Clarissa’s Homecoming – my NaNoWriMo 2009

My NaNoWriMo 2009 submission, ‘Clarissa’s Homecoming’, is now being put up on Textnovel.

You can read it at:

And, it goes without saying, really, that I’d love feedback (hates and loves) on it!

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Posted in General on Jul 25th, 2010, 10:17 pm by althea     

Congratulations to the semi-finalists in Dorchester’s “NEXT BEST CELLER”! has just announced the semi-finalists in the Dorchester Next Best Celler Romance Writing contest!

Check out the names at Textnovelblog.

HUGE, sincere congratulations to those who made it!!

Posted in General on Nov 4th, 2009, 7:40 am by althea     

On writing hooks

Writing your query? Just came across this article at the Romance University by C.J. Redwine, titled ‘How To Be An Excellent Hooker‘.

And on that note, I recommend the blog articles at the Romance University – well worth subscribing to!

Posted in General on Oct 18th, 2009, 10:38 pm by althea     

Introducing Alvira Pradgett!

It is my honour to introduce to you Alvira Pradgett, proprietor of Professional Assassins Extraordinaire. An assassin in a parallel world with strict rules about life and death, her story can be read at

Posted in General on Oct 16th, 2009, 1:12 am by althea     

What to do when your writing stinks

I’m having another of those days. My writing totally stinks, I can’t figure out why it does, I’m never going to be a good writer, and I definitely will never be as good as <enter random novelist’s name here>.

Enter this article by Golden Heart finalist Courtney Milan at author C.J. Redwine’s blog, titled Help! My Writing Stinks! In it Courtney shares how to turn times like these into constructive moments. A must-read!

Posted in General on Oct 10th, 2009, 8:51 am by althea     

Oops – I did it again!

(With apologies to Britney Spears :-) )

I have found yet another error in ‘A Regency Adventure’ – and a fairly major one at that! This is all thanks to “Common Regency Errors” at I quote:

“A Viscount is not associated with a place, so he is Lord Titlename. Usually his title is the same as his family name.”

O-o-kay. I’d assumed ‘Hawkesborough’ was associated with a place, so now I’ll have to re-think. I’ve never heard of ‘Hawkesborough’ as a family name. What to do? I don’t think ‘Lord Daughtry’ has the same ring about it…

Posted in General on Oct 5th, 2009, 7:30 pm by althea  6 comments   

Compelling emotion… or the lack of it

I’ve realised that there is yet another serious flaw in my writing. If you have been following me on textnovel, you may have worked it out already.

My writing lacks compelling emotion.

I believe most writers struggle with this, and conquer it before being able to write fiction with an authentic feel. In my case, I believe I have been out-of-touch with the art of articulating one’s emotions. Like most people, this could be attributed to many things: my genetically-inherited personality, my upbringing as a Third Culture Kid (see, my working in an all-male, geek-full environment, and possibly just the fact that I am human, and expressing our emotions can easily be left by the wayside in the race to get ahead in life.

It follows that I need to consciously make an effort, and give myself permission, to articulate emotions, especially strong ones, on ‘paper’. But as I write, I also realise that I shy away from expressing opinions, and this seems to be closely related to my struggle with articulating emotions.

I have re-written Chapter 9 of A Regency Adventure on to try to make it more emotionally compelling. See my page “Exercise: Emotionally compelling fiction” for a ‘before’ and ‘after’ take. Comments are appreciated!

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Posted in General on Oct 1st, 2009, 1:38 pm by althea     

The Little Things

What does it mean for the moon to wax or wane? What does the moon look like when it’s waxing or waning? And specifically, which would it have been doing in the latter part of April 1814? You see, I’d never bothered myself with astronomy before.

According to a Googled source of information, April 1814’s full-moon was on the 4th (incidentally, the same day Ney and other marshalls informed Napoleon that they’d had enough). Easter Sunday was April 10th (when Wellington began the unnecessary Battle of Toulouse against Soult). The moon was in its last quarter on April 12th. It was new on April 20th, and back to its first quarter on April 27th. And Castlereagh (according to a letter) was definitely in Paris by May 1st.

Why are all these disjointed pieces of information important? Well, my hero from A Regency Adventure has to take a moonlit stroll through the streets of London. The date should be within a fortnight of Easter. Not too many days before he would have attended a (fictitious) ball hosted by the Castlereaghs, at which point the story begins. I need Napoleon to have abdicated before the ball, and it’s easier for me if Lord Castlereagh was in London for this ball.

