Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Western Cape Writer’s Retreat 2017 by Tracey Wilson

Wondering what else you missed at the retreat? Tracy Wilson writes about her experience at the ROSA Writers' Retreat 2017 that took place in Cape Town in February. 

Lalapanzi Lodge: image credit Lalapanzi Lodge

Nestled in a tranquil forest of fir trees overlooking False Bay, Lalapanzi Lodge provided an idyllic location for the Western Cape Writer’s Retreat.  The rugged peaks of the Hottentots Holland Mountains accentuated the azure skies of the Cape behind the timber lodge, while a gentle sea breeze offered relief from the heatwave that had besieged the Mother City that week. 

Yes, the setting inspired my imagination, and was a great choice for a gathering of romance writers. 
Sixteen ladies attended, including the speakers.  The size provided an opportunity for newbies, such as myself, to meet other writers.  The ladies were all friendly and lively and lovely.  Not surprising when one considers that romance writers focus so much of their novels on the issues of the heart.  And I believe romance writers have the biggest hearts of all writers.

Romy Sommer, author and chairperson of ROSA, presented the first session on Mastering Story Structure.  Michael Hauge’s Six Stage Plot Structure is a formulaic approach to structuring a novel.  The first “How to…”  writing guide I purchased taught me the value of applying the three-act structure model to my writing.  Hauge’s model strengthens this by teaching that there are six basic stages within the three-act structure, which are defined by five key turning points in the plot.  These turning points usually happen at the same point (or percentage) of the running time of a movie, the pages of a screenplay or novel.  I can almost hear the plotters cheering and pantsers sneering, but I believe Hauge’s template can assist any writing method.  It helps plotters outline their first draft, while pantsers can use the template when editing their first draft, thereby ensuring that each writer’s creative paradigm remains intact.  Romy demonstrated this technique by referring to examples from popular movies to highlight the inner and outer journey of the main character.  I’ve visited Hauge’s website, to learn more about his Six Stage Plot Structure and am looking forward to applying his method to my writing.

Louise Fury, former Capetonian and literary agent extraordinaire for the Bent Agency in New York, taught us the importance of Query Writing.  I liked how she compared the query letter to a business letter that a professional person (the author) with a business proposal (the novel) sends to a professional organisation (the agent).  The author-agent relationship is an equal partnership between the author, who brings the “asset”, and the agent who brings the contacts and expertise.  I learnt that a query letter is the point of first contact and should be brief, clear, and professional.  The ideal word count is 250 words, but no more than 300 words.  It’s an introduction, not a synopsis which describes your plot.  A pitch should tell the agent who the main characters are, what they want (motivation), and what’s standing in their way (conflict).  A short bio should conclude the letter, and your social media links included after your signature (thereby, not counting toward your word count).

After lunch, Louise Fury taught us the importance of Marketing and Social Media.  These days, more and more publishers are relying on authors to market their books on their social media networks.  In fact, publishers take your social media reach into consideration when negotiating the advance payment of your contract.  With so many platforms to choose from, it can become quite daunting.  The pros and cons of various social networks were discussed by the techies in our group, as well as ways to improve your site’s ranking (SEO).  Louise’s advice to us was to focus on Facebook, Twitter, and building a personal website - with Facebook, usually, generating the most sales for authors.

In case you missed it on Facebook, here's Louise Fury encouraging ROSA members to attend Rosa events and Meet-ups.

Rae Rivers, author of The Keepers paranormal romance series, presented the final topic of the day, Impostor Syndrome from the book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Woman by Dr Valerie Young.  Impostor syndrome describes high-achieving adults who are unable to internalise their accomplishments and constantly fear being exposed as a fraud.  They‘re unable to enjoy the success they’ve achieved, often dismissing it as luck.  It affects 70% of the world’s population, mainly women.  Rae discussed the four levels of competency - I’m a perfectionist.  And the coping mechanisms we employ to deal with failure – I tend to procrastinate, which often stalls my writing.  It’s vital to recognise how you feel, find someone you trust to talk to, don’t be afraid to ask questions from other writers, practice, practice, practice, and give yourself permission to fail.  I liked the way Rae phrased it, “Acknowledge it.  Accept it.  And move forward.”  Thank you, Rae, for sharing your own journey with us.

Thank you Romy, Louise and Rae for you presentations.  I gained a lot of knowledge at the writer’s retreat and made many new friends.

Tracy Wilson

If you live in Cape Town and want to hook up with a couple of locally based ROSA members, our next meet up is 8 April at 13:00 in Durbanville. More details HERE.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Cape Town Retreat Feedback from Dawn Rae

Dawn Rae (Left) with Louise Fury and Sumi Singh 

I'm not a member but I signed up for the ROSA Writers' Retreat specifically to hear Louise Fury speak about query letters. I got that and so much more. Louise shared knowledge and experience from her life as an agent, and she was always ready to hear what we were working on. Many of us benefited from her excellent advice so freely given.

I learnt that published authors also struggle, and although writing is a solitary calling, I am not alone. Rae Rivers spoke about Imposter Syndrome, something that even established writers do battle with, and I realised as I listened that I was feeling it right then. 

I learnt the importance of social media in a writer's success, and I now understand why I need a website. Since the retreat I've got myself onto Twitter - no idea what I'm doing yet but at least I've got the account!

I learnt that being part of a like-minded community brings benefits of support and friendship, and I felt welcomed into this group of awesome ladies. I'm so looking forward to our first informal get-together, happening soon.

For me, the way forward is to join ROSA and make sure I never miss out again on wonderful events like this one.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Types of Sex Scenes and How to Write Them

If you're like me, sometimes writing that steamy scene flows like a river, and everything just clicks together. But other times, I literally sit and stare at what I've written and hit the backspace button because I'm just not buying it, and if i'm not convinced, well, then how can I expect my readers to be? Also, and I'd love to hear if this influences your writing too, but if I've read a particularly hot book, I find myself projecting some of that on my characters. Note to self: Do not read 50 Shades while writing, unless your genre is erotica, of course!

So, how do we keep a cool head while writing the nitty gritty about the down and dirty? I found this video entertaining and quite informative and it's helped me to kind of characterise which kind of writer of sex scenes I am.

I'm a 50-50, how about you?