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 [http://www.romanceaustralia.com/p/99/Join-RWA].


A Writer’s Life: Social Media, self-doubt and creativity.

Anne Gracie’s A Writer’s Life is a regular column featured in Romance Writers of Australia’s monthly journal, Hearts Talk.  This peek into DB Tait‘s writing life first appeared in the October 2016 edition.  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 [http://www.romanceaustralia.com/p/99/Join-RWA]. 


Social media, self-doubt and creativity

Back in 2004 when I started writing seriously, the internet was a great source of information about the craft of writing and a whole range of other writing-related issues. I started out not particularly wanting to write in romance as a genre, just wanting to write something. But I noticed that everything I wrote had a romance in it or a romantic theme. So I googled, found the Romance Writers of Australia, joined and found a great community of like-minded writers.

I learned a lot. Some things were invaluable, like point of view and avoiding head-hopping, and others were not so useful, like never use the word ‘was’ because this indicates passive writing (it doesn’t). I found out about the business, about editors and agents, and went to conferences. My work then was either erotica or erotic romance and I was published by some erotic lines in the US. Then I stopped writing. Or rather, I was still writing but unhappy with it because I listened to what was being said in the romance and erotic romance world and believed my writing wasn’t marketable (it probably was). Life also intervened with some personal challenges that took me away from writing. I also got a little (okay, a lot) bored with sex.

I knew I had to go back to my first love which was crime writing. But I couldn’t let romance go because I just naturally write stories where people meet and are drawn to each other. So I recreated myself as a romantic suspense writer, or as I prefer, a mystery writer with romantic elements (which is a bit of a mouthful).

I think my involvement with Facebook and other social media increased when I decided to get back to writing seriously. And then a curious thing happened. I started doubting myself again. Doubting myself is a chronic condition with me but I found social media made it worse. I saw other people discuss their work, including their work output, and knew I would never be able to achieve what they did. I saw people win dubious prizes and brag about their position on Amazon and wondered if I should be involved in that. Sometimes I did and then didn’t like myself. Other people marketed their work ferociously, which irritated me but also made me again wonder if I shouldn’t be doing that too.

I do like Facebook. I use it as a watercooler where I can chat with my friends. But I think it increases my anxiety and my sense of lack of achievement.  I start looking at my writing through the lens of Facebook not through the lens of my own creativity.

I am cursed (as are a lot of writers) with a vicious, troll-like internal editor who delights in subversion. I find social media feeds this troll and makes me doubt a lot about what I want to write and how I should or shouldn’t market it. The result is a terrible sense of immobility, a kind of ‘what’s the point’ attitude, which is so far from the sense of joy I had when I first started writing.

So what’s the solution? The first realisation I had is to understand I don’t have the personality to make Facebook or other social media part of my ‘brand’. I’m okay with chatting about the weather and world events, but once I start to think of myself as a brand and have to market my writing, I fall into a kind of existential despair. Other people thrive on creating a brand for themselves. I envy them on some level. I hate it.

The second realisation I had is to truly, at a deep level, write what I want to write. Yes, it’s important to pay attention to the market, but if the market doesn’t sing to you, don’t write for it. For me that means I’m at the romantic elements part of the genre.

My third realisation is to experiment. Never get so caught up in how one should write and what conventions one must follow that writing become a chore and a by-the-numbers dreary task.  I know that’s easy for me to say because writing is not my living (yet!) but I have left jobs when they become soul-destroying.

So, you may be seeing a lot less of me on social media. I’ll still be marketing my writing wares in my usual slapdash way and spending time around the watercooler, but increasingly I’ll be saying goodbye to anything that increases my self-doubt. I encourage you to look at what creates self-doubt in your life and get rid of it. We owe it to ourselves and to the fabulous stories we create.

– DB Tait http://dbtait.com/.

DB Tait has written in a variety of subgenres, including erotica, and now writes crime fiction with romantic elements. A longtime member of RWA, she has recently rejoined the RWA committee after many years of service in the past. Her next publication is Festive Deception, a Christmas novella out this month.


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 [http://www.romanceaustralia.com/p/99/Join-RWA].

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.


A Day in the Writing Life of Jo Duncan

This week, we’d like to introduce RWA member, Jo Duncan. Welcome Jo and thank you for sharing your journey as a writer with our members.

