Writing A Romance

Towards the start, when we first started writing our blog, we wrote a post on how to structure your novel. This novel plan works perfectly fine for every genre, whether that’s fantasy, crime or erotica, but if you’re writing a romance there are a few other things you might want to add…

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The First Sight

When and where do your love interests meet? Do they talk on this first meeting, or do they just see each other? What are their first impressions of each other? These are all things you’ll need to cover when talking about your soon-to-be couple meeting for the first time. I think one of my favourite examples of this type of scene is in Bridget Jones, when Bridget meets Mark Darcy for the first time. Humour is used well in this scene, through the use of dialogue and Mark’s ridiculous Christmas jumper.

The First Kiss

When do they have their first kiss, and what sort of kiss is it? Are they angry, drunk, was it accidental, or part of a game? The first kiss can help to shape how their relationship forms over the course of the novel, and you can even use it as foreshadowing for their big finale snog, or something like that.

The First Date

This scene is sort of optional, although I imagine it will pop up in your novel. What is their first date? This could be anything, from a romantic dinner to a sports game to a night in. Make it suit the characters, and choose your setting based on how the date is going to go. If you want the date to go wrong, pick a setting that will help enable the bad things to happen. Similarly, if you want this first date to be funny to the reader, pick a scene that will help add to the humour.

The OMG THEY’VE BROKEN UP Moment

This is the moment where it appears all is lost and your reader’s new favourite couple weren’t meant to be. There’s no love there anymore (for at least one of them), and it looks like there will never be love there again. Your protagonist starts to move on with their life, because the conflict that instigated the breakup seems unsolvable.

The Resolution

Would you believe it? They’ve found a way through their problems! This is your big finale, the moment your two lovers realise that they can and will be together. They’ve sorted out the conflict and they’ve declared their love for each other. There’s a commitment between them, whether that’s an engagement, a promise to be monogamous or just a lot of sex. This. Is. It.

 

So there they are, the super important extra scenes you should be including in your romance novel. Happy writing!

 

Writing For Young Children

There’s a common idea amongst many people that writing for children is easy. This isn’t true. In some ways writing for young children can be harder than writing for adults, as things like word choice require a lot more thought. Still, there are always tips to give for all types of writing, so here are ours for writing for young children.

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Decide on a reading age

As children work their way through primary school they very rapidly expand on their reading knowledge. One year they’ll be stuck on simple sentence and the next they’ll be more than happy to use compound sentences. This means you’ll really need to know your target audience before you write. If you’re not 100% sure on what words are best for your audience, buy a literacy teaching exercise book for your age group and have a look at what words are suggested in those.

Make it a challenge

Books should challenge children, as it’s this slight difficulty that helps them to expand their vocabulary. Use a few words in the book that are a little above their reading age but that can still be sounded out. This way they’ll either be able to guess what the word means by the context or they’ll ask a parent or teacher. Don’t make these few extra words too advanced or too frequent though; you don’t want to put them off reading.

Make it aspirational

For children, a lot of their time is spent thinking about what it’s like to be older, whether that’s being year six and sitting on the benches in assembly or year three and being in a different section of the playground. Similarly, your books for six year olds shouldn’t have children of that age as the protagonist. The protagonist should always be a couple of years older so your readers can aspire to be like them.

Think in threes

This is best for books written for really young children, but in theory it works well for all readerships. Think of fairy tales; there are the three little pigs, the three billy goats gruff, the three wishes, everything is in threes. This is because they provide a pattern for the children without dragging the story out too much.

Use repetition

Repetition is a great way to make children’s books interactive. I remember We’re Going on a Bear Hunt was my favourite book as a child because I loved joining in with the repeated bits. Not only does this repetition make the reading fun (and so encouraging children to read more), it also helps children to recognise and learn the words on the page.

 

These seem like pretty simple tips, I know, but follow them and you’ve got the makings of a great children’s story. If you’re ever stuck just think back to when you were younger and take a good look at your favourite book then. What made you love it so much? Chances are, the reason you loved that book will be the reason your readers love yours.

