Monday, 16 July 2012


I spent this weekend in the company of around 200 writers, mostly romantic novelists, new and published, and some who are people who I should have been in great awe of, but are so humble themselves, it was difficult not to enjoy their company. In other words I had a fantastic weekend.

Anne Ashurst is the Chairman of the RNA (Romantic Novelist's Association) and I met her for the first time at this year's RNA Writer's Conference in Penrith. in the beautiful Lake District. Anne officially belongs to the Birmingham Chapter of which I am the Chapter Liaison. She has a very busy schedule as you can imagine, but I believe she will be visiting us in Birmingham soon.

She writes as Sara Craven, and since starting writing in 1975 for Harlequin Mills and Boon, she has produced almost 90 novels.

She gave a talk this weekend at the 2012 RNA Conference, which was both lively and interesting, as well as most useful to new writers, as well as published ones.

The topic of her talk was - moving TOWARDS ZERO - the point when everything changes in the story. The point when there is no turning round .... when a SECRET IS REVEALED.

Here are some highlights of that talk:

If a secret is included at the beginning of the novel, the writer can slowly fill in the pieces, drip by drip. Until Zero is reached. Zero, being the point where everything changes. The secret is discovered.

By this time the reader has found out a great deal about a character, how they operate, what has caused them to behave in a certain way, and why.

The Past is crucial, in order to understand the Present. 

Therefore, knowing the character's past is important.

For this reason, BACK STORY is very important. And there are various ways of including back story and still make the writing flow well. However, it depends on the nature of the story itself as to which you should use.

 - Drip Feed, to slowly reveal the facts, when all the information is not needed at once.

 - Flashbacks may be used where appropriate to reveal the past as if it is the present - in big chunks, to make it clear that it is a flashback.

 - Allow other characters to say what is going on to reveal what you want them to let the reader know.

 - Prologue is another technique of revealing the past, and giving some back story before the actual beginning of the first scene. 

- Epilogues can also be used. 

Anne uses all these techniques according to the nature of her story. Her talk was most inspiring, with lots of tips on how to improve you own writing, to make it work.


  1. Great summary of Annie's talk, Marilyn. I agree about the authors, without exception they were easy to talk to and very encouraging. BTW, I've ordered one of the books she mentioned, Nine Coaches Waiting,, from Abe Books. It was reissued in 1990, apparently.

    1. Well done Anne. I'm now back from holiday, so will try to see if I can get that book too.

      Marilyn x