Write a Book in 150 Days: Where to Start?

by Patience Bloom

As you’ve read in Birgit Davis Todd’s motivating post, we want to encourage you to get going on that book you’ve always wanted to write. And if it’s for Harlequin, so much the better! We hope that you’ll check out this site for inspiration, guidance, and interaction with our editors.

Where to start on this adventure? Let’s go the Maria route and start at the very beginning.

You know you have a great story waiting to bust out. The key is gathering all the elements and getting started. Really, there is nothing that will substitute for putting yourself in front of your writing device and just doing it. You can think about writing, dream about finishing the novel, have flashes of brilliance, but it won’t alleviate the hard work of writing. No matter what the outcome, you will appreciate how much you learn from writing and what your imagination can create. Hopefully, we will get to see this. 🙂

A crucial thing to keep in mind: Writing that romance won’t happen in a day. You can break down writing a novel into manageable tasks. Starting with a memorable opening line, which leads into a captivating opening page, which leads to a scene, more pages, and finally a chapter. How will you get the editor to take notice, put down her coffee and clear her appointments for the rest of the day? What are your characters saying to you? Write it all down. This is the time to scribble down your ideas on every available writing surface.

Here are a few things to remember:

1. Don’t get bogged down in eloquence. Just start writing the story—your story. You can finesse your words later. That is for the fun stage: rewriting.

2. Make sure your story starts in an exciting place. Don’t have the heroine thinking about her entire life, where she was born, her first job out of college, how it went, why her first boyfriend left, and her second. The characters should be moving somehow (doesn’t have to be physically), actively grappling with a dilemma.

3. While your opening scene is fabulous, grabbing us in from the start, don’t forget to describe the physical elements of your setting and characters. Immerse us in the story.

4. Remember that this opening scene is a way to hook your reader. Show us what you’ve got! Pull out all the stops! Great opening lines can live forever, too, and this is your chance to show off.

5. Characterization is key to survival in a romance novel. Since your reader has to live with these characters for hundreds of pages, you should show the hero or heroine through action, dialogue, point of view—or all of the above. Make us want to take their journey with them.

6. It may be tempting to set up your entire romance in the first chapter, but this will turn off an editor–and often won’t get the reader to the next chapter. One of the ways to create suspense is by not giving us all the information.

What do you do now? Get yourself in that chair and start. We’ll be checking in to see how you’re doing and feel free to tell us of your progress in the comments. We’re rooting for you!

19 replies on “Write a Book in 150 Days: Where to Start?”

The way editors talk, it sounds like they want everything in the first sentence! It’s hard not to fall into the trap of trying to comply with that.

All writing is good practice. One thing I’ve learned is I tend to start the story at the catalyst moment and then the editor/reader has no idea how I got there. I can see it in my head, so it’s hard not to understand what they mean. I’ve hard learn how to reverse engineer from the Catalyst in my own writing.

This is going to be so much fun. 🙂 I can write a story pretty fast, but in the editing process I layer until I get it just right. Having this constant guidance and advice will help me not to miss whatever it is I am missing right now. Thank you, editors! Going to shoot for the new Dare line. If Patience can stand to see another submission from me. Lol.

This is a lovely idea. There’s not as much frenetic pressure as there is in a competition but I’ll still end up with a novel at the end of it. Thank you eds. I’m starting tonight.

I’m having so much fun with this already! I find it hard to get to sleep some nights as God allows my characters and scenery to further develop in my mind and I can’t get a wink of sleep until I write them down!
I’ve already made double digits on my page count on both my Love Inspired and my Love Inspired Suspense novels. The joy of writing two at a time is you’re less likely to have writer’s block as you can switch from one to the other.
Thanks to all the editors at Harlequin for this awesome challenge!

I’ll have to take a crash course on Twitter to follow you, lol, but at least I can check with you on your blog. I’ve got to get mine going again.

Lately I have read the David Baldacci series Vega Jane. What I liked was it is for teens and we’ll written which meant it was more transparent to unpack the writing strategies the author used.

