Dear Auntie Romaniac – Flashbacks, yes or no?

Dear Auntie Romaniac

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I don’t know whether to use flashbacks in my novel or not. My main character has a lot of back story which is relevant to the story I’m telling now.

Do you think I should tell this in flashbacks or should I use a different technique, such as, diary entries or dual time line?  Or is there a better way to deal with a heavy back story?

Sue

Catherine: I think flashbacks are okay to use as long as they don’t jar the storyline, serve a purpose, and keep the reader interested. I’ve just finished Julie Cohen’s Where Love Lies and there is some flashback in there, but it’s serves the plot well and is done smoothly. It’s important to the story as it explores memory and perception amongst other things. I think the rules that I’d have would be not too much, not too soon and not if it doesn’t have a purpose.

 Laura: I agree with Catherine. Not too much and not too soon, unless the character is experiencing physical flashbacks. The past can be revealed through dialogue, which is a form of showing, or through the characters internal voice. I do recall being taught to make the lead into and out of the flashbacks clear to the reader. Having said all that, I like both your ideas, Sue, and can see them working.

Lucie: I will echo what the girls are saying, especially not overusing it. I use a flashback in Fractured Love, but only the once. I think if you use it too much, it will most definitely jar the flow of the story and not achieve the intended purpose. I think there are some stories that need it and some that don’t. You need to look at the story both with it and without and explore whether it is the best means of communication for that part. I do love a good flashback, though, it can add depth and mystery to a story if done properly. Good luck, Sue! :-)

Dear Auntie Romaniac… Plotting panic

Dear Auntie Romaniac …

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I’m just beginning to think about a new book idea. I’ve bought a new notebook and a new pen and I have some vague thoughts in my head. Now, what I usually do is have a beginning and an end in mind, a setting and an idea of my main characters and armed with that, I begin writing and the story forms as I write and as I really get to know the characters. The problem is, I then end up with lots of scenes and chapters that are really just character studies, or nice descriptive bits, which don’t advance the story and my second/third drafts involve major re-writing. I have tried advance planning and plotting and character questionnaires but I struggle until I get into the minds of my characters by writing them. How can I plot and structure my book when I don’t really know the characters yet?

Vanessa
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Sue: I always plot heavily before I write, but I have found if I can get to know my character really well beforehand, this makes life easier. You could ask your character a number of questions, or give them some moral dilemmas – these don’t necessarily have to be part of the story, but they will help you know your character thoroughly before you start writing. Maybe, write the first draft focussing on the plot and then go back and weave character traits, thoughts, feelings and reactions in afterwards. 

Catherine: I think I’m still learning on this, like you, Vanessa. I use a bullet point story line method. I start out by planning what is going to happen in the novel and I scribbled it all out in a notebook. Each bullet point is about a paragraph of information and that eventually becomes a chapter. I haven’t stuck to it rigidly, but it has given me a framework to go by, so each chapter I know what the purpose of those events are and where it will eventually lead. In my second draft I will add more detail and check the timeline, something I could have done prior if I’d been more organised, and that’s something I will try to do with the next one.

Laura: It’s a great question, Vanessa. I tried detailed planning for the first time for book I’ve recently finished, using the three act structure, brilliantly explained by author, Fiona Harper, at a Romantic Novelists’ Association conference. Here is a great series Fiona wrote for the Pink Heart Society in 2012 about that. I usually start with an idea, then bring in the characters, and sketch out a rough picture in my head of what I’d like to happen. Often parts of the plot don’t come to me until I’m inside the story. Even having planned book 3, I struggled with refining the end. How was it resolved? I talked through it with Catherine – she was my captive audience in my car for five hours – Some might say that’s extreme advice, but I’m only suggesting talking it out as the method, not the kidnapping. It really helps me to talk through the story with trusted friends. However, I do like to get to know my characters well before I start writing. I use enneagrams to determine their personality traits. This was one of the many tips I picked up from the fab Julie Cohen a few years ago. This gives me an instant insight into what motivates my characters, and a foundation on which to build.