Back to my hero’s moonlit (or not) stroll. Was the moon waxing or waning, and how bright would it have been? I am reasonably certain it wasn’t cloudy (by London standards of cloudiness!) – an obscure reference to weather (again Googled) mentions that April 1814 was a ‘notably warm month, in what was a notably cold year.’ Apparently mid-month was particularly mild. Incidentally, 1814 was the year of the last ever Thames Frost Fair.

All this — which included several interesting tangents not directly relevant to my novel — was just to accurately set the background of a single chapter. And most of the research will never actually show. With good reason too – it’s a chapter in a novel, not a documentary.

Though I should never dare to compare myself with her, Jane Austen’s description of her literary creations comes to mind: “The little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush as produces little effect after much labour.”

Does all this research and accurate historical placement actually matter? I don’t know. But my father used to say that it’s a lot easier to tell the truth than a lie. One has a heck of a lot of fabricating to do around a lie. So perhaps all my fact-finding and attempts at historical accuracy are really an obscure form of laziness!

Posted in General on Aug 26th, 2009, 6:14 pm by althea     

Found it!

I’ve finally found my notes from “How to Write Your Novel”, hosted by WEA in South Australia. Martina Taeker was the excellent presenter. Here are some snippets from my notes – bear in mind that, being notes, they aren’t very well written or laid out. But you get the idea.

Specifically on villians

For a successful book, write strong villians. Write as strong a villian as you can. Then the protagonist has to rise above it.

On characters in general

Minor characters are the “extras”, the people on the street, the waitresses, bell-hops… providing the colour of the back story. Their dress tells us where we are. They may or may not speak. A minor character could be the cow in the paddock.

Secondary characters are the supporting actors/actresses. Sometimes it is hard to differentiate between secondary and major characters. Secondary characters support the driver of the story. Side-kicks vs. the actual hero. They are the pit-crew. They are navigating. Physical, emotional, or moral support.

Major characters drive the story. So they are active. A lot of new writers have passive major characters. Major characters have to take control, or keep attempting to take control. ‘Active‘ refers to the mental attitude of the character, not just physical actions.

Secondary characters can on occasion take over the driving of the novel, if the major character needs a rest, or has an injury, etc. But never for long. Major character must be present 90% of the time in a book. NEVER kill a major character 1/2 way through a book!

On Goals

Goal-less characters are a common mistake made by new writers. Should never have a character without a goal. No-one can root or cheer for a goal-less character.

There are two types of goals per character.

Firstly, story goal – one per character, that is big enough for character to go deep and strong. The story goal for the character has to be BIG – and the longer the novel, the bigger this has to be.

Secondly, scene goal – these are steps or stages that get to the BIG story goal. 1 per scene is good. Goals are for all major characters, and some secondary characters too. Helps if secondary characters have their own goal, and are not just along for the ride.

On Motivation

What causes a character to go for their goals. New writers often forget to give characters appropriate motivation. Go for the core. Less is more. 1 to 2 motivations per character. Jealousy and greed are NOT motivators. They are symptoms of deeper issues. So if you come across these motivations in your characters, you have to take it back to the core motivation. You don’t have to describe the core motivation(s) to the reader, but you have to know what it is / they are. Core motivations can also lead good characters to do bad things, and bad characters to do good things.

That Aristotle Thing

And finally, I have found the Aristotle thing I mentioned in my previous post – and it’s Aristotle’s Incline. With apologies for the (somewhat) incorrect reference to Aristotle’s Theory of Tragedy! I believe they are both culled from Aristotle’s Poetics.

Posted in General on Aug 21st, 2009, 3:05 pm by althea     

Index cards and Aristotle

Up until recently, A Regency Adventure was suffering from a lack of direction. I had a great start, two main characters, and too many possibilities. One of the big problems was a lack of chemistry between the protagonists… along with an inordinate degree of the same between one of the protagonists and an antagonist!

Then something cracked, and I now know what A Regency Adventure is all about. Yaay!

So I’m into 5″ x 8″ index cards and Aristotle’s Theory of Tragedy (at least, that’s what I think it’s called).

I am trying to find my notes from an excellent WEA short course I did some years ago, called ‘How to Write Your Novel’. The teacher was very good – but I can’t recall her name. A great tip she gave was to put the salient points of each scene onto an index card, and then order them according to Aristotle’s Theory of Tragedy. I have found an outline of his theory here. Of course, a lot of shuffling, expanding, condensing, and just plain throwing out will happen.

I have 34 scenes worked out and summarized on index cards. I just need to lay them out in a rough Aristotle-ish way, and then I can get down to some serious writing again!

But I really need to find those lecture notes…

Posted in General on Aug 15th, 2009, 3:54 am by althea     

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