Waiting for "The Call"

“Honey, it’s always crap. Every book I write is crap. It’s my job to fix the crap afterwards,” according to Nora Roberts. Well, I've got it half right. Still working on the "fixing it" part. "Trust your characters to be complex enough and to have enough emotional baggage. Force them to make hard choices." Advice from Michelle Styles that might help!

Fab new blog- Seven Sassy Sisters May 13, 2010

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 8:46 pm
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My crit group launches a fun new blog tomorrow- Seven Sassy Sisters.

It’s dedicated to romance, writing, and all things sassy, sexy, and fun.

Come join the party as the newest and youngest Presents author Maisey Yates kicks off; Saturday it’s time for Jackie Ashenden, super sassy runner up in Feel the Heat; then on Sunday find out why I am the least sassy sister! Next week come Aideen Taylor, Irish Modern Heat writer, undoubtably soon to get her Call, she’s found a way to warm up those cold Irish nights; Abbi Cantrell, single title talent extraordinaire who can’t forget her love of category romance; the mysterious Chelsea Finch, who walks the tightrope of targetting both Sweet Romance and Blaze and manages to write both brilliantly; and last but most definitely not least Jilly, the Modern Heat winner of this years Harlequin Mills and Boon writing competition, who takes heat to a whole new level.

BTW, I don’t wear shoes like that! I do fantasise about it, and buy them from time to time, then always end up selling them on ebay unworn. I’m so clumsy I can’t walk in them. Besides, I married a very odd man who finds flats a bigger turn on than heels!

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The Sacred Sisterhood- and why I love it December 13, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 6:13 pm
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I am fortunate to be a member of a small online writer’s group. We’re a bunch of unpublished but working on it romance writers who got together on the I Hearts Presents blog after last year’s competitions (rejected, every single one of us!) to form a group to support each other, commiserate over our rejections, celebrate our successes, and read and critique each others work, so we could learn and grow and help each other reach our goal of publication.

We’d all discovered that no matter how supportive friends and family are, most of them just don’t get it. They don’t understand why a rejection letter would have us in hysterics, and a revision letter for a friend would have us dancing around the room. They don’t have a clue what we are talking about when we muse aloud about a character’s past and how that might impact the black moment, and when we start talking about our hero and heroine like they are real people. There are some things no-one, apart from other writers, really understand.

So we got talking on I Hearts after the last contest, and someone suggested forming a Google group so we could keep on talking.

We’re not really called the Sisterhood, but we’ve become such good friends over the last 14 months, we call each other sisters. We support each other like sisters, not just in good times but in bad times; not just with our writing ups and downs but with all the crap the real world can throw at us too. We’ve been through pregnancy, sick kids and pets, unemployed husbands, money worries, aging parents, day jobs from hell, illnesses and bereavements, plus the utter awfulness sometimes of keeping on doing what we have to day after day after day when it feels like nothing we do can make the dream come any closer.

We chat and encourage and laugh and cry and make bad jokes and rude jokes. Sometimes we even talk about writing.

We bounce our ideas off each other before we even start to write. Would this be believeable if she did that, and is this enough reason for him to behave like that? Character interviews are great fun, and the answers to questions put to the character by the group (everything from favourite music to favourite sexual position) turn up some revealing information.

We post our writing, and get feedback from people who will not just say a meaningless “That’s wonderful,” like friends and family, but will actually tell us what doesn’t work, what needs to be stronger, and how we might make it so. We get to learn how to look critically at a piece of writing, how to recognise what is good and what needs fixing, and how to communicate that. This has taught me more than anything. When I get an insight into how a friend can improve her work, that’s a gift I can apply to my writing too.

We share our rejection letters, cry together over them, and sometimes some of us get to realise what they thought were rejection letters were actually revision letters. We’ve journeyed with Maisey through the revision process, seeing her shape and reshape her story to bring out all the potential her editor saw was there. We all got to dance and sing when she got her Call.

