Here’s the first thing you need to know about Christmas romances: Readers buy them all year ’round.
I’m not kidding.
Of course, Christmas romance novellas are most popular from early November through mid-January. (K-Lytics analyses suggest a sales bonanza that’s worth noting. The rest of the year… your numbers may not be so great.)
But, this is important: Just as some people collect Christmas ornaments all year long, and they shop at related stores — like Christmas Tree Shops, Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, and Disney World’s Disney’s Days of Christmas — many readers are always looking for new Christmas romance novels and short reads.
Last week, Britt sent me a review copy of her Partridge Method course, for my comments.
As usual, I was impressed by the amount of information Britt included in this course. It’s a 68-page course, plus a 28-page worksheet for plotting your Christmas novellas.
As usual, she takes what could be a complex topic, and simplifies it.
(I don’t know about you, but it’s far too easy for me to get caught up in unimportant details, wanting everything to be “just so” in my books. And, in the process, I become overwhelmed and my first draft stalls. Or I never even complete the outline.)
Oh, do not think this is a “Cliffs Notes” version of writing romances.
Yes, to get the most from this report, you should probably know the main romance tropes — and typical story beats — in general.
For romance novel tropes, check the TVTropes.org list. (Warning: that website can devour your entire day. It’s that fascinating.)
Yes, some of TV Tropes’ descriptions are snarky, and a few are NSFW. You may be happier with Mindy Klasky’s list, and Lime Cello’s article (including her blunt opinions) goes into more detail about a few of those tropes.
But, in this course, Britt doesn’t leave out anything important. She includes all kinds of details… many of them make-or-break points that few writers might think of, on their own.
What I Learned from The Partridge Method
One point that surprised me is how Britt built a romance story from the traditional, Christian story of Mary and Joseph. And, she did it in a way that wasn’t the cliché of “pregnant, single mother meets generous man, and he falls in love with her anyway.”
Seeing Britt craft a truly fresh story to fit traditional romance “story beats” was impressive.
Also, her romance included religious themes without being preachy. I like that. Non-Christians could enjoy this kind of story, too.
That concept hadn’t crossed my mind.
But then, Britt used the exact same kind of story structure to outline a second story. It’s a secular Christmas romance. A story like this can capture all of the wonder and magic of the holidays, without specific religious references.
So, Britt’s course expanded how I think about Christmas romance stories.
At the moment, I’m writing some Halloween-themed books. But, thanks to Britt’s suggestions, I’m already brainstorming some Christmas “short reads.”
Britt also offers upsells, which costs significantly more. One includes step-by-step videos to show you exactly how she writes books like these.
Those videos are like having Britt at your side, making each step crystal clear. And, her videos show you how to construct & write Christian/religious Christmas stories and secular Christmas season stories, each demonstrated separately and very clearly.
So, I didn’t have moments of muttering, “Wait. What do I write in this chapter of this kind of story…?”
But, Britt’s basic course provides everything most writers will need. (And, if your budget is limited, don’t feel like you have to buy the upsells. They can be tremendously helpful. They’re not essential.)
A Slightly Different Approach to Plotting
The result is interesting. I’d tweak it, of course, not using every part of the structure for every scene.
However, Britt’s 28-page worksheet (included with The Partridge Method course) practically jump-starts your story outline. And, it does that better than most story beats worksheets I’ve seen.
What surprised me most was the flexibility of Britt’s worksheet. This is a system you can use to outline almost any kind of romance, not just Christmas stories.
Note: Britt’s plan is based on 12-chapter books. If you’re writing very short Christmas romances, you may need to modify her outline, condensing some of the action.
For example, you might combine chapters seven and eight. You might make your protagonist’s steep challenges into something so dramatic, she’s plunged into a truly dark moment. At that point, no “happy ending” seems possible.
You might also merge that with the transformational chapter (chapter nine), where she realizes what she has to overcome, personally, to achieve her goal… and she starts on the path back to HEA (Happily Ever After).
Otherwise, if you use the traditional guideline of 1,500 words per scene/chapter, you’ll write an 18,000-word book. That’s close to Amazon’s upper limit (of around 20k words) for any book you’d like them to promote in their “Short Reads” category.
Keep in mind: The 1,500 words/chapter is one of those long-standing standards. In my opinion, it has no credible basis in fact, and it’s not a rule. You can have a 500-word chapter. Or one that’s 250 words long.
And, I know one group of writers who’ve found success with 750-word chapters. (12 chapters x 750 words, each = 9,000 words.)
That’s well within Amazon’s Short Reads limits. If Amazon count an average of 250 words/page, a 9k-word book is 36 pages… but your mileage may vary. I’ve seen some Kindle books figured at over 350 words/page, and others at around 220 words/page.)
As of mid-July 2017, KD Spy rates One-Hour Short Reads (33-43 pages) Romances : Green for Potential, Green for Popularity, and Yellow for Competition.
Or, at the other extreme, you could write 2500-word scenes. That’s what the Snowflake Guy uses in his books. (But, unless you’re a prolific author, a book with 2500-word scenes will probably require more than 12 days to complete.)
My point is: Don’t let traditional word counts stand in your way. And don’t make Britt’s course a constraint. Use it to make writing — and completing books — easier.
Option: One Chapter at a Time
Britt outlines as she goes along. That is, she outlines one chapter, and then she writes it.
Then she outlines the second chapter. Then she writes it.
And so on.
Thanks to her worksheets, she already knows what’s ahead… generally speaking.
Personally, I hate not maintaining a daily writing schedule. But, I’m not a “pantser.”
That is, I’m not good at making it up as I go along, writing “by the seat of my pants,” with no preparations.
For pros & cons of “pantsing” v. plotting, browse The Editor’s Blog or watch Victoria Schwab’s YouTube video about this:
Before I start writing, I generally outline my entire book, enough to keep from getting seriously sidetracked in the middle of the story.
The problem is: The outline can require weeks to tweak “just so.”
Oh, it’s fun-fun-fun at the time. Well, it usually is.
But, after that, it can take me days (or even weeks) to get back in the daily writing habit.
That part is not fun.
So, I may try Britt’s approach with my next from-scratch book. I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me, before. (And, it’s a good example of how Britt often shows me that I’m making writing more difficult than it needs to be.)
Still, no matter what your balance of outlining and writing, I think Britt’s course offers a lot to anyone eager to write a short romance, and especially a Christmas romance.
I believe that — using Britt’s worksheet — most writers can probably complete a Christmas novella in 12 days, just as she says. And, I learned enough from this course to feel good about recommending it if you’re ready to write Christmas romances, especially Short Reads.
However, like any course, this is a good deal only if you’re actually going to use it. If you already have bookshelves (virtual or real-life) filled with how-to books & courses you still haven’t read (or used), work with them, first. Avoid “Ooh, shiny!” syndrome.
Here’s where to find Britt’s course: The Partridge Method.*
I’m not sure how long this discount code will work, but it could save you 50%: XmasJuly
*As usual, that’s not an affiliate link. I don’t earn a cent if you decide to purchase this course. I just happened to like it, and think it’s worth recommending.
(I receive plenty of review copies I don’t talk about. But, so far, everything I’ve bought from Britt or received from her as a preview… they’ve all been very helpful.)
illustration courtesy of GraphicStock.com