What I learnt through #30kinSept!

I did it – I wrote 30,000 words from the 1st of September to the 30th. Thanks to everyone who came along for the ride – it was great to know other people were trying to do the same as me and together I reckon we have a majorly impressive total!

While writing this month, I learnt a few things and I thought I’d share.
  1. I can write through adversity. Half way through the month I had a minor operation on my butt. Unfortunately the pain wasn’t minor and I’ve spent the last two weeks unable to sit down or get up or roll over easily. As a result at least 15k of my words were written while I lay on my stomach or kneeled at the edge of my bed.
  2. Some days I can’t write. Whether it be because there’s too much else on – operation day, work day with meeting at night – or because I’m sick or the kids are sick or I’m just plain stuffed, some days writing isn’t possible. I’ve realised, that’s okay and I shouldn’t beat myself up about it. If I can’t write one day, I try to make it up another day!
  3. 3k+ in one day is NOT impossible if I have kid-free day writing time. I am going to aim for this at least once a week when in the throws of a wip.
  4. If I set a goal, I’m more likely to achieve it. There were times during the month when I didn’t think I’d achieve 30k, but I knew whatever happened, I’d achieve a lot more than I would have IF I hadn’t set the goal.
  5. I LOVE writing!!! Some days I’m not sure I’m good at it at all, but when I have a free moment, I always want to continue my story!
  6. In the end, it’s JUST A BOOK. My CP Becca J Heath told me at the RWAus conf that she’d got a band made for her hubby that said “Just a Band”. She got the words from a song that says “The Beatles were just a band.” She gave one of these bands to me as well to remind me that writing a book is just that. A book. It’s not the be-all-and-end-all of life. Writing is just words on a page and we shouldn’t make it out to be more than it is or give it too much importance. That’s not saying, don’t strive to achieve our dreams, but don’t forget to keep them in perspective.
So that’s my take on this month’s writing challenge. If you participated with me, please leave your total in the comments section. I’ll add them all together and see how much we wrote as a group.
And don’t forget that National Novel Writing Month is November – the challenge then is to write 50k in a month. I don’t think I’ll try that this year but maybe next year. This year, I’ll hopefully have finished my current wip mid October and be editing it ready for submission!!

Theory on Thursday with Aimee Carson

I have a really timely post for Theory on Thursday this week because my guest is Aimee Carson who writes for Mills & Boon RIVA and as it happens, I’ve just finished reading her fabulous debut book ”Secret History of a Good Girl.” So welcome Aimee – really pleased to have you here and VERY excited to hear about this book which (yet again) is sitting on my shelf practically unopened. *Hangs Head In Shame*.
So… without further ado, welcome Aimee!

I’m so happy to be guest blogging about craft books today. Thanks to the fabulous Rachael Johns for having me!

First of all, I have a confession to make. I am a geek to the core. I love craft books. Unfortunately for my husband, not only am I constantly reading them, I like to talk about them, too. To illustrate how significant this problem is I’ll share a quick story with you.

Last month I was watching The Green Hornet with my husband and son. The movie begins with the main character as a kid, and in the scene his dad is criticizing him in a horribly humiliating way. At the end of this heart-wrenching moment, the father grabs his son’s beloved action-hero figure and breaks off the toy’s head. Without missing a beat, my husband turned to me and said, “Guess we just discovered the main character’s backstory wound, huh?”

Ha! I knew my reading had ruined my ability to watch a movie without analyzing it, but my poor husband is now a victim of my studies as well.

I’ve read several dozen craft books through the years, so picking out my favorite was an impossible task. Instead, I chose the one I often reach for just before I start a round of revisions. It has the rather unwieldy title of Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore.

Written by Elizabeth Lyon, the book is broken down into four parts and spans a broad list of topics pertaining to writing fiction. It even includes sections on style, prose, grammar, and punctuation. Boring, you say? But of course! Unfortunately they are necessary elements no writer can ignore. The author’s handling of these subjects is excellent, and her chapter on creating movement and suspense in writing is fascinating. She states:“Everyone knows what movement is; that part is easy. It’s action. In fiction, it is certainly that, but it also encompasses the idea of change. Change of ideas, realities, and emotions. These shiftsaction and changecreate movement of the plot and character . . . One of your most basic jobs is to keep driving your story forward, through action and change, to its conclusion.”

Throughout the book, including the section on movement and suspense, she uses excellent examples to illustrate her ideas, and these really help to clarify some fairly esoteric ideas in an effective manner.

