Sunday, 27 July 2014

How to Write a Romcom Bestseller in One Easy Lesson!



.:*´`*:. It's easy! .:*´`*:.

Think high heels, romantic scrapes and cupcakes, then just follow these few simple rules!

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1.  Get the feel right first.  Read the early Jilly Cooper books (Harriet, Prudence, Octavia, etc), Bridget Jones' Diary, a bit of Sophie Kinsella and others of your choice, preferably whilst wearing kitten heeled shoes and eating cake, to get yourself in the zone.
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2.  Next, choose your title.  Fifty percent of chick lit novelists simply select two items that begin with the same letter, one of them food/cocktail related, the other to do with clothing.  Here are some suggestions for yours:
Mojitos and Manolos 
Long Island Iced Tea and Leotards.
Angel Cake and Anoraks 
Banoffee Pies and Barbours
 Prada Heels and Pop Tarts 
Tangerine Cheesecake and Trench Coats
  See how easy it is?
The other option is to slip the word 'kiss' into the title, preferably with a reference to Mr Darcy ~ Kissing Mr Darcy, It started with a Kiss from Mr Darcy, Mandarin Cupcakes and Mr Darcy, etc etc. Any mention of Mr Darcy in the title will make your book a certain hit.

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3.  Choose your heroine's name.  This should be one you might have given your dolls when you were a child, and will probably end in 'ie' or 'y' (or possibly 'ii'): Tillie, Poppy, Polly, Katie, Lucie, Tansy, Suzi - you get the picture.  The hero's name should conjure up a picture of smooth masculinity ~ Ross, Michael, Jared, Max, Daniel.  Darcy is always a good surname.  Just saying....


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4.  Decide on names for heroine's chums.  Be creative. Sky, Jo-Jo, Tallulah, Pippa, Jools.  To go with the slightly offbeat name, at least one chum should have an amusing quirk that can be referred to sporadically throughout the book - having a 'thing' about firemen, swearing a lot, being gay, etc.  


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5.  Now, you need a plot.  First, establish general 'ditziness' of heroine, who should be pretty but not too perfect.  In the first or second chapter she should meet her handsome prince to be.  This meeting could take either of these forms:
  • She makes a total fool of herself in front of him, eg, says wrong the things/dress inexplicably falls off during important meeting at work, or she could ogle handsome man in restaurant but when she walks past him her false eyelashes fall off into his soup, etc etc.
  • Alternatively, they can hate each other on sight, and/or have a battle of wills. After this, quirky best friend could point out that although hero is an arrogant git, he is kinda hot. 
  • Or, the first meeting seems promising, but then heroine is given the (incorrect) information that he is in some way unavailable to her, eg, married, about to be married, gay, or about to join a monastery/MI6. Although this is untrue, heroine must never be in a position to communicate with hero or anyone else about this, lest the misunderstanding be discovered (and thus ruin the plot).
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6.  If set in the UK, be aware of class differences.  Use as many ridiculous stereotypes as you like: ie joke 'posh' names like Fortescue and Carruthers, double barrelled surnames with double Fs and Smythe as the second one. Ffossington-Smythe, that sort of thing. Mention barbours and grouse shooting.  Men can be called Sebastian, Piers, Giles, Ffreddie, and the women Arabella, Ffenella, Ffiona, Caroline. Working class men should be called Wayne or Dave. Women can be Kylie or Chantelle. Mention Eastenders and football.  Both sexes will have tattoos and fake tans, and drop their aitches all the time, which they will pronounce 'haitch'.
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7.  During story, heroine should have several more instances during which she says absolutely the wrong things to people and loses other items of clothing, or parts thereof, in inappropriate settings.  Further wrong-place-wrong-time interludes can be manufactured to perpetuate comedic suspense, including zany mishaps where your heroine burns food/gets mistaken for an international diamond smuggler/accidentally lets out dangerous animal during trip to zoo, etc.