I am joyfully proud to be part of this group, proud that one of our group has just sold to Presents and another is now the Modern Heat winner for the Harlequin Writing competition. Maisey’s book, His Virgin Acquisition, to be released in August 2010, is amazing. Gill’s winning chapter, which will be posted soon on I Hearts is brilliant, a worthy winner.

I’m not saying the group made these things happen. Maisey and Gill are fabulous writers. They would have achieved success no matter what. But maybe the support and encouragement helped it happen sooner. Helped people keep going when things were tough and discouraging and it could have been tempting to give in. I know it’s helped me immensely. I hope and pray I’ll see good news for all the group members in the coming year, because each of these women is talented and deserving of success. I love every one of them.

What makes the sisterhood sacred and lifts it above the mundane is that we do truly love, encourage, and support each other. We mourn each others losses, we celebrate each others victories. We see the truth in each other, sometimes when the person themselves can’t see it.

The group is sacred because they keep me honest. When I am kidding myself about something, they tell me. When I think something I’ve written is good and it’s not, they tell me. When I think something I’ve written is bad, and it’s not, they tell me. When I’m having one of those days, weeks, months and all I want to do is to stop writing, shut down the blog, delete all my writing files, disappear off the forums, they stop me. No point doing it, they know where I am. They’ll track me down and make me write.

Groups like ours don’t work for everyone. Some writers prefer to have a single critique partner. Some prefer a larger group. Some know they work best alone. Everyone is different.

But for writers who feel in need of more support as they work to improve their writing, the option of setting up a similar group or finding a writing buddy is open to anyone. This links to a post I wrote last year about finding a writing group or buddy. There are more suggestions in the comments there.

Some key things to bear in mind-

  • Treat it like dating, with a trial period of “getting to know you” first. Make sure everyone has the same expectations- how much social chat is there going to be, how much writing talk? How many times are you going to meet? How often will you give each other work to read, and how soon should a critique be given? How will you deal with things if it doesn’t work out?
  • Make sure that your CP understands and is sympathetic to the line you are targeting. Ideally a writer targeting the same line, at least someone who has read it widely and recently, and who enjoys it. You don’t want to someone constantly wanting you to take out the sex, put in more sex: change your hero to be more Alpha or less Alpha; cut the vampire out of your paranormal because everyone knows vampires don’t really exist, put a vampire into your Sweet Romance because vamps are hot right now; or whatever suits their particular bias.
  • Be clear on what you want from a critique and that you both understand that. You don’t want a CP just picking you up on a spelling mistake when you want to know if the hero’s motivation works; you might not want her telling you the hero’s motivation doesn’t work if all you wanted was a last minute typo check. Last minute typo checks are good, but not the best use of a CP, in my opinion!
  • Understand that not everyone knows how to give good critique. Ms Nice Girl will just give bland feedback, because she doesn’t want to cause offense, everything is “Fine” or “Nice” or “I enjoyed it”. Ms Nasty has watched Simon Cowell too much and thinks critique means ripping everything to shreds, with no positives at all. Good critique is balanced. It recognises what strengths are there, and builds from them. If there are things that in the reader’s opinion could be strengthened it says so, with some suggestions for improvement. Not “write it like this” suggestions, changing the wording, but things like “would it work better if he did that there?” Or just stating how it was for you and leaving it for the writer to bounce her own answers off you- “I wasn’t clear why he did that there.” Sometimes Ms Nice and Ms Nasty can be coaxed to give better critique by asking them open ended questions. “What were three things you liked about my hero? And what were three things I could have changed?”
  • Know that sometimes people don’t know how to recieve critique. Sometimes even a considered balanced critique isn’t what someone wants to hear. Ms Nice often wants to hear just the same in return. This makes it difficult to get any benefit from her as a CP, or to help her improve her writing in return.
  • Even the best critique in the world might not be right for your writing. Sometimes a CP will make a suggestion and you instinctively know that’s not right, your character wouldn’t do that, whatever. That’s good! You don’t have to take the CPs advice. and you just learned something about your character. A good CP will accept that you won’t always follow through on everything they suggest.
  • Be ready for the reality that not everyone in a group or partnership will develop at the same rate or find their place at the same time. How will you deal with it if you get published when your critique partner is still struggling? How will you manage if your CP gets her Call and it feels like you are being left behind?

