Friday, November 30, 2012

Random House Announces New Digital Imprint

The Random House Publishing Group is excited to launch three new digital imprints, alongside the existing digital imprint LOVESWEPT, that will feed today's savvy readers by bringing the best, the boldest, and the newest voices directly to them.
To the already-existing LOVESWEPT imprint for romance and women's fiction, RHPG will add the following digital-only imprints: ALIBI, for mystery/suspense readers; HYDRA, for sci-fi/fantasy enthusiasts; and FLIRT, for the rapidly-growing college-age New Adult audiences. In addition, this digital-only program will seek out the best and brightest names in the next generation of authors, enabling us to cultivate a team of writers in the publishing world's most prolific and lively genres. The format will allow us to publish more quickly and to nimbly embrace what's new in each genre, delivering exciting, fresh, and varied new works every month directly to the digital devices of today's most eager readers. Dedicated to affordable, accessible, and accomplished genre fiction, these four imprints will have unprecedented potential, both in terms of breadth and scope.
What's in it for authors? The RHPG digital publishing program speaks directly to those questing, devoted readers that talented new writers most want to reach. Breaking past conventional boundaries, it will give new authors the opportunity to showcase the best of what these genres have to offer: works that are challenging, breathtaking, provocative, inspiring, funny, heartwarming, suspenseful, and hot! For the first time in history, authors will be able to forge wide-reaching and long-lasting relationships with their audiences, and we at Random House can't wait to explore and create new opportunities in the digital space. The possibilities are endless, and we're excited to offer authors the best opportunities to take advantage of this growing marketplace.
As for readers, they will find here just what they're most hungry for: the cutting edge of fantastic fiction and the discovery of new authors who push the envelope creatively. We are committed to building a varied, bold, and rich group of authors who are poised to be rising stars in the marketplace.We're looking to the future, and our digital authors are it!
Under this program, authors will have a complete and unique publishing package. Every book will be assigned to an accomplished Random House editor and a dedicated publicist. They will also have the invaluable support of Random House's experienced marketing and digital sales teams, who know how to reach out to and expand each book's dedicated readership. Not only will authors benefit from working with the finest cover designers to ensure irresistibly eye-catching books, but they will also be offered the unique advantage of social media tools and training that will allow them to connect directly with their readers. To reach the widest possible readership, every title will be available for purchase at major e-retailers and will be compatible with all reading devices.
In short, with the launch of ALIBI, HYDRA, FLIRT and the continued success of LOVESWEPT, we'll have the books, the authors, and the marketing, publicity, and sales platforms to support an innovative, creative, and totally committed digital publishing program that every author seeks. And, just as importantly, we will use our expertise, our enthusiasm for the new possibilities offered by the digital medium, and, of course, the unsurpassed talent of our authors to deliver the freshest and most exciting fiction that every reader craves.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

New book release: An Innocent Abroad

An Innocent Abroad, my third historical novella under the name Rae Summers, went on sale last week and is now available at all major online retailers.

If you're in South Africa and looking for something summery to read (or even in the northern hemisphere and desperately needing some sunshine) then this is the book for you!

Set on the Amalfi coast of Italy in the early 1920s, this is a gentle coming of age story.

Fresh from finishing school, Isobel Harrington is sent to spend the summer in Italy with distant cousins in order to catch the eye of the eligible Hon. Christopher Barrett.

But rather than Christopher, it is enigmatic Italian Stefano who awakens Isobel's sensuality, and who introduces her to the daring new idea that anything is possible, if only you want it enough.

An Innocent Abroad is available from The Wild Rose Press, Barnes & Noble, All Romance eBooks, Amazon and Amazon UK.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Commonwealth Short Story and Best New Book Competition

There's a call for entries to the 2013 Commonwealth Short Story Prize and the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize. It's basically a competition open to all commonwealth countries including South Africa.

For the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, they are looking for the best piece of unpublished short fiction (2000 - 5000 words). Regional winners receive £1,000 and the overall winner receives £5,000. The prize covers the Commonwealth regions of Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe, Caribbean, and Pacific. The closing date is 4 December 2012 (12 noon GMT.)

For the Commonwealth Book Prize, you have to win the best first book. It is open to writers who have had their first novel (full length work of fiction) published between 1 January and 31 December 2012. Regional winners receive £2,500 and the overall winner receives £10,000. The closing date for online entries is 18 December 2012 (12 noon GMT.)

