As Kate Walker is doing a series of posts on writing craft and this Guide, do check her other posts:
Romance Book Haven
Revisions & Editions
Romance Book Paradise
Kate Walker on the Web:
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Over the years, I've run many workshops or courses on how to write romances for writers' groups, literature festivals, and other events. On these occasions, I'm often asked many of the same questions, and there seem to be a number of things that keep cropping up that would-be writers want to know.
These are the questions that I try to answer in my teaching - whether it's a weekend course, a one-day workshop. I also get a lot of enquiries from would-be authors - would-be romance writers who have read my novels and want to know how to succeed as a writer for one of the lines published by Harlequin/Mills and Boon or any other romance publishing company.
When I answered those, I was usually writing the same things over and over so I kept a sort of form letter on my computer. I realised that so many people needed the same questions answering, the same writing problems explained, and the information needed to get further than just the few emails I was writing. Because of this, I wrote the Straightforward Guide to Writing Romantic Fiction, in which I tried to answer the questions I get asked most frequently.
But that book was just a basic - very basic - summary of what is needed in a romance novel. It was really only a summary of the essential things a writer needs to know. I never actually planned to become a teacher - a creative writing/romantic fiction writing tutor. Years ago, when I was thinking about the career I wanted, the last thing I wanted to do was to be a teacher. My mother was a teacher - the head of a local junior school - and that profession just didn’t appeal to me. The thing was that as life went on I seemed to be surrounded by teachers - I married a university lecturer, my best friend was an English teacher, even - much later - my son became a teacher. By then I had started giving some workshops on How To Write Romance - or done talks on my books writing for Harlequin Presents. And I realised that while I didn’t want to be a teacher as my profession – I did enjoy teaching - when I was talking about something that I loved – about writing and specially about writing Romance.
Then one time I was chatting with a friend – over email. I thought she would be a great writer for Harlequin Presents but she had a LOT of questions and uncertainties about that. So I said – look the most important points about writing Presents are . . . and I started with Point One – Emotion . . . At the end of that discussion I had - in very rough form – a set of notes about the ’12 Point Plan ‘ for writing romance. I even taught an on-line workshop on that topic and it was really really popular. It also felt great to see that people had started to understand things that had puzzled them before. Others had realised where they’d been going wrong, mistakes they’d been making without knowing it. Lots of people asked if I had a printed copy of the workshop. I didn’t but I made up some pamphlets with the workshop in and I took those to conferences where they sold like hot cakes. I realised so many people were helped by the workshop and I wanted to help more.
But I didn’t want to just write a formal ‘how to guide’. On my courses we have a lot of fun. We talk – lots – we laugh –lots - and we learn lots. So I wanted to write a guide to writing romance that was like my courses so I wrote the workshop again, adding more details, more advice, and I added the extra writing exercises at the end of each chapter –12 Questions to answer. Something to think about. Something to write. Because if you say you want to write – you don’t just read about it. You get on and write. And that made the book into a workbook, not just a how to guide.
The original 12 Point Guide was first published in 2004 and it seemed that everyone had been waiting for it – and they found it so helpful. In that first year it won 2 awards from the Cataromance site - - the Reviewers’ Choice Award and the award for the most helpful book for writers. I was thrilled when several newly published writers - India Grey – Natalie Rivers – Natasha Oakley – Michelle Styles – all told me that they felt the 12 Point Guide had helped them on their way to publication. Since then there have been almost 20 more.
When the book went into its second edition I wanted to add a special section with advice from other authors – after all, my way isn’t the only way to do things! So I asked around amongst friends who were fellow writers and I was so thrilled to find how many of them responded. As a result of their generosity in sharing their experiences, the From The Authors’ Desks section was created and added a LOT to the original Guide.
But there were problems with the distribution of the book. Writers in America, Australia etc were having difficulties getting their hands on copies, and when they did the books were very expensive. It was when the publisher was reluctant to produce ebook versions that I decided to take things into my own hands. For a while I self-published the book, but still distribution internationally was a problem.
That was when my husband started working with Emerald Guides (he wrote a Crime Writers’ Handbook for them with a friend who was a detective in the London Met) – and the publisher asked it he could take over the 12 Point Guide – and all the distribution. I was delighted to have that responsibility taken out of my hands - but I realised that before they could publish the book it really needed to be revised and brought up to date. There were a lot of romance lines that were no longer published, lines where the names had been changed . . .
So I revised the whole thing, added more details about how to submit by email, tried to include all the new names for the lines- but those can change so fast that I’m not holding my breath everything will stay bang up to date for ever!
The Guide is intended to provide information and advice for anyone who wants to learn how to write Romantic fiction. It gives a short introduction to all the essential skills needed to succeed, from initial research to the final submission of the novel.
I use this book all the time for my workshops and courses here in the UK and I’m so happy to see it being used by would-be writers internationally – and a whole new set of readers. I’m really hoping – keeping my fingers crossed - that soon I’ll be able to add to my list of published authors who have been helped along their way to publication by this new revised edition. And I’m still really honoured by some of the reviews it’s had from some of the best in the business.
I’ll just quote one from a very special writer and a very dear friend Michelle Reid:
The 12 Point Guide is “ a must-have for any aspiring romantic fiction writer. Brilliant . . . A page-turner all on its own.”