It’s not the answer for everyone, and nothing replaces writing as the best of all ways to learn. Groups or partnerships can also be time consuming, eating into our writing time. Only you can decide if this is what works for you. I know it does for me.

For anyone looking for a group, SK started something over at I Heart Presents. There’s now a thread there listing new critique groups, including a group that is open to any romance writer- Romance Angels Network

 

Changes… December 5, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 12:07 pm
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I’ve been doing some thinking about my writing, and I am stopping work on the Presents version of Luk and Emma.

I just can’t settle to it, because the single title version keeps whispering plot ideas to me!

It’s the same basic premise but longer and with more secondary characters and subplots, and less tightly focused on the romance. More complicated internal conflict though. Also less sexy too, though the sex will still be there, which I think will suit my voice better. I really can’t seem to catch either the deep emotional intensity needed for Presents, or the lighter flirty tone of the Modern Heat. I need to play around more and work out where my voice belongs. Don’t think it’s Harlequin.

I was going to wait until the end of January, when we will have either had full requests or Rs from the contest, but I can’t keep plugging away at the Presents version till then. My heart isn’t in it, and it shows in my writing.

Part of what triggered this has been the wonderful success of Maisey, one of my writing buddies, who had her Call from Harlequin Presents this week. Maisey loves Presents, loves to read them better than anything else, never thought of writing for any other line. She’s been focused on one writing goal- becoming a Presents author. And she has done it, and I am so, so happy for her well-deserved achievement!

But it got me thinking about what I want. What is my goal, really and truly? Could part of the reason I am missing the mark be that I’m not aiming at the right target?

I’m a lot less focused than Maisey, that’s for sure. I enjoy Presents stories, but I enjoy a whole lot of other stories too. When I decided to put my energies back into fiction writing, around two years ago, I started with a single title romantic comedy/suspense. Then just when I was about to dive into rewriting it in February, I heard about the Harlequin Instant Seduction contest. I hadn’t read a Presents for years, so I bought a few. Liked them, put together an entry for the contest in just two weeks. Which got an R, of course, but a nice encouraging R with a Compliments Slip. But that R stopped the nearly finished Presents story dead.

Then for a year I played with lots of Presents/ Modern Heat story ideas, but nothing grabbed me, nothing went past one or two chapters.

Until Luk and Emma’s story. I made a promise to myself and my crit group that I would finish the first draft. I couldn’t write anything else, until that was done. Well, it got done. But it kept careening off the tracks in wild and crazy directions that weren’t where it was supposed to go. When it came to edit it, I had to decide- was it Presents or single title. It was a messy hybrid, that would need a load of work to take it either way and make it work.

What decided me was, again, the contest. This year’s Harlequin Presents competition. I edited it to fit Presents, so I could enter the contest, along with a couple of the others in my writing group.

It wasn’t a bad entry. It could even be a passably good, reasonably competent attempt at a Presents. But it’s dead. It doesn’t have that spark of life that would take it beyond competent and make it stand out from the rest of the entries. Passion. Commitment. That indefinable something that grabs the reader. That something I can see in several of my buddies’ writing, but not in mine.

I can go two ways with this.

I can decide I just don’t have the talent it takes, that other people have that magic something and I don’t, so I should give up. Or I can look honestly at what I’ve been trying to do and accept that if my voice doesn’t fit with Presents, maybe that’s because I’m trying to write what I think I “should” write rather than what I really want to write. Maybe I chose to target Presents because of the competitions, and because my writing buddies were aiming there, rather than out of a real commitment and desire to write for that line.

It’s an interesting idea- what if someone somehow managed to write well enough to win a contest for a line they really didn’t want to write for, and found themselves tied to writing books they didn’t really want to write?