What time of the day do you write? Are you a morning, night-owl or anytime writer?

I’m a frustrated, why-does-everyone-keep-phoning-and-distracting-me writer (and why do I keep answering??) who tries to write from about 8:30 AM until lunchtime. Then I have a break and write from 3:30 PM until dinner time. I would love to be a late-night writer but my muse seems to need so much beauty sleep!

Where do you write? Do you have your own special place? Does the location vary?

I used to write in a small, single bedroom with a narrow window which I converted into my study. Then one day one of my very practical friends stood in the doorway of my large, airy spare bedroom and asked why I huddled day after day in that small room while the odd guest got this room. I was shocked at the suggestion – things have to be nice for the guests! Quick backflip on that belief and within a month my neighbor had cut up the timber spare bed and made a desk, Lifeline had taken the mattress and I was ready to work in my new airy, light study. Yes, unfortunately my 85-year-old mother and my friend with a bad back now have to sleep on the pullout bed when they visit. But I get to look out at the mountains surrounding the valley in which I live and get sprayed by the rainbows of the crystal that hangs in the window I didn’t have before…..

Is there any particular rituals you do to set the mood / harness your muse?

I would love to say that I rub the Buddha’s belly, listen to a recording of heavy breathing and then conjure in my mind craggy men in kilts before starting…. but the truth is I make a cup of tea, sit down, put on my earphones and think about where I will go next with my plot.

Do you spend much time reading over the previous day’s work? Do you have a special system in place in order to begin writing or go with the flow?

I can never just sit down and write cold. First I have to read back over the chapter I am writing to pull myself back into the world of my characters. Sometimes I even go further back to remind myself of different behaviours so that the characters and events are at the front of my mind.  Only then can I start writing. The only problem with this is, by the time I have finished with all my immersion, the phone has rung or someone has arrived and then I have to start all over again. Sounds frustrating doesn’t it? J  Paula Roe gave me a great sign to hang on the door which says “Writer at Work, Dammit..”. Everyone just says, “cute sign” and walks in anyway – what to do??

Are you a plotter / planner or a pantser? Do you edit as you go or prefer to edit after completion of the ms?

I do quite a bit of plotting/planning and like to have the overall plot and ending, basics of first three chapters and at least 10 other events plotted, before I start. I get to know the characters, sometimes by interviewing them in depth and always find images of hero & heroine to refer to when describing reactions and physical characteristics. This brings the characters to life and as their personalities develop, they make decisions and go in directions I had never thought of. I love when that happens because then the story comes alive for me. When I first started writing I was annoyingly anal and every paragraph I wrote had to be edited immediately before I could let go of it and move on to the next bit – I can see you’re all rolling your eyes at this madness J. Now I have learnt just to write and not even think about the errors until later and found that a story can actually flow for hours – who’d have thought?!!

What writing tools do you favour? Long hand, computer …..

As I have muscular dystrophy, my best friend is the voice recognition program, Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Unfortunately I had a very embarrassing situation where my cleaner was dusting outside the door of my study while I was doing a hot sex scene in a book. She didn’t know I was writing and could just hear the words of seduction… and the results of said seduction… I think she thought I was enjoying myself a bit too much! Consequently the corner of the bookcase closest to my door got dusted within an inch of its life and she looked at me strangely thereafter. It took me a while to twig what had happened and I finally explained – not sure if she believed me. J Also I always have a Dictaphone beside my bed because my best ideas come just as I’m drifting off to sleep and then I worry that I’ll forget them.

Do you give yourself any writing rewards for achieving goals?

My favourite writing reward is to go out and sit in my pool where I can totally clear my head and enjoy some water therapy. Luckily I live in the tropics and can reward myself all year round!

 Can you name five objects that are always on or near your work desk while you write?

My desk is usually so cluttered with notes and books, if I had 5 objects, I wouldn’t be able to see them anyway!

Is your writing space messy, organized or somewhere in between? Are you prepared to show evidence of your claim with a desk photo?

I like to function in organized chaos. My desk looks messy but I know where everything is. I did tidy just a little…in case my mother sees the photo!

Jo – once again thank you for participating in our blog.

A Day in the Writing Life of … Christina Phillips

Okay, Christina, tell us…

Q: What time of the day do you start writing? Are you a morning, midday or nighttime writer?

