Anniversary Celebrations and Giveaway!

CHEERS!

CHEERS

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Can you believe it? Today, The Romaniac blog is a whopping three years old. Three years! We have had the most amazing journey over those years, both with each other and with all you lovely lot, too.

When we launched our blog, back in February 2012, we never imagined we would receive such a warm, welcoming response from everyone. It has been truly amazing.

Over those three years we have each grown as individuals. Some of us have won awards, some of us have bagged an agent, some of us have started new careers and taken writing into a new direction. There are some of us who have taken the plunge and crossed genres and even those who have decided to write in a few different ones. A few have had publishing contracts and we’ve even given talks!

We’ve each had our ups and our downs, but you have all been there, standing firmly by our sides and supporting us throughout it all. For this, we are truly thankful.

One of the things we have achieved as a group, was the publication of our first Anthology, Romaniac Shorts. A collection of 22 short stories rmshrt1563x2500pxand flash fiction, penned by all 8 of our lovely Romaniac girls. There is a real mix of genres throughout our Anthology, a little something in there for everyone’s liking. All our proceeds are split between Dyslexia Action and the Romantic Novelists’ Association and we are delighted to be sending each a cheque this month for the first year’s royalties.

Which brings me onto the exciting giveaway we have. In celebration of our three years on the blog, we are giving away a fantastic book bundle. The bundle consists of a SIGNED copy of Romaniac Shorts (signed by all 8 Romaniacs), Follow Me Follow You (Signed by Laura James) Closing In (signed by Sue Fortin.), together with tea, coffee, hot chocolate, biscuits and a mug; ideal reading companions.

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All we are asking of you, to be in with a chance of winning this book and gift bundle, is to do one/or all of the following:

LIKE our Facebook page and comment ‘I’m in’ (link HERE)

COMMENT on this blog post with the words ‘I’m in!’

RETWEET the giveaway tweet on Twitter.

*The competition will close at midnight on February 20th and a winner will be picked at random shortly after. Due to postage costs, we are afraid that we can only offer this to UK participants this time. Apologies to those unable to enter, we thank you for your understanding and support. *

All that is left to say is a huge THANK YOU to each and every one of you for your continued support and encouragement over the last three years. Here’s to many, many more.

Love,

Romaniac Logo

Dear Auntie Romaniac … How Many Drafts Is Enough?

 

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Dear Auntie Romaniac …

I get anxious when I read about how other writers have deconstructed and reconstructed their work-in-progress several times. I tend to be a slow first draft writer and tweak as I go along. My inner editor loves to play, and I am compelled to rewrite sections of what I consider to be the first draft, before I’ve reached the end. I aim for my second draft to be the one I send out to my publisher.

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What constitutes a draft? Is it a draft only once I’ve written ‘The End’? I also wonder if rewriting it mentally and altering notes, scattered in pads, sheets of paper and on my phone, count as drafts.

Dear Auntie Romaniac – it’s a minefield. Please help me through it.

Thank you.

Laura x

Good morning, Laura!

I’m usually a fairly fast writer, but with very little time to spare at the moment, my normal style (of writing a couple of chapters and then next time revising/editing and so on) has had to change.

Recently, my WIP, with which I was seriously stuck, was given a hefty edit by the marvelous Mandy James, and she gave me so many pointers and hints to improve it, that I’m now bowling along at a cracking speed and trying not to get side tracked by too much in-between editing. 

The final product will probably have had at least six or seven complete edits and overhauls. I’m aiming to finish the first complete draft by the weekend and bounce it back to Mandy. She did the same job on Little Boxes, and her ideas for storyline revamps and tweaks are second to none.

My advice to anyone struggling with numerous drafts is to get a trusted reading buddy or editor. Our very own Jan Brigden is also a super talented typo queen, with a grasp of grammar that most of us can only dream about.

Wish me luck, and the same to all of you out there trying hard to get the words down before life gets in the way,

Celia

Lucie – I really feel your pain, Laura. I, too, have often wondered this exact thing. For me, I think you know when you need to edit. When I wrote my first book, I wrote it chapter by chapter and had it critiqued this way. This was because I was doing a writing course and so my tutor (who was the very lovely, Margaret James) was checking it as I went along. So my first book was slow to complete. And then, because it was my first book, it went through a number of edits; through the NWS, through private critiques and personally editing. It will still probably need another one when my agent sends her edits through to me. And then, if it is ever accepted for publication, no doubt it’ll have another edit with their editor!

