If you’re a romance writer, then you are probably aware of the drama going on regarding the question how much romance is necessary for a story to be classified a romance novel. I think of it as the Great Controversy.
If you’re a reader, hopefully you haven’t noticed.
SInce I’ve always had more romance than plot in my manuscripts, the Great Controversy is something I hadn’t thought much about. Not because I didn’t care but because I know what happens when you try to quantify the subjective.
Fools run errands and those wild geese you’re chasing bite back.
It’s like trying to eat a spaghetti sandwich. It’s possible, but you’re left with a mess and you’ve lost half of your noodles.
So, this summer, I let the Great Controversy go. I left it to others who are more articulate than I to work out the answers. Then I forgot about it.
Until I went to the airport for my flight to San Antonio for the annual RWA Conference and met the Angry Young Man.
Tall. Shaved head. Sharp tongue. His dark tattoos threatened to slash me, but it was his words that cut.
Romance novels? Pathetic. Formulaic. Pornographic.
I stepped away quickly, not wanting to engage in an argument before boarding a plane.
Yet, despite his derision, his eyes held desperate questions.
Will I ever be loved?
Will I ever love another?
Are Happily Ever Afters real?
My heart hammered and I felt nauseous. I hate conflict. And I had no words at the time, especially since we were on the same flight and might have to sit next to each other. But I was disappointed in myself. How could I aspire to be a romance writer when I couldn’t even defend my profession? I didn’t want to go to RWA anymore. Even if it meant missing the Golden Heart ceremony.
What difference did a Golden Heart final make if I couldn’t take away the pain in that man’s eyes?
Stuck with a non-refundable ticket and in desperate need of chocolate, I snuck away to the far end of the gate area. I searched my carry-on for my emergency dark chocolate with almonds candy bar. Instead, I found my RWA badge carefully tucked around my signed copy of Letters to Kelly by Suzanne Brockmann (which I take to every conference as my good luck charm).
The book dismissed me as a coward. My Golden Heart pins glittered, accusing me.
If my words couldn’t heal the Angry Young Man, then whose would?
Why was I so afraid?
That’s when the truth slammed her fist into my stomach. The Great Controversy had stolen my confidence. All this worrying about my books not being romantic enough had made me doubt my stories, my writing, my career aspirations. I’d thought that by ignoring the Great Controversy, it wouldn’t touch me.
Like a true introvert, I’d just wanted to be left alone.
Instead, I’d left my heart’s gate unguarded and self-doubt had crept in.
My desire for chocolate died, and I watched people move in and out of gates, down hallways, dragging baggage and pillows and kids. But in many of their eyes I saw an emptiness. A sad kind of desperation.
Were they just weary travelers? Or were they in the same kind of pain as the Angry Young Man? Just less obvious?
I heard loud voices nearby and looked up. The Angry Young Man was arguing with the flight attendant manning the departure door. I couldn’t hear his words, but his dark voice made everyone turn. For a second, we all held a collective breath, all held together in the moment. A minute later, a security officer escorted the Angry Young Man away. When he passed me, I met his gaze.
Will I ever be loved?
Will I ever love another?
Are Happily Ever Afters real?
I wanted to reach out and tell him that everything would be alright. That I had the answers to the questions in his eyes.
But he disappeared around the corner and everyone retreated back to their private space. Each person separate again, lost in their own thoughts. But something inside me had shifted, and I took out one of my Golden Hearts and pinned it to my sweater.
Although no one else would know what the pin meant, those mirror-image question marks holding the shape of a heart confirmed what I knew to be true.
I took strength from the heart’s beauty and found truth in its form.
Formulaic? Romance novels bring order and comfort to the chaos and suffering of the human condition.
Pathetic? Romance novels offer hope to the seeking, soothe the ill, and give solace to the grieving.
And the other word that’s not worth repeating? Romance novels prove that true love given and true love received can change the world.
I’m still not sure if my stories meet the requirements of the Great Controversy, but I learned something that day in the airport. The power of a romance novel comes not just from its level of romance, but from its graceful ability to answer the questions of the Angry Young Man.
Will I ever be loved? Yes. With great passion.
Will I ever love another? Yes. With great truth.
Are Happily Ever Afters real? Yes. With great beauty.
Maybe, instead of asking the question of how much romance is in a romance novel, we should be asking if a novel fulfills its promise to the reader. A promise written with great passion, great truth, and great beauty. A promise of a happy ending.
I am proud to be a romance writer. I am proud that my stories offer a mix of adventure, suspense and love. I am proud that my manuscripts–like those written before and those yet to be–end with the same three simple words.
Three simple words which, almost invisible on their own, carry a force unlike any other.
Three simple words which, when strung together, hold the weight of a golden heart, the answers for an Angry Young Man, and the power to heal the world.
So yes, Mr. Angry Young Man. There is a Happily Ever After.
I, and my books, promise.
Now I’d love to know what is your absolute favorite romance of all time?
I will be offering two books for two lucky commenters: The first, in honor of my last K&T interview with Heather Ashby, will be an e-copy of Heather’s newest release Never Forget.
Second, in honor of my K&T interview coming up, I will be offering an e-copy of Night Sky, a new Young Adult novel by Suzanne Brockmann and her daughter Melanie Brockmann.
(You don’t want to miss it! My fourteen-year old daughter and I will be interviewing Suzanne and her daughter Melanie for our first ever mother/daughter and mother/daughter interview. It’s going to be tons of fun!)
All photos courtesy of Sharon Wray
We have a special treat for the authors and aspiring authors among our followers today, a guest post by Jill Sorenson, who writes gritty, action packed, sexy romantic suspense. I love Jill’s books, so I’m thrilled to gain some insight into her process. She has some terrific tips here that I intend to try.
Dirty Drafting: 11 Quick Tips
Hello Kiss & Thrill! Thanks so much for having me back.
NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is just around the corner. I’ve never participated in this event because writing an entire novel in one month sounds like a nightmare to me. Drafting is my favorite part of the writing process. Why would I want to stress out and rush the most enjoyable step?
Writing fast is practically a requirement for romance authors, but the key for me is writing steady and delivering a quality manuscript. If you hammer out an incoherent mess in a month and it takes you six months to edit, you’re not getting to the finish line any faster than someone who works at a less frenetic pace.
I wrote my latest novel in three months, most of it while my kids were home on summer break. That’s pretty fast for me. Some authors write a lot faster. I follow people on twitter who do “1k in 1hr” sprints, 5k days, even 10k days. I don’t know how they do it, so I’ll just tell you how I do what I do. If drafting is painful for you and you can’t wait to tinker/revise, try NaNo. If you prefer editing as you go and writing a clean first draft, read on.
There is no one true way, just different ways that work better for different people. I’ve heard fast authors say that anyone can learn to be fast, and I don’t believe that. I believe that everyone can improve their speed, but we all have physical and mental limitations. If you’re a genius, your brain might be supersonic. Or you might be a slow genius. I’m not any type of genius. I’m more of an Emma Stone in Easy A than a Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting. I want to be a commercial success, not a critics’ darling. I don’t have the natural ability to write 5k every day or the luxury to write slow.
So here are my tips for steady drafting.
1. Edit as you go (if you prefer) but always keep moving. Your first paragraph or chapter might make no sense by the time you get to the end. Characters change and develop over the course of a novel. Do what feels right in order to move forward, but don’t get bogged down by small details. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It will never be perfect.
2. Outline before you start. This is an important one for me. I research and do a detailed outline several weeks in advance. I’m constantly plotting, reworking and looking things up as I go, too. Stay flexible, but have a plan. An outline is a solid foundation that you can build on. You can also throw it out if you have to. Having plan makes it easier to move full steam ahead and avoid painting yourself into a corner.
3. Write every day, or almost every day. Taking long breaks will steal your momentum. Steady, daily progress is good.
4. Know where you’re going. Even if you’re not a big plotter, you can jot down notes every day before you start. Just a few minutes of concentration can make the difference between flying over the keys and staring at a blank page.
