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Rachael Thomas - Critique Partners are Invaluable

  Posted by Jemi , 16 February 2015 · 42 views

Please Welcome Rachael Thomas to the blog today!

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One of the best decisions I made as I began my writing journey was to join The Romance Writers of Australia. Apart from the great competitions they organise, I discovered the Critique Partner scheme. It definitely helped my writing and made me look at my work through different eyes. Having another writer read and critique your work is so much more beneficial than simply asking a friend or family member to do the same. After all, who would be more honest?

Critique Partners are exactly the right person to go to if you hit a sticky patch and don’t know where your story should go, or to have chapters read and critiqued and best of all, to bounce ideas around with. Whatever it is, having another writer read you work and offer constructive advice is invaluable. Why? Because as the writer, you are too close to your work. Not only do you not see those silly mistakes we all make, you can be forcing your story in a direction it doesn’t need to go. Just having someone suggest an alternative can bring you back and set you off on a much better storyline.

CP’s can also be helpful if you have deadlines for competitions or submissions and can help to keep you motivated when the going gets tough. Together you can build a nice relationship, one that can span oceans, which is exactly what happened for me. I was lucky enough to be matched with three fabulous Australian writers, Joanne, Louise and Kathi and over the years we’ve built brilliant relationships. I really hope that one day I’ll get to a RWA conference and meet them in person. I’m also very fortunate that I have several writing friends here in the UK too. We often rent a small cottage in the middle of the Welsh countryside and spend the weekend reading through each other’s work as well as writing.

So, if you are writing romance and need someone to bounce ideas off, join RWA, it doesn't matter where you live and you can select who you'd like to be partnered with on the Critique Partner scheme. It's also really helpful to link up with other writers you meet and organize your own retreat weekends.
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About Rachael: I grew up in the Midlands, but when I moved to Wales, over twenty years ago, I found a place to finally put down roots. I married into a farming family and embarked on a massive learning curve which also saw me learning Welsh when my two children were small. 

Writing is something I have always wanted to do and I can still remember the thrill of one of my short stories being held up as an example to the class when I was about nine. It wasn’t until my own children were in school that I seriously started to pursue my dream. I joined a local writing group which met every Monday afternoon and being with like-minded people was the boost I needed. 

Reading romance had always been my first love, and just about every short story I wrote was romance, so I decided to write my first book. During that process I also attended my first weekend writing course with Kate Walker and joined the RNA’s fabulous New Writers’ Scheme. A short time later I joined Romance Writers of Australia and learnt a lot from entering their competitions. I sought out courses and you can imagine my joy when I discovered Sharon Kendrick’s course in beautiful Tuscany. 

 Behind the Scandalous Façade, my So You Think You Can Write entry, is my thirteenth book and although only eight have those magic words ‘the end’ written on them the others are definitely part of the learning process I have enjoyed over the last six years. 

 I love escaping to distant shores with my characters, entering their glamorous world and feeling all the emotions they experience as they discover their love for one another. A love so strong it will overcome all obstacles eventually, leading to that promised happy ever after. 

Connect with Rachael Thomas on the web: 
Website         Blog        Facebook                Twitter              Goodreads


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Claimed by the Sheikh by Rachael Thomas

Claimed by the Sheikh

by Rachael Thomas

Giveaway ends March 02, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win
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Thanks Rachael! I agree - CPs are amazing and impossible to live without. My 2 crit buddies (Jean & Cali) are amazing ladies and together we've become much stronger writers. Can't imagine doing this without them!

How about you? Want to give your CPs a shoutout in the comments? How did you meet up?

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Reading Aloud

  Posted by Jemi , 05 February 2015 · 46 views

I'm over at From the Write Angle today talking about some benefits of reading aloud your own work. I hope you'll pop on over and join the discussion.

Our teachers never read aloud to us when we were in school. I wish they had.

When I'm in the classroom, I read aloud to my students every day. It's often the favourite part of the day for me and the students. There's something very special about sharing a good story about strong characters. We talk about why things happened, what we think will happen, and agonize when things go wrong.

Over the years I've developed a huge pile of favourite read-alouds. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, The Outsiders by SE Hinton, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, and Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan are huge favourites with the older kids. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, The Giver by Lois Lowry, & Dogsled Dreams & Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson are the faves for the slightly younger crowd. And then are lots more!

How about you? Any favourite memories of books read aloud by teachers?

