WRITING THE ROMANCE NOVEL

Once it was a formula:  boy meets girl, then a crisis or argument, but in the end they marry and live happily ever after.  Not any more! Today, a romantic novel is one is which people start off emotionally impoverished in some way and end up emotionally richer.

They don’t have to get married, or even stroll into the sunset hand-in-hand. In the end, one of them might die (think Jo Jo Moyes “You Before Me”). But in the course of the story, they must have been on an emotional journey, and learned something about life, love and themselves.

Most romantic novels do end with the lovers becoming united. Fans of this genre like happy endings. But it’s time now to move past the Mills &U Boon type of romance.  The bad news is that it can sometimes be a challenge to sell anything less than a fairytale ending to publishers, and to your subsequent readers. But you could be brave and  give it a go.  I did in the favorite one of my 14 published books “Esther” – a Jerusalem Love Story.

My two protagonists did not end up together, much as I wanted them to, because the dictates of their life situations did not make it feasible.  It was not exactly a happy ending, but I felt it was the right ending.   Giving some kinds if stories happy – rather than emotionally satisfying – endings, would be as daft as tacking on a song and dance routine to the ending of Hamlet or Romeo & Juliet.

Giving your characters hope is the key to writing a good romantic novel. Traditionally happy endings are no longer essential, but you must give your characters and your readers reasons to keep going.  Some things to keep in mind are:

Is the story line too predictable?   Will you be able to keep the promise you make to your characters and readers?  Will they learn something along the way?  Is the ending appropriate – will it be happy, hopeful or even tragic?

In my latest novella, “Searching for Sarah”, you don’t know until the last page if the couple will face a future a together or apart.  I like to leave something to the reader’s imagination and let them fill in some of the blanks.

If you want any of my books, contact me at dwaysman@gmail.com and I’ll tell you how to get them.  Happy writing!

I’ll also be happy to help with any writing problems.

 

 

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WRITING OPINION PIECES

We call them op-eds, because they usually appear next to the editorial column in the newspaper.  You don’t usually get paid for them, but they are a wonderful way to express intelligent viewpoints, without whining, ranting or preaching, and give you far more scope than just a letter to the Editor.

Timeliness is of the utmost importance. If you think it’s difficult to give an opinion without editorializing or writing emotionally, do your best to avoid using the pronoun “I”.

 

Use humor wherever possible.  When you address serious subjects with humor, you’ll find there’s a rhythm to it.  Write a funny line and then -boom – right to the heart of the matter – suddenly serious to grab the reader’s attention.

Add verifiable statistical information and direct quotes. This will back up your opinion e.g. about the growing crime rate among young people. You can add quotes from politicians, as well as the rate of growth of that particular area of crime.  Make sure your sources are reliable, and your research is truthful.

Write on topics that you really care about – women’s issues, social issues, religion … especially if you have specialised knowledge on a particular subject.  Anticipate anniversaries that are coming up and are of significant importance. Don’t cover “tired” topics unless you have a fresh viewpoint.

Don’t overwrite – 600 – 750 words is the usual length for an op-ed.  You won’t make much, if any, money from opinion pieces, but your name will become well-known and an editor may think of you when he has an assignment for a feature article – this has happened to me on many occasions.

Keep on writing – that is important.  I am having a break from writing novels (I’ve published 14) so I’ve been enjoying writing some short stories for a change, as well as some op-eds.  I am having some lovely feedback from my recently published novel “Searching for Sarah” – copies available if you write to me direct at:  dwaysman@gmail.com  Although it’s short – really a novella, the Jerusalem Post published a full-page color book review that was most heart-warming and unexpected.

I’m happy to help you with any writing queries.

