About author, Alicia de los Reyes: Alicia de los Reyes drew on ten years of chick lit addiction to compose The Chick Lit Cookbook. Originally from Fair Haven, N.J., Alicia is now freelance writer and teacher in Seattle where she lives with her husband, Andrew Quinton, and their cat, Mitzi.
Describe yourself in five words: Loves writing, cupcakes, running, traveling.
How long have you been writing? Since I could write!
Hard/paperbacks or eBooks? Oooh…this is tough. I love paperbacks but ebooks are so easy to buy! Call it a tie?
What is your writing/editing/publishing process like? First, I just wake up, sit down and write—that’s the fun part. Then, I coerce my friends into reading my drafts and giving me comments. I have to really force myself to revise (something you can read all about in my next ebook, Suck It Up and Revise!). I published my first ebook with my friend Kelly of KMR Publishing, and I am also sending out queries to agents for other fiction and nonfiction projects that I am working on. I believe in both traditional publishing and self/new publishing tracks. It’s an exciting (and terrifying) time to be a writer!
Who is your favorite author? My favorite author of all time is Betty Smith, author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. My favorite chick lit author is Sophie Kinsella.
Coffee or tea? Coffee and chai tea.
Who or what inspires you? All the books I have ever read + travel to new places, near or far.
Every author must have a…: ritual for writing. When you sit down to write, you should put on your writer hat, whatever that means for you.
How has social media helped your career? It has given me connections to other writers and readers, and introduced me to the incredibly fun and welcoming chick lit blogosphere!
What is something about yourself that would surprise most people? I am obsessed with mummies.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given? This year, it was “Don’t give up before you’ve started,” from Erika Lyremark’s Think Like a Stripper (great ebook!).
Can you tell us about any of your upcoming projects? I’m working on another writing guide called Suck It Up and Revise—pretty self-explanatory! I’m also hosting a write-a-long on the book blog (chicklitcookbook.tumblr.com) where you can literally watch me write a novel using The Chick Lit Cookbook and write your own at the same time.
How I Came Up with “The Chick Lit Cookbook”
Hi, I’m Alicia de los Reyes, author of The Chick Lit Cookbook: A Guide to Writing Your Novel in 30 Minutes a Day, and I’m here to tell you about how I came up with the crazy idea to write an ebook about writing chick lit.
In the winter of 2011, I was in the midst of researching my thesis for my writing program at the University of New Hampshire. My thesis was a narrative nonfiction manuscript about spending a year in an evangelical church, and I was doing lots of interesting reading, watching and interviewing—it was intense. I was tired of being so darn serious. Plus, it was winter in New Hampshire, and one of our snowiest yet. I cross-country skied out my front door a few times.
The weather, the work, and the serious writing all combined to make me long for an escape. I picked up a few of my old favorite chick lit novels. I reread Sophie Kinsella’s The Undomestic Goddess, one of my all-time favorites, and Bridget Jones’ Diary. I remembered how darn funny they were and how fast I could eat them up. Reading chick lit was like eating a candy bar, and goodness, did I love it.
One chilly night, my fiancé (now husband) and I were getting ready to meet some friends at the Barley Pub, a bar that is now (tragically) closed where they had a totally awesome trivia night. Our job was to get there early to secure a table.
Somewhere between the stacks of pink and white chick lit paperbacks and the piles of notes and printouts, I had a brainstorm: I could research chick lit. I had read tons of it (I’m addicted to Sophie Kinsella/Madeleine Wickham in particular) and I loved writing. Wouldn’t it be a fun project to write about chick lit?
I told Andrew about my idea. “Bring your notebook to the bar!” he said.
“Really?” I asked. I’d never written in a bar before. I didn’t want our friends to think I was a freak (too late!).
“Go for it.” Andrew knows that when I get an idea, I have to run with it. I didn’t want this one to fall by the wayside.
So I outlined the first couple of chapters of The Chick Lit Cookbook at a grody table beneath the dim lighting of the Barley Pub while drinking whatever the draught on special was. It was as fun as it sounds. A few months (ok…more than a year) later, I called my friend Kelly Rizzetta of KMR Publishing and the rest is history.
“The Chick Lit Cook Book” by Alicia De los Reyes
You’ve said it a dozen times before: If only you had the chance, you would write a chick lit novel. But between job, boyfriend, kids, school — life — you just can’t find the time.
The Chick Lit Cookbook: A Guide to Writing Your Novel in 30 Minutes a Day is the solution. This fun, cupcake-themed guide will take you from start to finish of your first draft. In 13 chapters, each with a short exercise that will get you writing now, you will learn how to create the perfect main character, her ideal love interest, a world for her to live in and an adventure that will draw in readers. You will outline your entire first draft — and then you will write it.
The Chick Lit Cookbook is a beginner’s guide to writing funny, snappy, sucks-you-into-the-story prose about modern women, life and love. It is full of tips and techniques, prompts and pep talks that will spark your imagination and inspire you to put pen to paper. The exercises can be done while sitting on the bus, waiting at the doctor’s office, or talking on the phone with your mother-in-law. This book will show you that you can and will write a chick lit novel.
