Here i will share my journey of hopefully one day recognising my dream of becoming published writing what i love to read; Romance!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Where working out conflict gets conflicting and very very tricky!!

I have been struggling with this concept for the last week in particular but over the last few years in general with my writing.
I have been doing lots of research on Conflict and Characterisation to get a handle on GMC and how to create it for my characters - or to understand the root of my characters motivation and conflict. And I stumbled on a few gems - or rather the light switch flicked on somethings for me. You may already know all this, but I thought I'd share it anyway.

G = the Hero or Heroine's goal. What they want or want to avoid
M = their motivation. Why or why not they want their goal
C = what makes is so hard for them to meet their goal - the conflict

Valerie Parv in The Art of Romance Writing breaks GMC down to Problem, Solution and Obstacle. In essence at the beginning of a story your hero/ine has a problem they are about to solve when an obstacle arrived in the form of the hero/ine's wants.

On a website called the Publishing Crawl I discovered that after you have worked out your GMC a great way to test that is sound or strong enough, or plausable sounding, try and combine the GMC into one sentence. It will quickly reveal which part or parts of the GMC needs more work:

     MC (main character) wants (G)...because (M).... but (C).

So then I had to work this all out for Secrets and Lies.
I discovered that my story was plot driven. I didn't really understand my characters and their motivations.
But I found on deeper research that i had a more basic problem. I had not pinpointed what the theme of my story was!
Theme is the overarching point of your story. eg, Freedom, Security, Truth.... . Mine was to do with Trust.
Theme leads to your premise - the moral of your story. Lots of notes and pondering revealed mine as 'Trust comes from the heart, not the mind'.

Once you know what your theme is, you need to make sure that every character, every scene meets this theme. - I found this illuminating for the editing process and whether or not scenes or characters were necessary!

With the theme and premise in mind it was easier to pinpoint the real GMC's for my main characters.
At the root of it all I have a heroine who trusts her heart over her mind, and my hero trusts his mind over his heart = instant conflict!

But deeper into conflict there are multiple layers. *groan* It's never easy!
Their are two main types of conflict. External and Internal.

External Conflict is what propels the MC's to do what they do. A cheating partner, death of a loved one, being made penniless....The external conflict propels the MC's together initially - this is the beginning of your story, or where your story opens.
Their Internal Conflict is the struggle of your MC's to overcome their external goals. And of course, their internal conflicts can change as they meet challenges and realise deeper what they really want or need - which may or may not be the hero/ine!

Now, narrowing down the main driving Internal and External conflicts for my MC's has proven frustrating as well as invigorating. By getting to the crux of their issues I can then layer their conflicts further as each meets a challenge, revealing deeper motivations and goals.

For example, my hero's main internal goal is to have his head rule in all decisions and actions. His motivation comes from his past: He followed his heart to his detriment - the heroine up and left him at the altar. He is not going to be made so vulnerable ever again.
A deeper layer goal - he has to know why the heroine left him (this makes him vulnerable, this unmanly insecurity) which leads to a lot more secrets in the story.
His conflict: When the heroine comes back he is finding it very hard to keep his head when his heart and soul screams for the heroine. But, should he trust his head and believe his brother or trust his heart and believe the heroine?
My hero needs to learn that trust will lead him to the truth. This is the goal that he really wants, but doesn't know it yet - He wants the truth but to get it he has to trust the heroine.

My heroine is a bit more complicated and I am still nutting out some nitty gritty bits but essentially she needs to learn that for her truth leads to trust. Likewise she doesn't know yet that at the heart of it all she wants the complete trust of the hero but to get it she must give him the truth.
See how nicely they conflict with each other - each needs to have a goal or conflict that is the opposite to the other to create that lovely tension - who will win in the end??!

See it's all very tricky and layered. And by writing this post I have managed to have a few more lightbulb moments!

Good luck with nutting out your GMC's!
If you have any gems to share, please do!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013's just too much, but what if it's not enough!

An exellent post from K.M Weiland on explanation. One that i found a tad funny, 'cos i can totally tell that i often do this and later when i read over it i'm like, "gah! what are you doing!!!"

The basic tip is to let your readers have the benefit of the doubt, don't go overboard, and let your readers imagine. They don't need everything spelled out.

Hope this helps, or it at least creates a giggle :)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dialogue suckage

Yep, i've discovered while editing that i really suck at dialogue.
It's not the first thing i gravitate towards while writing - i really prefer to write internal dialogue (perhaps because i tend to live in my own head quite a lot?!).

