Story Mastery with Michael Hauge #michaelhauge #rwaus16 #amwriting

Love stories offer most powerful tool for creating character arc and taking reader on journey

What a thrill to attend Michael Hauge’s story writing workshop at the recent RWA conference. Apparently, we were the biggest audience he’s ever had for a presentation on writing – and we loved it!

michael-hague-keynotes-workshops-promo

For those of you who don’t know much about Michael – he’s a screen-writer and writing/screen coach who works in Hollywood and has consulted on many of the major HW films in the past decades.

Michael covered a lot in our all-day session. Starting with some clips from some movies he used to illustrate his messages. So what were some of his messages?

Some of those that resonated with me were:

You need to create an emotional experience for your reader or watcher

You need to transport the reader/watcher into the world you’ve created

Your goal as a writer is to elicit emotion in the reader

So how do we do that?

Michael went into a lot of detail about main characters, their outer motivations and their inner journey. I will cover more about that in my next few blog posts as there’s a lot to take in. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with another of my favourite quotes from the workshop

Stories are a participatory experience. People read novels not because it is interesting to see what happens, but as an emotional journey to experience for themselves.

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2015 – what worked, what didn’t? Part 1 -Writing #amwriting #review #writing

writingThis is the first of a series of posts where I look at how 2015 went – my first full year as a self-published author… I’ll be analysing different parts of the journey from publishing, social media, websites and marketing. I’ll let you know the things that worked and the things that proved a waste of time.

First cab off the rank – writing.

I love writing. It’s why I started out on the crazy ride to achieve my dream of becoming an author – one who people would love to read. And now I’m one year closer to achieving that dream…

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What’s worked well this year?

  • I finished and published ‘The Tangled Web’, a long novella – number 5 in the Deception Series.
  • I finished my first historical romance – ‘Isabel’s Choice’. It is now ready for publishing (I just need to sort out the marketing (especially my website) and get it converted to eBook format). It is ready for CreateSpace – cover and all.
  • My second historical ‘Sophie’s Promise’ has been edited and is with the beta-readers. I am very happy with this book – it is my personal favourite of all I’ve written so far. It is wonderful to have finished Sophie’s story at last (one of my favourite characters.
  • ‘The Secret Life of Eloise’ has been edited and is back with me for corrections (yep – that’s on my ‘to do’ list for the next few weeks). This was a fascinating book to work on as Eloise is so different from my usual heroines – a bit of an anti-heroine. It was wonderful to finish her story though – cathartic in a way. I am excited to have written something that is ‘out of the box’ and can’t wait to see the public reaction
  • I completed over 80% of my next contemporary romance ‘The Wedding Singer’. I am hoping to finish that story early in 2016!
  • I wrote down a few other ideas for books and have them stored neatly away awaiting their turn…

What didn’t work so well?

  • I had actually planned to finish AND publish at least 4 books in 2015, so the fact that I only published one of them was a disappointment. I try to console myself with the number of other things I achieved this year, and that at least I finished the writing…
  • A lot of my ‘writing time’ (such as some of the days I took off work to write) were overtaken by other distractions, such as marketing, social media, etc. This is always an issue when trying to cram a lot in…
  • I finished a book that I am not happy with – and neither are the betas. But I think I know what’s wrong with it now, and there is work that can be done…

What have I learnt?

  • Tricks for time management and avoiding distractions – such as turning off email and social media when writing.
  • The more you write (and listen to feedback), the better you get.* Many other writers talk about this and I must say I believe it is true. Certainly, that’s the feedback I’ve been getting from my readers so far – that every book is better than the last, characters become more nuanced, etc. Feedback has been vital for helping to develop my style and grow as a writer.
  • The more you read, the better you get. You can learn so much from the good (and even the bad) writers out there.
  • The more you think about a book (in all those spare moments between writing), the better the story is likely to be
  • When you have a good writing flow going, make the most of it. You may not have another for weeks! Nice as it would be to write consistently every day, for some of us (such as me) it is more realistic and effective to write in concentrated bursts when I’ve had a chance to become fully submerged in the story. I try to be disciplined about doing something related to my writing career every day, but not always creative work. Depends on where I’m at.

*Keep on writing One of the main messages I have really taken to heart is that we have to keep on writing. The more you write, the better you get. I’ve been reading lots of articles about the importance of getting on with the next book rather than obsessing about trying to ‘perfect’ the first, and that is so true. My experience over the past year has shown me that. 

That is not to say that my first books are not still good books. I am proud of the stories and the characters, but I can also see that if I was writing the same stories now, the writing style would be different. I feel my style has matured and gained depth. And that’s not a bad thing – it’s natural progression.

I’ve read some of the early books of some of my favourite authors, and some of them are not all that great. You can definitely see the seeds of what is to come, but also the room for improvement. I wonder if one day I might revise my early books and re-release them? I’m not sure. I’m more interested in working on new stories and new ideas at the moment. I guess, I’ll see what sort of feedback I get from my readers.

What will I be focusing on in 2016?

  • Becoming more focused when I write. Having more days where I make time and energy for writing and refuse to get sucked in by the enticement of social media.
  • Publishing my first three historical novels (including final tweaks and edits based on feedback).
  • Finishing at least two of the shorter historical novels that I started this year and will be intrigued to finish. One involves a spy and another a Princess, so I’ll be stepping into some new territory – can’t wait!
  • Finishing ‘The Wedding Singer’ and the controversial ‘Seduction in Stone’ (which has needed more rewrites than anything I’ve written, but is getting closer).
  • Writing at least one thing that I am not expecting and do not yet know anything about 🙂

What are your writing goals for 2016?