Whether you’ve been wishing for years that you could write chick lit or are a brand-new fan of Bridget Jones and Becky Bloomwood, you owe it to yourself to pick up this guide. The Chick Lit Cookbook will prove to you that writing a novel can be fun and easy — it’s just like baking cupcakes!
GETTING STARTED: THE VERY, VERY BEGINNING
Chick lit arrived when I was about 12 years old. Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary took America by storm, and I caught myself happily under a rain cloud. I carried it with me in my backpack and read it on the school bus and between classes. Then I discovered Sophie Kinsella and hid Confessions of a Shopaholic in my textbook during history class. I found Patricia Cabot and Melissa Bank. I read Emily Barr and Emily Giffin. One night, I read Marian Keyes until 6 a.m.
I was in love.
Chick lit is entertaining, funny, smart fiction about women in their 20s and 30s looking for love and fulfillment. Good chick lit will draw me in so far that I’ll start to see books with hovery pink halos around them, topped with speech bubbles yelling, “PICK ME UP!” I will skip dinner and lunch for these books, ignore my friends and significant other, and stay up past my bedtime to find out if Bridget and Mark Darcy ever get past their shenanigans and kiss at the end. Of course, I know they will … but what if they don’t?
Now, 15 years after I first discovered it, chick lit isn’t a guilty pleasure for me — it is simply a pleasure. I do not feel bad about the quantity of pages I’ve devoured. Chick lit is to me what football is to my husband: As much as you will give me, I will consume.
I, the girl who read Shopaholic Takes Manhattan between classes, grew up to become a writer and a writing teacher. I spend my time thinking of ways to explain the basics of good writing to students of every stripe, from middle school to college. I analyze texts for a living. It took longer than you might expect for me to apply my English class skills to chick lit, but one day, I realized that chick lit novels have a few basic elements anyone can use to make up her own stories, and that I could share these with other would-be writers.
You don’t need to be a practiced, published author to write a chick lit novel. Sophie Kinsella worked in the financial realm before publishing her first novel, The Tennis Party. Emily Giffin earned a J.D. and worked as a lawyer before writing Something Borrowed. Marian Keyes is another law student-turned-writer. Bridget Jones started out as a character in Helen Fielding’s newspaper column.
To write a chick lit novel, you just need to love chick lit. To be clear, I’m not talking about Fabio-on-the-cover, bodice-ripping, 50-shades-of-anything paperbacks. I’m talking about novels with entertaining storylines and characters who are flawed but funny — and, yes, who occasionally romp in the bedroom or kiss in the park. Chick lit is the romantic comedy of books. It can be thoughtful, provocative or just plain fun.
If you have never read a chick lit novel, I urge you to put this book down immediately and find one. I wrote this guide while (re-)reading volume after pink-covered volume. To me, chick lit novels are like candy: I devour them. Thus, this guide is rife with examples and references — usually drawn from the most popular writers, with a few less well known, equally successful ones mixed in. If you haven’t read every single title I reference, never fear: You will still understand what I’m talking about. But, if you have read them, you’ll have a slew of models to look at.
The purpose of this guide is to explain the chick lit novel and give you tools to write one. This volume is not here to help you publish your novel — but if you already have a draft, it may help you find holes in it. It will give you confidence and permission to put that inkling of an idea on paper and turn it into a full-fledged manuscript.
This book is meant to be a guide. It offers a basic framework that applies to many — though certainly not all — chick lit novels. It explains how character is important to story, and how different characters tend to come with different storylines. It will help you brainstorm your own character and plot. Then, it will help you sit down and write.
Each chapter is a self-contained lesson that ends with an exercise you can complete to help you design your first draft. It will prompt you to think of ideas you might not have considered and force you to write something down. Each lesson builds on the last to give you a completed outline and character descriptions, as well as tools to write.
Think of this guide as your cookbook for composing a chick lit novel. I’ll walk you through the writing process step by step, just as if I were teaching you the recipe for my favorite treat: a batch of frosted cupcakes. You will start with the basic ingredients, mix them together, decorate them and present a sugary, delicious treat to the world.
And it will be fun! I wrote this guide to make the process of composing a novel as enjoyable as the finished product. Even if you don’t love baking cupcakes as much as I do, you will love creating your main character and a world for her to adventure in.
EXERCISE 1: GATHER YOUR EQUIPMENT
Every baker knows that to achieve quality cupcakes, you have to use the right equipment. In order to get the most out of this guide, you’re going to need a mixing bowl — in this case, a writer’s notebook. This can be any notebook you like, but it should be dedicated to your future chick lit novel. It can be cute, pink and hardcover, or it can be a flimsy spiral notebook — whatever will get you excited to pick it up and pour in ideas. You will be doing a lot of prewriting, list-making and brainstorming, so if you choose to use a notebook, make sure it is big enough to spread out words, sentences and paragraphs. I write in plain spiral notebooks, but occasionally I branch out into pretty, diary-sized journals. Go to a stationery shop and browse the options, then choose one that inspires you. Buy a set of good new pens (or dig up some nice sharp pencils).
Or, if you prefer, open up a file in your favorite word-processing software — even a note-taking app on your smartphone. You can do these exercises anywhere: on the bus, in line at the post office, or while talking to your mother-in-law on the phone. Make it official and save the document in a folder called “Novel.”
Now, get ready to write!
**Contact Alicia de los Reyes: