The weekend before last I attended the first ever Festival of Romance (21st and 22nd October). Yes, it has taken me a while to post this, mainly because work has been hectic and because writing wise I’ve been very busy. More to follow on that in subsequent posts regarding the festival.
The festival was held at Hunton Park, a De Vere Hotel in Watford over a Friday to Sunday. The above photo is kindly supplied by the fab Liz Crump, a fellow festival attendee , aspiring author and a lovely new friend. The weekend was a fantastic experience and one I shall never forget, largely because it was filled with my favourite things a.k.a. reading, writing, talking (!) wine and meeting other writers, as well as pitches to publishers and talks with agents. Follow this link to the official Festival photos on the Festival of Romance website http://festivalofromance.co.uk/#/gallery/4556861643
Packed with a full programme of events, the first day – Friday – got off to a swinging start when my Aunt, award-winning novelist Sue Moorcroft, approached me in the tea queue and asked me to take part in a romantic fiction workshop with her. So, me being me, I agreed… and moments later found myself in front of a roomful of people I didn’t know with a microphone pressed against my nose, trying not to let my jitters show.
The workshop was about writing romance and heroes in romantic fiction e.g. alpha male, beta, damaged hero etc and though it got off to a shaky start when I let slip that Alex, my male lead in The Lost Weekend (which Sue has been very kindly giving me constructive criticism on) was an alpha male, it soon picked up. I was asked to describe the plot, Alex’s personality, his background etc with questions from the audience that made me really think about character motivation and story arc.
Better yet was the discussion around what kind of heroine would be a good match for him. Generally speaking most of the suggestions weren’t far off the mark at all in terms of Charley (Charlotte’s) background, behaviours and views on life. It did really make me think, because as I talked about Alex and Charley, what became clear to me was that in a way I know Alex better than I know Charley. A pretty important epiphany to have considering that although Alex’s POV (point of view) is in there, the story is mostly through Charley’s eyes (albeit in the third person). So I have been working on reacquainting myself with Charley and filtering some of her ‘voice’ back into the manuscript.
The workshop was both exhilarating and scary. When I sat down after it was over, I was half, ‘Well, thank god that’s over, how much of an idiot did I make of myself?’ and half, ‘When can I do that again?’
My overarching feeling looking back on it is that I really appreciated the opportunity to take part in the workshop for three reasons:
1) The feedback I had from individual audience members ranged from, ‘You were really good, you must have been prepping that for weeks’ (um, no, but thank you!) to ‘I really want to read your book,’ (Do you? Great, tell the publishers!) to ‘When you talk about the characters, they sound like real people.’ (I’ll let you in on a secret – they are real to me, they live in my head and then on the page. Fellow writers will know exactly what I mean. Other people will think that I’m deranged).
Thank you so much for those comments – you all know who you are.
2) It gave me valuable insight to reader’s perceptions of plots and characters and to the back story of The Lost Weekend which hadn’t really clicked before, and got me all fired up to look at the MS again and add some more layering/conflict/character motivation.
3) It was a great experience from a developmental perspective because published authors – which I one day aspire to be – have to be willing to give talks and take part in these kinds of events. A key point of discussion at the festival and on various writers sites and forums is that getting published is the beginning of the process, not the end, and that PR / networking is key for sales and that the use of social media and ability to put yourself in the public eye is increasingly essential.
Thanks Aunt for asking – and trusting – me to take part in the workshop. Sue has given me a mention on her blog post about the Festival here http://suemoorcroft.wordpress.com/ along with sharing that she won the Best Romantic Read award for her latest book Love and Freedom! A massive congratulations and well done to her; it is very much deserved. Needless to say it was a lovely moment when the shortlisted authors were called up and the winners (of three different awards) were announced and Sue was declared the winner of BRR and given a trophy. I’m not sure I have ever seen her look so surprised…but more on that and the events of the rest of the festival in forthcoming posts.
N.b. If you’re looking for a writing challenge don’t forget NaNoWriMo starts today (National Novel Writing Month). It’s a challenge to write 50,000 words in one month! It’s a great way to switch off that internal editor and a constructive way to get that novel down on paper if you’re a procrastinator. I may even do it myself…but I have to decide quickly – the 1st November is almost over!
http://www.nanowrimo.org/ if you’re interested.
For now, happy writing.