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First and Last Lines

  Posted by Jemi , 26 January 2015 · 33 views

A year or so ago, I read some advice on writing out the first and last line of every chapter in a list (if this was on your blog, please give yourself a shout out in the comments for me!).

I don't remember all the reasons, but as I'm reading through my NaNo novel, I'm keeping track of these lines in a file within my Scrivener folder and I'm finding some interesting things.
  • only a few of my first lines really stink
  • some of them are even pretty good
  • my last lines are often very short - 1-3 words
  • my characters are pretty sarcastic
  • putting the 1st and last lines together gives a great summary of the chapter's emotion
  • reading the list through gives a great sense of the story - and of the pace (which I always need help with). Much more helpful for editing than I expected
Doing this has helped me see I've grown as a writer too. I'm coming into scenes later and exiting earlier - trusting in the reader more. (Thanks to my fabulous CPs once again!!!)

Have you ever tried this? Any great first or last lines to share?


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Keep Calm & Scrivener On!

  Posted by Jemi , 12 January 2015 · 43 views

So, I'm reading through my NaNo draft and finding lots to like...and more than a few things that just don't work. Pretty normal for a 1st draft, I'd say.

I've now realized I've got to switch the order of 2 of the Major Events. This will entail millions (or so it seems) of ripple effect changes throughout the entire story. More or less a complete rewrite while keeping the essence of the story.

Slightly terrifying! Exciting too.

If you've used Scrivener, you know that you can make notes on each file (scenes for me) and notes for the entire document. I use that one to keep track of the Big Idea Changes I need to make -- things like making one character more evasive, make the other crankier, keep the sexual tension up, add description etc.

I also keep a couple of folders that aren't part of the ms. Inside my Outlines folder, I have my rather pathetic attempts to plot. One is a (far too brief) synopsis, another has a chart outlining proposed chapters, another has a bullet list for main ideas of each chapter, and so on. Because I might actually be the world's worst plotter, there are far too many files and I'm about to add at least one more with my newest ideas for rearranging the plot lines. Hoping to find a method that really works for me soon,

Another folder is my To Do Folder with Things to Add, Big Ideas, & Fix This!

Depending on my mood and need, I can keep one of these files open alongside my current chapter. Or I can keep my current chapter in one window and the new version in the other. GREAT way to use the good bits and eliminate the garbage.

Then, I can easily slip the scenes around the MS with a few drags of the mouse. For me, it makes the rewriting process a lot less daunting and the mountain I've got to climb doesn't seem as steep.

Are you a Scrivener fan? Any tips to share? How do you feel about those major rewrites? Any magic wands to turn me into a Plotter Extraordinaire?

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Happy Giveaway!

  Posted by Jemi , 01 January 2015 · 70 views

And Happy New Year too!

I hope 2015 is YOUR year and you find all kinds of wonderful moments to treasure.

To celebrate a fresh start for 2015, over at From the Write Angle we're celebrating with a huge Giveaway. Check out this list!

R.C. Lewis - Signed STITCHING SNOW
MarcyKate Connolly - Signed MONSTROUS (On release date)
Mindy McGinnis - Signed NOT A DROP TO DRINK & IN A HANDFUL OF DUST
Sophie Perinot - Signed SISTER QUEENS & DAY OF FIRE
S.L. Duncan - Signed THE REVELATION OF GABRIEL ADAM
Cat Woods - Signed TALES FROM THE BULLY BOX and WHISPERING MINDS
Jemi Fraser - Kindle editions of SUBMISSION & SURRENDER by Cali McKay and EGGNOG & CANDY CANES by Jean Oram
Matt SinclairWINTER'S REGRET anthology from Elephant's Bookshelf Press
R.S. Mellette - Signed BILLY BOBBLE MAKES A MAGIC WAND
J. Lea Lopez - Signed SORRY'S NOT ENOUGH
Riley RedgateEXTRACTION by Stephanie Diaz

As you can see, many of my talented buddies are already published (or have debuts coming out soon) and the books range from MG to YA to historical fiction to romance. So many great books!

Hurry over and enter - what better way to start the new year than with free books! Good luck!!

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I Wish

  Posted by Jemi , 22 December 2014 · 45 views

'Tis the season for wishes! The next few weeks look to be filled with family, love,, and barely controlled chaos (so, pretty much normal for around here :)), and I'm not sure how much I'll be around the bloggy-verse. In case I don't catch up with you, I thought I'd send you my wishes now!

