Sunday, February 5, 2012

How To Write a Romance Novel

What you put between your pages
stays between your pages. So make it great!

Have you ever picked up a book because the cover was eye catching, you then quickly thumb through the first couple of paragraphs making sure you see "white spaces." Decide to buy the book, get it home, sit down with your cup of coffee or large glass of wine, and begin reading past the first couple of pages only to say to yourself, "How did this book get published?" I have gone as far as to throw the book at the garbage can.

We have all done that. What an utter disappointment though. I mean really, at this point are you going to get up from the cozy position you have yourself in and go back to the store for another You’re going to walk over and take one of the books you love off your bookshelf and reread it. It's sad though that a book can seem so promising at first and then...nothing. I always ask myself, “What happened? Where did the writing go?"

We never get a second chance to make a first impression. Do not let your beloved book be one of those disappointments. The reader will remember your name and believe me; she will hop on that phone and tell of the complete let down your book was to her. I've done the very same thing myself. And she will do it until it is out of the system, which can mean a lot of people now know your name.

So first and foremost.

Tip 1. Keep Them Hooked and On the Line

Always start a chapter with a "Hook" and end the chapter with a "Hook". For Every Chapter. Not just the first chapter to get the reader to pick it up and throw it in her cart. Come on now ladies. You do not mess with a woman and her eagerly awaiting romance read.

The "Hook". A hook is something that grabs a reader and will not allow the reader to turn away from it. They have to know what is going to happen next. Start your first chapter in the middle of the action scene of something that is taking place. Example: Historical romance writer might want to start the first chapter as a carriage is rolling over or running off the road, which I have done in one of my own books. But think about that. What a way to grab your reader's attention. Do keep in mind though, it must carry on throughout your book and not just stop at the end of chapter 1.

Tip 2. Show and Don't Tell

See, Hear, Touch, Smell, and Feel. Please do not narrate your entire book to us. I want to hear your characters have a turn to speak. Show us by communicating through all of the senses. What is the character in the carriage hearing? Can she smell the fresh scent of mud and torn grass? Can she see through a window or has the door flung open and she is able to see a river at the bottom of a hill they are headed towards. Does she shout anything or pray? Don't tell me what their world is like in every moment they are living it.

Tip 3. No Ones Perfect And Neither Are Your Characters...I Hope.

Readers connect with characters that have bad habits, odd and funny corks goofy catch phrases they say all the time. Make them human. A funny way a character stands or a gambling habit. Perhaps your character fidgets when nervous or bites their nails. OK, that one maybe grouse but a lot of people do it. Find or give something for each character that people may see themselves in and therefore can relate to right away.

Tip 4. "Huh. You talking to me?"

Turn off the spell checker! No one talks in formal or proper grammar when speaking to a friend or relative, so neither should your characters. Slang, broken speech, and catch phrases are all apart of how we communicate all while adding our own personal voice to what we say.

Read your dialogue out loud or better yet have someone else read it to you out loud. I personally always have my daughter or sister read mine to me. You will not believe how different it sounds. Catching mistakes or seeing where more needs to be said is so much easier this way.

If your character has an Irish background then tint his dialogue with it, but don't kill it. Heavy slang such as this is very hard to process for a reader. Play with it and have fun. Watch movies that sound as your character needs to sound and take notes while you are watching.

Tip 5. White or Black

White Spaces. A reader will open the cover of your book and immediately decide if the book is worth reading by judging how much white spaces they see on the pages. This tells the reader if you have more dialogue or if your book is filled with one page after another of black ink from you narrating. Review your work and see how much white space you have. If you see more black ink then white space, it is time to go back and add a lot more dialogue.

This is the first thing I look at when I pick up a novel. When someone is telling a story at a party, do you pay more attention when he is acting out the story as he tells it? No one I know wants to listen to someone tell a story that goes on and on with the same monotone voice with not a lick of expression on their face. Would you? Well, that is what it is like for a reader reading as you narrate pages of the story. They will eventually get board and put it down.

There is no need to smother your readers with facts, back story, time lines, or personal thoughts. Let all these things be revealed to your reader through the story. Please no long ten to twenty page prologues. Your reader will wonder what will be left of the story to tell or honestly, when on god's green earth it is going to start.

If the need is there to do a prologue, then at least have some dialogue and action in it for your reader. Not many people enjoy history lessons.

Tip 6. Fact is Fact

Get your facts straight! Any historical romance reader who has been reading for any length of time will know if you are wrong. Do the research for your Historical or Regency romance novels. Time lines, wars of your era, famous buildings mentioned in your novel, how people spoke, clothing worn, house hold items used, and anything you can think of for your novel.

If you take some time and check out Amazon or the Internet you can most certainly find all the information you need for your time period. Books, websites, and blogs are full of information. If not, find an expert on the subject.

Make an outline of all the information you might be using in your novel and then research it on the net or at a library. Honesty, it really does not take that much time.

Tip 7. Location, location, location

Move your characters around. Walks, rides in the country or through the woods, fishing on a pond or a stroll down a London busy street, and move them in and out of different towns. Your novel will grow very tiresome played out in the same room or in the same house but just in different rooms.

Tip 8. Wow

A unique story line is a must for any novel. Wow your readers with unexpected twists and turns throughout your novel.

Perhaps the first time your hero sees your heroine, she is standing at the top of a long staircase. As their eyes meet, she begins to walk towards him down the stairs. In romantic moments like this what if you break the tension by having her slip or worse yet, tumble her way to meet him for the first time down the stairs. Or chicken out and run back up the stairs to her room. She will then later at some point have to face him and whoever else saw what she had done.

Maybe your hero believes she is looking at him, but she isn't, she is staring at the man behind him. So when he goes to approach her to take her hand, she is surprised because she had not even noticed him standing there.

Be creative with all your chapters, scenes, and characters. This is your creation so have fun with it.

Add to the list. What else do you think chapters need to keep your attention? Post your comments please. I would love to hear from you.

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Cary ~ Mizz Romantica