Career progression

Not mine, my heroines’. Prompted by a review on one of my earliest books by someone who was horrified at the heroine’s lack of ambition. I don’t think I would write that character now. Here’s how my heroines have progressed:

(In order of writing, not publication)

© Bobby Flowers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Bobby Flowers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Waitress (Tycoon’s Convenient Wife)
Temp (Reckless Runaway)
Oil tycoon (The Oil Tycoon and Her Sexy Sheikh)
Model (Lying for the Camera)
Accountant (All I Want for Christmas)
Food critic (Table for One)
Lawyer (An Unsuitable Husband)
Lawyer (Twelve Days. Oops. Didn’t mean to write two in a row.)
CEO (Unnamed WIP)

In some of these stories, the career is not central to the story (Twelve Days, All I Want for Christmas). In others, it’s the source of the external conflict (Table for One, The Oil Tycoon and Her Sexy Sheikh). I’ve flirted around the traditional boss/secretary trope – Reckless Runaway is sort of that, but it’s not a standard sort of office. The unnamed WIP at the end of the list fits much better, although it’s the hero who is the PA, not the heroine.

So where next? Royalty? Hmm. Maybe not.

Writing short

Note: this is not actually a new post. I’ve finally located some of the old blog from before the crash at the end of 2012 and have rescued the posts I thought were worth saving. Here’s the first, originally published on July 11th, 2012:

I just had a lovely email from my editor claiming that I am the only author he works with who knows how to write a Flirt.* Flirts are Entangled’s shortest stories, at 10-15,000 words. The next line up is Ever After at 20-40,000 words. 40,000 words is half a good sized novel and almost enough for a category romance (45-50,000 words). So a Flirt is a really different kind of thing.

I find writing short much, much easier than writing long. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve done so much academic writing with very strict word counts – even one word over the limit would knock you down a grade. I think I have a natural tendency towards brevity as well. Plus words are the hard bit of writing. Ideas are easy.

Anyway, here’s how I go about writing a Flirt. It’s basically three chapters of a book (not necessarily of equal length): Set up; Conflict; Resolution. Easy.

Set up
In two of my Flirts I’ve helped move the set up along by having characters who already know each other. I think there’s a limit to what you can do from a meet-cute in 10-15,000 words, and it will be hard to find a satisfying conflict unless there’s some background to draw on. The set up will also need to introduce the conflict, just as it would in a longer romance.

Conflict
Then you need to pitch the real struggle in chapter two. This is the key to making the short story work. You’ve got to have a conflict that’s real and significant, but also one that you can resolve in the short space. Your story doesn’t have to take place in a single day, but I think it does need to be relatively compact chronologically as well as narratively. Episodic short stories are weird and unsatisfying, in my experience. You’ll need to have characters who talk to each other about real stuff so that you can get to the heart of their issues quickly.

Resolution
In a longer book, the resolution takes up a comparatively small proportion of the word count, but I think that even in a short story, readers want to be able to enjoy the happy ending and feel sure that it’s real. It’s easy, in this length of story, to use themes, images and phrases that refer back to the set up and the conflict to give a satisfying literary resolution which matches the romantic resolution. I don’t think you have to aim for HEA with a short – happy for now is definitely okay. You’ve dealt with one problem between your characters, but if they are real, complex people, they’ll doubtless face other issues and the reader knows that. Don’t make the resolution bigger than the conflict deserves.

I think that’s the key, actually, balancing the set up, the conflict and the resolution. You’re probably not going to tell a grand, sweeping love story that towers across the ages in this short format. What you can do is focus in on one moment of a relationship, and make your readers care about your characters enough to want them to get through this particular hurdle and come out stronger and better on the other side.

*It should be pointed out that of the three stand-alone Flirts published so far, one has sold hundreds of thousands of copies, and the other two are mine. So I haven’t exactly got the magic touch.

Phew

The sexy French footballer has been emailed to my editor with a strong sense of relief. It’s a fun book – at least, I made myself laugh while I was writing it – and I hope she will like it too. It won’t be on sale until the end of the year, I think. There’s a much longer lead time at Entangled now, because of the change in distribution and also because they’re now being reviewed in RT magazine. This is a really exciting prospect but it does mean that review copies have to be available well in advance of the publication date. I think it means that other reviewers will also be able to get advance copies, too, and that readers will be able to pre-order the book. I love it when I pre-order a digital book and it just pops onto my Kindle on the right day as if by magic. I will be sure to let you know as soon as you can pre-order An Unsuitable Husband.

I’m taking today off (it’s a bank holiday in the UK and it’s sunny, which is a combination that almost never happens), and then I need to decide what to work on next. Tom and Hattie are a priority, but I also need to get together a couple of proposals to send to my editor.

Here, have some peonies while I think about it.

DSCF3655

Why I want readers, not fans

Readers: read books.
Fans: collect swag, queue up for book signings, want to know about the private life of the author.

Readers: like or dislike books.
Fans: defend an author and her books to the death.

Readers: sometimes review books if they want to.
Fans: squee incoherently and give five stars indiscriminately.

Readers: sometimes talk about books with their friends.
Fans: stalk the internet looking for comments that are anything short of over-the-top praise, to rally the troops and harass the reviewer.

Readers: buy books to read.
Fans: do anything they can to get an early copy or a review copy, so they can laud it over their fellow fans.

Readers: are interested in books, not authors.
Fans: think they are in the author’s inner circle.

Readers: do not become stalkers, go on pilgrimages, harass authors for autographs.
Fans: sometimes do.

Readers: can distinguish an author from her books.
Fans: are not so clear about the difference.

I would like people to read my books. I am always happy when they like them, but completely understand when not everyone does. I’m happy when anyone wants to talk about my books and I don’t ever want someone to feel threatened if they have something negative to say. I don’t really need an army of new friends and I definitely don’t need crowds of fans intruding into my life. I would much prefer to be gathering new readers than making fans.

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