A Short Guide To Dialogue

Every novel requires dialogue, and wouldn’t be as exciting to read without it. Used well, it can bring tension and action to a story, as well as helping to let readers know what different characters are thinking and feeling. Getting it right can be pretty tricky, so here’s a few tips to help you out.

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It’s never perfect

…so don’t try to make it so. People never have a conversation where every question is answered and every word is heard and reacted to; it just doesn’t happen. Often, people will answer a question with another question, or they will complete ignore it and talk about something else. Not doing this and instead making everything perfect is unrealistic and won’t sit well with your readers. I feel that this is especially important when it comes to police interviews. The interviewee will most definitely not answer every question, and will often change the subject to talk about something or someone else. They might even just ask for a drink.

Think of people’s feelings

The undertones of text are just as important, if not more important, than what is being explicitly said. You want your character to let her friend now she loves her. That’s great, we all love a good romantic confession. However, you don’t have to outright say that. Do you really think a girl is going to just stand there and say ‘hey, I love you’ to her best friend? No. It’s much more difficult, and you have to capture that. Instead she’d probably go on about the little things that made her fall in love, and from these we can guess, and so can her friend, what she’s getting at.

People exaggerate

People exaggerate things, so even if your reader knows that the tiger your protagonist fought was just out of its mother’s womb, the protagonist is much more likely to describe it to their friends as the biggest tiger they’ve ever seen. It may seem silly including little things like this in your work, but it’s something that will make your dialogue more realistic and will bring your characters to life. And your exaggerations don’t have to be this wild. It could be something as simple as elaborating on how happy or angry someone was to them.

Don’t overuse punctuation!

See? Seriously, just don’t. The more you use an exclamation mark, the less impact it has when it really matters. And anyway, I doubt your characters really do shout that much, so why make it look like they are? The only punctuation marks that should show up really often are full stops, commas and question marks. Everything else, save for special occasions. Similarly, make sure you use ellipses (…) and hyphens (-) correctly. Use ellipses to show where someone is trailing off at the end of a sentence, and use a hyphen to show that they have been interrupted.

Don’t cram

There’s a lot of information crucial to your story that you want to get across during speech, we get that, but is it realistic that your character would sit and say all of this to someone in one monologue? If not, find another way to get the information across, whether it’s two different people taking it in turns telling bits or just that part of it is written on paper for people to see instead. Make sure you only get the essentials across in the actual dialogue, and tell us the rest in a different way.

 

If you follow these five simple tips, your dialogue could improve massively. The main thing though is to read back through any dialogue you’ve written with a friend. If anything feels unnatural to you, or it sounds forced or unlikely, change it so it feels right. Dialogue can be a very useful tool to a writer if used correctly, so make sure you get it spot on.

A Short Guide to Adjectives

adjective – a word naming an attribute of a noun, such as sweet, red or technical.

 

No story is complete without adjectives to make it stand out. Without them we wouldn’t know what our favourite characters look like or what it’s like to be stood in a fantasy world. For this reason they’re my favourite type of word, so here’s a few pointers on how to use them well.

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The Power of Three

There’s a lot of power in threes, which is why we use them so often. The three little pigs, three musketeers, you get the idea. This works for adjectives just as well as it does for everything else. Things tend to sound better when there are three words together, especially when describing something. Take a look at the following sentences.

Olivia had short, dark, curly hair.

Olivia had short, dark hair.

Which sounds better? Although the first gives more information, the second reads much better. If you think it’s absolutely essential for that third adjective to be there, give it to the readers in another way.

Olivia had short, dark hair that fell in soft curls around her face.

This sounds much better and still has all the information in it. You don’t have to stick religiously to these rules though. If you think three adjectives before the noun sounds best in a particular sentence that go ahead and use it. Generally though, stick to using just one or two.

