Everyone Needs A Little Help Sometimes

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.

romancing the beat coverLike 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:

gwen c

PDF available on her website just click the image

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.

Happy writing,

KTx

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Musings About Querying Agents…

musings

Just moo-sing about this waiting game

So I finished my contemporary romance. Now I’m in the process of trying to find a literary agent. Cue entering a world of fear and uncertainty. Okay, well, maybe it’s not that bad, but it’s definitely not pleasant.

I’ve done hours of research on the web. How to write a successful query letter; how to write a synopsis; how to feel, what to do, what to expect… Still, nothing can really prepare you for sending your baby out into the world for the first time, and to some of the most demanding, critical readers too.

What the hell am I doing? I must have a masochistic streak a mile wide!

I triple and quadruple check every email before I send it, terrified that it’ll have the wrong name or date on it. Every agent seems to want something slightly different. So each one has a new set of documents, with everything needing tweaking and re-tweaking. Some want attachments, others want everything pasting into the email, some have online forms to fill in.

Nothing is too much to ask, but everything sets me on edge.

My partner, Alex, says that’s a good thing. I want it badly, so I need to use the nerves and stress to motivate me. I am for the most part, but there’s always that moment of weakness when everything seems insurmountable, when I start to question every word I’ve written, every idea I’ve had, along with every arrogant thought that I’ve had that I could actually do this.

A week after I’d submitted a dozen queries, I get two rejections. One appeared to be a generic response, the other said she just wasn’t excited by what I sent her. I thought I’d prepared myself for the rejections, but nothing really does I think. I didn’t cry or breakdown (although I may have been tempted), but I did start to quietly doubt myself.

Instead of carrying on with the planning for my next book, which had been going so well, I went to my default position and picked up my Kindle. I read when I’m stressed or sad. I read when I don’t want to have to think or make decisions. Over the past four or five days I’ve read – A LOT.

Then Thursday evening, I was in the kitchen clearing away the dinner stuff when my phone pinged. It was an email from an agency in New York requesting my full manuscript, she said she was intrigued and wanted to read more. God, I was so excited I could barely get the words out to Alex. I just held the phone up so he could read it, while he had his hands in the sink doing the pots. I let it course through me for a few minutes, all the possibilities, everything I’ve been working for, before I reigned it in.

I know this is only the 2nd step. I know that it could very easily come to nothing. So I have well and truly wrangled that excitement under control. It is stuffed in a box and even though it keeps banging on the lid, I’m not letting it out.

Absolutely not. No way Jose.

Now I just have to wait 6-8 weeks to find out the next step.

It is the ultimate waiting game…

PS – this whole experience has been made so much easier using QueryTracker it’s a free, brilliant way of keeping track of everything to do with the querying process.

Making Notes: Writing Tip ~ No.1

writing pic for blog

To begin with I need to say that I’m no expert. These posts about writing are just me sharing what I’m learning along the way. If they’re helpful, great. If they’re not, ignore them!

A wise bird once told me “Always finish writing for the day with something left to write.”

It pains me to say it, but he (my partner) was right. It can be intimidating coming to your computer not knowing where you’re going with the story or what you’re going to write when you sit down. Do you need to go through your notes again? Re-read what you wrote yesterday? What do you have planned? What’s going on with your characters? If, like me, it’s easy to get put off and your heads spinning with a hundred and one things about your WIP, then maybe this writing tip will help.

It’s not rocket science but it works for me. For five minutes, before I finish writing each day, I type in red font at the end of my current draft, my ideas for the remainder of the scene – if I haven’t finished it – or the following scenes if I have.

 

screenshot for blog notes in red 

The notes are brief, but they give me direction the next time I sit down to write. I have a memory like a sieve, so I have to write down any ideas that I have. By doing this it saves me time when I start to write again.

As you can see the notes are very rough; I literally just type what I’m thinking with no thought to editing or embellishing them. I’m sure they don’t make sense to anyone but me!

Sometimes I have to finish writing abruptly, so I only get to write a sentence – but I ALWAYS write something. It’s one of my most ingrained writing habits now. It really works for me, because I know that when I sit down and open my computer, I’ll know exactly where to start. That is a big obstacle overcome straight away.

Jodi Picoult quote

Thanks for reading and happy writing!

Kx