5. Don’t stop for the day at the end of a scene or chapter. Some authors stop mid-sentence. It trains your brain to keep thinking about the next sentence/scene/chapter, rather than closing the mental doors when you close the screen.
6. Take notes after you’re “done” for the day. This is my favorite tip for increasing speed and productivity. I love writing freehand notes. I remember things I forgot to do, continually reassess plot points, and jot down ideas for the next scene.
7. Get enough sleep. This is a challenge for me. Sleep well and your brain will function better, faster.
8. Beware of children. They require a lot of attention and feeding. If a childless person tells me that anyone can write 5k per day if they just try hard, I will twist her nose off and feed it to my child.
9. Exercise! I run almost every day, and I believe this has helped my output tremendously. It also helps keep me sane. If you spend too much time indoors, living with the imaginary people inside your head, you might end up with cabin fever, wielding a rubber mallet. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
10. Don’t force it. Sometimes you have to sit your ass in the chair and get it done. Sometimes you have to do the opposite. When you’re pulling your hair out, rewriting the same sentence fifty times, just leave it alone. Go do some laundry, get a snack. Switch to a notebook. Changing scenery can jog you in a new direction.
11. Keep a cuts file. I do this for every book, and it helps me when a scene isn’t working. I’ll save a copy of the problem section in my cuts file. Then I can delete and rearrange dialogue or paragraphs without worrying about losing any important bits. It’s a quick, efficient way to get unstuck and move forward.
So there you have it. 11 quick-n-dirty tips for those who prefer clean first drafts! As always, do what works for you, be passionate about your writing, and try to have fun. Remember that a writing career is a marathon, not a sprint. Find your own pace.
Are you a writer? Do you plan to attempt NaNoWriMo? Do you have any tips you’d like to share or thoughts on Jill’s tips? Share them. We haven’t had a craft conversation at K&T in a long time, and I LOVE talking craft.
Jill Sorenson is the RITA-nominated author of more than a dozen romantic suspense novels, including the Aftershock series by HQN. She lives in the San Diego area with her family. She’s a soccer mom who loves nature, coffee, reading, twitter and reality TV. Jogging keeps her sane. Riding Dirty is her first erotic suspense novel.
You can find her at www.jillsorenson.com.
Thanks to everyone for making the release of JUDGMENT a special day for me. And now, without further ado, the winner of the one hour massage is Teen Books for the Kindle. Please use our contact page to claim your prize. Congratulations and thanks to everyone who commented! Carey
I hope you are all having a wonderful fall! This is a special day for me, and I love celebrating it with you. I’m definitely eustressing today. Have you guys heard this term? I first learned about eustress way back when, in graduate school, but to simplify I’ll just use this definition from Wikipedia –which is right on the money:
“Eustress occurs when the gap between what one has and what one wants is slightly pushed, but not overwhelmed. The goal is not too far out of reach but is still slightly more than one can handle. This fosters challenge and motivation since the goal is in sight. The function of challenge is to motivate a person toward improvement and a goal.”
So Eustress, while uncomfortable, is really a positive thing. The source of my “good stress” today is the release of JUDGMENT, the first book in my Cassidy and Spenser Thrillers series, but more about that later.
First, I want to thank you all for helping to make CONFESSION a bestseller. I’ve loved being part of Harper Collins/Witness Impulse’s first year. And because of readers like you, CONFESSION spent six weeks in the top 100 Nook Books over at Barnes and Noble (reaching a best rank of #12 in the overall Nook store) as well as appearing on the Amazon bestseller lists in both Suspense and Romantic Suspense.
So I truly want to thank you, and I have a special gift for one lucky commenter. I wish I could give the gift to each one of you. But I’ll have to settle for one randomly drawn commenter.
And now for more on Judgment. I’m thrilled to announce I’ll be doing a new series featuring forensic psychiatrist Dr. Caity Cassidy and FBI profiler, Special Agent Atticus “Spense” Spenser for Witness Impulse.