Use All Five Senses

We use all five of our senses when describing and remembering things in our day to day lives, so why wouldn’t we use them in stories too? The sense we use most often is sight, so it makes sense to use this the most in our work, but remembering to include the others will really improve the quality of your writing. Tell your readers what a room smells like, how food feels in a character’s mouth, what sounds are coming from the tent in the woods. Just in case you’ve forgotten, here are the five senses you can use in your writing:

Taste

Touch

Smell

Sight

Sound

Using all of these rather than just one or two of them will help plant your reader firmly with your antagonist in the world that you have created.

Be Bold

There are so many adjectives out there to choose from, so why is it that everyone uses the same ones? How many times have you read that something is big in a book, or that skin feels like leather? Words like big are used so much that they don’t have a massive effect on us. If you really want to express that something is big then use a different word that’s full of meaning and paints a picture in your readers heads. I mean, if a child is describing an elephant, to them it’s not big, it’s humongous. Using synonyms can really boost your writing and strengthen the world you’ve created.

Adjectives are the most important part of your writing, and if you follow these three tips your writing will really stand out and shine. And if you’re ever unsure about an adjective or want to find a new and interesting one to use, grab a thesaurus and have a look.

5 Good Writing Habits to Get Into

 

For most of you, writing is something you work around your day job, which means sometimes weeks go by when you’re not writing, whether it’s because you’re too tired after a long work day or because you didn’t have the time. Whatever the reason, these long breaks without writing can change the way you write, as well as lowering your chances of finishing your novel. To avoid this, here are 5 good writing habits to get into.

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Schedule your writing

You know what you’ve got on and when, whether that be your job or your daughter’s football practice. Whatever’s going on in your life, create a schedule that includes your writing time, every single day. This could mean getting up half an hour early and writing then, or taking a pen and paper out with you and writing in the car while you wait for Jerry to finish arts club. Whenever it is, you should be fitting a minimum of 20 minutes of writing in at least five days a week.

Do writing exercises

You’ve planned to do half an hour of writing everyday, that’s great, but maybe one day you don’t feel like writing your novel. That’s fine, don’t write it, but don’t use it as an excuse to have a day off either. Instead of working on your big project, do a writing exercise. These can be great for mixing up your writing routine and can also help with writer’s block. In fact, we’d advise doing at least one writing exercise a week just to keep your imagination active and your creativity flowing. There are plenty of books full of writing prompts out there, but if you don’t want to buy one we post a free prompt every Tuesday on this blog.

Find your writing place

Having a specific place where you write can really help boost your efficiency, whether it’s the local Costa or a room in your house. If it’s a space in your house, try decorating it with motivational posters and quotes. It might also be a good idea to make this an internet-free zone to avoid procrastination. Doing all of your writing in this space will eventually lead to your brain associating the space with writing, making you want to write whenever you’re in there.

Disconnect

We’ve already mentioned disconnecting from the internet in your writing space, but there’s much more you can do to boost your productivity. Turn your phone on silent and shut it away in a drawer for your 30 minutes of writing time. Do this with all of your devices, isolating yourself in your room so you have nothing to do but write. If your writing space is near a busy road or noisy school that can be distracting, play some music that you can write easily to. For me this is anything without lyrics, from The Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack to Handel.

Treat yourself

Have you got a favourite flavour of green tea or a favourite snack? Keep these treats in your writing space and only allow yourself to have them whilst you’re writing. However, if possible try to keep these snacks relatively healthy. Sure, put a sneaky Kit Kat in your treat drawer, but limit the unhealthy treats to one or two a week. Chocolate may give you an immediate sugar rush, but eating too much of it will leave you feeling lethargic and demotivated.

 

Do you have any questions about writing your cover letter, writing your synopsis or approaching an agent? Or, come to think of it, do you have any questions about writing or the publishing industry in general? Post them in the comments below or message us privately here, then join us on the 26th February to see them answered.

NB: if you want your question to remain anonymous, please let us know in your message

Life After NaNoWriMo

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There’s only four more days left of NaNoWriMo, which means if you’re on track you only have 6 666 words left to write. It’s exciting now, you’re so close to finishing, so close to having a finished manuscript in your hands. But what next?

