Category Archives: Writing and Getting Published 101

Information for the newest writers. Posts by writers for writers.

How To Get Published At Romantic Shorts

Romantic Shorts is once again accepting manuscripts for publication. And it is very exciting to see the response to this! If the sheer number of submissions says anything about our potential, this is going to be fun!!

On the flip side, I’d forgotten the frustration at the volume of submissions that end up in the virtual trash can.

I’m not talking about stories that I write a personal response to, regardless of the fact that I’m actually rejecting them. Those are all works that are well written, but maybe aren’t a good fit for us: they don’t quite have the level of romance we’re looking for, maybe cross a line we’re not ready to cross, if at all, or seem a little too clichéd or overdone.

There are also the rejections that are pretty good stories, maybe even a good fit for us, but that require far too much in the way of editing. I try to be very encouraging of these and make suggestions as to courses or coaches or writers’ groups. Many, I’ve even offered to revisit in time if the writer has worked to improve the structure.

These are all interesting in their own right; I always learn something and am grateful for the trust and the interest the writer shows in the Romantic Shorts idea.

But it’s the submissions by people who blatantly and obviously completely disregard the Submission Guidelines that begin to take advantage of my time and good manners. For shits and giggles, here’s some examples of what I’ve found in my inbox this month:

  • 5 separate submissions from four different people, each with an appropriate file type, none of which are written in English. Five seconds on the site should explain why this is a problem;
  • 1 manuscript that is one, 22-page long sentence. No punctuation. No capitals. No spacing;
  • 4 – I hesitate to call them stories – that have no romantic component to them at all. In fact, it is likely that they would be rejected as scripts for pornographic films;
  • 2 that I think have left me somewhat scarred for life;
  • and 1 that was so remarkably close to Pride and Prejudice, including a bad attempt at the period’s syntax, that I read the whole thing hoping that maybe they’d surprise me with a different ending.

Suffice it to say that, overall, I am privileged to be able to work with so many gifted writers, despite the less-than-stellar interruptions. I had one day last week where I was about to give up when I tripped over a submission by one of our own Romantic Shorts writers. A half hour later, faith restored by a truly wonderful story, it was back to business.

Bottom line, Writers: Read and Follow the Submission Guidelines. Take a good look through the FAQ’s.

If you don’t understand, ask.

And before you hit the SUBMIT button, maybe get a friend – one who can be honest with you – to give your story the once over.



Filed under For Writers, Writing and Getting Published 101

Sex Scene Advice From Diana Gabaldon

Every once in a while I trip over something that begs sharing. This is one golden nugget I had to squeeze in.

My favourite series of all time is Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. The 8th installment in the series is due out this month, and the first book, Outlander, is to debut on the American network, Starz, this August. I won’t even start on the details of the story – I couldn’t do it justice – but I do have to share this little snippet posted today on Diana’s Facebook page. For any romance writer, this advice is priceless. I know this, because she nails it. Every time. Enjoy!

Copyright 2013 Diana Gabaldon – This is the Introduction to a short book titled “HOW TO WRITE (AND _NOT_ WRITE) SEX-SCENES. #DailyLines #INTRODUCTION #HOW TO WRITE (AND _NOT_ WRITE) SEX-SCENES #standaloneEbook #notoutyet

(for those in a hurry)


Where most beginning writers screw up (you should pardon the expression) is in thinking that sex scenes are about sex. A good sex scene is about the exchange of emotions, not bodily fluids. That being so, it can encompass any emotion whatever, from rage or desolation to exultation, tenderness, or surprise.

Lust is not an emotion; it’s a one-dimensional hormonal response. Ergo, while you can mention lust in a sex-scene, describing it at any great length is like going on about the pattern of the wall-paper in the bedroom. Worth a quick glance, maybe, but essentially boring.

So how do you show the exchange of emotions? Dialogue, expression, or action—that’s about the extent of your choices, and of those, dialogue is by far the most flexible and powerful tool a writer has. What people say reveals the essence of their characters.


“I know once is enough to make it legal, but…” He paused shyly.

“You want to do it again?”

“Would ye mind verra much?”

I didn’t laugh this time, either, but I felt my ribs creak under the strain.

“No,” I said gravely. “I wouldn’t mind.”

Now, you do, of course, want to make the scene vivid and three-dimensional. You have an important advantage when dealing with sex, insofar as you can reasonably expect that most of your audience knows how it’s done. Ergo, you can rely on this commonality of experience, and don’t need more than brief references to create a mental picture.

You want to anchor the scene with physical details, but by and large, it’s better to use sensual details, rather than overtly sexual ones. (Just read any scene that involves a man licking a woman’s nipples and you’ll see what I mean. Either the writer goes into ghastly contortions to avoid using the word “nipples”—“tender pink crests” comes vividly to mind—or does it in blunt and hideous detail, so that you can all but hear the slurping. This is Distracting. Don’t Do That.)

