Books and Writing

Splicing The Chick Lit Strands

I’m probably the worst book planner/drafter there is.

I’ll admit that right here and now. I know it. I’ve developed some nasty, nasty habits and I simply don’t care.

Many authors spend hours/days/weeks/months planning and plotting their stories, then invest even more time with some of the character generation sheets that abound on the internet.

I write a few, brief and simple notes AT BEST! Then get down to the bestest part about the whole thing – writing!

Now don’t get me wrong, everyone’s different and develops their own way of doing things and that’s great. I’m also not snubbing any of the plot/character generation sheets that are freely available online. They’re just not for me.

However, recently I’ve started to write more in-depth stories, telling the stories of secondary characters and weaving them into the main tale. Nothing new, authors have been doing it forever but now it’s my turn to grow up as a writer. After all if I can’t put the effort in to build a believable and interesting set of characters how can I expect people to fork over their hard-earned cash for it?

I wouldn’t

So now I’ve started planning the follow up to Poppy’s Proposal (read it here, buy it here. Blatant book plug alert!) Poppy’s Predicament, I’ve decided to share MY method for planning it.

So How Do You Plan It?

My normal method for planning a book is to spend a few random sessions thinking about it, generating scenes and characters in my MIND. Then I grab my trusty notebook and novelty pen – I’m a bit like Penelope Garcia in Criminal Minds with me pens. If it’s got feathers or a day-glow finish, it’s for me – and write a list of events that I want to happen.

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Ooh a notebook and some pens! What am I doing? Facepalm.

That’s pretty much it!

I’ll give you a few seconds for the collective gasps of despair and shock before I plunge right on with…

Then I write. And write. And write some more. I do use the list but events get added, changed and cut completely until if you compared the original list to the completed book, there’d be virtually nothing to say they were ever related.

You’d need a Jeremy Kyle DNA test to prove it…

But Now?

I’ve seen the error of my ways and adopted an entirely new way of doing things.

From now on I’m going to write a list of events that I want to happen…

Wait A Sec. Hold Up There. What Did You Just..?

You read that last bit right, I AM doing the same thing. But this time I’ve written a list/time-line for each major character I want to feature.

Umm…Okay But How’s That Any Different?

Because I’m then going to splice all these different strands together. Weave them masterfully into a single, glorious tale of unimaginable brilliance.

I hope!

Yeah, Right. How You Planning To Do That Then?

Well you might have got the impression that I like lists (dunno where from) so I’ve taken each list and created a Super Ultimate Master List.

This SUML features all the items I want to happen, in order and jumps between the characters. Hopefully this will create suspense and keep readers interested while propelling the story forward.

Is That It? Really It?

Nope.

I’m sure none of this is unique and millions of other writers use the same techniques but I thought I’d let you in on my method.

I hack it all up with scissors!

Literally, I grab a pair of scissors and like a vengeful partner, cut the lists up, keeping each character’s list separate to begin with. Then I start to arrange them in some kind of order, making sure it all makes sense – it’s no good having Bobby meet Peggy-Sue’s parents if Peggy-Sue hasn’t met Bobby yet!

Then I can read through the SUML (might Trademark that) and swap events/scenes until everything’s in just the right place.

You could do the same with Post-It notes (other bits of sticky paper are available) or with software like Scrivener, although I just can’t seem to be able to use that.

So then I have my final SUML (definitely got to Trademark that) which for ease of use, I make a final copy of and get to the business of writing.

And That’s Finally It?

Um…yep, that just about covers it. Not a particularly interesting post but lets you peek into my madness briefly and who knows it might just help someone else with their writing too.

Poppy’s Predicament will be available…well when I’ve written it. Until then you can follow me on here by email or on Twitter.

Books and Writing

5 Things Your Chick-Lit Protagonist Should Be (And 5 They Really Shouldn’t)

I’ve got an idea, several in fact, about women. Not the usual blokey waheey, oy-oy, hubba-hubba type (apart from Mrs. G.) but about the way they should be written in a chick lit story.

Gasp!

Horrid face

I know, I know. The majority of chick lit is written for women by women but I don’t see why I can’t join in all the fun. So to start I’ll tell you what  the term ‘chick-lit’ means to me.

Regardless of the setting I see chick lit as a light-hearted, romantic, amusing genre that doesn’t really take itself too seriously. It’s not Shakespeare or Dickens but it doesn’t try to be. Chick lit to me should be an easy read, not particularly thought provoking but emotionally charged but above all, funny.

So the characters in them should follow that theme – fun, funny and not too serious. That’s not to say there can’t be dire themes in a chick lit story, I just think they should be moments that define the story rather than the character.

