Dear Auntie Romaniac…details, details, details…

Keyboard

 

Dear Auntie Romaniac,

I’ve got a practical dilemma this week rather than an imaginative one. In the writing basement is the prequel to Little Boxes, which came out last year. It’s called Moondancing, and it’s my first baby, started in the first place as a one-chapter assignment at college, developed over the years for fun and finally licked into some sort of shape and sent to the NWS. It then went back under the bed as, frankly, it was awful.

Now it’s been revamped, edited and generally given a spring clean and it’s been accepted for publishing. The problem is that the dates, ages, character details etc don’t always exactly match and flow into the next part of the story.

Where do I begin? LB is in ebook format only – copies of it and Moondancing are on my Kindle,  but can I do a proper job without printing them both out in full? Research and checking finer details are my two (very) weak spots).

Help!

Celia

Dear Auntie Romaniac… How do I go about changing the genre of a book?

Keyboard

Dear Auntie Romaniac,

I have recently decided to re-write one of my books but change the genre of it. What started as a light hearted romance, has morphed with each edit into a darker, more serious novel. Whilst I have edited and gradually changed things, I feel it needs a complete overhaul to cross that bridge from one genre, to another. But how do I do this? Do I start chapter by chapter, or attack it like a first draft again?

I just don’t know where to begin.

Lucie

Sue: I’m not sure how I’d do this. Maybe, I’d go back to the very beginning of the process and make sure I knew the motives of the characters and the outcome I wanted. Then I’d take it scene by scene, ensuring that each scene fulfilled the motive/outcome criteria and rewrite it darker. It may be some scenes need to come out completely, others need tweaking and others a complete rewrite.

Vanessa: I’ve been through a similar process, Lucie – trying to make a book much darker. The way I tackled it was to write the new scenes it needed in a separate document so I could get a feel for the new direction, then added in scenes and chapters from the old ms to the new draft, rather than the other way around. I treated it like a whole new book.

Catherine: Long answer: I would try not to get too wrapped up in labeling what genre the story is and concentrate on what will make it work. I know our books need to neatly fit into genre categories, but overall a story needs to work sentence by sentence. I would write an elevator pitch first of all, then do as Sue and Vanessa have said and work out what stays and what goes. Keep your elevator pitch pinned up near your desk so you don’t deviate from what the story has set out to be.

Short answer: Gin.

Advice always gratefully received.

SFTW: The Romaniacs as BABIES: Part 3. The Answers

Over the last fortnight, we’ve teased you with our baby photos, but could you tell which Romaniac each baby grew into?

Here are the answers.

This Romaniac baby is ...

This Romaniac baby is …

This Romaniac baby is...

This Romaniac baby is…

Lucie Wheeler. Web: www.luciewheeler.co.uk Twitter: @lucie_wheeler Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/luciewheelerpage

Lucie Wheeler.
Web: http://www.luciewheeler.co.uk
Twitter: @lucie_wheeler
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/luciewheelerpage

The chocolate muncher is...

The chocolate muncher is…

sue

Romaniac Bridesmaid at 2 years old was …

Mum and Romaniac baby...

This Romaniac baby grew up to be…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vanessa! @VvSavage on twitter

Vanessa!
@VvSavage on twitter

Did you guess The Romaniac with the cheesy grin ...

Did you guess The Romaniac with the cheesy grin …

celia baby

Who wore the coolest bonnet? Celia, now drinking gin rather than formula…

Did you guess who?

Did you guess who?

It's Jan! @briggy44 on Twitter Jan Brigden on Facebook

It’s Jan!
@briggy44 on Twitter
Jan Brigden on Facebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Auntie Romaniac… My Hero Needs Help!

Dear Auntie Romaniac,

Keyboard

I’d love some advice on how to make my hero irresistible. What traits make you as a writer and a reader fall in love with heroes and how do you translate that on the page?

Laura.

