Here I go, finally a blog about my hero. I’m being very severe with myself and am strictly limiting the word count so as your eyes don’t glaze over while I indulge myself dissecting each of her books. Having said that, as far as contemporary authors go, Jane Austen keeps me re-reading her books again and again. Wait a minute, isn't she a historical author? Not in my view. She lived during the regency period but didn't write historical novels. She wrote about her contemporaries.
The allure of the period costume drama aside. I read Pride and Prejudice thinking it was going to be some kind of intellectual read. I dare say Mills and Boon would have thought up a more romantic title which could have tempted me to open the cover a good five years earlier. Any who, as a self confessed fan, I guess at age 21 and just discovering J A is a bit lame. Most people I know read her as a teenager. I can only put it down to a distaste for the “Classics”, Dickens etc. I thought it meant the same as reading books for school.
After my coming of age birthday I felt it was time I bit the bullet and got on with improving my reading resume. OMG I LOVED P & P. I whipped through the rest of the novels and settled on Persuasion as my all time fave. For the last 30 years (eek, how many?) I've thought a great deal about J A. I’ve been to England to visit Chawton and various other J A historic spots so, you know, I mean slightly obsessed when I say thought a bit about her. What gets me fired up, nowadays, is how her writing style isn't in fashion and she’d probably not get a contract if she cold submitted around the traps. I know, a lot of you think she would. But we can agree, her books hold their own with current romance novelists and give us an emotional ride every time we read them, again and again. I still get anxious that Anne Elliot won’t meet up with Captain Wentworth after reading his marriage proposal. No I’m not pathetic, J A is that great. She can still intimately pull us in.
I believe one of the, too many to mention here, reasons is that at times she adopts a conversational style, not dissimilar to her letters to sister Cassandra. She wrote about what went on in her current time. She was a contemporary author taking the reader into her confidence, whether poking fun at her supporting cast or getting her heroine to notice if the hero wore a blue coat or not (very in at the time). In some respects it’s like modern Women’s Lit. In taking the almost insufferable circumstances of a woman’s lot and sharing a private joke with the reader and making fun of it. For example, when the poor (in more ways than one) Dashwood sisters are expected to enjoy playing with spoiled noisy children. J A has Eleanor make a comment that goes something like, when she is around her cousin’s children, she can never think of quiet children with any abhorrence. It carries so strongly with how we feel today, when the last vestiges of stereotypical gender types are sometimes still ill applied.
I admire J A as I would any brave woman, from any period of time, who chose to live as an author rather than marry someone she didn't love. Even the comfort of her sister and mother were not enough to induce her into a marriage of convenience. She wrote what love should be like. Not what her real experience of love had served up in her own life. The gradual awakening of her characters to their own faults, which have kept them from love, and the change in their attitude leading them finally into marriages of bliss, is totally relevant today. Mr Darcy admitting his faulty pride, to his dearest loveliest Elizabeth, has to be the most romantic scene ever written. If J A wrote that this year and it came out in paperback with that scene, my bet is that it would be a NYT bestseller.
The picture of the lady at the top of the page is officially not of Dora Bramden. It is however an unauthenticated portrait believed by some (including me) to be of Jane Austen. Photo sourced from http://worldbooktrade.blogspot.com.au
Someone recently asked me this question: how long does it take you to write a book? I paused for a moment before answering, because I was pretty sure the other person expected a pretty straightforward answer. Something like, “three months, two weeks and four days, give or take”.
Of course, as anyone who’s done any kind of fiction writing knows, the answer is way more complicated than that.
Every book is different
For a start, the answer is different for each book I’ve written. And in some cases it doesn’t even have anything to do with word count. Some books just write themselves – they come quickly and relatively easily (I’m cautious about using the word “easy” when it comes to writing!) and before you know it, you’re typing “The End”.
Other books make you struggle for every word. Or they start off fine, and then the muse up and disappears after chapter three. Then, six months later she’s back, whispering in your ear, “Hey, remember that story we abandoned? Well, how about...”
You can’t really count the time in between as writing time. Although obviously, somewhere in your subconscious, it’s still been kicking around, working itself out. So it still kind of counts!
What do you mean by “finished”?
As we know, there isn’t one finish line when it comes to writing. Typing “The End” on your first draft is really a beginning, just as much as a finishing. There’s editing, redrafting, rewriting, restructuring...
