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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)

 

 

Looking for Feedback On Your Novel?

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By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist. Please sign up for free updates at http://eepurl.com/ceSobT 

Have you finished writing the first two or three drafts of your novel? Do you want feedback on your manuscript before you start working on your next draft?

I found myself in this situation back in August 2020. I had just completed the third draft of my novel and wanted to know how to improve it. I didn’t belong to a writing group, and I didn’t have beta readers, either. So I looked online for help.

An Online Mentor Was the Answer

A number of institutions offer creative writing courses; however, most of these courses weren’t suited to me, as I was an experienced author who had already published a novel. What I needed was a course offering feedback on the manuscript I had already written. And that course needed to be online because Covid had made in-class learning dangerous.

After a bit of searching, I found the answer: the Online Mentor course offered by the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies Creative Writing Program. I decided to enroll for Winter 2021.

How Does the Online Mentor Course Work?

The course is email-based. Once the student is enrolled, she or he chooses an online mentor (usually an established Canadian author) from a list. If the mentor agrees to work with the student, the mentor contacts her or him by email; the student then submits some chapters to the mentor; the mentor provides feedback on the student’s writing. Students have up to 12 weeks, including time for rewrites, to work on up to a maximum of 25,000 words of a manuscript, 40 pages of poetry, or 90 pages of a drama or screenplay.

Is This Course Worth Your Time?

It definitely is! My mentor, Marina Endicott, a Canadian novelist and short story writer, provided valuable feedback on my manuscript. With her help, I was able to rethink the characters, cut out unnecessary details, and balance out the plot, which was a bit on the gloomy side. We worked on the first four chapters together; I then completed the rewrite using the insights I got from Marina.

How Do You Enroll?

Apply online at https://learn.utoronto.ca/programs-courses/courses/1686-online-mentor You’ll also need to submit a 10-page excerpt from the manuscript you wish to workshop to scs.writing@utoronto.ca, along with the name of your mentor-of-choice from the list of Creative Writing program instructors.

 

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  Kathleen’s first novel, Love Is the Punch Line, a midlife romance set in the world of stand-up comedy, is available NOW, in trade paperback and ebook from Amazon.com (https://www.amazon.com/Love-Punch-Line-Kathleen-Jones-ebook/dp/B07BYNX7BM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1525812415&sr=1-1&keywords=love+is+the+punch+line) and Indigo Books and Music (https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/love-is-the-punch-line/9781945181337-item.html?ikwid=love+is+the+punch+line&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0) Visit the Love Is the Punch Line Media Room at https://kathleenjones.org/media-room/

 

Do the Timelines In Your Novel Make Sense?

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By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist. Please sign up for free updates at ‪http://eepurl.com/ceSobT 

The timelines in my first novel didn’t work. The written analysis from my freelance editor pointed out dozens of timelines that weren’t realistic; for example, my main character travelled large distances in an absurdly short period of time, the setting (especially the weather) didn’t fit the time of year, and on and on.

We writers are usually so intent on getting the story down on paper that it’s easy to overlook these small details. But even though these problems may seem minor in the scheme of things, they will, if unaddressed, chip away at the quality of your novel.

Check Your Timelines Before You Submit Your Manuscript

It’s a good idea to check the timelines in your manuscript before you submit it to an editor, agent, and/or publisher. The following method works for me:

  1. Write an outline of your manuscript.
  2. Break the outline down into chapters.
  3. In the margin, write down the dates for each chapter (e.g., March to April 2017).
  4. Write your first draft, following the descriptions and dates in your outline.
  5. After you finish writing your first draft, write a second chapter by chapter outline of your manuscript, and include the timelines. Quite often, this outline will differ from the outline you created before you started writing your first draft. Ask yourself the following questions: Does the action fit into the timelines in this chapter? Are the physical details appropriate for the time period? (For example, would you expect to see flowers at this time of year?)
  6. If the timelines (and details) in your first draft don’t work, note the changes that you need to make in the margin of your second outline.
  7. After you’ve written your second, third, and fourth drafts, check your timelines again.

Once you’re happy with your timelines and polished your manuscript, it’s time to submit it.

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  Kathleen’s first novel, Love Is the Punch Line, a midlife romance set in the world of stand-up comedy, is available NOW, in trade paperback and ebook from Amazon.com (https://www.amazon.com/Love-Punch-Line-Kathleen-Jones-ebook/dp/B07BYNX7BM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1525812415&sr=1-1&keywords=love+is+the+punch+line) and Indigo Books and Music (https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/love-is-the-punch-line/9781945181337-item.html?ikwid=love+is+the+punch+line&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0) Visit the Love Is the Punch Line Media Room at https://kathleenjones.org/media-room/

 

Have No Time to Write?

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist. Please sign up for free updates at‪http://eepurl.com/ceSobT 

If you’re like most people, your life is busy, filled with work, home chores, and family responsibilities. But you also need some time to work on your novel. What can you do?

Set Small Writing Goals

If your writing time is limited, try setting small writing goals. Some ideas:

  • Decide how quickly you want to write or rewrite a single chapter (for example, one chapter per week).
  • Then decide how many days per week you can write. Three or four days per week might be realistic for some people.
  • Next, decide how much time you have to write on those days (e.g., one or two hours).
  • Set realistic goals for each writing session. For example, you might try writing just one or two scenes or three to six pages during a single session.