Thank God, that didn’t happen to me! I’m assuming the editors would have contacted the contest winners by now, so not hearing anything means I’m not a winner or runner up. (Not that I expected to be!)

That means I’m free to take this story whatever direction I want. And I want to try it as a longer story, less focused on the relationship, though it’s still an important element. What if on the island fairy tales and magic are real? How will that affect Emma and Luk? How will that make a difference to their relationship? How will that make their issues different?

Maybe if I let my story run off the rails it will crash and burn in a hot mess. Maybe it will unfold its wings and fly. Let’s see!

 

Editing blues August 5, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 12:59 pm
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I’m off work  for the second day with some sort of virus, aching all over (like the day after doing the toughest exercise class imaginable),  feeling miserable and sorry for myself.

I’m just about to start back into yet another edit of the first chapter of the WIP. Not the new story that the internal conflict post was about, but the previous one, the WIP from Hell, Luk and Emma’s story. This is the one discussed in the “Presents or not Presents” post.  A very rough first draft is complete, and I want to have a go at editing this before I start first drafting the new story.

This is the book that I know I will look back and see as my “learning” story. It’ll probably (quite rightly!) never get published. But in the struggle and the mistakes and the OMG-I-just-want-to-throw-it-in-the-bin-and-never-look-at-the-bloody-thing-ever-again moments, there will have been just enough aha moments to make it the best classroom in romance writing I could possibly have.

I spent last weekend working on the first chapter. I wrote a lot of new material as I decided to drop a prologue type beginning in the hero’s POV, and get rid of a secondary character who was there for most of the hero and heroine’s meeting in the original version, then cobbled together the bits that fit from three separate versions of the chapter. I knew it still needed a lot of polishing, but wanted some feedback on how it worked before I went any further with it. So I posted it to my incredibly perceptive and supportive crit group.

Interesting response! None of them thought my voice was Modern Heat, even though that was what I was aiming for. Three thought it was Presents/ Modern, one thought it was Sweet. Two thought the hero needed Alphaing up more, one felt he needed softening, one felt he was fine as he was for a Sweet. Ack! Instant approval need crisis.

This conflicting advice made me realise there’s a darned good reason the heroine in my next story has a big issue with needing approval and wanting to make everyone else happy! I do hope my heroine reacts a bit better than I did though, or she won’t be the least bit sympathetic.

I went straight into the “But what do I do now? Waaaaaaaaaaah!”  overload of a people pleaser faced with competing requirements. It didn’t help that I was tired, ill, pre-menstrual, and already emotional over an old grief that events of the day had reactivated earlier. I probably needed that little meltdown, though I’m not sure the girls in my crit group did!

Anyway, once I got all the emotions out the way and could actually think about it, I realised, surprise surprise, they weren’t giving conflicting advice at all. I’d already done the “Well, all I can do is write it how it seems right to me and not care what anyone else thinks” bit, but that sort of defeats the purpose of being in a critique group. So even though the advice seemed divergent, I tried to look for the common threads.

What I figured out was, they are each totally correct in their assessments. I cobbled this chapter together from lots of versions written over a six month period. My voice is bound to be all over the place.  I’m still in the process of finding it. So I need to go in there  and smooth that out. My hero is inconsistent too, for the same reason. They are all right about the changes he needs. There are some places he needs Alphaing up, and others where his hard edges need rasping off, where he needs to use charm not force.

Actually, and this seems so obvious I’m embarrassed to say this- I need to sit down and read the  frigging chapter. I put it together, spellchecked it, and sent it off to them. But I hadn’t really looked at it properly, hadn’t read it as a whole, I’d only read the little piece I was working on at the time. A bit like assembling a jigsaw puzzle on the wrong side, so you can’t see the entire thing, can’t see how that piece fits with the rest. 

One thing I’m learning. Always keep my eye on the big picture!

