Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Announcing the 2018 Strelitzia finalists

The Strelitzia award is a content run by ROSA for unpublished authors. In 2018, we decided to do things a little differently, offering entrants a mentorship phase in the first round. The judges then scored each of the entries against a set of criteria (character development, pace, writing craft etc) and the 3 entrants with the highest scores were then selected to go through to a second round.

In this next round, the three entrants need to submit a completed manuscript, and one of these three aspiring authors will get to take home this beautiful crystal trophy on 22nd September - but which one will it be?

The 3 finalists for the 2018 Strelitzia Award are (in no particular order):
Tracy Wilson - Her Reluctant Protector
Amanda Holly - Master for Life
Sumi Singh - Sydney's Boxer

Well done, ladies, and best of luck for the final round!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Join the Twitterati like a Boss. Top Author Hashtags to Start Using Today

Twitter is an amazing platform for interacting with other writers, staying on top of industry happenings, connecting with readers and grabbing once of a lifetime opportunities - like pitching to agents! Carina Press, for example, held #CarinaPitch on 18 April 2018 for the second year running and gave authors the chance of a lifetime to pitch their WIPs in no more than 2 tweets! Can you really afford to miss out on that??

The main thing you need to know about Twitter (and Instagram) is that the # is EVERYTHING. Post without using it, and you may as well be a tree in the forest that falls.

Follow your icons, friends and other people of interest to you and you’ll find that it’s not a passive platform like Facebook, it’s lively and often very educational.

So, back to the hashtag - include them in your tweets and watch your followers grow.

What are Hashtags used for anyway?

  • Indexing emotions (#Vague #SorryNotSorry)
  • Identifying a Brand (#Oakley)
  • Recommending a Product (#BestRead)
  • Connecting with like-minded people (#WriterLife)
  • Finding Experts (#AskAgent)

Example of a Tweet:

When you are researching sex toys...for work! #AmWritingRomance #WriterLife

Use these #’s to find your tribe and connect with other writers:

#WriterWednesday (or #WW)

Connect by book genre, this case romance:


Looking for or giving advice?


Connect with Readers


So what are you waiting for?

Cindi Page is a Digital Marketer by day at wordofmouthct.co.za and a romance writer by night.
She shares her business tips and #writerlife #entrepreneurlife on Twitter as @1stTruLove

Some local romance writers on Twitter:


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Sheritha Singh: The plot behind plotting

Today's guest post is from ROSA member Sheritha Singh.

Plotter or Pantser?
I’ve been a pantser ever since I began crafting stories some twenty two years ago. I always enjoyed playing with words, twisting them around, teasing the reader or painting endless pages of meaningless prose that took my story nowhere. I could churn out fifty thousand words a month creating a story that had no direction. It took me about three hundred rejections from publishers and literary agents and a few years to figure out what the problem with my writing was. I asked myself a simple question: What is the point of my story/book/series? Was it all about a teenage boy and girl romancing each other? Because that’s what I’d written. Almost all my books comprised endless flirting, lamenting and heart break. It wasn't a real story.

I learned the fine art of plotting through my tutor at a local writer’s college. Working through the plotting table, word counts and sequence of events quickly turned into a nightmare because the pantser in me refused to take a vacation. The plot table alone took me a few weeks to grasp and figure out. I hated it so much that I never used it again after I completed the year long writing course (I passed with a distinction).

After receiving a rejection from Harlequin Mills and Boon in December last year, I took a long and deep look into my writing. The friendly and helpful editors suggested using secondary characters to move the story along and also hinted at developing the main characters further. Lastly conflict needed to be added in regular and equal doses through out the story. I borrowed a stack of Harlequin romances from my sister and read. And read. Eventually I began to dissect the novel. I worked with a template that looked something like this:


And that’s how I managed to complete writing a full-length formula romance in about fifteen days.

Breaking down a story is an excellent indication of how well the story is working out. It helped me identify crucial moments to sprinkle tension, conflict or secondary characters. It also assists in eliminating telling and focusing on the all important showing.

I will always be a pantser at heart. There were many times my story dived over the plotting board and into the vast ocean of pantsing possibilities. It happens. I simply went back to the plotting chart and if the pansting scenes didn’t fit in — I deleted them. Pantsing is now reserved for my journal, blog or facebook posts.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Alissa Baxter: The Essence of Attraction

Today's blog post is from ROSA member Alissa Baxter

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

When you write a romance novel, the attraction between the hero and heroine needs to crackle off the pages. It’s this romantic tension between the two main characters which drives the story forward and makes you want to continue reading.

