Saturday, 24 August 2013

17. Post-Claytons 2013

Nope, couldn’t contain myself. :)

So far, August has been a spectacular month. My loved ones are safe, well and happy. I witnessed a beautiful wedding and was geared up to attend the online Claytons conference. I’m pleased to say it was every bit as wonderful as last year’s. I caught up with writers I knew and chatted to some who were not so familiar. There was fun, frivolity and a cache of cheekiness all at the click of a button.

Friday night was our familiarisation night. We made sure we knew which chat room we needed to attend for each session and enjoyed a virtual party complete with champagne and canapĂ©’s. Some of the wait staff were very, very hot! ;) Thanks to generous donations from RWA’s many accomplished authors, there were prizes galore. E-books, vouchers and offers of critiques peppered our conversations. There is a new E-book coming my way from Friday’s ventures. :)

The next morning, the ‘other’ fun began. First we had Ms Alexandra Sokoloff – accomplished screen writer and novelist – who briefed us on the 3 Act, 8 Structure method of writing. Generally speaking, you could say your story (or movie or television show) has a beginning, middle and end and each are defined by a specific act or emotional climax. These are your three acts. To break this down further, you could say there are four main parts – the beginning, the middle which is broken into two parts, and the end. These in turn are halved by a specific act or emotional climax – your eight structures. For example, a climax (plot twist) could be a death, a sex scene or the giving of a vital clue that leads on to the next part of the story and on to its conclusion. Naturally Ms Sokoloff’s books explain this in greater detail. (And much better than I do.)

I downloaded her book – Writing Love (Screenwriting Tricks for Romance Writers) - as Alexandra’s time with us was over far too soon. Also available is her book - Screenwriting Tricks for Writers - which covers different genres and uses different examples to explain her methods. Well worth the read for anyone serious about their writing.

The next session I attended was New Zealand’s published writer, Ms Zana Bell. She asked what our hurdles were for writing and seeking publication and then gave us her tips for overcoming them. I’m afraid I could relate to some of the obstacles mentioned just a little too well. Ms Bell also graciously answered our many questions such as approaching publishers, learning to deal with rejections and the oft-debated need for an agent.

Before we broke for a late lunch, I chose Australian published writer, Mel Teshco’s session on Sensual Tension. Our group learned there didn’t have to be sex to create the ‘right’ amount of sensual tension in a story just as we learned that a beautifully written, no holds barred scene had its place too. Ms Teshco also presided over our first competition for the day.

Along with two other lovely ladies, I was lucky enough to win a critique on one chapter of my work. I bravely sent in my selection and was rewarded with a brilliant critique. She showed what I’d done right and what I’d done wrong and gave tips and suggestions on how to improve my work overall. Now I have to bring the rest of my story up to her standard.

After lunch we had a session on revision with Ms Valerie Parv, an award winning romance writer whose career spans decades. There weren’t too many questions asked in this segment. Perhaps we were all a little in awe of her, regardless of the fact that she was very down to earth and extremely friendly. I’ve mentioned before how wonderful I found her book - The Art of Romance Writing - and she didn’t disappoint in her session either. She reminded us how important it is to switch off our internal editors while writing and then give that writing time to rest before we worked on our drafts and made those all-important revisions.

Saturday night we found our second wind and socialised while we waited to hear the results from the official conference in Fremantle. (Western Australia is two hours behind so we had to wait a while – not that anyone was complaining.) Some of the writers who attended Claytons were also nominated for awards and it was wonderful to be notified of their wins. I’m sure they would rather have been there to accept their awards in person, but I hope we made them feel special with our on-line cheers.

It was also time to announce the winners of the Claytons Competition Challenge and that sexy bathtub cleaning scene. The competition was split into published and unpublished entries and the honour of winning first place (unpublished) was mine. Believe me; I am well aware of the very high calibre of writers who entered so I am in awe of the win. I know the two lovely ladies who beta-read for me were just as excited. Perhaps now they won’t be too mad at me for ‘leaving them hanging’. I’ve promised to finish it for them because goodness knows what may happen to me if I don’t.

