Ah New Year's Day. What better time for a Review of the Year?
In 2010 I decided that within the next five years I wanted to write a novel. Not publish a novel, but just to complete one. I’d dabbled, stopped and started so many damn times. I just wanted completion (the goal of any romance heroine, you understand). 2008-2010 had all been about photography, but thanks to the magical powers of Michelle Woodall, I discovered that was a red herring.
I was going to write. And so I did. And how did I do?
SCORES ON THE DOORS FOR 2011
1 historical romance of 90,000 words, Merely Players, completed, redrafted a dozen times and in need of complete revision. But completed all the same.
2 half written novels – Daughters of Leda (the intertwined stories of Clytemnestra and Helen) and Boundless as the Sea, the sequel to Merely Players.
Numerous flash fiction stories of 100 words and more (see Twitastic Tweeps below).
5 or 6 outlines of other books.
Dozens of blog posts.
2 RWA Contests entered (finalist in the Historical Category for the Catherine - I love those Canadians!).
1 Mills & Boon New Voices Contest (still recovering)
1 Successful NaNoWriMo (I'm a winner!)
I’m pleased. More than pleased, I’m delighted. But I didn’t do it on my own. 2011 has been all about learning. Sitting myself at the feet of other people reaching for their own goals, masters of their fields, open-hearted people willing to share their thoughts, skills and talents for the benefit of the worldwide writing community. So this is my shout out to them.
Twitter. What did I do before I discovered Twitter? It has been my very own magic portal to discovering vibrant, generous communities of writers and a gazillion useful writing tips. Through Twitter I discovered the fun, useful exercise that is Flash Fiction.
Much of the Flash Fiction fun has been orchestrated by two fine ladies who go by the Twitter appellation of: @theGlitterLady and @TimonySouler. If you want to be challenged, to find other people writing and sharing their work, follow them – they will lead you like spirit guides in the right direction to some super cool blog challenges. A regular favourite of mine is #TuesdayTales but I massively enjoyed the #7Sins, #7Virtues and #DivineHell challenges.
Thanks to the fun times from these various Flash Fiction challenges I’ve been privileged to meet some great writers, aspiring, aspired and just damn good. Big wave to @LenaCorazon (her blog is inspirational) @Emilia_Quill (her worlds are both magical and funny) @BryceDaniels58 (his poetry makes me want to cry) @Rosie_Lane (great flash fiction) and @DavidALudwig (incredibly thoughtful writer).
SURVIVING MILLS & BOON NEW VOICES 2011
|Know the feeling|
The other Twitter group who supported, inspired and cheered me on were the veterans of the nail-biting and mildly traumatic Mills & Boon New Voices 2011 competition AKA #NewVoices2011. @JoannaShupe (has now got representation - go you Joanna!), @katherinelbone and @ValkyriesEdge (has been invited to query - go Blue!), not to mention the wonderful @AndreaWalpole (but she deserves a special mention all of her own), and off line the lovely and talented Helen Kolocevic who will hopefully be submitting her novel, Shameless, soon.
New Voices - a mildly traumatic but fascinating voyage into public scrutiny. Why do people do X Factor or Pop Idol? Why? Why? You can read all about it in the "On Trusting Your Instincts" post from earlier this year. It has a picture of a chimp. Go read it.
November brought a vastly more positive experience in the rollercoaster, adrenalin fuelled writing frenzy which was #NaNoWriMo.
I wasn't going to enter NaNoWriMo AKA National Novel Writing Month. It had a target of writing 50,000 words of a novel in one month (November 2011). I absolutely didn't have the time. I was full time at work, stressed up to my eyeballs. I DID NOT HAVE THE TIME.
|Sleep is for wimps|
But it looked sooooooo much fun. Cue a hideous chest infection and voila I was off work, on the couch, coughing my guts up and with laptop to hand. And then there was that nice Lena Corazon, who was ever so encouraging. And the forums were so interesting. And Twitter was alight with people necking coffee and writing writing writing. And they have these fun little barometers.
Before I knew it, it was November 30 and I had written 50,752 words of Boundless as the Sea. I was a WINNER baby. Though I still had 40K to go to complete my novel. (25K now).
Without the twitastic NaNoWriMo community (found via the hashtag #NaNoWriMo) I would never have done it. Thank you lovely tweeps!
