Sandra Gerth author of the Writer's Guides Series

How to write a great romance novel—the five core elements of romance novels

I recently read a review of my newest romance novel, Perfect Rhythm, which seemed to confirm the secret fear that has plagued me since I first set out to write that novel. While I think that in many ways, Perfect Rhythm is a typical “Jae” novel that has everything readers love about my books, it’s different from my other novels in one aspect: it’s featuring an asexual main character. A homoromantic asexual main character, to be exact. Holly is romantically drawn to women, but she doesn’t experience sexual attraction. She loves kissing and is a real cuddle bug, but even …

Read moreHow to write a great romance novel—the five core elements of romance novels

Is third-person limited POV limiting?

Third-person limited is probably the most common point of view in contemporary genre fiction, yet as an editor, I have often worked with authors who struggle with this POV. What is third-person limited POV? In third-person limited POV, the story—or a part of it—is told from only one character’s perspective. It’s called a limited POV because you’re limited to accessing the mind of only one character at a time. You can tell your readers only what this character is feeling, thinking, and experiencing. If you reveal things that go on in the mind of another character, you are head hopping …

Read moreIs third-person limited POV limiting?

Point of view in fiction

What is point of view? Point of view is the answer to the question “Who is telling us the story?” (or at least this scene). Are we watching everything from the outside, and a storyteller/author is telling the story? (= omniscient POV)? Or are we experiencing things through the senses of a character (might be first person POV, using “I”, or third person limited, using “she”)? POV is a continuum Many people see point of view as separate and distinct categories, but I personally think it’s more of a continuum. One dimension that defines POV is how much knowledge readers …

Read morePoint of view in fiction

6 tips for using dialogue tags

Dialogue is one of the most important parts of writing a novel or a short story, so every writer has to know how to use dialogue tags. What are dialogue tags? Dialogue tags are things like “Tina said” that tell us which character is speaking. How to use dialogue tags Here are a few dos and don’ts of dialogue tags. 1. Avoid using dialogue tags other than “said” and “asked” and maybe “answered.” “Said” really is the best tag because the reader is so used to it that she or he barely registers it. Other tags draw attention to themselves …

Read more6 tips for using dialogue tags

How to use action beats in your writing

Have you ever stumbled over too many “he said” and “she said” in your story? One of the followers of my blog apparently encountered that problem, so he’s trying to cut down the number of dialogue tags by replacing it with character actions. But what’s the correct way to do that? Let’s step back and take a look at what dialogue tags and action beats are. What are dialogue tags? Dialogue tags, also called “speaker attributions,” serve to let readers know who’s speaking. Usually, you should use said because tags like muttered, quipped, grumbled, etc., are distracting and pull the …

Read moreHow to use action beats in your writing

The golden rule of writing: Show, don’t tell

“Show, don’t tell” is probably the advice writers hear most often from editors and writing mentors. But many writers struggle to understand what it really means. “Telling” means you give readers your interpretations and conclusions, while “showing” means you provide readers with enough details and behaviors to let them draw their own conclusions. Example: TELLING: She was a shy woman who didn’t like being around too many people. SHOWING: She peeked around the corner and gulped at the sight of dozens of people mingling. Showing pulls readers into the story and keeps them active and involved. Telling makes them passive …

Read moreThe golden rule of writing: Show, don’t tell

How to punctuate dialogue tags and action beats correctly

One little thing that drives many editors crazy is incorrect punctuation of dialogue and action beats. Let’s start with a definition: A dialogue tag is a speaker verb such as “Tina said.” It tells your readers which character is speaking. An action beat is something a character does. Example: “I should be going.” Tina edged toward the door. While dialogue tags and action beats can have the same function—identifying the speaker—they aren’t punctuated the same. PUNCTUATING DIALOGUE If a line of dialogue is followed by a dialogue tag, use a comma (or a question mark or exclamation mark) before the …

Read moreHow to punctuate dialogue tags and action beats correctly

How to use participial phrases in your writing

Before I explain what the problem with participial phrases is, let me start with some definitions so we’re all on the same page. What is a participle? Participles are verbs that function as adjectives, which means that they modify a noun or a pronoun. There are two kinds of participles: Present participle: verbs ending in –ing. Example: The smiling woman. Past participle: verbs ending in –ed (except for some irregular verbs). Example: The washed dishes. What is a participial phrase? A participial phrase is a phrase containing a past or a present participle. Examples: Exhausted after twenty hours of work, …

Read moreHow to use participial phrases in your writing

So many story ideas, so little time

When I had a full-time job, working as a psychologist, it seemed I could never find enough time to write all the stories I wanted to write. In addition to my job, there were also many other things taking up my time—editing and beta reading other authors’ manuscripts, household chores, family and friends, hobbies… So I had to get my writing done whenever I could: on the train to and from work, late at night, and whenever a client didn’t show up for a session. Over the years, I published five novels that way, but I longed to have more …

Read moreSo many story ideas, so little time

Writing in chronological order

If a readers tells me she was up all night, reading, because she couldn’t put down my book, it puts a big grin on my face. Because that’s exactly what I want: for readers to become totally immersed in my fictional worlds. So, how can we achieve that? One things that helps is to make sure you write in chronological order by putting the cause before the effect. Let me give you an example to explain what I mean. Startled, she jumped when the doorbell rang. While the sentence isn’t grammatically incorrect, it puts the character’s response (she jumped) before …

Read moreWriting in chronological order