2018-08-21

The first rule of fight club...

by N.D. Campbell
Written on Tuesday, 21st August, 2018

Last weekend I went on my annual pilgrimage.

I jumped on a jet plane with a suitcase filled with frocks and shoes and winged my way to Sydney for the Romance Writers of Australia's conference.

But you don't write Romance, I hear you say. So why a Romance Writers Conference?

And my answer. Because it's the most active, supportive and amazing collection of writers I've found. It's my tribe. And when the biggest part of your working life is sitting alone at a computer, you NEED to find your tribe.

People who understand what it is to sit down to a blank page every day. How every word you write thrills and terrifies you. The thought of someone reading that word is your greatest inspiration and your deepest fear.

It's a strange and sometimes lonely life and you have to be a bit mad to choose it.

But this conference is more than company. It's a place that publishers and agents listen to our stories. And sometimes, if we're lucky, they ask to read our manuscripts.

It is a place where careers can be born.

And at heart, it's a conference. A place I go to learn and hone my craft. For three solid days, I talk story with people who share that secret language.

Show not tell. Story and character arcs. Sharpening suspense and tweaking tension.

We're serious about the business of writing. From short form romance to epic family saga's, chilling true crime to paranormal and horror. There are writers of almost every genre.

The thing that binds us is a love of story. We are people of the word.

This year two speakers stood out for me.

The first, a man from the motion picture world, Ross Grayson Bell. He was the producer who brought Fight Club to the big screen and he talked to us about Fight Club and Out of Africa. Can you imagine two movies that were more different?

He used a writing tool called the hero's journey, to map the transformation of both lead characters. He taught me that our stories have more in common across genres than we might think.

The second speaker was Kate Cuthbert, Managing Editor of Escape Publishing. She talked about the challenge of writing romance in a post #MeToo world. She told us about a writer who felt ashamed of some of her older books.

Kate looked at the genre's legacy. How it reflected the social narratives of the time. When society believed consent could be coerced or cajoled that was what we wrote. She called on us to craft stories and sex scenes that support the tide of change.

That's why I'm breaking the first rule of Fight Club or in this case Romance.

I'm talking bout romantic fiction and the talent and commitment of many of the writers in that genre.

I'm talking about this conference because there's never been a more important time to talk about Romance. About what it is, how it has changed and changing and to challenge the stigma the genre faces.

Romantic stories are womens stories. Romance writers are most often women. Romance puts women and their experience at the centre of the story.

Sure, there are other women's stories and other experiences in women's lives.

But I'm standing up for romance. I'm standing up for love.

And I'm standing with some of the best writers in Australia. Stretching myself, learning and laughing.

One weekend a year!

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