Monday, November 30, 2009

I'm a winner!

I'd rather be writing these words in relation to the Harlequin Presents contest, but for now I'll be happy that I've won Nanowrimo 2009.

Congratulations to everyone who attempted Nano this year. You're a winner just for trying and every word you wrote is a word more than you had 30 days ago, whether you achieved your goal or not.

Now roll on the edits!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dirty Drafts

I notice that some writers call their first drafts 'dirty' drafts and I'm starting to understand why. I'm so close to the end of this first draft, with just the HEA left to write, that I should be dancing around with joy. I have a novel!

Or do I?

The bare bones are there, but the manuscript has gaping holes, weak spots and whole scenes where I'm not entirely sure what the scene's point is. I'm pretty sure the motivations are there, but sometimes they waver, a bit like a mirage.

I also have, as one of my CPs frequently points out, a tendency to write lots of short and rather unsatisfying love scenes. I need to consciously go back and add quality rather than quantity.

Then there's the fact that my heroine is a bit of a ballbreaker and needs to be made more sympathetic, and my hero is sometimes a little unloveable or doesn't behave like the true Alpha he is.

Dirty draft indeed. I can see its potential, but between real life, kids coughing all night, Nanowrimo and the Twilight saga, I'm so sleep deprived right now that I don't have the energy to even think about what I need to do to fix this.

So what fond name do you give your first draft?

Friday, November 20, 2009

More about kittens

Because I'm concentrating my writing efforts on Nano rather than on updating this blog, today's post is short and sweet, and all about the wild kittens living in our garden.

We haven't seen much of them all week, thanks to the wintry spell that hit Johannesburg on Monday and which has just gotten worse all week. Today, looking out at the constant rain and the solid grey-white sky, I could easily be in England rather than in Africa a month away from the midsummer solstice!

Monday, November 16, 2009


Usually I prefer to read the book before I see the movie, but just this once I did it the other way round. In anticipation of the new movie coming out I decided to (finally!) read the books.

I loved the movie version of Twilight, struck by its passion and intensity ... but the book is even better. My Nano word count suffered a little as I read the book cover-to-cover this weekend, but it wasn't a loss because this morning I felt invigorated and my word count has started to soar once again. I feel as though I've finally captured the spark that's been missing in my current novel.

As a writer, there were two things I took away from Twilight.

The first is that writing a readable story is worth its weight in gold. Stephenie Meyer's story is gripping, but the reason I kept turning pages (PTQ, as Kate Walker refers to it) is that her writing is so easy to read. Not once was I pulled out of the story to wonder why she'd used a certain word or to think about her phrasing. I was hooked from beginning to end. The prose flowed seamlessly, as though she'd paid just enough attention, but not over-analysed. I sometimes think that aspiring writers, particularly in crit groups, tend to over-analyse, until the wording is correct but the heart is lost.

The second, and even more important, gem that I took away from reading this novel was its focus. The hero only makes his appearance on page 16. From that moment on, he is never off the page, even though the entire story is told in first person from the heroine's perspective. Even when the characters are not together, the focus is so strong that you're barely aware they're apart.

I've often heard it said that it's important in category romance to get the hero and heroine together as soon as possible on the page because these novels are so short. I discovered this weekend that it has absolutely nothing to do with the length of the novels, but with the intensity. At around 400 pages, Stephenie Meyer did not have to worry about condensing her love story into 50,000 words. She kept the focus on the hero and heroine so tight because that is what gives the book its passion.

And this is why I love category romance. Because unlike chick lit, which can meander in different directions with a mosaic of secondary characters and sub plots, I love the unrelenting passion of category romance. For the entire length of the novel, the writer focuses you on the spark between two people. What is truly awesome is that Stephenie Meyer, with so much happening in her novel, manages to keep that spark front and centre throughout.

Thank you Stephenie for writing a book that has given so much enjoyment, and for helping me to find the spark between my hero and heroine again. Now I'm going to get back to writing, and I think my treat for completing this first draft is going to be New Moon, the second book of the Twilight series.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Stray Kittens and Wild Roses

Over the week-end we discovered three gorgeous kittens living in our garden. The mother is a stray who lives at the school across the road, but she probably chose our garden as we're the only house on the block with no dogs. We think they're old enough to be weaning and they're already wild enough to hiss whenever we get too near.

We've decided to try to tame them while they're still young enough, but as I've only ever had domesticated cats before I'd appreciate advice on how to earn their trust. At the moment we're just letting them get used to us being around so they feel less threatened, and we're leaving out milk and food. Any other suggestions?

In writing news, this afternoon I finally sent off my revisions for Let's Misbehave to The Wild Rose Press, so I am now waiting on two submissions (counting the Presents contest as a sub!).
A huge thank you to all my CPs who have helped me get this far - you know who you are!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Nano Progress

No sterling results, but at least I've consistently managed to keep just ahead of the daily targets for the first three days. If I can just keep this up, and the day job doesn't suddenly spiral out of control, I should have a completed novel by the time Harlequin announces the winners of the 2009 Presents Contest. Is it just me or has a month never seemed like such an eternity before?