An important aspect of attraction is mystery… the hero and the heroine need to spend time wondering about each other. A good way to create mystery in a novel is to have short, sparkling scenes of dialogue between the hero and heroine, interspersed with scenes where the main characters reflect about their interactions with the other person. The more they wonder about each other and try and figure each other out, the more they will become attracted to each other.

Another important aspect of attraction is desire… in order to keep the desire building between the hero and heroine, you should create obstacles between them that need to be overcome. This applies particularly to the hero of a novel, because the more he has to work for the heroine, the more he will appreciate her. Heroes in romance novels tend to be Alpha Males, who have the world (and most women) at their feet. That’s why it’s so important for men of this ilk to work hard for the heroine, because heroes who have it all need to be shaken out of their complacency if they’re ever to fall properly in love.

The third important aspect of attraction is confidence… even if you’ve created a shy, retiring female character she needs to have some element of confidence in herself, if she is ever to be a believable romantic heroine. If a heroine has no self-belief, it will be hard for the reader to believe in her and her love for the hero – it’ll appear to be a wishy-washy kind of thing without form or substance. The hero also needs to portray confidence in a romantic relationship so that the heroine (and the reader!) will fall in love with him. Just as a man leads a woman when they are dancing, in the same way a man’s confidence will either sweep a woman off her feet if it is present, or cause her (and the romance) to stumble if it is not.

Another important aspect in creating attraction between a man and a woman is unpredictability. In the beginning of a relationship the hero shouldn’t be able to predict the heroine’s behaviour, and vice versa. This generates romantic tension in a relationship, which creates an interesting dynamic between the hero and heroine. Of course, as the romance progresses the main characters will become more familiar with each other, in that they’ll start to know each other better, but this shouldn’t make them predictable.

What adds to the attraction between a man and a woman is some sort of challenge. The hero should find the heroine challenging in some way. Even if you’ve created a meek and mild heroine, something in her demeanour should challenge the hero. For instance, the hero might find it exciting to see if he can discover whether passion lurks beneath the quiet surface of the heroine; or he might try and find out why she behaves in a particular manner with certain people, while behaving quite differently around him…

The heroine should also find the hero challenging – either to her ideas about love and life in general, or something in his personality should intrigue her to get to know him better.

Social status is another important aspect of attraction. This doesn’t mean that the hero must be a powerful, wealthy character, but he should be able to command some sort of respect from the people around him. It boils down to a natural authority the hero should command, to be well… a hero! A similar thing applies to a heroine – she should have aspects of her character that other people admire, because think about it – if no one in the book likes and respects her, why would a reader bother to spend time with her between the covers of a book?

Another crucial element when it comes to creating attraction between a hero and heroine is likeability. Now I’m not saying that the hero and heroine will necessarily like one another all the time. In most romance novels, sparks are usually flying, and it’s fair to say that the hero and heroine don’t always see eye to eye on matters. But in a good romance novel the hero and heroine will often find themselves liking each other – even if it’s against their will.

Leading on from this is the idea of humour as an import aspect of attraction. In a heated discussion between the hero and heroine, what often diffuses the scene, and also adds to the likeability factor between the two characters is humour. Nothing is more likely to create a buzz between your two main characters than some humorous exchanges.

Humour and intelligence are often linked, and when two characters connect, it’s because they have an appreciation for each other’s mind or way of thinking. This is a very important element of attraction because if two characters cannot connect on an intellectual level, then they’re doomed as a romantic couple… just think of Mr and Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice for a telling example of a couple who were mismatched intellectually… If the heroine never catches the hero’s jokes, or she finds him an inferior intellectually, any attraction between the two will fizzle out after a while, and die.

Now I’ll come to the final element of attraction – which being the most obvious, I’ve left till last… and this is physical attraction! The hero and heroine must find each other physically attractive otherwise the relationship will never get off the ground, let alone approach anywhere near an altar.

You can find out more about Alissa Baxter and her books at www.alissabaxter.com.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Sheritha Singh: How my MBA helped me improve my fiction writing

Today's guest post is from ROSA member Sheritha Singh. Thank you, Sheritha!