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PREVARICATION

That’s what I’ve been doing.  So this time, I’m going to tell you what NOT to do.  My 14th book “Searching for Sarah” was published a few months ago.  Somehow, everyone thinks an author immediately launches into a new work, so I’ve been battling the questions of “What are you working on now?”  At first, I just looked vague and said “I have a few ideas”.  Later I tried to look mysterious, as much as to say: “It’s a secret that I don’t want to give away.”  Then I lied and said: “I’m working on what will probably be my swan song – after all, I’m 86, I can’t really expect to be around to write many more books.”

The truth is, I know what I want to write.  And I really hope to start it soon – but somehow I can’t get started.  Maybe it’s the weather – I love the Summer, but here in Jerusalem we’ve been having a long heatwave – every day around 37 degrees.  So I write a little bit in my head, but that’s where it is still sitting.  It’s going to be for my family, not the general public, and I know the title:  “Stories I Never Told You.”  We are blessed with a very large family – my 4 wonderful children have given us 18 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren ; but the latter have only known me as an old lady.  I want them to know me as I was – my childhood in Melbourne Australia; my four siblings;  my trip to London where my life really took off, and I stayed for three years; my first experiences as an adult living an independent life there; (I may have to censor it a bit!);    my adventures Youth Hostelling my way around Europe with my schoolfriend Marie, who sadly recently passed away;  my return to Australia and my work in advertising; my early success in writing short stories, poetry etc.  Getting married – becoming a mother.  I really want them to understand I was once as young as they are now and the lessons I learned along the way.

I’ll get started soon.  Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe when the heatwave ends … I tell myself every day – just do it!  I was delighted to receive a parcel this week from Miami, Florida, of 10 copies of my very favourite novel “Esther – a Jerusalem Love Story”  which has a lot of my own story in it, although I wrote it as fiction.  Much of it is my life in London; and my heroine is a war correspondent in Lebanon in 1982, just as I was.   As it’s been out of print a few years,  anyone who wants to buy a copy should contact me at dwaysman@gmail.com  ;  I also have available my new novella “Searching for Sarah”. My publisher here delivered some copies to me today of “The Pomegranate Pendant” – my first novel which was made into the movie “The Golden Pomegranate”, but a bookseller asked for them before I even had the chance to unwrap them, so I’ll have to order more. These little distractions are stopping me from embarking on my new project, so I want to reiterate – don’t prevaricate like I am doing.  The only road to success as a writer is to write – and I’m going to start again very soon!

I love your comments – so be in touch; and let me know if you need help with any writing problems.

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CAN YOUR FICTION CHANGE THE WORLD?

What is the point of fiction?  Should it just be for pleasure or escape?   There are novels that can, and do, change lives.  They use the narrative  power of drama to enlighten, to encourage  to warn and to console.

Our ancestors told stories and fables to make sense of the world. The fable of the tortoise and the hare reminds us that the fastest is not always the greatest.

One of the novelist’s duties is to alert us to injustices in society.  Charles Dickens in Nicholas Nickleby exposed the horrors of the Yorkshire Schools – boarding schools where illegitimate or damaged children were beaten and starved by men posing as teachers.  In The Water Babies, Kingsley described the plight of juvenile chimney sweepers. Bryce Courtney’s “The Power of One” condemns the evils of apartheid, and found the inner strength to change his own life and those of people around him.

We must show, not just tell. Self-help manuals inform and instruct us.  but novelists can show us how to do it, encouraging us to identify with characters who make the emotional journeys that we might wish to make ourself.  Victoria Hislop’s famous book “The Island” was a sympathetic depiction of the life of lepers in the early 20th century until the end of World War II when medication became available. It aroused awareness  to charities seeking to eradicate leprosy in the Third World.

Fiction can also help us understand situations in our own lives. Novelists assure us we are not alone.  Technology moves on but human nature stays the same.

An author sometimes has the power he or she might not have in real life. We can paint pictures of heart-felt despair, and can offer the reader solutions. We can show that it’s possible to move on and make better lives for ourselves.  We can inspire a reader in the same situation.

