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Do Authors Base Romantic Novels on Real Relationships?

 

I’ve often wondered whether authors base their romantic novels on real relationships in their pasts.

In my case, the answer is yes. A relationship I had with a boy in middle school (he was 12 years old and I was 11!) inspired me to write my own romantic novel. Even though 45 years have passed, I still cherish fond memories of this larger than life character: tall, darkly handsome, whip smart and, most importantly of all, funny. AND this handsome and smart boy used his wonderful gift for humour to flirt with me!

Virtually every afternoon for three or four months, he would walk home from school with me, always trying his hardest to make me laugh, creating cute nicknames for me and devising amusing songs about me, often snatching the little round green leather hat off my head (it was mid-winter) and kicking it across the street like a football.

I didn’t mind the teasing at all; it was good-natured, he made me laugh, and he was so gorgeous, with his curly dark hair, big brown eyes, and freckles. I looked forward to our afternoon walks home, and wrote about him in my diary every night. I still have that diary, filled with his witty comments, its cloth cover awash in the wild psychedelic colours that were so trendy in 1971.

By the end of the school year in June, he had stopped paying attention to me. He was Jewish, my mom told me, and his family probably didn’t want him to get involved with a Christian girl. Sigh.

For the next four decades, I was haunted by memories of this boy. He was such a unique individual with such a big personality, and I’ve never met anyone else like him. Then one day in early 2013, I had an important insight: unique personalities like my former boyfriend belong in novels!

Of course, nobody wants to read about the “puppy love” of two pre-teens. Well, maybe pre-teens do, but I was now in my 50’s . . . so I aged the two of us by 40 years. I kept my former boyfriend’s marvellous sense of humour but transformed him from a class clown to a professional stand-up comedian. I also kept his Jewishness; it’s an important part of who he is.

Once I established the character of the comedian, it was easy to spin a romantic tale around him and to create a host of other characters, especially the non-Jewish heroine (you’ll never guess who I based her on!). The rest of the novel is pure fantasy, the result of my overactive imagination run amuck (and some research), but its core, its heart, is the sweet relationship between a funny, outgoing boy and a shy, studious girl over four decades ago.

Want to Read More?

Finish author Helena Halme transformed her real-life romance with an English naval officer into a romantic novel The Englishman: http://selfpublishingadvice.org/writing-how-to-turn-your-life-into-a-novel/

Have you based a novel that you’ve written on a real past romantic relationship? Please post your comments.

photo credit: Inseparable via photopin (license)

 

 

Should You Write Your Novel “For the Market”?

 

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist

 

According to popular wisdom, novelists who want to sell lots of books “should” write the types of books that most readers supposedly want to buy, principally fiction that falls within certain established genres such as romance, horror, and mystery.

On the surface, this advice makes a lot of sense. Book publishers are more likely to buy conventional genre novels, mainly because they have large, dedicated audiences. Publishing is a business, after all, and publishers need to sell as many books as possible.

But the reasoning behind this advice is flawed. Sure, there are large audiences for these types of books, but publishers put out a lot of them, creating a lot of competition for readers. The result is too many authors and publishers producing far too many similar novels, novels that tend to be bland, boring, unoriginal, and even superficial.

Lost in the shuffle is a very different type of book fan, a fan who is frequently ignored by book publishers: the sophisticated reader. This breed of reader is hungry for thoughtful, original writing, writing free of stifling convention, writing bursting with complex characters and unpredictable plots, writing that says something fresh and startling about the human condition.

So should more novelists “ignore the market” and write what they want? My answer to that question would be a qualified yes. Yes, more novelists should write what they want to write. That type of writing is more of a creative challenge for the writer and can be more exciting and rewarding for the reader. And the world hardly needs more predictable and pedestrian novels. And serious writers do have the option to self-publish. But . . . it’s hard to sell a self-published novel, even a well-written and professionally produced one. After all self-published authors don’t have the same resources as book publishers.