And I'm so glad I did it. I'm already plotting for 2012. Clear that calendar - next year I am NaNoWriMo-ing. Don't call. Don't invite me out. I will be WRITING. Come and play. It's the best fun you can have with a keyboard and a mug of coffee. Just don't expect to sleep.
|Author Joanna Bourne|
Some people have really great blogs. They think, they read, they share. They are the open-hearted cornerstones of the romance writing community, who give you a backstage pass to their mid-novel traumas and writing inspiration. Top of the list in the regard is Joanna Bourne. Besides writing some of the best romances around, she also shares her learning and her daily challenges through her blog. She's a responsive tweeter and lovely to her fans. Golden laurel wreath to the lovely Jo (read Black Hawk! One of my top books of the year).
|Author Stacia Kane|
Also, ranking highly on the list is the marvelous Stacia Kane author of the compulsive Downside Ghosts series. Not only does she have one of the best guides around to writing sex, Be a Sex Writing Strumpet, found for free in a series of posts on her blog and in e-book form at a very reasonable price (amazon).
There's a lesson here about how authors operate on the web: fans love to get a sneak peak of how novels are brewed, what inspires them and what challenges are faced along the way. Like our literary heroines, we want to know that our writerly heroines aren't perfect. We want you to be human. It extends the enjoyment of the reading experience. Static websites are like staring at a book cover. The enjoyment comes from looking within the pages.
|Author Aimee L Salter|
Other authors who get big thumbs up for sneak peaks and responsiveness included Laura Kinsale (she has a whole forum for us to grill her on the finer aspects of her work) and Eloisa James (love the sneak peaks) - found at @EloisaJames on Twitter. For historical details you can do no better than those Two Nerdy History Girls, Loretta Chase (read Silk is for Seduction, read it I say) and Susan Holloway Scott (@2nerdyhistgirls). I could mention others - Jennifer Crusie would rank highly (love her essays, love her books) and Liz Fielding is truly generous with her help. I could go on...
Outside of the romance writing community three regular #writetip Twitter favorites mine are @elizabethscraig, @JodyHedlund and @AimeeLSalter - great bloggers, great tweeters, fine ladies. Follow them, learn how to write.
I couldn't let a review of the year go by without a massive thank you to Andrea Walpole who is a dazzling combination of physicist, tailor, talented musician, DIY expert, mother of two and romance author. She's read copious amounts of my stuff, travelled similar roads and provided tons of support and encouragement. It's been phenomenal to see her work transform over the last few months too, to crystallise as an original, sharp, funny and sensuous writer. 2012 is going to be her year!
Big thank you also to Helen Kolacevic, who is a really good writer herself, and provided really helpful criticism and support, stopped and made me think. Her novel Shameless will be submitted soon and should be snapped up in no time.
Other big acknowledgements go to my sisters Gilly, Nin and Kate all of whom suffered to read and give feedback on my work, my brother Mike who helped brainstorm ideas, my husband Roddy who let me embarrass him royally by picking his brains on what men think about when they fancy someone, to Jen Poyser who read Merely Players and laughed at the sex scene and to Aysha Awan who read ALL of Merely Players and was massively encouraging all the way along.
THE RISING TIDE LIFTS ALL SHIPS
This is sounding like the oscars now, so I'll stop. But the main point is that its takes a lot of help from a lot of different people to learn anything about anything. This year has been all about building supportive communities to help me on my way.
There's a lot of people out there and a lot of communities open, willing and ready to be helpful and to be helped in exchange. Which is awesome sauce with cherries on top.
SO WHAT COMES NEXT?
Assuming we don't all get wiped out by a giant meteorite and / or harried by the four horsemen of the apocalypse, here's what I plan to do in 2012.
All through the year...
1. January 2012 will see me joining #WIP500 (Twitter hashtag) orchestrated by @caramichaels patroness of the #MenageMonday Flash Fiction Challenge. If you want daily encouragement to write #WIP500 will continue where #NaNoWriMo left off.
2. I want to learn about querying and submitting and getting representation.
3. I want to enter more contests and competitions, learning about my strengths and weaknesses and putting myself out there.
January - March 2012
4. I also want to participate in @theGlitterLady's #NightGale flash fiction blog challenge, inspired by the romance poets.
5. If I get time, I want to do @TimonySouler's Resolution Confusion Challenge.
6. I want to finish Boundless as the Sea by February 2012. Which means it will probably be July (these things happen).
July - September 2012
7. I want to rewrite Merely Players.
October - December 2012
8. I want to start the third book of the trilogy, which will be about a character called Ernestina Love (I've already written the first scene).
9. I want to do NaNoWriMo and use it as the launch pad for the fantasy-mythology story that I have been composting for months (Sisyphus)
10. I want to finish Daughters of Leda.
If I do three of these things, I will be pleased. If I do all, I will be ECSTATIC.
What are your plans and goals for 2012? What do you feel you have achieved in 2011? How far have you come? What have you learned? Who have you learned it from?