In a few hours time my new book, Deleting History, will be on sale in the Amazon store and to celebrate I want to give anyone who hasn't read any of my books the chance to read them all without spending a penny. For the next three months if you have Kindle Unlimited you will be able to read my books for free or if you have a kindle and amazon prime, you'll be able to borrow them on the kindle owners lending library.
So I just found this on pinterest and I thought to myself as I read it that this is exactly what I'm like when I'm in a relationship. I remember everything and I remember nothing. I remember all the little nonsensical details but I'll forget to wish you a happy birthday.
I once dated a writer and
Writers are forgetful,
but they remember everything.
They forget appointments and anniversaries,
but remember what you wore,
how you smelled
on your first date...
They remember every story you've ever told them
but forget what you've just said.
They don't remember to water the plants
or take out the trash,
but they don't forget how
to make you laugh.
Writers are forgetful
the important things.
In celebration of the release of my latest book Deleting History on the 31st January, I'm giving away 50 copies of Repeating History to the first 50 people to sign up to my mailing list today.
Every good book has to have a fantastic first chapter. As much as we don't want to end badly, we really can't afford to start poorly. You don't want to loose readers before you can hook them in. It's often the hardest chapter to write in your whole book but it's also possibly the most important. You'll write it. Then edit it. Probably write it again. And again. And perhaps again. But that's okay. It matters. Take your time to make this an opening chapter like no other.
#1 First Things First Don't Panic
Forget everything I just said. As much as its all true, don't let it scare you. Yes, your opening sentence needs to be amazeballs but your first draft of your first chapter doesn't have to best seller standard. It just needs to be honest, real and original. It needs to be yours. Don't let this overwhelm you. Just give it your best and see what you can make of it. Have a glass of wine and relax. Writing is always easier when you're not on edge. Writing chapter one can seem like too big a task but you can do it.
#2 Decide on Tense and POV and Stick with it
For your average reader this may not matter too much but for those of us who do care, it matters a lot. For a reader like me the worse thing you will ever do to your book is muddle around with tense and point of view. It ruins the natural flow of your words and there is nothing worse than bad flow. Back in the day it was a bit easier. POV was either first person, third person limited or third person omniscient and without fail you'd always write in the past tense. Today that isn't the case. We mix point of views - he has a chapter, she has a chapter... that's always great. Shifting viewpoints really gives the reader a bigger scope of information but I would limit it to chapters, not paragraphs or it's just going to get messy. I like writing in the present tense and the past tense but it's important to make sure it flows so try not to mix it up. To work out what works for you try re-writing your first chapter in a couple of tenses and see which seems more natural. But if you find later in your book that your tense isn't working that's okay. You can always change it but it's going to be a tad time consuming so try to get this pegged as early on as possible.
#3 Decide on your HOOK
A good hook is completely necessary. Without it you've lost your readers before you've even won them, You need to decide what your hook is going to look like right at the very start. It might come in the form of a question your readers desperately need to answer or to bring them straight into the action or show them a moment of weakness for the protagonist - whatever you choose the key is to build suspense. You need to make them feel as if they MUST keep reading right until the very end. If you know what your hook is, the thing that will keep your reader, till the very end, you will know how best to bait your hook. Your first chapter is the bait on the hook. A great way to bait your reader is with a bit of mystery. We love questions. We love leaping into the unknown. The best thing is it makes the reader wait for context. It's almost a guaranteed hook. Draw them in with a bit of mystery, keep them confused with little illuminations of understanding along the way until you are ready to hit them with context.
#4 Know what your book is about
What does your book want to say? Know your themes. As writers one of the important jobs of the first chapter is making sure the reader knows too. It's all part of that tension thing. If the reader knows what the book is about they will invest in it. In my first book, Broken Rules, it was all about Aurora finding herself. I wanted the reader to go on a journey of self discovery with her as she rebelled against everything she knew and hopefully found herself in the process. What are the stakes? What's at play? What does your character risk loosing if things go wrong? What can they gain? The other thing you need to consider is what you as the author are trying to prove... is it that love is real? or that sometimes it can be about more than just sex? or that friends can become lovers and not lose their friendship? What is your book trying to prove?
