How does our reading influence our writing? Which books do it for you?

As writers we go on learning all the time – if we didn’t, our writing would soon become static – and there’s no better source of learning than from within the pages of other peoples’ books.  Reading, especially for a ‘new’ writer, has an added appeal because of the possibilities of what we might glean from it.  This is my experience, anyway, and I’d like to share with you here some of the things I’ve learned through my own reading.

From Lisa Jewell I learned to cut the self-indulgent meanderings and crack on with the story, and from Hannah Richell’s Secrets of the Tides how having each chapter represent a certain viewpoint makes for clarity of structure in a multi-pov novel.

JoJo Moyes’ Me Before You taught me that high-concept novels are, probably, the easiest to plot – if only I could think of one – but that I’m far too lazy ever to tackle a subject that requires that much research.

I learned from Sebastian Faulks’ Engleby that a deeply flawed character can still be a sympathetic one, and from the Great God Ian McEwan (I may well kiss the ground in front of him if ever we chance to meet!) I’ve learned to be myself.

I’m reading now The Soldier’s Wife by Joanna Trollope.  I’ve always loved her writing and watched how it’s changed over the years from the high-end romantic fiction known fondly as ‘Aga sagas’ through to novels that are more concerned with the wider issues of relationships and quite literary in style.

From Joanna I’ve learned an important lesson – to me the most important – which is that good writing is all about subtlety; The Soldier’s Wife reminds me of that.  The key is to worm your way deep into your character’s psyche, don’t just know them but be them, see the world not only through their eyes but through their innermost thoughts and feelings – and then convey to your readers those thoughts and feelings in as few words as possible.  I’ll repeat that.  In as few words as possible.

This for me is the hallmark of good writing.  Nothing is over-written, over-described or over-explained; in fact there is often no explanation at all.  But from a few precisely chosen words the reader will know, and will obtain far more satisfaction in knowing rather than being told.

Your experience may be different, of course.  I’d love to hear your views, and in particular which books or writers have been the most inspirational to you as a writer and why.

Deirdre

 

Meeting Katie Fforde in Sydney

Hi all,

As you may have seen from Romna, I was lucky enough to meet up with Katie Fforde in Sydney last Wednesday. 

Katie gave this quote by way of encouragement and I wanted to share it all with you, particularly Jo and Julie who founded this website which is just amazing for all those involved:

“The road to publication can be long and hard and you need people who understand quite how hard in order to keep you going.”

I think that this website is wonderful and on my to do list is to get onto the NWS forum too…this week I hope. It was lovely to talk to Katie about her experiences and her writing routines and I felt on a bit of a high afterwards like I’d progressed in my journey some more. It proved to me how important it is to have other writer friends in such a lonely profession.

I hope to meet some fellow writeromantics one year at the conference (maybe 2014 if I make it to the UK), and if any of you are ever down under please look me up!

Happy writing 🙂

Helen.

A Write Romantics News Flash!

Just a quick message to point you in the direction of some updates to other pages on our blogs and to share our happy news:

1. We have the first Write Romantic graduate, from aspiring writer to published author, in Helen P, who will be blogging about her news soon.

2. Julie has updated her journey page.  Read all about the horrors of unhelpful feedback and how she picked herself up and dusted herself off from that experience.

3. Lynne has released the first chapter of her novel on the Virtual Writing Group page, for you to read and provide feedback upon.

It’s been a busy day for the Write Romantics! xx

Hup, two, three four! This is your Sergeant Major speaking and the deadline is approaching!

If you have read our ‘About’ page, you will have noticed that all of us Write Romantics are members of the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme and, as such, we have an August deadline for submission of our manuscripts, in order to receive feedback from one of the wonderful published writers who so generously give up their own precious time to help us on our way.

People like me must be the bane of the fantastic NWS organiser, Melanie’s life. I have been in the New Writers Scheme for two years and on both occasions have managed to butt against the deadline with a last minute submission that is literally falling on to Melanie’s doormat in the final moments of the time allowed. I never mean to be that inconsiderate, but I am like those luckless grooms on “Don’t Tell the Bride” who spend ages dilly dallying around unimportant stuff, before hurriedly buying the bride’s dress in the first shop they come to on the day before the wedding.

I give myself the excuse that I work better under pressure. But do I really? Perhaps I would already be published my now if I took a bit more of a disciplined approach to my writing. So, this time around, I have decided to become my own Sergeant Major. I will write a thousand words a day (minimum) – no excuses! So no matter how much I am tempted to watch Embarrassing Bodies or The Big Body Squad (can you sense a theme here!?), I’m not allowed to until I have written the minimum quota. No more procrastination for me…

It is doubly important this year, as I started late. Edits and submissions of my first novel, have eaten into the writing time for the second (excuses again, moi?), so I was facing a partial submission. However, this time I intend to write a YA novel and I am looking at around 60,000 words. I started my writing ‘bootcamp’ on Monday and, so far, so good, I am at 9,500 words. At this rate, I should have a first draft finished in May and be able to submit gloriously early – which for me means late July or early August (instead of the 31st)!