Jan: I’m a serious plotter. To touch on what Sue has suggested above, I create and then interview each main character, posing various questions and scenarios. This gives me a great sense of who they really are, how they think, their gut feelings, motivations, private versus public reactions. I then roughly draft out what will happen in each chapter, as in ‘harmony versus tension’ scenes, points of conflict, timelines, etc, making sure I have a good idea of balance and story pace. It probably sounds a bit regimental, Vanessa, but even though I’m methodical in my approach, I do keep an open mind when I’m writing, to allow for any unexpected diversions. That’s the fun and beauty of telling the actual story – you’re never 100% certain where it may lead you. I wish I could come up with a magic solution, but I suppose it really is a case of trying every option, every which way, until it gels for you.

The Life Cycle Of A Writer – Introductions

  • Whether you’re an aspiring writer, looking for an agent, have found an agent and have every finger crossed for a publishing deal, or if you’re a published writer coping with everything that entails, we have a Romaniac who can empathise with you. When we started out, we all dreamed of the day we’d get published. Some of us are still chasing the dream, whilst others have their paperback in hand ready to hurl at anyone who dares to post a 1-star review. This year, we thought we’d share the highs and lows of what it is to be a writer.
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Catherine, Celia, Laura, Debbie, Sue, Vanessa, Jan, & Lucie

Catherine: I’m part of the ASPIRING gang. I’m juggling being a full-time mum to twins with trying to find time to write. I’m currently 50K into my work-in-progress, which recently gained highly commended in the Accent Press and Woman magazine writing competition. I’m hoping this is the year I find myself an agent, or a publishing deal, or a quiet ten minutes. 

Jan: Well, I’ve started submitting my first women’s fiction novel to agents (gulp!) in the hope of acquiring representation this year. I’m also penning book number two, which involves lots of interesting and, at times, eye-opening research. Aside from writing my second novel, I am thoroughly enjoying my other literary love – freelance proofreading.  

Debbie: I’m finally finding my way through the ether and re-gaining confidence and mojo after losing over three years to personal and health problems. My first novel, which came second in the inaugural Festival of Romantic Fiction New Talent Award in 2011, has now been re-written and critiqued by the RNA New Writer Scheme so there are only a couple of chapters and some finishing touches to do and it will be ready to go to agent. The second novel was short-listed in last year’s Festival of Romantic Fiction competition and so my other focus for this year, as I’ve been accepted onto the New Writers’ Scheme again, is to get this finished and critiqued so I can progress it. If there are any spare hours in my writing day after that little lot, I also have in mind a whole series of non-fiction books and in addition have set myself a challenge to write at least two short stories.

Lucie: I am part of the AGENTED gang. In early 2014, shortly after winning the Festival of Romantic Fiction’s New Talent Award, I was offered representation by Sarah Taylor of the Kate Nash Literary Agency. I currently have a book out on submission and I am working on another two. I write ‘contemporary romance with a real life bite’. I like to write about real issues, such as bereavement and domestic violence, and give them a happy ending. Alongside writing, I also work in Childcare, run the house, look after my family and the dog and try to pick up a book once in a while!

Vanessa: Although unpublished at the moment, I’m represented by an agent – Juliet Mushens of The Agency Group – and I’m working on edits of a psychological thriller which will hopefully be going out on submission to publishers in 2015 (echoing Jan’s gulp!!). I also write short stories and flash fiction and have had stories published in anthologies and magazines. I was shortlisted for the Harry Bowling novel prize and Highly Commended in the Yeovil novel prize in 2014 and I was also thrilled to win the Flash500 novel opening competition in December 2014.

Sue: I’m published by Harper Impulse, two of my books have already been released and my third is due to be released in the Spring of this year. I am a member of both the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Crime Writers’ Association – I write romance and romantic suspense. I have also previously self-published, something which I’m looking to do again this year. So, I guess, that puts me in the hybrid author category.

