The Virgin Widow's Heart Stopped When She Saw the Workshop That Would Change Her Life Forever: Working With and Against Cliches to Make your Manuscript Shine--and Sell!

Sophie Gunn and I gave this workshop at the Connecticut Fiction Fest. We've also given it two times at the Romance Writers of America (RWA) national conference, in New York and San Francisco. Contact me or Sophie if you'd like us to speak at your conference or chapter meeting!

1. Recognize a Cliché

  • Top clichéd phrases and descriptions that should never show up in your writing.
  • Top clichéd characters who should never inhabit your novels.
  • Top clichéd situations that should never happen.
  • Top clichéd openings that will get your manuscript tossed every time.
  • Top clichéd love scene elements that make a reader groan (not in a good way…).
  • Top clichés romance writers use in promo and why they need to be dumped.

2. Cut Those Clichés: Watch the Editing Process in Action.

Identify and rewrite clichés to give your scenes more impact and let your voice sing. Examples of scenes made stronger by cutting clichés.

  • Think unique.
  • Make it specific and tangible.
  • Use your character’s voice or perspective.
  • Increase the drama, emotion, or humor.

Think through clichés in the planning stages of your novels to make your writing shine. Examples of stories made stronger by turning clichés on their heads.

  • Do NOT use your first idea.
  • Why matters more than what.
  • Swap the expected gender.
  • Think modern. Think relevant.

3. Put it to Work! Find Your Cliché-free Style: Scrub Your Pages

Bring a 2-paragraph sample from your romance manuscript/book to the workshop, and we’ll work together to spot your clichés and change them for the better.

Speaker Bios:

Ellen Hartman’s first Superromance came out in June 2007, just in time for the literacy signing at RWA National in Dallas. She’s sold books about a writer, a rock star, a teenage bully, and a secret baby—turning each of those potentially clichéd stories inside out to find a new angle. Her recent Super, Married by June (6/2011), is a modern take on the tried-and-true engagement of convenience story. She has two Supers out in 2012. Find out more at

Sophie Gunn grew up in Philadelphia, but raced to New York City as soon as she got the chance. After four years at Columbia University, she worked at several of Manhattan’s top advertising agencies. But when she moved to a tiny town in upstate New York, she knew her ad career was over. So she opened a computer file and typed, “Chapter One.” Now, she’s back in Philadelphia, six blocks from where she grew up, writing small-town romances for Grand Central Publishing. The first and second books in her Enemy Club series, How Sweet It Is and Sweet Kiss of Summer are available now. Find out more at

Other Workshops

Ellen also offers the following workshops:

  • Writing the Beta Hero
  • Revisions without Fear
  • Quick and Dirty Usability Testing for Author Websites