Do you recall reading the fairy tale, The Frog Prince, when you were younger?
It is a fairy tale by the Brother Grimm. The tale focuses on a princess who kisses a frog and to her amazement it turns into a handsome prince.
Well, hold that thought there for a bit.
Being a writer is not easy. I think I say this on every blog post. One aspect which proves to be a constant challenge is coming up with new ideas for books or stories.
If only Amazon sold ‘New Idea’ tree seeds which we could order, plant and grow. Then we could happily harvest our new ideas for our creative projects and never throw a hissy fit again about ‘getting nothing’ from our weary writer brains.
As new ideas for future novels sadly don’t grow on trees we have to come up with them…ourselves. Ugh.
This is tricky because coming up with new ideas for future best selling books can take weeks, months, years and even decades. In addition not all new ideas ping into our writer brains fully formed. A lot of the time it’s like putting flat packed furniture together and not all new ideas come with assembly instructions. You have to spend hours, days, weeks etc, carefully putting them all together to see if they will work. Even then there is no guarantee the idea will be a success.
Also, a lot of ideas fail for a number of reasons. They are slippery little things. some don’t work, some make you cringe, some annoy you after the first three chapters and some make you lose interest in them after 30,000 words.
To be successful you have to keep coming up with ideas and be able to accept that some won’t work.
So, let’s return to the Frog Prince fairytale. A funny maxim has been constructed on the tale of the princess kissing the frog.
‘Before you meet the handsome prince, you have to kiss a lot of frogs.’
I have done a bit of research and the maxim originated from a needlepoint pattern advertising campaign in the 70s.
In my analogy for this post:
The princess is the writer and she has to kiss a lot of frogs (new ideas) before she meets her handsome prince (the idea which forms the writer’s next book). Ha ha ha!
Coming up with ideas is very similar to kissing wet, slippery frogs 🐸
I do love reading a good meet cute in a romance novel.
A meet cute is when the two main characters encounter each other for the first time and this will eventually lead to a romantic bond forming.
For us romance book lovers it is the moment we all look forward to when starting a book and it is where we will give praise to authors who make that meet cute both memorable and unique.
Writing an engaging meet cute can be tricky. Nothing is ever easy with writing. As I am about to write a meet cute here are some things I am going to consider.
The meet cute can be romantic, funny, awkward, disastrous, sexy, unique, explosive or heartwarming.
The meet cute results in several scenarios: love at first sight, enemies at first sight (one of my personal favourites), one sided attraction or awkward love.
It’s best not to get attached to the word, ‘cute’. The best ‘meet cutes’ I have read in romance books are not cute, they are awkward, embarrassing, funny, chaotic and packed full of miscommunication.
Remember the meet cute sets up the story and relays a lot of information to the reader about the characters. Think about how your characters respond to the meet cute.
Conflict is your best friend when writing a meet cute. The best meet cutes focus on misunderstandings and miscommunication. They are also about two characters with the same goal but for different reasons. Conflict is a must have.
Always add a generous spoonful of banter.
Connect your invisible thread to these two characters. This is important. Once their worlds have collided we (the readers) need to know there is a good chance these two are going to meet again. What is the connection between these two going forward? Do they work together? Mix in the same social circles or have recently joined the same sports team?
The chemistry between these two characters in the meet cute has to be insanely high. Even if they dislike or annoy each other when these two characters meet there must be a reaction. This is what will keep us readers turning the page. We will be eagerly awaiting their next meeting.
The meet cute is the foundation for the plot so it needs to be as impactful as possible.
Remember it is not only a meet cute for the characters but its also a meet cute for your romance readers.
Good luck and please let me know your favourite book meet cutes.. ❤️
Here’s a secret about writing first drafts which I have discovered – you can fill your first draft with plot holes, a saggy storyline, typos, bad grammar and dull chapters and then…HAND it OVER to the future you.
That’s right – you can grab your first draft with all its writing issues and hand it over to the future you. No need to worry about what you have produced.
All you do is you shove your first draft in an electronic folder or a phsyical drawer and walk away. There’s no need to burn it, bury it in the back garden or hide it away under your bed.