My favorite section of the book is part three. Its focus on characterization is well worth the price of the book alone. It contains a chapter on character dimension and theme, a chapter on character-driven beginnings, and another on character-driven scenes and suspense. If you struggle with the concept of a character-driven plot, these three chapters pack a wallop of information that can help. Entwining the elements of plot and emotional arc is essential to ensure you are writing character-driven stories.

Most authors are familiar with the concept of goal, motivation and conflict. In Manuscript Makeover, this is reframed in a way that really clicked for me. The author explains how every protagonist should be struggling to fulfill a universal need, the goal in a story’s GMC. She prefers to refer to this as a personal yearning, and she calls the traumatic or dramatic event in the past the “hole in the soul” that the protagonist seeks to fill, or to heal. Elizabeth Lyon states, “The protagonist’s quest to fill the hole in the soul creates the internal or psychological story. This character arc is all-important in driving the character’s action in the external story.”

And finally, the most reassuring aspect of this craft book to me is the idea that getting it right the first time around is far from necessary. After the first draft, the author states we should be sure to ‘layer in’ character development, a process which she describes as such: “follow the ‘bones’ of backstory wound, strength, weaknessand the way those factors impede and propel the plot goaland make sure you show and tell your character’s personal yearning of one universal need throughout the story.”

I have to admit I was pretty proud of my husband’s astute observation of the backstory wound in The Green Hornet. I guess he’s been paying attention to all my crazy ramblings, eh?

Secret History of a Good Girl is out now in the anthology Mills & Boon Loves. You can find out more about my upcoming books at http://www.aimeecarson.com

WOW – Aimee, awesome write-up. I can see I’m going to have to pull this book down off my shelf. And soon, because I’m almost at the end of a first draft myself and I’m sure it’s going to be in need of a complete overhaul before I sub it!

Anyone else read Manuscript Makeover!?

Virtual Writing Weekend

I got lucky this weekend – Hubby said a while ago that he wanted to take the three heroes-in-training (lol at that, I pity the women who get them sometimes) to visit his mother who lives three hours away. I offered – once – to go along too but he insisted I stay behind and write. So aside from four hours in the shop tomorrow morning, this weekend is MINE to write guilt-free!!

So, my lovely CP, Jackie Ashenden and I, are having a VIRTUAL WRITING WEEKEND. She lives in another continent to me, so this is the best we can do. We both have no kids, lots of snacks (actually, I don’t, cos I’ve just started a DIET) and the whole weekend to write up a storm?!
Are you jealous? I would be 🙂

Theory on Thursday with Fleur McDonald

This week we have a Theory on Thursday with a twist. I’m excited to bring you fellow West Aussie, Fleur McDonald, who writes gripping suspense novels for Allen & Unwin. Fleur has a book shelf full of craft books but has barely read any of any of them… So today, she’s talking about another author who has inspired her to embrace her own writing process.

Welcome Fleur…

Most people who have read the ‘about me’ section on my website, know that I don’t have any qualifications when it comes to writing. In fact that was one of my publishers selling points when it came to publicity; ‘Outback Cinderella’!

Well the Cinderella experience is right, except the glass slipper is actually a muddy Rossi boot and instead of shovelling cinders, I wade through wet sheep yards and get covered in slop, poo and dust, depending on the season. When I come in from the yards and manage to find time to sit at the computer, (after I’ve had a shower of course!) I have the lingering feeling of that mud on my skin or the ache from when the sheep hit me in the raceway.

Maybe that, instead of qualifications, has stood me good stead in writing my stories.

I have numerous craft books on my shelf, all of which I’ve tried to read. However, I haven’t got passed the first chapter in most of them. And for a while, that really upset me. I was desperate to improve my writing, understand sentence structures, plot points and how beautifully words can be entwined together. My favourite saying was ‘I need to improve my writing with every book.’

And yes, that’s still the case, but I’ve learnt more than I could have by talking to my publishers and other authors, than I could have by reading a book.

Tony Park (author of eight books, the most recent being African Dawn) is someone who I admire greatly. I had the privilege of meeting him in Perth and I can safely say that the meeting which lasted but an hour, is my ‘craft book’.

When I wrote Red Dust, I had a story to tell and I just sat down and wrote. Now I know that sounds trite (and I was very lucky that A&U could see there were good bones to the story because when I look back at what I submitted, I cringe), but I wrote with the freedom of not knowing I could do something wrong.

I am a panster, just the way I am in life; disorganised, running with ideas, never plan anything and hope for the best. Tony actually told me that was okay. The relief I felt when he said those words was amazing!

After I asked him about planning, research and the writing program Scrivener, Tony said: ‘How can you trick your audience if you know what is going to happen next. Surely, they will work it out. Just write and see where it leads you. As for Scrivener, it would be a fantastic tool if I could use it, but I don’t plan.’

