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Jessica
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Questions for Guest Author Jenny Haddon

Let's take advantage of our two weeks with punctuation expert Jenny Haddon!

Reply to this message to ask her anything -- about punctuation, or about writing romance novels in general.

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cariann92
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Re: Questions for Guest Author Jenny Haddon

Not a how-to question.

Did you ever meet Betty Neels? She wrote 134 romance novels. She began writing late in life and wrote for thirty years.

I thought maybe you knew her through the Romance Association in England.

Her novels were the kind I could read while out in public. I knew my face wouldn't turn red from the content. Sometimes the hero kissed the heroine 'hard'.

Now for punctuation, did I do the [['hard'.]] correctly? Or should it be ['hard.']? I always mess up on that stuff.

And do you know Jessica Steele? She has a method of writing that is intriguing. Her last chapter lets the H/h go through all the things that have happened to them. They discuss what led to them falling in love. Anyone else notice that?

Welcome to our Club. My copy of your book should be in on Wednesday. BN said it would take a week to order it and they will call me.

Thanks for any comments you make.

Cariann
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lavenderlass
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Re: Questions for Guest Author Jenny Haddon

That's a good question Carianne, I'm a UK RNA member and have met loads of famous authors. The RNA is a great organisation which is very equal, you can sit next to a famous author and they'll talk to you just the same as a newbie. I sat next to Katie Fforde at one of my first conferences and she chatted away to me! I felt so pleased and important as I knew hardly anyone and hadn't been published! Almost everyone in the RNA is like that.

My issue is about editing myself for grammar, I never spot my own mistakes and can't always think about it if I'm engrossed in learning the craft. But people tell me I make mistakes, if you see any in my posts whilst I'm here could you point them out to me?

Lynne.
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Ch-Janet
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Re: Questions for Guest Author Jenny Haddon

Hi Sophie,

I'd love your thoughts on why HM&B is such a difficult market for writers to break into. I've heard of several mainstream novelists who spent a large part of their early careers trying (and failing)to please the M&B editors.

Janet
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sophieweston
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Re: Questions for Guest Author Jenny Haddon

HI Cariann

Thanks for the welcome. Very nice to be here with you.

Here I go with your questions

1) BETTY NEELS


cariann92 wrote:
Not a how-to question.

Did you ever meet Betty Neels? She wrote 134 romance novels. She began writing late in life and wrote for thirty years.

I thought maybe you knew her through the Romance Association in England.



Yes, I met her a long time ago, though not at the UK Romantic Novelists' Association. It was at a party given by Harlequin Mills & Boon when I was very young and green. She was absolutely charming and modest, as you would expect from her wonderful books. I always thought they were the perfect comfort read - as warm and reassuring as hot buttered toast.

It was a great loss when she died in 2001 - though her books have been constantly reprinted since. Indeed HMB award a rose bowl in her name - the Betty Neels Memorial Cup - to the author of the best short romance published in the UK in that year. We just made the award last Friday and the winner was Nell Dixon, who some of you know from various boards, for her very first novel, 'Marrying Max'. There's more on the RNA website if you want to know - www.rna-uk.org. And on Nell's blog, too, only I'm away from home today and I don't remember the URL. Google her!

2) PUNCTUATION - INVERTED COMMA
Sometimes the hero kissed the heroine 'hard'.

Now for punctuation, did I do the [['hard'.]] correctly? Or should it be ['hard.']? I always mess up on that stuff.



Yes you got that right. (I think your punctuation is spot on, by the way!) The full stop/inverted comma is difficult because USUALLY it comes in speech and then the full stop normally goes inside the inverted commas. There are exceptions when only a minority of the sentence is actually said by somebody. But people get used to putting a full stop inside an inverted comma and then do it all the time. When you're quoting something small, like a word or a phrase, I always think of the inverted commas as embracing the quotation with a good hard hug. No full stop should interrupt the embrace! (Sorry Leigh, another exclamation mark.)

3) JESSICA STEELE

Yes, I know her through the UK association of HMB authors. She's great. I'll tell her you were asking after her.

best
Jenny/Sophie
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sophieweston
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Re: Questions for Guest Author Jenny Haddon

Hi Lynne

Glad you enjoy the RNA. I must say it is a pretty democratic organization. I reckon that we all learn from each other, whether we're published or not. And Katie Fforde is, of course, a truly warm and wonderful human being quite apart from writing fab, fab, fab heroes. I just adore her mad chef in 'Thyme Out'. Don't know it that's what it is called in the States, but it's well worth checking out - a delightful book. Even though I'm green with jealousy over her hero.

