Last week I mentioned I was attending the Romance Writers of Australia annual conference. It possibly surprised some given that I don’t write romance, and don’t really write (anything other than blog posts and book reviews) full stop.
However, as I’ve explained in the past…. I. LOVE. TO. WRITE. I love words. I love phrases. I love the whir and click as a sentence falls neatly into place. And hanging with people who ‘get’ that is a wonderful thing.
Having said that this was my first romance writers’ conference and a bit of a steep learning curve. Although I’ve done a heap of writing courses (including novel writing stuff) and been to a lot of blogging conferences, I knew little about ‘romance’ as a genre and recent and current trends. As a starter, for example, I discovered there are multiple sub-genres of romantic fiction. I kinda knew about the existence of historical fiction and romantic suspense but there are a stack more and then there are ‘category’ romances, which are your Mills & Boon type books. #Ithink
And though I blog about books it was great to better understand the various publishing imprints, how publishers ‘think’ and how they need to coordinate and massage their release lists, authors, current and industry future trends – as if playing a game of Tetris.
This morning while I was killing time waiting for peak-hour traffic to die down and hit the road home, I decided to do a quick brain dump of TEN THINGS which came to mind as I pondered on my RWA learnings. And here they are…. in no particular order.
1. Chick lit is dead. Deader than dead. Don’t mention
the war chicklit. Having said that, of course it still exists and remains popular, but is branded romantic comedy or light fiction or similar.
2. Amazing authors are also amazing storytellers. And vice versa. Sadly I couldn’t stay for Kate Forsyth’s entire closing session (just 30mins of it) but she was bewitching. I know I’ve thought the same of other fave authors I’ve met recently… Nick Earls, Michael Robotham and Candice Fox come to mind. They’re charismatic in person and they can sure spin a yarn.
3. Self publishing is about the numbers. And looks different for everyone. The session I attended with Chris Taylor, Clare Connelly and Rachel Amphlett (above) was probably my favourite and it was incredibly interesting and inspiring. The friend I attended the conference with, Jo Tracey, is self-published and I’m aware of how incredibly professional she is when it comes to her books. She pays for structural edits, copy edits as well as cover design and the like. Our panel varied in terms of what they do themselves vs what they outsource (editing, cover design, formatting etc). They suggested indie authors prioritise their expenditure but spend as much as they can afford to ensure their books look professional and can compete with the big publishers.
They all also noted (that) quantity is all-important and they recommended releasing three books a year. In a nutshell: not everyone is going to earn a six figure income from self-publishing but it’s reassuring to know that it is possible.
4. Sex scenes aren’t for everyone. It’s something I struggle with when reading romances. Some are too metaphorical and flowery. Others I find to be kinda crass. And what I learned is I’m not alone in thinking that. I attended a session on ‘finding and keeping’ your voice. And the overwhelming advice of that panel was that, although it’s important to challenge yourself and your writing, adopting a voice other than your own and writing about what you don’t know / don’t feel comfortable with will be obvious and uncomfortable for your readers.
I know (in the blogging world) we talk a lot about voice and authenticity and the same can be said for fiction. I think I’ve pretty much found my voice here (on this blog) and just need to work out how to translate that into other writing.
5. Print books are most certainly not dead. eBooks are popular but print books are here to stay and readers’ preferences are confusing and random (with young adults enjoying ‘real’ books and mature aged women downloading eBooks). Incidentally, the popularity of podcasts means that audiobooks are growing in popularity and I know I lamented my lack of audiobook for the 8hr drive to and from this conference. (Cos I still cannot find any decent radio stations around that Gympie stretch… only talkback radio, country music or religious stations. WTF?!**)
6. Women of all ages LOVE TO DANCE. Well, in a nurturing and non-judgemental environment that is. Sadly I was too weary to stay for the Escape Publishing after-party following the Awards dinner on Saturday night but I did throw myself about wildly for two songs: Dancing Queen and Blame it on the Boogie. I decided my night was over and left when Mambo No. 5 came on. Which in retrospect was a mistake as that annoying bloody song was stuck in my head (earworm style) all friggin’ night and into the next day.
7. Don’t be shy. I have to admit to being fairly irreverent. I might swoon over Richard Armitage or Idris Elba but I tend to just assume people are all (foremost) people. I should also confess to not knowing a lot of well-known romance authors so some big names meant nothing to me, but I tried to make sure I said hello to authors I knew, had reviewed or met online. All were lovely and seem to appreciate the fact I said hi.
8. It’s hard to cross genres unless you’re a famous author and your readers are die-hard fans. Otherwise the advice was NOT to write a romance, then a thriller, then a dystopian fantasy novel. This was interesting for me as though I think I kinda have a voice, I don’t feel as if I have a genre…
9. Build your brand. Whether you’re pitching your novel to an agent or publisher or an established author wanting people to buy your books, having a recognisable name / brand is important, including an online presence. Understandably, YOU need to also sell your books, even if you’re working via a publisher and their PR peeps, so it’s important you can bring something along to the promotional party.
10. I need to be brave. One of the lovely authors at the conference – who I’ve met previously – had a conversation with me on the final afternoon and Miss V asked about my own writing. She’d watched my scary vlog recently in which I talked about wanting to do more with my writing. “Do it,” she said.
And an added bonus lesson for those playing along at home: do not attempt to brush your hair with your toothbrush as you will spent all weekend getting long bloody blonde hairs out of the toothbrush bristles. (I decided to wash my hair on Friday night before realising I’d forgotten to bring a brush or comb. I couldn’t get my hair to part or sit via deft finger stroking, so succumbed to my toothbrush for the parting process.
As for the next steps, I’m thinking I’ll pull one of my four manuscripts out of my drawer (well, find them in my Google docs, but the drawer thing sounds better) and try to get going while I’m still feeling motivated. I’m thinking of going down the self-publishing route… but just need to start writing. #JFDI
Any attendees want to share their learnings? Or – if you weren’t blessed enough to
spend the weekend with me (ahem) attend – do any of these lessons surprise you?
It’s been a long time between link-ups but I’m joining up with Denyse and the IBOT team to share this post.
** Amended AFTER the drive home to add that I found a radio station (Zinc?) playing 80s music on the hour or so through on the Gympie stretch so!