 

For the unfinished novel

Commercial adult fiction tends to be around 100 000 words in length, and young adult fiction 80 000 words. This means that if you started your novel fresh at the start of NaNoWriMo you’re now only about half way through it. So what’s your plan for writing the rest of your novel? Are you going to continue writing as if you’re still doing the writing challenge? Or are you going to have a month off before writing the rest? Either way, having a plan of some sort or a daily target will help you to achieve your goal.

 

For the finished manuscript

Well done! Finishing NaNoWriMo means you’ve now finished your novel. You should be feeling very proud of yourself, and perhaps a little exhausted too. There are so many routes you can go down now. First though, have a month off. Just leave your manuscript for a month. Don’t touch it, try not to even think about it, because when you go back to it you’ll want a clear head.

With the New Year you may want to edit your work. This means going through it and changing everything you don’t like, checking it over until you’ve got a product you’re happy with. If you’re not quite sure what to look for, that’s fine. We’ll be posting a whole month of editing tips in January for you to follow.

Maybe you don’t want to edit straight away. You might have a sequel planned that you just can’t wait to get writing, or perhaps you’d just really like half a year away from the novel that has consumed your November. Either way, do whatever feels best for you.

 

For your writing

NaNoWriMo can be really useful for getting into a routine with your writing. If the routine you found suits you, stick to it. Keep on writing every day, whether it’s your next novel or a writing exercise. You’ll find that writing is like most things in life – the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it.

If you really struggled keeping up with NaNoWriMo, try making a routine that’s a little less intense. You could aim for half an hour of writing each day, or 1000 words. This way there’s less to do and less pressure, so you’re more likely to stick with it. Make sure you give yourself a day off each week to refresh or to catch up on the days you missed during the week.

 

So that’s it, three of the routes you can go down at the end of NaNoWriMo. You’ve got a few more days to go first, but if you made it this far we’re sure you’ll easily be able to finish the rest. Good luck, and we’ll see you again in December.

Writing Your Ending

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It’s almost the end of NaNoWriMo, which means you’ll soon be writing the end of your novel. Do you know what’s going to happen yet? Or are you just waiting to see what happens when you start writing? There are many different types of endings you can choose from, so here’s a few ideas to get you thinking.

 

The happy ending

Most readers love this type of ending, and it ties up a book perfectly. It tends to work best for stand-alone novels, although can sometimes work for individual novels in a series too. In this sort of ending your protagonist wins. They win the battle at the end, they defeat the antagonist, they win the heart of the love interest. Basically, that thing your readers really want to happen has to happen. Everything should be tied up in a happy little bow so your reader walks away with a smile on their face.

 

The cliff-hanger

The works best for books that are part of a series, as it makes the reader want to read the next part of the story. To write an ending like this, you need to leave your protagonist in some sort of dangerous situation or with some unresolved problem, whether that be that they’re about to go into battle or figuring out they’re pregnant with their ex’s baby. You need to create some sort of problem that doesn’t get solved, a question that doesn’t get answered. Something needs to be left hanging so that the story doesn’t feel finished.

 

The tear jerker

It’ll kill you to write it, but these endings are sometimes the best types of endings. They really have to pull at your reader’s heartstrings. This usually means killing a well-loved character, or giving the protagonist some really bad news. Whatever it is, it needs to be something big enough to make your reader cry. After a whole novel of making your reader love a character, you’ve got to take something away from them. Thomas Hardy is amazing at writing this sort of ending, so if you’re stuck for ideas check out some of his books.

 

The twist

I am a huge fan of twist endings, and they’re really fun to write too. All the way through the novel your reader thinks something is going to happen, so what you’ve got to do at the end is make the opposite happen. Make them think your protagonist is going to marry Mr Smith, then have her leave him for Miss Jones instead. Do something unexpected, something your readers don’t see coming, and you’ll give them a shock they’re bound to love you for.