PUNCTUATION

Well, you asked . . .
You wrote But people tell me I make mistakes, if you see any in my posts whilst I'm here could you point them out to me?

ANSWER - You've got a comma splice there, Lynne. They're incredibly common, so loads of thanks to you for letting me catch an example without having to trawl through my book.

Look between 'mistakes' and 'if'. You have got two sentences there, formally. So it needs a full stop not a comma. If you listen when you say it, you will here that you actually pause for longer than a comma. The comma is the shortest possible pause.

I'll go into the relative length of pauses and punctuation marks in more detail if people want - but not until Thursday. Today I'm sitting in Weymouth Public Library, God bless it, because my lap top blew up and I am down here with my partner, bird watching. (It's beautiful - and amazing weather.) And I only have eleven minutes left of my allotted time.

best
Jenny
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sophieweston
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Re: Questions for Guest Author Jenny Haddon



Ch-Janet wrote:
Hi Sophie,

I'd love your thoughts on why HM&B is such a difficult market for writers to break into. I've heard of several mainstream novelists who spent a large part of their early careers trying (and failing)to please the M&B editors.

Janet




That's a big one, Janet. It is probably something to with how they focus as writers but I need to think about it some more and will get back to you.

It's true that some very successful writers have not cracked HMB - Helen Fielding, of 'Bridget Jones' fame and the wondrous Katie Fforde, for two. And both are mega sellers, all round the world.

Jenny Crusie has a fabulous piece called 'So Bill I hear you write these little poems,' which may have a few clues. Have a look at that - it's certainly on her website and it will make you laugh out loud, as well as being very wise.

The programme is telling me I only have three minutes left, so I'd better go before I'm thrown out.

I'll be baaaark ....

Jenny/Sophie
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Ch-Janet
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Re: Questions for Guest Author Jenny Haddon

Re:'So Bill I hear you write these little poems,'
http://tinyurl.com/3as6m7

Thanks, Sophie. I found the article. It made me understand why a talented author wouldn't want to write category romance.
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lavenderlass
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Re: Questions for Guest Author Jenny Haddon

That was a really excellent essay Jenny, and funny too. Thanks for putting the link Janet.
Lynne.
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lavenderlass
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Re: Questions for Guest Author Jenny Haddon

Thanks for that Jenny! I do that all the time! At least now I know it's called comma splicing and I shouldn't do it. If you see any more blunders on my posts feel free to point them out. I've soaked up enough craft for now and just need to write, and that seems to free up enough grey matter for punctuation.

Dorest in this weather is fab. (oops, just caught myself almost comma splicing again!) I'd love to go birdwatching/wildlife hunting but I'd better get on writing instead.

Have fun. Lynne.
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cariann92
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Re: Questions for Guest Author Jenny Haddon

Sophie,

I am beginning The Millionaire Affair. A third in a series by different authors. How do you do that, with two other authors? Who comes up with the idea behind the series?

Did Harlequin approach the three of you? Did you, Sara Craven and Mary Lyons meet to plan and plot?

I haven't read the other two. I will get the one by Sara Craven from the library. I have to find the one by Mary Lyons somewhere else. We have a fantastic used bookstore here. You may/can trade two books for one book, or buy a book for $.79. Or should I say seventy-nine cents?

I'm not sure about my grammar and punctuation here. I write as I think—in haphazard phrases.

Some people when they critique my stuff say that I write choppy sentences.

Did I need commas in the above sentence?

Thanks for all your comments so far.

Cariann
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LeighMichaels
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Re: Questions for Guest Author Jenny Haddon

Okay, I have another one for Jenny....

Which of the books you've written is your favorite? And why?

(I know it's not a fair question...but it's an interesting one.)

Leigh
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Ch-Janet
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Re: Questions for Guest Author Jenny Haddon

Hi Jenny,

I asked this question on a different thread so I'll repost it here, in the right one.

Could you tell us a bit about the RNA Romance prize? On the other thread (Punctuation; About Guest Author, Jenny Haddon) there's some information on The Romantic Novel of the Year, but nothing about the category romance prize.

How many entries does it receive?
Who were the final judges this year?
Can winners enter again in subsequent years?

