IWSG, Romantic Comedy, Writing

Smoochy Face: Thoughts on Writing Romantic Comedies | IWSG

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It’s a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there’s an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they’re struggling with what to say.

This month’s question is:

Has a single photo or work of art ever inspired a story? What was it and did you finish it?

Check out how people have answered this month’s question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list HERE. I opted not to answer this month’s question. Instead, Simon the Cat pops by for a visit and I’m sharing some thoughts on writing romantic comedies. Check it out below.

I felt something heavy land on my shoulder. Turning my head, I saw a large menacing-looking gray cat staring at my computer.

“You weigh a ton, Simon. Get off me.” I tried to shoo him off, but he dug his claws in. “Ouch! that hurts!”

“Toughen up, lady,” he said. “No pain, no gain.”

“What exactly am I gaining by having you claw me to death?”

He leaned forward and peered at my screen. “I’m going to criticize your book.”

“How exactly is that helpful?”

“You want to know if your writing is bad, right?” he asked as he leaped onto the table.

“Uh, sure, but in a constructive way.” I rubbed my shoulder and winced. Antiseptic was going to be needed for these scratches.

He pawed at the screen. “Ooh. This is gross. They’re smooching.” Then he lowered his paw and pressed the delete button.

“Simon, stop!” I pulled him off the table and into my lap. “I spent all morning working on that.”

“Nobody wants to read about people kissing, lady,” he said, squirming in my arms. “Get back to writing about dead bodies.”

Thoughts on Writing Romantic Comedies

So, yeah, last month I decided to start writing romantic comedies. I certainly didn’t see that coming! I was about a quarter of the way through writing book #5 (Shooting by the Sea) in my Mollie McGhie Cozy Mystery series when I opened up a new Scrivener file and began typing away at a smoochy face book in my new Smitten with Travel series.

All I knew when I started was that I wanted it to be about travel, food, and, of course, happily ever afters. Then I got in the zone and the words started flowing out, characters made their presence known, and I giggled to myself as I created some truly goofy (and hopefully humorous) scenes. Drooling cats are funny, right?

Then I did something crazy—or at least crazy for me—I put the first book in the series, Smitten with Ravioli up for pre-order with a July release date. I haven’t even finished writing it yet! I know people do this all the time, my release date is far enough out, and I’m about halfway done writing it, so it should be fine (she says to herself in a reassuring tone while scarfing down cookies). Plus, I’m finding it highly motivational to have a release date looming over me.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a few thoughts about writing romantic comedies that have struck me over the past month:

1 – It’s much easier to skip around from chapter to chapter.

When I write cozy mysteries, it’s a very linear process. I do a rough outline, then write each chapter in order. But when it comes to romantic comedy, I find that I’ve been hopping around all over the place. In fact, I’ve already written the epilogue with their happily ever after scene. {Spoiler alert: they get married.}

With cozies, I think a structured approach works much better for me because I need to make sure I plant all the clues and red herrings in such a way that Mollie can solve the mystery.

It might also have to do with the fact that there are more characters to worry about in my cozies—I usually have five suspects, plus Mollie, her hubby, and the other recurring characters. With my romantic comedy, there are two main characters—the heroine and hero. Sure, there are other supporting characters, but the story focuses primarily on the two lovebirds.

2 – Cozy mystery readers may not like romantic comedies.

Because this is a new genre, I debated about whether to write my romantic comedies under a pen name. As you can see from the cover above, I decided not to. It seems like way too much work and additional expense to have a pen name. Plus, because my romantic comedies are “clean” (i.e., plenty of sizzle, but no sex) and cozy mysteries are “clean” by default, I figured I wouldn’t have to worry about alienating any current readers since I won’t be publishing “steamy” books.

But I have to accept the fact that this new series may not be of interest to my current readers and that I’ll have to build up an audience who enjoys romantic comedies.

3 – What’s funny to one person may not be funny to another.

I’ve been reading / watching a lot of romantic comedies lately. Sometimes, I laugh out loud. Sometimes, I smile quietly. Sometimes, I don’t get the joke. Then I hear from other people that the joke I didn’t get had them rolling on the floor in hysterics.

People tell me that my cozy mysteries make them laugh, sometimes out loud. That’s one of the reasons that I decided to try my hand at writing romantic comedies. But what if I’m not funny enough? Or not funny at all? Has everyone been lying to me? Do they yawn when they read my cozies? Do they not get my jokes?

Can you tell I’m a little insecure about this? When I do start to panic, I try to remind myself that what’s funny to one person may not be funny to another. Then I have some chocolate. That always seems to help.

Want to know more about Smitten with Ravioli? Click HERE. I’ve been playing around with blurb and trying out different things such as first person vs. third person (the book is written in first person present) and how to position it (or not) in terms of heat level, so if you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them!

By the way, for all you Mollie McGhie fans, don’t worry, I’ll get back to Shooting by the Sea once Smitten with Ravioli is finished. Mollie still has a lot of murders to solve.

What about you? Has a single photo or piece of art inspired a story? Do you like romantic comedies? What makes you laugh?

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Formatting eBooks & Print Books| Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Formatting

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked to you about my decision to publish both ebook and paperback versions. Today, I’m going to cover the next step in the process once my manuscript was finalized—formatting. This is one of the areas where “ugly” really reared its head.

