Sunday, April 25, 2010

Still The Best -- Kate Walker’s 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance

This is the best ‘How-To Write Romance’ Book I’ve Read -- Given Its Superiority in Three Areas:

Best Single Book on Writing Romance.

Best Single Textbook For Teaching Romance Writing.

Most Useful Book for Published Romance Writers.

Kate Walker
• Paperback
• Publisher: Studymates Ltd; 2nd edition (July 30, 2008)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 1842851314
• ISBN-13: 978-1842851319

Now Available as a US edition at a much lower price!

Extra Bonus! A New Section “From The Authors Desks” with hints and tips from over 20 well published authors!

I've read over forty "How to Write" books and I like Kate Walker's book the best.

It took me a long time to read “Kate Walker’s 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance” because I need larger type. I’ve had to read this book very slowly using a magnifying glass. If the book wasn’t so consistently excellent, there is no way I would have finished it. Incidentally, I found it very educational to read a book so closely. It’s like inspecting a house brick by brick.

This is not a typical fan review.

This is a professional book review. I have been writing nonfiction for thirty years. I’ve written and edited manuals, created correspondence courses, and taught advertising copywriting in college. I run a real estate school so I know the crucial importance of having a good manual for each course taught. I am also working on a book about the romance genre and have read at least 40 romance writing books during my research. (Some of the best are listed below.)

I found Kate Walker’s 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance to be unique among the many romance writing books that I’ve read. It is exceptionally well suited for three different purposes.

Ideal Book For Self-Teaching

First: if you were only going to read one romance writing book -- to teach yourself how to write at home -- this book offers the best coverage. It features many examples, checklists, questions, and, where appropriate, it offers other romance novels that provide additional examples on the romance writing concepts being discussed.

Even more important Kate Walker, like all good teachers, is always pointing out what something being taught does not mean. Knowing what something does not mean is very important to a successful learning experience.

My biggest problem teaching adults happens when the student thinks he or she already knows what I am trying to teach. These students close their minds and fail to learn. For example, almost every student “knows” that the mortgagor is the lender and they are wrong. The lender is the mortgagee. Almost every student “knows” that the broker representing the seller is the selling broker. However, they are wrong again. The broker who has the seller is the listing broker. The “selling broker” represents the buyer. As Will Rogers once said, "It's not what we don't know that gets us in trouble; it's what we know that ain’t so.” It is very hard for a teacher to undue what people “know that isn’t so”.

Kate Walker not only states what a romance term or concept means, she also points out what it does not mean. This is invaluable if you are learning at home without a teacher. It is also invaluable to an inexperienced teacher because it provides excellent talking points to go over in class. Usually only experienced teachers know what students 'know' that ain't so.

Let me give you an example from the book found in Chapter 2 on “Emotion”. After stating what “emotional punch” is, the author goes on to demonstrate what the term does not mean. It does not mean, “just arguing or shouting,” “endless crying,” “wallowing in self-pity,” “it is not manipulative,” “it is not just sentiment” or “cliché”, and so on. This “house cleaning”, as I call it, goes on for pages. Teachers should love this book.

The Topics Chapters Cover

Chapters include: Emotion, Conflict, Dialogue, Focus, Sensuality, Passion, Heroes, Heroines, Characterization and Heroines, Plotting, The Question “Why”?, The Intense Black Moment, The Believable Happy Ending, Practicalities, and From the Author’s Desks (advice from other romance authors.) If a writer goes over the many checklist questions at the end of each chapter, it will be like having a very experienced critique partner available at all times.

Ideal Book for Classroom Teachers

Second: as good as Kate Walker’s 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance, is for self-teaching the material, I found it excels as a textbook. I know how important a good manual is to making a teacher’s job easier. An exceptional manual allows the teacher to teach “from the overflow” which greatly enriches the material and makes for a more enjoyable student experience. With a weak manual this valuable time has to be spent doing the job the manual should have done.

I would love to teach from Kate Walker’s 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance. The text is very reader friendly. Kate Walker knows how to communicate. The way she wrote this book is going to change the way I write my manuals and courses.

The chapters fully cover the writing concept being taught. Then there is a 12 point checklist covering how you should implement the concepts in your actual writing. Then there are suggested writing exercises and assignments.

Excellent Book for Professional Writers

Third: experienced writers will find the writing checklists on various topics very useful. There is a saying in advertising copywriting that “professionals do not have to be taught, they need to be reminded”. I was a very experienced copywriter and taught copywriting in college but I still always used a 500+ item checklist for improving a direct marketing promotional package. Everything we learned from testing direct mail pieces was incorporated in that list. Even the people with the vast experience needed to create the list, used the list.

Kate Walker has many useful checklists. An idea would be to type all these checklists into a Word document. Then when you finish writing a chapter (and it was still fresh in your mind), run through the applicable checklists as a critique of your work. If you are lacking in an area you can immediately act to improve it.

Here is a sample of the checklists. Each features 12 questions:

• Emotional punch -- 1. Have I allowed time for my characters to explore their feelings? (11 more follow.)
• Conflict -- 1.Have I a conflict over which is truly worth being at odds? Is it one that really matters? (11 more follow).
• Dialogue – all the below topics also have 12 item checklists for good writing.
• Focus
• Sensuality
• Passion
• Heroes
• Heroines
• Plotting
• The Question “Why”
• The Intense “Black Moment"
• The Happy Ending

I haven’t read any other romance writing book that I thought would be so useful to a professional writer on an ongoing daily basis.
Unlike some textbooks, “Kate Walker’s 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance”, is written by someone who actually knows how to write. I’ve been reading Kate Walker romances while I’ve been reading this book. This allowed me to observe how well she practices what she teaches. Her own books are the best testimony to her teaching methods and knowledge of the romance novel.


If you are going to teach a class on romance writing, you should get a copy of this book before you select a textbook. I have not read another text that does a better job from both the teacher’s POV and the student’s POV.

If you are a home study student who is learning to write romances on your own, this is the key book to read. However, if you are teaching yourself, you really should read many romance writing books. I also strongly recommend that you read Dangerous Men & Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of the Romance, Krentz and Writing Romances: A Handbook by the Romance Writers of America by Romance Writers of America (Organization), Rita Gallagher, and Rita Clay Estrada. Plus as many more as you have time to read. It won’t hurt to read them all.

If you already are a romance author or a mainstream author thinking of writing a category romance, this book is worth the price just to get the writing checklists.

Below are a few of the better Romance Writing books that I’ve read and recommend:

Dangerous Men & Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of the Romance (New Cultural Studies)University of Pennsylvania Press
How to Write a Romance and Get It Published: Updated Edition Kathryn Falk
How to Write Romances (Genre Writing Series) Phyllis Taylor Pianka
On Writing Romance: How to Craft a Novel That Sells by Leigh Michaels
Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies by Leslie Wainger
Writing Romances: A Handbook by the Romance Writers of America by Romance Writers of America (Organization), Rita Gallagher, and Rita Clay Estrada
Writing Romance by Vanessa Grant
Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Your Romance Published by Julie Beard
The Everything Guide to Writing a Romance Novel: From writing the perfect love scene to finding the right publisher--All you need to fulfill your dreams (Everything Series) by Christie
Romance Writer's Phrase Book (Perigee Book) by J. Kent -- Yes, I found this worth reading.


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