Writing Romance

Saturday, March 7, I attended a writer’s group event in Amery, Wisconsin, that was hosted by the Northern Lakes Center for the Arts. One of our WisRWA members, Helen C. Johannes, spoke at the event to discuss romance and what it means. The writer’s group in Amery, chartered by the Wisconsin Writer’s Association, wanted to learn more about what constitutes a romance novel and how to write one. Tina Susedik, Danielle Johnson, and I, members of the WisRWA – Chippewa Falls Area, went to support Helen and to help answer questions about romance writing if needed.

Helen did a great job explaining the definition of a romance novel. The Romance Writers of America (RWA) organization defines a romance novel as having a central love story with a happy or optimistic ending. She explained how romance writing received a bad rap in the 80’s when people began to stereotype romances as “bodice rippers.” Not so much anymore. Today, romance is a big business with over $1 Billion in sales.

Today’s romance stories are sophisticated, fun, comedic, smart, suspenseful, etc. There’s different genres within romance which includes, but not limited to, historical, young adult, suspense, contemporary, and erotica. The question was asked whether or not Romeo and Juliet was a romance. The classic is a love story but not a romance because the ending is tragic. A few good examples of romance in movies include: The Princess Bride, The Sound of Music, and Shrek. I remember my nephew, a producer, telling me that romance doesn’t sell. I beg to differ – note the three movies above.

Helen also discussed how she writes. Her style is pretty much free form. She creates the story in her head, she may have a loose outline, but mainly she writes. She won’t know how the story ends until the last word is written. Tina Susedik is the same way. For me, I will create a detailed outline, but it always changes.

I think the writer’s group enjoyed learning about romance. I had a fun time as well. It’s nice to have a refresher on the basics of romance and to confirm why we write. In the world that we live in today, it’s nice to read a story with a happily ever after or an optimistic ending. We can live in someone else’s world for a short period of time.

 

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Lessons Learned: Nothing Can Mean a Whole Lot

Every year our WisRWA Chip Girls go to the WisRWA Write Touch Conference, or we head out for a weekend retreat to learn and ask questions about writing, to network, have fun, and to laugh. We like to invite Jean along, someone who shares in our passion for writing and a long-time friend to the group. Every year, at one of the events, Jean brings us a gift to help us accomplish our goals for the next few months. Here’s an example of what we’ve received:

A goal booklet with inside pockets. One pocket contains goal sheets to write down what you’d like to achieve, while the other has 20 different scene ideas that you could include in your story.

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Jean 2 003

A box to hold postcards and a matching goal booklet.
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And this year we each received a personalized box to store trinkets, goals, or whatever we like.
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Jean handcrafts each gift, and she does an amazing job with the design. Not only are they beautiful, but they have purpose. And best of all, we know they come from the heart. Thank you, Jean! You always say they’re nothing. To us, they mean a whole lot.

WisRWA Write Touch Conference – The Experience

This year’s theme for the WisRWA Write Touch Conference was Publish, Polish, and Promote. The sessions for the conference fulfilled all three “P’s” and then some.

Publish
I learned about the trends in publishing. Contemporary is waning, paranormal is dead, and SciFi is taking off. Right now there’s displacement in the market due to everyone in the world self-publishing. Saturation is coming next, we haven’t hit it yet, but it’s coming. Once the playing field evens out again, it’s the hybrid authors, both published and self-published, who will be the most successful.

Polish
I learned how Liz Pelletier, founder of Entangled and an editor, will read a manuscript for edits. There’s three passes that include the full read, the line edit of the story, and a line edit of the craft. She went through the detail of what to look for in each pass. There was a lot of detail.

Promote
I learned about street teams and how important they are to the success of an author. Street teams are not just for spreading the word about you or your next book; they are about relationships and having fun. Gina L. Maxwell has a street team called the Maxwell Mob and she has fun with her romance mafia. She’s also a great speaker.

The conference began Friday evening and ended Sunday afternoon. Not only did we learn how to publish, polish, and promote, we also learned how to use the Myers Briggs personality profiles when building characters, how to plot for the heart of romance, and what’s needed for a self-publishing business.

My brain went into overload, and I’m still processing all that I learned. Some pieces I take with a grain of salt and others are like “Oh yeah, I can’t wait to try it!”

But for all conferences, the best part is spending it with friends, meeting new people, and being aspired. I’m looking forward t next year’s conference. WisRWA has something fun in the works.

Fall Writing Retreat

Last weekend was our RWA, WisRWA Chapter, writing retreat for the Chippewa Falls group. Once a year our small group dedicates three days to focus on writing. This includes learning what we’ve been up to, helping each other out, sharpening our skills, and hiding around the hotel to work on our own projects.

This year we shared our successes and presented one author with a framed copy of her first published article in “Tea Time” magazine.

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We also brainstormed ideas throughout the day. If someone had an issue with a character or storyline, we were all there to help. We love getting those “aha” moments, and we had a few of them this year.

To sharpen our skills, we reviewed Michael Hauge’s Story Mastery presentation that he gave at our WisRWA conference last June. We decided to watch “Hitch” and “Shrek,” movies that he used in some of his examples. We were able to identify his six stages of plot structure and the turning points in both movies. This was a great exercise to study plot structure. I’d highly recommend it.

And last, our biggest goal of the weekend was to write. The retreat gave us a chance to write without interruptions, renew our energy, and bond with friends who love to write.
I’m fortunate to belong to my writing group, and I look forward to next year’s retreat. I’m sad that the weekend has ended, but I’m also supercharged to finish my next book.

