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Posts from the ‘Writing Tips’ Category

After #RWAus20… What’s Next?

ViewBecause of COVID-19, the Romance Writers of Australia took their conference online this year with five full days of jam-packed craft and business sessions.

With the benefit of all online sessions, conference goers got to ‘see’ everything and, frankly, I think we should all be careful what we wish for… It’s funny how, even when you’re just sitting at watching, and not engaging in all the social extras that you’d have at an in-person conference, you’re as exhausted by the end of it as you would have been had you been there in person!


Anyway, despite the conference exhaustion and general day job woes, I’ve been trying to process all my takeaways and tips and trying to figure out how I can fold all these into my writing practice. And, of course, I figured I needed to blog about the experience.

So, here goes, my top fifteen takeaways from #RWAus20 (I was going to try and get to 20 because, you know 2020, but too many words!)

  1. Storytellers are bestsellers.

Day one of the conference was a full day workshop presented by Liz Pelletier of Entangled Publishing. I’m going to say here that I’m aware Entangled has had some questions asked of it over the last 18 months or so, but even acknowledging those, I’m a fan of Liz’s style. She has a clear way of working and she’s not shy about it. And she prioritises a good story – which is where we get our first takeaway – Storytellers are bestsellers. This is pretty true. Think of Fifty Shades, or Twilight. They’re not the best crafted books ever written, but both authors spin a tale that clearly engages readers.

  1. Voice is everything

Another piece of wisdom from Liz. And again, I think this is true. You can teach craft (to a greater or lesser extent). But, you can’t teach voice as easily (if at all). And if the voice isn’t there, the story’s pretty boring…

  1. Define what success means for you.

Despite this being #3, it’s actually what’s been taking up most of my thinking following the conference. What do I want to achieve in my writing career? Not what do others think I should achieve – but what DO I WANT? I’m pretty sure the answer to this is hybrid author bringing in enough money to reduce the day job to part time (as much as I whinge about it, I like the day job, and it provides plenty of material for books) but I’m still refining that thought.

  1. Edit less. Write more. Rewrite rather than edit.

Another takeaway that burned straight into my soul. I’m a perfectionist writer – and while I’m working on those tendencies, I do tend to like to have things (be that chapter, paragraph or sentence) ‘right’ before I move on. That said, the more I edit, the more I lose my voice… and/or the story I’m trying to tell becomes a jumbled mess, and so I need to write – or rewrite – more, rather than editing.

  1. Don’t be afraid to rework or repurpose anything.

I have SO MUCH stuff on my hard drive. I’m keen to see what I can turn it into… I’m particularly hoping to repurpose some shorts into an anthology next year. They’re better on Amazon and its ilk than on my hard drive… they can’t be bestsellers there!

  1. First impressions count.

I did know this, but Tanera Simons, Agent at Darley Anderson made the point in her session on agents and the slush pile and it bears repeating.


Don’t try to be clever with your agent submission. Be professional.

  1. Work smarter not harder. Keep it simple, stupid.

Well, no shit Sherlock. This also resonated given I’d just completed Becca Syme’s Write Better-Faster course as I came into #RWAus20. But hours sitting staring at the manuscript (or, more correctly, scrolling on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) is not ‘working’ no matter how good I am at it. And I’m REALLY good at it. So, now I’m working on trying a few new process tricks to see if I can get more words on the page. I’ll let you know how I go…

  1. The hard stuff. The STAKES.

We all know, to get to the Happy Ever After, we have to pass through the Dark Night of the Soul (or whatever you call your bleak moment). This is where I get perpetually stuck. Even though I have Anne Gracie’s voice in my head telling me to ‘make it worse’ I don’t like making my characters suffer. I just like giving them all the sex. But I digress.

I’m going to HAVE to work on my STAKES. Because stakes are EVERYTHING.

  1. Write the books. Get them out there. Do it again.

This is how publishing – traditional or self – works, right? I have lots of half finished stuff. And I think it’s okay. But unless I get it finished, and in the hands of readers, I’m not actually an author, right? Time to WRITE THE BOOKS.


