Friday, August 17, 2012

Romance Writers of Australia conference - day two wrap up

Okay, so you know how yesterday I said you needed to forgive me any typos and grammatical errors? That goes triple for tonight's post, which I'm posting after a VERY lovely night at the Harlequin cocktail night, thank you very much. (In fact, I'm pretty sure I did see Elvis there, and that it didn't have anything to do with the red wine -- much.)

Alex was kind enough to pose for a photo for me with her
plotting white board of magic!
So, today was a primarily a workshop from Alexandra Sokoloff on Screenwriting Tricks for Authors. As someone who runs training regularly, I first off have to give Alexandra kudos for being such an engaging speaker for a full day workshop with a large group of people. Absolutely the least easy thing in the world.

I have read her book and it is really awesome -- even for a confirmed "pantser" like me! I loved the fact that her workshop absolutely reinforced that although I might not be as planned, up-front, as some other authors, my technique and storytelling is on the mark in terms of structure and pacing. Nice to know, for sure. And her presentation style was great -- even when I was getting tired (and if I was tired in the audience, I hate to think how she was feeling!) I wasn't bored for a moment. I loved when she deconstructed "Four Weddings and a Funeral".  I think because it's a movie I love and am familiar with, and because I hadn't consciously been aware of some of the structure and symbolism she pointed out.

A few learnings from Alex's workshop (I tweeted a few things too, so check there as well.)

  • Try using index cards! (You need to read Alex's book to know her method.) The physical experience of arranging them can help you to get your brain clear about story structure. 
  • Give the visual! Too many first chapters skip over the visual details of the scene. You need to help your read visualise where they are and what's happening. 
  • It is your favourite writers who reveal the kind of writer you want to be. Use them as inspiration. 
  • The theme of your book -- think of it as a collection of symbolic and emotional images, not just one idea.
  • She gave us lots and lots of detail about how to structure the second "act" of your story and what needs to happen there. So much so that I don't think I'll ever accept the excuse of a book having a "saggy middle" again. Understanding that can help (again you need to read her book!).
  • Romance stories need to include a scene that's commonly called "The Dance", where you show your hero and heroine doing something together that demonstrates how perfect they are for one another.
  • The whole journey of a story is the character learning that what they want and what they actually need are two different things. 
  • Characters always have a "ghost" or a "wound" from life that has to be worked through in order for them to find true love. 

That's only a tiny gist of what she went through. I highly recommend her book, and her blog to get more information. Even as a pantser, I found the plotting very helpful and it confirmed a lot of what I'd like to think of as my "natural" storyteller instincts.

At the beginning of the signing with
 stacks of books around me! 
Following Alex's workshop, it was my turn to be the star at my very first ever ARRA book signing. It was absolutely wonderful to meet with readers, to share my books with them, and to sign some copies for them to take away! It was also lovely to meet with some other authors I haven't had the chance to catch up with yet and say hello.

I started out with a stack of books and by the end of the afternoon there were only three left! And, in fact, by the time a few fellow authors popped by, those three were gone too!
By the end of the signing --
almost none left! 
It was fantastic to be a part of this amazing event --especially since I had attended as an avid reader only the year before! So amazing to be on the other side of the table and getting to meet and chat with everyone.

I'm hoping there might be a few people that I've convinced to give SuperRomance a try. I come from a long line of retailers, so I'm hoping that my heretofore latent retail talents may have come to the fore!

The end of the evening was the Harlequin cocktail party. There were, as there are every year, an amazing array of costumes and gloriously-attired authors. I didn't make much of an effort this year, I'm ashamed to admit, but hiring a costume and getting it to the Gold Coast and back again was just too much hassle for me.

Hard to convey the noise and excitement thru a pic! 
However the cocktail party is all about letting your hair down and chatting and getting to know new people and catch up with old friends.

That's definitely what happened.

I didn't take many photos, sorry! Too busy having fun and socialising. :)

 Not sure how much I'll cover from tomorrow, but I'll do my best for you folks!!


  1. Thanks Emmie, Great wrap up. Nice to see we got a lot of the same messages from Alex's workshop. It was so easy to apply her techniques to my own manuscript which says a lot.

    1. I thought the same, Fiona. If you read my next book and it has a christening scene in it, it's thanks to Alexandra's workshop!

  2. Emmie, what a grea rundown! I'm so glad to see all of that came through loud and clear. You are a great group and it was a blast teaching for you.

    1. Alexandra -- so glad to hear you had fun on your side of the room too! It was a great workshop -- thanks so much for making it so engaging and informative.