The start of my professional writing career coincided with the first year of my Masters studies. Having written fiction for the better part of my life I honestly thought writing a dissertation would be a breeze. I was wrong. I'd just secured my first writing contract with indie publisher Breathless Press and within a few months I had four books lined up for release. Amidst edits for my young adult, new adult, paranormal and contemporary adult romance I asked myself if signing the contract with Breathless Press was a wise decision while struggling to grasp the basic concepts of academic writing. The two styles of writing are worlds apart and sometimes switching between the two was disastrous. Eventually I contemplated giving up either my MBA or writing career. Both, however, were equally precious to me. Amidst my internal struggle, my supervisor informed me that my research proposal was far from ready as my writing was academically poor and that I would not proceed to the next level of my studies. My first reaction was to give up pursuing the MBA. I actually emailed my supervisor informing her that I would not be coming back. She encouraged me to take a two week break from all writing and think about what I really wanted.

Two weeks later I decided that I wanted my MBA and I wanted a writing career. After deep introspection I realized that completing my MBA was exactly what I needed to improve my fiction writing. The writing style may be worlds apart but the technique of describing a research problem bore a striking resemblance to describing a fictional world. I have taken the lessons I've learned from the last five years of writing my dissertation has taught me a few important lessons, a few of which are listed below.

1) Write daily - even when inspiration hasn't struck. It's important to keep the writing rhythm flowing as each dissertation chapter has a deadline. It doesn't matter if I'm not using the stuff that I write. There are times when I delete thousands of words. There are other times when I use every word. Just like research, some aspects of fiction can simply be written better. Writing every day has also helped me to maintain my writing speed and prevent procrastination. In fact it has helped me focus on writing and I'm now able to set tighter deadlines for my fiction writing after having met academic deadlines for the last 3 years.

2) ‎ Research! Research! Research! Factual errors in a paper seriously affects the credibility of the paper. Similarly, a book that isn't well researched in terms of world and character building can easily be picked up by readers. A necessary part of research for writing fiction is reading. Reading helps writers build credible worlds and relatable characters. Readers are incredibly smart. They are also quick to leave a negative review if something does not match up to their expectations. The trick with research is to apply only the knowledge that is needed and to avoid an info dump. The knowledge that is used has to be relevant.

3) Be prepared to sacrifice words all the time. Editing and deleting words reduces the word count but it is a necessary part of rewriting. There are always better words that can be used. The process of active editing also reduces the chances of plagiarizing someone else's work. In most cases I've found that there is always a better method to write something.

4) Researchers are constantly pressurized to take a fresh spin on topics that have already been researched. Similarly writers are constantly pressurized to create fresh new stories for an ever demanding and critical market. Almost every theme, plot or storyline has been used and it is next to impossible to find one that’s waiting to be written into a best-selling book. Avoiding clichés, overused tropes and exhausted stereotypes can be difficult but it is possible to create a plausible fresh story by simply thinking out of the box. Despite being published I must admit that I was somewhat clueless when it came to clichés and tropes. I had to learn fast. Fortunately researching academic articles between a full-time day job and demanding family life has honed my reading skills.

5) I spent so much time studying that I learned to value the time I spent doing other things I really love and I made that time matter. I've learned to value my time and when it comes to writing I always save what I've written and go back and read it. It doesn't have to be perfect. For me it captures a memory of something I've enjoyed doing.

6) Although this may be hard to believe, academic researchers must adopt a specific writing style and also have a special flair with words. Academic articles and dissertations must be written in a flowing rhythm that is both concise and accurate. One aspect that took me forever to master was the style of broadly discussing a topic and then narrowing it down to the aspect under research. In retrospect the art of narrowing down a broad topic helped me create three dimensional worlds with a past, present and future for my characters. It helped me express what my characters felt through using the five senses. The trick though is to show the reader which aspect of the scene is the most important to the character through the characters sensual experience.

7) Researchers use many different techniques and methods to test the research hypothesis. Some methods of testing work better than others. The latter has taught me to experiment with different genres of writing. Although I have always written across the young adult, new adult and adult contemporary genres, I have recently begun experimenting with flash fiction and poetry. My current favourite poetry form is the haiku. Learning about the different forms has been fun. I've also signed up for an annual poetry marathon which sounds like fun (I will write about that after the event).

