My guest this week is author Belinda Missen, whose latest book is the festive romance, One Week ‘Til Christmas. Belinda’s here to tell us all about the evolution of this romantic story, from its beginnings as a short story to the novella that’s currently riding high in the Amazon charts. Over to you, Belinda.
Writing One Week ‘Til Christmas
A recent conversation made me realise how little people understand about the writing process. It’s not their fault: writing is still shrouded in a little bit of ‘write drunk, edit sober’ mystery. Our conversation hit home when the subject of royalties popped up. Apparently, earning a few pence per book is a great return for something that takes only a few hours to write.
A few hours? I had to set them straight. It’s not exactly like that.
As anyone will tell you, writing books is hard, and if they tell you any different, they may just be a liar liar, pants on fire. From the big bang of an idea, to the first jottings of a draft, a book will change and morph and find itself on the lathe more than once before it hits kindles and shopfronts.
It was these thoughts that gave me the idea for this article. My new book, One Week ‘Til Christmas, has certainly been through the wringer. From short story to screenplay and, finally, to published novella, I wanted to share some of those changes with you.
One Week ‘Til Christmas has had a varied and colourful life. It began life in 2016 as a 2000-word short story. It was all over in the space of an afternoon but, even after that, the story wouldn’t rest. Something in my head told me that it would work well as a screenplay. So, I wrote it over the course of a weekend. It was a hugely different story to what it is now, but I still believe that it would work as a film (if I can be so bold as to say!).
But wait – there’s more! Tom and Isobel still weren’t done with me. After finishing the screenplay, I felt I had enough there to turn their tale into a short story. So, that’s what I did. They clocked out at 25k words in a piece I self-published, called Love and Other Midnight Theories.
When I signed with HarperCollins in 2017, they optioned Love and Other Midnight Theories as one of the books on my contract. Obviously, 25k words wasn’t quite enough to meet publishing standards and, so, we set about to make the book the best that it could be – and it did need some love!
Once upon a time, One Week ‘Til Christmas was set over a single rainy night in London. As a huge fan of movies such as Before Sunrise and Man Up!, I wanted to tap into that one-night-only type of story. Isobel was set to leave London the next morning, but it still didn’t quite feel like enough. After all, we can always change our flights last minute, can’t we?
Setting the book over the Christmas period has helped to add an extra layer of conflict to the story. One of the shortcomings of the original story was that there wasn’t enough conflict. Giving Isobel a reason to head home (family demands) helped shape her character and add a sense of urgency to Tom and Isobel’s time together.
Arguably the most crucial moment in any romance is the meet cute. It introduces the main characters to each other, shows us how they react to each other, and sets the tone for the rest of the book. In the very early versions, Tom and Isobel meet on the Tube after sitting next to each other. I still really enjoy that first meeting in the train carriage, but with Tom being an actor, my editor and I wanted a meet cute that was fitting of his lifestyle (a car and driver picking him up), and of Isobel’s mission to catch the bus home.
Cue: their first meeting on an icy footpath on a chilly day. Also, this one is quite a lot funnier, too.
That old saying, ‘Kill your darlings’? Well, I went through one or two in this book.
Tom and Isobel have always been Tom and Isobel, but there have been some minor changes to them as they’ve moved through time. Tom has gone from theatre actor to theatre and television, which isn’t a huge change, I know. I weaved his story into another story though. His television show, CounterShock, features in an unpublished book that’s just sitting… waiting on my hard drive. Just sayin’.
Isobel was once a celebrity photographer. Now, she’s turned her hand to travel writing. Since first writing their story, I’ve developed a love of travel – and who wouldn’t love being paid to travel? Her change of job also gave her another thing to strive for – her own travel blog. It’s a major source of conflict in the book, and you know how much we love that!
Missing from this story now is Tom’s grandmother. She was a chain smoking, gin drinking comedic sidekick with more than a few pearls of wisdom for her grandson. I dropped the split POV I’d been using in the original draft, which meant that Grandma just did not fit anymore. Sad, but true. Maybe I’ll need to write a sequel to fit her in.
However, there is a new addition: Estelle. Former travel writer, she met Isobel years ago and, while they don’t live in the same country, they’ve maintained a friendship across oceans. Like all good best friends, she’s a voice of reason and valuable support while Isobel works herself out.
There’s a certain romance in that sweeping, end of movie declaration of love in the middle of an airport – but it’s been done a thousand times before. While I love it and will read the shit out of any airport scene (in fact, there’s one in my book An Impossible Thing Called Love), I wanted to switch things up a bit.
I don’t think I’m giving too much away by saying that Tom and Isobel’s story has a happy ending. After all, we’re here for romance and a happily ever after. But where exactly did this happen? I threw it right back to the Tube and gave them their moment on a train carriage. It’s squishy and cuddly, and I hope you love it just as much as I do.
Author and sometimes foodie, Belinda is a ridiculous romantic who met her husband after being set up by a friend two states away.
Residing in country Victoria, surrounded by books, cat-fur, and half-eaten cake, Belinda divides her days between writing rom-coms, baking, and indulging her love of comic books.
Two people. One chance meeting. Seven days to Christmas.
Isobel Bennett is waiting for the number 11 bus when a man quite literally falls into her lap. Snow is falling, Christmas lights are twinkling, and a gorgeous man with dark brown hair has just slipped on ice and is now pressed against Isobel.
Isobel knows she’s not imagining the chemistry between them. But then his ride arrives and, embarrassed, he beats a hasty retreat, murmuring apologies – and Isobel realises only too late that she didn’t manage to catch his name…
When she runs into him again the next morning, she decides it’s fate.
It’s a second chance for Isobel and Tom – but there’s only one week until she’s leaving London for good. Seven days of enjoying all the festive delights the city has to offer: ice-skating at Somerset House, mulled wine on the Southbank, Christmas shopping at Liberty.
There’s magic in the air and mistletoe in the trees – but what will happen when the week is over?
For fans of Josie Silver, Lucy Diamond and Marian Keyes, this is one Christmas romance you don’t want to miss!
You can buy One Week ‘Til Christmas Here: