Monday’s Friend: MQ Barber

Today I am pleased to welcome erotic romance MQ Barber to the blog, who has some advice on how to get to the end of a novel. Welcome, MQ!

Skipping your way toward a novel
By M.Q. Barber

The first time you give up control is scary.

It’s also thrilling.

Where are we going? I don’t know.

Who’s leading me there? I don’t know.

Are we going to have fun finding out the answers? Hell yes.

Some writers work best with an outline. They have a plot. They start at page one, and they write from Point A to Point B in a straight line with no deviations. That works for them.

It works. Remember that. Utility is the key.

Problems you can fix with more practice and dedicated study of craft are things like poor grammar, or clumsy transitions, or clunky dialog, or sentence structure variation, or … well. It’s a long list. You get the idea.

Approaching your writing like a child skipping stones on a lake — a scene here, a bounce there, a flash of insight way out over the water before it disappears — this is not a problem. This is a process. And if it works for you, then give yourself permission to write this way.

Forget what writing instructors or well-meaning peers have drilled into your head. You don’t have to start at the beginning. You don’t have to finish at the end. You don’t have to write an outline or fill out a character sheet or know the name of that kid who laughed at your heroine when she tripped on her way to the blackboard in third grade. (It’s Chris. You’re welcome.)

You don’t have to know or do any of that to sit down and write. What you need to do is listen.

That’s it. Just listen. Whatever voice calls to you, whatever you see that sparks an idea, whatever puts a thought in your head that won’t go away: Write it down.

Don’t lose your excitement. Cultivate it. Write down the thought that excited you, as far as the voices will take you, and read it over.

Then ask yourself one question:

Who are these people, and why does this moment matter to them?

Now listen. Skip to wherever the answer takes you. Repeat. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Eventually, you’ll have skipped so many stones that you’ll have created a bridge across the water in every place they touched. The characters will have shown you their goals, their conflicts, their motivations.

Readers will call it a novel.

I call it accepting my own insanity.

Whatever works, right?

Now go write.

PlayingtheGame_400pxBlurb for Playing the Game (Neighborly Affection #1):

She expects dinner with neighbors, but gets sex with a side of safewords.

Mechanical engineer Alice still drools over her sexy neighbors a year after she’s moved in. She can’t decide whether they’re roommates or partners, but either way, they spark a wanton desire in her that has her imagination–and vibrator–working overtime.

Henry, director of everything around him, studies human nature and applies philosophies to his paintings as well as his relationships. Quirky, polite to a fault, and formal, he follows his own code of honor even when it means denying himself.

Flirtatious and playful, Jay needs stability, guidance, and to please others. His antics counterbalance Henry’s stuffy ways while he brings a level of vulnerability and fun to everything the trio does.

BDSM play with the enigmatic artist and flirtatious joker across the hall allows Alice to put aside the linear thought processes which have kept her unsatisfied and distant with other lovers. She must dismiss her preconception of love, sacrificing her independence, if she’s to find a permanent place in their beds and hearts.

Where to buy Playing the Game:




Author bio

M.Q. Barber likes to get lost in thought. She writes things down so she can find herself again.

Often found staring off into space or frantically scratching words on post-it notes, M.Q. lives with one very tolerant, easily amused husband and one very tolerant, easily amused puppy.

She has a soft spot for romances that explore the inner workings of the heart and mind alongside all that steamy physical exertion. She loves memorable characters, witty banter, and heartfelt emotion in any genre.

Where to find M.Q.






11 comments so far

  1. […] Come on over to Sara’s and visit. I’ll be the one skipping stones. […]

  2. lizaoconnor on

    Great advice. Writing is a joy if you just let your characters come out and play. Mine get into so much trouble.

    • M.Q. Barber on

      Thanks, Liza — I completely agree. Characters run along just fine without my interference!

  3. D.B. Sieders on

    Eloquently delivered (and accurate) advice, M.Q. I love the skipping stones/bridge analogy. There are as many processes and approaches as there are writers, and I believe in using what works for the individual rather than what, as you write, well-meaning peers insist is the ‘right way.’

    • M.Q. Barber on

      Thanks, D.B.! It’s so dispiriting to be in a class or a writing group where a “right” way dominates when it’s not the right way for *you*. Trying to force yourself to write in a way that feels unnatural is not the way to produce your best work, IMHO.

  4. Kylie Wolfe on

    I loved the way you described different writing styles. I try to be linear in how i write, but the reality is somewhere between plotting and just going with the flow 🙂 Great post!

    • M.Q. Barber on

      Thanks, Kylie. 🙂 I end up getting more linear when I get close to the end of a draft and realize what story-gaps are left to fill, but at the beginning, it’s a crazy free-for-all. I suspect novel-writing is a plotter-pantser continuum with a kajillion data points (authors) all along the way.

  5. Tera Shanley on

    love love love this, M.Q.! It is so true that the process is different for every writer. There is no right way to write, so long as you do it. I think i run a fine line right between outlines and skipping stones 🙂

    • M.Q. Barber on

      Thanks, Tera — I don’t think you skip stones, though. I think you run reeeeeally fast over the top of the water with the way you buckle down and get your stories drafted in record time. You leave me in awe. 🙂

  6. Lenora Meade on

    The book sounds super hot and the advice is spot on. Skipping stones. I think it reminds us writers to keep it fun and playful. It’s not a big deal if one stone sinks. There is a whole lot more. Thanks.

    • M.Q. Barber on

      Fun and playful is a great way to put it, Lenora. I like to do all of the skipping first and save the shaping and polishing for later.

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