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.
A few creative moons ago I read, Without a Hitch, by a romance author called Bettina Hunt. From the start of the book I loved her humour, her relatable characters and her take on romantic comedy. I went onto read one of her other novels; A Tempting Trio, and laughed so much at her hilarious book I nearly fell off my chair. Since then I have become a bit of a Bettina Hunt author superfan. She still hasn’t managed to shake me off – lol.
In real life she’s one of the funniest people I know and always makes me smile. Now that her fabulous new book, High Heels on the Beach, is out I have persuaded her to come on my blog.
I thought it would be fun to do an author interview so you can all find out more about Bettina Hunt.
Please welcome one of my favourite romantic comedy & women’s fiction authors, Bettina Hunt.
Hello, thanks for having me on your blog, it’s such an honour!
Bettina – can you tell us about yourself?
Such a difficult first question, Lucy!
I’m a forty something writer of romcoms and women’s fiction. I have two young boys and I can tell you that homeschooling them during Covid was certainly not an easy thing as one thing I’ve never wanted to be is a teacher, huge respect to those who are!
I used to work in product management however, at one time I was thinking of becoming a lawyer… that attention to detail that I learnt during my law degree has held me in good stead 😉
As a gemini I have so many interests, I can be known to be indecisive but the one thing I knew was that I always wanted to write in some capacity. I started writing a blog about beauty and afternoon tea when I was at home with my eldest boy and then added a Friday Column so that I could share my poetry and short stories. My first book – A Tempting Trio – was originally a short story on my blog.
I’ve published four books and partially written another five. My ultimate dream is to have at least one of my books made into a film. I would also love to be part of a comedy writing team, writing either comedy sketches or a sitcom (i’m not fussy!) Sharon Horgan is one of my favourite writers and she’s written two of my favourite TV Shows – Catastrophe and Motherland. Most recently I’ve become obsessed with the BBC ONE series This Is My House. It’s a brilliant concept, so entertaining and funny.
Just before lockdown I also discovered Schitt’s Creek which is the ultimate heartwarming, feelgood comedy series. With perfectly written characters that evolve beautifully as the series plays out I laughed and cried. It’s the best series ever.
Tell us about your new book?
High Heels on the Beach is a heartwarming contemporary romantic comedy set in both London and the fictional seaside town of Sunny Bay. It tells the story of Becca who’s used to letting her bestie make decisions for her in a twist on the Choose Your Own Story books that they used to read. When her world comes crumbling down, Becca realises she needs to stop relying on others and take control of her own destiny. Her planned voyage of self-discovery is thwarted by the need for her to return to the one place she’s been avoiding, home. In Sunny Bay she’s forced to take on the running of the family’s B&B, bringing her face to face with old flames and adversaries and meeting a host of colourful residents at the B&B. The story follows Becca’s emotional journey and her struggle between the pull of her old corporate life and a new life in Sunny Bay.
Where did the idea for the book come from?
I actually got the idea when I was on holiday in Spain. I was looking around at the people by the pool and wondered how many of them were not looking forward to getting back to their jobs and the idea spiralled from there. I had planned to start writing it during NanoWrimo in November, however I felt compelled to write as soon as I got home and wrote 30,000 words during the Summer Holidays.
When you are not writing books what do you like doing?
Most of this hasn’t been possible since COVID struck but … I love going out for afternoon tea, eating out and enjoying cocktails. I love going on mini breaks. I love the theatre, the west end shows. I love watching comedy shows on TV to lift my spirits. And I LOVE to sing 🙂 just for me mostly although I do lip syncs on Instagram too.
Best piece of writing advice you have ever been given?
You have to turn on the tap to let the water flow AND you can’t edit an empty page.
How long have you been writing books?
I wrote my first full book in 2015 but i’ve always had ideas bouncing around in my head. Still do. Every day in fact. Especially when I’m doing the washing up or in bed, trying to sleep.
What book are you reading at the moment.
I’m reading a romcom (not much of a surprise there!) called The Summer Job by Lizzie Dent. It’s made me laugh out loud so that’s a good sign.
Who are your favourite authors and why?
