I love systems about writing. The art of writing is such an immense task, that any book that promises me a system is immediately one that I want to have. Cathy Yardley’s book, Will Write for Shoes: How to write a Chick Lit novel, while specifically about writing Chick Lit, has one whopper of a system. The points in her book aren’t solely for Chick Lit or romance. Yardley’s experience with agents, publishers and marketing from her own genre fiction writing can be applied to most contemporary fiction. These are tips from a real working writer. Instead of bogging down in details, a small tightly written advice book like this is just what a writer needs to get going.
But back to the system. When Yardley sits down to write a book, she starts with a general page count in mind. She outlines the events that will need to happen, and writes a loose outline. Then she lays out her roadmap. According to her plan, she expects to run into Plot point one by page 100 by example. By page 300, she’ll be reaching Plot point three. She lays out a system for how many scenes in a chapter, how many chapters before you get to the midpoint, and how to aim for the black moment and the climax. For us, she gives examples and descriptions so we can figure out just what a plot point is. Yardley explains that this system helps her break the novel down into chunks and fights writer’s block. Just the thought of it makes me happy. Because right now, I’m battling it out in the wilderness of character motivation, and how to add enough tension to the plot. I can’t wait to have a plot point one to strive towards.
Of course, Yardley has experience writing novels. She knows what makes a good character and the elements that make up a good plot. For the rest of us, the examples and suggested reading, help point the way. Chapters on character motivation, plotting, structure and voice as well help fill in the blanks. There is a list of questions that help you define the basic premise of your story. I found that exercise helpful, as well as advice about internal and external goals, and how each scene must have tension.
Understanding the difference between Chick Lit and regular women’s fiction is the one part of this guide that left me confused. On the one hand, Yardley tells us what is standard Chick Lit territory, like shopping, drinks, single girl working in New York City in a glamorous industry. On the other hand, she tells us that stretching those boundaries is what can set you apart. But by doing that stretching, you might just stretch right out of Chick Lit. Just whether Chick Lit is as hot as it once was is also a question that can’t be answered in this book, because it was written in 2006.
But for a little book about Chick Lit, this book packs a lot of excellent, honed information about basic tricks for writing novels and how to get all the way to the revision stage (with the system!) into its 205 pages.