 

The one-liner

These are more commonly found in short stories, but can work just as well for novels too. I’m not saying end your story with ‘and it was all a dream’, if anything I’m saying don’t do that! Just have a sentence that opens up the possibilities for another story without the promise of one. Your novel can still be tied up nicely with this, it’ll just give something for your reader to think about. For example, at the end of a romance about a woman choosing between two men, you could write Helena put her swollen, shaking hand to her belly and smiled, or something like that. It hints that there’s a baby there and makes the reader think about it, but doesn’t necessarily say there’s another story to come. All it does is show the reader that life for your character continues beyond the words you’ve written.

 

Do you have a favourite type of ending that you just love to read or write? My favourite is in Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. Share yours in the comments section below, but no spoilers!

3 Ways to Make Your Writing Better

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Vary your sentence length

Writing only in long sentences can make a story seem like it’s dragging, and all short sentences makes it seem like it’s constantly stopping and breaking up unnaturally. So mix it up. Change between different sentence lengths, but don’t just vary them randomly with no thought behind it. Use long sentences when describing a person or a scene, followed by a short one to show an action someone is taking. Varying sentence length can also really build tension, and a short sentence in the midst of long ones can provide emphasis. Jon McGregor’s writing is a great example of how to use sentences of various lengths effectively, especially in his novel If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things.

Use dialogue well

Pages upon pages of dialogue can get a bit boring, and not enough dialogue can become really hard to read. Dialogue should be used to show what a character is thinking, to reveal something new to your protagonist or to move the story on. If two characters are having a long conversation that you fell is essential to the story, that’s fine, leave it in, but try to break it up a bit. Break the speech up with descriptions, of the room, the person talking or the sound of the coffee shop behind them. Anything small will help to keep the story going strong.

Make sure to be careful with the dialogue tags you use too. For those of you that are unsure, dialogue tags are the words used to describe how someone says something, for example said or exclaimed. My advice would be to stick to said most of the time. Overusing more descriptive and emotive tags can take away from their meaning, so only use them for emphasis when you really want to get across how your character is feeling. This means only using exclaimed when your character really is exclaiming something.

Break stereotypes

Readers like to see something new, because believe it or not we are actually bored of those age-old stereotypes that have existed for way too many years. We want you as a writer to surprise us and give us something new, and the best way to do that is to give us an unexpected character. So your love interest is a hunky 6ft man with dark hair and a tan, so what? It doesn’t surprise us, it’s the norm in fiction so we don’t think anything of it and don’t particularly relate to it. But what if your love interest was a 5’5” rugby player with acne and a love for agriculture? That’s something new and interesting and makes us want to know more. It also gives you as a writer the opportunity to really develop this new character into something your readers will love. Take The Big Bang Theory for example. Yes, it’s a TV show, but it has the same concept. They’ve made a short nerd the love interest for the pretty girl, and that’s one reason why the show has done so well. It’s a new concept that viewers aren’t used to seeing, so they want to see more.

There’s just 3 of our tips on how to make your writing better. If you’re already doing these things, that’s great! If not, try sneaking them into your NaNoWriMo and see if you think they make a difference to your writing. Or do you disagree with us? Do you think stereotypes make readers feel more at home with your writing? Let us know in the comments below.

Motivating Yourself to Write

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How’s NaNoWriMo going? We’re on day 6 already, which means that by now you should have written 10 000 words. This is the first proper milestone in NaNoWriMo, the first big step, and you know it won’t be the last. If you write 10 000 words every 6 days you’ll soon have 50 000 words, you’ll soon reach your goal. But are you struggling? Are you finding it hard to find time every day to write those words? Motivating yourself to really go for the challenge can be hard, so here’s a few ways to make it easier.

Join writing groups

There are plenty of online writing groups, particularly on Facebook, and joining one can help to motivate you to write. These groups are full of really nice people (some of which are successful, published writers) that support each other and give lots of helpful little tips. They’re two way streets of course. You’ll become a part of a community where everyone helps each other out and that takes time out of your usual schedule, but you’ll soon find that it’s a community you’re lucky to be a part of.