For the first time, works translated into English from other languages are eligible for both prizes; and they are accepting self-published books from all Commonwealth countries.

You can find the online entry form and for further information, including the eligibility and entry rules, please visit:

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A NaNoWriMo opportunity from Avon Books!

In conjunction with NaNoWriMo, Avon Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers brings you NaRoWriMo - National Romance Writing Month. Avon is encouraging aspiring romance authors to reach their goal of 50k words in 30 days with an aim to publish. Avon editors will be offering their expertise to the author community via online forums at

Interested? Your NaRoWriMo romance fiction submission should be submitted by December 10, 2012 to Avon Romance’s online submission portal (, and tagged "NaRoWriMo."

For full details visit the Avon Romance site here

Happy writing!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Santa Shoebox Project

This year ROSA Johannesburg undertook to support the Santa Shoebox initiative, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who got involved.

Special thanks go to the following contributors:
• Daleen, for her generous donation towards clothing
• Anthony, who not only supplied sweets but also contributed to the clothing
• Annemarie for stationery and toys
• Elaine for toiletries
• Mandy for crayons

We put together ten boxes, so ten little girls will have a reason to smile this Christmas.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Submission opportunities with Carina and Entangled

Carina Press, digital arm of Harlequin, are running a submission opportunity guaranteeing feedback and a response within 6 weeks. The catch is that you need to submit a completed/full masnuscript by midnight on Thursday 11th October. You can find out more here.

Entangled Press is running a boot camp for Nanowrimo via Savvy Authors. Spaces are filling up quickly, so you'll need to be quick. Check it out here. If you're not interested in submitting to Entangled, then check out the Savvy Authors general Nano bootcamp.

And if you're asking "what is Nanowrimo?" ... check it out here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My take on writing competitions and SYTYCW.

My name is Joss Wood and my first book for Mills and Boon Riva, ‘She’s so Over Him’ set in Cape Town, South Africa is available on Amazon and in CNA's around the country and my second, ‘Wild About the Man’ will be released in January 2013 and is set on a luxurious game reserve in South Africa

Some of the ROSA's have entered So you Think You Can write and I wish them so much luck. I think writing competitions are a wonderful idea and I did enter the New Voices 2011 competition and came....drum roll please....absolutely nowhere! At the time, I was working on a manuscript with an editor at Riva but I thought I’d just torture myself and get some feedback from my peers. I did get feedback…mostly good, some iffy, one downright rude! As I said, I didn’t come anywhere and I wondered if I was any good at all. (Ah, writers, you’re got to love them! So needy, so insecure!)  I didn’t imagine that two months later I’d get a two book contract and then another three book contract six months later. 

The thing about writing competitions is that it is a way to grab the attention of an editor. With only 1 in five million manuscripts (ok, an exaggeration but you get my point :-) )  being bought out of the slush pile, this is an easier option. I follow quite a few of the Mills and Boon editors on Twitter and I can tell you that they are reading the entries with interest and they are actively looking for authors so a couple of new authors will probably be signed out of this competition. I really hope Kathleen and Louise are one of them! 

By the way, if you'd like to see their entries and vote for them click on these links: 

Having said all that about writing competitions, I don't think it is the only way to get published. It might not be your way, your road, your experience. I don't know the magic elixir to getting books in print but I do know that if you stop learning the craft, stop writing the words, stop submitting your work...if you don't take a chance and if you don't put yourself out there, you definitely won't get published. 

Whatever your road to publication is, I hope that you enjoy every second of the journey getting there.  

Best wishes,

Facebook: josswood9

She's So Over Him- Blurb

He’s back. He’s insanely hot. He’s absolutely the last person she should date. Maddie Shaw is a part-time bartender with a never-get-involved attitude to dating and a flair for the perfectly served drink. Yet when ex-boyfriend Cale Grant walks into her bar, a whole ten years after their massive bust-up, she’s blown away all over again by his dark chocolate voice and deep blue eyes. So, just how over him is she?

About Joss:

Joss wrote her first book at the age of eight and has never really stopped. Her passion for putting black letters on a white screen is only matched by her love of books and travelling (especially to the wild places of Southern Africa) and, possibly, by her hatred of ironing and making school lunches.

