Tuesday, July 14, 2009

RNA Conference - Opening Session

I finally reached home at ten last night - exhausted but energized at the same time. The conference was simply wonderful. There is nothing quite like being with people who don't think you come from an alien planet because you live with strangers in your head.

Below is the first of my conference notes - I must add again these are just my take on what was said - what I could scribble down quickly - not exact quotes but my summary - so therefore I could be way off the mark from what the speaker actually said or intended. I offer my apologies for this in advance.

I do have to say this session alone did show that there is no one right way....and boy did I learn a lot!

How much........is too much?

The Opening session of the RNA Conference in Penrith was chaired by Catherine Jones aka Kate Lace. She introduced the authors on the panel –Melanie Hilton aka Louise Allen(hot historicals for Mills & Boon), Liz Gill (Sagas), Helen Scott Taylor (Paranormal), Sue Moorecroft (short stories), and Veronica Henry (romantic comedy).

We, the audience, were asked to phrase our questions as “How much (blank) is too much?” Catherine opened the questions with ‘How much sex is too much?’

HST – in paranormal many are very hot especially in the US – the market in general there spans extremely hot to inspirational
MH – it’s too much if you don’t feel comfortable- otherwise its shows – you need to think of your readers’ comfort zone – more important the unexpected frizzon
VH – in her 1st book she wrote very steamy scene and now that is expected in all her books. However you do need to earn them – they need an emotional pull or reward; they are good fun
SM – in short stories it depends on the market
LG – one reader commented to her once ‘Don’t know how you sleep at night with all those sex scenes.’ She hadn’t thought there were many in the book but went back to count and there were 11. She added that it’s got to be in conflict otherwise it’s gratuitous. Conflict with sex – the whole novel should be in conflict...what’s holding them back (what’s going on the outside vs the inside –we need to care) Sex has to be more that sex.

LG – lots..libraries, people best. She researches while watching telly, it is only too much if it all turns up in your novel – read and digest & forget. There is never enough research but it shouldn’t be the book
VH – too much when you become obsessed by it. It should be a natural absorb then concentrate on the story; follow your interest so you don’t bore your reader or yourself, keep it flowing
MH – too much research is when it stops you writing the book. She many times researches backwards to check facts as she did on a 5th cen Roman book. Research can be wonderful displacement activity.
HST – can make it up but her starting point is usually in folklore and then she goes off to create with familiar elements in it.
SM – she said think of an art gallery with one picture on the wall laid bare – in a short story everything shows. Interviewing people is wonderful research

Revision and Polishing
MH – when it becomes too slick, loses its edge, loses its voice, and you become bored
VH – its a good way of not getting on!(as you are too bust tweeking adverds and adjectives and not writing the story); she writes in 20k chunks then locks then away until the end which is about 120k. She does have a good memory to keep track of all that is going on in the book. When the book is written then she polishes
SM – she is finished polishing “when I can read without changing anything” only then is she done – she likes polishing better than the first draft
LG – James N Frey wrote in his book – when you want to throw up all over it...when you are bored and tired of it. She writes a book every 6 months
HST – she blasts through the first draft and works on the fly – just makes notes to come back to as she goes along – once she starts fiddling she loses momentum then 2 revision on the computer, another one printed out and then one more time on the computer – she is always cutting for the US market as they require it to be very tightly written.

Pressure (from a looming deadline)
HST – gave herself enough time but not too much; she works well to a deadline – it is a good thing
MH –writes three books a year – tight deadlines but prefers that – no drifting allowed. She works out how long she has and pulls out the non-writing days then divides the writing days by the total number of words required and set a target for each day which she aims to exceed – then she recalculates each day until she is finished ahead of time with time to revise.
VH – writing and promoting simultaneously which can make her panic; she had an inbuilt sense of where she should be and if she falls behind she goes away by herself for a few days to catchup but always does it in the time she has been told.
LG -2books a year so she works everyday but builds it around her very busy social life – for example if she is out for lunch she will arrive at pub a half hour early to write before lunch

