Foiled! And Writing Romance.

My daughter, who usually sleeps until seven or eight, was up at twenty to six. I swear, she has an uncanny ability to tell when I’m trying to adjust the routine she established.

However, I did decide on something to write yesterday. Romance! Well, fantasy romance. I really stink at contemporary.

Why romance?

Well, as mentioned in previous posts, fan-fiction doesn’t always prepare you for certain things. Like world-building, for example. I need to practice that, but it’s hard. So it occurred to me that a more structured form, like romance – and believe me, the forms/tropes/standards are super important in romance, to the point where publishers actually name their preferred tropes in their submission guidelines – might make it easier. If I’m working with a known trope and structure, it gives me a framework to build my world on.

I used to read a lot of romance. I veered off into epic and urban fantasy after that, and then alt-history, but I still revisit fairly regularly, although some of the current trends are not to my taste. Anyway, I like it as a genre, and it’s the only one that really shares my passion for dialogue-driven plots. It’s all about the people.

My one previous attempt to write romance was a dismal failure, but that was during a NaNoWriMo in which my first two ideas bombed, I was flailing blindly, and my primary characters spent most of the novel named Fighting Princess and Sexy Pirate. Which is incidentally a handy tip – if you’re really stuck on naming a character, give them a job description instead and keep writing. That gives you time to get to know them and think about the name without losing momentum on the story. The descriptions are easy to remember, unlike a bad name, and easy to search-and-replace later.

Anyone raising their noses at romance, incidentally, has no idea what they’re talking about. There are very few pro authors who will not tell you that romance is one of the hardest genres to make it in. A romance novelist who only brings out one novel a year is kind of a slacker. Someone trying to make her name needs to manage two or three. Every year. I’m honestly not sure I’ll manage it this time, either – and I need to read some more to get my brain and vocabulary back in the game – but while I think writing to category will be easier for me than leaping straight into epic fantasy, because I like the structure, never think romance is easy. It isn’t.

But it is, if you can make it, where an awfully big chunk of the money is. Which I think is where a lot of the contempt from more ‘literary’ readers comes from. Romance is so commercial, right? Formulaic pot-boilers, right? No. Well, some of them are. Every genre has them. But a lot of them are awesome and memorable stories, and are worth trying.

Off to try for awesome and memorable now. And to try to remember how ‘alpha male’ goes. They grunt, right? They always used to grunt. And be stoic, I definitely remember stoic.



4 thoughts on “Foiled! And Writing Romance.

  1. The alpha male should be confident, competent and decisive, like an experienced army officer.

    I’m afraid I’m one of the people who has negative feelings about the romance genre. You’re probably too young to remember the prevalence of Mills and Boon and Barbara Carthorse in the 1980s, but I associate it with sentimentality, overt girliness, gender and character stereotyping, raising unrealistic expectations which put people off from working on real relationships because no real partner can measure up to what they’ve read about, and encouraging the idea that only conventionally “good-looking” people can ever be sexually attractive. Barbara Cartland actually said herself that she thought the reason the marriage between her step-grand-daughter Diana and Prince Charles went so horribly wrong was in part because Diana was a readfer of romance novels and expected Charles to be a prince out of a romance and not a real man with real people-type faults and quirks. But perhaps you can raise the tone of the genre.

  2. I’ve read quite a few of those terrible old romances – one was such a horrifyingly rape-filled monstrosity that it became the only book I’ve ever actually destroyed. But I’ve read some wonderful ones, too. Emma Darcy (an Australian husband and wife writing team using a singular pseudonym) wrote some hilariously funny, sweet romance novels featuring likeable characters with realistic problems. There’s a lot of rubbish in romance, still, but there’s also some really good stuff. And I’d recommend some if I could remember names – I’ll hunt down my Box O’ Romance Novels and see what I can find.

  3. I’m attempting to write a romance. I think it turned into an adventure story, because my brain didn’t want to play with the romance tropes that much (I haven’t finished it yet, so maybe it’ll wind up being romance after all; it’s a bit wilful that way). You’re right when you say that romance is a hard genre to get into (or at least, to do well!). Kudos to you for taking it on, and I wish you luck and coffee!

    • Thanks for the wishes of luck! I’m scoping out the various sites where I can buy reference works on the cheap – to my surprise, Harlequin actually has a really comprehensive e-bookstore at very reasonable prices. They don’t do a lot of fantasy-romance, but they’re hinting at expanding on that on their writer-advice page.

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