Friday, November 23, 2018

5 Reasons to love ROSACon

Today's guest post is from Anthony Ehlers, who has not only attended every ROSA conference to date, but has been a guest speaker at almost all of them too.

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This year, we celebrated five years of our ROSA Conference and, as usual, it was a success. To mark this milestone event, here are five reaons you’ll love ROSACon if you’re a romance writer.

You’ll network. Every writer at the conference is at a different stage of their journey – some are multi-published, others just starting out. Everyone has different skills, contacts and insights. It’s a great place to meet people who will support you – and where you can support others.

You’ll stay ahead of trends. The conference is a great place to know what trends are coming up in English and Afrikaans publishing – discover what agents and editors are looking for and what self published and independent authors are doing to write, market and sell their books.

You’ll learn. From learning more about the craft of writing to the business side of being a writer, from the pyshcology of staying positive and motivated to the insights you gain from how other writers work and live, ROSACon has it all.

You’ll experience fellowship. It’s always good to go back and be part of one’s “tribe” – and ROSA is about meeting up with people who don’t share your interest but your passion for love stories.

You’ll be (very) inspired. Writing isn’t easy – it’s often lonely and hard work. But we do it because we absolutley love telling stories. It’s always inspiring to see other writers living their dreams – some of it is sweat, no doubt, but most of it is pure glow!

Don’t miss next year’s ROSA Conference – you’ll fall in love with the love of romance writing (for the first time, or all over again!)

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

What are the Strelitzia judges looking for? 5 tips to taking home the trophy

Today's guest post is from author Suzanne Jefferies, one of ROSA's founding members, a long-time member of the committee, and judge and mentor in ROSA's previous Strelitzia contests.

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What’s the thing - that seemingly undefinable thing - that will make a judge leap from their chair and exclaim, yep, this one!

It’s been two years of Strelitzia now and both times, when I've read the winning manuscript, I had that feeling. It trick-tracked gooseflesh up over my neck. I itched to turn the page (one I read at the hairdressers and sat sat sat there for hours, for once delighted to be delayed). I ached to know…what…happens…next.

How can you make sure yours is that entry in 2019? Here’s a few tips that might set you on the right path to Strelitzia glory:

  1. Internal conflict. What emotional wound's driving your sexy protagonist and how’s he/she going to be forced to face it in his relationship with the antagonist? And vice versa. Hint: if everything's going smoothly between the two of them when they hook up and continues to do so, you’ve got no internal conflict. No conflict = boring. No conflict = I’m skip reading to the end of this. No conflict = no.
  2. External conflict. Does your protagonist have a goal? What is it? If you’re launching into a ‘it’s complicated’ explanation, he/she doesn’t have a goal. What are the obstacles in the way of their goal? How is the love interest one of those obstacles? Hint: don’t clear the path here and make it less complicated. Turn up the heat. What’s the worst that can happen? Make that happen.
  3. It’s a love story FIRST. Your protagonist and antagonist should spend at least 80% or more of the book in scenes together, conflicting with each other. If there are lots of scenes with the two of them apart, you’re running into trouble. Your book’s going to be about something else and not their love story.
  4. Does this couple have a shot together, long(ish) term? Or are they fundamentally different characters who need a good one night stand? There has to be some emotional ‘glue’ that holds them together, otherwise, not buying it.
  5. Unlikeable male characters. I’m going to be blunt here - if your character, for any reason, carries on about how much she hates the male character (him, not his behaviour), you’re courting a napalm-laced cocktail. There’s a fine line with Alpha-holes - don’t cross it. I get where it comes from: slapping guys as a prelude to passion was all the rage in 80s soap operas. It’s not now. Nagging a woman repeatedly for a date was de rigeur for decades. It’s not now. Even when it’s enemies to friends, try not to use ‘hate’ unless it’s an obvious exaggeration. If in doubt, don’t do it.

Happy writing!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Different Types of Editors

Today's guest poster is author Alissa Baxter, who writes both chick lit and traditional Regency romances.

