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Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies


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Table of Contents

Foreword xix Introduction 1 About This Book 1 Foolish Assumptions 2 How This Book Is Organized 3 Icons Used in This Book 5 Where to Go from Here 6 Part I: Welcome to the World of Romance Writing 7 Chapter 1: Romance Writing at a Glance 9 Tuning in to the Market 10 What makes a romance a romance? 10 Subdividing romances for fun and profit 11 Practicing Your Craft 12 Everything starts with characterization 12 It?s all about emotional tension 13 Plotting, pacing, and point of view 13 Submitting Your Manuscript 14 Choosing the perfect publisher 14 Do you need an agent? 15 Putting together a selling submission 15 You sold your book ? now what? 16 Chapter 2: Romancing the Marketplace: Identifying Your Options 17 Knowing Your Reader 18 Meeting the romance reader 18 Meeting the romance reader?s expectations 19 Starting from Square One: Reading 20 Drawing up a reading list 21 Reading like a writer 21 Getting to Know Your Genre 22 Historical versus contemporary 23 Mainstream versus category 25 Subgenres and niche markets 28 Related women?s fiction markets 34 Choosing Your Path 35 What do you like to read? 36 How do you fit into the market? 37 Chapter 3: Setting Up for Stardom 41 Finding the Perfect Place and Time to Write 41 Creating at-home office space 42 Making time to pursue your dream 43 Building a Writer?s Tool Kit 45 Counting on your computer: Technology is your friend 45 Plugging in: Phones, faxes, and photocopiers 46 Sharpening up your office supplies: More than just pencils 47 Dusting the shelves: Your home library 48 Booking it: Accurate financial records 48 Accessing Resources for the Would-Be Writer 50 Joining writers? organizations ? romance-related and otherwise 51 Going where the writers are: Conferences and more 51 Taking advantage of courses and critique groups 52 Searching the Web 52 Part II: Laying the Foundation: The Building Blocks of a Great Romance 55 Chapter 4: Creating Compelling Main Characters: Alpha Males and Fiery Females 57 Depending on Your Characters .57 The Key to Every Romance Is the Heroine 58 Drawing the reader into your story 59 Making your heroine feel real 59 Introducing imperfection .61 Naming your heroine 62 Creating Your Hero 64 Heroes are for loving 64 Holding out for a hero: Alphas and others 67 Looking for love in all the wrong places 71 Hello, my name is 71 Keepin? It Real: Secondary Characters 73 Remembering their roles 73 Avoiding stereotypes 74 Speaking up 74 Naming the baby (and everyone else) 75 Factoring in the future 75 Laying Concrete Strategies for Creating Characters 75 Chapter 5: Crucial Ingredients for Every Plot: Conflict, Climax, and Resolution 77 You Can?t Have a Novel without a Plot 78 Where do ideas come from? 78 Letting your characters drive the plot 81 Suspense: Every Story Has It 82 Using romance to create suspense 82 Other ways of creating twists and turns 83 Making Sense Matters 85 Emotional Conflict and Tension: The Only Reason to Turn the Page 86 Emotional versus intellectual conflict 87 Internal versus external conflict 90 Personal versus situational conflict 91 Handling Conflict Effectively 92 Keeping them together 92 Letting conflict complicate your plot 93 Taking two steps forward and one step back 93 Using sexual tension to deepen conflict 95 ?Twas but a dream 96 Saving ?I love you? for the right moment 97 And They Lived Happily Ever After 98 Making your reader believe 99 Climax: Timing is everything 100 Resolution: Endings made easy 101 Chapter 6: Setting the Scene 103 Deciding Where Your Story Takes Place 104 Following the lead of your characters and plot 104 Joining the real world or living in your imagination 106 Keeping your setting in check 107 Telling Time 107 Using Your Setting to the Fullest 109 Illuminating your characters 109 Making your setting a character 112 Chapter 7: Outlining Your Romance 115 What?s an Outline? 115 Mapping Your Way to ?The End? 116 What can an outline do for you? 117 What belongs in an outline? 