  1. Ellipses can be a crutch word. Who knew?

I use ellipses… and em-dashes­— ALL THE TIME. And all the editors out there just flinched. I know. Sorry. I particularly love ellipses and em-dashes in dialogue. My characters are always trailing off… or cutting each other—


I’m hilarious.

I’ll limit them. I promise.

  1. Cut the boring bits from your dialogue

As Rachael Bailey told us… dialogue isn’t real speech. We don’t need the boring bits. Cut!

  1. Stop blogging.

Hahaha. I saved the best for almost last… I’m unlikely to stick to this one because I like chatting to you all from time to time. But, I won’t be holding myself (or, at least, trying to hold myself) to a schedule. I’m just going to keep on popping by when I have something to tell you. Eventually, I’ll shift this to a newsletter… but am going to focus on getting the words done first.

  1. Online conferencing is worse for my bank account than an in person one…

I bought WAY TOO MANY books because, you know, my Amazon account was RIGHT THERE as people mentioned them.

Oh, and, do you like my new t-shirts… I blame Tanya Nellestein and Kerrie Starbuck…

If you also want to match, check out Photos also from

  1. Delight in the dull.

So, the order in which I’ve attacked these takeaways is a little all over the place. But I wanted to finish with a few other points from Anna Hackett’s keynote, which closed #RWAus20 on Sunday night – and was fabulous.


  1. Romance sells joy.

Life in the time of COVID-19 has been hard work. Everyone’s had their trials and tribulations – and they’ve been different for everyone. I’m still counting my chickens. My family is well, thankfully, and I can still work from home. Both of which make me very privileged in the current environment.

But to balance the dark, there is always some light. And hopefully, for some, that has been romance. Romance sells joy (so said Liz Pelletier). We’re writing, and selling, the fantasy of the billionaire, the brother’s best friend, the friend turned lover, the enemy turned lover, the happy ever after.


My peeps at #RWAus19… joyful exhaustion…!

We are selling JOY, damnit.

And the world needs more of it.

So, go forth, Romancelandia, and spread your JOY!

ICYMI: Writing tips from the Love Sabrists

Today me and my Love Sabre pals are blogging over on Louisa Bacio’s blog, sharing our best writing tips.

Louisa is an awesome writing teacher, and a fabulous writer, publishing all kinds of erotic, paranormal stories. She’s also a really great chick!

You can find our post here. And don’t forget to check Louisa out while you’re there!

Lessons from my first writing retreat

As I sit here, it’s 9.34pm on a Sunday night – the last night of the inaugural Love Sabre writing retreat. As well as thinking about what I should be doing – namely finishing a manuscript – and not doing it, I’m thinking about what lessons I will be taking away from my first writing retreat.

To give a little background, this is the first Love Sabre retreat #lovesabreretreat2018 #lovesabreontour. As you might already know if you’ve been connecting with us on social media, Love Sabre is a group of seven women, all romance writers, who met at the 2015 Romance Writers of Australia conference in Melbourne. We’ve joined forces to kick each other’s asses on the road to publication. And we’ve written an anthology of short stories about sheathing your love sabre – but more about that later.

20180112_052621096_iOSThis year, we decided to take the opportunity to come together in the Alpine Valley of Victoria (Beechworth, in fact) to take four days together – and write. I can’t say that I’ve gotten that many words on the page, but I have filled my cup of inspiration (and more than a few cups of coffee) and I’ve gathered a few lessons which – of course – I’m going to share with you.

20180114_100725833_iOSThe first of those lessons is: this writing business requires DISCIPLINE. And I don’t have it. Yet. It’s something I talk about a lot, and something I appreciate in others (shout out to L.Simpson), but I struggle to find it. There’s always just one more quick check of Facebook, one more tweet, or one more Instagram post to send. Or, in this case, a blog post to write. Yep, I’m writing this instead of the WIP. If I’m ever going to FINISH THE DAMN BOOK, I need to find some discipline. Which means giving myself some deadlines and schedules, and sticking to them. And not ‘rewarding’ myself if I don’t hit those marks (i.e. no new series of The X Files for me… at least not until I’ve put words on a page!). Maybe I have to withhold coffee … Eek!

