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  • Writer's pictureAmy Quick Parrish

The Slacker's Guide to Writing a Sweet Christmas Romance Novel

I'm a slacker. Really. Card-carrying. I have a DVD of Richard Linklater's film, Slacker, which he signed at the end of my internship at Detour Filmproduction whereby he officially proclaimed me an "honorary slacker." Slacker was also the first movie I ever bought - back when it was a new thing to be able to own a film. Now we just stream, which makes me feel and sound old, but that's not what I'm supposed to be writing about. What was I saying? Oh yeah -- the Slacker's Guide to Writing a Sweet Christmas Romance Novel.

First: It's okay to be a slacker. Own it. You're a writer for Pete's sake, of course you're a slacker, otherwise you'd be working 18 hours a day for Goldman Sachs and you'd be rich but desperately unhappy and you'd find yourself snowed in at a log cabin in Vermont and -- see, there's a story there! So being a slacker is fine. But you can't slack all day long or you'll never get anything done. So how do you get going?

Ever read the book Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott? If not, go get it immediately. If, for some reason you are trapped in the woods with no access to the internet or a library I'll give you the Cliff Notes: When author Anne Lamott was a little girl she waited until the last minute to start her school project on one hundred different birds. She had to identify and label and organize all these birds and she was completely overwhelmed. Sobbing, she asked her father how she was ever going to complete the assignment. His answer? "Bird by bird."

So that's what you do. Just as Richard Linklater's first film (yep, before Slacker) was It's Impossible To Learn to Plow by Reading Books, you can't just read books and blog posts about writing -- you have to dive in and start swimming. (I enjoy mixing my metaphors.) So bird by bird, stop slacking and dive in to that blank page and start filling it.

I mean, you already know the basics. It's winter. There's a woman (or a man) who has a problem of some sort. Often you'll decide your character needs to return home for the holidays. Maybe this person loves the holidays -- or loathes all holidays with a passion. What if your protagonist has to stay in the city and work through the holidays because of a horrible (or wonderfully dazzling) boss? There are obvious plot points: travel. Lodging. Snow. Lack of snow. Baking. Getting a tree, throwing a party, wrapping presents... the choices are endless but also rather obvious. Mix and match, and start filling that page.

Add quirky friends. Create complications. Misunderstandings. Secrets. Lies. All of these keep readers turning pages. Then there's a big event: the Christmas tree lighting. a Hanukkah party, a Seven Fishes Dinner, the Inn that needs saving, the Christmas pageant. Let your characters work and overcome obstacles -- ideally solving their inner problem along the way. And then they find love and they all live happily ever after.

So find someone to bring you your laptop so you don't have to crawl out of bed. Start typing, right there under the covers. Create a character, add some friends, maybe an enemy, choose a setting, add a problem and some misunderstandings and boom -- you're on your way. Congratulations, you slacker! You've started writing a sweet Christmas romance novel!

A woman relaxes in a hammock (slacker) and writes.

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