The future you will one day come up with a way of fixing that major plot hole. They will know what to do with those troublesome characters and they will come up with a much better ending. The future you will do big things with that first draft you have been struggling with and what’s great is they will thank you for giving them something to work with.
Sometimes we just need to get things down on paper, so that in the future we will have something to mould, sculpt and shape.
We put so much pressure on ourselves to make our stories work right now and if they don’t work today, we quickly shelve them.
We forget that in the future we might be better equipped to tackle our novel writing issues.
As soon as you start delegating crappy first drafts to the future writer version of yourself you will experience a new kind of writer joy. You will feel comforted that the future you will sort out your mess of a story.
This joy you will feel will put a twinkle in your eye and skip in your step. That first draft is not your problem anymore. Let me say that again – it’s not your problem!
Don’t despair if the sight of your first draft novel makes you cry. The future you will be ready and waiting to correct that pile of literary wrongs.
Things can get so bad when you are writing your first draft. Your finger will gravitate towards the ‘delete’ button and everyday you will contemplate starting again with the story. In this situation, I ask you to stop for a moment and consider this:
Your future self will not thank you for giving up like this. They will have nothing to work with.
How do you know your future self won’t do amazing things with this story?
So, here’s what you do.
Finish difficult first draft, add post it note to the front and scribble, ‘Dear Future Me, here’s a little something I made earlier for you, enjoy xxx’
Stick in folder, smile and skip away. The future you will sort that out later. Doesn’t this feel amazing?
Look at the future you as an extra writing resource!
Thinking like this has changed my entire outlook on writing. Sigh.
Hi there, welcome to my little corner of the World Wide Web.
I LOVE reading about writing journeys. They are normally filled with perseverance, bravery, an endless love of words, a lot of daydreaming, blood, sweat and tears.
Reading an author’s writing journey is my go-to for when I am lacking motivation. If you are thinking of writing a book or are in need of some motivation read on.
Here is my journey.
2013. I turned 40 and decided I wanted to achieve a life long ambition. Since a small child I’d wanted to be an author. However life had got in the way. By the time I was 40 I was reading more books than I was having hot dinners and I wanted to write my own. A few things gave me cause for concern: I didn’t come from a journalism background, I didn’t have a degree or masters in Creative Writing (I had a degree in something unrelated), I didn’t know any writers or authors and I did not have a clue what I wanted to write about. Feeling overwhelmed, I put my ambition to the back of my mind and tried to forget about it.
2014. For Christmas 2013 my husband bought me a 12 week creative writing course at my local university. He was not going to watch me give up on a dream. It was part time and one evening a week. With a belly full of butterflies, a brand new pencil case and a notebook I went along. The course was great and it proved to me I could write something. The thought of writing a book felt like a huge mountain so I decided to master the art of writing regularly. At one of the sessions the tutor had recommended setting up a blog. A week later I would creep upstairs on a wet Sunday afternoon and set up THIS blog.
3. August 2015. I had been blogging for a year and had actually come to enjoy writing what I called my list posts. I tried to make them funny. They were mainly lists based on being a stressed out mother and a newbie writer. To my surprise I was nominated for the ‘Funniest Blog’ Award at the Annual Bloggers Bash Awards 2015. It was voted for by the online community. To my absolute SHOCK and AMAZEMENT – I won. Dark pic of me below holding up my winners t-shirt.
4. 2016. Once I’d mastered the art of list posts I decided to write something. My blog series – The Diary of Roxy Collins was born. Each week I would write a fictional extract from her diary. Roxy was like Bridget Jones but older with three failed relationships behind her, three children to raise by herself, a lot of heartbreak and the most adorable landlord ever – Brian. Once I’d stuck Roxy on my blog I decided to upload her onto Wattpad. At that time I knew nothing about Wattpad. I hoped it would reach a few readers. This was how the first few weeks went on Wattpad. I had 10 followers and 4 of them had liked my story. I was so proud of myself.
Six months later and Roxy’s diary had been included as part of a featured Romance Author campaign. She gained me 70k followers on Wattpad, 270k reads and gave me so much validation. I even went and turned her into a podcast. This was recorded in my daughter’s shoe cupboard with a microphone and a gin & tonic on a Friday evening.