The second of those lessons is: FUEL. Fuel is required to write – not just imagination fuel, but actual fuel and, as much as it pains me to say this, woman cannot write on chocolate and coffee alone. You need good food. More greens. Good protein. And lots of water. And the occasional coffee (when it’s not being withheld!). You also need to take time to get up and move. Here, that’s not been a hardship because the outdoors is beautiful – lots of rolling hills, some cute animals and we’ve been lucky with the weather. But at home, sometimes, the last thing you want to do is go for a walk around the neighbourhood. It might be dark. Or too cold or too hot. Or raining. But suck it up Princess – because for your brain to work, your body needs to move.

20180114_231507861_iOSThe third – and final – lesson is JOY. In the last few days I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve laughed until I’ve cried. These women are hilarious. When I leave here tomorrow – and return to the day job, and the family and all the other bits and pieces that have to be dealt with on a day to day basis in ‘life’, joy may not be as easy to spot. So I need to remember to look for it in my day and to look for it in the simple things (and some in the not so simple too). Like horny horses, and rogue farts, and silly conversations about tight little bunches of grapes #injokes.

20180113_054508403_iOSSo, back to the anthology. Next month – in only twenty-one days or so – the Love Sabrists will be releasing (through Boroughs Publishing Group) their first anthology of short stories. Titled LOVE SABRE – the book is full of romantic shorts, ranging in heat level from sweet to spicy, and all of which somehow involve the sheathing of a love sabre. Releasing on 6 February 2018, it’ll be available in e-book and print on demand (from the usual retailers) and we’d love to hear what you think!

Come visit the Sabrists over at Love Sabre or @lovesabrewrites on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

It’s 19 days to #LoveGoneWild

OMG! Squee! T -19 days and counting until we all go wild at #LoveGoneWild #RWAus17 and… well, I’m just a little bit excited.

IMG_6366Love Gone Wild is my third conference, so I’m now an ‘old hand’ – ha! I remember how nervous I was at my first conference (Get Fresh in Melbourne in 2015) and how I made myself a promise going into the event that I would say yes to everything – no matter what it was. That promise was hard for me – I’m normally cautious and don’t often say yes to anything that I’ve not been able to plan, organise or research. But I did it for conference and it was the best thing I have ever done.

So, in the spirit of passing some good advice onto anyone attending for the first time, here are my ten best tips for getting the most out of conference.

1. Step out of your comfort zone

Make yourself a promise to say yes to every opportunity that comes your way. Set yourself a challenge to meet five new people. Introduce yourself to five of your favourite authors (this is a tough one but try it, I dare you!). Try to work your elevator pitch into every conversation you have, or learn ten new things from the workshops. If you’re a newbie – go to all the newbie events.

That being said, think like a professional. DO NOT bail an agent or publisher up in the loo (yes, it’s been done before…). DON’T interrupt your most favourite ever author when she’s in deep conversation with someone (yep, that’s been done too). DON’T get yourself into a fight with a publisher or agent (yep, this has also been done before…). It’s okay to fangirl a little – but don’t be a stalker. If you happen to rub shoulders with Valerie Parv at the scones – introduce yourself. If you happen to be in a lift with Anne Gracie, say hello. If you happen to be standing behind Kate Cuthbert in the coffee queue, smile and ask her how she’s enjoying the conference. If you happen to be sitting at a table with Amy Andrews, ask her when Ryder will be let loose on the world – her #SydneySmokeRugby series is hot!

IMG_63762. Take time out if you need it

There are a lot of people at the conference. If you need to take a little time away from people, then do it. Duck back to your room, take a walk around the block, go get your caffeine hit from a café outside the venue. You don’t HAVE to go to every session… if you’re inspired by something and want to take some time out to brainstorm how you’re going to use it then do it. Do what works for you.