#5 Introduce Your Character
Very rarely and definitely not in the romance genre would I ever recommend not introducing your main character in your first chapter. Truth is you want your readers to love your characters just as much as you do. Who is your main character? What is he/ she doing when they are introduced? What does it say about them? What do they care about? How was their life disrupted by the plot of your story? Why should your reader care about your protagonist? Broken Rules introduces Aurora immediately. She's in a conversation with her best friend Tallulah. In the first paragraph, you can tell Aurora pays attention to detail. By the end of the first page you know she loves her friend and that she cares, like really cares. By the end of the first chapter you know how she sees her friends, how she sees herself and how she thinks everyone else sees her. "Everyone calls me perfect; the perfect daughter, the perfect student, the perfect friend, practically perfect in every way, I might as well be fricking Mary Poppins." We also know that her life as perfect as it seemingly is doesn't satisfy her. She feels stifled. But we still like her because as much as all that is true she unlike so many people before her, owned up to it and took responsibility for it. If your reader gets to the end of the first chapter and doesn't feel anything for your main character, you've failed. You've lost your reader. You don't need to tell us their life story, just enough to make us care. Why does their story matter? You could write the worst story known to man and if I care about your character I'll follow them through it.
I've said it before but this might be the most important thing in your whole book so I'm going to say it again. Tension is a must from that very first sentence to the very last. Tension doesn't always look the same. It comes with action, dialogue, emotion, sexual tension... they all work but you need to work out what's going to work best for your first chapter. In another of my books Repeating History the opening chapter is full of dialogue between my two protagonists. They hate each other but secretly are both attracted to each other. Their conversation keeps the chapter moving on with masses of tension. One way to build tension is to consider where you start your story. The later you bring your reader in the greater the tension. The first chapter might be the beginning of your book but it doesn't have to be the beginning of your characters' stories. In fact if it is you've just ruined your character. They won't be proper people - they'll be 2D ideas instead of multi faceted human beings who have lived and breathed, hoped and dreamed, cried and laughed before we even meet them.
As an actor has to get into character so do you! If you are writing from your character's pov then you need to make their dialogue sound like them and their thoughts seem realistic. Immerse yourself in who they are so it becomes almost real. The author should be lost so that the characters can be found. It's important to consider gender, personality.... and everything about them when you write their voice. A guy isn't likely to get all mushy and a girl might talk about clothes or make up. Consider what you know about your character when you begin to delve into their voice. In the first chapter your character's voice needs to be strong. It needs to be confident, almost demanding.
#8 The Opening Line
Make it strong, make it assertive, make it powerful., make it memorable, make it count. A great first line is the making of a great book. Readers love a good opening line. It can be witty or emotional. It can be so many things but most importantly it needs to be short and devoid of extra crap. It's a sentence that is out for a fight and will take no prisoners. It's a promise that the rest of the book will be equally as good. It inspires the reader to read. It needs to get under the skin.
#9 The Importance of Dialogue
Make your character talk. Dialogue is key to getting to know your character. It's the fastest way to get to know each other. It's the same as when you make friends with someone new. You talk! Let your protagonist talk. Show us what matters to them. In fact even better let them tell us.
#10 Conflict Wins
Conflict is all interlaced with that tension stuff we were talking about earlier. Conflict is essential, especially in romance. It means that your character has to do something. Drama creates conflict. Start with conflict. We all know that people love gossip and drama, readers are no different. Conflict changes everything. It might be big or small but it impacts the character and the reader alike.
#11 Keep It Tight And Short
Don't let it drag on. You don't need to tell your reader everything in the very first chapter. It's not only not necessary, it would be a waste of time and a mistake. Your reader won't hear it all and perhaps more importantly they'll get bored. And that's the kiss of death to any book.
There are thousands of things to consider but the most important thing I will ever tell you about your opening chapter is that it will at times be your worst work and your best. It's the key to your novel. Good luck and remember don't panic.
The History Series is Hanleigh Bradley's brand new second series. It will consist of three books; Repeating History, Deleting History and Forging History.