Laura: I write for Choc Lit, and my debut, in eBook form, Truth or Dare?, was nominated for a Festival of Romance award. My second Follow Me, Follow You is available in all formats including paperback. I have short stories published in the Choc Lit anthologies, and one in the RNA’s Truly, Madly, Deeply anthology. I’m hoping to have book 3 out later this year, (have to complete it first and have it accepted …) which would be the third in the Chesil Series – the novels are all based around Dorset, and in particular, the stunning Chesil Beach. I recently experienced The Fear, which can be read about here. My writer’s tag is  ‘Romance without the soft edges’, a brilliant phrase coined by Sue, which is a perfect description of my style.

Celia: I’ve got two ebooks out  – Sweet Proposal and, more recently, Little Boxes. I was working part time when I wrote these but my day job has taken over my writing life for a while. I’m working on book three in my spare moments and hoping that one day it will be finished. In July I’m off for a second visit to Sue Moorcroft’s brilliant course at Arte Umbria in Italy so if it’s not finished by then, the week away will do the job (it did last time!).

Join us for our weekly Tuesday blog with tips, experiences, highs and lows. And the occasional iced bun.

Multi Genre Writing with Debbie Johnson

Hi Debbie and welcome to the Romaniac blog, it’s great to have you here. It’s been a busy few weeks for you, normally I would congratulate someone on the publication of their book, but, with you, I have to say books – emphasis on the ‘s’. Not one but two books published within a few weeks of each other with two different publishers. That’s quite an achievement.

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How does it feel to have two books published so close together?

I think the best word would be ‘insane’! I didn’t plan it like this, honest – one was planned well ahead, and the other just kind of leapfrogged ahead of it…I think it’s a dastardly plan by my publishers to shut me up!

Cold_Feet_at_christmas_(2)Your books, Cold Feet At Christmas (Harper Impulse) and Fear No Evil (Maze) are very different to each other, one being a romance and the other a suspense and, as if that wasn’t enough, you have also written an urban fantasy, Dark Vision (Del Rey UK, part of Random House) with a follow up, Dark Touch, due out in 2015.

How do you juggle writing in these very different genres?

In all honesty, I don’t find the writing of them that hard. I mean, I read all kinds of different genres; I love crime fiction and fantasy and romance. I think all kinds of different things, my life is varied and rich. My brain is – to put it politely – an eclectic mix! I like different aspects of all of them – and possibly I have quite a short attention span! But on a semi-serious note, I do think too much pigeon-holing goes on – not just in writing, but in life in general. I think readers are smart people – they’re capable of liking more than one type of book!

Some authors use different pen names for the different genres they write in – is this something you considered and what influenced your decision on this?

I did consider it, and in all honesty it may have made life easier. But in this day and age with all the social media, and the importance of that, it would be very difficult. That does leave me in the strange position of having a cute Christmassy chick-lit cover and a scary crime cover on my twitter page! I think it may have been easier if you’re already successful in one – like Nora Roberts creating JD Robb.

Do you think it is easier these days to write in different genres? Is it more acceptable in the publishing world or have you come up against any barriers?Fear_No_Evil_final_(2)

I think it’s harder. My agent, Laura Longrigg, told me about her father, who was a well-known author called Roger Longrigg. He wrote more than 50 books, in all kinds of genres, using a handful of pen-names. These days, as I said earlier, people want you to be one thing or another. Publishers are, understandably, looking for books they can easily package and market – things that straddle different genres are harder to sell. Fear No Evil, for example, took ages to find a publisher – because it mixes crime with the supernatural, which is more accepted now, but caused problems when it was first being submitted. It’s nice to have found an editor at Maze willing to take a chance on it. Then, as well, there’s the social media – you want your potential readers to identify with you, but that’s not so easy when you write fantasy, and romance, and crime! I just need to figure out how to clone myself and it will all be fine.

Have you got any tips for anyone else thinking about writing in different genres?

Apart from stock up on the vodka, you mean?? In all honesty, I am just starting out on this adventure. It may or may not pay off. One genre might be much more successful than another, I don’t know. I suppose that from my own perspective, I’ve written in genres I truly love and read myself – I’m not doing it to be contrary, it’s because my interests have taken me in different imaginary directions! So if you are going to span different genres, make sure you are passionate about all of them. And be prepared to get slagged off in all of them as well – you need a thick skin to be an author, no matter what genre!

Thank you so much for chatting to us, Debbie. Wishing your books much success.

