The Romance Writers of Australia Conference this weekend was amazing and I have NOTES to share with you. I learned so much.
Yes, I know I said I would try not to take notes but just to Zen the conference. I blame the presenters. They were so smart they compelled me to record their words! (I have fangirl squees! coming up — you’ve been warned).
First up, the Penguin Welcome Party was themed for Destiny Romance‘s first birthday. It was loud, fun and entirely successful. I have no idea why we had a pirate wandering around it — but he was handing out roses, so no problems there! I met lovely people, some of whom I never bumped into again all weekend. That was how busy the conference was.
Friday I attended the linked academic conference, the Inaugural Elizabeth Jolley Conference 2013, and the array of topics and insights gained there was impressive. Feminism and romance writing/reading have a bit of a fraught relationship. To see us trying to understand one another was an eye-opener. Not surprising at all was the number of romance authors who self-identify as feminists. One of the audience (and my apologies, I only know her as Merriann) commented on how we’re all negotiating the issues of managing agency in a relationship. The more I think on this, the more I like this common ground between feminism and romance writing. It is about relationships. (If “agency” sounds weird to you — Wikipedia to the rescue!)
I also met Kat from Book Thingo, Australian romance review site. She was top of my Stalk List so nice to meet her so early 🙂
On Saturday, the conference started for real. Julia Quinn gave a warm and witty keynote address. Apparently being disorganised won’t kill a career 🙂 But the takeaway message was about respecting our profession as authors. Respecting ourselves. For me, this was a theme of the conference and one which I found strengthening and inspiring.
Just a side note: Meeting other authors was incredibly empowering. “Empowering” is an over-used and abused word, but I have to use it here. The conference was supportive, nurturing and challenging.
Skipping sessions to hit highlights … Nina Bruhns (I went to link to her website, but she’s been hacked — Nina is a multi-pub’d author and editor at Entangled Publishing) gave a talk on “Effective Fiction: Save the Cat” based on the work of Blake Snyder. Go and look up his work at the Save the Cat site. It is so useful. Much of what Nina covered is on the site or in Snyder’s book, so I won’t retype it. Below are my notes on Nina’s talk — including some of my thinking muddled in there. If it sounds weird, those are my thoughts!
Establish heroism from the start — a heart of gold.
Use the 3 act structure. It’s embedded in our society.
Primal — if you pitched to a caveman, he’d get the story.
Loglines — this is your one sentence elevator pitch. It tells you whether you have a plot and checks if said plot resonates with your AUDIENCE.
Your author name becomes your brand, or promise to readers.
Your query letter is NOT to tell the story, but to get a request for the complete MS. Haunt publishers’ websites, pick their buzzwords and use them in your logline. You can/should put the logline at the top of your query.
At least 3 of the following should be in your logline — end with an ironic zinger!
- a compelling (adjective) with a desperate desire (goal)
- a flaw related to the character’s career or situation
- a classic plot device, enticing topic or setting, or universal theme
- a life altering inciting incident
- an innovative idea
- a quirk of fate or irony — the zinger!
Loglines have pairs/contrasts – conflicts. They build. Use power words at the beginning and end.
The problem the heroine has to solve is in her.
A panel discussion of VILLAINS followed courtesy of Helene Young, Bronwyn Parry and Shannon Curtis — all Australian romantic suspense authors. BTW Helene has one of the best author taglines I’ve seen: Love in the heart of danger.
Villains reveal the values underlying the story. A villain believes passionately in his version of the truth (Helene Young). Henchmen can reveal motivation of villain. The setting can trap and add tension.
Jaye Ford presented “Gnarly Wipeouts: Action Scenes that Hit Hard”. I’ll use her action scene style here — tight, fast, aggressive, in-your-face with straight talking, blunt meanings, hard consonants and deleting adverbs that soften the verb (just pick a better verb).
Sentence construction: use impact words at the end of the sentence.
Watch PACE. As time speeds up or slows down — instinctual action, time is fast. Cut extraneous action, short sentences, cut exposition. Stretching out what can’t normally be seen slows things down.
Bring the reader in close with detail. Remember injuries raise the stakes. Keep reminders of motivation throughout the scene.
Woohoo! the conference day ended with some admin stuff and RWAus news, including the new-look website. Fantastic, hmm? I was so enthusiastic and buzzed — and exhausted. Seriously, I was in bed at 8:30 that night. So much for making the Gala Awards Night. Everyone had a ton of fun and chocolate and danced the night away while I slept. I’m such a lightweight. Then again, the day started with a 7am Escape Publishing author breakfast and ended with my first ever booksigning in the evening at the Australian Romance Readers Association book signing. I gave out postcards and magnets, scored a lollypop, was eating the lollypop while introducing myself to Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches (huge fangirl moment — shame about the lollypop) and generally was over-excited. A wonderful event.
Hmm. There’s a lot of info here. I’d best stop and tackle Sunday’s notes — which are full of awesome — a bit later.
If anyone has any questions, ask away!
Oops! I almost forgot. Look what arrived in my inbox while I was recovering from the conference yesterday — Yes, it is the cover for my 40k novella, It’s Love, Dude.