Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Blue Sky Thinking - A Cure for Writer's Block?

 Have you ever sat down at your manuscript and had no idea where to start or where to go next?

         Don’t worry. We’ve all been there: staring out of the window, doom scrolling through our social media or making copious cups of tea.


 But Blue Sky Thinking can help. Blue Sky Thinking can get you over your writer’s block and into the next scene.


Blue Sky Thinking is defined as ‘creative ideas that are not limited by current thinking or beliefs’ In other words, it is the kind of thinking that is out of the box, perhaps generating ideas that might be considered absurd.


Children are better at Blue Sky Thinking than adults. They will draw a picture of a castle on the back of a truck, or mole’s home underground with electricity and water. What about adults?


Unfortunately we realise our ideas and words have consequences.  What we say or write affects the way people see us, think of us and treat us. We become self-conscious and we start judging our ideas before they have had a chance to breathe life.


 And then, we curate them so fast, we barely even see them before we crush them. As writers we can end up sitting, staring at a blank page or a screen, with nothing.


 Or, we may find ourselves agonising over and editing words we have written, as we write. We edit and write at the same time until our creative flow grinds to a halt. We can take years to finish a book or we don’t finish it at all.


If you apply Blue Sky Thinking to your writing process, you can prevent this from happening. You will need to put your editor self on hold, only your writer self will be allowed at your desk.  Tell yourself that, in the writing process. your ideas have no limits. There will be no judgement and no consequences. (That will only come during the editing process.)


Write all your ideas for your story down, however crazy, wild, silly and ridiculous they might be. Write them down. Fill the page with insanity, absurdity, bizarre character traits, leaps of coincidence, well used tropes, suspension of disbelief and incongruent plot twists. This is Blue Sky Thinking, where the sky is the limit because there is no limit. This is where your ideas give birth to more ideas, until you have so many ideas that there will be one that fits your story, or it will fit the direction your story is taking, or it will lead your story in an amazing direction or it will spark the beginning of a new story.


I have found the less I work on a book, or the longer time I leave between writing sessions, or the more I try to edit the existing work, the more difficult the whole process is. But if I let my ideas flow, without necessarily knowing where they are going, then my existing ideas grow, and more new ideas come to me.


         So if you’re stuck in a rut and don’t know the way out, hang up your editorial hat. Look out the window at the sky and tell yourself there is no judgement at your desk. Let your ideas beget ideas.  Apply Blue Sky Thinking and there will be no limit to your creative process.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

The Meet-Cute

The movie The Holiday introduced the wider world to the screenwriting term ‘meet-cute’. (I’ve also occasionally seen it referred to as a ‘cute-meet’ but somehow that doesn’t have the same ring to it!) The meet-cute is the scene in which two characters, who will become a romantic couple later in the story, meet for the first time.

While meet-cutes are a staple of romantic comedies, the same principles apply to all sub-genres of Romance. This initial encounter sets the stage for the rest of the story.

In a Romance novel this initial meeting on the page, even if it’s between characters who already know each other, is one of the book’s most crucial scenes, because this is the scene that’s going to set our expectations. Usually this scene gives us the first impression of their chemistry (what’s going to bring them together) and also of their conflicts (what’s going to keep the apart until the end of the book.)

If this first moment of meeting is highly-charged and filled with sizzling chemistry then readers will expect that to be sustained and built on throughout the story. If there is less focus on mutual attraction in that first scene (which would be usual in a friends-to-lovers story, for example) then readers might expect a slow burn story that will unfold more gently and be more focused on them overcoming their conflicts than on them burning up the sheets together.

Ideally in a Romance, you want this scene to happen as close to the start of the book as possible, preferably in the first chapter (especially if you’re writing shorter category Romance) or at the very least in the first few chapters. There are exceptions to this rule, such as Alessandra Torre’s Hollywood Dirt, where the characters meet only in Chapter 26, a full 20% into the story, but for the most part Romance readers are going to expect to meet both characters, and see them together, within the first 10% of the story.

For some ideas of different types of meet-cutes, watch this video which uses movie examples to illustrate four different types of initial meetings between the characters:

Monday, October 12, 2020

Only One Week to go until ROSACon2020!