Lucie: Hi Laura, this is a fab question. For me, both as a writer and a reader, I need my hero to be real. I don’t want him to be this perfect example of what men should be – because that isn’t real, it isn’t identifiable. He needs to have flaws. Not massive, oh my God I can’t believe you would do that flaws, but everyday flaws that us humans have. He needs to have a journey that will make him, in my eyes, be irresistible. There’s nothing more attractive than a man who works hard and makes the most of his life. Life is hard, obstacles are put in our way to test us, so show me that in a hero and show me that he will work hard to overcome these, and I will love him!  I don’t want a ‘perfect’ man – what is that, anyway? Yes, good looks, humour and the like are great qualities to have, but you must get the personality and rawness of his character there, too. As for translating it on the page, I would just say write it real. Don’t sugar coat things or skip over it, tell it how it is and indulge in him. We all love a bit of indulgence 🙂

Jan: I like my hero to be caring, respectful, strong enough to take decisive action when needed yet not too proud to reveal his innermost concerns, even if only to me. Someone with a great sense of humour who can take a joke at his own expense too. Protective, loyal, well-mannered, hardworking, self-assured enough to stand by his beliefs. Someone who would ‘have my back’ in public even if in private he was miffed with me!  I suppose as far as translating these things onto the page goes, I would take each character trait and create a scenario  that showed both sides of it. With ‘caring’ for instance, I’d have him show that side of himself to the heroine or to sub-characters but, equally, show it in the way people speak of him to others; their love or regard for him as a person. Of course, as Lucie says above, a good-looking hero always ups the temperature, but it’s the inner qualities, I believe, that make him more credible and irresistible. Sigh …

Sue: Yes, to all of the above. I like my heroes to be real in the sense that they are not perfect. There needs to be something in his character that challenges the heroine, a side that will appeal to readers, so that the reader is rooting for him too, despite any flaws he may have. I think the trick is to remember that the hero has two love interests in the novel; that of the heroine and that of the reader. 

 

 

Dear Auntie Romaniac – Flashbacks, yes or no?

Dear Auntie Romaniac

Keyboard

I don’t know whether to use flashbacks in my novel or not. My main character has a lot of back story which is relevant to the story I’m telling now.

Do you think I should tell this in flashbacks or should I use a different technique, such as, diary entries or dual time line?  Or is there a better way to deal with a heavy back story?

Sue

Catherine: I think flashbacks are okay to use as long as they don’t jar the storyline, serve a purpose, and keep the reader interested. I’ve just finished Julie Cohen’s Where Love Lies and there is some flashback in there, but it’s serves the plot well and is done smoothly. It’s important to the story as it explores memory and perception amongst other things. I think the rules that I’d have would be not too much, not too soon and not if it doesn’t have a purpose.

 Laura: I agree with Catherine. Not too much and not too soon, unless the character is experiencing physical flashbacks. The past can be revealed through dialogue, which is a form of showing, or through the characters internal voice. I do recall being taught to make the lead into and out of the flashbacks clear to the reader. Having said all that, I like both your ideas, Sue, and can see them working.

Lucie: I will echo what the girls are saying, especially not overusing it. I use a flashback in Fractured Love, but only the once. I think if you use it too much, it will most definitely jar the flow of the story and not achieve the intended purpose. I think there are some stories that need it and some that don’t. You need to look at the story both with it and without and explore whether it is the best means of communication for that part. I do love a good flashback, though, it can add depth and mystery to a story if done properly. Good luck, Sue! 🙂

Dear Auntie Romaniac… Plotting panic

Dear Auntie Romaniac …

Keyboard

I’m just beginning to think about a new book idea. I’ve bought a new notebook and a new pen and I have some vague thoughts in my head. Now, what I usually do is have a beginning and an end in mind, a setting and an idea of my main characters and armed with that, I begin writing and the story forms as I write and as I really get to know the characters. The problem is, I then end up with lots of scenes and chapters that are really just character studies, or nice descriptive bits, which don’t advance the story and my second/third drafts involve major re-writing. I have tried advance planning and plotting and character questionnaires but I struggle until I get into the minds of my characters by writing them. How can I plot and structure my book when I don’t really know the characters yet?