I wish you...

  • a warm and happy home filled with love
  • a friendly face to greet you every day
  • time to relax and enjoy and just 'be'
  • the opportunity to stretch your wings
  • a joyous holiday season
  • that special something you've been secretly craving
  • a healthy, happy, fun, and fulfilling 2015

What's one of your wishes? What's that special something for you?


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Wrapping it Up

  Posted by Jemi , 08 December 2014 · 50 views

I'm finishing up my NaNo draft - 64k and counting. I've left myself tons of notes along the way about things to add, things to polish, and things to change.

The last few chapters are waiting for me and I have to plow my way through. While I have an idea what's going to happen (the main characters will live and get their HEA), it's the getting there that's tough. 

Endings aren't easy for me. Tying all those plot lines together isn't my strength - probably because I don't plot in advance. One of my MCs is currently in major trouble and the other is oblivious, but closing in.

The next few scenes need to be full of action and emotion. I think I'm good with the emotional part of it all, but the action sequences are more difficult. By focusing on the emotion of the characters going through the actions, my writing is getting stronger, but it's not there yet. I'll probably end up rewriting these chapters a dozen times. *sigh*

How about you, are you good at wrapping it all up at the end of your stories, or is it a challenge for you, too?


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Note to Self

  Posted by Jemi , 24 November 2014 · 69 views

It's a bit early, but I've managed to squeak across that 50k NaNoWriMo finish line! The draft's not done yet, probably still another 20k to go. Hoping to have most of that wrapped up before the chaos of Christmas prep begins so I can let it simmer a bit over the holidays.

When I'm drafting, I don't fine tune as I go. Instead I leave myself notes on how to fix things later.

  • this is all telling
  • cliche alert!
  • this stinks, but the core of the scene is good
  • this isn't the right word
  • do a find search for probably & maybe
  • check to see how many days have passed
  • what colour is his hair??
  • add in some scene setting
  • does the doctor have a last name?
  • good place to add description
  • blech - fix this

Do you leave yourself notes as you go? Or do you have to stop and fix it at the time?

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First Draft Frenzy

  Posted by Jemi , 10 November 2014 · 85 views

Thanks so much for all of your kind words in my last post. Dealing with grief is tough, but we're coping. Mostly :)

I'm having a blast with my new NaNo draft. As of October 31st, I didn't have a clue who my characters were or what their story was, but it's flowing!

Writing first drafts is my absolute favourite part of the writing journey. And, as an added bonus, I'm getting better at them. Usually I have a bit more of a foundation to start with. I don't outline, but I generally have a solid idea of who my characters are, what drives them, what's holding them back, and how they need to grow.

I also usually know (in the loosest sense of the word) my ending. Definitely a bonus (for me) of writing romance is I know the end goal before I write a single word. I want my characters to grow enough to be able to trust another person with their heart.

Sounds simple, which is where the internal and external conflicts come into play - and where the fun is to be had!

So, I'm having a fabulous time watching both of my characters work hard to hide their pasts and shield their hearts, knowing it's not going to do them a bit of good in the long run!

What's your favourite thing about the writing stage you're at right now? Are you a first draft fan too? If you're doing NaNo too, I'm jemifraser over there if you want to buddy up!

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Climbing out of the Quagmire

  Posted by Jemi , 31 October 2014 · 51 views

The last few months have been really rough here. A close family member lost her fierce battle with cancer and we're all reeling with the emotions (obviously). My go-to response to fear and sadness and tragedy is cooking/baking and I've stocked up everyone's freezers & fridges with enough soup, lasagnas, meatballs, chili, muffins, and cookies to last them through the next few weeks.

My creativity has been pretty much shot since we heard the news back in January, but I want to give myself a boost, so I've signed my foolish self up for NaNo again. I really don't need another first draft kicking around - I have 3 stories ready for those final revising rounds as well as 3 more first drafts with lots of potential and lots of needs. But, my heart is sore and weary and I'm hoping this might help me rebound.

As usual, I have no plan, no plot, no outline. Heck, I don't even have character names yet. But I think this one will involve some hi-jinks in the snow. Or not. I guess I'll find out soon! One thing I do know is there will be a HEA (happy every after) because that's exactly what I need right now.

So, if you're on the NaNo trail, join me (I'm jemifraser over there) and let's pound out some words together!

And if you're so inclined, pop on over to From the Write Angle, where we're talking NaNo as well.

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