Thursday, October 29, 2009

NaNo Kick-off

With just three days to go to the start of NaNoWriMo, I hope by now you've got at least a rough idea of what you're going to be writing.

If not, here's a short checklist:
  • What type of novel are you writing - paranormal, chick lit, suspense etc?
  • Do you know your characters? And not just their names but an idea of who they are as people, their backgrounds, their goals etc.
  • Where is your novel set?
  • What are the major conflicts that will keep your hero and heroine apart?
Okay, now you're ready to get started. Or are you?

I highly recommend that in the next three days you clear your desk, do your filing, clear out the cupboards, and get that spring cleaning done. Finish any task that you might grab as an excuse not to write during November.

There are kick-off meets around the country this week-end, so if you want to join in and meet like-minded people and get inspired, take a look at the calendar at If you're in Jo'burg I look forward to meeting you at the Mugg & Bean in Melville on Sunday.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Short Story Radio Romance Award 2010

UK-based Short Story Radio has announced that a new contest for romantic fiction writers. The prize is the chance to have your work recorded and broadcast, as well as to receive a cash prize. They are looking for an engaging and entertaining romance story, told in two parts of no more than 5,000 words in total, similar to the type of romance story you will find in a women's magazine.
The winning story will be recorded and broadcast, in two episodes, on the Short Story Radio website and podcast, of the same standard as the stories already broadcast on Short Story Radio. The story will be available for broadcast for a period of 12 months.
The winner will also receive a cash prize of £150 (approx. $235 USD) and the title of winner of the Short Story Radio Romance Award 2010.
The short-list judge for this competition is Pat Richardson, founder of Perfectly Worded Writing and Editing Consultancy and former Fiction Editor at Best magazine (UK). Pat says: ""I make a living from making words work - it has always excited me, and I love doing it. I am just as excited at seeing how others do it. Coupled with creative inspiration, it is the recipe for a good story, and I am very much looking forward to reading those which are shortlisted for the Short Story Radio Romance Award 2010."
Short Story Radio founder Ian Skillicorn says: "We believe this is the first writing competition of its kind and offers a fantastic opportunity for romantic fiction writers and enthusiasts."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Nollybooks: looking for South African love stories

South African publishing venture Nollybooks is looking for writers and experienced editors. They plan to publish love stories aimed at the young, black South African market. At 30,000 words, they're looking for stories that are short but which pack a punch, similar to Mills & Boon. Also like Mills & Boon they're developing an unusual distribution network: Nollybooks will not be selling in traditional bookstores, but rather through hair salons, spaza shops etc.

Nollybooks is the brainchild of Moky Makura, a former Carte Blanche presenter, who has experience in publishing, PR and is a business writer. She is also the founder of Africa Our Africa, a website aimed at promoting patriotism and African pride.

For more information on Nollybooks, check out or contact Nkateko Shingange on or 011 656 6349.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Great Beginnings

For the Presents contest you only have one chapter in which to woo the editors so you need to make that chapter the best it can be.

This means that it needs to be full of action, introduce the characters and their conflicts, dribble in the barest minimum of back story, grab the reader's attention and end with enough of a cliffhanger to make the reader want more. 'Is that all?' you ask, banging your head on the keyboard.

Don't be disheartened. There are some great resources availble on the net to help you perfect that opening chapter. Check these out to start:

eHarlequin Writing Articles

iheartpresents Competition Tips

Now don't spend all day surfing the net! You have a prize-winning chapter to write.

Just remember the golden rule of scriptwriting and you can't go wrong: enter the scene as late as possible and leave as quickly as possible.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The 2009 Presents Contest

The deadline for the 2009 Harlequin Presents contest is rapidly approaching. If you would like to break into the Harlequin / Mills & Boon market, then this is your chance to submit and be noticed.

Because with only 150-200 entries and a response time of only one month, you're going to have your opening chapter read much sooner than if you submit through the slush pile.

Harlequin is looking for the first chapter and a 2-page, double-spaced synopsis for a novel aimed at Harlequin Presents (published here in SA as Mills & Boon Modern and Modern Heat). To check out the guidelines for these lines, click here.

Details of how to enter are available here.

But ...
The deadline is 2nd November, so you only have 3 weeks in which to submit.

If you already have a completed novel ready to submit, then go for it!
If you haven't even started, don't worry - it's not too late. I'd suggest you use the next 3 weeks to write the first chapter and synopsis, then take the opportunity of NaNo to complete the novel in time for that wonderful request you're going to get from the Harlequin editors ...

[Yes, I know that's not the NaNo ideal and they'd prefer you start a new novel on 1st November - but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do to get ahead in this business!]

The next blog post will give tips on how to write a winning chapter, and after that we have some wonderful news for South African romance writers. So keep checking in here ...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

How to prepare for NaNo

Right, so you've decided to give NaNo a try and you're feeling motivated. How do you begin?
Well that depends entirely whether you're a pantser or a plotter.

A pantser writes by the seat of the pants. A true pantser will sit down on 1st November, open a new Word document and simply start to write, letting the characters emerge and the just enjoying the ride to see where the story takes them.

