Let's welcome author Christina Hollis as she discusses how solitary a writer's journey is. Chat with her and share your stories!
Writing alone, and together by Christina Hollis
Is your plot going nowhere, while your characters go round in circles? Are you fed up of staring at a blank screen? Get help, increase your productivity and enjoy yourself at the same time by finding some like-minded helpers.
Creative writing is a solitary business. The desperate writer starving in a garrett is an outdated cliche. Most people fit their writing in and around a full-time job these days, but when it comes to getting those words down, you’re on your own. Nobody can fit them together for you. It’s often hard, and sometimes impossible. That’s when it helps to have a back-up team. Why struggle on your own, when inspiration is never far away?
Beta readers and critique partners go through your manuscript, and give their honest opinion of your work. If you’ve got a friend who won’t sugar-coat the pill too much, ask them to do it. They need to be tactful, and open minded—especially if you present them with an 18-rated shocker. If you’re too shy to ask anyone you know, or if you’d never be able to look your friend in the face again once they’d read what you’ve dreamed up, this is where the internet really scores. If you’re a member of the Romance Writers of America (https://www.rwa.org), The Romantic Novelists’ Association (http://www.rna-uk.org) or other writing group, contact them about finding help. The RNA’s New Writer Scheme in particular provides a great service.
Workshops are a good way to test your work out on a wider audience. Generally, you submit a sample of your work in advance to be read and commented on by the leader, or other members of the group, if your workshop runs on the collegiate system. You can read about my experience of a workshop run by The Marcher Chapter of The Romantic Novelists’ Association at my blog, here: http://bit.ly/1lDHSsy. Workshops need to be carefully structured and controlled, to make sure everyone’s voice is heard, and no one feels victimized. Constructive criticism is useful. Bullying should never be allowed. The best way to choose a good workshop is to ask other writers. When you’re called on to comment on someone else’s work, a good rule of thumb is to give three stars for every cross. That is, praise three times as many things about the sample as you criticize. Before you open your mouth, always stop and think how you’d like to hear that particular piece of advice. I’m a great believer in workshops. The reaction of those who read the extract from His Majesty’s Secret Passion I’ve reproduced at http://bit.ly/1BBzb8L persuaded me to send the completed manuscript to The Wild Rose Press. They loved it too, and published it on 4th February this year. You can find out more about Sara and Leo’s love story at http://bit.ly/1ujX5zc, Amazon at http://amzn.to/1zajHZA (US) and http://amzn.to/1DF99Dv (UK)
There are creative writing Courses for everyone, no matter whether you’re just starting out or you’re an old hand at the writing game. Again, word of mouth is the best way to find one that’s right for you. The top authors Sharon Kendrick and Kate Walker each run great courses for the aspiring romance writer. Sharon operates in the romantic surroundings of an Italian watermill (see here: http://bit.ly/1vJWexJ), while Kate’s courses are based in England and Wales (http://bit.ly/1LWuPL5 ). Creative writing courses always add up to more than the sum of their parts. Not only do you get the benefit of the tutor’s expertise, you’ll learn a lot from working with your fellow students, too.
Conferences are the perfect way to meet other like-minded writers. You can get a taste of the RNA’s 2014 conference on my blog, here: http://bit.ly/WgZGiQ. It’s a real treat to discover you’re not the only one who prefers writing to housework! With all the socialising that goes on, don’t expect to get much writing done, but you will learn a lot, and find loads of new friends. Make sure you’ve polished up your sales pitch, just in case an agent or publisher asks the question you’re longing to hear—”...and what are you working on at the moment?”
Never underestimate the power of Professionals when it comes to perfecting your novel. Whether you’re aiming to be taken on by a publisher or you intend to self-publish, a good editor is worth their weight in time and money saved. A developmental editor will make sure your story is on the right track, while line and copy editors clean up your typescript and text. It’s a false economy to miss out on this step if you’re going to publish your own work, as spelling mistakes, errors in grammar and typos are guaranteed to upset your readers. They may even make the difference between you making a sale, and missing out.
Where do you look for help with your writing?
I live deep in the English countryside. I met my husband on a blind date, and during a career break to raise our family I wrote non-fiction articles and award-winning short stories for national magazines, to fit in with my parenting timetable.
My first full length novel, Knight’s Pawn, was an historical romance published by Harlequin Mills and Boon under my pen name of Polly Forrester. Then in 2007, Mills and Boon published my first Modern Romance, The Italian Billionaire’s Virgin. Since then, I’ve written many full-length historical novels and contemporary romances which have been released internationally by various publishers. In all, my work has been translated into nearly twenty different languages.
My current release, His Majesty’s Secret Passion, is available From The Wild Rose Press at http://bit.ly/1ujX5zc and Amazon at http://amzn.to/1zajHZA (US) and http://amzn.to/1DF99Dv (UK). You can find a selection of my other work at http://christinahollis.com, find out what I’m doing right now by following me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ChristinaBooks, liking my Facebook page at http://on.fb.me/1Ee1urM and following my blog at http://christinahollis.blogspot.com