Thanks OAPschat so much for inviting me to the blog. I have met so many people who have had no time to write during a busy working life and would like to write their “book of the heart” when they retire. It’s never too late. The fabulous Mary Wesley had her first book published when she was in her seventies.
I’ve written just short of seventy books and here are some of the things I’ve learned.
First you have to grab the reader on the first page – take her by the throat and don’t let her go until she’s reached the end
You have to give the reader characters that she will care about. A heroine she’d want as a best friend. Not perfect, consider Bridget Jones – chaotic, overweight, desperate… Or the Shopaholic… Readers love characters they can empathise with.
Your basic conflict has to be strong enough to carry the story. It doesn’t have to be complicated, the best conflicts are simple but they are real; a misunderstanding is not a conflict.
You have to dig deep for emotion. Put yourselves in your characters shoes, mine your own experiences. If you find yourself writing “she’d never felt like this before”, ask yourself what in fact she is actually feeling. What you’d be feeling in the same situation
You will need to develop the romance. The reader wants to see your characters falling in love. Twenty chapters of sniping followed by “…but I love you…” won’t cut it. And sexual tension isn’t all about getting naked. I refer you to Pride and Prejudice.
Write realistic dialogue. Which is not to say how people really speak. Leave out the um’s and ah’s, or the “do you want a cup of tea” stuff. Everything anyone says should move the story forward. If your heroine asks the hero if he wants a cup of tea, it had better be a loaded question, with layers of meaning that the reader understands.
You will have to construct a four-dimensional world. Use all the senses. I once read a book by Val McDermid in which she describes the wind on the north Yorkshire moors as “exfoliating”… I don’t know about you, but I could feel that wind
Just before the end you will need a “black moment”; a moment of perceived betrayal, or when the loved one is at death’s door, or when the courage required to take a step into a new life seems beyond reach. When the obstacles to a happy ever after appear insurmountable.
Finally, you must give your reader a satisfying ending
This should be foreshadowed in the beginning. It will involve the heroine’s desire, it will fill in the missing gaps in her life and require her growth as a person. Loving the hero will have given her the courage to fulfil her potential so that even if they didn’t end up together she would have won. Tie up all the loose ends. Leave nothing dangling. Oh, and forget what I said about her not getting the hero. She gets the hero?
It’s that simple and that difficult
I have written more than sixty best-selling romances and, in the course of my twenty-year career, have gathered considerable insight into the process of writing fiction. In my Little Book of Writing Romance, the writer will learn how to:
Grab the reader on the first page
Create characters your reader will care about
Dig deep for emotion — the driving force
Use dialogue to move the story forward
EDITOR: Liz Fielding’s Little Book of Writing Romance, with its straight forward approach to the art of writing fiction, will inspire both the new writer seeking a way in to her story and the experienced writer looking for a jumpstart. I am delighted to announce that Little Book of Writing Romance is being donated as a future raffle prize. Details will appear on the website soon. Many thanks Liz!