Writing a Romance Class (online)

Begins June 13, 2016!

If you’ve ever thought of writing a romance, you’re not alone. Romance is the bestselling fiction genre, so who hasn’t thought about trying her hand at one? But romances are harder to write than you might think.

I developed this class for people interested in learning the basics of writing romance. Whether you’re still toying with your idea or you’ve already written the first draft, this class can help you avoid the most common pitfalls new romance writers make. Not only am I a romance writer myself, but I work for publishers as a romance book developer – the person who helps writers make their books great.

Here’s what this class covers:

Week 1. We talk about what romance is about—and why it’s the hottest-selling genre in book publishing today. You’ll find out why readers enjoy romance and you’ll learn why thwarting those expectations will result in an unpublished romance. We’ll also discuss the main subgenres of romance (e.g., paranormal, suspense) and what readers expect to see in them (for example, in a romantic suspense, the suspense plot cannot become more important than the love relationship between the hero and heroine).

You’ll delve into finding and polishing a storyline that will appeal to readers. We’ll cover classic storylines that romance readers love (secret baby, older woman/younger man, reunited love) and discuss how you can put a new twist on these beloved (but sometimes overused) classics. We’ll cover the importance of starting your novel in the right place, and how not to gum everything up by dumping in too much backstory in the first chapter.

Week 2. You’ll start plotting your book (or attend to any problems in your work-in-progress’s plot). Your plot will be based on creating a believable conflict between the hero and the heroine. You’ll discover how to create plot points that are based on motivation/action/reaction (e.g., what real people would actually do in a given situation). You’ll find out about common pitfalls waiting for unwary romance writers (such as creating a conflict that could be solved if the hero or heroine asked one question.)

You can’t have a romance without a likeable heroine and a hero your reader will fall in love with. This week, we’ll discuss favorite types of heroes (the alpha male, the soldier, the friend-turned-lover) and how you can turn types into real peoples. You’ll create character sketches for your main characters. We’ll also cover secondary characters and how not to let them take over your plot.

Week 3. Your romance takes place somewhere and it’s told by someone. The setting may be contemporary Chicago, or 1855 London, or a planet in a different solar system. This week, we’ll cover the importance of world building. What does your reader need to know and when is enough enough?

We’ll also delve into the question of who is telling your story. In romance, the preferred perspective is third-person limited, with the point of view shifting between the hero and the heroine (without head-hopping!) We’ll discuss what perspective is and what your choices are (first, second, third) and why you should stick with convention. We’ll also discuss how to create deep perspective and how to realistically convey the opposite sex.

Week 4. This week is all about making sure your romance has a romance! Not every romance needs a sex scene, but they all need love scenes. This is where the hero and the heroine show their attraction to one another (and sometimes consummate it). This is not a class aimed at erotica writers, so we’ll keep the conversation PG-13. When you’re writing love scenes—whether they’re sweet or sexy—the emotional punch is the key. And if you grew up reading the purple prose of 1970s and 1980s romance, you’ll have to discard everything you think you know about writing compelling love scenes for contemporary readers.

This week, we’ll get into the nitty gritty of getting your hero and heroine’s relationship down on paper, focusing on the importance of creating convincing dialogue and showing rather than telling.

This class is only $299! Use the Paypal button below to reserve your spot:

If you’re an FLX member, use this button for the members’ discount:

Write Your Book Proposal Class (Online)

Starts June 13, 2016!

For many writers and experts who’d like to write a nonfiction book, putting together the book proposal is the most intimidating—yet most important—part of the process. Veteran book author Jennifer Lawler’s ecourse will walk you through every step of the way, from idea to finished proposal.

In this four-week class, you’ll learn how to:

  • identify a salable book idea
  • hook an editor with your book description
  • develop an irresistible outline
  • create the kind of platform agents and editors want to see
  • develop promotion and marketing ideas for your book
  • size up the competition and make your book different – and better

Each Monday, Jennifer will email you that week’s lesson with an assignment. You can do the assignment whenever you have time. Once you’ve worked through the assignment, the information is yours forever. You’ll be able to apply what you’ve learned to any book proposal you write.

Jennifer will respond to email questions as soon as possible and will critique each part of your proposal as you write it. By the end of the session, you’ll have finished your book proposal. (Please note that this does not include the sample chapter or chapters that many agents and publishers will ask for before making an offer on your book.)

Jennifer is the author or co-author of more than 30 published nonfiction books. She has written for small presses (Wish Publishing), medium-size publishing companies (McGraw-Hill) and huge media conglomerates (Penguin Putnam). She has written everything from how-to to reference to self-help. She works as a book development editor and was formerly a literary agent for Studio B Productions. She knows what book publishers look for in a proposal.

She’s helped many writers break into publishing, and her ecourse can help you do the same.

A testimonial from a recent student:

“If you’re serious about writing your book, then take this class first! Jennifer offers straight-shooting feedback and thoroughly understands book proposals. She breaks the process into do-able pieces and pushes you to excel. Jennifer knows just what agents are looking for. I found an agent ready to accept my book just 1 week after completing this class. You can buy a ‘how-to’ book off the shelf and muddle through a book proposal, or you can take Jennifer Lawler’s class and get direct, personal feedback on your project. It can’t be beaten. Jennifer knows what she’s talking about. She knows the formula that works and helps take your book ideas to a salable level.” — Heather Shumaker

This class is just $299!