117 Outlining additional advice 119 Using Your Outline Effectively: Write, Write, and Then Rewrite (Maybe) 121 Listening to your creativity 121 Remembering the marketplace 122 Avoiding the rewriting trap 123 Part III: Putting Pen to Paper 125 Chapter 8: Finding Your Own Voice 127 Speaking Up for Yourself 127 Revealing where readers hear your voice 128 Making the language your own 130 Choosing your words wisely 130 Mixing what you say with what your characters know 131 Putting the Show in Show and Tell 132 Knowing what you need to say, and then saying it 133 Speaking metaphorically 134 Describing your characters 134 Making every word count 134 Talking too much 135 Telling It Like It Is 135 Keeping your writing clear 136 Moving right along 137 Chapter 9: Hearing Voices: Letting Your Characters Speak 139 Giving Your Characters Voices 139 Making every character unique (and real) 140 Giving every character a consistent voice 142 Meeting the secondary-character challenge 143 Writing Great Dialogue 144 Using dialect and accents effectively 144 Keepin? it cool: A word about slang 146 Using dialogue to convey information naturally 147 Putting dialogue on paper 148 Point of View: How to Choose and How to Use 150 What are they thinking? 150 Knowing whose voice to use 152 Internal monologues and how to use them 154 Chapter 10: Pacing: The Secrets of Writing a Page-Turning Romance 157 Pacing Doesn?t Mean Racing 158 Pacing and Plotting: Two Halves of a Whole 158 Knowing what readers care about 159 It?s not only what happens, it?s when and where (in the book) 163 Knowing what to tell and what to leave out 165 Avoiding the Dreaded Sagging Middle 166 Recognizing a sagging middle 166 Stopping the sag before it starts 167 Dealing with it 168 Show It, Don?t (Always) Tell It 169 Harnessing the power of dialogue 169 Telling it like it is: Using narrative effectively 171 Finding the balance between showing and telling 173 Prose That Goes and Prose That Slows 174 Chapter 11: Taking It All Off: Writing Love Scenes 177 Comparing Sex and Romance 177 Knowing Where and When 178 Creating sexual tension 178 Deciding when the time?s right 180 Using love scenes to increase the tension 181 Using love scenes to support your pacing 182 Writing the Scene 183 Knowing your market 183 It?s not what they do, it?s how you say it 184 Part IV: Putting It All Together: Mechanics Count, Too 189 Chapter 12: Starting and Stopping 191 Starting with a Bang: Mastering the Winning Beginning 192 How to hook your reader 193 How to bore your reader 194 The cute meet: Necessary or not? 195 Putting Theory into Practice 197 Finding your starting point 197 Backtracking to the background 199 Opening lines that work 202 Constructing Can?t-Miss Chapters 204 Viewing every chapter as a new beginning 205 Leave ?em wanting more: Effective chapter endings 206 Keeping transitions fresh 209 Moving from Scene to Scene 210 Stringing scenes together 210 Seeing scene endings as mini-chapter endings 211 Intercutting scenes 211 Chapter 13: Getting Your Story Straight: Doing Research Right 213 Getting It Right: Priority Number One 214 Making Research Work for You 214 Figuring out what you need to know 215 Avoiding information overload 217 Getting Down to Business 219 Timing is everything 219 Organizing like a pro 219 Finding the Facts 221 Surfing the Net: Great information ? and misinformation 222 Supporting your local library (and bookstore) 223 Developing a nose for news 224 Taking time to stop, look, and listen 226 Traveling for fun and profit 226 Talking to experts: Firsthand is the best hand 227 Getting Permissions 228 Determining when permission is necessary 228 Filling out the paperwork 230 Chapter 14: Neatness Counts ? and So Does Grammar 231 Minding Your P?s and Q?s 232 Grammar?s not in the kitchen baking cookies 232 Making a point with punctuation 234 Breaking the rules (after you know them) 236 Reining in the runaway thesaurus 237 Proofreading: Its knot two hard too reed yore own work 238 Formatting for Success 239 Margins are more than marginally important 240 Using the right fonts and spacing 240 Breaking your story up 241 Remembering a running head 242 Counting your words accurately 242 Creating your cover page 244 Reviewing the Manuscript Preparation Checklist 245 Part V: Submitting Your Manuscript ? and Making the Sale! 247 Chapter 15: Targeting the Right Publisher (and Editor) 249 Researching the Market 250 Finding out who?s who 250 Tracking the elusive editor 252 Submitting Made Simple 254 Writing a successful query letter 256 Coming up with a complete 259 Preparing a partial manuscript 259 Deciding Whether You Need an Agent 261 Understanding an agent?s job 262 Examining the author-agent relationship 263 Finding an agent 265 Chapter 16: Rejection and Revision: Don?t Let Them Get You Down 267 What Are They Really Saying? 