However, i did notice that one of my scenes really lacked impact.
It contained a lot of he did, she did and then, and of course internal dialogue.
So i went back to the beginning of the scene and inserted dialogue - taunts really - (it was a fight scene) and suddenly it felt real, alive and so much better! I was able to delete a good chunk of the internal dialogue because the characters speaking and their reactions to each other, told more about them than the internal stuff.

Do you suck at dialogue, or is this your natural style?

From the Write Practice i found two great articles. One about rumours and another about observations. Even if you are awesome at dialogue, do visit them, they are well worth the minute to read :)

Friday, May 17, 2013

An Underestimation

My goodness i have totally underestimated how long it would take me to edit Secrets and Lies! I am less than a quarter through the first draft with my edit and it has taken almost 5 months.

I have read through the whole document on my kindle - so i couldn't tweak as i went! - and highlighted areas that needed deleting, errors, rewording, layering etc.
The process of going back through and editing those notes has taken longer, i know from all the research i have done to set the story in 1144 in the Outer Hebrides.
I am really enjoying this process but it is taking so long! I really fear that my story will not be any where near finished for either sending to publishers or self publishing by year end....

Working 4 days a week and being a busy mum really does take a lot of time and i take my hat off to those published mums out there! this process is taking a long time as i'm only opening my document once or twice a week, but i find i am exhausted from stimulating toddlers all day and then doing mum and housewife stuff when i get home!
While my house is looking very untidy and housework is slipping i find it hard/guilty to sit down and edit.
Does anyone else have this dilemma?

How do you balance writing time with family/housework duties?

Monday, May 6, 2013

A helpful Blog

Do you sometimes sit for ages at the keyboard trying to describe the feel of sand under foot or the frown on your character's face? Description for me is sometimes so painful. I use my thesaurus (yes the one on the bookshelf!), but can rarely find exactly what i'm lookin for.
But i think i have found my answer.Scrolling through some of the sites i like (left side of blog) i found a link to a blog that helps with description.

The Bookshelf Muse Has a thesaurus for physical attributes; colours; character traits!!

Describing weather, like a breeze and how it sounds, smells, moves, feels etc.
Describing body parts, like a stomach - flacid, bouncy, rotund, taut...

All of these come with bits of information linked to a characters possible emotion.

Even though i only scrolled through it quickly, i can tell i will be revisiting this site often!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Writing Tip: Cutting extraneous words during editing

I know i will be up to this part of editing soon. (Well probably a month or two away)

Rachel Gardiner recommends that before submitting or publishing your manuscript it could be in your best interest to do another round of edits and cut 10 words per page.


Look for -ly words. Are they necessary?
So too for -ing words

cut out passive voice - 'was', 'were' and 'that'

shorten description

shorten internal monologue or show thoughts and feelings through dialogue or action.

repetitive telling what the reader already knows.

And, carefully considering a big list of overused words:
about, actually, almost, like, appears, approximately, basically, close to, even, eventually, exactly, finally, just, just then, kind of, nearly, practically, really, seems, simply, somehow, somewhat, sort of, suddenly, truly, utterly, were.

I don't know what my overused words are - well, actually i think i use 'hoped' too much!

What are your best editing tips, or overused words?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Men's Brains Women's Brains

Following a link from facebook i discovered this awesome youtube video about Men's brains and Women's brains and how differently they work.

Mark Gungor the motivational speaker and minister who runs the marriage course is funny and tells things like it is.
I found it so interesting and so very true! He does explain that in general what he talks about can be confined to men's brains and women's brains but he is sure that there are people who act and think in the reverse, so it is not a blanket that-is-how-you-are type thing.

The two very interesting things i got from this clip (1 hour!):

* Women have to ask their men more than once to do something for them. But women don't want to do this because they shouldn't have to! We want our men to do it without asking.

* Men are interested in 1 thing. And you know what that is ;) So the way to getting what we want from our men is to bargain with what they want!

I found this seminar really exciting from a writer's perspective too. If you struggle to really get into your hero's head, then this can give you some basic background information on how a man's brain works!
For instance, a man's brain is full of little boxes each filled with a different topic - car, money, job...etc. They don't touch! So when they talk about something, it is only about the contents in that one box. And that is how men can be so focussed and why they are so good at single-tasking. (My hubby disagrees with this one, he says he is a better multi-tasker than me, but then, he is wired differently to me and i juggle more things at once than he realises!)