5. 2017-2019. I decided to start writing my first book. It was based on an idea which had been bubbling away at the back of my mind for some time. My husband had run the London Marathon to celebrate 10 years being cancer free. As he did his training he started carrying round with him a little red notebook to record his training schedule, leaving us all instructions on the fridge and creating wall planners to get us all organised. This sparked the idea for my novel – Instructions For Falling in Love Again.
6. June 2019. After a LOT of agent rejections (40+) I decided to self publish Instructions. Self publishing was also a lot harder than I thought. My goodness I learnt a lot about launching a book, self promotion, social media, proofreading, reviews and being an author. It was a steep learning curve for me and my lovely non writer friends who gave up a birthday weekend to proofread my book. My two non writer reader friends showed real promise at proofreading 🤣 Big shout out to Sue whose birthday it was. The book launched and I was so proud of myself.
Writing a novel proved harder than I thought. During those 2 years I shoved it in the drawer a LOT and wrote other stories. I also kept begging my non-writer friends who read romance books to read it and give me feedback. I have very honest non-writer friends 🤣 and their feedback was interesting – but it was what I needed. They didn’t hold back and I remember one friend titling her feedback email to me (third revision of book) with – WHAT HAVE YOU DONE??? Sigh! But looking back I think the feedback and gaps in writing it plus the constant revisions really helped it to become a book.
7. 2019 – 2022. These were my book blogging and bookstagram years. I experienced a LOT of rejections on two books (40+ on each book) during this time. They were rejections but I got a good number of full requests for the full novels so I felt like I was improving. That’s the weird thing about rejections for books – there are different levels of rejections.
Book blogging became a distraction. It also was really valuable as it forced me to read a lot of books and review them. This really helped my writing. I started to see what makes a good read, what makes a romance novel successful and how authors structure their books. In hindsight this period in my writing life was very important and despite all the rejections – this was when I started to grow in terms of writing ability.
I also carved out a space for me and my writing in my house. Books become things which would make me smile even when I was being deluged with rejection emails. They kept me going in the bleakest of rejection hours. It would have been so easy to give up during these years, but I carried on. Each time I felt like quitting I would look up at them and say to myself, ‘that author never gave up!’
8. 2021 – 2022. I got to work with two literary agents on two different books. One offered me representation and I was over the moon. It was a dream come true. Sadly my book did not sell on submission but the experience was so valuable. My agent and I parted ways amicably and I was very grateful for her commercial knowledge, wisdom and approach to critiquing a draft novel.
9. 2023. I submitted a manuscript to Bloodhound Books and prayed to my bookshelves. Bloodhound Books had published a few of my favourite romcom authors so I knew they were a great publisher.
10. 2023. The best news ever arrived! My new novel is due out in September 2023 and you are going to LOVE it!
The moral of this story / journey is – never give up!
If you are a romance author and interested posting your own writing journey on my blog let me know. Get in contact with me by leaving a message on my blog, via DM on Twitter or Instagram.
Naming fictional characters is one of those writing activities a non-writer might view as...simple to do. *Sigh* They probably think we pluck a random name out of thin air, sit down to write and bring that newly named fictional person to life. If only naming a fictional character was that simple.
Naming a character can cause the writer all sorts of havoc:
The amount of time you will spend thinking about the names of characters will shock you. Some of us can take weeks, even months!
If you struggled naming children, pets or toys – you will find choosing names for characters to be much the same; guaranteed huffing, puffing and hours of googling the hell out of names.
Accept that no matter how much name research you do – you will end up frantically texting a writing friend late at night with, ‘what do I name them?’
Loved ones may panic or get excited when you are caught browsing baby naming sites.
It is guaranteed that once you name your character their name will start appearing in real life.
Accept that you will come up with some awful and jarring names which sadly will become permanent fixtures of your brain.
Your characters will change throughout the drafting process and it might be that they grow out of their name.
The name you have chosen for your character might start to annoy the hell out of you. This can be tough but I have found your story will start to tank once you start grimacing at typing your character’s name.
Your character’s name stays with you. Once you give them a name you will struggle to use it for anything else; pets or children etc.
