Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan offer up five writing tips.
Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan have spent the last eleven years co-writing the popular snarky fashion blog Go Fug Yourself. Their new book, The Royal We – their third together – is about an American exchange student who falls in love with the man in line for the British throne.
Writing is a finicky profession. If you’re a surgeon and you decide to repair someone’s heart while hanging from the rafters and taking Champagne by IV, it likely won’t go well, but if you get five authors in a room you’ll find they each have different – or even unorthodox – routes that all yield the same happy ending: a finished book. While this sadly means there aren’t any tried-and-true shortcuts to that goal, learning about other writers’ methods can be invaluable when it comes to establishing your own. Maybe something they do will work for you. Maybe their advice will seem so cockamamie that it nudges you in the other direction. Or, you might end up mixing their tips together into your own perfect cocktail. With that alchemy in mind, here are some tips and tricks we’ve picked up and kept along the way. Drink up, or toss down the sink at will.
1. Clarify your characters’ desires. Ideally, every author knows innately what’s driving their protagonists and antagonists, but the key is: will readers? We find that characters with the strongest, most consistent throughlines are the ones readers connect to the fastest. Try revisiting your chapters with an eye toward what’s really driving each character. What are they saying even when they aren’t using words? Do they want parental love, romantic love, revenge? What do they hope to gain from what they’re doing? If you don’t know…
2. Kill your darlings. Coco Chanel famously said you should look in the mirror and remove one item before leaving the house. We apply that to writing – and make no mistake, it is hard. Our propensity is to cram each paragraph with quips, because, gulp, what if the book turns out too boring? But the truth is, an unending string of comedy can run roughshod over the rest of the material, so in making sure each section isn’t trying too hard for laughs, we often have to delete a joke we love. Your darling might be something else – scenic descriptions, internal monologue, murder (we don’t know your life) – but it’s valuable to realize what you’re obsessed with, and deploy it with care. Sometimes too much is just… too much.
3. Hit ’em with heart. For us, this goes with No. 2, because hilarity shines brighter when there’s a big beating heart all around it. We believe readers connect more deeply with emotions than punch lines, and work hard to keep the story rooted in those relatable moments. It’s true for a mystery as for a romance: Grab ‘em by the feelings and don’t let go.
4. Stay out of your own genre. It can be a mind-twist to read books for pleasure while you’re writing one, even more so when what’s on your Kindle is close to what’s on your computer. Cue: “Why didn’t I think of this idea?” “Is my book too much like this?” “Is my book not enough like this?” Next thing you know, both reading and writing are making you miserable.
5. Read the acknowledgements. It’s fascinating to see who your favorite authors are grateful to in their lives. Often you’ll see the names of other writers, but you will always see people being credited for giving valuable notes and feedback. Everyone, even the greats, needs help. Acknowledgements are a wonderful reminder that a) writing doesn’t have to be as lonely as it seems, b) wonderful support is waiting out there for you, if you need it, and c) nobody ever feels like they have this thing on lock. No matter who they are.
Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, is the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune. Yet it’s Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Britain’s future king. And when Bex can’t resist falling for Nick, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit. Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners at Kensington Palace with him and his charming, troublesome brother, Freddie. But the relationship also comes with unimaginable baggage: hysterical tabloids, Nick’s far more suitable ex-girlfriends, and a royal family whose private life is far more tragic than anyone on the outside knows. The pressures are almost too much to bear, as Bex struggles to reconcile the man she loves with the monarch he’s fated to become. Now, on the eve of the wedding of the century, Bex is faced with whether everything she’s sacrificed for love –her career, her home, her family, maybe even herself – will have been for nothing.
Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan are the creators of celebrity fashion blog, Go Fug Yourself. They are the authors of two other novels, Spoiled and Messy, and have written for VanityFair.com, Grazia UK and other publications.