Programs

Before I get started, let me just mention what programs I used. I started off writing in Scrivener. Once I had a decent draft completed, I compiled the document and then finished editing in Open Office Writer (a free open source alternative to MS Word – you can easily convert files back and forth between the two programs as required).

Once the ebook manuscript was finalized, I used Draft2Digital‘s free service to convert into mobi (for Kindle) and epub (for everyone else) files. Once my paperback manuscript was finalized, I converted it into a PDF for uploading for print-on-demand on Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark.

I’ve heard great things about Vellum when it comes to formatting, but it’s not compatible with PCs (only for MacOS). Plus it costs quite a bit, whereas my approach cost nothing, except time and frustration.

Here’s how things should have worked

If I had been more patient, these are the steps I should have taken. Note that there would have been celebratory chocolate and pats on the back. Instead, the process I took involved banging my head on the table and eating chocolate to make myself feel better when things went wrong.

1 – Lock down the manuscript before beginning to format ebook and print versions.

2 – Get the manuscript ready for conversion to ebook files. (This mostly involved stripping out unnecessary formatting and making sure chapter breaks were distinctive and consistent). Make this version the master document.

3 – Convert into epub and mobi files using Draft2Digital.

4 – Check the epub and mobi files and do one last proofreading round. (You might catch things when looking at a manuscript on a Kindle, iPad, or tablet that you wouldn’t necessarily see on the computer.)

5 – Go back to the master document and fix anything caught during the final proofreading.

6 – Make new epub and mobi files.

7 – Do one last check of the epub and mobi files.

8 – Have some chocolate because things are going so smoothly.

9 – Upload to the various ebook distributors / aggregators – in my case, Amazon KDP, Draft2Digital (for Apple iBooks), Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Publish Drive (for Google Play).

10 – Paste and copy from the master document into the print book template in Open Office Writer.

11 – Complete the print book formatting.

12 – Convert into a PDF file and upload to print-on-demand distributors – in my case, Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark.

13 – Pat yourself on the back for a job well done without any hiccoughs.

Here’s how it really went

1 – Got excited that the edits to the manuscript were finished and wanted to see what it would look like as a print book, cause you know that makes it more “real.”

2 – Started copying and pasting like mad into my print book template. Dove into formatting, which turned out to be quite involved and revealed what a total newbie I was to this sort of thing. Things like checking margins and gutters (even and odd pages are different), making sure section breaks were working correctly, ensuring consistent font size and placement for chapter titles, fixing hyphenation (don’t want them breaking across pages or stacking up with several lined up on top of each other in a paragraph), looking for widow / orphan issues (don’t want just a few words being orphaned by themselves on a page), and checking indentation (none at the first paragraph of each chapter and scene).

3 – Have a stiff drink cause it’s all a bit overwhelming.

4 – Wonder if you have a migraine coming on.

5 – Question your decision to do your formatting yourself rather than outsource it.

6 – Realize you need to download fonts into Open Office Writer that MS Word has, but you don’t. Make sure all fonts are copyright free.

7 – Finish formatting the print version, then create the ebook version.

8 – Discover a couple of small changes that need to be made. Realize that you don’t have a master document, you have to fix things in both the print version and ebook version. Chocolate required.

9 – Decide to keep your print version as the master document, make changes in that one, then strip out the formatting in order to convert it back into an ebook version.

10 – Discover that somehow everything got messed up in the new ebook version file. Italics have disappeared. Capitalization issues in the first sentence of each chapter. Tear your hair out. Have more chocolate.

11 – Finally get back on track, finalize files, and upload.

12 – Go to have some celebratory chocolate only to discover someone ate it all. Hmm…who could that have been?

So, was a DIY approach a smart idea?

Sure, it would have been a lot easier to outsource formatting to someone else, especially for the print version. However, I’m still glad I went with the DIY approach. Obviously, I saved money, and when it’s your own money you’re investing into publishing your books, saving money is a good thing, at least it is for me. More importantly, I learned heaps in the process and it will be so much easier next time. I’m also not dependent on anyone else if I need to update my manuscripts at any point.

But perhaps the biggest lesson I learned was to stock up on more chocolate.

Want to know more?

Elizabeth Spann Craig talks about using Draft2Digital’s free templates to format your ebook.

The Alliance for Independent Authors shares 6 tips for indie authors to format print books using MS Word.

Joel Friedlander has lots of useful resources from articles about print book sizes, how to check your book proof, and dealing with widows and orphans, as well as offering book design templates for sale.

L. Diane Wolfe at The Insecure Writer’s Support Group offers tips and tricks on ebook formatting.

Reedsy explains the difference between epub and mobi files.

A useful list of 10 ebook conversion tools on Bookworks.

Amazon KDP Paperback Manuscript Templates—choose from blank MS Word templates and those with sample content; select your trim size, download and away you go.

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design | Draft #743 | Beta Readers | Traditional vs. Self-Publishing | Editing | Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Ebooks, Print, or Both | Book Formatting| Distribution Channels | Book Release in Numbers | Blog Tours | ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) | Large Print Books

Have you ever formatted your own ebook and/or print book?

Murder at the Marina Banner - Available Now

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

If you’d like to pick up your own copy (ebook and paperback), you can do so at your favorite online retailer:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

You can also add Murder at the Marina to your to-read list on Goodreads and subscribe to my newsletter here.