The first book in the Cassidy & Spenser Thriller series, Judgment, releases today. Here’s the blurb:
If these two rivals can’t work together…
Dr. Caitlin Cassidy is on a mission to protect the innocent. Fifteen years ago, she witnessed her father’s execution for a crime she’s convinced he didn’t commit. Now she works as a forensic psychiatrist to make sure that other innocents don’t meet the same fate.
Special Agent Atticus Spenser is hell bent on locking the guilty away. A brilliant FBI profiler, Spense loves, a good puzzle…especially when the solution takes a psychopath off the streets. But his nemesis, the enigmatically vexing Caity Cassidy, is one puzzle he’s never been able to solve.
…One of them is going to die.
When a young coed falls prey to a sexually sadistic killer, Caity and Spense are called in by opposing sides. But before the case can go to trial, the accused man is murdered in a brutal attack and Caity is critically wounded. Now Caity and Spense must put aside their differences and work together to uncover the truth—because the Man in the Maze is coming back for round two.
Thanks again for celebrating with me!
What kind of eustress have you experienced? Remember eustress is a positive challenge that pushes your limits and expands your horizons. One randomly selected commenter will win a one hour massage at Massage Envy or a local day spa if Massage Envy is not available in your area. This contest is restricted to commenters in the continental United States. Good luck, everyone! And thanks again!
Originally posted on Rachel Grant:
If you are on the fence about purchasing the bundle, I’ve compiled some statistics to aid your decision making.
|Pages in Word||4,118|
|Characters (no spaces)||5,050,663|
|Characters (with spaces)||6,139,211|
|If this were offered in print, estimated number of pages:||3,226|
|Number of Tweets it would take to tweet the entire set:||43,852|
|Reader cost per book:||$0.124|
|Reader cost per chapter:||$0.006|
|Reader cost per word:||0.0000018|
|% of net royalties going to Pets for Vets:||100|
What do you get if you buy HOMETOWN HEROES?
A LITTLE HARMLESS SEX by USA Today author Melissa Schroeder–When Anna falls for her best friend Max, it might…
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Today is the release day for Hometown Heroes: Hotter Ever After! This bundle includes SIXTEEN complete novels–some never before published–by SEVENTEEN fabulous authors (one book was co-written), with all the proceeds going to Pets for Vets, an organization that matches shelter animals with military veterans.
16 books for only $1.99 with all net proceeds going to Pets for Vets!
They’re all hometown heroes, guys from small towns who’ve made a name for themselves, big or small, who’ve withstood the odds and risen to the challenge, who are heroes in their own right.
Once again, to learn more about the Hometown Heroes authors, I donned my James Lipton beard and put them in the Inside the Actors Studio hot seat.
What is your favorite word?
|Lucy: Hugs!||Allie: Any Allie’ism (words I blend together to create a new word). Currently, everything is fantabulous-o! This is as close as I get speaking Spamish (that means an attempt at Spanish but failing miserably—much like Spam is for meat)|
|Sabrina: Kerfuffle. It just sounds…tasty!||Rachel: Schadenfreude|
|Jami: Win||Adrianne: WINNER!!!|
|Destiny: Extraordinary||Kate: Pleasure|
What is your least favorite word?
|Lucy: Slurs||Allie: Can’t|
|Sabrina: The “C” word for lady parts||Rachel: Fart|
|Jami: Lose||Adrianne: Sexism|
|Destiny: Never||Kate: Greasy|
What turns you on?
|Lucy: Lovingkindness. I’ve been known to get very amorous when my husband cleans the kitchen.||Allie: Chillaxin on the couch with the hubs. I also have a thing for sexy shoulders.|
|Sabrina: Bacon. Yesssss. Simply bacon.||Rachel: Captain America|
|Jami: A hot athlete||Adrianne: Besides sexy men? True Friendship|
|Destiny: An intelligent man who knows how to work his swagger without coming across as arrogant||Kate: Dinner on the table and no housework to finish|
|Cathryn: My husband’s shaving cologne|
What turns you off?