For someone who was beating herself up about not using Scrivener and not planning, it was music to my ears! But in saying all of this, he did tell me that I should read ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King. Apparently it’s the only craft book to say that it’s okay not to plan.

And so, these days, this Cinderella is free to write the way she chooses but I wonder if I’ll remember that when it comes to writing Silver Gums?

Thanks so much Fleur for sharing your time with Tony with us. I must admit I’ve never read a Tony Parks novel but obviously after all your praise, that is going to change. And he’s write, Stephen King’s writing book is AWESOME! Can’t wait to read your next book either but in the mean time if any of you haven’t, do check out Fleur’s latest, Blue Skies.

In the tradition of Rachael Treasure and from the bestselling author of Red Dust, Blue Skies tells the inspirational story of a young woman battling to save the family farm no matter what it takes. Armed with an honours degree in Agribusiness, Amanda Greenfield dreams of employing all the skills she’s learnt at college to help her father turn the family farm from a debt-ridden, run-down basket case into a thriving enterprise.

Then tragedy strikes with the death of Amanda’s mother in a car accident. Wracked by grief and guilt, and wearied by the long struggle to keep Kyleena a going concern, Amanda’s father argues that they should sell up and get on with their lives away from the vagaries of drought and fluctuating stock and crop yields.

Having inherited half the farm from her beloved mother, whom she also grieves for, Amanda determines to summon all her strength, grit and know how to save Kyleena. Along the way she faces mixed fortunes in both love and life …

Pain in the butt? And #30kinSept check-in.

You’ve all heard the expression PAIN IN THE BUTT, right? Well, that’s exactly what I have now after having minor surgery on Friday.

Choosing September to do a writing challenge when I knew I was going to have an operation was perhaps not the most sensible idea I’ve ever had.
Thursday – prepping household for trip to Perth and then going to Perth = no words
Friday – op day, which included me puking lots after general anasthetic = no words
Saturday and Sunday – can only stand or lie on my side due to pain = no words
Am hoping to be back on track tomorrow but this four days without any words has put me seriously behind where I wanted to be by now.
My total for September at Day 18 is 13840 words. Hoping to seriously catch up this week.
How are all you doing??

Theory on Thursday with Scarlet Wilson

This week on Theory on Thursday I have debut Medical author, Scarlet Wilson, talking about which writing craft book she couldn’t live without!

Scarlet worked really hard and had LOTS of revisions to sell her first book ”It Started With A Pregnancy” which is out now, so she KNOWS what she’d talking about.

Welcome Susan…
My favourite craft book is Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies by Leslie Wainger.

Why? It’s simple. The woman
knows what she’s talking about. Leslie Wai

nger still works as an editor-at-large for Harlequin, and since that was the line I was targeting, it seemed wise to listen to her words.

Some people can be very stuck-up about the Dummies books. But this book covers everything. It starts with picking your genre, then setting up your office. It talks about characters, names, conflict, scene setting and the happy ever after. It also spends considerable time concentrating on “finding your own voice”. Then there is a chapter on dialogue and developing a page-turning story. Finally, it concentrates on the squirmy bits – writing the love scenes.

Leslie tells you how to hook your reader, she also points out how you can bore the reader completely. She gives instructions on the correct format for submission, grammar, cover letters and synopsis.

She also spends a whole chapter going over rejections and revisions. And gives genuine insight into editorial comments you might come across. She also gives advice on closing the deal, whether you need an agent, reading the fine print of a contract, and what questions it’s okay to ask during this process. She also tells you how to do copy edits, dedications, and PR.

For those who aren’t successful there are chapters on the 10 most common mistakes beginners make and 10 reasons why a manuscript gets rejected. In short, like I said at the beginning – this woman knows what she’s talking about.

So, if you want something that takes you from start to finish, this is the book for you. Whilst I love Kate Walker’s 12 point guide to writing romance, that is all about the story. And it’s fab. But this book gives even more on the practicalities. I would buy them both!

It Started with a Pregnancy by Scarlet Wilson is out in Australia now! Please tell me what you think at www.scarlet-wilson.com

Thanks heaps Scarlet for sharing about this book with us. I also bought this book when I first started targeting Mills & Boon and it’s one of my favourites as well.
Has anyone else read Writing a Romance Novel For Dummies!?

I’m on Miz!

Just a quickie because I still need to do my 1k for the day as part of the 30k in September challenge but just wanted to let you all know I’ve got an interview up at Miz Loves Books today. You can read it here 🙂

It’s a fabulous site and there’s lots more excellent reviews, interviews and more to check out while you’re there!
Come back tomorrow for my Theory on Thursday segment with Scarlet Wilson – new Medical author for Mills & Boon.