Also they have a 'nothing' box. But i'll let you watch the clip to see what this is, and how funny and true this whole seminar rings! Go on watch it!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Celebrating our successes

There is a theme going at one of banks here in NZ - celebrating success.
We kiwi's are apparently really good at celebrating other people's success, but not so much our own.

So, i just wanted to share some of my successes.

This year (and it's only in it's 4th month!) i have:

1. Become a provisionally registered Early Childhood Teacher
2. Graduated from Waikato University with my Diploma of Teaching
3. Started my first real job in seven years ('cos there are many people out there who think being an at-home mum is not a real job!)
4. Edited 4 chapters of the first story i ever wrote and had kind of given up on.

I wonder if i can somehow make this theme into a story??!

So, please share with me.
What are some of your successes?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Research and Editing

Over the past few weeks i have been doing lots of research for my early medieval period story, Secrets and Lies.
As i am editing this draft and inserting bits of history and solid facts about the place and time, i am finding this story becoming so much richer!
This editing is made easier by the notes i took as i read through it on my kindle. I am moving through this quite fast - though not as fast as i would like (i am not a writer full-time!).

What have you found that has made your editing easier?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Scary Stuff: Copyright Infringement

I just read a legal document shared on Facebook about Kate Walker, author of many many Harlequin novels and 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance being a defendant in an infringement case.
To think that she was accused of copying someone else's work, to me, is ludicrous!

What i got from the legal mumbo-jumbo was basically the accuser's unpublished work had a similar theme or trope as that of Kate Walker's work.
I recently read a fantastic new author's work and thought "hey that sounds a bit like my idea" - our characters are by no means the same, their struggles aren't the same, but my small 10,000 word first draft is about best friends turned lovers which shared the same trope - that's it!

So, similar ideas do not mean copyright infringement - using exact phrases and words as someone else is.

Have a read of the legal document here

And to Kate Walker - thank goodness the case was dismissed!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Book Review - Jackie Ashenden

I have literally just finished Jackie's debut story Falling for Finn and i can't believe no one picked her up for publication earlier. 
Her writing is fabulous! Raw, real and so emotional.
I've followed Jackie's struggles with writing, her bumpy road to publication and i just wanted to say that if that struggle is what produced this story? I can only hope i go through that same process. Phenomenal and no wonder she was finally, finally snapped up!
Here is my review of her awesome story. If you haven't purchased it yet - this is a MUST!

Jackie Ashenden has written a story so mindblowingly good! She goes so deep into her characters psyche you are left without a choice but to love them and know them. This story is raw, beautiful and hot! One of the love scenes left me nearly turning off my kindle so they could have privacy! The emotions and intensity are so real.
It is so refreshing to have a story with real epithets, real, modern cussing that feels so natural.
Awesome, awesome story Jackie and for a debut - wow!When's the next one out ;)

Sunday, February 10, 2013


OMG i hadn't realised just how long it would take or how tricky researching would be.
I've spent the last 5 or so weeks reading through my first draft and researching in history when i will place it. I chose the Hebrides - i don't know why, it seemed to call to me :) - and have narrowed my timeframe to be somewhere between 1103-1156.
The 12th century is rather interesting and because i've chosen the Outer Hebrides it is particularly hard. So many disputed rulers, from Ireland, Norway, and the Isle of Mann.

I've been looking for a peaceful period and i think i've found it during these dates. I do know that just after 1156 is when the Hebrides is broken up into the Inner and Outer Hebrides by a man called Somerled, which will fit perfectly for my last story planned for the trilogy - if it gets that far!

Now i've realised i need to know things like how people travelled in the 12th century, what they ate, what they hunted, how they built their houses, what they farmed, what they wore... and i haven't even really begun to look at the terrain of the Hebrides, which in my story has importance.
I'm rather enjoying it but i can tell if i let it, the research will become very consuming.

So i think i am going to approach the research when i need it. I'm going to start editing until i come to a part that needs specific information. Do you think that would work?

How do you do your research?
I can definitely see the merits of hiring researchers like Nora Roberts does!

Friday, January 18, 2013


So a few posts ago i asked for help with Editing. Where to start?