Again there were random giveaways and I figure I was meant to have Ms Annie West’s latest novel, ‘Imprisoned by a Vow’ because not only had I bought a copy on Friday, but I also won the E-book version that night.  :)

We had a break for most of Sunday, but in the evening we returned to our laptops and computers for a chat with Ms Charlotte Ledger from Harper Impulse Publishing. A global E-publisher, Ms Ledger told us what they expected from their writers as well as what we could expect if we signed with them. Just the thought of being published worldwide, let alone in Australia is pretty exciting. Currently, Australia is considered an exotic country, which overseas readers want to read and learn about through our stories. It is simultaneously an exciting and sobering thought.

Understandably I was on a high the entire weekend. I was in contact with people who are as passionate about writing as I am. I had the thrill of placing in two competitions and I was receiving an overload of terrific and valuable information. And that excitement didn’t end when the conference did.

I logged off and had dinner with my family who I’d barely seen for most of the weekend and thought I’d just check my email before settling down to watch some TV with the kids. There in my email was a notification that two of my short stories had been successful in a competition I had entered in May. I received a First and a Third (Highly Commended) place for my work. I was beside myself. I even dragged my husband over to the computer to make sure I wasn’t seeing things but it was really there. :)

How wonderful to feel as though my writing skills are improving and I’m headed in the right direction. (It’s always nice to have a few highs to balance out the lows.) And it’s a good thing I have such a wonderful family and support network to keep me grounded because it’s a bit hard to get my swelled head through the door at the moment, but no doubt the arrival of the rates bill will fix that. :/

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

16. Pre-Claytons 2013

You can tell I’m excited when I blog about a conference that hasn’t even happened yet. Next weekend, however, I will be in writing nirvana as I attend my second Claytons conference.

Yes, I would love to be attending RWA’s official conference in Fremantle, Western Australia (I spent part of my honeymoon there many years ago) but attending the Claytons conference is by no means second best. (That’s right, the virtual conference you attend when you’re not attending the physical one.)

Last year I came away with invaluable knowledge given by expert writers and publishers, won some amazing books and even came first place in a fast fiction contest. (My banner was one of those wonderful prizes.) But the most important thing I discovered was some amazing, supportive writers who to this day check on my progress and offer their encouragement. Three of the lovely ladies I met last year have since acquired contracts for their stories. How exciting is that?

This year, we have pre-conference exercises. We had to create a scene in which the cleaning of a bathtub had to be mentioned. Doesn’t sound that romantic, right? Oh it was fun though – when I managed to get an actual 'scene' written and not the short story I kept writing instead. I do hope we get to read the winning entries because I know there will be some fabulous ones.

We also had to complete a paragraph on sensual tension by adding another 200 – 250 words to the original text. Again, I’m hoping we get to read each other’s entries and see how everyone worked their magic. :) The exercises were all in good fun but more importantly they’re all building blocks for our skill levels.

While two of my favourite authors will be in Fremantle, (and yes I’m disappointed I don’t get to meet them in person) this year’s Claytons team has provided a fantastic group of writers and publishers ready and willing to share their knowledge and experience with us regardless of our individual skill levels. Next month’s blog will, no doubt, be a bubbling mess of indecipherable babble as I share my experiences with these generous people – if I can last that long...

To add to this month’s excitement, my family and I attended the wedding of two special friends. They married on Heron Island (it’s off the Central Queensland coast for those who don’t know.) The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Not a cloud crossed the sky, crystal clear water caressed powdery white sand in effortless ripples and the beginnings of a spectacular sunset served as backdrop for the ceremony. I managed to deliver the reading without my usual nervous stuttering. I even remembered to turn on the microphone so I could be heard before stepping back to witness those wonderful words – ‘I do.’

The story of how they met belongs to them, but to witness their happiness on their special day is something I simply must share. My personal highlight was their wedding dance. My first dance as a married woman was a sedate waltz to the Honeydrippers’ Sea of Love. Theirs was a beautiful re-enactment of Dirty Dancing’s amazing finale. To the tune of ‘I’ve Had the Time of my Life’, they had it covered from ‘Johnny’ leading her on to the stage to ‘Baby’ leaping in to his arms. YouTube may have found itself another wedding sensation. :)

Before all the excitement gets the better of me, I’ll sign off. Think of me next weekend glued to my computer chair, my eyeballs drying out as I refuse to blink, hoping like hell I’m taking notes in my notebook and not on the desk and that no one dares to knock on the door and disturb me. (Of course, I will be taking my WH&S breaks as commanded by Dana, this year’s co-ordinator). ;)