The clock is ticking down to ROSACon2020. Have you booked your ticket for the most exciting event online? ROSACon2020 has something for writers at every stage of their writing journey, with themed days focusing on craft, marketing, traditional publishing and self-publishing. Sign up for just one day, or sign up for the full package at http://rosacon.co.za.

🌸 ROSAcon 2020 🌸

This year the Romance Writers of South Africa will be hosting their annual conference online for the first time. We have a stellar line up of international and local speakers as well as breakaway rooms, where you will be able to chat about various topics and participate in writing sprints. There will also be an opportunity to pitch to agents and publishers.

Speakers presenting at this year's event:

🌸 Julia Quinn (Keynote Speaker)

🌸 Nalini Singh

🌸 Skye Warren

🌸 Marie Force

🌸 Candace Havens (Keynote Speaker)

🌸 Jane Friedman

      to name but a few.

With just a week to go, if you haven't booked your spot yet, don't delay!


𝐓𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐨𝐩𝐞𝐧 𝐭𝐨 𝐚𝐧𝐲𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐢𝐧 𝐰𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐨𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐠𝐞𝐧𝐫𝐞.

ROSACon2020 runs from 20-25 October.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Celebrating excellence at ROSA's online awards ceremony

Join ROSA for our annual awards ceremony at 8pm on Saturday 24 October in which we will be presenting the 2020 Imbali and Strelitzia Awards. This year's ceremony will be a live online event that is FREE to attend.

The Imbali Award is our annual award for excellence in romance writing awarded to the best published romance novel of the previous year. Awards are given in two categories: English novels and Afrikaans novels. Past English winners include Natasha Anders, Rae Rivers and Suzanne Jefferies, and past Afrikaans winners include Sophia Kapp, Didi Potgieter and Leandra Naude.

The Strelitzia Award is awarded to the best unpublished manuscript that has passed through ROSA's mentorship program. Past participants in the program who have gone on to publish their novels include winners Melissa A. Volker and Amanda Holly, as well as Dorothy Ewels and Andie Patrick.

To attend the award ceremony, register here.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

ROSACon 2020 Scholarships

Six days of bestselling authors from around the world, opportunities to pitch to international editors and agents, and a virtual cocktail party. What's not to love about ROSACon 2020?

Well maybe that price tag, especially if you've been hit hard by pandemic-related financial stress. But don't despair, because ROSA is offering a whole lot of scholarship opportunities.

Ikhwezi Scholarships

Several of our guest speakers have donated their speaker fees to create a scholarship for writers from disadvantaged communities. Four full scholarships to attend the conference will be offered. To apply, please send a motivation letter to conference@romancewriters.co.za. The motivation letter should include a little about you, why you want to attend the conference, and any past writing experience you have, to help us understand your situation. 

Applicants should be: 
  • Actively pursuing a writing career 
  • Familiar with and interested in the romance genre 
  • At least 18 years of age 
  • From a marginalised or historically disadvantaged community

Partial Scholarships for Members 

Ten partial scholarships will be offered to ROSA members in need of financial assistance. These scholarships will cover one week day and one weekend day per member. To apply, please email a motivation letter to conference@romancewriters.co.za.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

ROSACon2020 - Annual Conference of Romance Writers Organisation of South Africa

2020 has been the year of the parties that weren't. Weddings canceled. Theatre shows. Dream trips. Family reunions. 

But there's one show that is going on, and it will, as usual, bring all the feels: the love, the excitement, the joy, the camaraderie, all the good stuff you know you need right now. 

Of course the party I'm talking about is The Romance Writers Organisation of South Africa's annual conference.  And you don't even have to but a plane ticket or book a hotel room. 

Because #ROSACon2020 is a virtual event, and it's open to all levels of writers.  

Wait, wait. Don't log off. We know you've done a huge amount of virtual things in 2020.  We know you might have digital fatigue. So, we have prepared a programme for #ROSACon2020 that has such an intriguing array of speakers, topics and events, it will only leave you inspired and empowered. The conference will flow from local speaker to international, from workshop to presentation, from pitch to writing sprint with space in between to relax, or fetch a coffee or network, depending on your mood. 