I struggle most with Characterization when it comes to writing Romance. Most readers expect the Fantasy, but I’ve been married over two decades and I know what it really takes to live happily ever after. As a consequence, I find Alpha Males boring simply because there are so many. He’s always the Sheriff and never the Deputy. Always the Billionaire, never the guy who’s just starting out in his profession. He never changes poopy diapers, even if he’s said to be a loving single father. Don’t even get me started on the truly disturbing ‘heroes’ who would be in prison for what they do to the heroines, if they weren’t fictional and billionaires. Of course, there are Romance genre heroes that I like, but they’re not ones most readers are crazy for. So I write a hero I like and my critique partners doubt his broader appeal. But, I can’t write the other kind. I just can’t. Ew. Seriously. Or zzzzz… Is there room in this Genre for the Beta Hero anymore? What about the Asian Male? Can he be an ensign or does he always have to be the Captain? Can he start out shallow and grow for the sake of love? Or do readers just expect the Hero to show up perfect and powerful from the start now?

I think a lot of it has to do with what line you are targeting. Desire and Presents tend to have the billionaire, captain, top-dog type of Alpha heroes, but other lines have a whole array of different types of heroes. I’ve read books with a deputy hero, a non-CEO, a hero beginning a career, non billionaire heroes, several Asian heroes, Native American heroes and several not-so-Alpha heroes, some you could call Beta and some Gammas. And as they say, it’s all in the execution. I hear you on some of the Alpha heroes getting pretty close to being stalkers or on the shady side. I think the main thing most readers want is a strong hero who protects and respects the heroine. Write the book you want to read and there’s bound to be other readers who like the same types of characters.

Thank you, Maurine. I’m figuring that out. It really helps to have Critique Partners! What a never-married woman finds appealing at age 20 is very different than a long-married woman does at 50. Yet, a variety of Critique Partners from different ages, stages, and lifestyles provide useful feedback and encouragement.

This is a great opportunity to learn and I am so grateful for the editors for putting this “class” together for us.

After reading the comments left on Birgit’s June 30 post, I’m inspired to commit to writing at least one full manuscript (I’ll try for two–we’ll see how that goes–who wants to clean house anyway?), polish it and have it ready to submit by December 1, 2017. I’m targeting Harlequin Intrigue.

Just found out about the challenge. Just restarted on a book I want to write. So I’m back at the beginning. Will work hard for the next 148 days and see how far I am. I’m excited!!!!!

Looking forward to submitting for this December. I like all your points above. I have a question on lines to submit for: Do you have any call for paranormal at this time? I have a sexy, ghostly character with an obsession for my heroine. He is getting in the way of the true love she deserves. My setting is the fogged-in Victorian-architecture-inspired Atlantic coastal city I live in. On the sunny, summer days it’s a typically beautiful harbour town, but when the fog rolls in thick and chilling, and the ships sound their horns; the city withdraws into itself. People drift in an out of shadow as greyness blurs the familiar landscape and the damp and dusky otherworld takes hold, slipping in on a whisp, beneath cracks in closed doors, and through open unbarred windows. The formed becomes formless, the formless takes form. And sometimes, it stays.

I was going to craft this as a short story and submit locally, but I would love to heat up the romance, spend more time on a strong and sexy male character (a restoration carpenter who does NOT believe in such ghostly things) and do a novel instead for Harlequin. Is this something that might interest your editors?

I love reading romance novels and I have written three stories but just never had the nerve to try and get them published. I can’t wait to finish this story. Keeping my fingers crossed you like it.

Well is it too late to come with you guys? I am on my 3rd chapter of my Love Inspired book and I’m am feeling good about it. Everybody has told me how much they enjoy my writing and how I should be writing. So I’m gonna do it!

Am I to late to join in on this amazing challenge?

I’ve been a secretive writer for a few years now. Doing small things here and there.. Which usually ends up being saved and forgotten about. Though, I am ready to see what I can do as a writer when challenged to write something… Seemingly.. Good? Ah, who knows where this would lead. I can’t help but want to join in! Can’t wait to jear back from you all! Much love,

After writing children’s books, my heart is screaming to write Romance/Suspense. I am here to learn and keep motivated. Thanks

I have dreamed for years to write and submit to Harlequin. I love how you advise to simply sit down and write, recently I did just that and am about to start my 5th chapter!! Thanks so much for being so helpful.

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