How to write a romance novel for Camp Nanowrimo

Piyusha Vir wrote this lovely post about her difficulties in attempting Camp Nanowrimo. For the uninitiated, Camp Nanowrimo is  a virtual writers’ camp where you can set a target and push yourself to achieve it. Piyusha wants to write 10,000 words, but wants to know how to pen a romance novel during Camp Nanowrimo. You can read her list of queries here:
https://wanderingsoul2015blog.wordpress.com/2016/04/06/how-do-i-write-a-novel/

Piyusha, thanks for tagging me to answer your queries. Since your questions were too numerous to be answered in a simple comment box, here’s my response in the form of a blog post:

Don’t chain together incidents without theme.

A novel is not a running commentary of various incidents. The point of a story is not that protagonist has to get from point A to point B. Well, it can be a useful instrument to form the setting of your story. Eg the hero and the heroine are both going to visit La Tomatina festival and for various reasons have to travel together. In a romance novel, it can serve to bring the characters in enforced propinquity, but beyond that, you cannot use this premise. Neither can you just have your character move from an event like attending a concert to another of attending a wedding. You can have these, but only if these situations serve a  purpose in your story and move it forward. Eg did she see the hero’s ex at the concert and begin to feel insecure? Did he attend the wedding and learn from a relative that she’d had a terrible year because her parents died in an accident?
As your story progresses, the theme tying all the incidents should become clear. What is your story about? In the above example, you could make your theme about redemption. Did the heroine break law when she was angry about losing her parents? Has she since then carved a new and better life for herself?

No lengthy description of the mundane 
Your second query is: do I describe every (boring) detail in the story?
Answer: You don’t have to describe everything. In fact, you should stay away from making that mistake.
A novel has limited number of pages and readers have limited attention span. If you describe every mundane thing, it will waste story pages and annoy your reader. We know how people get ready. You don’t need to describe every act your protagonist goes through to reach the place of action. So, if she’s meeting the hero, it would be sufficient to mention she reached there. Did she take the trouble to do her hair? Was he straightening his tie as she walked towards him? That is useful because it conveys the state of the mind of the character. Otherwise, skip the mundane descriptions.

Don’t add details irrelevant to the story

You shouldn’t mention anything that doesn’t add to the story.
A bird chirping in the distance. Now, that is a natural thing to notice, but in your story you have to add detail only when it brings out emotions and reactions of your characters. Eg your hero is about to stand for elections and receives the  shocking news about the heroine’s unsavory past. Picture him focusing on periphery rather than his own pain and conflicted emotions. Does he hear the chirping of the bird because his own world has come to a standstill? Now the little detail serves to add impact to your story.

Confusing character and characterization:

The query was, “My character can’t go from being carefree and confident in the first part of the story to someone who is always anxious and needs re-assurance in the second part.”
Answer: You don’t change who your character is at the core. The story follows the arc of the character’s journey. The GMC should be clearly delineated. The character in your story has a goal, motivation, conflict. By the end, they may change their goal and hence motivation and resolve the conflict. In a romance, that’s how they find a HEA. In the above example, the hero might find he doesn’t really want to contest elections if he has to give up the heroine. Thus, the motivation to act in the way he has been acting, is now gone.

hcd-cover.jpg.jpg         aar-cover.jpg.jpeg        mtjd-cover.jpeg.jpeg

Romances have a common storyline. Or do they?
Romances have been done before. That doesn’t mean a new story has no freshness about it. When you write a romance, you have to focus on what’s special about your story. What is standing in the way of your protagonists and how they will overcome the issues between them? What twists or self revelations will landmark your characters’ way to finding their HEA? A happy ending is a must for a romance and it’s the author’s job to make it convincing, despite all the odds that have been presented in the book.
Btw the above plot is a budding idea of a new book. Hope you found the example helpful.
Keep writing and good luck for Camp Nanowrimo!

Writing first draft? Never look back!

Hello there! Some time back I started on a new writing project. I had a new story brimming in my mind. I talked to my editor and what we discussed really set the charting of the characters’ journey in my mind. I wrote out the synopsis and my editor really liked it. I named the characters and they began to ‘talk’ in my mind – which is how a new story always starts for me. Btw what is your process, if/when you write? Do share!

Anyway, I wrote the first scene and then the second. There were a few hitches because when I write, my left brain, the supposed sentinel of logic, walks off whistling blithely. So naturally there were holes. I made the fatal mistake. I went back and reread and began to edit. Uncertainties began to bee-swarm me… maybe the scene shouldn’t start with conversation? Maybe this part of internal pov should be shifted to the next section? Maybe I don’t need this scene AT ALL?

And it went downhill from there.

I wrote more. Then again the internal editor came out and began to thrash my wip. How could this scene fit here? I made changes which led to changes in the previous scene. Which led to doubt in the PREMISE. And toppled the PLOT itself.

Now it wasn’t downhill. It was rock bottom, no, it was in a pit that I had dug it. And then by going over it again and again I kept shovelling dirt till the story just became buried in my own criticism.

I couldn’t go back to the manuscript. I had the least desire to even open the folder now. The story was submerged in the millions of possibilities I had opened to it, instead of the single minded focus with which it began. The fun was gone. And when you aren’t having fun, it shows in your writing.

That is, if you can get yourself to write. I couldn’t. I put that on hold and worked on something else.

What did I get out of it? Two weeks wasted and a flat line on my enthusiasm monitor. But I did get an important lesson out of it. A lesson I knew but for the nth time forgot.

While writing don’t edit. You can’t do both.

John Steinbeck said it best,
“Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.”

However *sigh* people like me can’t make use of advice till it’s passed through the filter of their own painful experience.

If you can stop yourself, do. That’s why Nanowrimo is good for first drafts. Do look back and take stock of the story, do alter your plot if it suits the characters but not while writing the first version. Make notes in colour to remind you what you wanted to edit but DON’T EDIT right now. Second draft is for left brain polishing. For the first, let it go whistling. Trashing scenes is much more fruitful when you have it all down there.

So don’t look back. Don’t attempt to fix it.

Just write.