 

Critique group or critique buddy? November 19, 2008

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 10:41 pm
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jitcrunch1
Image source

 

Romance writing can be a solitary affair, just us and our story. Which is fine if we’re only writing for our own pleasure, but not necessarily so good if our aim is publication. LIke sex, writing can be fun for one, but even better shared with someone else!

When we keep our writing to ourselves until we feel the story is completed and edited, it’s just too easy to get so close to the story that we can’t see it clearly enough. This can lead to one of two things, both of which can kill any chance of getting our beloved story published. I know, ‘cos I’ve done both!

Either we see nothing but the faults and flaws and keep endlessly editing and rewriting and polishing, and never allow another living soul to see it. The risk here is that we can literally edit the life out of the story, polish the diamond away to nothing, taking out the exact things an editor is looking for- the things that make it individual and fresh and give it our unique voice. Plus of course, the story never gets entered in a contest or submitted it a publisher or agent, because it’s never quite “good enough”.

Or we can’t see the flaws in our story. We know exactly what the hero is thinking when he’s so horrible to the heroine in chapter four, so we don’t explain his motivation and he comes across as a bully and a tyrant, not a man she could fall in love with. We know who is saying those delicious lines of dialogue or thinking those key thoughts, so we don’t realise that for a reader our shift in point of view wasn’t obvious at all, and she has to back up and read that page again to figure out what the hell is going on. Do that too many times and she’ll throw the book against the wall in frustration, or the editor will do it for her first with a quick rejection. Or continiuty slips, where the hero who was sitting down is standing on the other side of the room in the next line, and the heroine’s green eyes turn blue in the next chapter. I had my hero do something that was actually physically impossible in the first chapter of my IS entry!

Luckily there’s an answer for us wannabee published writers. And it doesn’t involve paying lots of money for a professional crtique, though they have their place too. It’s getting another writer to read and comment on our stuff for us, in return for us doing the same for them. Another person reading our story can see all those things that we can’t, both the truly wonderful things we don’t realise, and the bits that need fixing before an editor sees our work. All it takes is one other person, or a group. It can be done face to face or on the internet. I am lucky enough to be part of a fabulous crtique group, just six of us all aiming to be published with Harlequin Mills and Boon. We haven’t met each other physically yet, we met up online, but I feel I know those girls so well! Getting to be part of the group was pure luck- I just happened to be posting in the right place at the right time. when the group was formed I also have a wonderful critique buddy. So many published romance writers comment on their blogs or websites about how much help their crit group or partner was in helping them get published. Of course, plenty did it all by themselves too, but my experience is that being part of a critique group or having a buddy is not only massive fun but so beneficial for my writing too.

There are advantages and disadvantages to a group or a one to one buddy partnership. The great thing about a group is that there is a wider range of feedback, different people will see different things. With a buddy it’s one person’s opinion, which could be spot on or could be simply a personal preference. If three members of a critique group all pick up the same thing in the story, chances are this is something that most readers would see. If a buddy says it, we might edit out something she didn’t like but most readers would love. Or we might say “Well that’s just her opinion,” and leave in something that most readers including the editor will also hate!

Particularly for someone who is a little shy or reticent, a buddy can be easier than a group, because it’s just forming that one relationship. With a group we might feel more nervous about sharing our work with a number of people at once and dealing with a lot of feedback. Also with a buddy there isn’t the sheer volume of writing to read and critique. There are some amazingly prolific writers in the group I am part of, and I feel so guilty that I haven’t read and critiqued all the writing that has been posted. Also, sometimes I feel inadequate that I am writing so little in comparision. The (very plus) plus side of that is that I am getting to read some brilliant writing, in my opinion more enjoyable than some published romances out there, and learning so much about editing and strengthening a story that I can apply to my own work. Also, with a group if a member isn’t able to participate so much because of illness or other life events, things can still go on. Everyone will have a personal preference, it seems that many writers have a group AND a buddy, or even several groups and buddies, though that must keep them very busy!