Back Story
LG – she uses prologues as flashback can upset reader if used too much. Just write the story.
SM – you place characters in a situation so it comes out in the scene/dialogue then use introspection
VH – you need to know and inform your characters – don’t slow the story with it – a good editor will say you are slowing up – cut to the chase; don’t make it show
MH – avoid back story dump – writes out back story first so that she can absorb it into motivation, behaviour and dialogue
HST – enough at each stage of the book so that the reader knows what is going on but only knows something as it is needed. Get to know story of character before writing – then it feeds out gradually

Scene Setting
VH – if you need to make sure you show – don’t tell and make it exciting so it doesn’t slow the action up. Take them on the journey. She uses multi protagonist – so some has to be given but as little as possible; what are they doing, saying, wearing
SM – nothng that you don’t need – so very little, characters must have the conviction – they persuade the reader
LG – does it for geography alone
MH – You don’t need the character announcing ‘Goodness it’s 1749 and doesn’t Brussels look...’it should seep out in the writing
HST – need scene setting as it is completely different than normal – it depends on how different the author makes the world just don’t slow the pace of the story

LG – doesn’t do subplot if story is short about 3 for 120k; just tell the story that you want to tell and that only you can tell
VH – several – one is the engine and time line; all the others reflect one another; it all follows and is a bit like a jigsaw; it pulls the reader through seamlessly keeping the reader interested but be clear; keep in control – neither too much nor too little
MH – in 75/80k is not enough space for too much subplot – except in a series. They must be relevant to the main story – keeping them moving forward too
HST – hadn’t thought about subplots until she had a review which mentioned her use of them. They should have that relates and intertwines – it can’t exist separately but occurs naturally as it unfolds

Points of View
SM – she is the viewpoint police – one per episode unless there is a good reason to change that; it should be whose story it is, whose conflict, - otherwise you lose the immediacy – be in their heart and soul
LG – the whole point is that the reader doesn’t notice and as long as it reads well – generally she has 4
VH – has lots of characters and flips gaily between – this is from script writing – she writes filmatically like she’s at a cocktail party but sticks with one person for some satisfaction. It is important not to switch out of one head to avoid getting into the deep stuff – it has to be done – you can’t avoid it
MH – writes roughly 60% form the heroine point of view and 40% from the hero. Only in one book did she write only from the heroine’s pov but this was done because she had the most at risk in every scene. She does analyse every scene to see who is most at risk
HST – was taught to stick to one person’s pov in each scene and usually uses 3 pov per book. It is key to know whose head we are in and it is a bit genre dependent

HST – haven’t had too much - no idea but it seems bigger advance to names and the lower down get squeezed
MH – said too keep an eye on the tax situation – is it better to have it in advance or leave it to come in gradually especially if you have other income streams to deal with
VH – said there is a huge amount of expectation but to remember it affects all other budgets like how much money they have to spend on the promotion of the book – finding a middle line is best and being sensible
LG – it can be too much so pay attention


ChrisH said...

Liz, thanks very much for your hard work and for sharing some very useful information.

Lyn McCulloch said...

Great notes, Liz! Thanks! And I shouldn't need them cos I was there!!
Will see you on Twitter soon!

liz fenwick said...

A pleasure as always ChrisH :-)

Look forward to seeing you Twitter and it was great to see you at the conference! Hate having to wait until next year for another.

Janice said...

Thank you Liz, I regretted not making notes and you have made such conclusive ones - all based exactly as they were presented - now that I have been reminded. Lovely to meet you and thanks for the tip on the map thingy - which I have actually managed to install on my own blog. xx

Fia said...

As always you pass on such interesting information. Thanks Liz

Lane said...

Great notes Liz. Thank you!

Kate Lord Brown said...

Thanks Liz - great notes. Hope to be there next year.

Karen said...

Very useful, thanks for posting your notes :o)

Lori x said...

REally helpful, many thanks for posting this Liz.

L-Plate Author said...

Thanks for...I'm going to start calling them Liz's masterclasses because I feel like I was there with you. Thanks for sharing it all x

Captain Black said...

Good report, Liz. Lots of useful tips from these people. Thanks.

Liz Harris said...

Many thanks for your detailed comments, Liz. They make up for not being able to be at the conference - almost!

I'm joining in with your countdown to the conference next year.

Lizh X