So how _do_ you make a scene vivid, but not revoltingly so? There’s a little trick called the Rule of Three: if you use any three of the five senses, it will make the scene immediately three-dimensional. (Many people use only sight and sound. Include smell, taste, touch, and you’re in business.)


The road was narrow, and they jostled against one another now and then, blinded between the dark wood and the brilliance of the rising moon. He could hear Jamie’s breath, or thought he could—it seemed part of the soft wind that touched his face. He could smell Jamie, smell the musk of his body, the dried sweat and dust in his clothes, and felt suddenly wolf-like and feral, longing changed to outright hunger.

He wanted.

In essence, a good sex scene is usually a dialogue scene with physical details.


“I’ll gie it to ye,” he murmured, and his hand moved lightly. A touch. Another. “But ye’ll take it from me tenderly, a nighean donn.”

“I don’t want tenderness, damn you!”

“I ken that well enough,” he said, with a hint of grimness. “But it’s what ye’ll have, like it or not.”

He laid me down on his kilt, and came back into me, strongly enough that I gave a small, high-pitched cry of relief.

“Ask me to your bed,” he said. “I shall come to ye. For that matter–I shall come, whether ye ask it or no. But I am your man; I serve ye as I will.”

And finally, you can use metaphor and lyricism to address the emotional atmosphere of an encounter directly. This is kind of advanced stuff, though.


He’d meant to be gentle. Very gentle. Had planned it with care, worrying each step of the long way home. She was broken; he must go canny, take his time. Be careful in gluing back her shattered bits.

And then he came to her and discovered that she wished no part of gentleness, of courting. She wished directness. Brevity and violence. If she was broken, she would slash him with her jagged edges, reckless as a drunkard with a shattered bottle.

She raked his back; he felt the scrape of broken nails, and thought dimly that was good–she’d fought. That was the last of his thought; his own fury took him then, rage and a lust that came on him like black thunder on a mountain, a cloud that hid all from him and him from all, so that kind familiarity was lost and he was alone, strange in darkness.

Like that.

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Filed under For Writers, Writing and Getting Published 101

Writers: Learn From The Good Wife

(Spoiler alert: If you haven’t caught up with The Good Wife’s latest episode, and don’t want to know what happened, don’t read on…)

The number one rule of writing: ‘Kill the baby.’


Yes. Kill the baby. Or in this case, Will Gardner.

Will and AliciaToo often, writers miss the mark on this one, and lose their readers in the process. Here’s the thinking on that.

Of all the lessons I’ve learned through writing, reader reactions, classes, and forums, the best advice to come my way, without question, is:  ‘kill the baby.’ The exercise went like this:

The assignment:  Once upon a time, there was a village in the forest. It was a happy village. Everyone was loving and healthy and the village was a wonderful place to live. Until one day, people started to get sick and die. The people were devastated by their losses, and began to fear for themselves as the sickness ravaged their friends and family. Finally, the wise ones of the village decided to break the law of the forbidden land and cross the river to ask the evil one for help. The evil one agrees to help, but the price is high. The cost is one baby…. Finish the story….

It is remarkable how many ways there are to cheat death. We did everything we could to save the child. Some of us had a plan to get the baby back. Some would somehow use a second boat to fool the evil one. Others would give him a sickly child who would die anyway. We could go with the ‘it was a dream’ plan. How about negotiating for three old people. We were prepared to do anything but give up that baby.

In the end, our instructor shook his head in pity at us. We’d done exactly as he expected. Not one of us gave up the baby.

His advice? Kill the baby.

Bad things happen in real life. Bad things happen in stories. Let the bad happen. Type through your tears. The tragedy must be respected. To lessen the loss is to cheapen the story. You, the writer, are responsible for the plot. You owe it to your reader to tell the best story possible. And the readers will remember your story longer, the stronger the feelings they’re left with. In the end, you’ll be able to pay for therapy with all the money you’ll make from the sales of your book.

We all went back and killed the baby. It was difficult. But we certainly understood the point of the lesson.

Think about endings that have left you feeling like you just wasted hours reading a good story – or watching a movie – only to have the ending ruin the entire experience. Or better yet, offer up ‘alternate endings.’

Not every story has to end in tragedy. But every story needs its fair share of emotion – good and bad. Protecting your characters makes them bland

Robert and Michelle King, great writers.

and uninteresting. Challenge them and let them tell their story.

Robert and Michelle King, writers of The Good Wife know this. And, risking the wrath of loyal fans everywhere, killed Will last night. They have their reasons.

But in the end, it all boils down to good writing.

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Filed under For Writers, Writing and Getting Published 101