Monthly Archives: July 2011

Learn to Write Romance, Learn to Write

Cough, cough… There’s a lot of dust here. I haven’t visited in a while.

Okay, down to today’s topic.

I am happy to report that a new romantic comedy has hit the e-shelves by none other than yours truly — in this case, Libby Malin. Titled Aefle & Gisela, it tells the story of Medieval History Professor Thomas Charlemagne, who is so eager to slay his childhood reputation as “Timid Tommy,” that he takes a dare at a bachelor party and stops a wedding the very next morning.

Only problem — it’s the wrong wedding. A comic romp blended with biting satire (of academe), Aefle & Gisela should appeal to all my fans (yes, both of them!) who enjoyed Fire Me! and My Own Personal Soap Opera. It’s available for Kindle, Nook, and other e-reading devices. Please check it out and take advantage of the summer sale — it’s only 99 cents for a limited time.

I really enjoyed writing Aefle & Gisela. But if you’d told me ten years ago that I’d get so much pleasure from writing something as light as romantic comedy, I would have cried in your face. You see, I always wanted to be a Serious Writer of Serious Fiction that Serious People took Seriously.

But because I didn’t see myself being accepted into that club (yes, I know, Dr. Freud, I had a classic inferiority/superiority complex about writing), I didn’t bother to try getting in. I didn’t try to get published.

I couldn’t stop writing, though. It was my addiction. My beloved sister knew this. She’d been kind enough to read some of my stories over the years. She knew that’s what I had the “fire in the belly” for. So she suggested I try my hand at romance.

Romance? Why, shut my mouth, that should be a walk in the park for someone like me, who, after all, had spent years writing Serious Fiction that Serious People Would Take Seriously if I ever bothered to get any published.

So I got me some Harlequin romances, sat down and penned a quick proposal, sending it off to the editors, sure I wouldn’t have to wait long to hear back from them with a breathless “yes, yes, yes, we want this amazing, wonderfully written story even though it’s far, far too good for our humble imprint.”

I waited a long time for that note. In fact, I never did get it. I did get an impersonal but very polite thanks, but no thanks.

In a great display of magnanimity, I forgave those hapless editors, sure that my next effort would have them falling all over themselves to publish me.

Wah-wah-wahn. No dice. The Romance Goddesses, they no like me.

By this time, however, I became committed to learning how to write a romance novel, not just playing at it, but really figuring out what made them tick. I read Nora Roberts and Jayne Ann Krentz and bunches of category romances that I actually outlined in a marble notebook. I joined Romance Writers of America and became a member of their various email groups. I entered their chapter contests. I went to a state chapter conference.

From contest judges, I learned that my heroines were sometimes unlikable (when I wanted readers to hug them to their hearts) and that I didn’t need to use so many ellipses because readers understand from the context when dialogue is supposed to sound halting. I learned from one kind soul that I wasn’t formatting my manuscript correctly — not a deal-breaker if the story was terrific, but why distract an editor you’re trying to woo. And from one inept judge I learned that I used too many weak verb constructions (when she circled every “was” in my entry, incorrectly chiding me for using so much “passive voice”).

And I learned how encouraging it was to hear “attagirl” when manuscripts placed in contests and how comforting to get “so sorry to hear” emails when my latest proposals were rejected after initial enthusiasm from an editor.

The romance writing community, unlike some other writing communities, is an extremely supportive one. Writers cheer each other on and help each other out. They share information about editors and agents and trends.

In that community I became comfortable with myself, and I learned how to write. Not just romance. I learned how to let that voice inside me loose and get it to sing my song, not the Serious Fiction that Serious People would Take Seriously song, but my quirky, funny, sometimes bittersweet tune. I found my voice.

When I have the chance, I tell writing students that they should try to write romance if they really want to learn how to write. Romance has a formula (go look it up if you don’t know what it is — I’ve blogged about it), and it’s very hard to make characters real, a plot believable and a story compelling when readers know implicitly if not explicitly what the formula is.

Those of you who’ve read my bio know I went to a music conservatory, not a liberal arts college. Learning to write romance was my degree in creative writing. It was my Writing Seminars Program.  I highly recommend it for any aspiring writer — even those who have gone through a college writing course of study.

Now, hurry on over and get a copy of Aefle & Gisela! Here are the links if you missed them up above:

For Kindle, click here.

For Nook, click here.

For every other e-reading device, click here.

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