Fueled by coffee, when she’s not writing or being a hands-on Mom, Joss, with her background in business and marketing, works for a non-profit organization to promote the local economic development and collective business interests of the area where she resides.  Happily, and chaotically, surrounded by family, friends and books, she lives in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa with her husband, young children and their many pets.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Entangled Press Valentine's Submission Call

Entangled Press may be the new kids on the block in romance publishing, but they're fast becoming the kid in school everyone want to be friends with.

They've put out a submission call for their Brazen line (the steamier line) for sexy Valentine's themed stories, between 45,000 and 65,000 words in length, deadline 25th November 2012. You can read the details of all their submission calls here.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Are YOU the Next Harper Voyager Author?

From the 1st - 14th of October this year the sci-fi/fantasy imprint Harper Voyager, part of the the HarperCollins publishing house, will be accepting unagented, unsollicited submissions to their line. 

If you have complete manuscripts (yes you can send more than one) to send to them, the requirements are:

* Any adult or YA speculative fiction for digital publication, particularly: epic fantasy, sci-fi, urban fantasy, horror, dystopie and supernatural.
* 80,000 - 120,000 words
* Double-spaced, sans-serif font, MS Word or RTF format

To find out more about this call for submissions from Harper Voyager click here

Good luck!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Toy Boy by April Vine

What's in a title? In my heroine's case, apparently a lot. The last thing Cait Daniels wants is a boy toy so instead she gets herself The Toy Boy.

Lusting over her neighbor’s too-young-to-touch hot nephew while he mowed the lawn in the hot sun was one thing and bad for her sparkling reputation. Finding him in the same sex shop where she is purchasing artificial gratification to ease the sexual bother he evoked in the first place is quite another and forces thirty-four-year-old stickler for rules Cait Daniels to fly red-faced through the doors of Curious Coition without her paid for merchandize in hand.

Since he is staying with his aunt for a few days, twenty-four-year-old Declan Meyer wants to do the neighborly thing and return the orphaned sex toy to its rightful owner. Only in this case the rightful owner is the same woman he wants in his bed, his heart, and his life. He is not above holding the pleasure tool over her head and threatening her good standing in an attempt to show her the real thing with him, never mind his age.


"Declan loves them. That boy eats like a horse, I tell you. God knows where he puts it all though. Ah, but it’s so good to have him visiting his old aunt."
Cait forced her mind to blank out the mention of his name. Already a deep flush set into her skin, and it wouldn’t be long before she crumbled in complete embarrassment in front of Mrs. Meyer. She had to get rid of her quickly. The instant her attention turned onto the street at an oncoming car, Cait started to say good-bye and had the door almost halfway closed already.
"Oh, look, it’s Declan."
She didn’t mean to look, really. But who couldn’t when he drove one of those horrendously old-fashioned jeep things that looked as if it would leave a trail of parts in its wake?
"Thanks for the cookies, Mrs. Meyer. I really must go."
"Oh, hold on a minute. You haven’t said a proper hello to him yet. I’m so proud of that boy. He’s grown into such a lovely man and takes such good care of his mother." Mrs. Meyer’s eyes misted over as she glanced at her nephew descending from his excuse for a car.
Yeah? Did she know he frequented sex shops on a Saturday morning? Not only that, he was some kind of VIP, too; or else what would he have been doing behind the counter if he weren’t an honest regular customer, like her? "Declan," Mrs. Meyer called to him. No, she had to get out of this.
"Maybe another time, but I really have to go…"
He reached his arm through the open window and retrieved a package that dried her mouth and constricted her heart. With a few long strides, he was at her door. Her gaze glued to the bag he nonchalantly held in his hand.

The Toy Boy is available at:

And you can find me:


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Wedding Gown Girl to be Released Shortly

I can’t believe I’m actually doing this – announcing to everyone that my first published book is coming out on the 20th September. I’ve dreamed about this moment for years and finally it’s coming true. There have been times when I've wondered if it would ever happen. So, those of you who are waiting for that contract, don’t give up and keep writing. Every word is a step closer. I think I’ve finally found the spot where my writing flies – sweet contemporary. My sweet, contemporary novella, Wedding Gown Girl, is about a young lady, Kienna, who works at a bridal boutique. When a handsome man comes in to help his future bride choose her dress, Kienna is momentarily distracted from her determined singleness. The bride confides in her that she’s not marrying for love. Kienna has to tell the groom that he’s making a terrible mistake. At first Blake thinks she’s flirting with him, until he’s jilted at the altar. Their lives meet again soon after, and Blake becomes more aware of the spark between them. But will Kienna trust love enough to respond to Blake’s advances?
I have to boast about Astraea Press who are publishing my e-book for me. It’s been great working with them, and even though we’re across the world from each other, they’ve been professional and communicative in their e-mails. I loved their editing process – I felt so safe knowing that my book was edited by more than one person and re-checked several times. I must confess that I self-published my first novel with a Vanity Press (unknown to me at the time), and the difference is like night and day. So here is the cover for my book. Hope it gives you a feel for my characters because I absolutely adore Kienna – she’s so likeable. Tsk, tsk.

