#34 – Love, Love, Love

When we talk about love in writing, you might think of romance novels, but there are romantic elements in many genres as a secondary plot or interest.


In Shawn Coyne’s Story Grid, he talks about the need for obligatory scenes, which are those scenes that are necessary if a love story is going to be satisfying to the reader.

These include:

  • The lovers meet without which there is no story.
  • The inciting incident, which kicks off the story and challenges the status quo.
  • At least one of the lovers refuses to respond to the other.
  • A confession of love scene, where one or both lovers admit to their deepest feelings.
  • A first kiss or sex scene.
  • The lovers break up or are forced apart by events.
  • The all is lost moment where it seems that the lovers will never get together and have a happy ending.
  • The proof of love scene where one love it sacrifices for the other without any expectation of the gain.
  • The lovers reunite.
  • The protagonist receives their reward (commitment or intimacy or desire) for having faith and making a sacrifice.


A secondary story can provide some scope for innovation in the love story as the challenge is to tell a unique story.


The protagonist can act as one of the lovers, while the antagonist can be seen as the other when he or she acts in opposition to the wants and desires of the protagonist.


The way that we see romantic relationships has been affected by previous novels and writing. Marie Charlotte Carmichael Stopes was a British author and campaigner for eugenics and women’s rights. Her book Married Love changed women’s expectations of sex after marriage.


Love means different things to different people – write down four words that come to mind in connection with love and compare with someone else. Are they very different or are they the same?


Let us know your thoughts on what love means to you in writing.


#33 – Breaking the Writing Rules

What is the possible reason for breaking writing rules?

It depends on who makes the rules. Some writers make their own rules that work for them, and while these can be tested, they almost certainly are made to be broken. Then there are well-established rules, such as grammar, which if broken, would put off an agent or reader. There again, in modern writing, some grammar rules are broken for effect, but these should always be done consciously and not by accident.

You might want to embrace your creativity and not be hampered by rules; for example, we are told to avoid clichés. After all, rules are made to be broken! In the podcast, Anna and I talk about when we choose to break the rules of writing.

Break the rules to take a risk as this sometimes leads to innovation.

You might need to break the rules to stay true to your vision.

We discuss writing from a single person’s point of view and avoiding head-hopping, where an author writes in the first or close third point of view but swaps to another character’s point of view partway through a chapter or even a paragraph without warning the reader. Another mistake is to allow a character to have information that is shouldn’t be available to them.

We talk about Story Grid as usual and how that provides structure and rules in the form of Genre, which in turn gives us conventions and obligatory scenes. The argument is that when a reader picks up a book in a particular genre, they are expecting a specific reading experience. It’s essential to meet reader expectation if you want to sell novels. Skill and creativity come from innovating the detail. How can you make a love or fight scene memorable?

There’s a difference between breaking the rules deliberately and breaking the rules through ignorance. An example is when we accidentally overuse a word in a paragraph, whereas a poet might choose to repeat a word for emphasis.

If you want to try a liberating exercise, write for 10 minutes while deliberately breaking at least one writing rule.

Are there any writing rules that you break or would like to break? Let us know in the comments below.

#32 – Genre

What is Genre?

Genre is one of those words that can mean different things to different people. From a marketing point of view, it allows authors and publishers to categorise their books in a way that let people know what to expect from the content.


Story Grid

Shaun Coyne, the founder of Story Grid, says that determining a novel’s genre is essential for the story to work. Each type has a list of obligatory scenes; without which, a novel will not work.

Shaun also talks about a story’s internal genre, so you might be writing a book that you will market in the Science Fiction genre, but the internal genre is a thriller.

You can find more on Story Grid here

#30 – Journal and Planner

Thank you to Mariëlle S Smith for sending us a copy of her beautiful journal and planner 52 Weeks of Writing and giving us this opportunity.

In this week’s podcast, Anna and I go through the planner for the first week.

My goal for the following week was to complete half of the first round of edits on my novel. To do this, I needed to set aside some time and since there wasn’t any time to work it out on air, I worked on the detail to include here.

In the working version of the novel, there are 30 chapters. Therefore, I need to have the first 15 chapters structurally complete by next Thursday. Some will require more work than others. Immediately, I can see that I have my work cut out.

The final schedule looks like this:

Friday 6-7.30am. The only time I will have available because I have a work’s Christmas do in the evening.

That means that everything hinges on how much work I can get done at the weekend. Saturday we are out in the evening, so I can spend 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the afternoon.

Sunday I have a yoga class in the evening, and so I will set aside 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the afternoon. No housework or food shopping time!

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I can commit 6-7.30am and 19-21.00pm which is 3.5 hours each day.

I also have a long-overdue blog to write it is long and a newsletter!

That is a total of 22.5 hours, which should be enough if I stay super focused and don’t talk to my husband. Let’s see.

If it works, I am going to aim for the same the following week.

Then onto round 2 of editing. I love writing!

What are your goals for this coming week?

#29 – Write the Truth

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the truth. There is fact, and then there is a perception of that fact. How do you separate the two?