Every time you use your character’s name – bingo – they appear in your mind. Also linked to this is your general view of the piece of work they featured in. I have found that the names of characters from my bad / ‘pile of literary wrongs’ stories always haunt me the most.
During the naming process (which can go on for some time) you will find new appreciation for movie credits! They are great for getting your creative name juices flowing.
If your character has children you are also in for a challenging time as naming the offspring of characters will cause more stress.
You might find yourself wide awake a 3am trying to figure out what name to not only your main character but also…their love interest. This will open up a whole new world of name pain.
Here are some things to consider when naming characters:
Have a few reserve names up your writer sleeve. It sounds like extra work but believe me when I say disliking a character’s name during the drafting process can be painful and in my experience it can bring on Writer’s Block. When you have a character with a name you loathe and a story with more crater sized plot holes than the moon it can be tough to turn to write.
Changing a character’s name mid-drafting canreenergise youand your story. I have done this and it does work.
Start with the parents. Think about your character’s parents. Why? They name your character, not you. When I realised this….a little bit of my character naming excitement died. I know this is tough, handing over naming responsibility to other fictional folk, but it’s the most realistic approach. So, after profiling fictional Mum and Dad give some thought to what names were popular at the time when your character was born? Think about their nationality, culture, setting and the time period. Play the role of the parent and think about what would influence their choice.
Nicknames. These are useful as they can reflect how the family and friends of a character perceive them. Useful for characterisation. Plus remember that parents rarely use their children’s proper names; I have so many names for mine.
Theme. Link your character’s name to the theme running through your book.
Breathe life into your character’s name! Keep saying it whilst listening to how it sounds. Shout it, scream it and whisper it. This sort of thing brings your character to life. It also helps you to see whether their name is believable.
Be careful when asking for feedback on character names. It’s a bit like discussing child names – everyone has an opinion and no one will like your preferred name. I would just go on gut instinct.
Think of other characters inyour story. Make sure you don’t get carried away and give two characters a similar name. I have done this and readers do notice it.
Second chance romance is one of my favourite romance tropes to read. It’s also the trope I once thought would be relatively easy to write. *Sigh* I was delusional when I first started writing.
A good second chance romance relies on character growth and that’s something which needs to be mastered. You also have to create a tangled past relationship which ended and you have to not only untangle it over the course of the book but you also have to show what’s changed since then.
Here’s a list of the things I always consider when writing a second chance romance novel:
How did they initially connect? Were they childhood sweethearts? Maybe they met at work? The secret here is readers need to see and feel how good that connection was between these two beautiful characters.
This breathtaking romance has to be unforgettable for both readers and the characters.
Why did they split up? What made them walk away from each other? Were they too young? Was it a case of bad timing or did one hurt the other? What broke them?
Readers need to understand what made these characters go blubber into a box of Kleenex, wedge chocolate into their mouth and go for long solitary walks in the rain.
What personal growth have they experienced? What has life taught them in the years they were apart? What did other relationships teach them?
Have they thought about why they have never connected with anyone on the same romantic level as they did with each other?
What made them want to give their relationship another chance? Why can’t they disentangle from each other’s lives? What has made them come together again? Why salvage a broken relationship?
The reader must understand and agree with these decisions. There must also be that old connection and the chemistry.
What stuff have they overcome? Have they resolved the old conflict? Readers need to see how these two characters might have had different priorities that caused their breakup. But now that those priorities have changed, so, maybe there is still a chance for them to work it out. It could also be a case of these two characters making mistakes and generally causing an emotional mess.
The reader needs to believe these two have changed for the better.
I hope you have found that useful ❤️
In other news last week:
I am over the moon and can’t wait to work with Bloodhound Books. This is a dream come true for me.
I used to swear I would never become a plotter. I was so loyal to my pantser roots. Over the years I have written loads of blog posts about how I am a proud and committed pantser.
As a pantser, instead of writing down notes before I start writing I use my first draft as my planning process. Everything comes together in what can only be described as a chaotic first draft. For years the excitement and thrill of not knowing what happens next has warmed my insides. New characters popped up like moles from mole hills and my plots took bizarre twists and turns. Usually in line with my fluctuating hormones. My character’s eye colour would also change every third sentence.
I have written by the seat of my pants and I have had a blast.