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Not all editors are the same. Some editors may wear a couple of editing hats, while others may specialise in only one form of editing. It is important to bear this in mind when you are submitting a manuscript to an editor. You need to be clear what you can realistically expect from them. Do they offer developmental edits as well as copy edits? Or do they specialise in proofreading? It is important to be specific about the type of editing you need when you hire an editor.

Here are the different types of editors. A publishing house will have all these types of editors working in-house, while a freelance editor may specialise in one or more of these fields. So if you are looking for a proofreader for your manuscript, don’t send it to someone who specialises only in developmental editing.

There are four types of editors:

An acquisitions editor works as part of a publishing team, and acquires manuscripts for publication. They are concerned more with the business side of publishing.

A developmental editor looks at the content and structure of your book. If your manuscript lacks a clear direction, your developmental editor will help you find it. This type of editor looks at the big picture, and their job is to challenge you and to point out any holes in your plot.

A copy editor checks your manuscript for grammar and spelling mistakes, and looks at style and punctuation. This type of editor will check for inconsistencies, repetition and omissions. A copy editor also makes your manuscript ready for publication, and will try to pick up any possible legal issues in your work.

A proofreader reads late stage proofs to check for any typographical errors. When the material has been edited, laid out, and designed, it is then sent to the proofreader, who will carefully check it.

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For the aspiring authors who are entering ROSA's Strelitzia contest for unpublished authors, it's worth noting that just as not all editors have the same skills, not all authors have the same skills. While the published author who is allocated as your mentor will try to the best of their ability to help you in every way, and to give you the type of help you most need, please bear in mind that they're human too, with different strengths and weaknesses. Our entry requirements this year are more stringent than in previous years exactly so we can match you to the best possible mentor for your needs.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Peter Barker on #ROSACon2018

Today's post is a guest post from author Peter Barker on his experience at the ROSACon 2018 conference held in Johannesburg in September.

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When I signed up for the 2018 ROSA conference I was a bit apprehensive that I would be hearing a lot of the same stuff again. This was the third conference that I have attended and the second one where I have attended the entire conference. My apprehensions were set aside. I discovered that there is always more to learn.

What did I learn? Where there were concurrent sessions I of course did not attend the alternate presentations. I left the conference a great deal wiser on:-

  • Portraying Emotional conflict in writing
  • The wonders of an internet product called Wattpad
  • The market for Christian and other inspirational literature
  • The legal and business side of writing
  • Goal setting
  • The latest and greatest in writing trends
  • The status of marketing books in SA and abroad
  • How to write a synopsis
  • The secrets of market related copy writing
  • Overcoming self defeating behaviours
  • What to do with difficult heroes
  • Advertising on the Internet

Those of you who couldn’t make it this year, see what you missed! Don’t make the same mistake next year. Be there!!

What I also appreciate about attending the conferences is the opportunity to talk about writing with like minded people. When I get excited about an aspect of writing around the dinner table at home I notice eyes rolling and yawns being stifled. It was wonderful to sit down at meal times at the conference and at the banquet and have a really good in depth discussion about our beloved craft.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Announcing the 2019 Strelitzia Awards

One of the most rewarding aspects of running ROSA is seeing how we learn and grow. Every year we improve upon the last. We learn from our mistakes, we make changes, we push the envelope, and I’m sure those of you who have been here since the beginning will agree that ROSA today is a much better organization than the ROSA of five years ago.
This is why we always welcome feedback – we use it to improve not just the organization but the individuals within it.

Which is my long way of saying: following feedback from entrants, mentors and judges, we are once again making some changes to the Strelitzia Contest for unpublished authors.

What is new in the 2019 contest?

• The deadline for entries is much earlier this year, in order to provide more time for both the mentorship phase and the second round.

• Entrants will need to submit a synopsis and writing sample when entering. This will assist us in allocating appropriate mentors to entrants, and also encourages entrants to start working on their novels before they start working with a mentor.