So serious novelists should continue to write from the heart but maybe, after they self-publish their work and start to sell a reasonable number of copies, they should band together to persuade publishers to make unconventional, challenging novels more widely available.

An impossible task perhaps? Not when you consider the fact that a number of offbeat, critically acclaimed novels have managed to sell well even though they didn’t fit into established genres: Life of Pi by Yann Martel, How to Build a Girl by Caitlan Moran, and almost any novel by Margaret Atwood and John Irving.

Kathleen Jones’ first novel, a midlife comic romance set in the world of stand-up comedy, will be published in the spring of 2018 by Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC. Visit Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist, online at https://kathleenjones.org/

or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/joneslepidas and sign up for free updates at ‪http://eepurl.com/ceSobT 

 

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Photo credit: Thomas Hawk, Read a Book, via photopin (license)

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Wear Vintage Clothing Without Turning Yourself Into an Antique

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist

One of my oddball passions is collecting and wearing antique clothing from the 1940s and 1950s. A long-time classic movie fan, I’m drawn by the ultra-feminine styles, fine fabrics, and precise tailoring of the clothing worn by the Hollywood stars of that era. When I started purchasing vintage clothing in 2003, I tried to mimic that look, combining a fitted, nipped-in waist suit jacket with a full skirt appliqued with shiny beads.

Of course, I ended up looking ridiculous. My outfits were more costumes than ensembles. But I still loved vintage clothing and didn’t want to give up on it. After fourteen years of trial and error, I’ve finally learned how to really integrate vintage pieces into a modern wardrobe:

  • Choose a specific era, the one that suits you the best.
  • Limit yourself to only one vintage item per outfit. I usually base outfits around my signature piece: a 1940s or 1950s fitted wool, hip-length jacket with a nipped-in waist and pretty dressmaker details, such as fabric-covered buttons and satin-trimmed lapels.
  • Mix modern and vintage clothing and stick to one silhouette. I stick to a fitted silhouette, mixing fitted antique jackets with slim fitting, tailored, simple modern sportswear, such as collared button-down shirts, trim ankle pants, and pencil skirts.
  • Don’t be afraid to refashion vintage clothing to make it more modern and flattering. I hired a tailor to recut and shorten a mid-calf, A-line, gray wool skirt from the 1940s (half of a suit) into a slim, knee-length pencil skirt.
  • Search for modern pieces that look vintage, such as a full-skirted dress or a jacket with a peplum. Alternatively, you can buy vintage patterns online and pay a dressmaker or tailor to make them up for you in new fabrics. Both of these choices can result in pieces that mix well with real vintage items but look fresher and more modern.

 

With a bit of thought and experimentation, vintage clothing can fit easily into a modern wardrobe and open up a range of exciting style choices in a retail environment increasingly dominated by bland and cheaply-produced clothing.

Want to Read More?

Check out Rebecca Emily Darling’s post, “How to Wear Vintage Clothing Without Looking Like You’re Wearing a Costume” at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rebecca-emily-darling/how-to-wear-vintage-cloth_b_6535522.html

Do you have any tips for adding vintage clothing to a modern wardrobe? If you do, please share them with us.

Visit Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist, online at https://kathleenjones.org/ or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/joneslepidas and sign up for free updates at ‪http://eepurl.com/ceSobT 

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Photo credit: carbonated Vogue Balmain suit 1083, 1949 via photopin (license)

 

 

 

 

Where Are the Heroines in Romance Novels?

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist

Please check out my latest post on Romance Junkies: http://romancejunkies.com/where-are-the-midlife-heroines-in-romance-novels-kathleen-jones/

Kathleen Jones is the author of an upcoming midlife romance novel set in the world of stand-up comedy. Visit her at https://kathleenjones.org/ or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/joneslepidas and sign up for free updates at ‪http://eepurl.com/ceSobT 

Comedians’ Lives Aren’t All That Funny

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist

Recently, while writing a novel set in the world of stand-up comedy, I did some research on the real lives and personalities of stand-up comedians. What I uncovered was intriguing—and more than a little unsettling.