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8.  Reinforcement of hilarious misunderstandings can be inserted into dialogue, in which main characters find themselves unable to express what they are feeling/thinking, rarely stick around to discuss anything, and flounce out of the room/into taxis/onto trains at the merest slight, like they do in soap operas. When female characters are upset, other females should attempt to commiserate by offering pinot, chardonnay, cupcakes and ice cream.  Chick lit heroines are never so miserable they can't be cheered up by sugar, and will only ever get woefully drunk about once, which will provide opportunities for more slapstick comedy.  She might also pinch cigarette off Sky/Jo-Jo/Tallulah, who could be the novel's token smoker (this could be her quirk - see how it all fits in?!).


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9.  At some point, all misunderstandings, etc, must be resolved just in time, possibly just when heroine/hero (or both) is just about to leave area forever/marry hopelessly unsuitable secondary character (males should have boring name like Hugh, Neville or Roger).  Is extra effective if heroine happens to be mucking out pigs/covered in paint, or any other situation in which she might not look at her polished best, and can't believe this handsome, suave, perfect man adores her.  Don't forget to gather all the ends up quickly, just in time for the HEA - happy ever after!

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10.  Once you've published it and sold thousands of copies you can then think about the sequel - the Christmas version!  Write it the same as you've written the original, but substitute all the summery bits for snow, mistletoe, mulled wine, etc. Your title could be Manolos and Mulled Wine, A Christmas Kiss from Mr Darcy, Mojitos and Mistletoe, Furry Boots and Frappuccinos, etc.

Sorted!!!!


54 comments:

  1. I love this so much that I'm rendered speechless - I've seen books written to this formula! Well done, Terry, I laughed and laughed.

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    1. Glad to be of service. I got the idea for it whilst watching Corrie and thinking of the formula to which things are written. I hope you will share it with your Twitterly writers!!!

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  2. Love it, so when's the book coming out? Can I star in it too? I think I'll be Rosieleenie Ambesqueue, can I be really, really rich?

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    1. Glad you liked!!! It's said that to find your romantic novelist name you take your middle name, and the name of the road you live in, though that was more for Mills and Boon type romance!

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    2. Sorted, so I'm Annie Oakley.

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    3. I am Dorothy Cabbell. It works.

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    4. I used to be Caroline Woodford, then Caroline Church - it most certainly does!

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  4. Thanks for this! I laughed out loud throughout. Given that chick lit is my chosen genre to write, I thought it was spot on :)

    And, I must say, it always drives me crazy that no one in these relationships seems to possess the power of speech! You nailed it.

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  5. So so funny, TT! Love it!! I'm now realising my Eccentrics were on the way to a Romcom but my heroine with the 'ie' name (actually a corruption of the Dutch word for a girl) gets real while she's mucking out the horses, and the plot changes track - or tack.. ahem, s'cuse the pun. .Excellent though. Maybe I should use this to really make some money!!

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  6. Oh, phew, Jen and Val, you both liked it!!!! I am just waiting for a romcom/chick lit writer to be offended by it!!!! But, Jen, you will know that there is actually a best friend Talullah with a 'quirk' in Round and Round, so at least I'm taking the piss out of myself, too! :^D

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  7. Graeme Simsion28 July 2014 at 00:38

    I guess I qualify as a RomCom writer... and I'm not at all offended. I guess having a male protagonist helps me avoid some of the traps (or at least give them a fresh coat of paint) but I do have a working class guy called Dave. Blame my editor for that - he was originally Dan...

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    1. Graeme, I'm NOT a romcom writer though a couple of my books have such elements - and I have a quirky best friend called Talullah in my latest, and a working class guy called Dave as the main character of two of mine! Oh, I could do a similar article for ladlit, I suppose - maybe I will! Thanks for reading/commenting :)

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  8. Ha, I loved this! I'm sometimes tempted to put readers off the scent by giving a dull secondary character a really glamorous name, but then I discover I can't bear to waste a glamorous name on a dreary character and end up changing it back to something mundane

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    1. I'm pleased you liked it, Jill - I was worried that people who DO write rom coms would be offended!! I don't write them (though some of my books have elements of such), and do the same thing - usually the other way round, though; one of my handsome heroes is called Eric :)

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    2. It's interesting - I named one of my heroes Doug and received very many horrified comments from American readers telling me such an awful name was really off-putting for them. I have no idea why they hate it so much!