Monday, August 20, 2012

50 Shades of Green

Envious much?
I have a confession to make. I’m green with envy over the success that woman – can’t bring myself to say her name - who wrote 50 Shades of Grey. I’m irritated and baffled by this envy. Baffled because I can’t see what she’s done that’s new in the romance/erotica genre. Irritated because I’m thinking ‘Damn, why didn’t I think of it first?’

And I know I’m not alone in wrestling with that acid-green monster. I had coffee with a writer friend last weekend. ‘I always get a bit envious when I see other writers succeed,’ he said. ‘Of course you can tell yourself that their success is an example of what other writers can achieve; or that there’s room for all of us as writers, but it still gets me in my gut.’

With a guilty grin, I told him I felt the same way sometimes. OK, a lot of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m genuinely thrilled when someone close to me succeeds in writing. There may be a couple of shades of envy, but it’s usually erased by the genuine pride and excitement I feel that a friend or fellow writer has made it. I get over it pretty quickly, but when a stranger in sweat pants writes the next publishing phenomenon, I don’t feel I have to restrain myself.  Emotions are seldom rational – they may not be pretty, but we have to acknowledge them, don’t we? Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to call ourselves writers!

Of course, it helps to remind myself that the difference between envy and pure jealousy is one between possession and loss. Envy, after all,  is an emotion related to wanting what someone else has. Jealousy is fearing that something you have will be snatched away. We all have our own unique talents, our inimitable voices and styles, our own personal ambitions. And no one can really take that away from us, can they?

Friday, June 8, 2012

'Dear Julia' makes a splash

My second 1920s historical romance, Dear Julia, launched today with a 'wave' across 8 blogs. You can surf the opening chapter of the book, starting at

Join the party, tweet your feedback using the hashtag #DearJulia, and there's a contest too: just answer one easy question to stand a chance to win a copy of Dear Julia on my Rae blog at Entries close Sunday night, and the winner will be announced on Monday.

About Dear Julia

Dear Julia is set in the English countryside in the early 1920s, and is part of the Love Letters series from The Wild Rose Press.

Read the opening extract here.

The discovery of a long-lost love letter in a house she’s redecorating sends Rosalie Stanton on a quest to find its rightful owner.

Since his return from the Great War, William Cavendish has lived as a recluse. His peaceful existence is shattered by the return of the letter that once held all his hopes — and by its bearer, the irrepressible Rosalie, who bears an uncanny resemblance to his lost love.

As Rosalie sets out to lure William back into society, she realises that in him she might just have met her match.

Dear Julia is on sale through Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, All Romance eBooks, and direct from the publisher, The Wild Rose Press.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

ROSA 2012 Writing Contest - Results

Congratulations to the winners  of  ROSA's  first writing competition.

Unpublished Entrants’ Category


“Accounting for Lust” by Ylette Pearson

1st Runner Up:  
“Dream Doctor” by Amanda Holly

2nd Runner Up: 
“Resisting the Enemy” by M-F Morrison

Published Entrants’ Category

 “The Untouchable” by Gina Rossi

1st Runner Up: 
“When September Ends” by Romy Sommer

2nd Runner Up: 
“Love in the Newsroom” by Pamela Kauffman

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The ROSA contest closes at midnight tonight!

Happy Workers' Day to everyone in South Africa. I hope you've had a blissful long weekend!

The 2012 ROSA contest closes for submissions at midnight tonight, so if you haven't already entered, I hope you're spending the day working hard on polishing your submissions.