I love Lucy Vine for making me laugh out loud. Milly Johnson’s books are like a cuddle, warm and funny with fantastic characters. John Grisham for page turning suspense – My favourite book of his was The Runaway Jury. More recently I’ve discovered JP Delaney for thrillers. But honestly I read so many wonderful books that I wish I could give them all a shout out.
9.Favourite social media channel?
Twitter I think – I love how instant it is and I love to talk and chat, connect with people 🙂
Favourite romance film?
How can I choose! I love romantic films and even better if they make me laugh… But if I really, really, had to choose – Okay I have 3 films in mind.
Some Kind of Wonderful made me cry buckets and has some fantastic lines in it. My two favourite romcoms are Sweet Home Alabama and You’ve Got Mail. I could happily watch all three over and over again.
Decision shy Becca is used to her best friend making decisions for her, but after a disastrous 30th birthday, London living Becca realises she needs to stop relying on others and take control of her own destiny.
With her life plans in tatters, she’s forced to return home to the quiet seaside town of Sunny Bay and the family’s B&B, where the bedrooms are covered in chintz and her mother is still serving up culinary delights from the 1970s. Adamant that she’s not staying, Becca embarks on a soul-searching trip to Europe.
She’s barely stepped foot abroad before a family crisis sees her back in Sunny Bay and in charge of the B&B. Coming face to face with old flames and adversaries, Becca’s reminded why she left and is determined to get back to her old life in London.
But when the mysterious Madame DoTell, fortune teller to the stars, insists that home is where the heart is, Becca begins to wonder if she should listen…
If home is where the heart is, where is home?
High Heels on the Beach is a light-hearted and fun packed Summer tale perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella and Lindsey Kelk.
Zoe May is the author of four romantic comedy novels, published by HQ Digital, HarperCollins.
Her debut, Perfect Match, about online dating, was an iBooks bestseller.
Zoe is currently working on her fifth novel, Flying Solo, which she is self-publishing this summer.
So I am going to hand over to Zoe May *squeal*
Hi, here are five things I believe your female character needs to have.
I’ve read a few rom coms recently where the main character is practically Mother Theresa and it really annoys me! I strongly believe that characters don’t need to be perfect in order to appeal to readers. Some of my favourite rom com heroines, like Becky Bloomwood from Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series, are flawed. Becky is completely materialistic, a little shallow, a bit self-involved and pretty misguided, but that’s what makes her interesting and relatable.
None of us are perfect and when I read about an overly nice character in a rom com, it feels like a likeability box ticking exercise by the author. The heroine ends up seeming fake and the execution feels forced. I like writing characters with flaws because I’m flawed and so is everyone. Flawed characters feel more real and as a result, they’re more engaging to write about. Giving your character flaws also gives them an opportunity for growth throughout the book. My debut, Perfect Match, is about a woman who has a very superficial attitude to dating, looking for a rich, handsome, successful man, and the story is about how she changes and grows and realises what’s really important in a partner. Her growth drives the story forward.
Your heroine has to be relatable and fairly likeable (in spite of her flaws), and relatable and likeable people tend to have friends. Including scenes featuring your main character’s friends will show us more about her as a person and will move the story forward as her friends may encourage her to make certain decisions. For example, in my current novel, Flying Solo, my heroine’s best friend supports her decision to embark on a trip to India to win her boyfriend back after he dumps her to jet off on a self-discovery mission.
Your character’s interactions with her friends can provide good opportunities for humour too. I love writing funny dialogue between best mates.
Not too much baggage
While I think main characters should have flaws, I think there are limits to how much baggage heroines should have. Rom coms offer readers escapism. The world is a messed-up place and when we pick up a book with a bright happy cover and a chirpy blurb, we don’t want to be reading about dark themes like death, abuse, rape, violence, war, terrorism or whatever else. We want to be cheered up, not depressed! I steer clear of anything too dark. My heroines tend to have had pretty decent lives. It may not be totally realistic as terrible things do happen to lovely people in real life, but I think it’s best to keep that kind of thing off the page when it comes to rom com.