So what makes a good chick lit chick? Here’s my guide to five things a chick-lit protagonist should be (and five they really shouldn’t)

3D Glasses?

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In order for readers to invest their time in a story the main character(s) HAVE to be realistic. That means warts and all, wobbly bits and cellulose, cramps and bad hair days, real. There’s nothing worse than reading about someone who’s perfect – perfect hair, perfect body, personality sense of humour. Boring! As a writer I have to have characters with flaws, especially if they obsess over them or manage to come to terms with them during the story.

Chick Lit Skin Flick?

This is a big no-no for me. I know I’m supposed to be a sex obsessed, base creature with no morals and make my way through the world salivating at every woman I encounter but I think chick lit should be clean. Sex happens and there’s nothing wrong with your characters enjoying it but it should be mentioned in passing, not described in gory detail. Erotica is another sub-genre and perfectly fine but chick lit is different and should be treated as such. Your protagonist should be sexy but not sex-mad.

Funny

Um, yes. This is the one thing your character has to be. If not actually cracking the jokes herself, she should be surrounded by humour. Funny and potentially unrealistic scenes that readers can relate to should pepper the story and in my mind, are the backbone of chick lit. We’ve all met someone who doesn’t fit the mould, someone who blurts the wrong thing at the wrong time and makes everyone laugh or doesn’t get the same jokes or references as the rest of the group. Characters like that, when they’re written well, can drive a whole story and keep your reader interested.

In Poppy’s Proposal – blatant book plug alert! – read the first two chapters here – I wrote a scene where the love interest hands a rather large sex toy in at the reception desk where Poppy works.

I looked up to see the mischief had spread to his eyes and his smile was even larger than before.

What is this, some kind of wind-up? If Lisa’s put him up to…

My thoughts were completely scattered as he brought his hand round to show me the longest, thickest, dildo I’d ever seen. I felt my jaw actually drop as I took in the sight. Sensibly he’d wrapped the thing – looked like a bludgeon – in loo roll but there must have been a good three inches of thick rubbery plastic jutting from either side of his fist! Oh and it was green too. I swallowed, completely mortified.

Relatable

In a similar way to being 3D or realistic your protagonist has to be relatable to your readers. This is where knowing the chick lit genre can pay dividends as adding the right kind of protagonist can make or break a chick-lit story. Of course everyone is different but in the chick lit ‘universe’ there are certain expectations if not rules. Your character has to strike a chord with the readers you’re aiming at and be true to the genre. There’s no point in having a beer-swilling, foul-mouthed and mannish main character, it just won’t sit well with readers. As a comedy side-character yes, as your main character I wouldn’t risk it.

Romantic

The very fact chick lit is a sub-genre of romance tells readers that, at some point, your characters are going to fall in love – it’s a given. It’s the journey, their journey, that keeps people reading. So whether your main character is desperately looking for The One or love creeps up and slaps them round the back of the head she needs to be romantic (or at least open to the possibility). She might be a successful, independent woman who ‘don’t need no man’ but at the same time should be at the point where she might quite like one.

So there you go, five things I think your protagonist should be.

Know someone who’d like this little post? Send them the link – they might just thank you.

Funny Stuff

Wuvwy Animal Wednesday!

Some people have been asking me if I’ve got any photos of the pets I mention in my bios on books and websites and the basic answer is yes. So here, in a feel good post (with a catchy title)  are some pretty photos of the pets what are in me life.

Dogs.

In an incredibly risky revelation I’m going to kick off by saying I like dogs more than cats. I realise the internet is a cat-lovers paradise and I’ll come in for a stream of abuse and flack but there you are.

This beautiful man was Jasper. Unfortunately you read that right as he passed away about seven years ago now. Jazzy-boy you will always be missed.

This thing is Arthur, often referred to as ‘The cantankerous Yorkshire Terrier’

The cantankerous Yorkshire Terrier…

Hobbies include barking, yapping and barking more. If there’s a siren he barks. If the wind blows he barks. When I Hoover he barks. If nothing happens he barks. But it’s not just a bark, it’s the highest pitched, yappiest, ear splitting sound you’ll ever hear.

This is Fudge the bestest, most loving, good choccy lab there ever did be. After the sad loss of Jasper, we managed to find this lovely specimen for sale by a “breeder”. I put that in quotation marks as when we got him home he stank of cigarette smoke and was covered in fleas. I have to say he’s not always quite as distinguished as he appears in these pictures.

Cats

There are currently six – SIX! – cats in our house. Our four and two that came to us when the daughter moved back in. Six!