Just a few reminders:
  • The contest is open to South African citizens and residents of South Africa only
  • Only one entry per person please, as we don't want to overwhelm the judges
  • Check here to confirm whether you should enter the Published or Unpublished category
  • Entries should NOT have the entrant's name anywhere on the actual entry. Your cover email should contain the following information: full name/pseudonym, daytime contact number, email address, ID number and title of your entry.
  • Entries should be formatted in Word or RTF format, ideally double-spaced and professionally presented.
  • Full terms and conditions are available here
  • Send your entries to
Thank you very much to our Contest Administrator, Clare Loffler, who is no doubt going to be very busy these next few days!

Good luck, everyone!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

ROSA Contest Clarification

With just six days to go to the contest deadline, we'd like to clarify the one part of the contest Ts & Cs that sadly never got loaded onto the website.

You should enter the Published category if you have a novel or novella of more than 15,000 words contracted to a traditional publisher in either eBook or print format.

All other entrants should enter the Unpublished category. This includes authors who have self-published, or been published in short story form only.

One entry per author only please.

For formatting guidelines and all other Terms & Conditions, please click here, and if you still have a question that isn't answered here, feel free to leave your question in the comments section below.

Good luck to all entrants!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Our very own Rosalite: April Vine!

April is an erotic romance writer from the Cape, and an active member of the ROSA Yahoo group. We are so excited to be able to feature her latest release: Unbound, published by Ellora's Cave.


April writes erotic romance by night and is a professional dreamer by day. She has two precious sons who keep her sharp and one very tolerant husband who chivalrously and bravely defends her honour daily.


Staid and straitlaced Michelle Stein has two thoughts fueling her mind…
1. Floor the first man to walk into her antique shop.
2. Throttle her three witch-practicing aunts.

They promised her a tiny spell to fix her ridiculous inhibitions, but instead mischievously delivered a full-blown, sanity-squashing lust spell. The temporary curse apparently has no boundaries either…since the first man who walks through her door is the same man who broke her heart ten years ago. Despite Michelle’s vociferous resistance, Sebastian becomes the only man who can appease her unending physical hunger.

Thirty, heirless and restless, Sebastian Gray is drawn back home to Cape Town to claim the only girl he ever loved. What he finds in her place is a hotly bewitched erotic seductress. Now with the reparation spell her aunts cast gone awry, Sebastian might be on the losing end of a futile battle against a strength-ascending hex, no matter how hard he tries to keep Michelle satiated, alive…or even just human.


* NOTE: This excerpt contains erotic language *

Chapter One

Michelle leaped from the floral-embossed Victorian chair, gripped the edge of the walnut desk and dropped her chin to her chest. Labored breaths somersaulted from her mouth. Her heart beat with swift speed. Her skin screamed under a raging fire.
She was having an attack.
Not a panic attack.
A sex attack.
Oh how she vowed to strangle her aunts, wring their collective witches’ necks and put them on a diet of cabbage for as long as they lived. She thought they’d agreed with her terms and stipulations.
Obviously not, since they’d turned her into a raging sex fiend who without any hesitation would attack the first man who walked through the door of her antiquities shop. Not by her own doing, because how could she, twenty-six-year-old, staid, even-headed and collected Michelle Stein, sign up for such reckless sexual abandonment? Not ever.
She resisted the urge to squeeze her scorching ******* and the temptation to bunch up her cotton panties and pull them taut against her ****. She couldn’t give in. Not while her door remained opened for business.
She wobbled out of her office to the entrance of the store. Pressing her legs together, she chewed her lip in agony as the slightest movement ricocheted spasms of pleasure through her body. Her eyes fixed on the gold-plated sign hanging on the inside of the glass door meters away from her. Her mission to flip it around and keep out any possible victims until the crazy her aunts bestowed upon her evaporated.
Too late.
The door swung open. Eighteenth-century chimes hanging from the paneled ceiling danced in the afternoon breeze. Their former melodious jingle a sex-alert siren in her ear now.
She zeroed in on a musky scent mingled with the clean, self-assured aroma of pure red-blooded male. Her senses hummed. She licked her lips then swerved to a dead halt.
Bedeviled with the worst kind of heat known to any man, woman or animal for that matter, and who chose to walk into her ordinarily sedate but presently doggoned world?
Sebastian Gray.
He who broke her heart in two.
“Glitterbug.” His gravel-and-silk voice spiked and inebriated her nerves. She tore her gaze away from his killer smile and stared into his wicked green-tinged blue eyes, which teased her the same way they did ten years ago.
Only one thought shot through her mind.
Oh dear, I’m going to molest Sebastian Gray.