And then, when your story makes it into the hands of a publisher there’s a whole new finish line ahead. Editorial/structural edits. Then line edits. Then author alterations. Then, THEN, finally, your book is done and off to the printing presses (or equivalent e-book formatting!).
“I never finish anyway...”
I know a lot of writers who struggle with finishing their stories. A lot of agents and publishers only want the first three chapters for submission, so there is a temptation not to bother with writing the book much past that. And, let’s face it, the first part of a book is usually the easiest – we’re still in love with our characters and the novelty of our story is still fresh and exciting.
I’m a bit of a believer in the school of thought around the law of attraction. It basically says that your attitudes and behaviours have a lot to do with the kind of opportunities life sends your way. And I think if you only ever write three chapters, you’re kind of putting it out there that it’s okay that no one ever asks you for more than that. Not to mention the fact that you’re really not giving yourself the full experience of being a writer. Writing the opening of a story is relatively easy. Seeing it through to fruition, watching your conflicts play out, keeping the tension alive, avoiding the “saggy middle” – they’re all writing skills that you’ll never use if you never go past the first three chapters.
And, on a very practical level, when the right editor does hit upon your work and asks to see the rest, if you’ve already written it (or at least most of it) you’re in a fantastic position to do some polishing, some final writing and send it off quick-smart before they forget about you! Responding quickly as a writer is important (even if responding quickly as publishers and editors is practically unheard of!).
So what’s the answer?
How long is a piece of string? How long it takes is up to you. As with so much in writing, there’s no right or wrong answer. The only misstep you make, I think, is in not meeting the challenge to reach “The End”.
Emmie’s latest book is a novella, Spellbound. She thinks it probably took about three weeks to write, three months to polish, and three years to get published.
Spellbound link: http://www.destinyromance.com/products/9781743481035/spellbound
Find Emmie on the web:
Have you read the weekend papers and now sit, with third latte in hand, looking for something writerly to read? I have it for you. Here at the MRWG we are blessed with talented writers.
As it’s the first Sunday of the month, I thought I’d round up some of February’s blogs, just in case you missed a gem.
In alphabetical order, here’s a brief outline of what’s been posted.
Anna Cowen has been blogging about the art and essence of storytelling on her blog, Diary of an Accidental Housewife. (http://annacowan.com/
),yes this is the right link. During February, Anna visits the movie Dirty Dancing and also recounts an enchanting fairy tale with a strong heroine as opposed to the kind that waits around to be saved.
Emmie Dark (http://emmiedark.blogspot.com.au/
) has been posting an informal diary of her sojourn in the USA. Her photos and experiences take us off the usual tourist path and show us some of the quirky side of Texas and California. Even though we’re quite Americanized in many ways, here in Australia, Emmie shows us some fun differences.
Louise Reynolds at Lou Writes ( http://louwrites.wordpress.com/
) has been entertaining subscribers with a series called Cooking The Books. In my life as a bookkeeper it mean’s telling a few porkies, however Louise’s guests have been talking honestly about writing and cooking. A reoccurring theme is the emotional link food creates with our past and how that can evolve into inspiration for stories.
Serena Tatti of Story Editor (http://serenatattistoryeditor.blogspot.com/
) has been interviewing writers during Feb. Her guests have been sharing accounts of their writing experience. Juanita Kee’s explores loving your character and Suzanna Ross shares her experience regarding the magic of writing friends.
Well that’s a taste of what some of the MRWG members have been offering through their blog’s. If you've read them, I hope my post helped you to remember how great they were. If you haven’t seen them yet, you have a treat in store.
As a Melbourne Romance Writers Guild member and Coordinator we are very excited about the release of your first book 'Her Italian Aristocrat'
How long have you been writing romance?
I'd been a longtime romance reader but I started writing in 2006 after seeing an advertisement for a CAE course. The wonderful Anne Gracie was the teacher and I went on to do an 'advanced' course with her as well.
Who is your favorite author?
That's a hard one because I can't pick just one. In Single Title, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Amanda Quick, In category, Jessica Hart and Shirley Jump. I'm seeing a pattern here. I like humour and all these authors deliver witty dialogue from warm and likable characters.
When and where do you like to write?
I have to be truthful and say I don't write every day. I know having a routine like that would make it so much easier but I'm just not a routine type of gal. So I tend to go in spurts, every couple of days. And despite having a very nice study, I write on the dining table in the family room.
What writing habits do you have which help you to keep motivated?
