For various reasons, writing has been hard for me this year. I finished my first manuscript early in the year and took a bit of a break before I started planning my second.
I’ve never been a very thorough planner. I’ve had vague outlines before, but I’ve always been a pantster at heart. For this second story I set about finding a good way to plan, because everything I’d tried before had fallen flat. My main aim: to write faster.
Like every aspiring writer, I’ve read various blog posts and books about writing craft, but nothing really seemed to fit writing romance. Then during my Twitter time, I noticed that several published authors who I read or follow on Twitter kept recommending Gwen Hayes’ book, ‘Romancing the Beat’ – Story Structure for Writing Romance. Or as Gwen calls it ‘Writing Kissing Books‘.
To say that this book is a revelation is an understatement.
I bought the paperback because I like to highlight and write on stuff. I could’ve highlighted the entire book! Her writing style is funny and often irreverent. She’s a successful romance author in her own right, as well as an editor to others. So, as far as I’m concerned, she’s the person I wanted to be ‘talking’ to.
An extract from the blurb captures the uniqueness of writing romance: “Writing a well-structured romance isn’t the same as writing any other genre—something the popular novel and screenwriting guides don’t address. The romance arc is made up of its own story beats, and the external plot and theme need to be braided to the romance arc—not the other way around.”
A lightbulb went off in my head and suddenly everything made sense. Gwen then takes you through twenty romance beats, split into four easy to follow sections. I duly bought some index cards in four different colours – they’re so pretty – and planned my second book.
Below is an example of the first phase of beats:
It still wasn’t easy to plan my writing because I struggle to see the story very clearly until I’m writing it. I’m pretty sure that’s something that I’ve just got to accept about myself. However, I have now got a SOLID outline and I know where my MCs need to be emotionally at each beat in the story.
So as I’m writing, I can change and fiddle with the setting or characters in a scene without altering too much because I’m following the overall plan. It’s genius, really.
I thought that planning meant I couldn’t be flexible and go off on an interesting tangent if I wanted to, but actually, it gives me the freedom to do that, knowing that I’m not going to get lost.
I can’t recommend this book enough if you’re trying to write kissing books.