A: Ideally I like to start writing at 8 am, carry on till lunchtime (11.30am – any later and I become coffee deprived!) then continue until I pick up the kids from school and Tafe. But usually I’m lucky if I manage to start by 10am. I only write at night when under deadline 🙂
Q: Where do you write? Does the location vary?

A: When my eldest daughter moved out last year, it left a spare bedroom. But not for very long since I immediately moved my desk and bookshelves into it! Up until then I’d been writing in a corner of the family room which made writing hot love scenes a bit… tricky!
Q: What’s the first thing you do before you begin to write?
A: I check my emails. It’s a ritual. If I’m good I’ll then start writing but if I’m not I might go and check out the various loops I belong to, Facebook, Twitter… it’s scary just how fast the time flies by if I’m not careful!
Q: Do you have a special system in place to organise yourself, or do you just go with the flow?
A:Organise myself… what is the meaning of this word, organise…! I go with the flow (that sounds a lot better than admitting I tend to muddle through!!)
Q: Are you a plotter/planner or do you enjoy the thrill of an unplanned writing adventure?

A: I used to plot down to the last detail, but now I can hardly plot the course of the following chapter. For the last two books I knew how they needed to end – they are romances, after all! – but I had little idea how everything was going to pull together until I was virtually on top of each scene. It’s exciting writing that way but also exhausting and sometimes terrifying (as my long-suffering CPs will attest!!!) However, for my current book I had to submit a proposal to my agent, which meant writing a synopsis in advance. That was hard work!

Q: Your favourite form of procrastination, apart from answering fascinating questions for the wonderful and always informative RWA Blog?
A: Surfing the net. Usually it starts off for research purposes but I am very easily distracted! I also chat on MSN (again, purely for research purposes… no, really…) blog-hop, stare at the ceiling, gaze out of the window, doodle on my numerous note pads…

Q: Do you have any writing rewards for achieving goals?
A: A nana-nap!!!

I asked Christina for a picture of her muse and she sent this – hubba-hubba

As if that’s not enough, when she’s not nana-napping, muse gazing or writing, Christina’s partying … and you’re invited.

To help celebrate the release of Forbidden, Christina Phillips’s debut Roman/Druid Ancient Historical Romance from Berkley Heat, she’s holding a launch party with lots of amazing authors and fabulous giveaways! In addition, Christina’s giving away a signed copy of Forbidden to one lucky person who helps spread the love. All you have to do is mention the party, being held from 1st to 6th September at http://christinaphillips.blogspot.com. You can Tweet about it, blog, Facebook, MySpace or anything! And then drop her an email at ChristinapPh @ gmail dot com (no spaces) to let her know. Please put Forbidden Launch Party (or something similar) in the subject line.

 The winner will be drawn for that on Monday 6th September.

And if you’d like to also put the trailer up on your sites, please do!!! The YouTube link to embed is here   (in case the hyperlink doesn’t work, here it is again http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNb4g2riV5E )

Find out more about Christina on her website: http://www.christinaphillips.com
FORBIDDEN ~ Berkley Heat, September 2010 – Between a warrior and a princess comes an erotic passion as all-consuming as the hatred between their warring worlds…

CAPTIVE ~ Berkley Heat, February 2011 – Trained in sensuality, a Druid priestess finds herself falling for the wrong man—the warrior who’s taken her prisoner…

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: http://lovecatsdownunder.blogspot.com/2010/06/interview-with-jennifer-schober-of.html

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 nikki@nikkilogan.com.au 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.


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A Day in the Writing Life of… Toni Lendich

Q: What time of the day do you start writing? Are you a morning, midday or night time writer?

A: All or any of the above, but mainly mornings. Lucky me, my time is my own – apart from shopping, washing, cleaning, cooking, CD duplication, creating & printing CD covers, printing my husband’s music, taking care of my OS brother’s investments, and my OS sister’s rental properties, etc. See, lots of time for me.

Q: Where do you write?

A: I converted a spare bedroom into a work area/study for myself years ago and my muso husband has his own recording studio next to the house. Strangely, my study is the repository for everything in the house that we can’t bear to throw out or need to store for some other family member. Apart from my two work PCs, I now caretake 3 desks (one an antique), 3 chairs and a stool, 2 monitors, 3 spare sets of mouse & keyboards, 3 guillotines (yes, 3), 3 filing cabinets. I can get in the door … just. Oh, and the built in wardrobe is chokkers too. I’ve just added a Toshiba laptop.


