Review: ROMANCING THE BEAT: Story Structure for Romance Novels by Gwen Hayes (2016)

Genre: Adult Writing Craft Nonfiction
Year Release in English: 2016
Source: Kindle Copy

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’ve been meaning to pick this craft book up for years now. When I got stuck on plotting the former middle of my latest project, I knew it was the perfect opportuntiy.

Hayes presents a very easy-to-understand framework for plotting romance novels. She keeps an eye on genre conventions and audience expectation while presenting the opportunities and variations in ways that aren’t prescriptive. The definitions of each plot beat stay within scope, and, for queer writers, the main couple is referenced as H1 and H2.

The big take away I got as someone who wanted to level up their character craft and not as someone wanting to necessarily write a genre romance is focusing on character wounds and addressing those both internally and externally. It made my plotting stronger, and still offers space for more character discovery. Highly recommended for people who might be great at worldbuilding and plot, but falter on character work.

ARC Review: A SWIM IN A POND IN THE RAIN: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life by George Saunders (2021)

Genre: Nonfiction (Writing Craft)
Year Release: January 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop | | Unabridged Books

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC

This is my first foray into nineteenth century Russian short stories and Saunders’ experience teaching them page-by-page shines through this craft book that is also a specific craft study. Saunders selected works by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol to explore how these stories work and the connections between readers and authors.

What really stuck out to me about this collection was the subjectivity of the analysis and the dispersal of advice. Saunders makes it abundantly clear that the reader is allowed to get out of this work what they will. Disagreement with his impressions is encouraged throughout, and he even used the page space to refer to his own evolving relationship with these works. The balance between analysis of each story and more zoomed-out writing advice and Saunders’ own insights play well together, and it kept me engaged from start to finish.

There are definitely bits that I am taking with me as far as the exercises go, and some of the adages of what makes great writing work. A recommended read for people who learn by example (like yours truly).

Writing is Hard Part 7: Improving the Craft: A Self-Designed Curriculum

(Before I begin, this is my 200th blog post? Wow)


Three novels in four years, and it’s time to step back and work on word craft. I’ve found that beating my fingers against a keyboard and my head against a wall has taught me several valuable lessons about story arcs, characters, and world-building, but the actual infrastructure on a sentence level, I feel that I have been struggle to grow in that particular garden. Here is what I’ll be covering today:

  1. What I’m doing during a month of a break from novel writing and full-time employment
  2. Explaining the specific books I’m reading

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Music of the Write: Top 3 8Tracks

Originally, I was going to make my last post of 2015 a retrospective or a list of resolutions. But no one needs to know about the conferences, conventions, and workshops I attended and no one needs to hear about how I’m employed now. So, I decided to do a regular post on my top 3 8tracks playlists for getting words on sheets. Click the images to get to the playlists.

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