Romance With a Dose of Sweet Sugar and a Dash of Steamy Spice!

Romance With a Dose of Sweet Sugar and a Dash of Steamy Spice!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

An Extensive Step-By-Step Process On How To Write, Publish and Promote Your Book, Part 2!

Back by popular demand! 

Hello everyone, and welcome back to my blog. I am so excited for today’s post! After receiving such an overwhelmingly positive response to Part I of my blog post on how to write, publish and promote your book (CLICK HERE if you missed that), I have reteamed with my good friend and fellow author VJ Allison to further discuss our book writing processes. We’re delving deeper and covering things like genre selection, writing from the heart, meeting deadlines, beta readers and much more. So grab a snack, kick back, and enjoy!

Welcome back to the blog, VJ! I’m so glad to have you here once again. I think now is a great time for us to chat about our writing routines and share useful tips considering we’re both actively working on projects.

First off, let’s talk about genre selection and book length. My current WIP, which is a contemporary romance/chick lit novel, started off as what I thought would be a steamy erotic novella, and the first of a four-part series. But as I began writing, the story took on a life of its own and suddenly became a fairly sweet second chance romance. On top of that, I decided to make it a standalone novel; total opposite of what I’d initially set out to create.

Has this ever happened to you? When you begin writing a story, do you always know the exact genre and write within that realm, or do you let the story tell you as you write? And what are your thoughts on novel versus novella writing? Do you set out to write one or the other before beginning your story?    
VJ: Thanks Denise, it’s always fun to participate in something like this!

This happens to me all of the time. I think the story is going to be one type – think just a regular contemporary romance – and it turns out to be a lot more. Most of the time, the story winds up being so much better in the end. I go with the flow, and if it works, it’s awesome. If it doesn’t, I’ll do a rewrite.

I like both novella and novel writing. I don’t set out to write either or as I go. If the story can be told in under 50,000 words, that’s fine. If not, that’s fine too. Some people prefer novellas, because it’s a short read. Others prefer the longer stories in a novel or super long novel. As a reader, I like both, as long as they are well written and have amazing characters with a wonderful storyline.

DW: Since I just made mention of this briefly, let’s discuss standalone versus series writing. Have you ever written a novel or novella with the intention of it being a standalone, only to later realize that you’d like to develop a series based on the story?

I experienced this when I wrote my contemporary romance novella A Naughty Jolly Christmas for eXtasy Books. That story was initially written as a standalone, but after turning it in to the publisher, I realized that I wasn’t done with Sasha and Drake, my two main characters.

There were more stories to tell, holidays to celebrate, and dramatic experiences to be shared between the fiery couple. That’s how the series “The Holiday Chronicles” came about, along with the second installment, My Unconditional Valentine. What are your thoughts on standalones versus series?

VJ: YES. My first book, Stricken, was supposed to be a standalone novel, even though I had written a “sequel” for its original incarnation in 2013. That sequel was scrapped, because it was downright awful, and it didn’t make any sense – not for Nova Scotia, and definitely not for Ewan and Marti!

However, my best friend Heather mentioned something about an event that is briefly mentioned in Stricken as part of its backstory. Her comment wound up turning into a plot bunny – and a possible sequel to Stricken. It’s dubbed Stricken, Book 2 for public use right now, and features a new couple with an entirely different set of conflicts and journey. It features Ewan’s cousin, Joshua Campbell, as he makes a few discoveries about himself, his life, and their grandfather, Viktor Campbell, as he falls in love with a Nova Scotian woman named Lauren. I’m not sure if this will ever be finished, or if it is, published. It’s still in the early stages of its first draft. I’m only in the middle of Chapter 5. It’s been slow going, even if it is steady.

I think that if you, the author, wants to do a standalone, that is perfectly fine. Sometimes having it all wrapped up in one neat package is perfect. Other times, it’s best to have those loose ends tied up. I always said I’d prefer to do standalones, and look at me now.

It’s really up to the author in my opinion, and whatever works best for them. Just make sure it’s well written, edited almost perfectly, and has a great storyline with strong characters and plausible events before you send it in to a publisher, or publish it as an indie author.

DW: When you’re working on a project, do you create timelines and deadlines for yourself? If so, how strictly do you adhere to them?

In order for me to remain on track with my writing goals, I do create timelines and deadlines. Doing so makes me accountable. With some projects I’ve had to stick with the publisher’s deadlines, which is what happened with The Holiday Chronicles. Since those storylines revolve around specific holidays, I have to get them to the editor so that the publication date will coincide with the actual holiday. I was under a really tight deadline for My Unconditional Valentine, and getting it done in time was stressful! But I made it.

How do you create, manage and adhere to timelines and deadlines?