Vanessa
x

Sue: I always plot heavily before I write, but I have found if I can get to know my character really well beforehand, this makes life easier. You could ask your character a number of questions, or give them some moral dilemmas – these don’t necessarily have to be part of the story, but they will help you know your character thoroughly before you start writing. Maybe, write the first draft focussing on the plot and then go back and weave character traits, thoughts, feelings and reactions in afterwards. 

Catherine: I think I’m still learning on this, like you, Vanessa. I use a bullet point story line method. I start out by planning what is going to happen in the novel and I scribbled it all out in a notebook. Each bullet point is about a paragraph of information and that eventually becomes a chapter. I haven’t stuck to it rigidly, but it has given me a framework to go by, so each chapter I know what the purpose of those events are and where it will eventually lead. In my second draft I will add more detail and check the timeline, something I could have done prior if I’d been more organised, and that’s something I will try to do with the next one.

Laura: It’s a great question, Vanessa. I tried detailed planning for the first time for book I’ve recently finished, using the three act structure, brilliantly explained by author, Fiona Harper, at a Romantic Novelists’ Association conference. Here is a great series Fiona wrote for the Pink Heart Society in 2012 about that. I usually start with an idea, then bring in the characters, and sketch out a rough picture in my head of what I’d like to happen. Often parts of the plot don’t come to me until I’m inside the story. Even having planned book 3, I struggled with refining the end. How was it resolved? I talked through it with Catherine – she was my captive audience in my car for five hours – Some might say that’s extreme advice, but I’m only suggesting talking it out as the method, not the kidnapping. It really helps me to talk through the story with trusted friends. However, I do like to get to know my characters well before I start writing. I use enneagrams to determine their personality traits. This was one of the many tips I picked up from the fab Julie Cohen a few years ago. This gives me an instant insight into what motivates my characters, and a foundation on which to build.

Jan: I’m a serious plotter. To touch on what Sue has suggested above, I create and then interview each main character, posing various questions and scenarios. This gives me a great sense of who they really are, how they think, their gut feelings, motivations, private versus public reactions. I then roughly draft out what will happen in each chapter, as in ‘harmony versus tension’ scenes, points of conflict, timelines, etc, making sure I have a good idea of balance and story pace. It probably sounds a bit regimental, Vanessa, but even though I’m methodical in my approach, I do keep an open mind when I’m writing, to allow for any unexpected diversions. That’s the fun and beauty of telling the actual story – you’re never 100% certain where it may lead you. I wish I could come up with a magic solution, but I suppose it really is a case of trying every option, every which way, until it gels for you.

Dear Auntie Romaniac … How Many Drafts Is Enough?

 

Keyboard

Dear Auntie Romaniac …

I get anxious when I read about how other writers have deconstructed and reconstructed their work-in-progress several times. I tend to be a slow first draft writer and tweak as I go along. My inner editor loves to play, and I am compelled to rewrite sections of what I consider to be the first draft, before I’ve reached the end. I aim for my second draft to be the one I send out to my publisher.

IMG_6127

 

What constitutes a draft? Is it a draft only once I’ve written ‘The End’? I also wonder if rewriting it mentally and altering notes, scattered in pads, sheets of paper and on my phone, count as drafts.

Dear Auntie Romaniac – it’s a minefield. Please help me through it.

Thank you.

Laura x

Good morning, Laura!

I’m usually a fairly fast writer, but with very little time to spare at the moment, my normal style (of writing a couple of chapters and then next time revising/editing and so on) has had to change.

Recently, my WIP, with which I was seriously stuck, was given a hefty edit by the marvelous Mandy James, and she gave me so many pointers and hints to improve it, that I’m now bowling along at a cracking speed and trying not to get side tracked by too much in-between editing. 