However, when writing nowadays, I tend to find that there is less editing. I don’t know if it is because I know how to structure a story now and my writing, generally, has improved, but I tend to blast out a first draft as quick as possible and then begin editing. I try to get as much of the story down in the first draft so that I can concentrate on the edits. I find it easier to get the story down as a whole, keep the flow going, and then worry about fiddling with it after. I try to only read back a scene or two, before I start writing for that day, just to get back into the story, and then continue. If I thought too much about editing previous scenes before going forward, I fear I would be stuck in a rut, two steps back, one step forward.

So, I do think it is a personal thing. Some people edit as they go, some, like me, get the story down, typo’s and all, and then polish the rock into that diamond. :-)

Vanessa: I usually go for a dirty first draft that’s only around 60-70,000 words. I leave that to brew for a while and then go back for a more polished draft. I then look at structure and pace and plotting, kill some darlings and produce a third draft which is getting close to what I hope is the finished thing! (I say this, but I’m currently on draft four of my wip!) I think how we write and how we edit is going to be different for every writer and no way is the right or wrong way.

Debbie – Oh, Laura, this is a dilemma many will relate to and as someone currently on the fourth re-write of a WIP, I can sympathise.

I can hear myself saying, ‘Just one more draft and it will be complete …’  But one more draft turns into another, and another. Of course not every writer is a perfectionist, but it’s worth remembering that re-writing a novel has the potential to become infinite with rewrites, and remain ultimately unfinished. Only you can break a cycle of rewriting and editing your work in the constant battle for satisfaction. We’re all different, although most writers I know are of the same mould.

I went on an Arvon course last year. Uber experienced writers, Kate Long and Simon Thirsk were tutors. Simon did a reading from his novel, ‘Not Quite White.’ There were post it notes and red pen all over the pages of his copy and when someone asked why, he admitted that after every reading he did (despite being Costa Book Award shortlisted and bestseller) he could always find some word or line to tweak!

Since then I’ve stopped twiddling with my WIP as I go along. It’s hard, but when I start on a draft I keep writing – something, anything – until it’s finished. The aim is to get the main bones of the novel down. I’ve learnt that most writers, even the most accomplished, need at least two drafts (preferably with a few weeks or months ‘breathing space’ between the two.) Then, after, ideally, another two edits and read through, once you’re as happy as you can be, stop tweaking and twiddling and get a friend/writing buddy, or if you’re lucky enough to have an agent or editor, and let them read it.

Sometimes we can become bogged down with the intricacies of the story or become so close to it we no longer see blatant errors. Taking a step back can help see it in a different light or often a second pair of eyes from a trusted opinion and someone not too close to a beloved piece will help give an insight into some points we may not even have considered.

Take it from one who knows, if you wait until you’re completely happy with your WIP, it might never see the light of day. So believe in yourself. All the best to you.

 Great answers. Thank you.

How do you approach drafts?

 

The Life Cycle of a Writer – Lucie

 

This week it is my turn to give an update of where I am with my writing.

I come under the ‘agented’ category. My lovely agent, Sarah Taylor, has been fantastic and has always been on hand, day or night, to listen to me ramble on about an idea I have had, or a competition I want to enter, or even when I just can’t get the words down. It has made a real difference, to me personally, having an agent. I am not saying that everyone must have an agent, I am just saying that for me personally, it has been a good thing.

This bears a huge resemblance to my ironing pile!

When I was writing just me, myself and I, I found it easy to be distracted by things. That funny post on Facebook, the fact that my phone beeped because someone has mentioned me on Twitter, the washing, the dog snoring… the ironing (but that was only when things were really bad – the ironing very rarely wins my attention.) But that isn’t just it. I found myself doubting my ability a lot, too. Regularly I would re-read things from the previous day and think, ‘I’m rubbish’, or, ‘This is absolute drivel’, and so on.

Whilst I do have the fantastic added benefit of The Romaniac girls to hand, having an agent means she can pull me into line when these doubts creep in. As they do. A lot.