One of my writer friends suggested i load my story to my kindle to have a read through first, looking for flow and any major mistakes/flow problems. This is working a treat. I have noted about 170 parts that need either tiny tweaks or major rewrite or even deletion and i'm only 3/4 of the way through!

Another writer suggested i scrap the whole first draft and start again! Apparently this worked wonders for her story. I for one, am too afraid to! But after doing lots of research for 'when' and 'where' i'm going to set my story (it is currently in fantasy land!), i'm going to try and majorly edit to fit and failing that - *gulp* - i'll start over!

Another writer, Jackie Ashendon replied with the following:

Good question. Okay, what I do is first read over the whole thing before I do anything. Then I always do the big things first - characters and conflict since both drive the plot. Are your characters consistent? Does the internal conflict work? Have you gone deep enough with it? Are their motivations clear? Have the h/h got clearly defined character arcs?
Once you're good with that, then look at each scene. Do the scenes move the plot/conflict along or are they just filler? Or do you need to add more, etc, etc.
After I do that kind of stuff, then POV fixes, language, grammar etc is next and that's usually the easy fixes. I know some people advise doing the small things first but there's kind of no point fixing POV in a scene if you actually don't need the scene at all.

I think a combination of all this makes sense to me.
I've already noticed that my hero's GMC is seriously lacking - so that will be the first thing i work on, Oh and he seriously needs to alpha up! I can't believe i wrote him so wussy!
Then i'll take a deeper look at my heroine's GMC - just to make sure my h&h clash and meld with the right things!

So thanks for the advice everyone, i feel i am better equipped at tackling this edit :)

Does anyone approach their edits differently?

Friday, January 11, 2013

World Building

When i write a story i try to write "what i know". But when i've set a story in a city or country that i don't know much about, or have created from scratch!, then it requires some research and building.
For my Princess story i have created an island in the North Sea, close to England. I've researched the surrounding countries's history to get a sense of where they came from, how their culture and buildings etc were formed. I've searched about the sea, trade with these countries... It is endless.

With my Secrets and Lies story, i built a whole new fantasy world. I'd written and drawn maps, worked out seasons etc, researched herbs. But i've now decided to ground this story somewhere real, so have relied on history again. Doing research to find a good historical time to work in with my story. I've researched a place - the Hebrides. Now i have to do more extensive research of this place - seasons, climate, names, people etc.

My writer friend Nicole MacDonald created a world Gar'nyse for her BirthRight Trilogy. The things she's researched is incredible and she created names using a fantasy name generator. Her creatures are created from myths and her own ideas.

Kaily Hart has written a wonderful article about world building, Check it out Here!

How do you create your world for writing? And it doesn't have to be fantasy or historical as Kaily tells us.
Do you keep copious notes about your story? Your world?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Release and Author Interview - Nicole MacDonald

Welcome Nicole!

You must be super excited to have your final book in the Birth Right Trilogy, Feel the Burn finished and ready for readers to download!

I am! Also rather exhausted, I kind of feel like I did after finishing my last bout of exams at college - thrilled & terrified ;p

How long has it taken you to write the trilogy?

Around three and a half years. It's rather scary to write that down!

What are you going to do now that you have finished it? Do you think there will be a spinoff of other characters or do you have completely new stories in the works?

I don't know exactly yet, I have heaps of ideas but I think for the moment I might have a breather and enjoy just being a reader again! Of course, as I say that I'm noting ideas down *grin* but I'm not promising anything!!! (yet)

The Arrival, your first ebook is available in book form, is that right? Where can your readers purchase this?

Everywhere that ebooks are sold. Amazon/Smashwords/Sony/Kobo/iTunes/Barnes & Noble - the list is constantly updating! And of course the first book is available free almost everywhere.

How do you come up with the names for people and the places? How do you not get them all mixed up? You must have an extensive file with all the names on!

To create the names I often use friends/family names and just rearrange the letters. Leseach is an anagram of Chelsea and Nnelg is Glenn backwards. Other times I use a fantasy name generator to give me ideas. The name generator is great for ideas.
I don’t have a particular file system for the names, though I probably should. For me, because I’m so involved in the story in my head the names just make sense. I remember them all the same way I remember clients/workmates names – all through recognition of the characters. Occasionally I do need to flick through my current draft to check the spelling of a name (or that I haven’t overused certain letters, making the names look/sound too similar) and the note pad beside me bears the new names of characters for a little while. But no permanent file.