Theory on Thursday with Fiona Palmer

My second fabulous Theory on Thursday guest is the absolutely delightful (yes, I know her and can account for this) Fiona Palmer. In fact, she’s so nice, no one can hate her for getting her FIRST ever book published to the FIRST publisher she subbed too! Well, okay, I give you permission to hate her just a tincy little bit.

Now, without further ado, I’ll hand over to the lovely Fiona Palmer, author of gorgeous rural fiction, The Family Farm and Heart of Gold published by Penguin!

My one and only craft book – Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver.

I was up to my neck writing my third book thinking I was getting better at this writing caper…but no, I was not as good as I hoped. I think you are always learning the craft of writing…especially for me as it takes me a long time to learn and remember things. But my publisher told me about this great book that I should read, and she’d wished she’d read it ten years ago. So straight away I ordered Immediate Fiction.

He wrote it in such a way I could easily follow and had many ‘light bulb’ moments. I must admit I hate reading books with information in them, anything that gets too technical, I switch off. Many of the times I’ll be reading a page and realise I didn’t take any of it in. But Jerry writes like a novel, he sucks me in and I’m nodding my head agreeing with him. I didn’t find it hard at all once I started.

He gives great examples, which for someone like me is very important. I need to see how it’s done and not just be told about it. (the whole in one ear out the other)

He goes on to say how important conflict is and not to avoid it. The amount of times I’ve glossed over a scene instead of having the characters ask each other the ‘harder’ questions we’ve been dying to hear, is a lot really. And it’s not until it’s pointed out do I see that they are the bits the reader wants to see.

He talks about Want, Obstacle, Action and Resolution. They are the dramatic movement and he goes into detail about each one so you really understand.

Also -It’s the thought that counts! The mind leads the body – When you feel emotions your body doesn’t react alone, your thoughts happen first. He has great pages on this with wonderful examples. Real in depth details on emotion.

Jerry also covers Point of View, rewriting, self editing. And stage/screen and marketing towards the end of the book (which I didn’t get too). But the rest of the book was well worth the read. I have markers and dog ears on all the great pages so I can go back and reinforce what I’d learned from him. I recommend this book to all my friends. J

Thanks so much for stopping by Fiona!! This book is currently on order for me from Booktopia and I’m expecting it any day. Can’t wait.

Has anyone else read Immediate Fiction? Did it grip you as much as Fiona?

Check out Fiona’s latest book Heart of Gold.

CJ Wishart is a hardworking country girl with a heart of gold but a life that can be tough. Her job as a wool classer is back-breaking, her family life is a disaster and, after a string of dating debacles, she’s put men in the too-hard basket.

When strong, handsome Lindsay arrives on the scene as their new shearer, CJ can’t help but take notice. They have an undeniable spark, but can she handle the complications and potential heartbreak of falling in love?

With help from her friend and an endearing old farmer, CJ learns that when you stay true to yourself and open your heart, anything is possible.

Set in the colourful world of the shearing sheds, this is a lively and uniquely Australian story of love overcoming adversity.

Re-reading great books! (and a contest)

I’m re-reading Jodi Picoult’s ”Plain Truth”, which I read years ago and loved. It’s about a young Amish girl who gets pregnant out of wedlock. The baby is found dead only hours after birth. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it as one of Jodi’s best books. I’ve liked many of her other ones but this one tops them all for me.

The reason I’m re-reading it though is because our book club is reading it this month. I’m enjoying it second time around and it feels like re-aquainting myself with a good friend. But re-reading books is not something I do much of. More so due to a lack of time and a mammoth TBR pile than anything.
This got me wondering if there were any books other people loved so much the first time that they still read over again and again. I know there are a few on my list of books I want to read again one day. Some that stand out are:
  • THREE WISHES by Liane Moriarty
  • MY BEST FRIEND’S GIRL by Dorothy Koomson
One day I’ll get round to them again. In the meantime, I’m wondering what books you have that you’ve either read more than once or want to read again one day.
AND because I’m a dill and ordered TWO copies of the new Mills and Boon Loves Anthology today, I’m running my first contest. Anyone who leaves a comment on this post will go in the draw to win my extra copy 🙂 I for one am so excited about reading this book. It contains my good friend Leah’s debut book ”Secrets and Speed-dating” and also Aimee Carson’s debut, which I’m hanging out to read. Not to mention books by super woman Maisey Yates and the talented Barbara Wallace.
Really looking forward to reading your answers and perhaps adding MORE books to my TBR pile…