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    3. I suppose it could be seen as a bit 1950s, heroic former war hero - probably appeal to ladies of a certain age rather than younger women who will no doubt prefer Kieran, Danny, Jared, etc! Well, I think it's fine - but then I am of a certain age!

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  9. Hahaha .. I review a lot of this, & chicklit ...for people I like,or I ''win'' it coz people know I review. It's SPOT ON. Often felt, as I read page 2 and map out the whole book in my head, I could write this: prob couldn't, nor could you, coz you have to believe in it & we're too cynical for our own good! BUT, mirth aside, this genre sells more than any other, so maybe the writers have cottoned onto something.... sketches new book starring Terii and Caz, two impoverished writers who meet at Carluccio's to share cake & moans &drool over their Ideal Male Hero Character ...until one day, the door to the cafe opens and.....

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    1. .... in walks Pedro, with our luck!!! Caz (!!), some of them you don't even have to read chapter one, you can tell exactly what's going to happen from the BLURB! Oh yes - indeed, if you follow these rules for real, you'd probably make a very respectable showing on Amazon! My latest novella is the most like this, I suppose, in that it's light and quite 'girly' for me, but still a long way off this formula - come on, it's only 36K words long... it could be your introduction to reading via iPad!! :)

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  10. Terry, you might have told me all this earlier and I could have written my two rom coms much quicker. Very upset about comment about names beginning with Ff - as hero in Boot Camp Bride is called Ffinch. Also, my hubby is called Dave. #stomps off to have fake tan, followed by tattoo and to eat cupcakes washed down with chardonnay. LOL ;-)

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    1. HAAAAAA! Yes, I did take it in the spirit in which it was written - well, I had to offend SOMEONE, I usually manage to!!! I am just picturing you stomping off and standing there getting spray tanned in high dudgeon.... in my new novella I have a best friend with a quirk called Talullah, and in TWO of my books the hero is called Dave - I was careful to take the piss out of myself too, ha ha!!!!

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  11. HA - great! Made me smile! :) Am sure I could write a Westminster-based rom-com with all those double barrelled names and obviously including a bumbling blond Bullingdon hero called Boris ;) Thank you for the tips!

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    1. Thanks, Emma - I'm glad this has gone down so well - so far!!!!

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  12. Yessss! You've described some formulaic romcoms soooo well! This made me laugh! Especially the pretentious Britishness and stereotypes for tourists...

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  13. Heh heh, shhh, Terry - a bit like Coca Cola - you shouldn't let the recipe out of the bag for such a globally popular product :)
    Although you have missed out one very important ingredient - the lurvvee. I love my ditzy characters and their bonkers friends and lives!
    Of course, you realize you have to write one now :)

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    1. Ha ha - yes, I see your point! I don't think I could write one, though - my characters always end up swearing and doing real life stuff, and having deep philosophical thoughts - probably why I'm not an Amazon bestseller!!! I suppose it's a bit like knowing the theory of dieting but not putting it into practice :)

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    2. This is so funny and perceptive - loved it! I will apply the above rules in my next horror thriller er, romcom, where Poppy and Tansy meet an evil beyond time and fall in love with it, only to be eaten and reincarnated as Hugh Grant.

      J.D. Hughes

      ps your website won't let me post unless anonymous

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    3. ha ha ha!!!! Love it! Thanks for reading and commenting, Anonymous JDH (your rapper name?) It's one of my most passed around posts ever - and no offended remarks from romcom writers yet, phew!!!!