My agent isn’t just there to send my books out and try to find homes for them, she’s also there to listen, to guide, to read, to laugh, to empathise, to be firm and be constructive. She will give me deadlines to work to so that I stay on track and stay focused. She will read that piece of absolute drivel and pull the goodness from it. She will tell me when I’ve really gone off on a tangent and that I really, really don’t need those extra words. She wants me to do well and she knows how to get me there.

As a newbie, I cannot do all of the above by myself. I am sure there are some of you reading this who are shouting at the computer saying, ‘yes, you can!’ and I am sure that if I had to, I could. But I feel like I am learning so much more about myself doing it this way.

So, an update on where I am.

My first full length novel, Head over Heart, went out on submission last year. Whilst I got back quite a few very positive responses, I am yet to be offered a contract. Rejections are hard, and they don’t get any easier. People I have spoken to who have been writing for years – some of who have previously had publishing contracts – also say that rejections do not get easier the older you get/the more you get. Unfortunately it is one of those things that we writers have to get used to and learn to take the positives. Yes, they may be saying no, but what about that paragraph where they also said that they loved the story but it just wasn’t different enough from the other books already in their line? Yes, that was one of my rejections. A no, but a positive no. They liked it. And it is hard to get publishers to like your book. So I take pride in that rejection.

As you can see, I go off on a tangent quite easily when I am writing. Hence why I like having Sarah reining me in.

After finishing my second novel, working title Love Hurts, it has been sent to Sarah. And as I type, she is due to call me this afternoon to discuss her thoughts. When we feel this is ready, it will be going out on submission, too.

There are a couple of publishers who still have Head over Heart on their desk to read, however, as I am sure many of you know, you cannot just sit and wait. They may be rejections, too. So Love Hurts will go out on submission whilst we wait.

After finishing this latest book, I had a week off where I tidied the house, actually had a conversation with my husband where I didn’t have one eye on the screen/notebook, and yes, I actually did that ironing pile.

What now? Well, now I will begin drafting the next one. I have the idea, I have a few characters and I have enthusiasm. Let’s begin the next adventure…donotdisturb

 

Lucie

x

 

Something For The Weekend

Laura: We visit the Donkey Sanctuary once a year. Last time, this little feller had just been born. Meet Charlie and his mum.

Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary

Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary

Petworth Park, West Sussex

Petworth Park, West Sussex

Celia: We’ve been thinking about the wars a lot in school this year. On a trip to Staffordshire Regimental Museum, the children were amazed and impressed that wartime bomb shelters were named after me, although not surprised that I was old enough for this.

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Life Cycle Of a Writer: Getting in the Write Mood. Debbie Fuller-White.

It’s timely that it should be my turn to post the Lifecycle of a Writer. A month into the New Year and many of my writer friends have been talking about their writing goals for 2015, planning forthcoming publications or plotting ideas for the next story.

However, my only goal this year (so far) is to make it to the end of each day! I’ll be honest; every day is Groundhog Day and I’ve only written 523 words since October.

Sir Winston Churchill suffered with the black dog. My problem is black crows. crowCopyrightfree

They sit on my right shoulder, pecking and prodding, firmly refusing to leave as I spend endless hours on the laptop, sometimes only managing to produce a meagre sentence or paragraph, which I’ll invariably chew over for hours before consigning to the recycle bin. By the time I’ve finished over-thinking, berating myself and have lost all focus it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy, proving I have the attention span (as well as creativity) of a gnat,. The crows must be right. No-one’s going to read what I write. I’ll never make it. I’ll never become a published author. Best get back to fannying around on social media or stick some washing in.

So what’s my problem I hear you ask?

There have been times over the last three years or so when I’ve felt like a human battering ram. My Nan (who brought me up from the age of two) died. I underwent major jaw surgery. My husband of twenty-three years left me and our two boys. We had to leave our beloved barn and move house. There was the emotional fallout for the boys alongside my own grief and the utter helplessness of our situation. Add to that money worries, the divorce, my ongoing health problem, my youngest son developing similar health issues … and oh, yes; as if that’s not enough, we now have the builders in, trying to make the house more practical so I can manage better and stay here.