• Finally, entrance will not be guaranteed in 2019. Sending in an entry form will not guarantee a place in the contest. Once all entries are received, only the ten strongest candidates will be accepted to proceed to the mentorship phase. This might seem cruel, and not in the ROSA spirit of developing beginner writers, but we need to bear in mind that this isn’t solely a mentorship program but also a contest, and as such it is only fair that writers who actually have a shot at winning the award be entered. Part of ROSA’s mission statement is to promote excellence in romance writing, and in order to promote excellence we need to set the bar high.

This last change might upset some prospective entrants, but please bear with me…

I’m not unhappy with my body shape, but if you meet me you’ll know in an instant that I don’t like exercise. I especially dislike running, so the chances of me getting up early to go for a quick 5km run before starting my day are even slimmer than my chances of winning the lottery (at least I buy lottery tickets!)

But I’ve just signed up to run the Comrades Marathon next year. That’s seven months away, so even though I’ve never even so much as run around the block, if I force myself out of bed one morning a week and go for a run, I have a real shot at a gold medal. You know why? Because I hired myself a trainer, and it’s the trainer’s job to get me there.

You’re laughing at me, aren’t you? You think I’m crazy. You’re shaking your head and thinking “Romy needs a serious reality check.”

That’s what these new contest requirements are: a reality check.

No one seriously believes that an unfit novice with no motivation is going to win the Comrades marathon just 7 months after taking up running. No one seriously believes that a beginner violinist will be able to play in a professional orchestra a few months after picking up a bow for the first time. No one believes that a running coach or violin teacher can work miracles.

Yet there are beginner writers who do expect these things. (Not too many, thank heavens, but a few!)

Just as it isn’t a running coach’s job to get me to gold medal status with virtually no effort on my part, it’s also not the Strelitzia mentor’s job to get a beginner writer to award-winning status in a matter of months with virtually no effort on the writer's part. If you want to win, you need to be prepared to do the work. You need to show the Strelitzia organizers and mentors you are serious about doing the work.

The one thing our 2018 Strelitzia finalists have in common is that they were disciplined enough to complete a full manuscript before the deadline. They took the advice of their mentors, they edited to the best of their ability given the very tight time constraints, and they had realistic expectations. They did the work.

And that right there is why we are introducing the new entry requirements - to ensure that more writers with this kind of dedication and motivation get a chance to enter.

For every entrant who hasn’t yet started to learn or practice the craft, who is not prepared to dedicate time to their writing, who believes that their writing is already award winning and that the mentor is wrong to suggest it’s not, or who spends the entire mentorship phase writing a first draft and then doesn’t have time to get the mentor’s feedback, it means that another writer who is serious about the craft and who is prepared to do the work, loses out on the chance to enter and receive the benefits of mentorship.

This contest also relies on attracting and retaining good quality mentors, and we can only achieve this if mentors feel that their efforts are valued, and that they are making a difference.

And so in the next Strelitzia contest we ask that entrants both manage their expectations and commit to doing the work. By entering a synopsis and writing sample you will show the organizers and mentors that you are not expecting your mentor to wave a magic wand and provide you with an award-winning entry even though you don’t have the time or dedication to write the book, learn the craft, or polish your work to be the best it possibly can be.

Every single one of our mentors is a published author because they had the dedication, made the time, and did the work. They will expect nothing less from their mentees.

If this blog post hasn't put you off entering, and you are determined to do the work, win the award, and take home the crystal trophy, then check out the entry guidelines and download an entry form from the ROSA website here.

PS: in the interests of full disclosure, I haven’t really signed up to run the Comrades next year. And no, I don’t plan on taking up professional running any time soon. (I’m going to use that time to write my next book instead.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Jayne Bauling on #ROSACon2018

Today's post is a guest post from author Jayne Bauling on her experience at our recent ROSACon 2018 conference for romance writers in Johannesburg.

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Closing the laptop and hanging out with other writers for a couple of days at festivals, fairs or conferences is always a pleasure. Of the seven book and/or writing events I’ve attended this year, ROSACon 2018 is in the top three for excellent organisation, so congratulations to Romy and her team. I love it when things run smoothly.

The other six were ‘work’, so the ROSA conference was a treat I decided to give myself, where I had nothing to do except listen to other people being informative and entertaining. I came home feeling updated and in touch – and so refreshed.