Loving my characters is integral to keeping myself motivated. Because I'm easily distracted I really have to like them a lot to want to go through the pain of telling their story. If I didn't care enough about them, why would I bother? So I do a lot of work on their background and think about them constantly. Finding those little things that will set them apart and make them real to the reader is part of the challenge.
You've been published in short story, can you tell us about that?
I think short stories are a great way to 'test the water', maybe to try a style of writing or type of story you think you might like to write without investing a lot in teasing out a great plot or in big word counts. They're tight, so you need only explore one idea. And they're great for when you are maybe a bit lost, not sure of your next project, and just want something on the go. An example is the three stories I've been lucky to have accepted in Romance Writers of Australia's Little Gems anthologies. The first was a sweet, the second a Regency time-travel and the third had a 1930's Oriental spy setting. I wasn't interested in writing any of these as books but the ideas were there and the short story format was the best way to capture them.
"Her Italian Aristocrat" is set in Italy, have you ever been there?
I've been lucky to spend a bit of time in Italy on several overseas trips and I adore it.
You lived in Sydney till age 10, when your family relocated to Melbourne. Do you think this experience informed you on some level of what Gemma's character faces?
My heroine, Gemma, is an outsider by virtue of her background, unsure of where she fits in the aristocratic setting she finds herself in. When I moved to Melbourne as a child I was an outsider as well. These days, the world is smaller and people move much more frequently but back then it was as if I'd landed on another planet. The Sydney/Melbourne rivalry was also very strong in those days so I struggled to make sense of this new place and to fit in and make new friends.
Gemma is passionate about shoes. Is that something you share with her?
I used to love gorgeous shoes but unfortunately my poor feet will no longer let me wear them. But I can still fantasise about them.
What are you currently working on?
I'm finishing a book set in the Australian outback. It's a 'coming home' book, about forgiveness, reconciliation, and the ties of family.
Louise's book 'Her Italian Aristocrat' is published by Penguin imprint, Destiny Romance, and went on sale the 15th of November.
MRWG Blog – 20/10/12
Three reasons why you should Nano
Around this time of year, you might hear start hearing novelists muttering about something called ‘Nano’. All around the world, writers huddle together, discussing whether they will be Nano-ing this year.
Just what on earth is it?
For the uninitiated, Nano refers to Nanowrimo, or National Novel Writing Month. It takes place annually in November, and the idea is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Nano started in 1999 with 21 participants – last year, over 250,000 people took part.
I’ve been Nano-ing since I first learnt about it in 2005, and, in spite of the blood, sweat and tears it produces each year, I always look forward to taking part again. Why? For three very good reasons.
Writing is a lonely profession, lets be honest. Other than the characters in our heads, a writer might not speak to anyone for hours, and it’s rare to find the non-writers in your life really understand the compulsion to get words on the page.
But during Nano, over a quarter of a million writers gather in one electronic space. There are forums where you’ll find everything from rants about how hard it is to get the words out to writing sprints to help you keep going. There are city based groups (several for Australia) where you can actually, physically meet up with fellow writers in your area.
All in all, a great writing community. Who wouldn’t want that?
To be successful in Nano, you need to be consistent. You need at least 1,600 words a day to reach the final target, and if you get behind in the first few days, it’s hell trying to catch up (trust me, I’ve tried).
This is great training to learn how to write every day. Post Nano, you needn’t keep it at that level, but just about every professional writer I’ve spoken to will confirm the need to write every day. Nano is a great way to practice this skill.
Nano will really get your creativity going. In order to hit the target, you need to learn how to turn your inner editor off and just write. No endlessly going back over a single word trying to get it right. No tweaking your opening sentence again and again and again….
In fact, one of the mottos of Nano is: ‘I’ll fix it in the rewrite’.
To be successful, you just need to let the words pour out of you onto the page, and when you can learn to get out of your own way like this, you’ll find some true gems in your writing that can be polished later. Yes, they’ll be some rubbish in there too, but by getting out of your own way, you’ll find your creative muscle gets stronger and stronger.
So head on over to Nanowrimo and sign up – it could just be the best thing you ever do for your writing. And I look forward to seeing you there!
Our last meeting for 2011 will be held on Sunday 11th December!
Following a brief meeting and some goal setting we will celebrate Christmas together!
Remember to bring your Kris Kringle present and a plate to share!
Note: It will be an early finish!