As I type this I can see it’s hardly surprising I’m overwhelmed. I have brain overload. Some people may be able to write their way through their troubles but I can’t when there’s so much going on in my head.

IMG_1014The one thing (as well as the Romaniacs) that keeps me going is the thought of my Nan sitting on my other shoulder, squaring up to take on those crows. Like Jiminy Cricket, she is my conscience, constantly jibbing, jabbing and gesturing, spurring me on. I can hear her now.

‘Ok, you’re having a tough time of it. So do a lot of people. There’s always someone worse off than you. We all have our crosses to bear. You’re having a crisis of confidence? You’re a writer. It goes with the territory. There’s nothing wrong with failing. It’s better than not trying. Didn’t I always tell you, you can do anything you want, if you set your mind to it?  Writer’s block is a state of mind. If you want this that much you need to stop procrastinating. Nobody else can make it happen. Now get yourself a notepad and make a list of all your goals, work out a plan and FOCUS. Finish one project before you start another! Set aside some time every day, even if it’s only half an hour, and write every day. Writers write. It doesn’t matter what you write. Just write.’

Because part of me, deep within, still dares to ‘Believe,’ as she drummed in me so many times, I’m hanging in there. Nan was always right. There’s no such word as, ‘Can’t’ and one thing’s for sure; if I keep doing the same thing, I’m going to keep getting the same results. And a dream is just a wish without a plan.

So, what do you do, when you’re not in the mood to write?

Until next time, warm wishes to you all and happy writing!

Debbie x

Laura E. James, Inspired by …

At Romaniac HQ recently, the conversation of our writing influences and inspirations came up.  Although we all started off writing romance, our influences have come from the four corners of the writing page.  We thought we’d share them with you over the course of the coming months.

Laura is kicking off the feature this week …

 

Sheila O'Flanagan, Veronica Henry, Laura & Jill Mansell

Sheila O’Flanagan, Veronica Henry, Laura & Jill Mansell

Laura: It’s no secret I attribute the lovely Jill Mansell as one of my major influences. I adore the way her novels can make me laugh on page one and cry on page two. It’s a skill to which I aspire, despite writing ‘romance without the soft edges’. It was through Jill’s books that I discovered the RNA and subsequently joined the NWS. Had I not read and enjoyed Good At Games there’s every chance I wouldn’t have my own books ‘out there’.  Other influences are Sheila O’Flanagan, Joanne Harris, (I thought Blackberry Wine was genius) Alice Sebold, Erica James (another author whose writing has me in tears), and Jodi Picoult - I love how she tackles huge issues. I’ve been extremely fortunate to meet Jill, Shelia O’Flanagan and Jodi Picoult, and recently, with much excitement and a necessary degree of fangirling, I discovered the audio version of Follow Me Follow You shares the same narrator – Antonia Beamish – as Erica James’ Summer At The Lake.

Laura & Jodi Picoult

Laura & Jodi Picoult

Since joining the RNA, I’ve met so many wonderful authors whose work was new to me but who have helped and inspired me – Sue Moorcroft and Julie Cohen, who are not only skilled writers, but fantastic tutors, Margaret James, Rowan Coleman, Carole Matthews, Miranda Dickinson, to name a few, who are all accomplished in their art and extremely generous with their time and encouragement.
Outside of the RNA, historical novelist, Isolde Martyn, and my writing pals at Off The Cuff, have been a major influence, teaching me different approaches to writing, and continually supporting my efforts. Before Off The Cuff, I had no idea what Flash Fiction was, and now it’s one of my favourite disciplines.

And I love the wide variety of styles my wonderful Romaniac friends share, and the safety net they provide when it comes to writing outside my comfort zone.

Books that made an impression and stayed with me from my youth? Enid Blyton’s Folk of the Faraway Tree, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm, and George Orwell’s 1984. It would be interesting to revisit them and see if these

Paloma Faith

Paloma Faith

authors influenced my writing, or if it was the pure joy of reading such excellent books that put the cartridge in my fountain pen.

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention Kate Bush, Stevie Nicks, Annie Lennox and Paloma Faith, whose music and lyrics are a constant source of inspiration, and in my humble opinion, examples of superb writing.

You are all an inspiration and I thank you from the bottom of my inkwell.