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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)

 

 

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)

 

 

How To Generate Fresh Ideas for Your Novel

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist

You know how you want your novel to begin and end. You’ve also made firm decisions about the major characters, setting, and climax. But somehow, all of these elements don’t add up, word count-wise, to a 70,000 to 100,000-word novel.

How do you fill in the gaps? By generating fresh ideas that work with your novel. But how, exactly, do you create those new ideas? I found myself in this situation when the word count of the first two drafts of my novel came up short. Fortunately, I stumbled upon a few simple techniques that made a real difference to my third draft:

  • Carry a small notebook and pens in your handbag, briefcase, or the glove compartment of your car. Great ideas seem to strike when you least expect them to. I bought a fat little notebook from a dollar store and jotted down ideas in it whenever I was stuck in a long line at the bank or riding the bus on my way home from work.
  • Set aside fifteen or twenty minutes at a time and think about your plot and characters. In point form, scribble down any ideas that come to mind. For example, since one of the leading characters in my novel was Jewish, I wrote down the word “Hanukkah”. I ended up writing a poignant new chapter in which the Jewish character was forced to acknowledge his loneliness during a Hanukkah celebration with his family.
  • If you’re writing at home, take the pressure off yourself, sit down on the couch, and just let your mind wander. Try to imagine an entire scene, filled with characters, setting, and dialogue, and let it play in your mind like a movie. Then get up and write down the scene before it fades from your memory.
  • Try to think about your main characters every day. I got into the habit of thinking about the leading characters in my novel at the same time every day (early morning and late at night). The more often I thought about my characters, the easier it was to write about them in depth.

Next time you need to expand your novel, try one (or more) of these strategies to get your idea-making machine rolling again.

Want to Read More?

Check out blogger J.R. Hall’s tips in “How to Come Up With Story Ideas” at http://www.writerstoauthors.com/how-to-come-up-with-story-ideas/

What techniques do you use to generate new ideas for a novel? Please share them.

 

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: Graeme Pow, Valentine’s Day Witchcraft via Photopin (license)

 

How Part-Time Novelists Can Avoid Distractions

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist

I know what it’s like to be a “part-time” novelist (a novelist who has to work at an outside job to pay the bills). After working for forty (or more) hours a week, you drag yourself home only to be faced with a mountain of chores. Tired to the bone, all you want to do is to flake out on the couch and watch TV or to curl up with a good book . . . which sucks up the time and energy you need to write your own book!

So how do you avoid distractions, especially when your time and energy are so scarce? If you’re like most part-time novelists, you probably do most of your writing on weekends. A helpful strategy for avoiding distractions is to not do anything else—reading the paper, shopping, doing chores, whatever—until you have written a certain number of pages.

Work alone if you can. Seclude yourself in a quiet room and close (or lock) the door. Tell family members that you can’t be disturbed for a certain period of time.

How long should that “certain period of time” be? I recommend limiting yourself to one or two hours of focused time. Write fast and don’t leave the room until you’ve finished a specific number of pages. When I was writing my novel, I didn’t let myself leave my bedroom until I had written a certain number of pages, usually 3 to 6, sometimes 8. That might not sound like much of an output, but over the course of a year, those 3 to 6 pages added up to a 74,000-word manuscript.

Before you leave the room (and after you’ve finished writing those pages), try to plan your next writing session. I used to do this by scribbling down a brief, point-form outline of the scenes I planned to write. If you end each writing session with this extra step, then your next writing session should be (relatively) quick, efficient, and painless.

Best of all, you’ll have plenty of time left to relax with family and friends . . . or scrub the toilet!

Want to Read More?

Ethan Waldman offers some practical ideas in his post “The Key to Distraction-Free Writing”: http://goinswriter.com/distraction-free-writing/

How do you avoid distractions when you sit down to write? Please post your tips!

 

Visit Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist, online at https://kathleenjones.org/ or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/joneslepid

 

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photo credit: Curtis Gregory Perry, Old Televisions via Photopin (license)