However, I have started to groan at the thought of chaos in the first draft. I also don’t like the idea of my second draft being the one where all the pain comes. As a pantser the heavy lifting starts.
All the first draft chaos has started to make me feel exhausted. *Whispers, ‘what has happened to me?’*
I am craving order and detail with my writing. I want to know what happens next and I want to know why and how. I am sick of planting seeds in my garden (my story) and watching them grow into a wild and unruly forest eighty thousand words later.
So, I have a new novel idea and I have found myself writing a DETAILED NOVEL PLAN. The worst part is that I have found myself ENJOYING putting the plan together. My former pantser self is currently screaming, ‘nooooooooooo!’ in my head. Omg I never thought I would utter these words. For noting, I have not been influenced by anyone on becoming a plotter, no one is forcing me and I have not read a book about plotting. This feels natural and organic.
Also, I have been working on the plan for a week now and keep going back to add more things. I have also written notes on my characters. *Whispers – who are you?*
No more internal panic for me. Its a nice feeling to know that all first draft chaos has been banished. My second draft of this novel will be amazing and all the heavy lifting will have been done.
I am sorry to all my fellow thrill seeking pantsers out there. I will still try and support you all but I can’t deny these strong feelings for a detailed excel spreadsheet titled, ‘plan’ any longer.
Has anyone else made the leap from pantser to plotter?
Hello, thanks for dropping by my little corner of the World Wide Web.
One of the things I love about being a writer is how quickly my views on my own work can change over the course of a day. I can be loving what I am writing before lunch and a few hours later I will hate the sight of it. I can wake up thinking my WIP is a pile of literary wrongs and go to bed later that evening hugging my laptop.
I have been thinking about why our feelings about our writing change so frequently and why sometimes we rant and rave about hating what we have created.
How can we hate something we spend so much of our time working on?
Here are some things for you to ponder:
There are always two stories being written – one on paper / the laptop screen and one in our head. The one we read on paper / the laptop screen never matches to the story in our head. The story in our head is to blame. We need to accept whatever we write will never match the story in our head.
Hating our work could be a sign our old friend, fear, has joined us. Fear makes us overthink our work, create false scenarios of reader reactions to our work and feel like the best thing to do would be to crawl away. Fear encourages us to hate our work.
Take a note of when you start hating your work. Always check to see whether your writing mood sours after reading another author’s polished book which will have gone through hundreds of revisions.
Pushing through the hatred can be very rewarding. Fact.
Sometimes ‘hating your work’ is your writer brain over reacting about an issue. Think of your writer brain as someone who is dramatic. When there is a problem they throw up their arms and announce the world is ending. Your writer brain spots an issue and rather than pointing it out to you it hits the alarm bells and gets you to throw a hissy fit which results in you yelling, ‘I hate my draft novel.’ There is an issue with what you have written. It could be small and easily fixable or it might require some work. Take some time away and go back when you are ready to sort out the issue.
Read my last post on learning to live with an imperfect draft.
We all signed up for bouts of hating our work when we decided to become writers. It goes with the territory.
Today I am going to talk about something which I am starting to get my head around.
Note: I’ve not nailed this yet but I am trying. 🤣
So, I am talking about – the ability to coexist with your imperfect draft novel and be at peace with all its flaws. You can go about your daily life and not be plagued or tortured by your draft novel sat there with it’s saggy middle, flat ending and cast of chaotic characters. You can even smile naturally at your imperfect draft novel. There’s no gritting of teeth or sleepless nights. You don’t delete it, quit writing it or quit writing altogether because of it. You accept it needs work and you learn to live with it. For me this is a next level writer mindset.
We get obsessed with trying to make everything about our stories perfect. I am guilty of this. We grit our teeth a lot and make change after change but our draft novel never matches that ‘perfect’ vision in our heads. It’s like someone is dangling a carrot in front of us.
Is there a perfect novel out there? Yes, I have read great books but it’s hard to label them as perfect. Also my idea of perfect might be different to yours.
The trouble with chasing perfection with writing and I am GUILITY of this is that it is super easy to fall into the – ‘this story will never be perfect so I might as well not bother,’ mindset. This results in half finished draft novels and long term writer disappointment. Trust me on this – ha ha! I have been down this road.