Whichever way you choose to go, the thing I think is most essential is that the others involved are aiming at the same sub-genre as you, or at least open to it and with a good understanding of it. Someone who writes sweet inspirational romance may not give a totally useful critique on some aspects of a hot erotic story, and the erotic romance writer may not “get” what inspirational romance readers and editors are looking for either. Plus people have to be willing to give and to accept constructive criticism. It’s not much help having someone who only says nice things about the piece of writing, as chances are it isn’t already perfect. It’s even less help having someone who just tears the writing to shreds without any comments on how it can be improved, that’s both unhelpful and demoralising. And there’s no point in a writer who is positive their stuff is already perfect joining a group or looking for a buddy- there almost certainly will be some areas that need more work getting noticed and commented on. I know my writing is improving, but there’s a way to go yet. And even multi-pubbed writers still bounce their stuff off their group or buddy before sending it off to their editor, so I’m not going to be too proud to take some help from other writers.

Finding a group or a buddy isn’t too hard. How to do it depends it on if you want to be part of a group or partnership that meets face-to-face or online. The group I am part of is closed to new members, but there are lots of open groups or wrietrs looking for crtique buddies out there.

Finding a face-to-face group or buddy

  • national groups like the RWA have local chapters
  • if you live in a big town with a bookshop that specialises in romance they may have writers’ groups already running, or if not you could post on their notice board to see if there is anyone else interested
  • you can look on the internet for a local group or a buddy- asking on romance discussion boards like eHarlequin or Romantic Times may local an existing group, someone near enough to be a buddy, or even enough people to start your own group meeting in a coffee shop or the local library
  • check out the local library- many have writers’ groups, or host lectures or workshops by published writers. Here in the UK Mills and Boon writers regularly do library talks- what a great way to meet other people interested in romance in your area.
  • look at the adult education or evening classes in your area- are there any writing workshops or classes? Just make sure to check that they are open to romance- I got put off writing anything for years by joining a class that despised romantic fiction!
  • try an ad in the local free newspaper- you may find a buddy or be able to start a group. Or even better, write an article about wanting to start a romance writers’ group and get the local paper to publish it. There are some ideas for how to go about starting up a writers’ group here
  • big online writing events like NaNoWriMo have local groups that meet all year round, some members are just writing for fun, but others are more focused on publication. There will be people writing in all genres in these groups- but you may just find the ideal critique buddy there.

Online groups or buddies are even easier-

  • entering “romance writers critique group” into Google brought up a load of online groups that are open to new members
  • critique group leaders looking for new members may post about their group on eHarlequin or other romance discussion groups
  • RWA in both the US and Australia have online groups (this requires paying to join the respective RWA, but there are plenty of other benefits to membership- I intend to join both when I have some spare cash!)
  • eHarlequin has a page just for writers looking for a critique buddy here
  • if you can’t find a group that feels right to you, start your own online group just like Barbara who started our group did- thanks Barbara! It’s free and easy to set up a group at Google, Yahoo, MSN or plenty of other online providers. You can post about the group on eHarlequin or the romantictimes.com forum, or invite people who you see posting on any of the romance discussion boards or blogs who you think may be interested. Do be prepared for some refusals- critique groups aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, and some people you invite may already be involved in one or more and not have time to get involved with another.

Does anyone have any other ways to find a group or buddy to suggest?

 

The big plan… May 7, 2008

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 10:18 pm
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Well, it’s not so big really. Just my strategies to get my manuscripts as good and as strong and as readable and hopefully as editor grabbing as they can be, before I submit them.

Not quite sure why I’m even worrying about this now, as the first draft of Nick and Kate’s story (aka The Tycoon’s Reluctant Bride) is moving veeeeerrrrrry slowly. I spent some time stressing about the infodump first chapter, which starts off not too badly, the first lines are- Kate Gallagher had been in love with her boss for years. Finally she decided to do something about it –  but then unfortunately the next two and a half thousand words are nothing but Kate and Nick talking, telling us all the backstory. Arrgghh! It probably needs to start two or three chapters in, when they actually get kidnapped.