Thank you very much for having me!

 

Letter to an Aspiring Author

We are delighted to welcome Samantha Tonge back to Romaniac HQ. With her latest novel, Mistletoe Mansion, looking like another fab read, here’s a letter Sam, the published author, penned to her unpublished self.

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Dear Samantha Tonge (as she was, a few years ago!),

So… you want to be a published author? I applaud you for following your dreams – but not too loudly because, my lovely, you seem to think that you’ll soon be admiring your books in the local bookstore. Brace yourself… It could take around ten years  – during which time you will learn your craft. The publishing business is no X Factor game show, where the most unexpected contestants may shine. Without connections or celebrity to help you, there is only one way you reach the point of selling books and gaining a loyal readership, and that’s by writing, writing, writing, until you discover your voice and know which supposed literary “rules” to break or follow.

I think it was Hemingway who said you needed to put one million words to paper (or computer screen) before landing a deal – so that’s around ten novels away for you. Don’t set your goals so high – make your first resolution just to finish a book, not to land a top agent or contract with Penguin or Harper Collins or to become an overnight, self-published success. Don’t make the mistake of cloaking yourself with a sense of entitlement – yes, finishing a manuscript is a huge achievement, but one accomplished by thousands of other aspiring authors. You need to work hard enough, and persist, to make yourself stand out – take courses attend writing conferences, join online literary forums, read how-to books and read, read, read of course.

Plus set yourself up on Social Media NOW. Start networking and finding your way around Facebook and Twitter. That way it won’t be such a shedload of work when you do sign on the dotted line, because if your first deal is digital-first, or you decide to self-publish, you will have a huge amount of promotional work to plough through.

Plus listen to your writing friends, who will tell you to start writing short stories as well. This will make you focus more than ever on each word you write, and improve your chapter structure and ability to write in different voices.

Most importantly, try not to forget why you first went into this business – the reason you write is because you love to tell a story and craft words together. This is hard to remember when yet another rejection pops up in your email box. Just hold onto this: the main difference between an unpublished and published author is that the latter didn’t give up.

Easy to say, isn’t it? But rejections aren’t personal – publishers and agents aren’t waging a vendetta against you! Try to see each unpublished novel that gets slipped under the bed as one giant step closer to success. No writing is ever wasted.
Now, get to it! Oh, and a word of warning – all those writing snacks really won’t do you any good in the long run :-)

Mistletoe Mansion

Kimmy Jones has three loves: cupcakes, gossip magazines and dreaming of getting fit just by owning celeb workouts.

When Kimmy’s Sensible Boyfriend told her he didn’t approve of her longing for the high life or her dream of starting a cupcake company Kimmy thought she could compromise – after all, she did return those five-inch Paris Hilton heels! But asking her to trade in cake-making for a job sorting potatoes is a step too far.

So, newly single – and newly homeless – Kimmy needs a dusting of Christmas luck. And, masquerading as a professional house sitter, her new temporary home is the stunning Mistletoe Mansion. Soon she’s best buds with glamorous next door golf WAG Melissa, and orders are pouring in for her fabulous Merry Berry cupcakes! The only thorn in her side is handsome handyman Luke, a distraction she definitely doesn’t need. And talking of distractions, something very odd is going on at night…

Kimmy is finally living the life she’s always wanted. But will her glimpse into the glittering lifestyle of the rich and famous be as glamorous as she’s always imagined…?

About the Author

Picture_014Samantha Tonge lives in Cheshire with her lovely family, and two cats who think they are dogs. When not writing, she spends her days cycling and willing cakes to rise. She has sold over 80 short stories to women’s magazines. Her bestselling debut novel, Doubting Abbey, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award in 2014. Its fun standalone sequel is From Paris with Love. Mistletoe Mansion stars a new set of characters and is for fans of cupcakes and Christmas!

Links

Links

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SamTongeWriter

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SamanthaTongeAuthor

Website: http://samanthatonge.co.uk/

Doubting abbey Blog: http://doubtingabbey.blogspot.co.uk/

AmazonUK :  Here 

 AmazonUS : Here

Ella Harper/Sasha Wagstaff Talks About Pen Names and Voice

Today at Romaniac HQ it’s a case of two for the price of one – I’m delighted to welcome Sasha Wagstaff /Ella Harper.