Are you a beginner writer?  Have you started your first manuscript ever? Or are you a fledgling? Do you have a manuscript that is ready to fly the nest? Are you already down the road, manuscripts out and about, but the road has a few potholes? Are you a seasoned writer, with contracts and bestsellers? 

Each conference day includes a writing sprint or a writing exercise to keep out reason for being in focus. But, this time, you won't be alone at your desk. Find the full program HERE

Kickstarting the conference on a high note is international guest speaker, Julia Quinn, the bestselling author of the Bridgerton historical romance novels, which is coming soon as a Netflix series. We are so excited to hear what Julia has to say in the Keynote Address on Day One.

Are you writing YA? Or a high concept novel? Then make sure it's not your turn to cook dinner on 20 October 2020 because those two genres are on the programme between 17h30 and 19h30 at #ROSACon2020.

Interested in pitching your manuscript? There are six opportunities over the course of #ROSACon2020 to pitch to editors and publishers. (You need to pre-book for these.)

What about marketing? Is that your nemesis? Then Day Two is for you. In one of the presentations, Skye Warren, bestselling author and marketing maven, will share cost effective marketing strategies that work.

Stephen King said, 'To write is human but to edit is divine.'  Editor Joanne Grant will tell you more about editing, what editors expect from authors and what authors can expect from their editors. 

How about writing romance in South Africa? Do you set your books here? Do you write Afrikaans?  If you said yes to either of those, then please join us early on Day Three to hear a number of guest speakers, including Izak de Vries, who will share data about current local book sales and marketing trends.

Indie Authors, Day Four is for you, from Cover Design to Self Publishing tips. Don't miss it. 

On Saturday, we have the wonderful experienced local writer, Elsa Winckler, sharing her wisdom at the start of the day. Later on we have a talk by New York Times Best Selling author, Shirley Jump, on scenes and sequels, and then the inimitable fountain of knowledge, Jane Friedman, will talk about the thing that plagues most writers: self doubt. 

On Saturday evening all the writers who entered the 2020 Imbali and Strelitzia Contest will be on the edge of their seats at the Awards Ceremony, when the winners will be announced. Have your bubbly ready to celebrate all our published and unpublished authors at the event. 

Sunday will include a session about writing the male point of view, and #ROSACon2020 will close with an inspiring talk by bestselling author and Entangled Managing Editor, Candace Havens. She will help us to keep on dreaming big. 

Please join us. Even if you don't write romance. Yes. You. The person in the back writing Cozy Mysteries. Or Fantasy. Or Crime. Whatever you write. There is so much to learn about the craft of writing at #ROSACon2020.

But you know what the best part is? Love is not just a genre. You will find it in this tribe. A tribe who will support you, cheer for you, push you, advise you and most of all, be kind to you, throughout your journey as a writer. 

Wouldn't you agree, in the year 2020, that this is what all of us need?

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Visualise Your Readers

When you write a novel, it is important to visualise your readers and credit them with the ability to read successfully between the lines. And often it’s not what you put in, but rather what you leave out, that matters the most. It is possible to over-explain a point or “over tell” it. Nuances are important in writing - let your readers pick up certain facts about your characters and plot without bashing them over the head with unnecessary explanations.

This is particularly relevant when it comes to dialogue. It is not necessary to say, for example:

“Peter, you are such an idiot!” Sarah cried out angrily.

The reader will get the gist of Sarah’s emotional state from what she is saying. If you have contextualised the dialogue (i.e. the reader is already aware that Sarah is speaking to Peter) you can let the piece of dialogue stand alone without the “Sarah cried out angrily” tag at the end. In other words, your readers don’t need to be spoon-fed.

How do you show your characters’ traits and personality, without falling into the trap of telling your readers what you think they should know about them? The secret is to learn to reveal things to the reader without being prescriptive about it. It’s a subtle tool of the writing trade that can take a while to learn, but it is very important to look at your writing critically to see whether you may be falling into the “telling” trap.

A good writer plunges the reader into the story’s action and doesn’t intrude on the story. But how can a writer intrude on his or her own story, you might say? Surely the story belongs to its creator? It is very tempting, as a writer, to use your novel as a platform to elaborate on certain themes that are close to your heart, but unless something moves the story along, it shouldn’t be included.