M.A. Wohl

Writer on a Quest

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I was toying with the idea of writing a love story, but I wasn’t sure what genre to write in: romance? chick-lit? romance subgenres?

The project was promptly shelved (I can’t write for full-on grown-ups yet), but I thought I could share the little bit of research I did on both genre.

If you are facing the same writing problem I faced, this might help.

Romance of the past

Back when I was working in a bookstore, the romance novels and the chick-lit novels never shared a bookshelf.

In fact, those two genres never even shared the same bookshelves space.
Chick-lit novels (patriarchal much, I hate the term) were mingling with literary fiction while Romance novels were all by themselves, hiding between the Historical fiction section and the Fantasy section.

As time went by, Chick-Lit remained pretty stagnant while Romance novels got their own sub-categories such as paranormal romance, dark fantasy romance, historical, so on and so forth.

Although they seem to share some similarities, they are two very distinctive literary genres.

Chick-Lit novels

The term has been used since the mid ’90s, according to my research (links below).

To earn the Chick-Lit label, a novel has to be written by a woman for women focus readership. Also, the story needs to be light-hearted, fun, heavy on the self-mockery. A love story of some kind is also present, although not always necessarily the main thing happening.
A Chick-Lit novel is centered around a witty, funny, often a fashion aficionado woman having to deal with social expectations.

A Chick-Lit novel is funny, light and leads the main character to a happy end… until the sequel.

Romance novels

At its chore, a Romance novel is a love story with a happy, optimistic end. Masterclass does have a more precise definition for it, but you get the general idea.

Romance novels were once considered as poorly written novels, then as poorly written soft-erotic novels. They were mainly destined to be consumed by bored house-wives and curious unmarried women.

Now, and even more since the event of ebooks, Romance novels are taking on the world in a wide variety of subgenres.

Still aiming towards female readers, Romance novels are expending constantly to a variety of readers. Hooray!

Thanks for reading this post. Feel free to show your support by buying a ko-fi to this crazy full-time Writer on a Quest, it is always very much appreciated.

Until next time!


According to Wikipédia (in French)

Very good overview of Romance novels


I never outlined any of the novels (YA, Middle-Grade or else) I wrote over the course of the past 20 years. I do not like outlining a story. For many reasons. The main one being, for me, it takes away the fun of writing.

With this new project, let’s call it YA-WIP, I thought I would give this good old outline a novel thing a try. A real one. Dreading, dreading, dreading.

But, since I am determined to query this book in by the end of March 2020, I need to step up my game and use all the tricks and tips out there. Because it usually takes me, what 6 months minimum, only to get through the very first, rough draft.

I loosely based my outline for YA-WIP on 3 outlining methods I really find inspiring (I did attempt outlining before, but…) and built my « own » from there.

Will outlining help me write faster this precious first draft?

Let’s outline and see…

Oh dear, common tropes city…

The first outline took me less than an hour to write. I did tough a lot the past months about the story, so I had a very good idea of where the story was going.

And I realized how much my story was sitting on common tropes. It a good story, I still like it. Although, it certainly needs way more work.

So, here’s my method for outlining a novel: write several outlines over the course of several hours, days.

I worked two days (let’s be clear, on and off; I still have a day job and basic needs to take care of, like showering and eating and stuff) on my outline.

End results

First outlines were a frustrating mess, mainly because I felt like I had to suff in some scenes just to meet the outlines requirements. It made the story feel like very old, rolling on common tropes and common characters. In one word, the first outline’s were hitting all the right points and I thought it was boring as s***.
Then, I simplified my outline more and more, to the point were I had the main points every story structure needs without being overly… commercial beat sheet.
So, yeah, I have a good-enough-for-now outline. Yay!

I really struggled with outlining this project though. Oh là là! Part of the discovery writer in me still thinks the outline will end up in the trash anyway.
But, it’s done and now, it’s time to start writing.

Oh yeah! Very excited about that part.

Until next time!

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The first cast of characters I came up with for this story ruined it. I set the project aside, thinking I needed to add something fresh, fun, fabulous to it to make it work.

The awaited lightbulb moment came while I was researching publishers editorial lines. One fun publisher is looking for YA novels.

That was it. This story would totally work with a cast of teenagers and there’s a market opening.

It meant scrapping 10 000 words, an entire cast of adult characters, hours of worldbuilding… So be it.

Creating Characters

I really wanted to layout thoroughly the main characters, so I would have a strong base to work on. I tried a new process to attempt to get there.

I made a list of what I wanted to achieve for the character, some basic stuff, some level 1 stuff:

  • research and choose names & write the family history related to the names
  • describe and draw the layouts of the places (town, neighborhood high-school, the third place of interest)
  • find out what the main characters want, what drives them, what they need
  • find what makes them different (passion, crazy dreams, impactful event)

I also used one of the writing tips I pick up from Chris Fox’s « 5,000 words per hour ». I removed from my reach my distractions of choice: phone (a.k.a Candy Crush device), paying work-related stuff, grocery list, etc.
Small difference: I kept the Internet on. Because I am a very visual, it-must-respect-the-law-of-physics kind of writer, I use the Internet-verse or actual books to double-check everything, no matter the literary genre I choose.

It usually takes me a little more than a week to create characters and do a bit of worldbuilding, but this project is « rushed ». I plan to query this book in six months, top (the high of query season here).

Although, I haven’t set goals for that project yet; and that is for another writing diary day.

Until next time!

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