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Hello Sasha, or should that be Ella? :-)

Can you give a little bit of background to your writing career as Sasha Wagstaff?

Of course. I started writing when I was still in banking but what started out as a hobby soon developed into a passion I couldn’t ignore. I left my job to focus on writing full time and after a few years and some other part time jobs to keep things ticking over I had my first book deal with Headline Review! I wrote four books with them (Changing Grooms, Wicked Games, Heaven Scent and Recipe For Love) – these novels are glamorous, aspirational novels…lots of fun and frolics with lovely leading men and beautiful backdrops. Pure escapism.

Your latest novel, Pieces of You, is published as Ella Harper; what made you decide to write under a different name?

This was more of a publishing decision – as Pieces of You is a complete change of direction, it was felt that a different name should be used. I am hugely proud of this novel so at first I wasn’t sure about using a pseudonym but in the end, realised that it really didn’t matter. And I rather like having a split personality…

Do you find you have a different ‘voice’ as Ella Harper and, if so, is it difficult to separate Sasha from Ella?

pieces_of_youI definitely have a different ‘voice’ as Ella Harper, but to be honest, it’s not difficult to separate the two voices. Every writer puts part of themselves into their writing, which is why it can feel quite exposing when a novel finally hits the shelves but this is simply a different part of me. I wrote in the first person for Lucy’s chapters in Pieces of You as well…a first for me, but I really enjoyed it; it felt completely natural.

It’s a fab name, how did you come up with it?

Thank you! I gave my publishers a list of first names I liked or that meant something to me and a list of surnames I felt were strong and full of character and they picked ‘Ella’ and ‘Harper’ and that was that! I was extremely pleased; Ella was the name of the lead female character in the first novel I ever wrote…one that won’t ever see the light of day! And Harper is just a good, strong name that works very well with a soft, pretty first name. Perfect!

If Sasha could give Ella one piece of advice, what would it be?

Oh, what a great question. I would say that Sasha should just tell Ella to continue to write from the heart. To write about emotive issues – even if they’re scary or personal or heart-breaking (writing as Sasha, it wasn’t appropriate to be as deep or as emotionally raw). To write books readers can relate to, with characters they’re rooting for. Even if they cry now and again when they read said books.

What can readers look forward to next; are you working on something at the moment?

I am currently working on my second Ella Harper novel. And it’s going to be rather different to Pieces of You – but mainly because it hopefully won’t make as many people sob on the tube! (Sorry about that, everyone). It’s still going to be poignant and emotional…and possibly even a bit heart-breaking in places, but it won’t be a full-on weepy.

This one is about two best friends. A man and a woman. They’ve known each other for…oooh, about twenty years. They’re probably in love with each…at least, they have been at various different moments in their lives but time…and other stuff keeps getting in the way. As they both face the biggest challenges of their lives in the form of serious illness and unexpected parenthood, can they find one another again or is it going to be yet another case of missed opportunity for them? Oh, I can’t wait to write this book! It’s going to be properly romantic. And funny. And maybe a bit sad. But readers won’t need as many tissues for this one. I promise.

Thank you so much for talking to us, it’s been lovely to have you on the blog.

Thank you very much for having me! Great questions and an absolute pleasure to answer them.

Amazon UK HERE

 

How Michelle Betham Wrote A Novel In Six Weeks

With November’s annual NaNoWriMo just around the corner, I’ve been considering taking part.  This has been partly inspired by the lack of output recently experienced here in West Sussex and partly by Michelle Betham, author with Harper Impulse.

Michelle has been a one woman writing machine this year – she got an idea for a book that wouldn’t leave her alone and in just six weeks completed her first draft.

I’ve been chatting to Michelle to find out more about how she did it and to find out more about her new release The Brotherhood.

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Hi Michelle

First of all, congratulations on the release of your book Revolution (The Lone Riders MC book 1 of the series). It looks a great read and having spent many hours as pillion passenger, I’m really looking forward to reading this.

