Kate Allan, Wendy Soliman, Victoria Connelly and Lynne Connolly conducting essential researchSo here I am, sitting in my living room, which is in chaos because we’re having a new floor fitted, and a new kitchen, thinking about the RWA conference and where I’d rather be.

But the RWA Conference isn’t the only game in town. Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the annual conference of the RNA – the Romantic Novelists’ Association, in Penrith, Great Britain. There is a lot of cross-traffic between the RNA and the RWA, and some people are members of both, but they are very different organisations with different aims and approaches.

The RNA is primarily for published writers, although we do have many unpublished members. And the British romance market is very different to the American, with different definitions. There aren’t always romance shelves in British bookstores, and some books that would be considered mainstream in the States are counted in the UK as romance, for instance, the sagas (sometimes known as “clogs and shawls”) in which the love story is only part of the heroine’s journey. Paranormal romance is almost unknown in the UK, and historical romance is very different. Best-selling authors like Mary Jo Putney and Liz Carlyle are unheard of in the UK.

But writers are writers the world over, and the weekend consisted of jovial meetings at the bar and the dinners, and classes which could be applicable either side of the Atlantic, and over the Pacific too, come to that.

Instead of doing summaries of the talks, I’ll put snippets from the ones I went to. If you’re interested, the summaries and accounts can be found on the RNA blog, a new venture that should be on any writer’s feed list:

http://romanticnovelistsassociationblog.blogspot.com/

So here are some snippets from the talks:

Freda Lightfoot is a writer of sagas and mis-lit, and she used to own her own bookstore, so she’s seen both sides of the process. Her talk was on author branding.

“Your brand is your guarantee of quality.” She advised attendees not to stint in their efforts, but to remember that writing is a business.

Kathy Gale used to work for MacMillan and other publishers as an editor. She has now opened her own business.

“There is a big gap between writers and publishers – writers don’t always know what publishers want.

Supermarket sales have transformed the market. Supermarkets take about 12 books a month then sell them in huge quantities, instead of taking more writers and selling fewer books. In recent years that has led to the death of the midlist.

It’s very important to see yourself as a contemporary writer. Authors sometimes write in a slightly old-fashioned way, or don’t update a manuscript that has been around for years. Older authors can continue, but should try to update, new writers should write in a contemporary style.

Think about what the reader wants. You are writing for someone else, not just for yourself.

“New writers will spend a lot of time describing place and not enough characters. Don’t let pace override everything else.”

As well as a successful author, Anita Burgh is a teacher and mentor to many unpublished writers. She spoke about surviving rejection. “Dyslexia is very common among writers. Don’t be too humble in submissions, on the other hand don’t be too bombastic either. Agents and editors need you, or they can’t survive.”

Jessica Hart is a multipublished Harlequin/Mills and Boon author. Her talk was on the “f-word.” (not the one I was thinking about!)

“In a romance the story is about the obstacle between the h/h. The tension comes from uncertainty.”

“Fear is the biggest plot driver of all.”

“Plot isn’t about putting the characters in romantic scenes in romantic places.”

“The hero and heroine have to find it impossible to walk away at any part of the story.”

Jessica recommended Blake Snyder’s book “Save the Cat.”

Hugo Summerson is the former MP for Walthamstow East. His talk was on Public Speaking. His whole talk was a perfect example of how to keep an audience listening.

“When campaigning, in a car cavalcade the safest car is the first one. The last car is the one that gets the rotten fruit.”

“Don’t give handouts until the end as it’s a distraction for the audience.”

“Find out what the audience wants to know. Find out how long you’re going to speak for. Assess depth of knowledge in audience.”

“What interests people is people. Not dry facts. So use anecdotes and concrete examples.”

“How interested you are in your subject? If it bores you, you shouldn’t have accepted the invitation.”

There was more. I could go on all day. What with that, the shoes and the discussions with other authors, it was a highly successful conference, and I can’t wait until next year!

If you want to read more about the conference, or about the RNA, we now have a blog:

http://romanticnovelistsassociationblog.blogspot.com/

And our website is

http://www.rna-uk.org/

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Phew! I did it all without breaking Angie’s blog! Go me!

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