3. Set yourself some goals

Writing is fun (in a kind of sadistic way…) but you’re likely at conference because you want to be a ‘professional’ or ‘published’ writer. This means treating it like a job – and most jobs require you to set some performance goals. It costs a lot to get to conference – so what is that worth to you? What do you have to achieve while there to make that outlay worthwhile? Don’t forget to make your goals specific, realistic and timely – and relevant to you. Everyone’s at a different place. If you’re only just finishing your first novel and want to sell it to Harlequin Mills & Boon, don’t compare yourself to Marion Lennox (but read her stuff, she’s amazing!

4. Take a bigger suitcase than you need

For those coming from interstate, believe me the hassle of having to wait for your baggage to be deplaned or manhandling luggage on public transport will be nothing compared to trying to shove your book booty into your carry-on. And then there’s the horror of having to debate which books you must leave behind. There will be loot. It’s unavoidable. So be generous with your luggage sizing (or maybe bring some sort of hardy tote bag with you that you can fill up as carry on for the trip home).

5. Layers, layers, layers or let’s talk about clothes

Advance weather forecasts have Bris-Vegas in the early 20s temperature-wise for Love Gone Wild, but the air-conditioning in hotel conference suites is always low to combat the body heat of hundreds of people. Pack wisely – and think layers. Most people wear something in the broad realms of business casual. Neat, tidy, professional. You may want to try something fancier if you’re pitching but it’s not required. As long as your ass isn’t hanging out of those trendy jeans, you’re good. For the cocktail party and dinner –some people go all out and some don’t – so wear whatever makes you feel fabulous, and confident (but beware, you’ll be walking/standing some so make sure the shoes are comfy).

Also, finally, remember that Love Gone Wild is advertised as a fragrance-free event (to ensure that everyone can focus on the event and not get sick/sneezy/a headache from the eau de whatever on their neighbour).

6. PensIMG_8505

I love pens. And, as was pointed out to me by the awesome Janet Gover, you’re going to want to have something with you to capture all the brilliant tips you’re going to learn. So, conference is an excellent excuse to hit Kikki K right? Alternatively, you can bring your laptop, or tablet. Whatever means of capturing information works for you.

7. Engage on social media

Whether you’re a Facebooker, a Tweeter or an Instagrammer, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved online. I’ll be tweeting some (find me @wordsbykc) so please say hi! And, maybe think about bringing a portable charger for your phone/tablet… because trust me, that battery will drain and you don’t want to be caught short when [insert fabulous author name here] agrees to have a selfie with you.

8. Drink water

There can be a lot of alcohol at these events 😊 so remember to alternate between the champers and the H2O. Bring a water bottle with you and fill it/chill it in your room. Also remember you’re at a professional conference so naked runs down corridors at four in the morning* should be left to the rugby league players please. Limit your liquor and don’t forget to eat.

* No, as far as I am aware this has never actually happened at a conference but… there’s a first time for everything!

9. Be ready to pitch at (almost) any opportunity*

Even if you’re not ‘officially’ pitching, you should have an elevator pitch about your current work in progress. Or about you as a writer. If you’re in that lift with Anne Gracie and she asks ‘so, what are you writing?’ you want to have something to tell her. Any sensible opportunity to pitch is good practice. Also, think about investing in business cards (check out Vistaprint or, and you can design some great stuff on They make you feel professional, and they’re a great way of keeping track of your new friends.

*Except the loo. Pitching in the loo is the poo.