268 Regarding rejections 269 Reading about revisions 270 They Like It, But 271 What exactly do they want you to do? 272 Tips on technique 273 The importance of time 274 When great minds don?t think alike 275 Handling the resubmission process 276 One Editor?s Insight into Common Editorial Comments 277 Your heroine isn?t as sympathetic as she needs to be 277 Your pacing is erratic 278 Your hero?s too strong/arrogant/tough 278 Your plot lacks the necessary complexity 279 Your characters? motivations aren?t clear 279 Your characters seem more like types than real people 280 Does No Always Mean No? 281 Interpreting a rejection letter 281 Dealing with rejection, emotionally and professionally 283 Chapter 17: Closing the Deal 287 Getting ?The Call? 288 What will your editor say? 288 It?s okay to go crazy! 289 Coming Up with Questions 289 Asking the money question 289 Asking about everything else 291 Sizing Up the Contract 293 Reading and rereading the fine print 293 Getting help 294 Strategies for a Win-Win Negotiation 295 Chapter 18: Tracing the Steps from Page to Press ? and Beyond 297 Working with Your Editor 298 Making the relationship work 298 Revising your book one last time 299 Line editing set straight 300 From Manuscript to Bound Book 301 Diving into details: The copy edit 302 Reviewing the edits 302 Seeing your book one last time: The galley 303 Covering your bases 304 Asking for quotes: It?s all in who you know 308 Including dedications, acknowledgements, and more 310 Living in a Post-publication World 311 Keeping your expectations realistic .311 Advertising and PR: What can happen? 312 Practical strategies for personal PR 313 Dealing with family, friends, and fellow writers 317 Part VI: The Part of Tens 319 Chapter 19: Ten Plots Every Editor Knows ? and Why They Still Work 321 Marriage of Convenience 322 Stranded with a Stranger 322 Runaway Bride 322 Secret Baby 323 Reunion Romance 323 Back from the Dead 323 Mistaken Identity 324 Woman in Jeopardy 324 The Dad Next Door 324 Even Sketchier Setups 324 Chapter 20: Ten Tips for Coming Up with a Successful Title 325 Speaking the Reader?s Language 325 The Long and the Short of It 326 A Few Words about Single-Word Titles 326 Matching Title and Tone Perfectly 327 Hooking Up 327 All about Alliteration 327 Coining a Cliche 327 Naming Names 328 Making Connections 328 Following in Others? Footsteps 328 Chapter 21: Ten Common Writing Mistakes Beginners Make 329 Remember the Reader?s Expectations 329 Don?t Overwrite 330 Ya Gotta Love It 330 Characters Are Key 330 Effective Conflict Comes from Within 330 Make Sure You Have Enough Plot 331 Keep Your Story on Track 331 The Name of the Game Is Entertainment 331 Don?t Forget the Details 331 Keep It Moving 332 Chapter 22: Ten Reasons Why a Manuscript Gets Rejected 333 Bad Writing 333 Arrogant Heroes and Unlovable Heroines: Unsympathetic Characters 334 Cardboard Cutouts: Unrealistic Characters 334 B-o-r-i-n-g Spells Boring 334 A Tsunami in the Alps and Other Lapses in Logic 335 Outdated Story Line and Characters 335 Inaccurate (Or No) Research 335 When Your Romance Isn?t Really a Romance 336 Wrong Editor/Publishing House 336 Incorrect Formatting 336 Chapter 23: Ten Ways to Beat Writer?s Block 337 Working Your Way Through It 338 Selecting a Different Scene 338 Looking at the Last Scene You Wrote 338 Writing a Scene That You Won?t Use 338 Viewing the Scene from a Different Angle 339 Forgetting about Perfection 339 Looking Forward ? Not Back 339 Analyzing Your Outline 339 Re-energizing Your Creative Instincts 340 Starting Another Project ? If All Else Fails 340 Chapter 24: Ten Questions Every Romance Writer Needs to Ask Herself 341 Should I Write Romance Novels? 341 Why Can?t I Get Started? 341 What Can I Do When the Ideas Don?t Come? 342 How Can I Focus and Stay Positive When Things Go Wrong? 342 When Is It Research and When Is It a Waste of Time? 343 When Should I Send My Manuscript into the Big, Scary World? 343 Do I Need an Agent? 343 How Do I Handle a Friend?s Manuscript Selling First? 344 When and How Do I Follow Up on My Book?s Status? 344 When Do I Let Go of a Book? 344 Index 345

About the Author

Leslie Wainger has worked with New York Times bestselling authors such as Linda Howard and Heather Graham in her over 20 years at Harlequin.

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