Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The joys of brainstorming

We’re coming to the end of the first round of the New Voices competition, and the top ten are busy polishing their second chapters, which will go up on Monday morning.  I’m loving being a mentor.  It’s been so interesting to see how the three stories develop. 

All three ‘mentees’ (if that’s a word) on Team Jessica have very distinctive voices, which is good because it makes it impossible to pick a favourite.  I’m intrigued by all the stories – too intrigued possibly, as I know I have a tendency to get carried away when it comes to brainstorming.  It’s just as well editor Meg Lewis is there to rein me in!  I’m keeping my fingers firmly crossed for all three stories.   Sharon Siddoway (The Secret Duchess), Leah Ashton (Secrets & Speed Dating) and Heidi Hormel (The Surgeon & the Cowgirl) all have what it takes, I know, so go, girls! 

Playing around with ideas is absolutely my favourite part of writing.  Obviously it’s better done over a bottle of wine or walking, but even virtual brainstorming can be fun.  You can still get really involved in the story and its endless possibilities.  Brainstorming was the best part of the course at the Watermill at Posara in Tuscany which I enjoyed so much last year.  It’s fascinating to watch how the germ of a story grows and gets pummelled in and out of shape until it all starts to fall into place, and there’s no doubt that knocking ideas around is easier when you’re with a group of like-minded people and your only worry is whether it’s too soon to move into the shade, or whether you feel like red wine or white … 

The course at the Watermill is running again this year from 24 September to 1 October 2011.  This time there’ll be a broader focus, and we’ll be talking about writing commercial fiction generally rather than just romance. Ever since tackling a ‘time slip’ I’ve been interested in writing across the genres, but the principles of structuring a successful story are the same whatever you’re writing, I think.  The course is called From the Slush Pile to the Shelves: Writing Fiction that Sells, and every writer who pays their deposit before the end of 2010 is eligible for a £75 discount.  Contact the Watermill at Posara for details.

As it happens, I’ll be teaching  a similar course (without the sunshine and the wine, sadly) over 8 weeks at the University of York.  From the Slush Pile to the Shelves: Writing Fiction that Sells begins 26th January 2011, so if you’re anywhere near York, why don’t you think about coming along?  Click here for details.  And if York’s too far to come once a week,  I’m also offering one day Crash Course in Writing Romance on Saturday 21 May 2011.  York is a great city to visit, with lots to see and do, so why not make a weekend of it? 

Right, that's enough promotion. I'm back to my rough draft.  Only on page 15, but I'm getting a real sense of Lotty and  Corran and so far (picture me frantically touching wood) it feels all right ...


  1. Hi Jessica, I'm definitely up for your course in York in January, sounds fab. By the way, if you have any former students around York who might be interested in joining a York based romance crit group, please do let them know that a couple of the New Voices entrants (one of whom is me!) have set one up, to meet monthly. You are also very welcome of course!

  2. I've already sent out an email, Sophia! I think a romance critique group is a great idea. Looking forward to seeing you somewhere along the line.

  3. I can't believe the second round of NV is almost over, or that we're in October. Where has the time gone? I'm very jealous of all your locals, one of these days I'm going to get to a Jessica Hart course!

  4. One of your mentees has created my favourite NV chapter so I'm watching with huge interest to see who makes it. Good luck to all of them and to you. York sadly is too far for me although its a wonderful place.

  5. I'm going to be SO disappointed if all three don't get through to the next round, although I guess that's statistically unlikely. And doubtless my fellow mentors feel the same. I predict some huffing and sulking when the final four are announced!

    And yes, what has happened to this year, Lacey? Maybe next year is the one I can coax you onto a course!

  6. Ignore the statistics, I do ;) You'll have to celebrate three times as much if all three get through.

    A course next year would be really lovely. I should start saving my pennies now ;)