Writing Tips from Annie O’Neil

Writing Tips from Annie O’Neil

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Meet Mills & Boon author Annie O’Neil, who is one of the judges in our Love to Write competition. Read her top tips to help get your writing started!


Alright, here we go! Are you already at your keyboard? Well that’s step one taken care of. If not. Why not? Or are you a notebook writer? Either way, first top tip? You’re not always going to remember those bon mots you have on the dog walk, standing in the queue at the shops or giving yourself a rigorous loofah. Have a way to get those ideas down. Boom.


Next step? Try to establish a writing routine. When you are working on a specific project that baby is your baby and needs to be in your brain at all times. The only way for this to happen is to set a non-negotiable writing goal. Nora Roberts is BICHOK (Bum In Chair Hands On Keyboard) some eight or more hours A DAY. I’m not. But when I’m writing a book? I am BICHOK for intense pre-dawn 40 minutes sessions on, fifteen minutes off until I hit 3k. Sometimes I write more. Sometimes it’s like drawing blood. But at least I’ve got something on the page to fix or delete the next time I sit down. Having something is a whole lot better than having a blank page.


I’m not much of a planner (aka: Pantser). I usually know the beginning and end but the middle is always like going on an epic adventure where I’m constantly surprised. Saying that, I once wrote a continuity as part of a series where I pretty much knew the plot in advance and that made writing it really easy. (Note to self: planning is definitely helpful).


Your hero and heroine are humans as well as the stars of the show. They cry, they laugh, they bruise, their hearts break – even if they are the most Alpha male the universe has ever laid eyes on. And we, as readers, want to see them go through the tumult of falling in love. Not doing their grocery shopping (unless it involves an illicit rendezvous on aisle 26 and knocking down a huge tower of soup cans while stealing a kiss!).


Read. Read. Read. Read in genre. Read about writers on writing (Stephen King’s book is excellent and I don’t read scary books. So is Save the Cat. It’s about screenplays, but is excellent as regards structure). Cherry pick what works for you.


If I get stuck? I get my characters into a conversation. Or make them go on a walk. Or put them in some sort of situation that wouldn’t normally be in. (Top tip from fellow Mills & Boon author Fiona Lowe: Pick something your hero and/or heroine would never ever do…then have them do it). We love seeing people deal with situations that are new to them.


Terrifying, fun, scary, and exhilarating experiences are all more fun to read about than: ‘He went to the store. Then he opened the door. Then he went into the store’. How about: ‘He went to the store expecting the same ol’ same ol’ when a pack of wolfhounds trailing diamond studded leads came pouring out of the automatic doors with a flame-haired, leggy minx throwing apologies over her shoulder crashed into the solid wall that was his chest’.


Intrigued? Me, too.


Best of luck, Annie O’Neil x x


Do you love to write romantic fiction and have an idea for a contemporary romance that will entertain the nation? Do you want to be a published author? If so, then our Love To Write competition is for you!