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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)

 

 

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)

How to Write Novels When You Work Full-Time

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for aspiring novelists is lack of time. Since it can be difficult for novelists to support themselves on their writing alone—especially unpublished novelists—most of them need to work at a full-time job just to pay the bills. That’s 35 or 40 hours gone every week, plus time spent commuting, taking care of children, doing household chores.

So how does a novelist with a full-time job find the time to write? The secret is carving out a block of time each and every week.

For most employed people, the best time to write, uninterrupted, is the weekend. When I was writing my own novel (while working at a full-time job), I tried to write every Saturday morning. Of course, life sometimes interfered, and I didn’t have the chance to write on Saturday mornings; when that happened, I rescheduled my writing session for Saturday afternoon or Sunday. The important thing was that I tried to write every (or almost every) weekend. I also tried to write in the same quiet place, alone, where I wouldn’t be distracted.

Each week, after I finished writing, I booked the next writing session in my day timer for the following Saturday. Then, after I finished writing each chapter (in long hand!), I typed and printed it out on my computer. After I left work each afternoon, I used the time spent commuting on the bus to review the printed pages for grammar, spelling, and sentence structure, and I made corrections (and reprinted the pages) when I got home.

Finally, I tried to set realistic deadlines for the various stages of creating a novel: writing an outline, doing research, completing drafts, and just about everything else. I booked each of these deadlines in my day timer so that I didn’t have an excuse to forget about them. Of course, I often had to revise these deadlines, but I was still able to complete an outline in four months, research in three months, and three drafts of the manuscript in three years.

So, it’s possible to complete a novel while working at a full-time job, but you need to commit the time (however small), space, and energy to make it happen.

Want to Read More?

Check out Ali Luke’s article, “How to Stay Sane While Building Your Writing Career Part Time,” at http://thewritelife.com/stay-sane-building-writing-career-part-time/

 If you wrote a novel while working at a full-time job, how did you make it happen? Your comments are welcome!

 

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: Alan Cleaver Time to go home via Photopin (license)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genre or Literary Novel? Or Both?

When I sat down to write a novel, my goal was to tell a great story with great characters. Now that my novel is almost finished, I’m faced with a new dilemma: should I market it as a genre novel or as a literary novel?

Honestly, I’m not sure. “Genre” novels—that is, novels that fit into a genre, such as mystery, romance, or science fiction—tend to follow a specific formula. They’re driven by plot, follow a straightforward narrative that remains in the present, and are written to entertain. “Literary” novels don’t fit into a formula, are driven by character rather than by plot, follow a less straightforward narrative (flashbacks are common), and are written to convey meaning.

My own novel doesn’t quite fit into either of these categories. Like a genre novel, it has a strong plot, but a lot of the story is driven by the two main characters. It follows a non-linear narrative with flashbacks, and it deals with darker truths about the characters’ lives, two of the hallmarks of a literary novel. At the same time, my novel, like many genre books, is (I hope!) an entertaining, fun read.

What about characters? The characters in genre novels tend to be conventional, and the focus is on their outer lives, that is, their words and actions. Characters in literary novels tend to be more complex, and the focus is on their inner lives, their thoughts and feelings. Once again, the characters in my novel don’t fit neatly into these categories: they’re unconventional, and their exterior and interior lives are equally important.

Well, then, what about the other elements? My novel has the big climax (romantic) often found in a genre novel, along with the type of smaller climax (a series of insights) more characteristic of a literary novel. The ending? It’s a toss-up: it’s (sort of) happy like a genre novel’s, but some of the characters’ problems remain unresolved, similar to the endings of many literary novels.

Based on the above criteria, my novel doesn’t really fit into the genre or literary categories. But maybe it’s time to rethink this narrow system for classifying novels. There’s no reason why a novel can’t be both serious AND entertaining and contain both exciting plots AND complex characters. Or cross more than one genre, or appeal to a wide audience.

Want to Read More?

Novelist Elizabeth Edmondson tackles this subject in her post “The genre debate: ‘Literary fiction’ is just clever marketing.” See https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2014/apr/21/literary-fiction-clever-marketing-genre-debate

Do you think the system of classifying novels as “genre” or “literary” works? Feel free to post your comments.

 

 

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photo credit: Jemimus Ivanhoe – Easton Press Edition via photopin (license)

 

 

 

Does Realism Belong in Romance?

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Romantic genre novels aren’t known for realism.

Impossibly beautiful young women, sometimes fiery and passionate, sometimes chaste and virginal. Gorgeous young hunks, tall, dark, and muscled, often wealthy beyond the dreams of mere mortals. Mansions, castles, private jets, the works.

So-called “serious” literary novels, on the other hand, often have a dreary and super-realistic view of romance. Leading characters in such novels might stay together for a short while, sampling a new partner and savouring some hot sex along the way, but they lack strong emotional bonds.

Personally, I’ve always found both types of novels—fantastic, over-the-top affairs and loveless sexual unions—unsatisfying. Some essential ingredient is always missing. I can’t relate at all to the lovers in traditional romantic novels, and the characters in less-traditional but more “realistic” ones always leave me depressed. What’s the point of a romantic novel if the lovers in it don’t actually care about each other?

To me, the ideal romantic novel would combine the deep love and wild passion of a traditional romantic genre novel with the bracing realism of a less traditional literary one. Just like romance in real life.

Want to Read More?

Kaja, a “translator, a book geek, an amateur home cook, a feminist, and an enthusiastic traveler” who lives in Slovenia, discusses this topic in her post, “Should Romance Be Realistic?” See http://ofdragonsandhearts.com/2016/04/should-romance-be-realistic/

What are your thoughts on the different types of romantic novels?

 

photo credit: Tom Simpson True-to-Life Romances #18 (1953), cover by L. B. Cole via photopin (license)

 

Researching a Novel

Our imaginations can create exciting stories and people them with colourful characters. But most novels don’t work unless they have some connection to reality. Of course, we all have life experiences to draw on, but what do you do if you want your novel to reach beyond that?

On the surface, the answer to that question seems obvious: you do research. But exactly what research should you do and how much of it? Writers have limited time and energy to write, time and energy that can be sucked up by doing endless research.

I recently faced this problem when I wrote a romantic novel about a stand-up comedian and an event planner. I knew absolutely nothing at all about stand-up comedians and event planners, and very little about Judaism. Researching these topics online turned out to be a waste of time because I had no idea of how I was going to use the mountain of facts I uncovered.

The solution was simple. I wrote a rough first draft that concentrated on the fundamentals of the novel: plot and character. I then examined the manuscript, trying to identify opportunities to introduce details that would advance the story and add nuances to the characters, and made a list of the specific information I was looking for.

Once I did that, it was easy to do the research. In order to understand the special struggles of stand-up comedians, I purchased and read a novel about a stand-up comedian that was written by someone in the business. The comedian’s novel was different from mine, but it gave me insight into the special struggles of comedians. A basic book on Judaism helped to fill out my sketchy knowledge; it, too, gave me the details I was looking for. I had a harder time finding material on event planners, but I was able to track down some information online once my narrative was in place.

As my experience shows, researching a novel can be fun and not at all stressful once you’ve finished writing your first draft and know exactly what information you need to fill in the details.

Want to Read More?

Have you done research for a novel? If so, what methods did you follow? Please post your comments.

 

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photo credit: Pi Gamma Mu book sale, Wayne State College via photopin (license)