It seems that comedians’ minds are wired differently from the minds of average people. A study of 523 comedians from the U.S., U.K. and Australia found that comedians are good at making people laugh because they have the ability to associate odd things and to “think outside the box”—traits typical of people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder! Their thinking is often manic, which can help them combine ideas to form original and funny connections. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/17/comedians-psychotic-personality-traits_n_4610414.html)

Even more intriguing is the fact that comedians’ flamboyant onstage personalities are often at odds with their introverted offstage ones. And these quiet people are usually not all that agreeable. Stand-up comedy is a very competitive business, and stand-up comedians worry a great deal about others stealing their material. Much of that material involves the telling of brutal, nasty—and funny—truths. Moreover, comedians, as a group, aren’t particularly conscientious, that is, responsible, organized, and dependable. Instead, they tend to be spontaneous and to use aggressive humour directed at the audience or at themselves. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/humor-sapiens/201311/how-comedians-are-mountain-climbers)

More relevant to my novel was the research I found on the instability of comedians’ lives. Most of them must travel 40 to 50 weeks per year and perform from Thursday to Sunday to succeed in the stand-up comedy business. Of course, the constant travel takes a toll on their personal lives, and it’s difficult for them to maintain a steady intimate relationship. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/humor-sapiens/201306/the-fascinating-life-comedians)

Do you have some insight on the real personalities and lives of stand-up comedians? If you do, please share them with us.

 

Visit Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist, online at https://kathleenjones.org/

or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/joneslepidas

 

 

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photo credit: Swirling Moods via photopin (license)

 

Help for the Newbie Novelist

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist

Starting a new career as a novelist can be a daunting proposition, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the book market and the publishing process. Fortunately, there are a number of practical books that can quickly bring you up to speed:

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing a Novel (https://www.amazon.ca/Complete-Idiots-Guide-Writing-Novel/dp/1615640339/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491933566&sr=8-1&keywords=the+complete+idiot%27s+guide+to+writing+a+novel) by Tom Monteleone

Tom, a professional writer since 1972, penned this friendly guide from a novelist’s point of view. His book covers just about everything related to novels and novelists: the various markets for different novel genres; the core elements that make up a good novel; research, time management, and discipline; rewriting; alternative publishing; and the book publishing process. Above all, Tom emphasizes the fun and creativity involved in writing a novel. As he states in his introduction, “If you want work, go get a gig in a pie factory or selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door.”

Create Your Writer Platform (https://www.amazon.ca/Create-Your-Writer-Platform-Building/dp/1599635755/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1496609136&sr=8-1&keywords=Create+Your+Writer+Platform) by Chuck Sambuchino

Like it or not, all novelists—those who sell their books to a traditional publisher as well as those who self-publish—now need to promote themselves online if they want to develop an audience for their work. Chuck, a prolific blogger who specializes in book publishing, provides a detailed overview of the various types of platforms available to authors—websites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, newsletters, and more—and dispenses helpful advice that’s custom tailored to the needs of fiction and non-fiction writers.

Book Marketing Is Dead (https://www.amazon.ca/Book-Marketing-Dead-Promotion-Secrets-ebook/dp/B00HC6HQ70/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1496609039&sr=1-1&keywords=Book+Marketing+is+Dead) by Derek Murphy

Derek Murphy, a book cover designer, writing coach, and publishing consultant, demonstrates that online platform building has become a far more effective tool for selling books than traditional marketing. He emphasizes the importance of building relationships on social media and discusses the key elements of an effective author website. He also covers the types of marketing that can work for authors.

Do you know of any helpful resources for new (and not so new) novelists? Please share them with us.

 Visit Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist, online at https://kathleenjones.org/

or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/joneslepidas

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Photo credit: Sina Farhat, Kollega block via photopin (license)

 

 

 

 

Organizing a Writer’s Life

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist

Writers have to deal with an endless stream of paper. Manuscripts, notes, contracts, and other flotsam and jetsam all too easily clutter up our lives.