Toni's Elephants

Q: What’s the first thing you do before you begin to write?

A: Check to see if I’ve turned into a clone of JD Robb overnight – no, dammit. Turn on the PC and check my emails, have a shower & get dressed, put on my face (essential). Make my third cup of coffee. Dust my elephants. Renew my “Miracle Cure” nail polish: just don’t get me started on fingernails. Read the previous day’s work, say s**t, or worse, and start again.

Q: Your favourite form of procrastination, apart from answering fascinating questions for the wonderful and always informative RWA Blog?

A: No 1 is research, of course, which covers just about anything. Next is shopping on-line, for books mainly, then reading them. Dreaming up nom de plumes – I have two currently. And adding to my character names data base – now up to almost 2000. And buying little notebooks and data sticks incessantly and losing them. Also running a fundraiser for QIMR, a big Rock’n’Roll event each March which takes about 4 months to set up. Now that’s a story in itself!

Q: Are you a plotter/planner or do you enjoy the thrill of an unplanned writing adventure?

A: A bit of both really, but having started with an idea or two, I usually write straight on the PC. I have semi-plotted and am currently wrestling with book 2 of my murder trilogy, but have only managed 7 chapters so far. (HELP!) Book one was hard going as I had to invent a whole new technology for a future world of late this century which involved an enormous amount of scientific research and trying to make reasonably valid extrapolations from current technology. I do a lot of plotting half asleep actually, that lovely time when you wake up but don’t have to get up just yet, just drift and dream the next chapter, or some dialogue or a whole new plot. Delicious. I also find that’s the best time to dream up sex scenes! I wonder why. I really enjoyed writing my first pure romance novel and now I keep getting mentally pulled back to write my second. With my books, I usually write the final chapter quite early on and have a goal to work towards. Oh, I always have a little notebook with me to scribble in, then I lose it and buy another one (see previous answer).

Q: What’s the last thing you do before you finish your daily writing session(s)?

A: As a completely paranoid person I back up to (1) my website storage bin; (2) my external hard drive; and (3) to two data sticks. Sometimes I print the day’s output too. Sometimes I do this two or three times a day – is that anal or what! Having lost years of work once (a long time ago) I try to back up EVERYTHING frequently, especially my email.

About me & my work

Romance writing is quite a new venture for me as my usual field is futuristic crime with plenty of gory murders, set in Australia around 2067. Somehow romance started to force its way into my writing so I thought I’d give that a go and I joined RWA. And found what fun this is to write.

My latest MS, my very first “straight” romance, got me a place in the 5DI, a huge thrill, and some very encouraging feedback from a “First Kiss” judge. Another big thrill.

I live in Brisbane and am a grandmother of 3, one daughter and two step daughters. Married 29 years to a musician husband, we have a home based recording studio. I have a marvellously supportive sister and daughter, who read everything I write and never hesitate to crit and suggest ideas and changes where and when indicated.

For now, I am a CD & DVD designer. In my earlier life I wore many hats – a former sub-editor, a former psychologist (burned out), former copywriter, web designer, film critic, trainer, radio presenter, artist’s model, usherette, waitress, salesgirl – and got through a few fiancés & husbands too – so you can see I am well qualified to be a famous author! I am also trying hard to flog my murder trilogy to publishers and and entering lots of comps.

To find out more about Toni, visit her website at http://www.tonilendich.com/.

A Day in the Writing Life of… Jenn J McLeod

Our newest web team member, Jenn McLeod, takes the time to answer a few questions about her writing life.

Q: Where do you write? Does the location vary?

A: Oh, here’s an opportunity to try my latest Bio out on you all.    

“I write women’s fiction fulltime from my humble, homemade desk tucked in the corner of the living room with Strawberry and Daiquiri – my fluffy white muses and two tiny heartbeats –– asleep at my feet. Home for us is also a unique B&B, purpose-built for people and pets. So rather than isolating myself in a lonely room somewhere in the house, I prefer to work amidst the everyday disruptions of life, from which I draw inspiration while romancing the possibilities in life, love and second chances.” 