Best wishes
Janet
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sophieweston
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Re: Questions for Guest Author Jenny Haddon



Ch-Janet wrote:
Re:'So Bill I hear you write these little poems,'
http://tinyurl.com/3as6m7

Thanks, Sophie. I found the article. It made me understand why a talented author wouldn't want to write category romance.




Hey, I DON'T think talented authors have an aversion to category romance. Some people who want Reviews in the New York Times or Credibility with the Sisterhood can get a bit sniffy about it but I think people who write for a living recognize quality writing. And you have one of the best here, in Leigh Michaels. I've loved her books for years and still think that 'With No Reservations' is an absolute model of the genre - pushes at the 'rules' but delivers the absolutely perfect and utterly believable happy ending.

Also, don't forget that writing category romance for Harlequin Mills and Boon is one of the few ways that you can get to communicate round the world. I'm in 25 languages and more than "100 international outlets" - what bout you, Leigh?

I DO think that some writers find category romance very difficult. I said I would think about why and the best I can come up with is this; Category Romance is what I call a single experience read. That means it has to be very tightly woven. The author has to give the reader all the usual elements of a novel - a sense that the characters lived before the book started and will go on when it finishes; a sense of their world; a sense that they have normal lives and work and relationships. BUT you have almost no room to spend any time on it. A category romance novel is 55,000 words tops. That means that, in order to get in all the usual layers, you have to make sure that every incident on comment carries the story forward AND tells you something about the character AND helps paint a picture of the life the characters normally live. And you've got to get all the passion and hope and fear and risks and humour of a serious love affair as well. That is very economical writing indeed. It's like playing three dimensional chess, if you like. You can only do it well, if that's how you think. Some lovely writers DON'T think like that and never feel comfortable trying to.

Just a theory - what do you think, Leigh?

best
Jenny/Sophie
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sophieweston
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Re: Questions for Guest Author Jenny Haddon



cariann92 wrote:
Sophie,

I am beginning The Millionaire Affair. A third in a series by different authors. How do you do that, with two other authors? Who comes up with the idea behind the series?



A good question, Cariann. As far as I remember, Harlequin's Editorial Director in the UK, Karin Stoecker, thought that a trilogy set in one of the fashionable areas of London would be a good idea because London was suddenly 'hot'. Mary Lyons and I were the only two authors who actually lived in London. Sara Craven hates the place, so that was a good conflict to get our characters going.

Actually we were - and are - very good friends, so writing it was a blast. We went off for a weekend together and, after a good deal of laughter, good food and marching round the secret gardens of Notting Hill, came back with the characters and their stories pretty well sketched out.

Oh - and we wrote that trilogy before the movie came out. How cool is that?

But although we collaborated on the outline, these books were very much our own creation once we started writing. In fact, I was strongly drawn to my heroine that I continued the story of her fragile sister, for whom she had always felt herself responsible, in 'The Englishman's Bride'.

best
Jenny/Sophie
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sophieweston
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Re: Questions for Guest Author Jenny Haddon

From what I've seen, I think your punctuation is fine, Cariann.

If you write "choppy sentences" that may be your personal voice. An individual voice is a very good thing to have. Readers like it; it makes them feel that they are with a friend. All our friends have little individual habits of expression and vocabulary, don't they?

The important thing to remember is to make sure that your style does not trip up reader and throw her out of the book. If you're worried, try reading it aloud. Good style will have the rhythm of fluent, unpretentious speech.

My own view is that the easiest way to trip up your reader is to make her plod through a sentence that is so long she loses the thread; or to use lots of words that she does not understand. As an avid reader myself, I can make a guess at a single word I don't understand but a mountain of other people's jargon makes my eyes glaze over. That's when I put the book down.

There is an excellent essay on good style by George Orwell. I will check out the reference, if I can find it on line, and let you know.

best
Jenny
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sophieweston
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Re: Questions for Guest Author Jenny Haddon



LeighMichaels wrote:
Okay, I have another one for Jenny....

Which of the books you've written is your favorite? And why?

(I know it's not a fair question...but it's an interesting one.)

Leigh




Oh gosh, Leigh, that's like asking which of my children would I push out of the lifeboat last.

I'm very fond of 'The Englishman's Bride', which I've already mentioned, because the hero is one of these international negotiators who thinks he has to give up his private life in order to serve humanity. At the start of the book he is almost at breaking point although he does not begin to realize it. So plenty of conflict there, even before I brought in my heroine!

