Sunday, September 27, 2009

Anon ...

There are moments when we all need a little anonymity in our lives! Ask any celebrity who's been caught on camera doing something silly and I'm sure they'll agree whole heartedly.

But even those of us who are not recognised the instant we set foot outside our front door would love to be able to act out of character without the certain knowledge that at some point it will be held against us. Haven't you ever wanted to let rip at the downright rude shop assistant who's managed to turn a perfectly good day into a nightmare from hell? Or tell that irritating client to stick it where ...

Then there are those times when we choose a nom-de-plume for our writing. Why do we do it? Is it simply because we want to be able to separate our day-to-day lives from our writing persona or is it because deep down a part of us is completely insecure in our ability to create something worth-while? If the critic writes about our alter ego then surely it can't be as hurtful as if they were addressing us by the name given to us by our parents?

And then there are those times when we are so grief-stricken, frustrated or angry that we wish we could crawl into a hole to deal with it privately. This one's for all of you out there - may you find those few precious moments to recharge those batteries before you came back to face the world and do it all over again!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

If at first you don't succeed ... PLAN!

What's that wonderful saying about people generally not planning to fail at something rather they fail to plan? How true that is!

I don't know about you, but I've let life get in the way of my writing once again. This time instead of beating myself up about it I've decided to go to Plan Two! There's a public holiday coming up - on a Thursday nogal - so plenty of time to get in some creative writing. And this time I plan to double my efforts to make up for the lack of writing over the past week.

Even if you're not writing, then at least be kind to yourself by getting rid of some of those tasks on your To Do lists. That too will bring you one step closer to that coveted writing time!

It's a short message today. I'm spending my time planning and I'm certainly feeling a lot better now that I have a plan of action in place! How about you guys - are you planning to succeed? You'd better be!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Do we really write from experience?

What's the hardest thing you've ever written? Was it so hard to write because it came from experience?

As aspiring authors we all begin this journey of writing because we have a story, or more likely a scene, that is just burning inside us and we have to get it down on paper. So we sit, eagerly bouncing on the chair, behind the keyboard until the thing takes on a life of its own and is commited to paper - or in this day and age the hard disk!

Then what? Well then we have to flesh it out and turn it into a master piece which is sure to be snapped up by the first publisher who sees it! So, we're writing away, when ... WHAM! BANG! Oh dear, now we have to write something we're not entire comfortable with! What to do?

Go back to our own experience. That's what they tell you to do isn't it? Errmmm ... can you really see Roald Dahl burying himself alive to see what it feels like? And although at times I'm sure we've all felt like enacting the shower scene in Psycho - well it's not really legal is it?

And that's why we romance writers sometimes have these silly grins on our faces. Yup, you've guessed it! We get to close our eyes and crawl into that lovely place within our mind where no real person gets to intrude - and that's when we imagine what it would be like. That delicious hero you've written the last eighty pages about - what do his arms feel like when they wrap around you? What happens to your heart beat? What do you smell? What do you hear? What can you taste?

Whooops, sorry, just wiping the drool off my keyboard!

This is why we write though - because we get to experience it all through our characters and because it's as vital to us as breathing.

Happy breathing today!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Check out our author interview with Paula Marais!

I consider myself lucky enough to have met Paula Marais before the publication of her fabulous book The Punishment. The situation where we met called for a couple of impromptu writing sessions and I can tell you honestly - the woman can write! Beautifully. On command! Eish.

For some insight about how a South African author tackled writing her debut novel please visit our Interviews page.

And whilst you're on the site ... have a look at our September hero! I promise you won't be disappointed!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Oh Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou ...

So, you've applied the bum to chair principle and you're working on the most amazing scene to start you off on your new novel. You're busy thrashing out the first lines when you come to a crashing halt. Your hero! What's his name?

What nationality is he? That should narrow it down, right? But no, that can sometimes make it even harder - especially when you don't speak the native language and haven't even been there on a holiday! I mean, being English speaking we all know we're not going to name our hero Nigel - but that's because most of us have actually met a Nigel. And if you haven't - trust me - going on my experience Nigel and tall, dark and deliciously handsome alpha male would be like drinking French champagne from a polystyrene cup! It's a no-no! Ain't gonna happen.

And that's when we say thank heavens for the Internet. Or actually, thank heavens for Google! Now we can go online, search for a baby names site and even find one that gives us the meaning of the name to boot! Ahhh technology ...