To register using PayPal, click on the Buy Now button below.

To pay by check or for more information, contact Jennifer at jennifer@jenniferlawler.com

For the FLX members’ discount, please use this Paypal button:

On holding still

I am talking to Pete (not his real name) at the coffee shop. It is probably more accurate to say I am listening to Pete. Pete is homeless, and he passes many hours of each day at the coffee shop, usually sitting outside except on the coldest days of winter. Most days he greets everyone by name including, occasionally, people who are not there.

Some days when he is having a hard time and his demons, whatever they are, get the better of him, he doesn’t greet anyone at all.

I don’t know why I talk to Pete. It’s not my job and I always have something else I should be doing, a manuscript to work on, a document to review. Pete can talk for a very long time if he can get someone to hold still for it. He doesn’t expect anyone to listen but he always appreciates it when they do and thanks them afterward.

The secret is in not breaking stride. You answer his greeting, one hand on the door, and then you slide inside, no harm done. In other words, I know how to avoid him. It is just that some days I don’t. I have no idea why.

Today it is a beautiful Friday afternoon with a light breeze and a sunny sky. It is the first day that feels like spring, a perfect spring day, the kind we don’t get nearly enough of.

I’ve taken my coffee outside and Pete starts talking. It’s not as if I have to listen to him. I could get started on my project, which I have spread out on the table in front of me. He will take the hint and won’t be offended.

Instead I lean back in my chair, coffee in my hand. Every now and then I’ll interject a comment and he listens carefully and when I am through, he will say, “Yes, that’s right,” or “Yes, but here’s what I think.”

He is never adversarial. No one is ever wrong, they just don’t have all the facts. His talk covers foreign policy, Greek mythology, Erich Fromm, and the cultivation of innate talent. I realize halfway through that I talk with Pete because he’s more interesting than 99 percent of the people who enter my orbit, prattling on about their multilevel marketing plans for Christianity and how about those Royals.

Today he tells me something his wife used to say, then adds, “She died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.” I don’t know if this is something that happened recently or a very long time ago. It seems to be both at once, fresh and remote. Like he is trapped in a temporal fold, and the event keeps playing over and over. He can’t escape it. He has had a while to get used to it but he still can’t believe it happened.

“I’m sorry,” I say.

“You didn’t know that?” He sounds a little puzzled, and seems to sort through his memory, trying to figure out what I know about him, which isn’t much. I’m not trying to save him or be there for him or anything like that. I’m just listening to him because he’s interesting. Believe me I wouldn’t bother if he were prattling on about the ten pounds he needs to lose.

He seems to know a good deal more about the inner workings of the federal government than a sixty-something homeless man ought to and for a while I imagine he is a retired CIA agent or maybe a diplomat who had a little trouble with drink at his last posting. He is tactful, the way I imagine an ambassador would be, or maybe the protocol officer on an ambassador’s staff.

But then his talk about the government shades into government conspiracy theory and I realize he is just someone who reads a lot.

Today he is roaming over his past, apparently having decided it is safe enough to entrust it to my keeping, and it comes out that he first started having trouble in third grade, when he didn’t understand the purpose of school. I think how young that is for it to already start going wrong.

Then he tells me he is sharing his stories because he thinks someone can learn from them and I guess that means me, and maybe I will. Right now I am lifting my face to the breeze and sipping coffee and listening to Pete straighten out the world. I think he would be very good at it except when he has his bad days but maybe then we could just have a substitute, or close the offices for a holiday.

He is talking about playing soccer and not understanding the rules and he laughs a little and then he says, “I just thought you kicked the ball down the field. But you had to be part of a team. I never learned how not to be alone. I don’t know how to do it.”

And in that moment I am right there with him. It is curious and hard, to be apart from the world, to see the games and not understand them. I think maybe someone will invite me to play or that I can invite myself and I try that but I still don’t know the rules. Everyone else seems to know them. But when I try it turns out I cannot play, because I do not have job promotions to crow about and my daughter isn’t getting college acceptance letters and I’m not celebrating twenty years together this Tuesday.

I think the anxious bleating about Courtney and Stanford and the waitlist is just window dressing, that there is something more serious beneath, but it turns out they think Courtney and Stanford and the waitlist is serious; they think it is just about the most serious thing that could be. The vapidity is not just surface; it goes clear through. I can’t begin to imagine being like that. I cannot begin to imagine wanting to.

Maybe all of us feel this way. I don’t know. How would I know? I can’t seem to scratch beneath the surface of anyone. I think most people fit in okay. They’ve taken the stray ends and tucked them in so they can belong. Belonging is powerful and safe and I get that, I understand it but I don’t believe in it. I used to, until I learned that you can’t buy safety no matter how good you are or how much money you have.

