Monday, 21 November 2011

Welcome to my Guest Author: Kate Walker with Giveaways!

Today I welcome Harlequin Mills & Boon Author Kate Walker to DownUnder! And she's got a signed book for one lucky commenter! So over to Kate....

First I'd like to thank Serena for inviting me here to talk to her friends DownUnder.

For my post today,  I want to take a look at Prologues and Epilogues.

Recently I had a writer email me and ask me whether she should start her book in a certain place, and then jump forward a couple of years to tell the main story, or whether she should start at that point a couple of years later - or should she put the past into a Prologue and then move into the main story.  The problem here is basically, should she write a Prologue – or  start the story in what is the present and refer to the past in flashback. I’m not a great fan of flashbacks – particularly not long ones-  but Prologues- and Epilogues  - need to be used with care.

Some authors love Prologues, some- and I'm usually one of them, will avoid them like the plague. But in a 2007  book of mine (Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride) my editor really wanted a Prologue showing the hero and heroine happy together so that the events of a year later (the ones I had as the starting point of the book as it was ) hit home with more impact.

I'll admit I wasn't keen. I argued, almost dug my heels in, but she persisted with her argument and  then I rethought. And I saw just  what she was trying to get me to achieve with this particular prologue and I realised she was right. I said that I would only write it if I could start both the prologue, and the first chapter, with almost the same words. My editor agreed So I conceded, and wrote the Prologue.    And I'm really glad I did because every time I open that book, I'm very happy with the impact it has and many readers have written to me to tell me how much they love it. But, as a general rule, I
don't really like Prologues. Let me explain why.

The first thing to be sure of with a Prologue is that it's really necessary. Because one of the real problems with a Prologue is that by its very nature it usually involves writing something that delays the start of the 'real' book - the reason why the reader has picked it up in the first place - and that is the development of the romance between your hero and heroine. A romance is a short book and the reader expectation is that it will concentrate - guess what - on the romance story.

Prologues usually set up something that one or other of them is unaware of and so you need to be careful that it doesn't have the reader hanging on, wondering just when the other central character will come in, when this problem will be made clear.

The other problem that I have with prologues is the same as the one I have with too much back story. Obviously if the past has a major effect on the actions and feelings of the characters in the present time, then that needs to be shown - but it doesn't necessarily need to be acted out. It can be explained by one of your characters - bringing in much needed dialogue or you can use (carefully) flashbacks. But again the reason why the reader is reading your book is to see the relationship developing in the present - and how they move on from that past.

I'll be honest and say that when I see the word Prologue - which inevitably means something before the real action of the book starts, then I'm always wondering just why this couldn't be woven into the main story. It can look like the author 'writing themselves in' to the main story which doesn’t take off until the next section. This slows the beginning, delaying the real story -  that story in the present. The past may have affected it, but the true story is what happens now. If you need to ask when you should
start your story then the answer is that yo need to look at where your hero and heroine  are at a point of crisis and a point of change – how they start to move one from there is what matters. How they came to be there  is only part of the past – the mental scenery, the backdrop, not the action of the plot.

Epilogues are slightly different. I completely agree that where. there has been a lot of emotional damage, there is a need to show that the healing has worked. But again I do think it's very important to show a lot of that healing in the actual main body of the book. It's part of the Black Moment/satisfying Happy Ending combination that needs to be there not just to bring you characters together but to show that they have grown and moved on emotionally so that they are ready to overcome the fear, the guilt, the doubts. If there is so much of that that the HEA has to be 'proved' later by showing how they are still together you need to be careful that there hasn't been enough healing in the book itself.
Sometimes I have used an epilogue - for example, when the plot hinged around the death of a baby as a result of Cot Death/SIDS - the reader needs the reassurance that in the future this tragedy did not happen again.

But the epilogues I really dislike are the ones that look like padding - the detailed description of the elaborate wedding/christening/whatever when this feels like padding - bringing the word count up to requirements when that could have been used so much more valuably by adding to the conflict or the resolution of that conflict - something that showed character development rather than embroidered the already happy ending.
Sometimes there is a place in your novel for a prologue, or an epilogue – but all too often then can be an excuse for lazy, careless writing.  

In a romance it is important to ending. Written well, this can all be  done in the main force of the story, without any need for an added opening or ending to explain, flashback, or embroider onto that happy ending. I think that for both an epilogue or a prologue, the question should always be, can I tell this in the main part of the novel without lengthy explanations? And if the answer is yes you can, then your story will be so much  tighter and with more pace if you do. And a tighter, pacier read will please your readers so much more!


Standing high on the windswept moors, the lone figure of Heath Montanha vows vengeance on the woman who destroyed the last fragments of his heart...Lady Katherine Charlton has never forgotten the stablehand with dangerous fists and a troubled heart from her childhood. Now the rebel is back, his powerful anger concealed under a polished and commanding veneer. When ten years of scandal and secrets are unleashed, with a passionate, furious kiss, Heath's deepest, darkest wish crystallises...Revenge - and Kat - will be his!

The Return of the Stranger is available from
Amazon & Amazon UK

12 Point Guide to Writing Romance is available from

Amazon & Amazon UK

Where can readers find you?

One lucky commenter will get a signed copy from Kate Walker’s backlist, winner’s choice and all the commenters’ names will go in the grand draw. For more stops on Kate Walker’s celebration tour, please check out the:

Author Page created by Romance Book Paradise Promotions.

Backlist Books:
The Greek Tycoon’s Unwilling Wife
Bedded By The Greek Billionaire
Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride
The Sicilian’s Red-Hot Revenge
The Good Greek Wife?
Kept for Her Baby
The Konstantos Marriage Demand
Cordero’s Forced Bride
Spanish Billionaire, Innocent Wife
The Proud Wife

Monday, 7 November 2011

Finding & Keeping Your Writing Voice

It is said that “finding your writing voice” is part of the journey to success, especially in fiction. We are led to believe that for some people it comes naturally and for others it’s a never ending battle. The truth is we all have our own unique writing voice and it’s there within us all if we dig deep enough and work hard enough.

Often it takes quite a while and a lot of writing before we feel brave enough to show someone else our precious story – the one that has been rattling inside our brain for ages and had to emerge and find its way on to the page (or screen). It is important to get feedback and let others see your work to tell you what works or doesn’t work for them, and perhaps what may or may not work in a particular line or genre. A big mistake often made by beginner writers is to take on board every piece of advice from various critiques, and systematically change everything that is pointed out to them. If several people have commented and suggested the same change, then the writer should seriously consider reviewing that point. But if you, the writer, change large portions of the manuscript as suggested without really thinking it through, then you risk losing your voice, what makes that story uniquely yours.

Some helpful hints:

*Try reading your work aloud. You’ll find that you might stumble over awkward words or phrasing, or long passages that can be condensed. This is a way to strengthen your style and maintain your voice.

*Be yourself and express yourself. Let your writing mirror your inner self. Don’t try to mimic your favourite authors. Find your own true self in your writing.

*Don’t wait for the “right” moment to write. Just like exercise which should be done regularly to be of any benefit, writing needs to be practiced regularly.  

*Think of your writing voice as a chunk of coal - solid carbon. With pressure and outside forces, it becomes a rough rock with promise. Then with practice and polish, it has the potential to be a stunning, sparkling, multi-faceted diamond.

I often tell people who have submitted work to me for editing, “You can fix grammar, punctuation and spelling - they are all easily learned – BUT you can’t fix or learn your voice. This is your individual talent to communicate and bring to life the kernel of an idea and make it compelling reading.”