I realised I was wasting precious wriitng time letting worrying about this paralyse me, and instead of trying to find a solution, the solution was to just go with it. After reading published writers who say they do exactly this sort of infodump beginning, as part of character development and setting building, then edit it out in the second draft, I realised it wasn’t a bad thing. Yes, it’s a cardinal sin in a submitted ms, but not such a disaster in a first draft. What I was slipping into was the perfectionist trap, probably the downfall of more wannabee writers than anything else. The cause of all those aborted first chapters that were all I had to show for years of trying to write romance, fantasy, anything! The trap of needing to “get it right”, in the first draft. This is posibly a hangover from my university days, when I was a lazy student and only ever submitted first drafts- I did not edit anything the whole time I was there.  I could get away with it when I was wriitng an 2nd year essay on Erikson’s Theory of Child Development, or whatever, but it’s extremely bad training for fiction wriitng. Anyway, I now have a new rule for myself, closely related to “permission to  write crap in first draft”. Today’s rule- “permission is granted to infodump in first draft”.  While I’m at it I’ll add tomorrow’s rule- “in first draft, it’s okay to break all the rules for publsihed stories”. Also “in first draft, grammar and spelling don’t matter”. There, nearly a week’s worth of personal wriitng rules in one go, that was easy!

It felt so liberating to let myself go for it, make my first chapter infodump central. I only wrote about twelve hundred actual story words today, but I feel as if I know a lot more about what’s going on and who these people are. Which can’t be bad.

The rest of the plan (besides making up my own silly rules) is to use whatever tools are available to help me to look at my stories and see what needs fixing, then find out how to fix it. Kate Walker’s 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance has questions to ask about the story for each main aspect like characters, conflict, sensuality. I think it could be a fantastic tool for identifying those areas of my stories that need more work. It also has questions to ask about the books we enjoy reading, to pinpoint what worked- maybe I will do a second reading and a proper analysis of some of the romances I’ve been reading. 

The plan was also going to include finding a critique buddy on the e-Harlequin board when the current story was written and edited. Having someone I can trust who both understands the romance genre and will be brave enough to tell me what totally sucks and what doesn’t quite hit the spot (that’s my family and friends out, on both counts!) reading and commenting on my story so my editing can be focused on fixing any issues has to help.  I really need someone honest enough and creative enough to find a postive way to tell me that my plot ideas stink, or at least need more than a teensy bit of tweaking,  if my hero is being a wimp or a cad, or my heroine is acting like an idiot (something that may be the case with my Kate, I’m afraid!). Fingers crossed I may have already found a critique partner a bit ahead of plan- I emailed someone today who’d left a message on the board, and I’m waiting to hear back. It’s okay if she’s found someone else to work with, I’m a strong believer in fate, what will be will be, although I also do my darnedest to make things happen too!

The other part of the plan is to join the Romantic Novelists’ Assocation’s New Writers’ Scheme  (I think I got those apostrophes in the right place this time!) next January – I missed out this year *&%# (insert swear word of your choice). I found out it’s essential to get in early as there are only 200 places. I’m not surprised it fills fast because it sounds amazing- for a small fee an experienced writer in the area of romance the unpubbed writer is aiming for gives a detailed critique, plus if she considers the work to be at publishable standard she may help it to find its publisher. After thinking about it, I’m glad I didn’t get in this year, because what I can submit next year will hopefully be that much better. Just like when I thought about it I was kind of glad I hadn’t won the Instant Seduction contest, because I really didn’t have enough to work on with the editor.

And of course, the most important parts of the plan- to write every spare minute I possibly can, read widely in the genre, spend too much time reading how other people do it on tgheri blogs and discussion groups.

So there it is, the Janey Jones Plan for Romance Wriitng Success, in Six Not So Easy Steps. Will it work? I just don’t know, but I do know there will be plenty of laughter and tears along the process of finding out!