10. Find your tribe, love them hard


At the 2015 conference, on the last day, I found myself sitting at a table with a bunch of women I’d met at various times over the weekend. These ladies are now my tribe. We all write within different sub-genres of romance and live up and down the eastern seaboard. We’re all at different stages in life and on our journey to publication. But we’re besties. They’re my tribe (and if you don’t find us at conference, you can come hang out with us at

Romancing the Page – a course with Anne Gracie

Like most writers aspiring to be published, I attend a few courses and conferences throughout the year.  Some are, of course, better than others but, when the opportunity arose to spend a day with Anne Gracie at the New South Wales Writer’s Centre I knew I’d be mad not to take it.  Even if it meant I had to get up rather early after spending the night with Adele. IMG_0904

Seriously, Adele’s Sydney concert was amazing and I’m wishing I’d got tickets for night two.  Instead I’m listening to the Adele Sydney set list as I write this post… and I’m side-tracking myself!

Anne is an award-winning author of some fabulous historical romances and an all-around fabulous woman (the Anne Gracie stand-ups was one of the most memorable moments of my first RWA conference in 2015).  Her course, appropriately called ‘Romancing the Page,’ started from the premise that readers want four things: a compelling story; characters to care about; conflict (tension on the page); and an emotional and entertaining experience.

Seems obvious, right?  But pulling all that together in a single package is hard!  So, after today’s course I thought I’d pull my top three takeaways:

Make ‘em laugh.  Make ‘em cry.  Make ‘em worry.  Make ‘em wait.

This one’s getting printed out and posted on the edge of my monitor as an always there reminder (and strictly speaking, it belongs to Charles Reade not Anne Gracie… Anne says she just added the worry).  If you can do this, you’ve met all the above criteria.

It’s strange to say but it’s hard to make your characters suffer.  Really hard.  They talk to you all the time and you know they’re good people so you don’t want to make their life difficult.  You want to give them sunshine and roses and chocolate and sex (lots of sex!).  And you can… right after you make them work for it!  You can make ‘em laugh along the way (and who doesn’t like a good laugh).  But you must make ‘em cry and worry and wait before you give them (and your reader) the payoff.

For me, Christina Lauren are masters at this, at making you feel every emotion the characters are experiencing (and I’ve even written about my book induced anxiety here).

Concentrate on the five senses

This was more of a reminder for me – but it’s worth adding to my list as it’s important and can often be overlooked when trying to get through writing the plot.  Writing romance is all about emotions and what better way is there to demonstrate feelings than by concentrating on the tickle of cold night air IMG_2938trailing over bare skin, the smooth taste of a decadent chocolate dessert (see picture for one of my favourite chocolate desserts!) or the fresh scent of freshly cut grass beneath you(r main character!).  Or what about the sight of someone you love putting their hands on your skin (is that cheating… could be touch too, I suppose!) or the sound of the love song your man (or woman) sings out of tune in your ear.

I’m certain my writing can benefit from me slowing down some when I’m writing and focusing on what my characters are touching, tasting, hearing, seeing and smelling.

Nora Roberts is my go to here.  She clearly doesn’t write at my preferred heat end of the spectrum.  She’s a bit above the midpoint but she’s certainly no writer of explicit sex.  And yet there’s still heat and passion and feeling every time her characters are together (in bed or out of it).  I’m currently ‘re-reading’ (via Audible) her Bride Quartet series and remembering why it’s one of my favourite series.

Give yourself permission to write as yourself

Yes, we’re all driving towards publication and yes, a publisher is going to ask you where you see yourself in a market but you have to write as you first.  If you don’t everything you write will (probably) be shit (and, I should note that’s me saying that, not Anne).  I know when I’m trying to write something I don’t feel it appears on the page as stilted and dull.

This is also a timely reminder for me.  I’ve been working on a manuscript for a while and taken a lot of advice on it – all of which has been really helpful in some respects.  But I need to commit to telling my version of the story and stop trying to tell everyone else’s version of it.  Because if I keep trying to tell everyone else’s version of it, it’ll never get told at all!  I think I’ve done about three drafts of about two-thirds of the book and I’ve yet to write the magic words (a.k.a. ‘The End’).


And, on that note, I’m going to write (well, I will be, after I get a coffee!) but if you get the chance to take this course with Anne – do it!  Well worth the investment of time and money for both knowledge and inspiration.

Thanks Anne.