A friend recently asked me if I read many craft books.
I used to, I told her. When I first decided to follow my dream and become an author, many eons ago, I subscribed to Writer’s Digest and ordered just about every book offered. I studied books on plotting and character development. As time went on my reading became more selective, and I bought books on weaponry and 19th century slang.
Eventually, my bookshelves overflowed and I donated them to the library, figuring if I needed them I only had to check them out.
Wrong. I don’t know what happened to the books, but I never saw them again.
No matter. By then I had plunged into writing. I wrote a lot of books that never saw the light of day, because I knew inherently that they were flawed. All the “rules” I had read didn’t seem to make it from my brain to my fingertips.
But finally the stories in my head began to follow some sort of pattern. My friend said I had internalized all the theories and examples I’d read. Maybe so. Enough that they passed muster and I finally was published.
While I stopped buying books (lack of space for one thing, dictated this decision), I didn’t give up on trying to learn the craft. I joined a romance writers group for the workshops. And they are excellent workshops. I have never come away without having learned something about the art of writing.
One thing I learned was that there are rules in romance writing. You can’t use multiple points of view, but limit yourself to two at the most — the hero and heroine. And the hero had better turn up in the first chapter — the first page, preferably. and the attraction has to be hot right from the beginning. Action rules the day and woe betide the writer who introduces backstory before chapter two. (I once received a scathing rejection for including a paragraph explaining why a character reacted in a certain way, in chapter one.)
I can accept that, having read Harlequin in my misguided youth. Maybe I am also misguided in believing that every story has romance entwined throughout its pages. These stories have what is called in the romance world, elements of romance. They also include several points of view so we get the whole picture without contrivance (the heroine must eavesdrop in order to learn an important plot twist). Backstory comes when it needs to come and not according to rules.
In these books, it takes time to introduce the hero, and time to develop the attraction between them. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer the couple to wait at least until they know each other’s history before they fall panting on the nearest bed. Or sofa. Or rug.
Yes, there is “sweet romance” where the couple pine and sigh, but don’t consummate. There may be prayer involved.
It’s a legitimate genre’ and I honestly wish I could write it. But it isn’t me.
My dilemma is that RWA (to which I belong) has decreed that to be a full member, you must be writing romance. I take it to mean romance according to the above rules, which I cannot do. Well, I could do, but my heart wouldn’t be in it. I don’t want to drop out, so I guess I will become an associate member. Which means I can never hold office in my chapter.
Life has rules, too, and this is a new one I must obey. Reluctantly, because I really do love romance.
I just love it in a different format.