If you’re starting to get overwhelmed, I have a few suggestions to help you dig yourself out of the mess:

Research Notes

  • Organize your research notes by using separate sheets of paper for every subject covered by your novel.
  • Underline or circle key information in your notes.

Manuscripts

  • Type and proofread each chapter after you’ve finished writing it (if you write in long hand). Be sure to format and number the pages.
  • Print out the chapter. Store it in a cardboard box kept in a safe place. (I keep my manuscripts in cardboard boxes stored in a closet.)

Other Types of Documents

  • Keep track of various types of documents by purchasing colourful cardboard folders (with two compartments per folder) and an equally colourful canvas zip bag from a dollar store.
  • Place specific types of documents in each folder and label the outside. For example, I have different folders for contracts, agents, publishers, editors, author platforms and social media, etc.
  • Store all of these author-related folders in the canvas zip bag, and store the bag (zipped up, of course) in a secure place such as a filing cabinet.

Records of Contacts with Agents, Publishers, and Freelance Editors

  • Purchase a 3-ring binder and colourful tab dividers from a dollar store.
  • Make notes on individual book publishers, literary agents, and freelance editors on separate sheets, and file each sheet alphabetically in the binder. Provide information on the people you contacted, the dates you contacted them, documents you submitted to them, etc.

The task of organizing bits and pieces of paper can be (and usually is!) dull and mind-numbing. But once your system is in place, you’ll have more time to do the work you really enjoy: writing!

Want to Read More?

The staff of Writer’s Relief (an author’s submission service) provide more ideas in “Four Ways to Organize Your Writing (Or Not) Before You Sit Down to Write”: http://writersrelief.com/blog/2012/03/organize-your-writing/

How do you organize your writing materials? Please tell us!

Visit Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist, online at https://kathleenjones.org/

or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/joneslepidas

 

 

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photo credit: EssG, Expunged via photopin (license)

 

Why Bother to Outline a Novel?

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist

The first time I wrote a novel, I had a clear picture of how I wanted it to turn out. But I wrote the chapters out of sequence and let my moods dictate the scenes I wrote on a given day. For example, whenever I was depressed, I wrote scenes full of hurt, loneliness, and heartache. On the other hand, when my life was going well, I wrote more robust scenes, scenes bursting with triumph, optimism, and joy.

My practice of writing whatever I felt when I felt it might have been a successful one if I had laid down a plan for the novel before I began writing it. Alas, I had no such plan, and the various chapters I wrote didn’t fit together at all.

So when I sat down to write my second novel, the first thing I did was to create an outline. That outline took four months to write (I was juggling writing with a full-time job), but it turned out to be a very wise investment of my time and energy. I now knew exactly where my story was going.

How do you create an outline for your novel? Before you begin, jot down the following in point form:

  • First, figure out how you want your novel to begin and end.
  • Next, create the main characters and identify the major problems and conflicts they will face.
  • Then determine the major plot points. This step would involve such things as plot twists, changes in the relationship between the leading characters, etc.

Once you have pinned down these core elements, you can start to create an outline. Some ideas to keep in mind:

  • Try to write the outline in order.
  • Don’t try to write the entire outline in one sitting. Take your time and don’t rush.
  • Outline one chapter at a time.
  • Don’t be afraid to change the outline if some of it isn’t working or if new and better ideas come to mind.

If you take the time to create an outline, you can avoid ending up with a novel that’s nothing more than a mishmash of ideas.

Want to Read More?

Novelist Joseph Finder deals with the pros and cons of outlining novels in his post “Outline or Not?” at http://www.josephfinder.com/writers/tips/outline-or-not/

Do you outline your novels before writing them? Please post your comments.

Visit Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist, online at https://kathleenjones.org/

or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/joneslepidas

 

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Photo credit: To The Cuckoo via photopin (license)