On Saturday I had lunch with the Birmingham Chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
It was a very positive affair with lots of people having good news to share such as excellent reports from the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme, publishing deals and competition successes. As always I came away eager to get writing again.
One of our members, romantic comedy author Alison May has been asked to judge a short story competition for the first time and she gave us the details (unfortunately there’ll be no favouritism because it’s all judged anonymously).
The first Black Pear Press Short Story Competition is for stories up to 1500 words in any genre/theme.
First prize is £75 and second prize is two Black Pear Press publications. Entries may be published on the Black Pear Press website and may be included in an anthology.
Closing date is 26th September 2014 and entry is via email. Entry fee is £5.
Full details are here.
Another ‘first’ short story competition that you might like to consider is that currently underway at KISHBOO. This will become a regular quarterly competition with a first prize of £50 and a second prize of £25. The entry fee is £3 and the first competition closes on October 20th 2014. Again any genre/theme is acceptable and the maximum word count is 2,000. The full terms and conditions are here.
Last Saturday I had a great time (and learned a lot) at a workshop organised by the Birmingham Chapter of the
Sue Moorcroft came to talk to us about writing romantic novels. She gave us much good advice such as:
- Know the publisher/market you are aiming for before beginning the book and she told us that Harper Impulse are currently open to submissions.
- Have a one sentence synopsis to describe the book and also know what tone you are writing in i.e. light and frothy, grittty, tearjerker etc.
- When planning the story, avoid listing the scenes/ideas down the page. Instead use a spider diagram so that your brain is not chanelled into what happens when too soon – instead your mind can jump about and pick the most appropriate scene.
- What should you do when a story runs out of steam or you have a ‘saggy’ middle? Introduce something dramatic such as the revelation of a secret, a new character (maybe an ex-boyfriend or an illigitimate baby), a skeleton in the cupboard or anything else that will add drama to the situation.
- Keep the hero and heroine apart by giving them conflicting goals.
- The traits required of heros and heroines – they should both be decent, honest people but should have some flaws and vulnerability like the rest of us.
- A prologue (where the book lends itself to it) gives the author two chances to hook the reader (once in the prologue and once in chapter one)
- Chapter One should move the story forward. Do not clutter it with back story or scene setting.
- An epilogue can be used to prolong the reader’s feeling of happy satisfaction at the end of a book. It may be a wedding, new baby or other tieing up of loose ends.
- When writing, remember Act, React and Interact. This will make it easier to Show rather than Tell. For example the characters should react to their environment – such as squinting at the sun – rather than the author describing the sunny day.
We had a lovely buffet lunch and the whole day ran smoothly. Special mention should go to Marilyn Rodwell for her organisational skills and her doughnuts which gave us all a sugar kick first thing in the morning!
And if you’d like more of Sue’s invaluable advice take a look at her book Love Writing – How to Make Money Writing Romantic or Erotic Fiction – available in paperback or as an e-book.
I hit the NaNoWriMo target on 25th November – I had planned to write 2,000 words per day and, amazingly, I managed to stick to it.
Now the not so good bit. As soon as I hit 50,000 words I abandoned my routine. I had planned to keep going all the way to November 30th and thus amass 60,000 words. But once I knew I’d done enough to be a NaNo winner, I could no longer drag myself out of bed at 6:15 am to write 1,000 words before breakfast.
So now I’m gearing myself up to write the last little bit of the story, and then it’s the scary part – reading back through it all and discovering it’s all mumbo jumbo!
And if you’re looking for a new project now that NaNo is over:
Nottingham Writers’ Club are holding their first National Short Story Competition. The winner gets £200 and there are 15 prizes in total. ‘Emotion’ is the theme of the competition and the word limit is 2,000.
Entries can only be submitted between 1st and 31st January 2014 and, “All entrants must be non-professional writers. For the purpose of this competition, we define ‘non-professional’ as a writer who has earned less than £500 from short story writing during 2013″.
Request an entry form and further details here.
Finally, a quick shout out for Alison May. Alison is a fellow member of the Birmingham Chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and has just had her debut novel published via Choc Lit Lite.
It’s titled ‘Much Ado About Sweet Nothing’ and is available initially in e-book format.
On Saturday we had a really interesting meeting of the Birmingham Chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. There were 8 of us around the table in the Edwardian Tea Rooms of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and one of our member’s exploits took up most our discussions.