This is a series you should definitely read. The first book in the series Repeating History is currently half price to all my subscribers.
Every romance novel needs tension. It needs pain. It needs risk. It needs fight. Despair. It needs impossibility. Here are a few ways to get that for your characters:
1. Character Flaws - They are always there. They cant be avoided. She's scared or he's selfish. He's a player or she's cynical.
2. History - He's already broken her heart. He's already destroyed her hope. Or maybe she made a bad choice.
3. She's already decided not to have him - for whatever reason she decided not to go there perhaps because of a characteristic he shares with an ex.
4. Business Nemesis - they work against each other but they work close together.
5. Intimacy Issues - his or hers, we've all got issues.
6. They believe they can't be loved - a terrible mistake in the past or they've been blamed for something that wasn't there fault.
7. Friendship - they don't want to lose each other.
8. Secrets - keeping secrets makes having a relationship impossible.
9. Only sex - friends with benefits, an agreement, he's an escort, she''s a prostitute - falling in love is against the rules.
10. It wasn't supposed to be real - it was meant to be pretend.
11. Forbidden - their families hate each other or maybe their friends.
12. Money - he's rich. she's not. That always wins.
13. Other relationships - he's married but they aren't together any more.
14. She thinks she loves someone else.
15. Time Limits
16. Sacrifices they aren't willing to make - what if they have to give up their dream.
17. He makes her unsafe - he's a spy or something.
18. He's the beast like beauty and the beast.
19. Disguised - she's a reporter pretending to be someone else.
20. Family complications
21. Reputation - he's a player and she's a good girl and her parents won't like it.
22. Freedom - she doesn't want to settle down.
23. He's a workaholic.
24. He doesn't want to see her that way because she's his friend's kid sister.
25. She's sick. He might die.
so I thought I'd put a bit of an offer out there. I know one of the hardest things about being an author, a reviewer, a blogger is getting people to listen to you. With that in mind, I'd love to share my blog space with you.
If you have something to say, perhaps about your upcoming book or an interview you want shared or just a post you want shared, I'm more than happy to share it here.
Your blog post will be shared with all of my facebook profile, facebook page, Twitter page, Goodreads and Amazon Author Profile so it's bound to get plenty of attention. My top five blog posts also get promoted on my website so if your post makes it onto that list, you'll get even more traffic.
Fancy promoting your book, your author profile, this is a great way to do it. I obviously reserve the right to refuse to post anything that I deem offensive or incompatible with my readers. I'm a romance author so obviously I'd recommend writing about things like...
Hanleigh Bradley xx
Today's romance literature might be a bit more on the erotic side but it's still essentially the same. It's still just a love story. There are love stories that go back hundreds and hundreds of years. There are even love stories in the Bible. I mean seriously, "I have found the one whom my soul loves," is the sort of line that would make most girls swoon.
Then there's the historical romances like Jane Austen's books. She taught us all to believe in that glorious happily ever after - the one that we just can't give up on. Even a hundred years ago women wanted the same things. They wanted an alpha man type - their very own Mr Darcy!
The books we read now a days surely have more sex scenes and they're usually on the explicit side but the core narrative is always the same. We all fall for the same character time and time again. We want the same things as all the women before us... we want to be held in the arms of a strong and powerful man who wouldn't think twice about doing everything in his power to protect us.
And yet in reality, when we remove ourselves from our books how often do any of us find that guy? How hard is it to find a guy with the right balance? Brooding but not moody. Dominating but not my master. Passionate but not fake. Arrogant but secretly shy. Proud but willing to be weak. Demanding but giving too. The books we read haven't really changed at all. The problem is they give us this false expectation that guys really are exactly the way we imagine them to be. I'm a romantic in my books and a realist in real life. I date but very rarely find what I'm looking for - you could say my expectations are too high but truth is I just don't believe in settling.
I want to believe in Happily Ever Afters. The books I've been reading my whole life tell me it's possible but the older and wiser and probably more cynical I get the more I realise it just doesn't seem likely. That's why as much as my books will always have a HEA my characters will have to fight for it, perhaps even earn it because love is hard. It's a lot harder than we make it look inside the pages of a book.