8) Enter competitions. My research has been funded. The competition for funding amongst applicants is incredibly intense. And just like writing completions I've always given writing contests my best shot. It’s a wonderful way to network, gain new fans and meet other writers. I've challenged myself to enter competitions that require entries in genres I haven't written before. Since writing is a creative journey, I believe that dabbling in other genres strengthens my writing.

I’m happy to conclude that writing my dissertation helped me tighten my writing and perfect my writing consistency.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Narrative Structure: the skeleton that holds your story together

Today I'm blogging over at Savvy Authors, talking about the importance of understanding narrative structure in order to give your stories a solid backbone, and to ensure they deliver on your promise to the reader.

The blog post is an introduction to the course on narrative structure I'll be teaching through Savvy Authors for the next month, starting on Monday 12th February.

The entire month-long course is only $40, and for that you receive personalised feedback as well as lessons. This is huge value, and you only have until Sunday night to sign up, so don't delay!

You can find out more about the course and register here: Savvy Authors' Narrative Structure Course.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A word or two about ROSA’s 2017 guest speaker, Jane Porter

Thank you to ROSA committee member and Strelitzia 2018 mentor Suzanne Jefferies for today's post on her experience at #ROSACon2017, and what she learned from our keynote speaker, Jane Porter.


I’ll fess up – I had no idea who Jane Porter was. I’d never read her romances, watched any movies based on her romances, or dipped into the advice she serves up in her ‘how to’s. I had heard of Tule, but was damned if I knew how to pronounce it (rhymes with Julie, who knew?). Yes, she’s an international bestselling author, and a publisher - that you can get from a quick Google trawl. But, stats tell you nothing about the person, Jane Porter. What I didn’t expect was to find someone who stripped me straight to my emotional bones in her frankness, her willingness to share her story, and her reassuring quiet strength; aye, she may be small but she is mighty.

Laying your guts out to the public is probably why writers are such ‘crazy cats’ (to use Jane’s expression). But it’s not often that a writer stands up and says it – no hiding under the covers - to a room full of strangers. Raw, unadulterated, 100% honesty. Is it easy to hear? No. But, for this writer here, it was a turning point. If I can’t be honest about who I am, where I’m from, and the experiences that have shaped me, my stories are probably going to lack authenticity. They won’t reflect ‘me’. For that alone, I’d pay over the odds a million times, to hear Jane speak again.

In both her talks, and in conversation with her, she offered priceless insights into romance writing as a career. A career option, that, let’s face it, is not offered by guidance counsellors. And why shouldn’t we be thinking of writing as a career? How many other careers let you research hot men on the Internet? Not accounting, that’s for sure.

These were some of the biggies:
  1. Grit. Hanging tough. Getting knocked down and getting back up again. These are the things that make a writer. Not talent. Or fancy degrees. Honest to goodness perseverance. How many books till Jane got a ‘yes’? Fifteen? How many of us would give up after one? Two? The publishing world is dark and full of terrors; houses closing down, editors disappearing mid-revisions, unrenewed contracts, books that don’t sell. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and head out there again – that’s how writing careers are forged. Blood, sweat and tears.
  2. Why write a standalone, if you can write a series? Think in threes, in fives, in sevens. Find a theme, a family, a geography, a ‘something’ that can link your stories together. Publishers love this. Heck, as a reader, I love this. I’m still excited at the prospect of another Black Dagger Brotherhood novel – and she’s on what?, book twelve or something? Ditto Gena Showalter.
  3. A publisher would prefer to get more buck for their bang…so maybe stretch those words counts to the forties and fifties. They (the publisher) can charge more. Happiness and beams all round. It also means you might get a few more dollars too. So, if you can write to 25,000 words, extend extend extend.
  4. Pick a genre. Contemporary, paranormal, historical, whatever floats your boat. Don’t start up in contemporary, then drift over to historical, and then maybe a scifi. Romance readers don’t drift – you shouldn’t either. Maybe two at the maximum. 
Every now and then, I’ll remember something else she said, and I’ll write it down; things like how to engage on Facebook and start conversations with fans, or how to recognise alpha men. And then I’ll think how lucky I was that of all the places Jane exchanged to as teen, it was here, South Africa. Sometimes these things aren’t accidents. Thank you, Jane.