She shall remain nameless, since for obvious reasons she writes under a pseudonym, but she is making around £800 a month selling her erotic e-books, mostly to the US markets. Bear in mind that she fits this around a full-time day job and a family -it makes me wonder why I am slogging away trying to get the odd story accepted by a women’s magazine or shortlisted in a competition!
Our successful author currently has 67 stories for sale, ranging in length from 3,000 to 10,000 words. Apparently the secret of her success is to keep up with the latest trends in erotica – for example monsters are the ‘in thing’ at the moment (the mind boggles!).
She self-publishes the e-books, formatting them and designing the covers herself. As you can imagine, we were all agog to learn her secrets and she has promised us a workshop in January…
Talking about the mind boggling, I caught the tail end of a Radio 4 program – ‘When Harry Potter Met Frodo’ – about Fan Fiction this week. The presenter was talking about Slash Fiction. This is a sub-genre of Fan Fiction and involves choosing 2 of your favourite male characters from existing works of fiction, bringing them together and letting them have an affair (at least that’s my polite way of putting it!).
So, if you want to write what the market wants – now you know!
Whenever a group of writers meet together tongues never stop wagging, a good time is had by all and, most
importantly, everyone goes away fired up with renewed enthusiasm!
This was the case on Saturday at the first 2012 quarterly meeting of the Birmingham Chapter of the Romantic Novelists Association. Nine of us had lunch at the Edwardian Tea Rooms in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
Jean Fullerton, winner of the 2006 Harry Bowling Prize, was our special guest. As well as writing historical novels based in the East End of London and giving regular talks to Women’s Institutes and other organisations, she continues to work full-time as a district nurse – so there’s no excuse for the rest of us not finding time to write!
Jean was generous with her advice and, amongst other things, emphasised that in romance novels, the author must be in love with the hero she’s created – otherwise why on earth should the reader fall for him? Also protagonists must remain ‘in character’ and not be shoe-horned into doing something not in their nature just for the sake of the plot. And in answer to a question, Jean said that there’s no need to get hung up on what is the ‘right’ chapter length or worry about making them all equal – if necessary this can be sorted with the help of an editor later.
Elsewhere around the table we discussed the pros and cons of basing characters on real people, emailing manuscripts to our Kindles in order to see them with fresh eyes and spot mistakes missed on the computer screen plus we caught up with how everyone had been doing over the last few months.
Writing can be a lonely and frustrating business, so if you get the chance to go to a workshop, class or other gathering of writers – grab it with both hands!
I’ve just come back from a meeting of the Birmingham Chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. We get together every three months at the Edwardian Tea Rooms in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery for lunch and a chat about writing in general and romance writing in particular.
I joined the RNA at the beginning of 2010 through its New Writers Scheme, which provides unpublished authors with a comprehensive report on a full-length romance novel. The report covers characters, plot and the suitability of the novel for its intended audience. This scheme has a limit of 250 places and opens for applications at the beginning of January each year (but you do have until the end of August to submit your manuscript). The scheme is usually full within a month – so you have to be quick off the mark!
My novel came out of this very badly but nevertheless it was money well spent. The following points came out of the detailed critque:
- Aim at a readership that you can identify with – it’s hard to write to chick-lit for 20-somethings when you’re old enough to be their mother!
- Get to know your characters before you start writing – my heroine had many inconsistencies in the way she acted, leaving it difficult for the reader to care about her at all
- Work out the plot in detail, again before you start writing, mine had as many holes as a seive
- Only include scenes that move the story on otherwise the book becomes dull
Don’t submit to the New Writers’ Scheme if you’re afraid of criticism – parts of my report were quite brutal. Recognise the report you receive for what it is – an attempt to help you become a better writer and that can’t be done without honestly telling you if your novel is bad.
Of course not everyone’s work is as bad as mine! Anne, who I met at lunchtime, was given some useful advice about giving her 1950s heroine more oomph and she is now working to improve her book. About 5% of manuscripts submitted to the scheme are judged worthy of a second reading and may then get sent on to an agent.
If you decide to submit – Good Luck! and remember, contrary to popular belief romance writing is not easy.
Today’s writing prompt: Easter Egg (not very seasonable now but remember if you’re writing for publication, magazines work several months in advance).