VJ: Good grief, if I did any of that, I’d stress myself out to the point where I wouldn’t be able to work. I’m more of a free bird when it comes to writing. I do what I can and if I don’t get a certain word count, I don’t stress it. Writing only one or two days a week is tough as it is, adding deadlines to it means extra and unneeded stress for someone like me.

The only deadlines I really follow are the ones I set myself for edits, and letting a story “perk” for a week or two between going overs. I’ll finish a manuscript, put it away for a week or two, then go over it by a certain deadline. I give myself a few days for that.

DW: For many writers, dealing with distractions while working on a project is a big issue. From work to social media to personal or familial situations, carving out time to write can be difficult.

I’ve found myself writing in hospital rooms, on my mother’s couch in the middle of the night, in cars, etc. As they say in Hollywood, the show must go on, and these books aren’t going to write themselves! So as busy as I may be, I force myself to find the time to write. Late nights are best since that’s when my ideas usually come to life. It’s also quiet, because everyone who needs something from me has gone to bed. When I’m taking a breather from writing, I’ll post to social media, blog, guest blog, etc. I also plan and create posts in advance so that I’ll always be prepared and won’t get stuck, struggling for content at the last minute.

How do you stay on task with your writing, especially when life is continuously throwing distractions at you?

VJ: I have ultra-limited writing time – one day a week on average, and two if I’m lucky. That’s only during the school year, and not during school breaks like Holiday Break, Summer Vacation, and March Break. My son is special needs and creates a lot of noise, distractions, and likes to chase the cat the instant my fingers hit the keyboard. So actual writing while he’s home is out.  I write on Fridays, when he’s in school and Hubby is working day shift. It’s really the only “alone” time I get unless I want to write late at night… That’s not good for someone who has to get up early with their child to get them off to school. My husband works odd hours, so it’s a case of get it when you can!

I will squeeze in an hour here and there if I can, like when Hubby is shopping and takes our son with him, or if he’s having something done on one of the vehicles and stays to hang out with our mechanic for an hour or two.

As for online distractions, I shut off the browser, and have been known to unplug the computer from the internet router to be extra safe.

DW: What are your thoughts on creating character profiles before you begin writing a book?

Some people feel as though you shouldn’t even put pen to paper before developing profiles for each of your main characters. I don’t follow this rule. I’ll take notes on my characters when I’m outlining, but I don’t create full-blown profiles. Usually when I’m writing, I already have a good idea in my head of who my characters are, how they look, their various interests and traits, etc. Plus I like to get to know them as I write, and things about my MCs will oftentimes pop up and surprise me as I go.

What method do you use when building your characters? Do you create formal profiles, or follow a more casual approach?

VJ: For me, that’s a huge necessity. If I start a book without even a general idea of what my mains are like, it’s a train wreck waiting to happen. I always do at least the bare minimum first – their names, how they look, and anything else that comes to mind – but I prefer having a full one by the time I get down to actually writing. Sometimes things will change with the character as their story evolves, but for the most part, it’s pretty close to the final product.

Readers notice things like inconsistencies in a character’s looks – green eyes in the beginning and it’s blue on the next page. Things like that always spell disaster in my opinion.

DW: I’ve spoken with several authors who have said they tend to shy away from reading books while writing for fear they’ll subconsciously be influenced by the author’s voice. I can relate to this, and just to be on the safe side don’t read books when actively writing so that my focus is solely on my own voice.

What are your thoughts on this? Are you able to read and write simultaneously, or do you avoid reading others’ work while writing?

VJ: For me, it depends on my mood. When I was writing the version of Stricken that is published, I didn’t read much at all. I was too involved in actually writing to do much other than write and do my housework in a zombie like state. However, when I was writing the novella (that needs a full rewrite), I was able to read other people’s work and not have it influence me.

I’m writing now, and I’ve read at least three books in the last month, all by fellow authors at my publisher. It’s not affecting me. In fact, I think it’s helping more than hinder right now. I’m getting a better sense of who Joshua and Lauren are, and all of it is reminding me how my publisher loves their books written. Things may change as I get deeper into writing this story though… I may suddenly take a break from reading because these characters will be too deep in my mind to let others in, even temporarily. That can happen. It’s not a bad thing though! LOL

DW: As writers, it’s easy for us to just close off the rest of the world, sit down in front of our computers and write whatever/however our hearts desire. But if you’re looking to publish traditionally, that technique doesn’t always fly. I’ve learned that in this business, you must continuously study the craft and marketplace, and remain open to learning/incorporating new trends, techniques, etc.

How important is it to you to keep your finger on the pulse of the literary industry when it comes to your writing, and what are some of the ways you go about doing so?