I'd love the books we read and write to reflect the generation writing them but I fear we haven't really changed but maybe that's because each and every one of us still have the same basic human needs; safety, security, food... love. And perhaps that will never change. I just wish it was as easy to fall in love with the guys in the real world as it is to fall in love with the ones in my novels.
The one thing I don't write about? Myself! So tonight, I'm going to not only write about myself, I'm going to tell you some of my secrets. Not all of them. But a few... 10 to be exact. I'm quite a private person so this is a big deal.
clown. He was in the middle of his act and he couldn't put his waist coat on. He asked the audience for help. I was hiding behind my little brother (fail) and somehow ended up being picked to help him. I told him where to put his arms whilst keeping my arms folded. I was already scared. Then he made a joke about how helpful I was and would I marry him... I panicked. Said no. And ran and hid behind my 6 foot father... should have hidden behind him in the first place.
2. I've Never Had A Serious Relationship
I've had plenty of boyfriends but none of them have lasted longer than 3 months. I get bored easily. Sometimes even on the first date. I'm very independent and I struggle when I'm expected to make my life fit in with someone else's.
3. I've Never Been In Love
It seems fair to say that if I haven't had a serious relationship then I've probably never been in love. You'd be right about that. That's probably part of the reason I get bored so easily.
4. I Have A Secret Penchant For Parma Ham
When I'm sad I don't eat chocolate or ice cream. Nope. I eat parma ham. My friends and family know that if they find me in bed with a packet of parma ham, the end of the world has probably happened.
5. Not So Vanilla
Although I tend to engage in quite vanilla sex, truth is I have an over active imagination and have plenty of fantasies that I've love to act out. I just need to find the right guy to help me with that one. For one, I like the idea of being shared but at the same time the way I see it is what's mine is mine and when I belong to someone it's exclusive. I won't share him and I don't want him to share me even if the idea of a threesome is occasionally tempting - so some of my sexual fantasies will probably stay in mind mind.
6. I Wish I Was Born At Least 100 Years Ago
I wish I lived in the Victorian or Edwardian or Regency period just so I could have a season, wear pretty dresses every day and marry a duke... because of course I'd be one of the lucky ones.
7. I Don't Smoke, Except When I Do
I don't smoke. Except, I have a packet of cigs in my bag at all times. There's also one in my bedside table. I keep them there to remind me not to smoke and most of the time it works but sometimes when I'm stressed or when I'm drunk, I smoke the whole packet in one go. Oops.
8. I Love Foxes Almost As Much As I Love Politics
Foxes are my favourite animals. They are just too cute. When I vote I take into account the politicians views on fox hunting possibly more than almost anything else. I refused to vote for David Cameron because he wanted to revoke the ban on fox hunting - not cool Cameron!
9. I Struggle To Sleep Unless I Have Someone Talking To Me
When I go to bed at night, I struggle to sleep unless I listen to someone's voice. If I'm sharing a bed with someone they aren't allowed to fall asleep before me or I'll be up all night... No idea why. It's just the way I've always been. I have an app I listen to that hypnotises me to go to sleep.
10. I Pretend To Exercise Regularly
I like yoga and I love running but I never do either. I should. I wish I did. But I don't. Not daily. Not weekly. Not monthly. Not annually. I just don't. I have quite an active job so I'm usually on my feet but even so... I should exercise.
Something you may have noticed about all those Romance novels you love so much is that it's not always the overly erotic sex scenes that have the greatest effect on you. It's more than just being explicit. It's about the way you write it, the way it's read, the words you use, the ideas your words inspire...
behaviour. It's in the words they say. And when they are having sex, even if it's just referenced, it's still an important part of your story. It's something that brings your characters closer, improves their relationship, shows their vulnerability. It's powerful stuff.
should always show us something about the characters engaging in the act. In the History Series there are a couple of occasions where characters have sex that although it might not be 100% relevant to the main protagonists' stories but it was relevant to all the thousands of sub-plots that are under the surface. My No. 2 rule is that if I'm not effected by it, it doesn't make it into the final edit. Sex is supposed to be enjoyable, regardless of whether you're actually physically doing it, watching it or reading it, it should effect you. You should feel something. If as the author, you fail to feel anything when reading your own sex scenes you can't expect them to have any effect upon your readers.