Brennan and Booth (yes, from Bones) are the original two cats we had. She’s the tortoiseshell one and was an unplanned addition to the family. Originally we were going to get Booth in all his pristine glory but when my wife and eldest daughter came back from the lovely gentleman who was selling them there were two. In a stunningly bad move, we got Booth neutered. I say bad move as we should have had Brennan spayed first. A move she rewarded us with by getting pregnant. Resulting in…

Coco and Angel. These are the two we kept of the six (where have I seen that number before?) kittens Bren-Bren had. Coco the black and white one was my wife’s favourite while we just couldn’t find anywhere for Angel so she stayed.

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Iccle baby Coco, not long been born and sleeping in a hand (possibly mine).

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Do I know I’m beautiful? Yes. Yes I do.

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Despite appearances, I’m not as high as a kite. Nor is the human I’m cuddling.

Fudge and Coco 3

Aww the bromance boys holding hands  All out cats love Fudge but he and Coco share a ‘special’ bond.

So there we have some of the lifeforms that share the house with me. I based a cat in Time To Turn Back on one of them grab your free copy here and see if you can tell which one.

Got a pet as cute? Drop a comment or send a pic, I’d love to see them.

Books and Writing

Top Ten Paranormal Romance Review Sites

In a follow up to my earlier post Top Ten Chick Lit Blog Sites, I’ve compiled a list of blog and review sites for us Indie authors to go and visit for reviews. So I’ll just leap straight in with…

1. Smexy Books

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One of the first I managed to find that actually accept Indie authors, Smexy books do say that if you’re an unknown (to them) author they’ll make a decision as to whether they review according to the blurb you send. WIth a four to six week turnaround for a review and an easy, online submission form they run a great looking site and service so make sure to check them out here.

2. Fiction Vixen

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Similar to Smexy Books, Fiction Vixen has an easy to use, online submission form. Your submission request is held in their database for three months for a reviewer to choose. If your book is selected the reviewer can contact you for a copy directly and you can take it from there. Click here to go visit the site that features reviews, extracts and paid advertising space.

3. Maryse’s Book Blog

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A gorgeous little site run by Maryse and when she’s not enjoying candles that smell like dessert, stiletto heels, sugary treats and vodka martinis, she loves to read. With high site traffic and numerous followers on various social media platforms this is an incredible little site. Unfortunately Maryse’s time is short due to the large amount of requests she gets. There’s a contact form (although the page didn’t load when I tried it) and email address for submissions but your book needs to catch Maryse’s imagination to be read. Check her blog out here.

4.Angieville

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Angie has a beautifully created, simple but informative site that has a large volume of reviews featured on it. She’s got a couple of options to contact her, email address or contact form, but as with other sites Angie stresses the fact she gets a large number of requests and can’t review them all. Click here to head over there and have a look.

5. Book Binge

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Book Binge has submissions via email where they ask you to include title, length and description of the book. As with all these sites, they offer an unbiased, honest review and don’t hold back. If your book ‘sucks big donkey balls’ they’ll say so in their review.

sucks big donkey balls

Click here to visit if you dare!

6. The Good, The Bad and The Unread

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The tagline for this site is Reading, Ranting and Reviewing by readers and they clearly admit they’re not overly cerebral and like to rant and swear a little. I actually had difficulty in finding where to send a request on here but it is possible to find the email address on their Pond page. They feature guest authors and add excerpts. Click here to visit.

7. Book Rock Betty

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Book Rock Betty reads contemporary, romance, fantasy, dystopian, historical and chick lit but not erotica. She’s also got three ‘baby Betty’s’ (her kids) who happily give their unbiased opinion on children’s books. While Betty does read self published and Indie authors, she says the tale must ‘jump out at her’ and if it’s part of a series, she won’t read them out of order. Click here for reviews, guest posts and giveaways.

8. Dear Author

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Dear Author is a site ‘For readers by Readers’ and has a host of features for authors and readers alike. Reviews, news and essays sit alongside reading recommendations and a daily deals section. Review submission is via email and there is a small set of instructions to follow if you wish to be considered. Click here to visit.

9. Reading Romances

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Run by Nat, the site’s only reviewer, Reading Romances is an impressive site that has interviews and guest blogs alongside the reviews. There’s a submissions form on the site but as with all these blog sites, time is limited and Nat reserves the right to only read/review those she has time to get to. Click here to head over and have a look.

10. Romance Novels For Feminists

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‘For readers who like a little equality with their love’ RNFF is run by Jackie Horne, a self confessed ‘rabid reader of romance. Submission id by email but reviews are only offered to Indie authors who have had their books proofread and copy edited professionally. Click here to visit.

So there we have it, by no means an exhaustive list but a list nonetheless and one I’ve submitted my book, Time to Turn Back, to most of as I’ve been compiling it so I might do an update on those that got back to me in future.

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