(Note: shameless plug of my dog-friendly B&B in Coffs Harbour www.wagtailcottage.com.au). Shameless plug duly noted! – 🙂 Mon
Q: What are your writing tools?

 A: I ONLY use my laptop really. I will scribble notes (scribble being the best word for my hand writing).

I have also learned how to write in the dark to save turning on the light. Also, especially in winter, I’ve been known to take my trusty, twenty-year-old Dictaphone to bed (Ah, now, now! Come on, people! A Dictaphone is an old fashioned device for recording your voice–that’s all).

With a Dictaphone under the blankets (stop laughing) I don’t have to take my arms out in winter to write. Brrrr!

Q: Do you have coffee, chocolate, fruit or other food and drink during your writing time? 

A: Sitting on my backside all day and half the night is bad enough. I don’t need to add to my massive bottom with food. Now, as coffee is not food (and owning a cafe has made me a coffee addict) I do admit I’m lucky having my own personal barista who, like clock-work (10:30 and 3:30), makes me two soy lattes every day.

Jenn's Writing Corner

Q: Do you exercise at your desk, or elsewhere, between sessions?

A: Is Dana Fletcher-Scully reading this? Then I definitely stretch 🙂

Actually, credit to Dana for making me realise (during Bootcamp) that my laptop was responsible for my neck, back and head aches and pains. Now I have a laptop slope and a wireless keyboard so I can type in any position. (Hey, maybe it will work under the blankets!).

Seriously, anyone out there using a laptop and not using a slop or raising the screen so that’ it’s ergonomically correct – consider a slope (and no…phone books don’t cut it!).

Q: Can you name five objects that are always on, or near, your work desk whilst you write?

 A: Nothing, naught, zippo, zilch and zero. I don’t need any distractions (that’s what blogs, Facebook and Twitter are for 🙂  Besides, my desk is tiny – just me and my laptop.

For more information about Jenn, visit her blog at www.jennjmcleod.blogspot.com or check out her future Blog Bite posts about other RWA members.

A Day in the Writing Life of… Victoria Black

Q: What time of the day do you start writing?

A: I’m a very new writer, so this answer may change in years to come. But for now: I know you’re supposed to write every day, but I think you have to take your own personality into account. I’m a project kind of girl. It’s better for me to get up at five or three in the morning and write all day, only getting out of my nightie when my husband is due home from work, and then do exercise/housework stuff when I’m finished the story or scene or when I’m at a stand still. Of course, my kids being grown up, and not having to go to work (been there, done that) helps a lot.

Q: Are you a plotter/planner or do you enjoy the thrill of an unplanned writing adventure?

A: I need a basic plot, with a general ending to aim for, and then I can deviate if it seems a good idea. With the last novella I wrote, I started to deviate from my plot outline into a much darker area than I’d figured on, and having the basic plot idea really helped me stop going down a blind alley.

Q: Do you have coffee, chocolate, fruit or other food and drink during your writing time?

A: Yes. 🙂

Q: Do you exercise at your desk, or elsewhere, between sessions?

A: I guess my stretching/exercising while I’m writing consists of frequent visits to the fridge.

Q: Your favourite form of procrastination, apart from answering fascinating questions for the wonderful and always informative RWA Blog?

A: Shopping, going out to lunch, having a long bath, searching for and saving pictures of gorgeous men for hero ideas on the internet (have you seen that photo of Alex O’Loughlin with no shirt on? He’s pretty much my hero of every story I have in mind, and I really must try to remember I’m fifty years old), reading another Sexy HQN, because that’s the area I want to aim for. I’m really quite versatile.

Q: Do you have any writing rewards for achieving goals?

A: Because I’m so obsessive, I need to give myself about a fortnight after I’ve spent days doing nothing but stare at my computer screen for fifteen hour stretches finishing my ms., to do regular things like clean up the house and go to the bank.

My novella LIES AND SEDUCTION is due to be released by Cobblestone Press soon. It’s the first thing I’ve ever had published, so I’m really excited. The story is set in London, during the Second World War.

For more information about Victoria and her first release LIES AND SEDUCTION , visit http://victoriablack.htmlplanet.com, Cobblestone Press’ website is http://www.cobblestone-press.com/, or send an email to victoriablack@live.com.au.