sure everyone will agree that certain things have to happen before people have sex. They might talk or they might not. They might flirt. They might touch. They might not. Whatever they do before they take off their clothes, the important thing is that they build sexual tension. It's all in our descriptions. The look in his eye. The way she bites her lip. The electricity they feel when their hands accidentally touch. Right from the start you need to be building sexual tension otherwise it just won't be realistic and unrealistic sex scenes just aren't easy for readers to engage in.
to write. You won't want to be disturbed. Make sure you're relaxed before you even think about writing. Just like when you lost your V, sex is a lot less enjoyable when you aren't relaxed. Same goes for writing sex. You need to be able to get into it. You can't do that if you aren't relaxed and comfortable. Being a bit tipsy is always a good idea. You find yourself able to write the slightly more risky stuff that normally you'd shy away from.
hands on you. You feel your nipples tighten. You feel his cock swell with desire. Taste - you taste mint on his breath. You taste the saltiness of his sweat as you lick and suck on his neck. He tastes you when he goes down on you. Smell - The room smells like sex. You smell his cologne. You smell sweat on his skin. Sight - you see the look on his face as he cums. You see his muscles tighten as he pounds into you. He sees your tits bounce as you ride him. Sound - he hears you moan. You hear him growl. You hear the bed bang against the wall. You hear a person walk past your hotel room's door. Be descriptive. Even if you don't want to be explicit, you still need to describe it. You can still describe how your characters feel at the very least.
should be built up. Start small... perhaps with a look. Then a sly touch. Tease your readers. Make them want more. Don't make the mistake of just writing a porn scene.
probably don't need to make that our writing focus. Our readers will go there on their own. It's our job to show them the sensual bits that might get missed. Show them the way he strokes her arm as he removes her clothes. Show them the way he kisses her neck or the way he moves her hair aside to nip on her ear. It's the little details that make sex scenes amazing. It's the sensual stuff that makes sex scenes HOTTER THAN HOT.
that something is wrong. Your female protagonist is distracted. She can't get into it with her boyfriend because she can hear the guy she really likes having sex in the next room. Or perhaps she wants to have sex with this guy she's with but she's scared. Something bad happened to her and now even the hands she loves on her skin scare her. This is what makes sex real. Let your sex scenes tell us about your characters and where they are at. We're never more vulnerable than when we're having sex.
characters and readers deserve the best sex scene you can offer them, so it needs to flow. It's one experience from start til end and needs to read like it. Undoubtedly you will edit it to death later but initially just write it. Don't edit as you go either. Whatever you write might not be your best writing but leave it until the scene is written, then go back and edit. Someone wise once wrote on a blog I read that "Self editing while writing a sex scene is like apologising during bad sex," just don't do it!
part of your plot but in general tell them that your characters are being safe. It will help them relax and engage in the scene.
it before but I'm going to say it again, unless you are trying to write porn, it's about inspiring the senses. Give sensual details, give just enough to make your readers want more, so they continue reading but not too much that they feel sated.
They might share a cigarette. Another thing to remember is that sex isn't the tidiest thing. It's a bit messy and there's going to have to be a bit of a clean up. Sometimes the clean up can be more intimate than the sex act itself. Do they shower together? Does he get down on his knees and wash her with a towel?
hot than a man wearing socks during sex. Eeww!!! Sorry for the immature moment but seriously it matters. Don't just expect the clothes to disappear. You have to make your characters take them off.
The most important thing to remember is that sex is intimate and that your readers and you as the writer are a bunch of voyeurs, invading your characters' private moment. So make sure to give them some privacy at some point. Not every detail has to belong to you or the reader. It's your characters' story and some of it should be kept solely for them.
An eclectic collection of Hanleigh's thoughts and ideas about near enough anything and everything. After all isn't that what blogging is all about? Having all your thoughts, dreams and ideas in one place?
Hanleigh: an avid reader but a beginner when it comes to writing.