A plotter will spend the entire month of October getting to know the characters, interviewing them, creating a detailed synopsis, perhaps even detailing what will happen in each chapter, and when Day One rolls around will simply start filling in the novel with actual words.

Most of us fall somewhere in between. You have an idea before you start where you want to set the novel, who your main characters are, and what's going to happen to them. If you're writing romance you'll have a rough idea what conflicts are going to keep the hero and heroine apart, and how they're finally going to resolve those conflicts and get their Happy Ever After. The rest will slowly unfurl as you write.

Me, I started as a plotter. I had little tables indicating what would happen in each chapter. Then as I wrote everything would change and I'd spend half my time revising my beautiful tables. I discovered that change is a good thing. Now, I start with the characters and their conflicts, and let them lead the way - often they know what works better than I do! I've learned to trust my characters, but I still have to start with a frame-work.

So how about you - are you a plotter or a pantser?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wanna be a NaNo winner?

If you want one of these ... you're going to have to work for it! And I mean work!

I earned myself one of these last year when I hit over 51,000 words in November - and I intend to do the same this year. When you get right down to it - it's not such an impossible goal to achieve! But you have to be prepared!

So how did I do it? Well I thought about my hero and heroine all throughout the month of October. I knew who they were, where they had come from and why they would react the way that they did! I fell in love with my hero - which every self-respecting romance writer has to do - and gave him a heroine I knew he wouldn't be able to resist.

On the 1st of November I hit the ground running. I knew I'd have to write a minimum of 1,667 words a day so I set myself that target. I kept track of my word counts religiously and in the days that I didn't write, I knew I'd have to catch up the words in the days that I did. Yes you heard right - there were days I didn't write and I still made it!

In total there were 7 days throughout November when I didn't write. There were days when my total word count was less than target and then of course there were days when I was in "the zone" and I wrote four or five thousand words! It is completely and utterly exhilirating to finish a 50,000 word novel in one month! The sense of achievement is tremendous! I cannot recommend it enough.

If I had to think about the best tip I could give you ... don't edit! Do NOT go over what you've written the day before. You simply don't have the time and if you did do it you run the risk of your internal critic interfering with your progress! So beware!

Remember ... all that matters is that you reach your word count! Trust me, when you do you'll know what I'm talking about! Euphoria!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Official Nanowrimo

The best way to achieve your Nano goal is to keep motivated all month. I'm not just talking about chocolate. Support and understanding from your family go a long way, but even better is the encouragement of other Nano writers, people in the same boat as you.

The official Nano site is at This is where you log in, create your identity, keep track of your word counts and when you finally succeed, this is where you claim your recognition. You can also meet writing buddies here, people who will help you feel like you're not alone and that you really can do this. If you join up on this site, please also join the South African regional group and let them know who you are. The municipal liaisons arrange local events for writers to meet and greet. If you're in Johannesburg, I hope to see you there!

eHarlequin's community site also runs a forum group for Nano participants. Though no-one there keeps tracks of your overall score, the forum is a fun place to hang out (when you really should be writing!) and participants get to post their favourite line of the day which is always good for a laugh or some inspiration. The community site is at

You can go Nanowrimo alone, but unless you really are a tremendously disciplined person (in which case you probably don't need Nano) I strongly recommend that you don't. At the very least, find a writing friend that you can suffer along with, compete against, laugh with or moan with. It'll keep you on track and motivated.

Of course, we'll also be here to post encouragement and to listen to your woes. So don't be a stranger ....

Thursday, October 1, 2009


What is Nanowrimo?

Also known affectionately as Nano, National Novel Writing Month takes place every November, challenging writers to let go of all their hang-ups, of their inner critics, by pushing them to write 50,000 words in one month. That is an entire category length novel in just thirty days!

Why? Because so many people start novels, then lose motivation and never finish. Or worse, get stuck in permanent revision syndrome and never get beyond the first few chapters. Writing an entire novel in 30 days teaches you discipline. You'll have good days and bad days, but by making time every day to try to hit a target of 1,700 words, you'll get into the habit of writing, and once the habit is formed you'll be a better writer for it.

The best thing about Nano is that there is no time to sit and think about whether what you've written stinks or not. You just write. In the now immortal words of Nora Roberts (and I paraphrase!): you can edit a bad page, but you can't edit a blank page.
It is perfectly acceptable to think that what you've written is awful. But just keep writing. Yes, you'll probably land up deleting or rewriting whole chunks in the editing process, but that's okay. It's all part of the process. The sense of accomplishment you'll get from just finishing something, even if it's something that still needs a whole lot of polishing, is unbeatable!

Even if you don't achieve the whole 50,000 words in the month, anything you write will be more than you had before. You'll still feel awesome!

I failed miserably with Nano last year when my day job exploded all over the place, but I walked away with more than 15,000 words on a new novel - a novel that less than a year later has been completed, polished and submitted. I owe that to the push that Nano gave me. And this year I'm determined to win a Nano medal!

Throughout October we'll be sharing tips on how and where to sign up, how to prepare for Nano, as well as personal stories from past participants.

So are you all fired up now to join us for Nano 2009? Let the countdown begin ...