WisRWA Conference

Yesterday I returned from the three-day WisRWA conference that I attended in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin which is just outside of Milwaukee. The annual event includes sessions given by prestigious speakers, a raffle to help raise money for literacy, networking, agent/editor appointments, and the announcement of the year’s Fab Five and Write Touch contest winners. If you are an aspiring author, I would recommend entering the Fab Five contest.

The keynote speaker at this year’s conference was Michael Hauge, a story and script consultant/lecturer who has worked with screenwriters, novelists, filmmakers, executives, and film funding agencies. He held two sessions on story mastery, how to write the main character’s outer and inner journey. DiAnn Mills, a NY Times best-selling author was another guest speaker, and she spoke to us about emotional conflict. Both were great speakers. I didn’t have a chance to talk to Michael in person, but I did chat with DiAnn on Sunday, and she’s just a little sweetheart…all 96 pounds of her.

I love conferences with great speakers. I drove home on Sunday feeling rejuvenated and excited to write again. To me, that’s a successful conference.

Now I wish I had more hours in the day to vanish into my office to write. I will get there, one day, but for now I’ll take advantage of the spare time that I do have. My conferences are done for the year with only a weekend retreat in October remaining. This summer will be dedicated to writing.

Tina and me, WisRWA Conference 2013

Tina Susedik (on the left) and me with the roses we received in recognition of our first eBook sales at the 2013 Wisconsin RWA Write Touch Conference.

RT Convention – Our Final Day

The RT Convention is now a memory for 2013. Like last year, I really enjoyed the event. Saturday was bittersweet as we packed our boxes of books and goodies into the van (less to lug around in the morning) and then headed to our last day of events.

The Book Expo was the first event that we attended. Holy Moly!!! The people!!! What a great place for readers and fans to get their books signed by their favorite author and to meet them in person! I talked to Yvonne, a reader whom I met earlier in the week. She had a bagful of books ready for purchase. Her daughter had two bags. I went to the corner of the room to snap this shot:
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In the afternoon, I attended one of my favorite and best events of the trip. Jade Lee celebrated her 50th birthday. She had attended our WisRWA conference last year in Wausau, and we had talked about RT and her turning 50. She told us of her plans of having a roast with plenty of cover models to back her up.
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The friends who roasted Jade were hilarious. Her best friend had the birthday girl demonstrate how to eat dark chocolate-coated candies and show us all the pure pleasure of doing so. One of the models helped her. Once the roast ended, Jade gave away prizes. One prize was a large box. She asked if there was anyone in the room named “Beth.” I raised my hand and won. I received a box full of Kathy Lyons and Jade Lee books that she signed personally to Beth. After cupcakes and champagne, I went to thank her and learned the story behind the prize. She had donated the books, decals, and jewelry to Brenda Novak’s auction to fight diabetes. A person named Beth won her gift but never paid. Since Jade had already signed the books she decided that there will be one special Beth at her 50th party.
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And, by the way, I am going to donate to Brenda Novak’s fight for diabetes. If Jade’s gift was meant to be given for a cause, I will be happy to donate for the one Beth who didn’t.

At night was our last cocktail party hosted by Carina Press and dance party hosted by Harlequin. Tina and I didn’t stay out until the wee hours of the morning, but we left with smiles as we walked back to our hotel. We wish we could’ve stayed through Sunday, since RT still had another day of social events, but other duties called. Maybe next year. We’re already plotting.

The Writing Routine

Many times I’ve heard other writers complain that they don’t have time to write. Writing becomes a low priority when life gets in the way. And by life I mean work, family, chores, appointments, and social events. The excuses begin with “I’ll get to it later” or “I’ll start next week.” This is hard when you really like to write.

I found myself in the same trap as those other writers. I put writing on a low priority. I wrote less and less. I became crabby and lost my sense of who I was. I needed to get back on a routine so my writing became a part of my life and not dusty papers in a closet. I set myself two tasks: preparation and time.

For the preparation:

I placed a pen and paper within reach. I keep both pen and paper in my car, my purse, my computer bag, my backpack, and my suitcase to use when I travel. I also keep both handy around the house. I have both in the bedroom (on the nightstand), kitchen, bathroom, and living room.

I created a space. I have an office for all my writing books, papers, notes, and supplies. I have my desk set up with my computer and a couple walls with notes tacked here and there. Before I had my office, I shared one with my husband. We each had a table and a file cabinet. Before that, I used a box to store my papers in, and I would carry that out to the dining room table to write there.

I set priorities. I used to be a clean freak. On Saturday mornings I would clean the entire house. A tidy house was big for me. I didn’t feel good unless the house looked good. Well, I got over it. I’ll clean what needs to be cleaned when it looks dirty. I still have to balance my priorities, I can’t forget about my family, but I keep writing at the top of the list as well. Even if it’s for fifteen minutes, I’ll try to write or think about what I need to write.

I found the support I needed. My biggest support comes from my husband. He knows how important writing is to me. He understands that I need to take time to write. He rarely complains when I bury myself in the office to write. I also have my two writer’s groups – WisRWA, a chapter of Romance Writers of America and Pen and THink, a local chapter of Wisconsin’s Writer’s Association. We discuss writing and books, we comment on each other’s work, and we give each other support.

For the time:

When I first started my writing routine, I got up an hour before I had to get ready for the day. I’d hit the computer half asleep and write like a madman. I heard that this is the best time to write. Your creative voice comes through without having the clutter of the day fill your brain. You also gain a sense of accomplishment, and know that it’s done for the day. You start your morning on a positive note. I liked this method when I first started out. I think writing every morning helped me get into the routine I needed. Now, I find that writing after dinner and on weekend mornings works best for me.

Note: This blog is on my writing routine but this can apply to other hobbies or passions as well. Get yourself into a routine. Play that instrument, work on your garden, build furniture from scratch, or paint that watercolor. Do something for yourself.