And I like 'The Bridesmaid's Secret', too. I adore my heroine who is brave and bolshie and dances a mean salsa. As it happens, she too first appeared in another book - 'The Millionaire's Daughter'. I never intended to write a sequel but my Bella behaved with such outstandingly generosity and selflessness in TMD that I just had to give her her own story.

Of course, I love my youngest child, 'The Cinderella Factor'. And I'm just crazy about the people I'm writing about at the moment. . .

Can you choose one of your own as your favourite?

best
Jenny/Sophie
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LeighMichaels
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Re: Why is category romance so hard to write?

Jenny, I agree - and that's the best summing up of why category romances are so hard to write that I've ever heard. When we're starting a book, 55,000 words feels like an impossible amount, but it really isn't very much -- 10 or 11 chapters, maybe 35 scenes, 220 manuscript pages (tops), and so every sentence has to move that story forward.

Thank you for the kind words about "With No Reservations"! It is still one of my favorites, and I've recently edited it again for re-release as an e-book, so I had all the fun of enjoying it again. Damon's such a wounded soul that it was wonderful to make him happy in the end... I remember writing the epilogue of that book and crying while I put the words down. (Very Joan Wilder, I know.)

My other favorite -- and I laughed when I read "which of my children would I push out of the lifeboat last" because it's so true -- is "Backwards Honeymoon", because I wrote that book in 17 days and it all went together so smoothly, the way we think writing is supposed to be. :smileyhappy:

The last figure the publishers gave me was 125 countries and 25 languages. I've got a picture on my website of my office wall, with one copy of each of the foreign and domestic editions of my books. At the time the picture was taken, it was eight feet high and about four feet wide on average, but that's been a while ago and it's grown since the photo was taken.

As for respect, or the lack of it: A few years back a journalism student from my alma mater interviewed me, and said, "Professor X said you were a very good student when you were in journalism school, and she asked me to ask you why you've wasted your talent writing romance novels." I said, "Go back and ask Professor X why she thinks that 30 million books in print reaching readers in 125 countries and 25 languages around the world is wasting my talent." Interestingly, I never heard another word out of Professor X...
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lavenderlass
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Re: Why is category romance so hard to write?

What a clever repy to journalism snobbishness Leigh! I wish I could think of answers like that when I need to! I love the chat about category ficiton, but I have another question. Is there another voice do you think in all the categories other than sticking to plot/size requirements? I can't make up my mind, a Marion Lennox is completely different to an Olivia Gates, but I've heard some people say there is. What do you think?

Also, a couple of my writing problems date back to my training in formal academic writing. I was taught to write long sentances & use big words & jargon, except that my preference was for simple words and I think the magistrates & people who had to read my reports appreciated that. I know you've both had academic training and presumably both wrote in a more formal style. But my question is how do you drop it? I found that particuarly hard as I instinctivly saw my writing as very good when I wrote in the academic style, and very bad when I tried anything else, because I wasn't used to that style. I'm still not sure how good I am now. It's not lack of reading, because since I left university I love reading most sorts of women's fiction, but I don't know that that comes through in my writing!

One last question, how does a book get entered in the awards, and if someone has to choose which to enter, who chooses and why.

Lynne.
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sophieweston
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Category Romance Prize

Both Janet and Lynne asked about this, so I thought I'd set out where we are at the moment.

The prize was initiated, as well as funded for five years, by the generosity of our President, Diane Pearson. She felt it was unfair that so many RNA members who wrote category romance would probably never get onto the short list of the Romantic Novel of the Year because their books were just too short.

We get to a short list in the same way as the we do for the Romantic Novel of the Year, by three reads from members of the public who volunteer because of their enthusiasm for reading. Authors enter the books themselves. Harlequin Mills and Boon presented the Betty Neels cup as well, which the winner holds for a year. It has, however, been very much Diane Pearson's award and she has invited two independent book professionals to sit with her on the final judging each year, as they have just done. (You can still read Nell Dixon's delight on her blog. http://nelldixonrw.blogspot.com/ )

Having said all that, I must point out that five years is a good slug of experience. In that time the UK short romance market has changed somewhat. So the RNA is now sitting down to take stock and discuss what we should keep and what we should discard for the next few years, during which we come up to our 50th Anniversary.
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