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  14. And this week leaping 13 places up the charts, it's Cupcakes with their rendition of that old classic I Want Candy ;-)

    Very funny blog, Terry. I knew the world was right when I spotted the cupcakes heehee

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    1. For extra Amazon top 100 guarantee, actually put the word 'cake' in the title of the book!!!

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  15. I laughed and cringed at the same time. My contemporary romance wasn't meant to be a rom com but it went it's own way. Sadly I'm not yet an Amazon best seller but I live in hope since I've obviously cracked the formula.

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    1. But have you got the purple and pink cover with the swirly writing and the legs in high heels on the front, Natasha??!!

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    2. natashahadleighauthor.blogspot.com31 July 2014 at 04:40

      No legs and heels but pale and deep pink and some swirly writing. Oh dear but sales, sales and more sales please!

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  16. Haha! You've nailed it, Terry!

    Your comment about class got me wondering about the difference between American and British romcoms.

    Now that you've cracked the code, are you tempted to write one of your own?






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    1. Hell, no, I can't even write moderately light romance without including bad language, real characters and a bit of philosophising somewhere along the line! One of my books, Full Circle, is a bit of a romcom, but nothing like this formula - that hero and heroine hating each other at first sight is SOOOO overdone, it was brilliant when I first read Jilly Cooper doing it in Octavia and Bella, but since then, as soon as the heroine has a bit of a spat with a bloke you think, oh, right, that's who she'll end up with, then!!!! However!!!!!! It works, people love it, these books sell, so who am I to criticise?! As for the difference between British and US ones - I don't know. I don't think I've ever read a US romcom - no, sorry, I tell a lie, I did start to read one but the writer had got the 'posh English bloke' all wrong, saying things that the English upper classes don't say, and I abandoned it. Glad you liked the post!

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  17. Ah, I think I may have followed that plot somewhere along the line. Brilliant Terry :)

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  18. You make it sound so easy Terry! I still don't think I could do it well, especially as I'd have to make my pen name Anne (a name I was meant to have as a middle name but never actually received!) St Helen's - that alone must be telling me something. I admire those who do and who can! Keep at it Terry!!!

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    1. I don't write romcoms, Catherine - this is just a bit of fun, a piece of observational humour about the formula to which some seem to be written!!!!! I don't read chick lit very often, but I've read enough of it to have seen all these elements many times. Thanks for reading. I dunno - Anne St Helens sounds okay!!

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  19. Love this, Terry! It's hilarious. And actually, I love reading these books. Especially ones set in England. If they're set in the US, it's good if cowboys are involved.

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    1. Thanks, Anne!!! I've kinda DONE them now.... since Jilly Cooper's in the late 1970s, I think! :)

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  20. Such a hilarious post! Makes me want to write romcoms! I agree with you entirely about character names... so important.

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    1. Thanks! I reckon you could actually write one using this template and it would sell in its thousands :)

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    2. Brilliant, just brilliant, Terry. I don't write chick lit rom coms, but now that you have shown the way I might just try. Look out for your cut of all those fabulous royalties that are sure to come our way.
      Do you have a formula for crime fiction? Sci fi? Fantasy? Historicals? Just asking.

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    3. Thanks, Rena! Glad it amused you - I don't think I could write similar for other genres, because they're not so formulaic.... but then again....!! I think I might be able to do one for bad crime fiction, or a bad zombie apocalypse!

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  21. Hilarious - great tongue in cheek post. You do realise someone out there will be taking this seriously?

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    1. Judith, it's already happened! When I first posted it, someone thanked me for the guide and said she was finding it most useful!!!

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  22. If I could only write to a formula. It seems I'm doomed to keep writing books that defy formula. Even when I try, the plot, the conflicts and the characters take on a life of their own and jump right out of the formula I started writing. :o)

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  23. Lloyd, I hope you realise this is tongue in cheek, ie, taking the mickey out of the fact that the worst of this genre IS so formulaic.....!

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  24. The only thing I got wrong about Baggy Pants and Bootees is - it's not a rom-com!! Great way to start my Monday - thanks, Terry :)

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