Don’t miss my next post on the good the bad and the ugly of 2015. The topic: Blogging!

My first year as an indie author #amwriting #indie #published #book

moonlight cover 6 sm

It’s been just over a year since I published my first book (‘Lover by Moonlight’). A year in which I’ve learnt an incredible amount. I’ve tried lots of new things – some have been moderately successful, some have been a waste of time, and some have been an abject failure. But overall, I consider that I have grown immeasurably, and am definitely getting closer to my goal of being a widely-read author.

There have been so many lessons learned in so many different parts of the self-publishing life, that I’m planning to explore each one in a separate blogpost. And don’t worry, I will be letting you know about the good, the bad and the ugly. All of it. Some of the topics I’m planning to cover include:

  • Writing
  • Blogging
  • My website
  • Distributing and publishing
  • Facebook and other social media
  • Twitter!!
  • Finding readers, reviewers and a ‘street team’

Top 5 TV dramatizations based on a book for 2015

This year I watched some wonderful dramatizations of excellent books – some I’ve seen before, some that were new to me. Here are my 5 faves for 2015.

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Recommended reads – 5 favorite light reads/chick lit for 2015 #holidayreading #chicklit #recommendedreads #2015

Perfect holiday reads! Five of my favorite books from 2015 – these ones are light reading / chick lit. All mix humour with poignancy, some with a bit of romance or mystery.

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Can a romantic heroine be too old? #helenmirren #sexy #olderwomen #age #romance #amwriting #writing #book #inspiration #breakthemold

November 21, 2005: The press room at the 33rd Annual International Emmy Awards Gala held at the Hilton Hotel in New York City. Among those attending, Dame Helen Mirren. Credit: Dara Kushner/INFGoff.com     Ref: infusny-05

I say ‘no’! I don’t think a woman is ever too old to be attractive or worthy of love – it just depends on who’s looking and what they’re looking for. Couples who’ve been married for 40 plus years love the whole person, not some superficial picture of an ideal physical appearance. They love the way their beloved grows and changes, because they are changing with them. They can feel comfortable in their skin, fulfilled.

I want to help debunk the myth that only young women are sexy and worthy of romance. It is rubbish! A lot of this crap is peddled by the beauty industry, but the reality is that many women and men become more attractive as they get older (eg, Sean Connery – he might be a lot older than me, but the older Sean makes my toes curl in a way the younger actor never did).

Sean Connery media

And of course being interested in people is about so much more than just outward appearance, and what often attracts us goes well beyond smooth skin, a full head of hair and nubile bodies.

What do you find attractive? I like wisdom, humour, strength and kindness. I love to see people who feel sure of who they are and are interested in more than just themselves. Which means I often gravitate towards older people and find them interesting and attractive.

Cerebral matters aside, then there are the people who are just hot, no matter what their age. Take Helen Mirren – WOW! Nearly seventy in the picture below, and just gorgeous.

Helen Mirren has inspired my latest book ‘The Tangled Web’, which is about a 59 year old woman (yes, 59!) who is a romantic heroine with a difference. She’s not young and naive, youthful and nubile. But she is attractive, especially to Marcus Webster. So why shouldn’t she star in her own romance?

I have never read a romance before with a heroine older than 45, so I’ll be putting ‘The Tangled Web’ out there soon (probably for free). Hope you enjoy it! I’ll be fascinated to see the reaction. (And yes, older women can also enjoy sex – sometimes more than when they’re younger. Why the hell not?)

November 21, 2005: The press room at the 33rd Annual International Emmy Awards Gala held at the Hilton Hotel in New York City. Among those attending, Dame Helen Mirren. Credit: Dara Kushner/INFGoff.com     Ref: infusny-05

November 21, 2005: The press room at the 33rd Annual International Emmy Awards Gala held at the Hilton Hotel in New York City. Among those attending, Dame Helen Mirren.
Credit: Dara Kushner/INFGoff.com Ref: infusny-05

50145483 02-25-07 Hollywood, CA Helen Mirren at the 79th Annual Academy Awards Red Carpet, Kodak Theatre, Hollywood, CA... Non-Exclusive Pix by Flynet Pictures ©2007 818-307-4813  Nicolas 323-833-7042  Nicolas 323-974-6007  Jay 310-466-8617  Scott FameFlynet, Inc - Beverly Hills, CA, USA - +1 (818) 307-4813

50145483 02-25-07 Hollywood, CA
Helen Mirren at the 79th Annual Academy Awards Red Carpet, Kodak Theatre, Hollywood, CA…
Non-Exclusive Pix by Flynet Pictures ©2007
818-307-4813 Nicolas
323-833-7042 Nicolas
323-974-6007 Jay
310-466-8617 Scott FameFlynet, Inc – Beverly Hills, CA, USA – +1 (818) 307-4813

Creating and marketing your box set #writing #book #boxset #marketing

box set 19337210

I definitely need to tap into the following advice when I set up my first box set. There are many articles out there that explain why box sets are a good idea and how to maximize their marketing potential. Here is one of the best:

Bookbub article

Do you have a box set currently available? Has that worked well for you? What are your best tips?