Jilly: Dunbar’s Number for Writers and Readers

How many authors are on your mental auto-buy checklist? How many are on your keeper shelf? And how long have those authors been at the heart of your reading universe?

I’ve been noodling around with these questions for some time—a couple of years, probably—ever since I first read about Dunbar’s Number. If you’re not familiar with the concept, Wikipedia describes it as a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. Or, to put it crudely: there’s a limit to the number of people your brain has space for.

Dunbar’s Number has been around since the 1990s, but I came across it when I started writing fiction with an eye to publication and realized that meant I’d have to get to grips with social media. If you’d like to know more about the idea in the context of online relationships, click here for a Youtube link to anthropologist Robin Dunbar’s 15-minute Tedx talk: Can The Internet Buy You More Friends?

If you’d prefer the short version, it goes something like this: we humans maintain social relationships at various levels of intimacy, and the number of people we have the capacity to manage at each level is more or less predictable.

  • We have a very inner core of intimate friends and relations, people we would turn to in times of deep emotional stress. Typically there are about five of them.
  • We have a group of best friends, people we know well, confide in, trust, spend time with. That group would likely be about fifteen people, including the inner five.
  • The next closest layer, good friends, would be about fifty people (including the first fifteen);

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Jilly: Writing Flawed Sex and No Sex

The birds are singing, the sap is rising, and we’ve been talking a lot here on the blog about writing great sex scenes.

Kay started the party by sharing her battle to reward her long-suffering hero and heroine with a gold-plated, caviar-coated, champagne-drenched, Lamborghini-driving, high-quality, meaningful one-on-one. Last Saturday Michaeline shared her thoughts on the sex scenes in Charmed and Dangerous, an anthology of short gay fantasy stories, and yesterday she told us about a pair of happy couplings she decided not to write. In between, Nancy gave us five points to ponder about writing sex in the romance genre.

I’d like to drop another suggestion into the mix.

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Jilly: A Very Important Kiss

A Very Important KissDo you agree that in the right circumstances a single kiss could be an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending to the first book of a fantasy paranormal romance series?

No prizes for guessing which particular fantasy paranormal romance series I’m talking about 😉 .

This week, in between birthday and Christmas partying, I’ve been tweaking the first 50 pages of my WIP for entry into the RWA’s Golden Heart contest.

This story is very different from anything I’ve written before, and I want to make sure I don’t trip myself up on the GH deal-breakers.

In addition to assigning an overall score, first-round GH judges are asked to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the following questions:

  • Does the entry contain a central love story?
  • Is the resolution of the romance emotionally satisfying and optimistic?

If three judges answer ‘no’ to either question, the entry is disqualified. Which would be hugely disappointing, to say the least. Continue reading

Jilly: Craft Book Squee – Story Genius

story-geniusHave you had enough politics yet? If the answer is no, please check out yesterday’s excellent post by Michaeline, The Election and the Future of the US Writing Market. Plenty of insightful, positive, actionable food for thought there.

If you’re ready for a break from world affairs, let’s discuss creating quality stories to sustain us through the challenging times ahead 😉 .

Last Sunday in Storyteller v Smooth Writer I talked about judging contest entries and understanding the difference between polished writing and addictive storytelling. I said I’d decided not to take any more classes or buy any more writing books until I’d figured out how to make the storyline of my WIP as powerful as it can be.

Yeah, but no. A couple of days after I put up that post I bought a writing book and I’ve been glued to it ever since. I have not been this excited about a craft book, ever.

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Jilly: Make Me Care

Copyright: chepko / 123RF Stock PhotoHow was your week?

Last Sunday I admitted that I messed up the synopsis for my romantic fantasy WIP by getting so engrossed with the fantasy plot that I forgot to make it clear the story is a romance driven by a fantasy adventure, not a fantasy with occasional romantic interludes.

This week I learned the same lesson all over again.

I’ve been wrestling with one particular scene of my WIP. I’m embarrassed to say how long I’ve spent on it. First I squeezed all the life out of it by solving the big crisis instead of making it worse. Then I compounded the felony by writing (and rejecting) a dozen versions of the H&H wrangling about stuff that needed resolving, but not at that place and time. I bored myself writing it, so I have no doubt it would have been dull as ditchwater to read.

Things improved Continue reading

Jilly: Season of Fruitfulness. Again.

Season of FruitfulnessCan you believe it’s September already? Are you ready to put away your sandals and sunglasses until next year? Do you have a plan for the rest of 2016?

In the UK we already celebrated our last public holiday of the summer. If you’re in the US, you’re enjoying yours right now. Make the most, because when this weekend’s over, it’s time to knuckle down. Even if we don’t have to take in the harvest or stockpile supplies to keep our families alive over the winter, we still have that legacy of needing to to put things to bed before the sun sets on the year.

A year ago I tempted Fate by Continue reading

Jilly: Digging Deeper

Do you have a specialist subject or some arcane body of knowledge? Have you ever seen it used to power a novel? Did the author get it right? Does it affect how you feel about their writing in general?

This morning I’ve been reading the comments on one of my favorite blogs with a mixture of awe and fascination.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a huge fan of Ilona Andrews’ writing, and one of my favorite free weekend treats is to read the latest installment of One Fell Sweep, the third book in their self-published Innkeeper Chronicles (click here to read my thoughts on the second book, Sweep In Peace). The books are posted free as a weekly serial Continue reading