A good heart
I’ve mentioned that I think main characters need to have flaws in order to feel human and relatable, but that being said, in the genre of rom com, your main character definitely needs to have a good heart. She may be misguided at times, she may make mistakes and screw things up, but ultimately, she must be a decent person. Rom coms are meant to be uplifting and stories about bitchy girls tend not to be. If you want to write about an antagonist, write a thriller!
Your main character has to be funny. Her thought processes, the situations she gets herself into, her dialogue with people – she needs to be entertaining. She is the epicentre of the story so if she is not amusing, the whole book will suffer. We read rom coms partly for the “com” element after all, so she has to be humorous!
Here is the guest post from Rachel. I love this post because Rachel gives good practical advice.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that second books are difficult beasts. There is a lot of expectation, particularly if your first has done well, there is usually a deadline and often a lot of people’s opinions to take into account.
All in all it’s very different to writing your first – which in general you are often writing completely for yourself.
I spent the best part of three years on my first book. I wrote my second in eleven months. In that time I re-wrote the whole thing twice and went through two big structural edits; one with my agent and one with my editor. It was eye-opening to say the least and here are a few things I learned:-
1. Trust your gut
As I said, there will probably be a lot more people involved in this book. With your first will mostly have been all alone, or at most being buoyed along by friends or a writing group. I wrote my debut The Many Colours of Us by myself in my free time, while working full-time and running a business. I didn’t take it very seriously until it was almost finished. In truth I never really believed it would be finished until it got there.
Book 2 was very different. I had a lot of people around me offering support and advice – my publisher, my editor, my agent. On the plus side this was great because when I got stuck I had people to bounce ideas off, people to suggest different themes that I could explore, people to help me develop characters. On the negative side…I had a lot of people around me offering support and advice!! Ever heard the phrase ‘too many cooks spoil the broth,’?
If you don’t trust your gut with your second novel there’s a chance this might happen. I got to a point where my agent, myself and my editor all had a different set of ideas about where the book should go. In the end I had to back away, spend some time alone with my characters – and this is what led to the first major rewrite.
Your editor and agent want your book to do well, they want to help you produce the best work you possibly can. But at the end of the day you know your characters, you know how they would behave – take all the advice you’ve been given but ultimately trust your characters and yourself.
2. Plan, plan, plan
Confession. I didn’t plan my first book at all. I just sat down and wrote and waited to see what would happen. This is part of the reason it took three years.
Now I know planning doesn’t work for everyone, but I realised that if I had to write a book in a year I needed to know exactly where I was going. I split the book into three acts and I worked out exactly what would happen in each act – beginning, middle and end. This helped me write a specific number of words per week that I would need to reach my goal. I can’t plan chapter by chapter like some people do, but I really found this method helped me have a clearer path to my end goal.
3. Get a betareader
Betareaders are kind people who will read and comment honestly on your work. There will come a point in your drafting and editing when you, your agent and your editor will all be a little bit too close to the book to get perspective. This is where a betareader is invaluable. I was lucky enough to have three wonderful readers who all read different drafts and all helped immeasurably (you guys know who you are!).
I know it’s a scary prospect letting other people read your book but remember, by this point you’ve got a book out in the world and lots of people are reading it. Take a deep breath and give it a go – I have never regretted asking a betareader to help out.
4. Read, read, read
This one is self-explanatory. Keep reading – read in your genre, around your genre, outside of your genre. Read fiction and non-fiction, read the news, read everything. You never know where inspiration might come from. I tend to read in my own genre while I’m sitting on an idea and during the first draft and then when it comes to second drafts and subsequent edits I read outside of my genre (mostly in case I accidentally plagiarise, but also for a break).
5. Keep being you!
You are completely unique, your narrative voice, your characters, the way you choose to tell a story.
Write the story you want to tell. Your agent and editor will help you tell that story in the best possible way so that it can (hopefully!) be commercially successful – but ultimately this is all you.
While working with my editor on the last edit of my second book we came across an idea we didn’t agree on. Eventually (after a sleepless night) I broached the subject of not being happy with this edit. When I explained why to my editor she was on my side and helped me work the book in a different way.
So before you start work on an edit you are not 100% comfortable with remember: it’s your name on the cover.
Thank you Rachel.
If you are about to start writing your second, I wish you well, my friend.