A writer of fiction has the duty to show how we can move on.  Some governments are afraid of writers because they tell their readers that a situation can be changed for the better. When you write fiction, you can use your story to plumb the hidden depths in human nature. You can make the reader care about your characters.  They can take control and eventually win through.

Stories help us to see what is possible. People with life-changing experiences sometimes choose to write a novel instead of an autobiography, using the novel format to work through traumas they have suffered, or to make sense of their own childhoods. You are not on oath to tell the whole truth – you can rework your real life experience in order to make an interesting story, and this kind of liberty can set you free.

 

There will always be a need for storytellers to explain us to ourselves, and as a novelist, you have the power.

I’ll be glad to hear your comments, and to help you with your own writing problems. My latest novel is “Searching for Susan” – available on Amazon or contact me direct at dwaysman@gmail.com    Happy writing!

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WRITER OR AUTHOR – THE DIFFERENCE

The difference is: When you’re a writer, people ask: “What have you written lately?”  An author has no such time pressure.  Having been published once, even a decade ago, is enough – this is a durable credential.

However, being a published author is not all garden parties and massive doses of self-esteem.   Don’t expect the William Morris Agency to be making frantic calls to woo you.  Maybe you should go to bookstores  and rearrange their stock so that your book faces cover out instead of spine out, which no one looks at.    Forge ahead with your book talks even if the only people who show up are the co-ordinator and your mother.     Joking apart, I sold the largest quantity of my books after giving a talk or a reading at different venues, such as bookstores,  local organizations, charity events, even after fashion parades.  Once people have met you, the author, and heard a snippet of your writing, they almost feel obliged to come away with a copy of your book.

If your first book has been a major success, by which I mean it has garnered good reviews and impressive sales in the thousands, it is a temptation to make your second book a sequel, thinking that if people  really enjoyed the first one, they are going to want to know what happened to these characters later.  One example is Jojo Moyes “Me Before You” and its sequel |”After You.”  I loved both of them.  But my experience was different.

My first book (I’ve written 14) has  been amazing. “The Pomegranate Pendant” had wonderful reviews, is still selling regularly after 20 years, has been made into a movie (“The Golden Pomegranate) and musicals in both USA and Australia, and won a major literary prize and still brings e-mails stating “This is my favourite book of all time”, yet when I wrote a sequel”Seeds of the Pomegranate” it has  languished miserably for many years now.

Your second book will probably be even harder to sell than your first.  Try for a different story, even a different genre.  After that, your name will be recognisable as an author, and your friends’ query will be:  “Are you working on a new novel?  What is it about?”

 

(My latest novella “Searching for Sarah” is available by contacting me at dwaysman@gmail.com.  I am always happy to hear your comments or help you with any writing queries.)

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MARKETING YOUR ARTICLE

Sorry not to have written my Blog for awhile. My husband had a pacemaker installed, so looking after him took up a lot of time.

Now I want to talk about getting into print.  In a sense you have been a producer.  Now you must be a salesman.  First, study markets to discover the needs of possible buyers.  Then you offer your wares where there is the best chance of their being accepted, by your customer – the magazine editor.

Editors deal in articles, and as the middle-man, he links the writer with the ultimate reader.  He/she naturally chooses articles to help sell as many copies of the magazine as possible. Articles are first read by a reader, who rejects and returns unsuitable material if a stamp-addressed envelope has been enclosed; or just deletes it if it comes in by e-mail.

Manuscripts which survive this elimination process go to the editor. His is the final responsibility… what he accepts must be paid for and published. He is always searching for ms. to delight his readers, and will accept them instantly and gratefully.  He works to a fixed schedule, planning in advance, and has most accepted material in place far ahead of time.  He tries to plan a variety – not more than one or two stories of a similar type in any one issue. These considerations govern his choice. Articles are not always rejected because they don’t measure up – often it’s just because he has already accepted something along similar lines, or else is stocked up for months.He selects the best content for the space he has at his disposal.

