a few topics nutted out already, but I wanted to kick off with something I’ve been thinking about a bit lately…

Before I got “the call” from Harlequin, I wrote eight full books over about ten years that no one was interested in. I had no idea that RWA even existed and despite having a BA in Professional Writing under my belt, it wasn’t until I landed a job working as a storyliner for Neighbours that I was able to understand where I had gone wrong. During my time with the show we plotted several romances, in particular a slow burn one that went for months and months. As we plotted out the many scenes and twists and turns and two-steps-forward-and-three-steps-back that made up this long term story arc, I realised where I’d gone wrong with my books—I’d taken all the mystery out of my stories because I’d given my characters the gift of always being able to understand what the other person was thinking and feeling.

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

Have You Set Your Writing Goals for 2012?

Did you do Bob Mayer’s Friday Workshop at the Melbourne Conference? The first tool in his Write It Forward program is “WHAT” and is all about setting goals.

Bob Mayer’s goals overview says:

• You must have goals that are clearly defined and can be stated in one sentence.

• You must understand why you’re trying to achieve your goals, what impact they’ll have on your environment, and how your environment affects you.

He goes on to say,

• Goals are future oriented.

• The successful writer spends his time and energy acting.

Mary O’Gara’s creative boost process is to look at your goals, wants and opportunities. Goals should be S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound).

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
    • The Writing Journey with….with Suzanne Brandyn > Featured this month is Helen Lacey (see above)
    • Contest Page with Lis Hoorweg> Includes Selling Synopsis 2012 Contest Manager’s Report 
    • Market Watch with Sami Lee
    • News & Releases with Bronwyn Stuart
    • Ask Auntie Fi with Fiona Lowe

Dear Auntie Fi, Last year I entered the First Kiss contest and was told there wasn’t enough emotion in my kiss. How do I get emotion into my writing? I’m not sure how to do  this. ~Emotion-less in Esperance.

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.

Happy New Year

HAPPY NEW YEAR to all our Romance Writers of Australia members, and romance readers everywhere.  May there be hot heroes, magical muses, big contracts and love, laughter in happiness.

Natalie has already started a discussion about Writing Resolutions and/or goals for the new year and on my Write on Track blog, I’ve posted a year in review post as well as my Goals for Twenty Ten including doing Margie Lawson‘s Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviours course – which starts on January 4.

I didn’t achieve everything I wanted to achieve in 2009 but that’s okay – you have to be flexible because stuff happens.

At the beginning of 2009, the Romance Writers of Australia blog did not even exist as a glimmer in my imagination and I hadn’t planned on joining the executive committee. But at the beginning of 2010, we have this wonderful blog and a fabulous blog team and I’m on the exec committee and managing the Social Media side.

It doesn’t matter that I didn’t write a short story a month as originally planned, because I finished editing one complete manuscript, half way edited another and wrote many more new words. And I put my work out there — mostly into competitions.

My newly-revised Writing Mantra for 2010 is REWRITE EDIT SUBMIT  (instead of WRITE EDIT SUBMIT).

What will your Writing Mantra be for 2010?

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