The writer rarely recounts events without embellishing them on paper or electronically. After all, a writer’s job is to make facts interesting — their goal to draw readers into their world and leave them wanting more.

When we write fiction, we aren’t expecting to tell the truth, are we? Not in a made-up story? Surely, the truth has no place there, and yet, that is often the place it hides. It is the theme of the story.

It might not be present in every story. So, how can you tell if there is hidden truth in your fiction? I’m suspicious when the same idea occurs again and again. It could be the truth leaking out into our writing. It is a clue that there’s an issue that we subconsciously need to explore.

As I write this blog, I’m conscious of the need to tell the truth, but perhaps not the whole truth. There might be parts that I will keep hidden for fear of judgement, but most of the time, it’s because I don’t recognise the truth.

In my fiction, I often explore the relationship between parents and their children. My fictional parents frequently control and abuse their children until those children achieve great things despite where they were born. Childhood adversity makes them stronger. Is this true, or do I only wish it was true? Does it matter? Tell us what you think.

#28 – Giving Feedback

Anna and I talk about our experience of giving and receiving feedback. Here are some recommendations:

  • Create a safe environment to give feedback. Bear in mind that some people’s history won’t allow them to feel safe, no matter how sensitively you approach a subject. If you are a writer, no doubt you’ll have experienced imposter syndrome at some time or other, which makes it’s easy to have empathy with others.
  • Be positive as well as critical if possible. It’s essential, to be honest, but you are encouraging someone to continue with a creative endeavour.
  • Be specific – that’s only one of the reasons why family and friends offering feedback are not always the best option. They often will not be able to identify what makes a manuscript work or fail.
  • Stick to observation over interpretation. Observation is concerned with what and how much and has nothing to do with the why of a subject. Interpretation adds opinions, remarks and judgment to the observation. Although sometimes I want to hear another person’s opinion and so ask for it.
  • Give direction, not just edits, especially with an early draft. Sometimes it is impossible to turn off our inner editor but think about fulfilling the purpose of the exercise.
  • Read the whole thing before making comments. Questions can be answered, and the piece become clearer by getting the entire picture.
  • Asking questions can help the writer to gain clarity.
  • Don’t nit-pick unless that is what you have been asked to do.
  • It’s a critique, not a review, and the aim is to help someone improve.

Giving feedback is a skill that takes time and practice to develop. To be able to make the best use of feedback, you need to be able to identify what is and isn’t useful. That’s why it’s worth joining a writing group (in person or online) or getting together with other writers to support each other.

We would love to hear from you. Let us know if you have any questions or comments.

#27 – Why Keep a Journal?

There are lots of reasons that you might want to keep a journal. For instance, it’s a record of your work or life or it could be a cathartic release.

There is evidence that regular writing can help with the stress within daily life. Regular writing makes you feel good and can help you re-live events both good and bad in a safe environment. It can be used as a tool to achieve your goals and there is a growing evidence that it has lots of health benefits.

For authors, it’s well established that the best way to get better at writing, is to write. I work with some people who cannot write and see first-hand how they struggle to remember information.

Regular writing can be a way to keep a record of mistakes and accomplishments. It can help you identify which direction you want to go in life.

Does it have to be a paper journal?

The format you chose to write in is a personal choice. For me it has to be paper unless I’m desperate. The physical act of writing bypasses my tendency to overanalyse. It’s also a good excuse to buy beautiful notebooks. The major disadvantage of this method is that physical journals can take up a lot of space and it’s hard to find anything in them. I don’t keep my journals because I rarely revisit them.

There are plenty of apps available that promise privacy and security as well as a great writing environment. Or you can keep an encrypted text file in any note-taking app.


Freewriting is a writing strategy developed by Peter Elbow in 1973. Written in sentence and paragraph form, the aim is not to stop, thereby, increasing the flow of ideas and reducing censor. In this way, it helps to increase fluency. I use it whenever I’m stuck in a scene or don’t know what should happen next.

How to free-write

Write down every idea you can think of about your topic, including everything crazy or weird.

  • Keep writing – repeat sentences if necessary or I ask myself a question, which I then try to answer.
  • Use whatever language or words you want.
  • Write for at least 20 minutes or 3 pages.

#26 – The Crisis Point in a Novel

Anna and I talk about how to identify the crisis point in a story.

The crisis point of a novel often happens towards the end, after the protagonist has either failed previous tests or overcome trials. In either situation, they have developed their skills and experience to allow them to tackle the crisis when it occurs. The crisis is a culmination of difficulties which will take the protagonist all their newly found skills and experience to overcome. Ultimately, the protagonist can either succeed or fail.

Are there any novels where the crisis point is clear?

#25 – Writing Through a Crisis

Anna and I talk about the impact of crisis on our writing.

What is a crisis? It can be an illness or the death of a family member, or it can be smaller, such as a broken-down car or a cancelled appointment.

A crisis can happen to anyone, at any time and can derail life. Crisis makes it difficult and sometimes impossible to achieve goals and carry on writing.

We can try to build resilience in our routines to mitigate the effects, but sometimes it’s best to modify writing goals and focus on self-care.

Let us know if you have any tips for dealing with stress and be kind to yourself. Take care.