Friday, February 01, 2013

Date With Kate - Storytelling

It’s the start of February – it’s cold, it’s wet, it’s pretty dull and uninviting outside – so it’s the perfect time to concentrate on your writing and make progress with that novel you said you’d write as one of your New Year Resolutions.

I don’t know about you, but I never really feel that I get going on that ‘resolution’ that I determined would be my word for 2012 (see my previous Date With Kate if you missed that.) I always feel that I would be much better starting out with the Chinese New Year instead – we’ve had time to move on from the Christmas celebrations, there’s the hope of the weather brightening – and I personally feel much more resolved.  This year the Chinese New Year falls on February 10th – and it marks the start of the Year of the Snake.

For me this is a pretty good point to have a ‘New Year’ – I have been dealing with a lot of things that I’m trying to clear out of the way. I have also been ‘refilling the well’ with a lot of god reading (and some pretty bad stuff too!). There was the stage production of My Fair Lady, the film version of Les Miserables – all helping to feed my imagination, build up my storytelling instincts and energies. My mother always called February  ‘February Fill-Dyke’ because there was so much rain to fill up the dykes and ditches – and it’s appropriate for  filling my own personal ‘wells’ too.     I’m always amazed when would-be writers tell me they don’t read  - and particularly when they say they don’t read romance – and then they declare they want to write romance.

This is all in my mind because in a couple of weeks – just after that Chinese New Year – I’m heading for  one of my favourite places in the world – Fishguard in Wales  where I’m teaching  my Advanced Romance Writing Course in a wonderful long weekend of writing/talking  about writing/talking  (and maybe drinking a little wine too!).  When I run this course, I always send out a long reading list with all sorts of different romance lines/styles/authors on it. And I also send out a questionnaire where I ask my prospective students what they feel they need most help with in the workshops and discussions we’ll have. 

The answers to those questionnaires always intrigue me – most times in the past I have read what the student says she wants help with but then a look at the work submitted shows that really  help is needed with some other point entirely.   And one thing has really struck me over the past year or so, with running two courses ( in Fishguard and Writers’ Holiday at Caerleon) – and that is that  right now so many people seem to be focussing too hard on the ‘rules’ – the ‘format’ – the  so-called ‘formula’ – they want to learn how to write ‘a category romance’ or ‘a Harlequin romance’. They think in terms of ‘3 act structure’ ‘inciting incidents’ or the ‘black moment’ – instead of writing the story of two people and their emotional journey  from meeting – or reuniting  - on their way to their Happy Ever After ending.

In my previous existence, I worked as a librarian – more specifically as a Children’s Librarian – and one of the things I learned when I did a specific part of my degree focussing on Children’s Literature was the importance of a damn good story, well told – told in the best way possible to bring out the drama, the emotion and the excitement of that story whether it was about  Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, A Sheep Pig or    Harry Potter and Friends (which wasn’t written when I was working in the library  - but you understand what I mean.)  It was that sort of good story telling that brought me to romance- reading it and writing it – and it’s what I’ve always tried to do with my own books. It seems to have worked, after all 2013 is coming up close on 30th year as a published author, with 61 title to my credit, and a lot of happy readers who write to me to tell me how much they’ve enjoyed my stories.

That’s the important bit  - my stories. Stories that just happen to be romances. Stories of my hero and  heroine. Stories I wanted to tell – the story of what happened to them  - to answer the question ‘and what happened next?’  And if you look at the way I’ve been ‘filling the well’  - it’s been with stories, stories that feed my imagination, books, plays, films, TV dramas,  that show how to tell a story and grab the reader/viewer.

According to the dictionary – what is a story?

a narrative, either true or fictitious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse, or instruct the hearer or reader; tale.

That’s what I write – especially that bit about being 'designed to interest, amuse . . .' and I would add 'to involve and to move' my reader. And I tell that story to the best of my ability. Not according to any ‘rules’  that people seem to think exist.  What was the  advice editorial were giving a while back ? ‘Don’t imitate, innovate.’

How can you innovate if you are bogged down, trapped by the chains of rules and ‘formulas’?

So when I start my teaching at Fishguard, that’s the first thing we’re going to be talking about, The important word that I think has been forgotten in all this writing for a market/writing for a contest/writing for a genre –


And then we’ll discuss  other important matters like characters, Emotion, Conflict, Pace . . .

I’m really looking forward  to it – the thought of focussing on storytelling has given me a whole new lease of interest in writing. I hope it’s the same for my students.

What about you? If you were attending a writing course, what do you think you’d want the most help with? If I wrote some Craft posts on how to write –what topics would you like me to discuss? Any suggestions welcome.  (And if you’d ever like to come to one of my courses – you’ll find the details on my Events Page on my web site. Sorry, but the Fishguard weekend has been booked up for months already - but there's always the summer in Caerleon or next year!)

Kate’s new title – A Throne For The Taking - will be out in Mills & Boon Modern and Harlequin Presents in June 2013. In the meantime, several of her older titles have been reissued in the M&B Vintage or Harlequin Treasury as ebooks and she’s thrilled to find that 14 years after it was first published, The Groom’s Revenge is in the Top 10 Bestsellers of these Vintage ebooks.


For the most up to date news and details visit her web site or her blog.







  1. Thanks, Kate. Wise words as always. Hope you have a great time in Fishguard - it's a GREAT course for any writer to go on. Caroline x

    1. Thanks Caroline - you'll be missed in Fishguard this time. But didn't you come on the basic Romance Writing Course? This Advanced Course is a whole new event I've created just for Fishguard. Haybe we'll see you there again some time?

  2. Hi Kate ~ Have a great time at Fishguard. Looking forward to June and A Throne for the Taking.

  3. Hi Kate, turning up a bit late this time. I love reading your craft posts. I often find while helping my kids with their studies, that some of the authors of yesteryear weren't have as skilled as the writers of today. Many of them did POV switches with abandon and didn't care for bringing the reader straight into the story, the reader had to find their way in. It is strange how time has changed. If the author doesn't grab you within the first dozen page or so, they've lost the reader.