Reading, Writing, Sharing, Listening, Learning, Creating Romance Fiction

I’m half way through TTTW which I started a few days ago. It’s a book with over 500 pages so, for me, this is quite an achievement as I’ve always read very slowly. As with housework, I’ve can be easily distracted, but this one is emotional, heartstring-pulling, possible but not possible tale and all the hype surrounding the title, imho, has been worth listening to.

Maybe I’m developing the art of reading like I would a muscle in a gym, because I now have an end goal now.  Which is to be better-read.   Having lived through a period when I didn’t read any fiction for probably fifteen years or more, I now crave it.

During the last ten months I’ve read over twenty books. Whether it’s coincided with other more positive outlooks, or simply a coincidence I’m unsure. What I do know is, my brain now spends time thinking, wanting, actively needing fiction.

I still use social media, but mostly these days to keep in touch with reading and writing buddies. Yesterday I met a group from the RNA (Romantic Novelists Ass) – not to be muddled up with the NRA.

As always, I came away re-focused and driven. I ate my Pizza Express starter while absorbing the inspiration of two ladies on the opposite side of the marble table, one of whom, Kate Hardy, has written over 60 titles for Mills & Boon and the other, Caroline Anderson, has just completed her 100th. Shall we pause for a moment and just consider that achievement?!

For regular readers of Harlequin/Mills and Boon romances, they will know that the bosses at the top choose the covers, the titles and update the ‘look’ of the various lines, as they are known, as often as they deem necessary. Kate and Caroline (whose real names I shall keep to myself) explained they merely get on with writing the stories.

While I now understand there is no archaic ‘formula’ which M&B authors have to rigidly adhere to – a misnomer which many believe – I do ‘see’ the need to keep stories within the parameters of the expectations of their gazillion stoic readers around the world.  Hence, medical romance readers will always require their heroin or hero to be a nurse, doctor, a surgeon but you can place them anywhere in the world you wish.

While I continue my internal debate – that my plots may be more dark and complicated than the Mills & Boon editors would wish to work with – I am thoroughly enjoying the journey of discovering where my writing talents (if any) lie.

I had some interesting feedback from Harlequin in February this year, in response to a competition entry which said ‘We enjoyed your setting and the hero has real potential. However, we would not wish to work with the coercive control aspect as our readers would not enjoy this. We also need to hear more in the synopsis about what your hero’s and heroin’s goals are and how their story unfolds. Good luck and when you have thought about how you might rework this piece to suit us, please send it in again.’

At the time, I was a mixture of ruffled feathers (how can I possibly remove a whole plot line from Riya’s backstory … remember John and the Radhanagari Damsel??) and elation that I’d received an email from staff from THE MILLS&BOON people!

However, I filed the story and the email away and thought no more about it and instead enrolled on that Curtis Brown 6-week online course – Write To The End Of Your Novel – in order that I might develop the chunk of weird words I’d written through NaNo last November. I loved doing that course and now The Key To Verona (TKTV) stands at 27,000 words and is being read as we speak by a reader on the New Writers Scheme, which is part of the aforementioned RNA. I am awaiting the arrival of the feedback.  I know there will be mountains to change but I am anticipating welcoming the guidance which this process should bring.

The authors sat around the Pizza Express table yesterday assured me that to have received a) an email back from Mills and Boon and b) for it to be specific to my story – as opposed to a generic reply – should not be dismissed lightly. Many never hear back at all.  They encouraged me to run with John and Riya, to do what the editor had suggested and to send it in again.

So that’s why I’ve signed up to another Curtis Brown course: Start Writing Your Novel. Why have I gone back to the beginning and chosen this course? Because TKTV has always been on a back foot. I’ve pantsered my way through it, round it, over it, never quite understanding where it’s going. It may be worth completing, once I’ve decided what genre it should be. Could be. Ought to be. ‘Don’t worry about that. Just write the story you want to write’ say lots of people. For six months I’ve welcomed that advice and felt more relaxed about it. For eleven minutes. Then off I’ve gone again, worrying about this aspect, or that.


For this year’s NaNo challenge, I’m planning on rewriting Radhanagari Damsel. It’s going to be 100% romance. It’s going to have enormous peaks of emotion and troughs of harrowing conflict, but the main goals of the two of them are to be together and have a HEA ending.

Now, tomorrow, my new 6-week online course should ping through and this time, I’m focused and ready, like an athlete at the white line, adrenalin pumping awaiting the starting pistol. (Last time, I arrived half way around the track with only one trainer in my bag and no water bottle and had done zero training towards the distance).

Do you see what I’m getting at? I always knew this year was about finding my author voice, making writing and reading buddies, building my confidence that I’d embarked on a passion which was worth my effort (I now take a journal – or last year’s unused diary to be precise – everywhere I go and scribble story ideas down).

Blogging has been truly amazing for me. As my follower numbers creep towards a thousand, I can honestly admit that there are about twenty of you that I would genuinely invite to dinner! (I won’t perhaps bother with the Australian strippers or the ‘Make your millions if you Follow me Today’ types, or the gadget companies or the bots.)

So… best I get my arse out of bed and start my day. I’ve not read any more of TTTW but I’ve enjoyed being here chatting and this post has refocused my goals.

Have a great day, wherever you are 🌏🌍🌎