The Results Add Up!

These goals might seem ridiculously small, but the results really add up! If, for example, you write one chapter per week, you’ll end up with four chapters per month. That means, if your novel has twenty-eight chapters, you can finish one draft of your manuscript in seven months.

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Exactly two hours on the round clock
Exactly two hours on the large round clock

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  Kathleen’s first novel, Love Is the Punch Line, a midlife romance set in the world of stand-up comedy, is available NOW, in trade paperback and ebook from Amazon.com (https://www.amazon.com/Love-Punch-Line-Kathleen-Jones-ebook/dp/B07BYNX7BM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1525812415&sr=1-1&keywords=love+is+the+punch+line) and Indigo Books and Music (https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/love-is-the-punch-line/9781945181337-item.html?ikwid=love+is+the+punch+line&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0) Visit the Love Is the Punch Line Media Room at https://kathleenjones.org/media-room/

Writing the Dark Novel

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist. Please sign up for free updates at ‪http://eepurl.com/ceSobT 

My first novel, recently published, was a joy to write. A lighthearted romance set in the world of stand-up comedy, it was a sweet and funny story built around two loveable characters. My second novel, which I am currently writing, is far different: it’s angry, cynical, and deeply sad. In other words, it’s a “dark” novel.

Why would anyone choose to write such a gloomy book? Lots of reasons . . . .

First, a dark novel gives a writer the golden opportunity to deal with real-life experiences, the sorts of everyday events that most people experience but rarely talk about. Trouble paying off a mortgage, disrespectful and abusive treatment from a boss, unruly children, parents who don’t understand your personal struggles . . . all of the hardships of modern life can become the foundation of a dark novel. Dark novels also offer intellectual challenges for writers, as their plots and characters tend to be more complex and harder to describe.

More importantly—at least from my point of view—the process of writing a dark novel forces a writer to confront the truth. By confronting certain hard realities I’ve had to face and by writing about them, I’ve been able to come to terms with my past and to help myself heal. Doing this takes courage, but the experience has been more deeply satisfying than I could have ever imagined.

It’s not easy to write a dark novel. Far too often, the dredging up of painful emotions leaves me depleted and depressed, and all I want to do is to abandon the novel once and for all. But I just can’t; the book is too powerful to run away from, and it’s crying out to be written. The journey hasn’t been easy so far, but it’s definitely worth taking.

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  Kathleen’s first novel, Love Is the Punch Line, a midlife romance set in the world of stand-up comedy, is available NOW, in trade paperback and ebook from Amazon.com (https://www.amazon.com/Love-Punch-Line-Kathleen-Jones-ebook/dp/B07BYNX7BM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1525812415&sr=1-1&keywords=love+is+the+punch+line) and Indigo Books and Music (https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/love-is-the-punch-line/9781945181337-item.html?ikwid=love+is+the+punch+line&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0) 

Visit the Love Is the Punch Line Media Room at https://kathleenjones.org/media-room/

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You’ve Finished Your Novel. Now What?

 

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist. Please sign up for free updates at ‪http://eepurl.com/ceSobT 

You’ve finally finished writing the third or fourth or seventh draft of your novel. You’re ready to show it to another pair of eyes—beta readers or a freelance editor—but you’re exhausted. You need to take a break first. But should you?

Of course you should! Novel writing is a demanding task that requires hours of intense focus and discipline. So set your manuscript aside for at least one month and don’t pass it on to anyone else right away.

But don’t let that one- or two- or four-month break go to waste! Use that time to plan the future of your novel. How? By creating the following files in Word:

  • a schedule for your novel that lists all necessary tasks, along with their proposed timelines;
  • a marketing plan for your book;
  • a list of potential agents; include links to their webpages, contact information, and submission requirements;
  • a list of publishers in your genre who accept unagented manuscripts; include links to their webpages, contact information, and submission requirements;
  • a list of reviewers (both publications that review books and online book bloggers) who might be interested in your book; include links to their webpages and contact information; and
  • promotional materials for your book, such as a tagline, a brief synopsis, and a long synopsis.

Why should you bother doing these tasks now? After all, you’re trying to relax!

Two reasons:

  • It will be easier to keep your book’s momentum going after you’ve worked through all of the comments from your beta readers and/or freelance editor and made changes to your manuscript because you’ll know what you have to do next. And you won’t have to spend weeks and weeks compiling all of these lists from scratch; you’ll only need to spend a few days checking the information online for updates.
  • It will also be easier to keep track of all of the tasks you’ll need to do and when you’ll need to do them.

In other words, organizing yourself during a slow period when you’re taking a break from writing will make the process of getting your novel out into the world a lot smoother, less stressful, and less overwhelming. And it will free up your time for a task you truly love: Writing your next novel!

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  Kathleen’s first novel, Love Is the Punch Line, a midlife romance set in the world of stand-up comedy, is available NOW, in trade paperback and ebook from Amazon.com (https://www.amazon.com/Love-Punch-Line-Kathleen-Jones-ebook/dp/B07BYNX7BM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1525812415&sr=1-1&keywords=love+is+the+punch+line) and Indigo Books and Music (https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/love-is-the-punch-line/9781945181337-item.html?ikwid=love+is+the+punch+line&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0) Visit the Love Is the Punch Line Media Room at https://kathleenjones.org/media-room/

 

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