Monday, March 5, 2012

Last Monday Book: Writing Romances

Post by Jenny

The flowers have wilted, the chocolates are gone (hey, it was a small box), and Valentine’s Day is but a memory for most of us. But for the people who read and write romance novels, love is always in the air. Hence, February’s Last Monday Book: Writing Romances, A Handbook by the Romance Writers of America. I don’t read romances, and we’re probably all glad I haven’t tried to write one. It seems like it’s one of those things that’s difficult to do well—and, conversely, easy to do poorly. But in the spirit of February, I figured a crash course in what makes a good romance wouldn’t kill me.

Since its charter in 1981, Romance Writers of America has grown to more than 10,000 members. RWA throws a big conference every year and sponsors the RITA and Golden Heart awards. Many stories have at least a thread of a romance woven through, but to be considered a romance, the book must have a “central love story and an emotionally satisfying ending.” But the many subgenres—at least nine of them—give romance writers plenty of room to work.

The book’s chapter arrangement threw me for a loop, with Chapter 1 being Who Needs an Agent, Anyway? Kind of a cart-before-the-horse thing. Most of Part 1, The Business of Romance, is helpful but better saved for last. After all, there’s no sense in worrying about agents before the manuscript is written.

Part 2 focuses on General Information, including what constitutes a romance novel, the role of a romance novel, and writing with passion. But I found Part 3, The Craft, to be the most enlightening, especially for someone (me) who doesn’t have the first idea of how to bring a regency heroine or a medieval maiden to life, or what exactly is the difference between contemporary and mainstream romances.

As with any genre, a successful romance avoids the common pitfalls of clichés, stilted dialogue, and unoriginal plotting. Stereotyped characters—the brooding hero, the naïve heroine—are particularly to be avoided. I can imagine that keeping the casting fresh is a huge challenge.

RWA is a venerable group that continues to educate and encourage droves of writers, and The Handbook is a helpful look at the genre for anyone starting out. But, in all honesty, I’m still not a convert. How about you? Do you read or write romances?


Deborah Nielsen said...

I used to read romances when I was in my late teens and 20s. After a while they all started reading alike. Same plot almost, different names for the characters and slightly different settings. I got bored. Same thing's happened with some mystery writers. It's like they use the same formula over and over. With romances the one thing I always wondered about was how the author knew so much about sex scenes?

Linda Osmundson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Linda Osmundson said...

Sorry, forgot to mention the writer's name - Kristin Hannah.

Linda Osmundson said...

My comments were posted twice and when I deleted one, it deleted both. I read light romances, little to no sex, for "no think" reading. However, I found an author I thought to be a romance writer, but she deviated from the genre in her last two books. Night Road is about teen drinking, driving, and the consequences. Had my granddaughters read it. They took it to heart. Second book is Home Front about a mother who goes to war and how it affects the family.

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