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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Elizabeth: After the Inciting Incident

Stories Yet To Be WrittenHas it only been a week?  Feels like a life-time has flashed by since my last Wednesday post.

Nancy’s Writing is our Superpower post on Monday, with her message about using story to help people make sense of the world around them got me looking at real life from a storytelling perspective, which led me to thoughts about how people react to conflict.

If the events of the past few weeks were something we were reading in a story, then last Tuesday would have been that inciting incident or initial conflict that blasted our protagonists out of their stable-state existence on Monday and drop kicked them into a whole new world on Wednesday.   Like “innocent, optimistic, naïve Nancy of November 7”, those protagonists can’t go back to the people they were before; they must now figure out what to do in what is their new reality.  They can refuse to change, but they can’t un-change the world around them.

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”  ~ Heraclitus

So, if this were just a story, once the shock and blaming were over, what would our protagonists do next? Continue reading

Kay: Post-Election Correction Reflection

Photo by Mikapon, 2006

Photo by Mikapon, 2006

This blog, as the name says, is about writing—the writing lives of the eight participants. But today, I had a hard time writing because I was depressed about our election results. No doubt many of you are also depressed, so I don’t have to go into the reasons here.

But writing has fixed my depression before, so I opened up my manuscript and set to work. And the first thing I did was delete 2,000 words.

Well, they were probably boring words. But I realized that I wasn’t assessing my work with my best brain, so I decided that before I reduced my poor WIP to no words at all, I better find a way to crawl out of the wallow and come to grips with the new reality. So I went looking for comfort. Continue reading

Jilly: Find Your Tribe

Who’s on your team?

About a year ago I had a discussion with a very kind US-based agent about how to find the best home for my UK-set contemporary romance. Among other things we talked about my writing process and my long-term goals. Several of her questions began: “Do you know anyone who…?” or “Do any of your writing friends…?” I managed to scrape up the occasional “yes,” but mostly the answer was “no.” After a while she said, “I see. You haven’t found your tribe yet.”

She was right.

Some of the other 8 Ladies have been at this writing gig much longer than I have, and their networks are much wider, deeper and stronger than mine, Continue reading

Elizabeth: Pre-NaNoWriMo Recharge

writing_typewriterAs Michille mentioned in her recent post, the annual writing extravaganza known as NaNoWriMo is fast approaching; thirty days of writing 1,667 words along with the existing demands of everyday life.

Sounds fun, right?

As with other goals, a little up-front prep-work can make the difference between a successful finish (however you measure success) and an angst-ridden struggle.  Or something like that.

Part of my pre-work has been getting the basics of my characters, conflict, and setting, nailed down so I have some idea of what I’m trying to write.  An equally important part of my pre-work has been ensuring I’m mentally and physically ready to write. Continue reading

Jilly: Heroine (and Hero) Makeovers

makeoversIf the heroine of the book you’re reading gets a makeover part-way through the story, do you cheer her on or sigh and roll your eyes?

You won’t be surprised to learn that the heroine of my current WIP, a young woman who’s spent her whole life passing as a monk, eventually gets found out. Shortly afterward, Reasons require her to dress and act like a lady for the first time ever. In different circumstances she’d have enjoyed it, but the stakes are high and she’s way out of her comfort zone, so she finds the experience highly stressful.

I’m having fun torturing her, though, and working on Alexis’s transformation reminded me how much I enjoy a good fictional makeover. Continue reading