I have recently experienced a new kind of writer peace and calmness. It comes from accepting a draft novel has faults and telling myself over time I will work on them. *Gasp* I swear it’s peaceful.
You tell yourself its never going to be perfect but it will be crafted to the best of your abilities. Living with a draft novel which needs work is ok. You have to say this on repeat 🤣
I am learning to say, ‘yes, I am working on a draft novel and it has issues..but I am ok with that. *deep breath and force out a smile*
Here are my top tips for learning to live alongside your imperfect novel:
Bring your flawed novel in from the cold. It wants to be loved and not hated.
Remember stories don’t have to be perfect to be powerful or captivating.
Try sitting next to your draft novel and think light fluffy happy thoughts about it…🤣
Try to get to the end of each revision cycle and then take a break from it.
Keep saying to yourself, ‘there’s no such thing as a perfect novel.’
I am about to enter my summer beach romcom writing era. A fabulous new story is tugging on my winter coat tails. It came to me while I was delving into the frozen fish section of my local supermarket and precauriously balancing on the edge of a giant freezer. I was forced to drop my bargain priced fish fingers and tap the idea into my phone. As a result I never did buy those fish fingers. This idea better be good!
You know I like to keep up with modern trends, well I am a new fan of the term – era. Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus all seem to be entering new music eras so I thought it would be good to have the same in the book genre writing world. I am offically leaving my travel based contemporary romcom era and entering my summer beach romcom era. Please let me know what sort of writing era you are in or what you are about to enter?
It’s time for me to cuddle up under a thick blanket (UK heating cost crisis), sip a steaming cup of tea, with fingerless gloved hands, reach for my laptop, dust away the icicles and write away the January blues by creating a fictional summer Romcom.
Here are some things I love about summer romances:
Grumpy heroes and bubbly heroines who are like walking rays of sunshine.
The level of passion rising with the temperature.
Moonlit walks along beaches.
Writing hot and sexy beach romcoms in winter can result in several emotional highs and lows:
1. Writing about finding romance on a sun drenched, idyllic beach can feel like you are on your own mini break. The bonus here is that you don’t have to dig out your bikini, bathe in fake tan and run the risk of turning salmon pink.
2. Writing about warm summer evenings, sipping delicious cocktails by the sea, paddling in azure blue water and dancing the night away under the stars (without thermal underwear, many layers and a big coat) is very pleasurable. It can certainly make you forget the size of your heating bill, your teenager’s inability to wear a warm coat in all weathers and your cat’s low mood.
3. You also don’t have to go abroad for your summer romcom either. There are some gorgeous beaches around the U.K. complete with idyllic coastal villages, beach facing guest houses, cute boats bobbing in a harbour and seaside town hustle and bustle. My goodness as I sit here and type I can taste delicious ice cream and hear seagulls overhead.
4. When I said writing a summer beach romcom can feel like you are taking a mini break – your trip length will vary. Some of us don’t have the luxury to escape and write for hours. Some of us are distracted by family, pets, delivery people, car problems, loved ones who are incapable of making themselves a cup of tea and social media. This can result in your fictional mini break lasting a good half hour at most. Before you know it you are back to moaning about the heating and shivering in your chair.
5. If you are writing a beach Romcom you will need to brush up on your swimwear clothing trends and think about things like – what type of bikini or speedos would my character wear and what’s in trend? This will inevitably lead you to browsing some swimwear clothing online sites and getting agitated as you compare the array of golden tanned legs with your own which resemble two pints of semi skinned milk and are buried beneath layers of clothing. This will only reinforce the hard truth – summer is still a long way away!
6. There’s a higher chance of you getting annoyed with your cast of romance characters in a beach romcom while writing it in the middle of winter than any other time of year. In view of it being cold, grey, damp and miserable (in the U.K.) you will have zero patience for moaning fictional characters basking in the sun, dipping their painted toes in the sea and feeling tipsy after too many cocktails. At least in a winter based holiday romcom you can shove them in a snow drift if they irritate you but you don’t have that luxury with a beach romcom. This can cause unwanted author / character tension. Before you know it you will end up writing a beach based grizzly thriller.