Create a reward system

You like watching TV, like having a cheeky Kit Kat every now and then? Make these rewards for yourself. Tell yourself that for every 500 or 1000 words you write you can have a snack, go for a run, watch TV, anything that motivates you to write those words. Aiming for numerous small goals rather than the big one can prove to be very beneficial to your writing and will make you feel like you’re really achieving something. It won’t be long before you’ve written a novel or two!

Read

For most of us, reading is what inspired us to become writers. I know a lot of people say you shouldn’t read whilst writing because you could find yourself mimicking other authors, but I just find it motivational. So Agatha Christie gets me in the mood for writing, so what? I’m going to read some of her work and then write my own, because that’s what inspires me to finish writing that next chapter. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be the same as hers, it just means I know what inspires me and what makes me write.

Create a schedule

Some people find schedules to be hindering, but for others it can prove to be really useful when finding time to write, especially if you have a busy lifestyle. So you know that you’re free for an hour on a Monday night whilst your daughter is at football. Use that time to write, schedule it in as writing time to make sure you do it. Doing this not only makes sure you get writing done, but it also gets you into a routine that you’ll soon find hard to break.

Have you been doing anything else to motivate yourself to write this November? Let us know in the comments below.

5 Ways to Avoid Procrastination

With NaNoWriMo starting soon it’s time to prepare ourselves for the worst. Before editing a novel, before proofreading and making sure you’ve got everything just how you want it, you’ve got to actually write it. It’s hard work, and that’s why writers often find themselves procrastinating, trying desperately to avoid writing those bits they’re not too keen on. We all do it, it’s easy enough to do, but it could mean your novel takes an extra year or two to write, or even never gets written. Here’s a few things we do that keeps us focussed on writing and less on Facebook.

Plan, plan, plan!

When planning your novel, plan each scene separately and on separate notecards. You could even use a different colour notecard for each character that is focussed on. These scenes don’t have to be whole chapters, in fact they’re better if they’re not. They should just be little scenes like what you’d see in a TV show or film, that only make up a few pages.

Once you’ve written them all (and numbered them), give them a shuffle then randomly pick one. The one you pick is then the scene you write in that session. I love this method, because it mixes things up and keeps you on your toes, as well as making sure you know your novel inside out. It also makes those slightly less interesting scenes a little more fun to write.

Buy interesting stationery

This is for you more old fashioned writers out there. If you like to write your first draft by hand, there are some really fun notebooks out there that have a variety of designs so that each page you write on is different. They’re usually colourful designs too. For me, it makes me write until the bottom of the page so I get the excitement of a new design to write on. My favourite of these notebooks can be found here, the design done by Julia Rothman.

A page design from Julia Rothman's work

A page design from Julia Rothman’s notebook

Write backwards

Think of each scene as if it has a beginning, a middle and an end. Then, when you come to write it, write the end first, then the middle, then the beginning. This is sometimes hard to do, then other times it can be easier. Especially try this if you want to figure out how to start a scene; knowing the ending can really help.

Try a new medium

If you always write on the computer, try writing by hand instead, and vice versa. Or you could always go really old school and try using a quill and ink. It takes longer to write but it’s a lot more fun, and they can be found at all English Heritage sights and most Tourist Information shops. Every now and then I like to get my typewriter out – it looks neat and encourages me to think before writing so as not to make a mistake.

Go someplace nice

You’ve probably heard that a lot of writers go to coffee shops to work on their WIPs, and whilst I prefer complete silence I understand the appeal. The clattering of crockery and chatter of a coffee shop could prove to be the perfect background noise to get your brain in gear. You could try anything though; pubs, restaurants, trains, whatever gets you writing.

So there’s just a few ideas on how to help prevent writers block and procrastination. Let us know if any of these help you get writing, and if you have any others let us know below.