I am not sure yet if this will improve the quality of writing and I know it is early days, but I feel motivated by making this contract with myself and by my inner Sergeant Major. So how are you all doing? Maybe you don’t have an NWS deadline, but something else you need to ‘hit’? Maybe you’re ahead of the game and a deadline queen or king? Of perhaps like me, you need to harness that inner Sergeant Major? In any case I would love to hear how it’s going for you and may the Gods of the muse be with you!

Jo x

Love makes an April Fool out of us all

Hello

Happy April Fool’s Day!  With foolishness in mind and Julie’s reflection in the last blog entry about the ‘madness’ of love at first sight, my thoughts turned to the crazy things that people do in the name of love.

What’s the most foolish thing that you have ever done?  Mine was moving in with a man I’d known for less than a handful of days.  After ten years together, married almost nine of those, it might not seem so crazy – although I’m sure we both have days when we wonder why on earth we did it!  Yet at the time, everyone around me thought I was mad and one or two of those closest to me were so upset that they barely spoke to me in the weeks and months afterwards.

It all worked out in the end though and, even if it hadn’t, I wouldn’t have had the lasting reminder of a tattoo of an ex somewhere on my body.  That’s a modern phenomenon as a symbol of love and perhaps, arguably, another foolish act of love should it ultimately fade and burn.  Of course, most of us don’t fall in love thinking it will fail, so perhaps having the light of your life’s name tattooed on your body is not so crazy after all.   People like Katie Price have managed to disguise their exes’ names with clever designs, which are all well and good, but perhaps with her track record she will stick to something less indelible now… 

The funniest example of ‘love’ tattoos I ever saw was in a prison documentary about a guy who had five children by four different women, during his brief spells of freedom.  Each time he got a new partner her name was tattooed on his left arm and the children’s names on his right arm.  When the relationships broke down, the children’s names stayed put, but the partner’s name just got a tattooed line drawn through it and the new name written underneath!  Perhaps he could have found a reasonably popular name and just kept going out with Alisons or Janes to save himself the bother? In researching this article, though, I found out that the latest craze is to have a tattoo of your lover’s face etched on your body, rather than their name, but space for the likes of that luckless prison inmate would surely run out much more quickly!

So come on, tell us, what’s the craziest, most irrational or foolish thing you’ve ever done for love?  If you’ve never been done anything that might seem like madness in the name of romance and are looking for some inspiration, check out this list of potentially foolish things done for ‘love’ adapted from the website www.today.com:

  • Meet Kelly Summers who posted 62 You Tube videos of herself crying in a ‘diary of heartbreak’ to share with everyone when she found out her boyfriend had another lover.  Embarrassing in the future for the whole world to know your business? I’d say so! Yet it made her ex Keith realise how much he loved her, so perhaps not…
  • James Doyan advertised his divorced 63 year old mum, Sandy Firth, on eBay as he was so worried about her being lonely.  His starting price? One pound, but sadly the advert was pulled for violating the site’s policy on the sale of human body parts!
  • Mums can be just as embarrassing as sons though, as Colby Brin discovered when his mother, Geri, set up the dating site ‘Date My Single Kid’.  The business has gone from strength to strength and Colby now happily admits that ‘Mum knows best’.
  • What about Patrick Moberg, who saw the girl of his dreams on a subway train?  Anyone got a James Blunt song playing in their head now?  Unlike James in the song, Patrick took some decisive action, set up a website with a sketch of himself and this dream girl, including a big arrow pointing to his head with a sign saying ‘not insane’!  Amazingly it worked and the two are now in touch so, insane or not, perhaps not so foolish after all.
  • Then there is Charles E. Phillips, former president of Oracle, what was his act of foolishness?  Having an affair with a woman who, once scorned, got revenge on a thirty foot high scale.  After an eight year fling with lover, YaVaughnie Wilkins, Charles decided to reconcile fully with his wife Karen.  Scorned YaVaughnie not only set up a website featuring hers and Charles’ romantic photos and love notes, but hired billboards in San Francisco, Atlanta and Time Square in NY to let the world know of his deceit and take her revenge.

Doing crazy things for love can sometimes work out and sometimes end up leaving you feeling not just foolish but perhaps poorer to boot, as the examples above demonstrate.  Ultimately though, love has the power to make us all act out of character and do things the world might consider crazy, but which seem right to us.  It’s no new thing after all, Edward VIII gave up his kingdom for the love of Wallis Simpson, and where would us romantic writers get our inspiration without it?!

Jo xx