VJ: For me, it’s extremely important to keep an eye on the industry. I am always watching trends, and what’s new at my publisher and others, along with what’s happening for my fellow authors in the romance genre, as well as other genres. If something isn’t working for us as an author, we do have to learn to adapt and learn new ways of doing everything. It’s the only way we’ll be successful as an author in my opinion. Get out of that rut, and keep moving, or you’ll sink is how I see it.

I hang out in writing forums, writing groups on Facebook, talk to my fellow authors at my publisher via Facebook and Twitter, and listen to what the readers are telling all of us. This is why reviews are so important to authors. We learn from those who take the time to give us feedback – positive or negative.

DW: Beta readers seem to be more popular and in demand now than ever before. I actually became and began utilizing one for my latest project. How important are beta readers to you, and how do you select them? Is trust a big factor?

VJ: Trust is a huge factor for me. You have to trust the person will read the entire manuscript, and give you some sort of feedback, even if they hated it. You have to trust they will be professional in their critique too.

I used to pick them out of my friends lists, but lately I’ve discovered that not many of my old betas have the time to do a quick read due to real life problems. I’ve had a lot of help from fellow authors, and I’m now trading services with them as a beta or critique reader. Sometimes having a non author look at your work is a huge boon too, but sometimes they prefer to see it published first! For an inexperienced author, I highly recommend it. You’ll learn a lot – what works, and what doesn’t.

I am a member of a few writing forums, and I recommend that all inexperienced/newbie authors joint at least one, that way they can talk to people with more experience, and do trade-offs – give a critique or two for one received, and so on.

DW: In Part 1 of our book-writing post, we spoke a lot about various ways to promote a book. Since then you’ve hosted several book tours, and even motivated me participate in an upcoming month-long tour (more info on that coming soon). Can you tell us a bit about how they work and whether you think they’re an effective promotional tool?

VJ: Book tours bring a lot of positive feedback for both the host and the featured author. I love hosting book/blog tours, and yes, I think they are an effective tool in promoting one’s work; especially if the hosts have a lot of followers who love to read.

What is awesome about hosting is that you don’t have to do it full time, and you don’t have to be an author to host a tour. I host tours only on Mondays and Tuesdays, which leaves the rest of the week open for my own entries (writing updates, coming events), and guest spots for authors who are not doing tours.

I don’t host only romance authors either… I host YA, horror, mystery, everything under the sun. Hosting is a great way to expand your horizons as a reader, and I’ve discovered a few amazing new authors – which is a boon for them because it increases their sales.

DW: One thing I’ve learned is the importance of connecting with other authors. Some may look at fellow writers as competition, but I believe that we’re all in this together to help teach and motivate one another. There is such a strong community of writers on social media, and since I’ve become a part of it, the overwhelming amount of support I’ve received and knowledge I’ve gained is amazing.

The marketing director at one of my publishing companies even told me that one of the best ways to promote your work is to cultivate genuine relationships with other authors, where you can exchange ideas, cross promote, provide moral support, etc.

How have your relationships with fellow authors enhanced your writing career?

VJ:  I am so darn lucky to be surrounded by such amazing people! My fellow authors at eXtasy Books/Devine Destinies and elsewhere have been a godsend to me. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for all of you!

I think being a part of a community like this is a huge boon to any author, aspiring or experienced. We all need the connection with others in online communities, especially if we don’t have any real-life author pals.

It’s helped enhance my work to the point where I’m out of the non-writing slump I was in for over a year, and helped me learn a lot about writing, and myself as an author.

I tell all aspiring authors to get into a writing forum (or two!), join Facebook groups for authors, talk to other authors on Twitter, and all kinds of social media. You’d be surprised how much your writing will improve, and how much you’ll learn in even a week!

Thanks again for having me Denise!

DW: Thank you for once again joining me, VJ! It’s always a pleasure. Your friendship, input, advice and encouragement are invaluable. I look forward to hosting you again, and can’t wait for your next release! 

CLICK HERE to check out Part I of our blog post on how to write, publish and promote your book!

Shop Denise N. Wheatley’s collection of books and connect with her here:

About V.J. Allison: 

V.J. Allison was born and raised in southern Nova Scotia, Canada, and her work reflects her strong Maritime roots. She is a stay at home mother to a son on the autism spectrum, married to the love of her life, and “mama” to a cat named Marnie.

She has been writing various stories of novel length and short stories since her school days, and sees writing as a vital component to her life.

When she isn’t writing, she loves to read romance and science fiction novels (notably “Star Wars”); listen to music; watch various crime and forensic dramas; watch science fiction television shows and movies; and spend time with her large family and many friends.

She is also an advocate for Trigeminal Neuralgia, Occipital Neuralgia, Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia, writing with disabilities, animal rights, and No More Wild Pets.


  1. Denise, that was so much fun! Thanks again for having me!

    1. It is always a pleasure, VJ! Thank you for stopping by, and I look forward to your next visit!