[This excerpt has been edited due to Blogger age restrictions, however for the full excerpt you can read more here]

You can chat with April online at her website, via email on, on Facebook, or on Twitter. Or by joining the ROSA Yahoo group!  

Unbound is available from: 
Amazon UK
All Romance eBooks
and direct from Ellora’s Cave

Friday, April 20, 2012

Great opening lines

Anthony Ehlers recently did a blog post on opening lines. It's an excellent post, so if you haven't yet read it, you should.

Taking Anthony's post a step further, I'm going to give examples today of great opening lines. Notice how each opening line conveys not only a sense of the author's writing style, but also what the book is about.

The first example is from one of my favourite authors, Georgette Heyer:
“A fox got in amongst the hens last night, and ravished our best layer,” remarked Miss Lanyon. 
- Georgette Heyer, Venetia (1958)
This sentence introduces the main character, the style of the dialogue gives an indication that this is a period piece, and best of all, hidden in these seemingly innocent words, lies the entire story: this book is about a rake's seduction of an innocent young woman.

If Uncle Lazarro hadn't left the mob, I probably wouldn't have a story to tell. 
 - Janice Thompson, Fools Rush In (2009) 
In one sentence you get that this book is going to be fun, probably a little tongue-in-cheek, and that it'll have something to do with both the mob and family. If this opening line piqued your interest, Fools Rush In is free on Amazon Kindle today.

There was a lot to be said for fictional fianc├ęs, decided Charlotte Greenstone as she settled into the saggy vinyl hospital chair for yet another night-time vigil by her dying godmother’s side.
- Kelly Hunter, With This Fling (2011)
In just one sentence, we meet the heroine, set the scene, and receive a vital clue to what this book is about: this is a romance in which a fictional fiance becomes very real.

It is freezing, an extraordinary -18⁰C, and it’s snowing, and in the language which is no longer mine, the snow is qanik - big, almost weightless crystals falling in stacks and covering the ground with a layer of pulverised white frost. - Peter Hoeg, Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow (1995) 
In an instant you not only know that snow and ice are going to feature heavily in this story, but that the storyteller is struggling with identity and her place in the world.
And isn't that language just beautiful? I've re-read this book twice and this opening makes me want to dig it out again.

And finally:
This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it.” 
- The Princess Bride, William Goldman (1973)
Intriguing. How does a book become a favourite without the narrator having read it?
The reader is guaranteed to keep going to find the answer. This opening line also carries clues that this book is going to be all about stories and story-telling.

Re-read the opening lines of some of your favourite novels and try to spot the clues the author has given the reader of what is to come. Does that opening line convey what the author's voice sounds like in the rest of the novel? Can you guess the book's genre just from that opening line?

Now go back and read your own. Can you rewrite your opening sentence so that it works really hard to not only give as much detail as possible, but also to convey a sense of your style, and also to intrigue the reader to keep on reading?

Do you have a favourite line you'd like to share with us?

There are just twelve days left to the closing date of the ROSA Opening Scene contest. Click on the contest icon in the left sidebar for more information.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Opening scene checklist: what to do, and what not to do

The opening scene of any book is the most important.

Though you need to write a story that grips the reader to the very end, providing sufficient conflict and pace to keep the reader turning the pages, and an ending satisfying enough to make the reader want to read your next book, if you haven’t hooked that reader in the first few pages, all the rest will be wasted effort.

Your opening needs to accomplish several things:
Introduce the main characters - this is perhaps the most important aspect of all, as readers need to care, and the only way they will care is if they identify with your central characters.
What’s at stake? Hint at the central conflict and theme of the novel. Every scene, every page, must have conflict (Note: arguments are not conflict. Conflict is wanting something and not being able to get it). This opening scene needs to give the reader an idea of what the novel’s overall conflict will be.
Set the tone of the story - is this a light and fluffy comedy, dark humour, intense and emotional? Let your natural voice shine through.
Set the scene - where in the world is your story located? Give your reader enough description to picture the background, but don’t dwell on it. This is the moment to capture the reader with action and dialogue, not with lavish descriptions.
Start the scene at a point of change. This is not the moment to have your hero or heroine in introspective mode, re-living the past, or waking up, getting dressed, brushing her teeth, making a cup of tea ... start with the moment she sits down in the chair across from her boss and gets told she’s fired.

