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By Christie Craig and Faye Hughes
Thanks, guys, for having us at your blog, and for helping us to celebrate the launch of our new non-fiction, The Everything Guide to Writing a Romance Novel from Adams Media. We’re sharing a few snippets from the book today, on staying motivated as a writer and on the importance of setting and pacing in your novel.
We hope you enjoy!
Christie and Faye
Because the main entrée of writing automatically comes with a side dish of rejection, it’s important that you work at staying positive. Staying motivated.
This may mean ridding yourself of the negativity demon that lurks within most people. You know that demon, don’t you? It’s the one that whispers in your ear that you’re wasting your time writing. Well, it’s time to send that demon packing!
Start the exorcism of pessimistic thinking by changing all the negative thoughts that imply you can’t do something, to ones that say you can accomplish anything. Remove all the can’ts and shouldn’ts from your internal thoughts. To paraphrase and take creative licenses with the old adage: “If you think you can write and believe you’ll sell soon, you are right. If you think you can’t write and will never publish, you are probably also right.”
Start believing in yourself and you might be surprised how other people will believe in you as well.
Tips on Staying Motivated:
· Get Rid of Negative People
While generally, you will be your own worst enemy, there are some people who are just inherently negative—people who make you doubt yourself and question your sanity for even wanting to become a writer. If possible, eliminate these people from your life.
When eliminating a negative person isn’t an option—for example, when the person is a part of your immediate family—explain to them that you need to focus on the positive. Ask for their support.
· Surround Yourself with the Positive
Removing the negative influences from your life will leave you with some room—room for the optimistic influences. Positive people, people who believe in you, can be essential to your outlook and long-term success. This is why a lot of authors find attending writers’ meetings and visiting with other authors to be so helpful. Sometimes, only another writer will truly understand your woes about this career.
· Write It Down
Getting published involves a lot of small steps. Each step is another goal completed. Write down these goals. Make sure your goals include both the larger and the smaller steps. Large, as in finishing a book. Small, as in finishing a scene or polishing a chapter.
· Never Stop Learning
Feed the brain, nourish the soul.
Something amazing happens to your spirit when you are learning. Knowledge offers a sense of empowerment. Feeling empowered, you are able to overcome hurdles, make wiser decisions, and persevere. With the numerous online writing classes and the amazing amount of how-to books available for purchase, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home to learn.
· Dedicated Versus Obsessed
Every writer who made it to the bookshelves will tell you that it took serious dedication to get there—giving up some lunches with the work colleagues, staying home to write while the rest of the family goes to the latest blockbuster movie. Being dedicated to your career goals is a must in the writing business. However, sometimes there’s a fine line between dedication and obsession.
Importance of Setting
You’ve probably heard the old adage that in real estate, location is everything. It applies to romance novels also. From small towns to big cities, from barren, alien landscapes to lush tropical forests—the options for a setting for your book are endless. But it’s how you use the setting that is important in a romance novel.
Remember, it’s not paragraph after paragraph of dry information about your setting that the reader expects in a romance novel. It’s the integration of that setting into the novel. Is your novel set in the tropics? If so, describe the warmth of the sand on the beach beneath the heroine’s bare feet. Explain how the scent of the flowers growing in the garden outside her room reminds her of an event from her childhood—a good memory, perhaps, or a sad memory. Incorporate the setting into your novel and give the details an emotional impact, rather than simply provide a travelogue description.
Using the Five Senses
Evoking the power of the five senses can bring a scene to life in the reader’s mind. After all, romance readers, more so than the readers of any other genre, want to experience the novel as though it were happening to them. They want to pretend they are the characters you’ve written about on the pages of the book. They want to live your story.
To make this happen, always ask yourself the following five questions when writing a scene:
1. What can my POV character hear?
2. What can my POV character see?
3. What can my POV character smell?
4. What can my POV character taste?
5. What can my POV character touch?
While it’s important to know the answers to these questions when you write your scene, you don’t have to include an example from each of the five senses. Just choose the most vivid ones that best describe the scene you’re writing.
Writing a Book They Can’t Put Down
Do you remember the first time you got so swept up in a novel that you stayed up half the night reading it? As a reader, you hope you’ll find that with every book you read. As a writer, you hope yours is the book that readers can’t put down. There are many reasons why a reader finds a book a compelling read—great writing, wonderful characters, unique plot. But pacing, or the speed with which an author tells the story, is why they keep turning the pages.
Pacing plays an important role in creating a saleable romance novel but it’s probably one of the least understood elements of the craft of writing. Basically, pacing is the author’s way of controlling how fast—or slow—a reader reads the book. The author does this by controlling the length of the sentences and paragraphs, the ratio of dialogue to narrative, and the amount of descriptive details offered in a particular scene.
Think of a scene as a song. Just as each song has its own rhythm and tempo, some fast, some slow, so will your scenes. Your choice of words, how short or long you make the sentences and paragraphs, the ratio of dialogue to narrative in your scene—all of these combine to form the pacing or tempo.
For a romance novel to succeed, it will need scenes that take away the reader’s breath (fast pacing) and scenes that make the reader sigh with pleasure (slower pacing). Like most aspects of writing, finding the right balance is critical.
Generally, when you want to speed up pacing, you will use the following techniques:
· Shorter sentences
· More dialogue
· Crisper, sharper nouns and verbs
Conversely, the following techniques result in a slowing pacing:
· Longer sentences
· More narrative
· More descriptive passages
So, how do you strike the right balance? The answer largely depends upon the type of subgenre you’re writing. After all, a lushly sensuous historical romance will usually have a much slower pace than a tightly plotted contemporary romantic suspense. Still, even within the same subgenres, certain scenes and situations call for a specific type of pacing.
Another way to balance your pacing is to vary the sentence structure you use. Instead of writing sentence after sentence that follows the same “subject-verb-object” format, mix it up by trying “predicate-subject” or other variation. This, combined with varying the length of your sentences and types of scenes, should ensure your pacing is well-balanced.
THE EVERYTHING GUIDE TO WRITING A ROMANCE NOVEL is available wherever books are sold. For more information on Christie and Faye’s book, including how you can purchase a copy directly from them (with an addendum of 25 additional pages not included in the book), you can visit their website, www.writewithus.net.
As a special bonus, one lucky commenter will win their very own copy of THE EVERYTHING GUIDE TO WRITING A ROMANCE NOVEL. So join in the discussion and fire away with those questions!