I think most of us know that you use method writing as you draft. In those scenes of intense emotion, how long does it take you come out of it after writing? Does it feel surreal when you're done for the day?

Depending on what scenes I’m working on at the time, I can stay partially submerged in the other world for days, even weeks. Especially when I’m working through the really intense scenes. It does feel surreal coming out of it, actually it feels bloody exhausting at times! I’m very grateful that Glenn can deal with the random mood swings so well *lol*.

I have noticed some similarities between characters with those in movies - have you drawn inspiration from movies such as Avatar and Lord of the Rings?

Everything inspires me – documentaries especially – so it’s not surprising that you see some similarities as those writers/directors also drew inspiration from nature. Earth has so many weird and wonderful creatures to give me ideas and I love drawing on the old legends and tales for inspiration – after all, they were inspired by nature too!

What has been the weirdest Earth creature that has inspired one in your story? What creature did you create from it?

In Jenviet’s castle in, Feel the Burn, Cat comes across bone crunchers. Those squat little creatures were inspired by Tasmanian devils  

Which old legends have particularly inspired you? Maori, Fae? Which has been your favourite?

The old Greek and Roman tales and the ancient Gaelic tales. I don’t have a particular favourite, I just love all the creatures they have in them!

Now i'm sure these questions are some that many new writers who are wanting to self publish would like to know:

Was it easy to self publish?

Yes and no. Technically anyone can do it and the process, while fiddly, isn't that hard. But so many other parts of it are intensely time/energy consuming. It can be a very rewarding hobby but also very frustrating.

Where did you find the artists for the covers? What was the cost for this?

Keary Taylor did my first two covers, and I bumped into her on my blog! She actually did my first cover for free (after seeing my dismal attempt *lol*) and then the second cover I paid for as she'd just started a cover business (and I TOTALLY recommend her!) The third cover was created by a fan of the books, Lisa Vella. I'd found a gorgeous picture I had intended to use for the cover but I couldn't find out who owned the rights to it. And naturally, I didn't want to risk any copyright issues. Lisa came to the rescue and created the cover to Feel the Burn from scratch!! I was stunned :) 

Have the profits you have received been more or less than you expected? (We don't need figures!)

Yes, more than expected. Considering there are over 1.5 million ebooks on Amazon alone, it's very exciting to be sitting in the top 10-15k. So while it isn't a full time income yet, it is a hobby that is starting to pay it's way. Although if you wanted to break it down into an hourly rate it would be very sad *lol* Writing for me, is very much a labour of love.

And that labour of love is available now!
Buy Feel the Burn here from Amazon.
And you can see Nicole's blog here

Continuing from the second book of the BirthRight Trilogy, Awakening, is the final installment—Feel the Burn.

The battle to save Gar’nyse is upon them and already the costs are insurmountable.
With no other option but to knowingly sail into a trap, the girls, the Griffon Guard, and the gathered forces set forth to reach the castle and destroy Jenviet. However the loss of Alek means the task sits fully on the four girls’ shoulders and with only one of them at their full Elemental abilities, the risk of death, or worse— failure—is high. Now with nothing to lose, Catherine refuses to link with the other girls, hoping that she alone will be able to take Jenviet. But the malevolent Sorceress of Vo’Arum has other plans…

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Editing, and I need YOU!

So, i am editing my first ever story Secrets & Lies.
I wrote this story in 2008 starting when my daughter was 6 weeks old. It took me a year.
When i finished it my dad printed and bound it. It hadn't been edited, it was very rough. Everyone who read it said it's a great story.
I read back over it about a month after i'd finished and well, it needed a lot of work!
I was really bad with head hopping! one sentence was in the heroines head, the next from the hero's father etc :S
So, five years later i am editing it.

I have started with the first 6 chapters, deleting head hopping, making scenes in one person's POV.
Upping the tension by deleting all the obvious 'hints' to character's backgrounds.
And, i have done research. When i wrote it, i created a fantasy land in an unknown time. It was easier to create my story. Now i want to solidify it, ground it somehow, and i have chosen a place in the Hebrides, in around 1100 AD.
So lots of research, about clothes, food, names, travel etc etc..

So my question for you writers, both published and unpublished. What do you tackle first on your first edit through?
Inserting place names and history?
Changing some of the plot line? Character motivation?

There seems so much to do, i am a bit overwhelmed where to start!! So your help is greatly appreciated!