So who's your favourite hero? Well, it's no secret that mine is Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. But what was his first name? Back to Google. OK so it's Fitzwilliam - not exactly a name you could use in a modern romance is it? And it means - son of William. Will-I-Am. No, that won't do!

Should you have the time or the inclination to look up Nigel, you'll find it comes from the name Nathaniel. Hmmm sounding a lot better already! And Nathaniel, means gift from God. So, unless it's a baby you're writing about ... back to the drawing board!

Sometimes I even choose a name to get me going only to change it a couple of times as the manuscript progresses, but mostly I spend hours on Google looking up meanings until I finally hit the right one! How do you come up with your names?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Life is what happens ...

And "the best laid plans" ...

All the sentiment loaded in those statements apply! Don't you just hate it when you solemly swore you'd get an excellent writing weekend in and then ... Even if you have a strategic plan to beat all plans in place sometimes it just doesn't happen. It wasn't meant to be you tell yourself. Anything to stop the mind from slipping into a pit of despair as yet another promise you made yourself went down south.

And then Monday morning comes along and you realise it's a new week! I can make a fresh start. Wipe the slate clean. Isn't that the greatest thing about being an author? Wanna be or published! You get to write what you want, when you want - and if you don't like it you go back later and fix it or ... gulp ... delete! And yes, maybe some of us delete by copy/pasting it into another document for one of those panicky you never know when I might need it moments. But if you're like me - you'll just highlight entire passages and delete the whole dang lot. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day and it just wasn't quite ... right?

And of course the clue there was ... you have to write. (Big note to self on that one!) No book ever got published without the author's blood, sweat and tears going into it first.

So ladies and gents ... welcome to the new week and let's get writing! You all geared up and ready to go?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Spring Day!

Happy Spring Day to all South Africans - and especially to the Cape Tonians who had particularly miserable weather this year.

Yes I know, I'm a day late! Put it down to the fact that I spent the day in a darkened film studio and all I saw of the beautiful warm, sunny day we had in Johannesburg was the sunset when we finally emerged.

How did you celebrate the day?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

How Publishing Works - Finale

The Call. This is the moment we all dream of. And it's just as wonderful a moment for your editor. This is the type of call they like to make in person, just so they can share the excitement.

After you've had the happy news, you'll be given a contract to read through and sign. Don't be afraid to ask questions or take advice. It's a legal contract, so no-one is going to mind that you make sure you're happy with what you're signing.

By now it's probably at least a year since you first submitted this manuscript and you probably (hopefully!) have another completed manuscripts ready and waiting to send off. But take a deep breath, because first you'll probably have to do yet more revisions before this manuscript is finally ready to hand over to the copy editors. The writer's involvement doesn't end here, though. You'll be expected to check the line edits and galleys. At each stage there will be more revisions and more checks.

Meanwhile, the publisher will have decided a release date, based on their schedules. If you've sold to Harlequin, the release date is likely to be at least a year away. Scheduling has to take into consideration a great many factors: novels already contracted, holiday and seasonal books, other titles with similar content already on the schedule etc. The same applies to the naming of your novel. It's a complicated process and the writer doesn't get much say. Harlequin writers are asked to fill in an Art Fact sheet which the design team will use to design the cover, which is more input than many writers get to make at this stage.

As soon as a release date has been agreed, the marketing team will roll into action. Promotion is a huge part of publishing a novel and will vary for every book. Harlequin has the advantage of a huge marketing machine, but every writer is still expected to do as much marketing as they can. If you don't already have a blog or a website, now is a good time to start. Think about how you can help launch your own book, be prepared to do interviews and put yourself out there.

Many publishers, especially mainstream publishers, are spending less and less on promoting books, so you need to do as much as you can to help them. They'll also be a lot more willing to spend on you if they see you're willing to meet them half way. Tips on how to market yourself and your novel abound on the internet. Plan a launch party. Take time out from your next book to celebrate how far you've come.

By the time your big day rolls around and your book hits the shelves, make sure you're ready with the next manuscript. Publishers (and especially romance publishers) do not want One Hit Wonders. They want consistent writers who will grow a following and publish yet more books.

Are you ready to be that person? Then go back to the first post of this series and start at the beginning. Butt in chair, hands on keyboard.