Writing Romance: 3 Simple Tips that Actually Work
A former co-worker used to have a scrap of paper taped to her cubicle wall: “Begin, the rest is easy.” A confirmed procrastinator, that fortune cookie note resonated with me back in 2008. I took several writing classes online, filled journals with ideas, and finally began the process of writing for publication.
There are as many writing tips out there as there are writers, like these, these, and even this snowflake model. Here are three tried and true writing tips that have worked to get my procrastinating, mother of two small boys, business-owing, undisciplined self published.
Reconsider the Outline
Yes, the dreaded outline is the first tip. If you’ve done a modicum of research on professional writing, you’ve heard of the importance of creating the outline. Before you write one creative word, outlining helps you plan the course of your novel. And, it feels so professional to get the outline done.
But, outlines are so boring, right? The secret is that you don’t have to write your high school outline here. This isn’t a test; this is a document just for you. So, put “she falls in love, blah, blah” in for item number four if it suits you.
Break up your action into three comedic acts or 452 character beats. Write in outline form or tack index cards to the wall. Whatever you do, the key is to organize your story in a way that works for you. During the first draft, outlining keeps you on track.
Embrace the Shitty First Draft
Now that you’ve got an outline, start writing. But, that’s so easily said. As writers, we crave perfection. And, when our writing isn’t good enough, warning bells go off in our heads. “That sentence could use better structure.” “Why am I starting every sentence with ‘she?’” We tend to hate 75% of everything we first write.
And that’s normal. It’s ok. The brilliant Anne Lamott termed the phrase “shitty first draft,” and when I start writing a novel, that shitty first draft is my best friend. The idea is to get the story written. No one cares how poor your writing style appears. Get the plot and character actions on paper.
The shitty first draft kills writers’ block. There have been plenty of times when I’ve sat with pen and paper only to start writing “I have no idea what Layla thinks. She’s supposed to do xyz. How do I get her there and what’s her motivation?” With those questions and with that set-up—plus I know what she’s supposed to do because I outlined it!—I’m able to get through a chapter.
Be Ruthless with Revisions
As mentioned, I write the first draft of my romance novels with pen and paper. I may be old-fashioned, or just plain old and set in my ways. But, one good reason I keep doing this is that I’m forced to write a second draft when I finally type the story into my laptop.
When you’ve written a shitty first draft, major revisions are sometimes necessary to get the work presentable for the review of writing partners. And, comments from writing partners are critical, sometimes pointing out implausible responses or plot twists that I hadn’t noticed.
After getting comments and letting the second draft sit for a while, make another revision of the novel. Be ruthless with your edits. You may think it’s cute that your main character goes fishing alone in chapter three, but does that bit add anything to the story? Is every scene pushing the plot and character arc forward? If the answer is no, you’ve got to cut or rewrite.
Then, revise again. And, when you’re finally sick of looking at your story, send it to a professional editor for a final line edit.
Reconsider the outline. Embrace the shitty first draft. And, be ruthless with revision. These three steps have been mentioned repeatedly in different forms by many writers. There’s a reason for that. They are crucial to successful writing… at least they are for me. This is what I do, what works for me.
Bonus tip: What also works for me, since I have no time, is outsourcing whenever I can. I use a virtual assistant to free up my time for writing. At first this expenditure seemed silly. After all, I can do these things myself. But, once I realized that I’m buying myself time, not just the tasks, I happily forked over the money!
You have to figure out what works for you. In any case, if you’re thinking about writing the next Hunger Games or 50 Shades of Gray (hey, it sold!), the most important tip anyone can give you is to BEGIN.
About the Author
Still amazed to be an adult, Nicole Pouchet co-owns a marketing agency and writes paranormal romance novels. She has managed to center her life around raising her two small sons and being true to her family, and is happiest near the water. She lives in Leesburg, Virginia with her husband and two small sons.
Nicole’s paranormal romance series, Elemental Myths, began with Ceiba’s Grace, A Paranormal Romance Novella, published in December 2013. Book one of the series, Layla’s Gale, A Paranormal Romance, will be released on April 1, 2014. Publishers Weekly said Nicole Pouchet “provides an intriguing blend of the earthly and supernatural worlds with emotional telepathy, reincarnation, superhero-like powers, and explosive carnal energy.”
Nicole is giving away a free copy of Layla’s Gale. Enter the contest on Facebook.
Find the Elemental Myths series on Amazon!
Purchase Layla’s Gale: http://amzn.to/1mBahPT