Monday, August 29, 2011

RWNZ Conference Report

I just got back from the Romance Writers of New Zealand Conference in Auckland. The line-up this year was impressive, with best-selling authors Tess Gerritson, Bob Mayer, and Maria V. Snyder as keynote speakers, and four editors and a US literary agent there to both speak and take pitches. Here are highlights of some of the things I learned:
The prologue isn’t dead. Both Sue Grimshaw, editor for Ballentine Bantam Dell’s new e-book imprint line and Bob Mayer confirmed it’s ok to use a prologue to set up your story.

It’s ok to multiple-query publishers. Bob Mayer recommended this in his workshop and said they expect it these days. Once you’ve been asked for a full, though, you need to go exclusive with your pitch.

Tess Gerritson in talking about how she comes up with her gripping plot twists suggests scanning the media and paying attention to your emotions. What gives you a “punch in the gut” when you read or hear about it?

Tess’s stories are known for their horrific crimes, but Tess said it’s not necessary to show the victim being tortured. What readers are looking for is tension, not gore. That can often be captured by showing the scene after the torture, where someone walks in on the results of the crime. When I talked to her afterwards a bit more about this, Tess indicated that there are times when it’s appropriate to show the “torture” scene. You may want to show, for example, how determined your character is not to reveal information. You need to think out your purpose for the scene.

Lucy Gilmore from Harlequin Mills & Boon talked about writing with originality within the confines of category romance. She said the trick is being unpredictable with those parts of the story readers have come to expect. Unpredictabilty isn’t:
  • Far-fetched plot twists
  • The “cute meet” that has nothing to do with the core conflict
  • Characters acting out-of-character
  • Meshing genres for the sake of it
  • An excuse to replace conflict with plot devices.

In developing character, she said make sure your hero and heroine have emotional barriers to overcome before they fall in love. Overcome the barriers is what enables them to get together and have the happily ever after ending readers expect.

Bob Mayer gave a full-day workshop on planning and writing your book. According to Bob Mayer, you have only 4 hours a day of creativity. Use it! He also said, don’t keep your ideas in your head; write them down. He gave us some amazing worksheets that simplify plotting a book.

When you’re developing the plot for your book, include the antagonist’s complete plan. This doesn’t mean you have to reveal it all in your manuscript, but you must know it thoroughly.

Characters have layers of motives. There’s what they say they want, what they really want, and what they need. You need to know and show them all.

In developing your characters, don’t forget to include their blind spot. The blind spot is the part of their character they’re in denial about. It’s the part of their character that needs to change.

Every character (including your antagonist) needs what Bob calls a “spark of redemption” – some tiny indication at the beginning of the story of the better person that person could be if she/he changed.

Bob also had something interesting to say about the point of view you use and info dumping. Generally, info dumping is a no-no, as it slows the pace and takes you out of the POV character’s head. It turns out this is true only for third person limited POV. You can info dump in first person, where the narrator would be sharing a bit of info he/she thought you as reader/listener should know. (Even so, you want to be cautious about your use of info dumping, as it still takes you out of the scene and can slow the pace.)


  1. Well written, Vicky. You covered the best pointers from the conference. Let's hope the motivation we now all have, combined with the increased knowledge, will lead to a whole heap of sales :) Happy writing.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing about the conference for those of us who weren't there. I've put a link to you on my blog (under the Versatile Blogger Award) as a thank you for sharing all the great info. You are ever helpful (especially on carriage accidents!). Here's the link:

  3. Vicky, Love your blog! Great stuff.
    Beth Blake