So, the first question everyone will want to ask; did it really take just six weeks to get the first draft down?

It really did take just 6 weeks – give or take – to get the first draft down. Although, it has had a fair amount of tweaking done to it since that first draft was finished!

What’s your secret? What was your motivation?

What was my motivation? That’s an easy one to answer. I’d just started watching ‘Sons of Anarchy’ (for anyone who doesn’t know, it’s an American drama series based around an outlaw Motorcycle Club), and because I’ve always had a fascination with that world, and because I’ve always been a bit of a frustrated wannabe biker chick, watching that show inspired me to write my own story based around a fictional Motorcycle Club – The Brotherhood of Lone Riders. And I also love that whole tattooed, long-haired, bearded thing as far as men are concerned, so to be able to throw myself into that world, and create my own group of bikers; to try and create some strong, feisty women to challenge the men living within that world, it was something I just had to do. And I loved every single second of writing Revolution. Loved it!

What sort of planning went into it? Did you have a clear plan/plot beforehand or did it evolve as you wrote it?

I had a very vague story in my head before I started the writing Revolution. I knew the characters I was going to create, and I knew the bare bones, if you like, of what their journey was going to be. But, as with every other book I’ve written, that story grew, changed a little bit, and evolved more as I kept on writing.

Have you got any top tips for anyone to getting the words down?

Just write them. Not all of them will stay, and a great deal of them may be messed around with, but as far as getting that first draft down, don’t think too much about it, just write those words! And that’s something I’ve learned as I’ve gone on over the years, because I used to over think first drafts way too much! But what I find so exciting about writing is that, sometimes, the characters you create will end up telling you where they want to go, and a lot of the time you just have to run with that.

So, can you tell us a little bit about Revolution? What genre does it fall in?

Revolution_cover_imageIt’s a contemporary romance, definitely, with quite a bit of action in this one, and I don’t just mean in the bedroom! Because it’s not just a romance – although, that is what’s at the centre of it all. It’s also the story of the Motorcycle Club itself – The Brotherhood of Lone Riders; the people who live within that world. So it really falls into the MC Romance/biker romance sub-genre. And it’s a real gritty love story.

The main female character, Lexi Hart, was born into the world of the Lone Riders. It’s all she’s ever known. But one mistake sees her banished from the northern Californian chapter of the club – a place she’s called home since the age of fourteen. She broke their rules. She gave them no choice. But after spending eight years back home in England, at the Lone Riders chapter her father is President of in Newcastle, she’s back in California. And not everybody’s pleased to see her return. Lexi, however, has come back to find answers. What happened in the past, the reason why she had to leave California, it had knock-on effects and consequences nobody could have imagined. And she needs to know the truth – she needs to find her own truth because, for far too long she’s been living someone else’s… And she needs one man to help her find those answers. Even if he’s a man she should never have gone near in the first place. But he’s a man she can’t stay away from… As dark secrets are revealed, and dangerous games start to be played, can the Lone Riders pull together to survive the storm that’s about to hit them…?

Did the genre have any influence on your decision to self-publish Revolution rather than through your publishers, Harper Impulse?

Yes, it did. Revolution is quite a dark romance, quite a dark story on the whole. And I just wasn’t sure it was the kind of thing my publishers were looking for. But I wanted it to try and stay true to the whole MC Romance/biker romance thing. Not everything is nice and pretty in those books. And the world of the Brotherhood of Lone Riders has a very dark and sometimes sinister edge to it, at times. But actually exploring that slightly darker side of romance, it was really interesting to write something quite different to anything I’ve written before.  I like to push myself, to explore the different sides of romance, and I guess I pushed a few boundaries with this one. But that’s exactly what I wanted to do!

And finally, what’s on the horizon, is there another six week novel in the pipeline?

Quite possibly! After I’ve finished my next book for Harper Impulse, I want to get on with book 2 in The Lone Riders Series – Retribution. And I’m hoping to get that one written, edited and out there by Spring next year.

Thanks so much, Michelle, it’s been great chatting with you.

Amazon UK link HERE

Amazon US link HERE

Michelle Betham blog HERE