The usual reason for rejection, apart from poor quality, is that the material is not adapted to the particular needs of the publication. You can eliminate this by constantly studying each publication.  Buy copies of a great variety of journals, or read them on-line.

Their pet aversions are long, flowery introductions; an overlong article padded with hackneyed phrases; unrelated material written with no idea of the policy of the journal; old ideas that are just a re-hash of someone else’s work;  too  much personal touch or the writer’s life history. If an editor wants to see more of your work, even if he rejects one article, he will tell you so and leave the door open for the future.

Although publications need big name authors to sell them, they also need first-rate articles from unknown writers.  You may get lower rates of payment at first, but you will be encouraged if you show promise.  Big names are always in print because they supply what is demanded.

Often the best time to sell an article is before it even gets written. Many are written only after preliminary negotiations between editor and writer.  Once you have an idea, you  can write to several editors sounding them out to see if it interests them. It does not commit them to buy your story, but if the idea is acceptable, the length is right, the style is suitable, you have a 90% chance.  Your suggestion should crisply outline the feature and indicate the authoritativeness of the material and any special qualifications you may have in that area.

 

Good luck and happy writing!

If you are interested in my latest novel “Searching for Sarah”, you can contact  me at dwaysman@gmail.com

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IS FICTION YOUR FORTE?

If you have decided fiction is your medium, this takes just as much hard work as a well-researched article, because fiction, to be successful, must be believable.  You don’t just get an idea for a story or novel and then rush to start writing. First, make notes about your characters. Transfer their looks, thoughts and conversations on to paper. Decide on their backgrounds. Write about the setting – but choose a place you have lived in or really know intimately.

Start with one giant character – the hero or heroine – then build your satellite characters. Some authors first decide on a subject, then they invent a story, or plot, as the framework.  The main impetus of any short story or novel is the drama, moving from crisis to crisis.

Most novels contain or or more of these dramatic elements:

MAN AGAINST NATURE: (Robinson Crusoe; mountaineering books of J.R. Ullman etc.) Don’t make the story too grim, put the hero through unbelievable paces or treat nature solely as an enemy.

MAN AGAINST MAN: The chief danger here is to make your hero all good and his opponent all bad – every human is a little bit saint and also a bit sinner.

MAN AGAINST SOCIETY:  This was the classical theme of writers like Victor Hugo, Emil Zola and James Baldwin.

MAN AGAINST HIMSELF: This theme is exploited by Bernard Malamud and many contemporary writers. Don’t overburden your story with psychologizing, and can avoid this by dramatizing your story elements.

The plot refers to what happens – the arrangement of the events in the story. It is the plan or design and should be planned so that events at the beginning prepare the reader for the future.  These are the questions you should ask in devising your plot:

What conflict is there?  What is the basis for the conflict? What does the hero want? Does he get it?

Next you should ask: How does the story create suspense? When is your curiosity aroused about what is going to happen?  When is it satisfied?

Plot shows the cause and effect relationship between character and event. e.g. If you hear that a woman jumps from the fifth storey of a luxury apartment building, the incident is not meaningful until it is placed in a plot, in which you perceive how her character  and previous events in her life led her to suicide.

In a good story, every detail contributes to the plot, but you must omit details which do not further this purpose. Choose those which best produce the effect you want. You must also choose scenes which show most effectively the relationship between character and events.

The climax is the when the outcome of the conflict is decided, and who (or what) will win the struggle. Involve the reader emotionally. Conflict, suspense and incidents in a well-constructed story build up to this final climax.

 

Happy writing.   My new novella “Searching for Sarah” is now available on Amazon, or direct from me (dwaysman@gmail.com ); as well as some of my earlier books e.g. “The Pomegranate Pendant”; “Seeds of the Pomegranate” ; “In A Good Pasture”;  my memoir “My Long Journey Home”  etc.  I am always happy to hear your comments and to help with any of your writing problems.

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