What not to do:
• Do not bore the reader to tears with your character’s entire back story. That is for you to know and the reader to find out. Slowly, and in bite-size chunks.
• Do not start at such a high point that you cannot top it again for the rest of the novel. You’ll only leave your reader dissatisfied.
• Similarly, don't start in a dramatic style purely to capture the reader's interest, unless you intend to carry that style throughout the novel.
• Avoid stereo-typical beginnings: the alarm clock waking your main character, the car accident between hero and heroine. Aim for a unique and memorable opening.
• Do not forget to polish your scene to within an inch of its life, without losing your voice and uniqueness. Spelling, punctuation, and clear POV are important if you want to be taken seriously.

Our opening scene contest closes on 1st May 2012. For more information, click on the contest logo in the left sidebar.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Start with a bang!

How to get your story off to a great start

If you’re struggling to find a great beginning to your story or novel for the Rosa writing contest, you know how important those opening lines and paragraphs are to your story. Right from the start of the story, you have to capture the reader’s attention and imagination. From the first few words, you know you have to give them an idea of what the story is going to be about, or create a scene or situation that’s so intriguing they will carry on reading. 

One way to help you along is to study just the first few paragraphs of the novels on your bookshelf or Kindle. You’ll notice that there are only so many ways to start a book. Below are some tips and examples of the most popular starting points in a story. Maybe they will help you get your entry off to a winning start.

Start with character’s goal
Kayla De Beer had less than twenty four-hours to find a husband and time was running out. If she didn’t find someone to marry her fast, she thought, she’d be out of her uncle’s inheritance and a chance to save her mother’s company.

Start with physical action
Tamara bolted between the brushed chrome doors just before they slid closed, clutching her portfolio to her chest, ignoring the loud beating of her heart and the curious stares of the middle-aged executives in the plush elevator. She couldn’t be late for this interview....

I slide down into the soapy bubbles of the bath, sighing as I lean my head against the warm enamel. It’s been a long, long day...

Start with the theme of the story
He didn’t believe in jealousy, Jack Sheldon told himself, but he was determined no woman would make a fool of him either.

Sometimes finding the heart to forgive someone who’s hurt you means finding the heart that allowed you to love them in the first place. Of course, I didn’t know this when I got Jack’s email that Monday morning...

Start with the setting
Hamilton Hall stood proud and intimidating on the hill, its wrought iron gates warding off interlopers, its stone walls protecting its secrets. I guess I was part of its secrets...

The table was set with fine bone china plates and expensive crystal glasses. Each name setting was elegantly written in calligraphy. It was going to be the perfect dinner party...

Start with the weather
The sun cast is brilliance across Summer Bay, turning it the ocean into a broken blue mirror...

Start with dialogue
‘I’ll agree to your proposal on one condition,’ she said. ‘You arrange for my sister’s release immediately and make sure all charges are dropped against her.’

Start with a summary of story and characters
The last thing Kelly Smith needed in her life was another difficult client. Months ago, she’d walked away from a successful career as public relations consultant in Sandton for that very reason. So when her friend, Megan Riley, suggested she apply for job as fundraiser for a non-profit children’s home, she’d jumped at the chance. That was until she realised rugby star, Luke Whitcomb, was its patron.

Start with a historical fact or a ‘factual’ document
In 1886, thousands of fortune hunters rushed to the Witwatersrand to find gold, fame, riches and their dreams.  James Walker Stewart was one of the first to arrive at the dusty settlement.

‘Heiress Elopes with Bad Boy of Rock!’ the headline shrieked. ‘Jenna Kruger, Daughter of billionaire businessman Jack Kruger, tied the knot with her rocker boyfriend, Matt McKenzie, in a hush-hush ceremony in Cape Town.’

Start with a physical description of character
Steven Meyer was not handsome in any conventional sense, but his aura of power and his reputation as ruthless lawyer made him irresistible to most women. Except Andrea Morrell, she was immune to his type.

Start with an inanimate object or symbolism
The cracked crystal vase held a dozen dead red roses, now the colour of old bruises.
‘Members Only’ read the discreet plaque outside the club, but the brass obviously needed a good polish.

Hopefully, these examples will help you see that starting your story is not as difficult as you thought. Experiment with the above suggestions – see which one best serves your story.

Essentially, you need to know what your basic plot is, who your main characters are, and get them into the narrative as soon as possible. The quicker you can get to the conflict in the story, the better. So make sure your first sentence is strong, that your character is interesting and is facing a problem of some sort!