Melrose Place was the ideal venue, a comfortable and relaxing setting. The programme was well-balanced, with a stimulating variety of speakers and topics. There really was something for everyone, and sometimes something new: for example, I read very little paranormal fiction, romantic or otherwise, and will never attempt to write it (wait, never say never), but Sharonlee Holder’s session on Writing Paranormal was so much fun.

Sharonlee Holder's session on Writing Paranormal

There wasn’t a single session I didn’t enjoy and benefit from, out of those I attended. Thank you, everyone!

Something that struck me repeatedly was how supportive of each other all the ROSA writers were, published and yet-to-be alike. That’s something I appreciate about the South African writing community generally, but it was especially evident at the ROSA conference.

Thank you again, everyone, and congratulations to the Imbali and Strelitzia winners and finalists. Oh, and the goodie bags were amazingly generous!

Some of the goodie bag goodies

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Love over the cultural lines

Today's post is a guest post from Cliffordene Norton, editor at Lapa Uitgewers.

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Diversity has been a hot topic since I started working in the publishing industry and probably a long time before that. We live in a society where our racial and apartheid past has a huge influence on the way we currently view relationships between different races.

Image courtesy of Looks Like Me
In Afrikaans mainstream books these relationships are often not reflected or still representative of before 1994. From my point of view, diversity seems to be gaining momentum. I am a huge Marvel fan, and was so excited when Black Panther was released this year. I went to watch it three times in cinema and started following the #BlackPanther on Instagram. Since than I have seen countless posts on Instagram about why representation matters. These posts recently spiked again with Crazy Rich Asians.

Black Panther was a major influence and inspiration on the next generation of black kids. Looks Like Me, a UK talent and casting agency dedicated to raising the profile of underrepresented groups, commissioned photos where kids recreate the Black Panther characters.

It was evidence of the power of representation. I like to tell this story about my grade 8 class who got excited when we read Diekie Vannie Bo Kaap by Zulfah Otto Sallies. Everyone read, finished and enjoyed the book. We later performed scenes from the same book and it was the most interactive I’ve have ever experienced my fellow class mates with a book. It was also the first book where I could see my town, my people and some of my culture being authentically written about.

But for me the power of Diekie doesn’t just lie in its authenticity, it lies in the diverse characters in the book. There wasn’t just the maid cleaning the kitchen and cooking. Or the irresponsible taxi driver cutting you off or the blue overhaul worker making the main character feel unsafe. These characters were people I knew – people who were both right and wrong, educated and uneducated, successful and unsuccessful. They were just people, not stereotypes.

At the LAPA Uitgewers Writer’s Indaba in June this year Sophia Kapp cautioned Afrikaans writers about not just creating characters of colour that they know and are mentioned above. I want to add to that. Writers need to be careful about how their main characters interact or even think about other races. With the #BlackLivesMatter movement I think we’ve all become more vigilant about racial profiling. If your heroine, who forgot to lock her car doors, suddenly remembers when a group of blue overhaul workers crosses the road in front her, I immediately judge her. While safety must always come first, why does she associate danger with the race or class?

In the past (and I'm glad I haven’t read such characters in recent years) I’ve read romances where people of colour represent the negative aspects of humanity: laziness, self-entitlement, unattractiveness. It is a method sometimes used to show how the white hero or heroine possesses these traits – is the good in the world. I have come to ask myself: Does the character really possess good traits if it has to be compared to stereotypical version of another race? To me as a reader of colour it shows a lack of maturity in the character and the writer, because I never assumed every white man I have ever met is a racist or slave owner.

In her TED Talk, The danger of a single story, Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, talks about how one story creates stereotypes. Representation is a necessity, but diversity in the portrayal of racial characters is a bigger necessity.

There is a spectrum of diverse white characters in books. That is why we don’t see Mr Darcy or Voldemort in every white man we encounter. And that is where a writer’s power lies, they show not to judge a book by the colour of its cover.

Source: Jasper, M. 2018. Kids Recreate the Black Panther Character Posters in This Awesome Photo Series