I see the apartness grow, the gulf between becoming wider and wider, the connections dropping away. My ex-husband calls my life “streamlined” because there is just me and my daughter and my work and sometimes I’m pretty damned doubtful about the work. I long ago stopped believing it was worth doing or that there would be some reward other than a check payable to, so maybe all I have left is a habit. If I didn’t have my daughter, my next stop would probably be homelessness, too.

Pete is talking about his friend, who made a scene downtown and was arrested. “She just wanted attention,” he says and I know he doesn’t mean like a kid acting up although in a way he does. He means she wanted someone to say, Yes, I see you there. Yes, I see you.

“They gave her pills,” he says. “It wasn’t pills she needs.”

That’s a favorite solution, like two round white pills will do the trick. That what is wrong is something to do with brain chemistry or socialization. Maybe it is. But I somehow doubt it. People think the homeless would stop making scenes downtown if only everyone had access to some round white pills and a kindly social worker to pass them out. But human lives are complicated and mental health is hard, especially when we pathologize every difference. It used to be that conformity was suspect. Now it is nonconformity that alarms people. Twee hipsters pose at it but they are just as invested in the games as anyone else.

I probably became a writer to try to bridge that apartness, to have a conversation and not just an echo. But sometimes all I hear is the echo.

I sip my coffee. The breeze stiffens into  a wind. I realize I have more in common with the homeless guy than with any of my friends. That is a fact worthy of contemplation though I have no idea what to make of it.

But for a little while, as the heavy trucks barrel down 23rd Street and I strain to hear what Pete is saying, I’m not alone at all.

Week 5. Guard your ears

When I first began training in the martial arts, I had to learn to trust my teachers–when they said I could do something I didn’t think I could do, I had to try. Then I would discover that I could do the thing.

As I became more accomplished in the martial arts, I realized that often my teachers’ faith wasn’t even in me–it wasn’t that I, personally, had some special knack or skill. Their faith was in the process. If you did it right, it worked.

Over the years, I’ve had a lot of teachers, not all of them positively inclined toward me. And one thing I’ve learned is that some teachers want to keep out everyone except the special people and other teachers want to welcome everyone in.

It’s the second kind you want and should trust, not the first. It’s the second kind you should listen to. Guard your ears against the first.

I got to thinking about this last week because some quotes from famous writers showed up on my Facebook  newsfeed. You know the kind, all related to the idea that only certain special Anointed Ones are writers and everyone else ought to just go home. That you can’t learn to be a writer, it’s innate, a gift and if you don’t have it, you may as well not try.

Which is just so absolute horseshit I can barely talk about it without losing my temper.

I get that some people want to be writers and some people don’t. But that’s about as far as I’ll go with predicting who will succeed and who won’t–even the very word succeed is problematic because what does it mean? Writing popular books doesn’t necessarily mean you know the craft, so is that success? Writing award-winning books that no one reads doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve succeeded, either. Writing good books that win no awards and aren’t particular popular isn’t necessarily failure. Nor is writing something that is outside what is socially agreed-upon to be “good” always failure.

I get tired of people bleating out discouraging adages as if they were certainties. I’m sure the people who bleat them out think they are part of the chosen group and they want the group to be special and if everyone can be in it, then the group’s not special. To which I say, grow the fuck up.

I agree that not everyone is at the same point in the journey. And I agree that gaining an understanding of any art or craft requires a certain aha! moment. What I object to is the idea that only certain preordained people will have that aha! moment.

The aha! moment is different for everyone. It comes at different times and places. I didn’t like or understand math until I got to college and met a teacher who unlocked the door for me. Then I felt competent. But it wasn’t until I was in my forties that I saw how math can be beautiful. But if I had decided ahead of time that only special people can understand math, I would still hate it and suck at it.

Maybe you’re not as good at your craft as you would like to be. Maybe, like me, you’ve spend the last two months trying to figure out how in hell to fix this manuscript. But that doesn’t mean you’re missing the fingerprint of god or something. It means you’re trying. And the only way anyone gets to the aha! moment is to try.

The idea that there are chosen people–in any field!–is offensive, disrespectful, and disempowering. But we idolize the teachers who say these things, as if they somehow know.

But they don’t know.

A good teacher isn’t one who discourages you from trying, from reaching, from pushing your limits. A good teacher trusts the process, not the student.


Happy Birthday, Jessica!

Jessica is having a very special birthday today–she is turning 18!

Me: I can’t believe you’re 18! Where did the years go?!? You were just a baby the last time I looked.

Jess: No, I wasn’t.

Me: Well, it feels like it.

Jess: Not to me. I have worked very hard to become this grown up.

Lots of love, darling daughter, and all the cake you can stand!

Alicia Thorne is finally happy

passionandpleasure bundle

All of her sexytime romances have been bundled into one big package (hee-hee) for one incredibly low price. For less than the price of a latte, you can snuggle up to four of Alicia’s favorite heroes. Okay, “four of” suggests Alicia has more heroes, but she doesn’t; she got into a snit last winter because she thinks I like Jenny Jacobs better and now she won’t produce. But if you buy her bundle and tell all your friends about it, then Alicia might get over her snit and write a new book! Here’s the Amazon link.