|Lucy: Meanness||Allie: Being an arrogant asshat. If he’s a jack wagon, even his shoulders can’t save him.|
|Sabrina: Bullies. Can’t stand them||Rachel: Smoking|
|Jami: People texting and driving||Adrianne: Meanness|
|Destiny: A belligerent drunk who thinks he’s cute||Kate: Dirty laundry (or housework in general)|
|Cathryn: Feeling fat|
What sound or noise do you love?
|Lucy: Babies giggling||Allie: That swooshing sound my Mac makes when I send a manuscript off to the editor.|
|Sabrina: The oboe. Haunting. I also love the cello.||Rachel: My children’s laughter|
|Jami: Wind in the trees||Adrianne: My cats purring|
|Destiny: Ocean tides||Kate: Laughter|
|Cathryn: Zach Brown’s voice singing|
What sound or noise do you hate?
|Lucy: Fists hitting flesh. I hate abuse and have opened my house to more than one woman or teen at risk.||Allie: The sound of a low, ominous growl behind you when you’re out hunting right after you’ve spotted fresh cougar tracks (yes, that really happened)|
|Sabrina: The nasal whine of a mosquito hovering around me, plotting to suck my blood. I wish no harm to any creature on earth…except mosquitoes. They can all die a heinous miserable death.||Rachel: Traffic|
|Jami: Traffic||Adrianne: Tinnitus|
|Destiny: The sound of a circular saw in use||Kate: Any heavy equipment that squeals/whines|
|Cathryn: Whining… doesn’t matter who|
What is your favorite curse word?
|Lucy: Bollocks||Allie: Fartnarker. That’s totally a word and fits any situation. It’s not even an Allie’ism.|
|Sabrina: Blurg (I channel Tina Fey in 30 Rock sometimes). I am also partial to “frick.”||Rachel: Fuck|
|Jami: Shit||Adrianne: The F word|
|Destiny: I take the 5th||Kate: Douchecanoe|
|Cathryn: Hmmm, can’t say it here|
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
|Lucy: Psychologist||Allie: I want to write full time. Currently I have a Stinkin’ Day Job. If I could write full time, I’d be fartnarkin’ fantabulous-o!|
|Sabrina: Glassblower. Sigh…I dabbled with glass at one time and loved it. So beautiful.||Rachel: CIA Case Officer or superhero|
|Jami: Interior designer or bartender||Adrianne: A singer, but the world would cringe.|
|Destiny: Stripping. Just kidding. Psychologist||Kate: Actor (I was in the drama program in college and always regret not sticking with it)|
|Cathryn: Chris Hemsworth’s movie set hair stylist|
What profession would you not like to do?
|Lucy: Sewer management||Allie: Pretty much anything on Mike Rowe’s “Dirty Jobs” show|
|Sabrina: Housecleaner. Exhibit A: My house||Rachel: Wearing a hot dog costume and passing out flyers.|
|Jami: Cook||Adrianne: Toll Booth money taker|
|Destiny: Retail salesperson||Kate: Septic Tank cleaner|
|Cathryn: Middle school teacher (been there)|
If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
|Lucy: Well done. :)||Allie: Take a left at the first cloud. You’re mom and dad are there waiting for you.|
|Sabrina: O Myself, Sabrina. I loved your books!||Rachel: I’ve decided to make an exception for you.|
|Jami: Welcome, my child!||Adrianne: Kim’s been waiting for you.|
|Destiny: For a minute there, I wasn’t sure you’d make it but it sure is good to see you. Now let’s dust off those wings and find your halo.||Kate: Welcome!|
|Cathryn: Whew! You made it!|
Because all proceeds go to charity, this week’s giveaway is a little different. The first TEN eligible commenters win a digital copy of HOMETOWN HEROES, gifted from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iBooks. I will notify you in the comments if you are a winner and prizes will be awarded upon receipt of winner’s email address and choice of vendor (winners will be asked to provide that information via email, using the CONTACT US page).
The winner of a digital copy of Never Forget by Heather Ashby is…
Ellen, to claim your prize, please use the CONTACT US page within ten days.