Thursday, July 16, 2009

Things I've learnt along the way

Trish Wylie's doing this great thing over at her blog, its a sort of Virtual Nationals for those of us who haven't managed to escape - and it blends in perfectly with my Virtual Holiday week, starting tomorrow where I'm doing all things French, and pretending that soggy Ireland is in fact, blazing Provence.

Now, Trish suggested a blog entry about writing, and I've been doing plenty of that! When I started writing, about ten years ago, I decided that I was a great writer. Sure, I didn't know about grammar, how to get things to look right, but I could write a story, and that's all that matters, right?
Wrong. I started with Nanowrimo, an online, challenging competition to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. This proved to me that I could do it, I could write the quantity, and when I read through it a lot of it was good, but what it didn't give me was STRUCTURE. Being a natural pantster, when my heroine on my third nano outing (who even I didn't like very much) walked past a window and was shot dead (and nothing I could do would revive her) I realised that there was something missing, and that something was structure. When I finally got serious about my writing and started to look at it with a critical eye about three years ago I decided that I needed to learn, and set off into the great wide yonder to investigate.

I did a course on starting to write. The most useful things I learnt from this was that you need to make sure you have a notebook with you all the time for jotting down ideas, and sticking in cuttings. Now I'd never be without an ideas book. It also opened up my vistas a bit, the teacher suggested we try writing a short story or two, something I'd never contemplated, and I discovered it was both fun and challenging.

Next, I found a writers group, but reading my stuff aloud to a group of people I didn't know who seemed to be best friends with each other (but not with me!) was daunting in the extreme, I'm naturally an introvert, and needless to say, I didn't go back. I enrolled in a teaching correspondence course, and went into instant shock, the challenges were useful, but the comments by my teacher were wounding. Too wimpy and delicate for straight talking, I limped back into the cave, to lick my wounds.

My next excellent find wasday long courses by Inkwell Writers Group, here in Ireland finally, tailored courses with like minded individuals who 'got it'! I'd always wanted to write for Mills and Boon, and when Inkwell announced that they were running a workshop with Trish Wylie, Abby Green and bringing over editor Jenny Hutton from Mills and Boon, I was one of the first to sign up. I'll never forget sitting in the room with Trish as she introduced us to her hero and heroine (she brought pictures) and talked about internal and external conflict. It was an eye opener. Now, my daily writing life is liberally peppered with as much reading and researching as I can get, there's always something new to learn.

I've done online courses with, especially many wonderful ones with Romance writer Laurie Schnebley Campbell (, and have joined the Romantic Novelists Association. Last year I sent them my manuscript, Bound to Love to critique under the New Writers Scheme, and its currently being looked at (I hope!) in Richmond. This year I'm in the NWS again, and in the process of finishing Catch me a catch, a modern heat set in a west of Ireland village, where a stand-in matchmaker tangles with a transatlantic Hugh Jackmanesque sailor. Trish and Abby have given me great support, Trish has some fabulous resources spread between blog and boards, and I did a great course with Ally Blake in Australia in March, so get out there and learn. learn, learn! As for publication, that's something to blog about another day!


  1. Welcome to the Blogaverse honey! What a GREAT first post! The workshop in Dublin that day was so much fun, wasn't it? I do hope we can do one again some time :)

  2. Hi Sally,

    I'm really interested to read your background having only 'met' you recently.
    I hope this is the first of many posts and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Bound to Love :-)

  3. Sally, what fun to come home from RWA National and find your first blog -- congratulations on making your debut!

    I was amazed at how many conference-goers said they regularly read blogs, so it looks like you'll draw people from all over the world. :)

    (And thanks for the workshop plug!)

  4. Good luck with your latest book Sal. Glad to hear you've got some sunshine today for a change.

    Keep up the blogging.