To be in the running to win a copy of LIES AND SEDUCTION, leave a comment below – Victoria is selecting a random winner.

Good luck!

A Day in the Writing Life of… Anita Joy

Q: What time of the day do you start writing? Are you a morning, midday or night time writer?

A: I want to be a morning writer (I’m naturally an early bird), but thanks to munchkins who are also up with the sparrows, I’m forced to write at night once they are tucked up in bed. So I try for 2 to 3 hours every night. Note the word “try” – like the best laid plans it doesn’t always work out that way.

Q: Where do you write? Does the location vary?

A: Most of the time I’m at my desk, but I usually have a pen and paper with me so if I get the chance anywhere I write. Unfortunately, those aforementioned munchkins rarely offer me any chance of using the pen and paper – even my desk isn’t sacred.

Q: What’s the first thing you do before you begin to write?

A: Distract the kids!! But if they are in bed then the first thing I do is reread the page or two before to get my head back in (the space where my brain is supposed to be is a mad and crazy place – chaos reigns so this is necessary before any writing can begin).

Q: Do you have a special system in place to organise yourself, or do you just go with the flow?

A: Eeeeek, go with the flow? Are you kidding me? That can only lead to disaster, lol. As anyone who knows me can tell you – organise, organise, organise!

Q: Any preparation rituals you swear by? Any writing tricks to make your writing more efficient?

A: A wonderful hubby who brings me a cup of peppermint tea and some of that really bitter lindt chocolate at about 9.30pm everynight to keep the creative juices flowing. Another trick (and I swear by it so laugh away ) is to write (ie type) with my eyes closed. I visualise scenes so it helps keep me focussed, but what I learnt during my first nanowrimo is doing this stops my internal editor. What I can’t see I can’t stop to fix.

Q: Are you a plotter/planner or do you enjoy the thrill of an unplanned writing adventure?

A: See question above. I’m a plotter through and through. Mind you, no-one tells my characters that, so sometimes, even with me kicking and screaming at them, they still go their own way. But by and large the thread of my plot stays true.

Q: Writing tools? Long-hand, digital pen, computer (Mac or PC), DragonSpeaking/other voice program, etc.?

A: I plot on paper. I have a notebook for each wip and everything goes in there (see, nice and organised). I type my first draft on my laptop but I print and do all my edits on a hard copy.

Q: Do you have coffee, chocolate, fruit or other food and drink during your writing time?

A: I always have my mug of water, and at night a peppermint tea and Lindt 85% cocoa chocolate. But in the cooler months I’m a big tea drinker (usually rooibos).

Q: To stretch or not to stretch? Do you exercise at your desk, or elsewhere, between sessions?

A: I know I should stretch, but if I’m writing am usually oblivious to anything. Luckily my family interrupt enough that I am up and down from my desk like a yo-yo.

Anita's Mug

Q: Can you name five objects that are always on, or near, your work desk whilst you write?

A: Photos of my family, my mug of water, plotting notebooks for my current wips, artwork from my kids and my pot plant.

Anita's Desk

Q: Is your desk messy or organised?

A: I lurv a clean and tidy desk – no surprises there I’m sure. But my desk is also seen as a dumping ground by everyone in the family, so I clean it and over the week it becomes a mountain of random toys, paper and other junk. My week usually finishes with me cleaning it again.

Q: Your favourite form of procrastination, apart from answering fascinating questions for the wonderful and always informative RWA Blog?

A: I don’t have time to procrastinate as such. Instead I have a long list of things that need to be done and I’m usually procrastinating from one of them by writing, lol. Snatching writing time is such a valuable thing for me when I get it I take it.

Q: What’s the last thing you do before you finish your daily writing session(s)?

A: Save to the computer, save to my flash drive and save to Windows Office Live. Make notes in my notebook for when I write next. Write my ‘to do’ list for the next day (by now this should be no surprise) and give my desk a quick straighten.

Q: Do you have any writing rewards for achieving goals?

A: I keep promising myself ‘when I make the next goal I’ll….’ but the only problem is, by the time I’ve made it there, my next goal post is already in sight and I think, ‘Oh, no, not yet, I’ve got to reach that first….’ so I’ve never made it to a reward.

If you’d like to know more about anita, visit  http://anita-joy.blogspot.com.

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