The final product will probably have had at least six or seven complete edits and overhauls. I’m aiming to finish the first complete draft by the weekend and bounce it back to Mandy. She did the same job on Little Boxes, and her ideas for storyline revamps and tweaks are second to none.

My advice to anyone struggling with numerous drafts is to get a trusted reading buddy or editor. Our very own Jan Brigden is also a super talented typo queen, with a grasp of grammar that most of us can only dream about.

Wish me luck, and the same to all of you out there trying hard to get the words down before life gets in the way,

Celia

Lucie – I really feel your pain, Laura. I, too, have often wondered this exact thing. For me, I think you know when you need to edit. When I wrote my first book, I wrote it chapter by chapter and had it critiqued this way. This was because I was doing a writing course and so my tutor (who was the very lovely, Margaret James) was checking it as I went along. So my first book was slow to complete. And then, because it was my first book, it went through a number of edits; through the NWS, through private critiques and personally editing. It will still probably need another one when my agent sends her edits through to me. And then, if it is ever accepted for publication, no doubt it’ll have another edit with their editor!

However, when writing nowadays, I tend to find that there is less editing. I don’t know if it is because I know how to structure a story now and my writing, generally, has improved, but I tend to blast out a first draft as quick as possible and then begin editing. I try to get as much of the story down in the first draft so that I can concentrate on the edits. I find it easier to get the story down as a whole, keep the flow going, and then worry about fiddling with it after. I try to only read back a scene or two, before I start writing for that day, just to get back into the story, and then continue. If I thought too much about editing previous scenes before going forward, I fear I would be stuck in a rut, two steps back, one step forward.

So, I do think it is a personal thing. Some people edit as they go, some, like me, get the story down, typo’s and all, and then polish the rock into that diamond. 🙂

Vanessa: I usually go for a dirty first draft that’s only around 60-70,000 words. I leave that to brew for a while and then go back for a more polished draft. I then look at structure and pace and plotting, kill some darlings and produce a third draft which is getting close to what I hope is the finished thing! (I say this, but I’m currently on draft four of my wip!) I think how we write and how we edit is going to be different for every writer and no way is the right or wrong way.

Debbie – Oh, Laura, this is a dilemma many will relate to and as someone currently on the fourth re-write of a WIP, I can sympathise.

I can hear myself saying, ‘Just one more draft and it will be complete …’  But one more draft turns into another, and another. Of course not every writer is a perfectionist, but it’s worth remembering that re-writing a novel has the potential to become infinite with rewrites, and remain ultimately unfinished. Only you can break a cycle of rewriting and editing your work in the constant battle for satisfaction. We’re all different, although most writers I know are of the same mould.

I went on an Arvon course last year. Uber experienced writers, Kate Long and Simon Thirsk were tutors. Simon did a reading from his novel, ‘Not Quite White.’ There were post it notes and red pen all over the pages of his copy and when someone asked why, he admitted that after every reading he did (despite being Costa Book Award shortlisted and bestseller) he could always find some word or line to tweak!

Since then I’ve stopped twiddling with my WIP as I go along. It’s hard, but when I start on a draft I keep writing – something, anything – until it’s finished. The aim is to get the main bones of the novel down. I’ve learnt that most writers, even the most accomplished, need at least two drafts (preferably with a few weeks or months ‘breathing space’ between the two.) Then, after, ideally, another two edits and read through, once you’re as happy as you can be, stop tweaking and twiddling and get a friend/writing buddy, or if you’re lucky enough to have an agent or editor, and let them read it.

Sometimes we can become bogged down with the intricacies of the story or become so close to it we no longer see blatant errors. Taking a step back can help see it in a different light or often a second pair of eyes from a trusted opinion and someone not too close to a beloved piece will help give an insight into some points we may not even have considered.

Take it from one who knows, if you wait until you’re completely happy with your WIP, it might never see the light of day. So believe in yourself. All the best to you.

 Great answers. Thank you.

How do you approach drafts?