New Beginnings

by Sarah on January 8, 2012 · 8 comments

I might be one of about five people in the world who love January. The New Year always brings hope, and the chance to start afresh. It’s also an opportunity to set goals for the coming months. As I love making lists, this appeals to me. The timing is also fortuitous: Yesterday, I submitted ‘Luck of the Irish’ to the editor and agents who requested it, so it’s time to get cracking on a new story.

2011 was my year to focus on writing craft. I participated in several workshops during the first half of the year, as well as reading books on craft. Attending the RWA conference in New York City was a fantastic experience, both personally and professionally. Concentrating on writing theory, and applying the tools I acquired to my WIP, did mean it took me longer to complete ‘Luck of the Irish’ than I’d hoped, but I feel I learned a lot. ‘Luck of the Irish’ might not be perfect, but I know it’s much stronger than its predecessor.

I was fortunate enough to participate in the Romance Divas’ Mentor Program between March and June. My mentor was extremely helpful, and gave me some invaluable advice. She suggested I focus on improving one craft element per story. For ‘Luck of the Irish’, I chose plot structure with a particular concentration on constructing strong scenes. For my next story, I want to work on my use of dialogue and nonverbal communication.

I’m keeping my 2012 goals focused on writing. I want to complete one novella and one novel of by the end of the year. The novella idea might turn into a longer book, but I want to start off with a bare-bones story of around 30K. The novella/potential novel will be a historical romance set in Ireland in the early Twentieth Century. A hard sell, perhaps, but I figure I have nothing to lose by trying. It’s not like I’m a contracted author with deadlines. Besides which, it’s the sort of story I’d love to read, and I think readers can tell when an author feels passionate about the tale they’re telling.

I hope to have the novella/first draft of novel done by the end of March, then take a couple of months off (I’m expecting another baby), and begin writing again in June. I’ll probably start back with Inkygirl’s 250 or 500 Words a Day Challenge to draft another contemporary romance. A page or two a day should be manageable, even with a newborn.

2011 was the year of slow reading. I read 47 novels last year, down from 152 last year. Only 19 were romance, and the vast majority of those were published by Harlequin. I read 5 romances published by the so-called Big Six New York publishers. One reason I read so few books is down to a lack of time. 2011 was crazy busy, and I invested most of my spare time on my writing, or writing-related reading. Another reason is my lack of satisfaction with the variety of settings and tropes on offer from the traditional publishers. Either I’m bang out of luck in that what’s popular at the moment doesn’t appeal to me, or publishers are playing it safe and not publishing the sort of envelope-pushing romances I miss from the Nineties and early 2000s. For more on this topic, Sandy at All About Romance has a great blog post entitled Romance Rant (Volume XXXVI).

How was 2011 for you reading wise? Did you discover any great new-to-you authors? If you write, did you achieve your goals? 


Wendy January 9, 2012 at 18:22

I had a consistent 2011 in regards to my reading. My only regrets – I wish I had cracked 100 books (I got to 95) and that I had more A reads (I always wish that though).

I wouldn’t sweat your reading numbers being lower this year. You WERE busy! Plus you moved last year – which, in my experience, is a major brain-drain.

I hope the novella-writing goes well! I love, love, love Edwardian era set romances and would love to see more of them – even in novella format!

Sarah January 13, 2012 at 18:05

The move…yes, that was a serious energy and time-suck. 95 books in 2011 is excellent going!

Keishon January 9, 2012 at 21:00

Well, my biggest discovery author-wise would be Asa Larsson. I am really excited about her work. I only read about 30 books last year which is an accomplishment considering that I am usually distracted by other things like TV, work, family, friends and Twitter again. I wish you good luck with your writing endeavor as you already know and ditto what Wendy said, would love romances set in a different locale than what is popular today.

Sarah January 13, 2012 at 18:07

Asa Larsson is on my To Be Bought list! My latest TV distraction is BBC’s ‘Sherlock’. The second series/season is running now on BBC1. Thank goodness for digital TV!

heidenkind January 10, 2012 at 06:07

A baby?! Congratulations! That’s exciting.

I have been having the exact same problem with romance. I think I’ve read less romance this year than I have since I started reading it in my teens. Everything just sounds the same and all the characters seem like tropes instead of characters, if you know what I mean. I’m officially boycotting romances set in 19th century London from now on. NO MORE.

Trish January 10, 2012 at 22:07

2011 was the year I discovered the crime novels of Tana French, and read them all. Also Yiyun Li’s amazing short stories and novel. Enjoyed Elly Griffiths & her forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway. Loved Julie Orringer’s “The Invisible Bridge”. Was surprised to like Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” as I hated the only other book of hers I ever read. But the book of the year came my way at the end of December – Patrick de Witt’s wonderful western, “The Sisters Brothers”.

Sarah January 13, 2012 at 18:11

I’m hoping to read the fourth Ruth Galloway mystery this weekend.

Sarah January 13, 2012 at 18:08

@Heidenkind: Thanks! I’m due at the end of March. I’ll still read a book set in 19thC London, but it has to be exceptional to keep me turning the pages. (I don’t know what happened to my reply button. It’s refusing to allow me to reply directly to your comment.)

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