Writing romance

The romance writing scene in Adelaide is huge. Not only that, but they are all extremely supportive of each other. More than a couple of times I’ve thought of joining them just because they look like they are having so much fun. Only one problem; I can’t write romance.

The past few decades have seen me become quite cynical about romance. Sit on the sidelines of enough divorces and it does that to you. So my biggest problem is I don’t believe the everlasting declarations of love which you read in novels, and finishing at the point where they get together seems like a cop-out. That’s when the real hard work begins as far as I’m concerned.

At least that’s what I blame for my lack of ability to write romance. I think in reality it is just a lot harder than what everyone believes. Yes, we have all read bad examples of romance, but there are some really good examples. There are novels out there that make a jaded old bag like me believe that this time it is really going to work.

And let’s not even talk about writing $ex. I blush at the thought. My one attempt to write such a scene in one of my spec fiction stories degenerated into humour because I couldn’t do the saucy version. That’s something I long-ago reconciled myself with leaving to the experts.

So while there are people out there, particularly other genre writers, who belittle the romance writer, I think this is extremely unfair. A good romance writer is just as gifted with the written word as any other writer, they also have the benefit of being highly skilled in the manipulation of emotion. That’s something I’d be interested in learning more about.

But how does it end?

Writers are generally broken up into two groups; planners and pantsers. Planners plan out what they are going to write, sometimes in very fine detail, before they get started. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants, discovering the story just a moment before the words fall onto the page.

I always thought I was a pantser, an idea comes to me which is normally made up of the beginning and the end of the story and I have to discover all the bits in between. The only time I ever write a ‘plan’ is when a story idea comes to me and I’m not ready to write it yet. So I’ll note it down in my plans book so that I can come back and look at it years later and go ‘what the hell did I mean by that?’

I have a story growing in my head right now which I’m really enthusiastic about. I can see the first, second and third chapter already. Every time I let myself think about it, more chapters fall into place. Only problem is that I have no idea how it ends. At last count I had seven ‘started’ novels, some with only 3 chapters written, some with many more.

For all those other ‘started’ novels I know exactly how they end, and yet I still haven’t been able to finish them. This novel I’m currently considering has no end at the moment, so I’m terrified if I embark on it that it will just end up being another unfinished novel. But the pull is so great. It is filling my idle thoughts; I’m seeing it like a movie in my head. I want to write it.

I think we all know what is going to happen. I’m going to start it and there is a good chance it will turn my seven into eight unfinished novels. But I guess I’ll find out if I am a true pantser and if somehow my subconscious mind will find an end for it somewhere along the way.

Exploring facets

Sometimes as a writer you get an idea which fascinates you, so you turn it over in your head to try and find the best way to explore it, but there are so many parts to it that it is hard to pick just one. I think what most of us do at this point is follow the one that stands out the most, and release the other ideas back into the collective unconscious for someone else to discover.

But sometimes you can’t let them go, so you end up writing two (or more) stories with the same starting premise. I have read two John Saul books which had experiments on school children, so I know other writers do it. One of the girls in my writers group has three stories with the same idea; a kid’s version, a young adult version and a dark adult version. All three work, so I can see why she’s done it, but it does beg the question; can you put all of them out into the world?

I’ve always had the attitude of either only sending my favourite out, and keeping the other(s) just for me, or send them all out, and whichever gets published first forces the retirement of the others. I don’t know why I have this attitude, after all, if the stories were different enough for me to write them, then they should be different enough to publish.

I guess I keep thinking back to the John Saul books. In my head they became the one novel, and I really struggled to remember one separate from the other. When I was reading the second novel I kept drawing in background story from the first that didn’t fit, so I kept confusing myself.

I would love to know the experience of others, have you ever had two same-premise stories? If so, did you write them both? If so, did you send them both out? If so, did you cop any flack?

Lonely occupation

I’ve just spent a day at home alone writing. Inspired by the authors at Adelaide Writers Week, I took a day off work to write. By 3pm I was feeling the need to get some words out, and I don’t mean on the page. I limit my conversations with the cat for sanity reasons, so I’ve spoken aloud no more than about three sentences. It isn’t natural.

I’ve contrived a reason for going to the shop, which was hard to do because the milk and bread supplies are all topped up. I hope the checkout assistant is feeling chatty, I have about 5,000 words to spend while I’m out.

This does make me wonder how sustainable a writing life would be for me. My day job requires that I talk (and listen) to people all day. How could I transition to a job where I interact with no-one outside my own head?

Maybe that is why so many writers have speaking engagements and run writing workshops; it’s not about making extra money, it’s about interacting with others. I guess the other option is that I could set up lunch dates each day. Hmmm, I might try that with the next day off.

Adelaide Writers Week 2015

It is that time of year again, when Adelaide opens the gardens and hosts one of the last remaining free writers festivals in Australia. I must confess that this year I have heard of very few of the authors, but then that is the case nearly every year, so I’m sure I’ll discover some new favourites.

Writers week is so valuable because it gives writers an opportunity to mix with their reading public, and for the public to get a chance to get to know the authors. Too often readers assume that a writer is like their lead character, when the truth is the lead character is often an alter ego, and sometimes reflects nothing of the writer’s true self.

It is also interesting to hear what readers ask the writers, once you get past the standard ‘where do you get your ideas’ and ‘how did you get published’. Some questions show just how much a reader thinks about a story long after the book has been finished.

So come along, I’ll be there in the crowd somewhere. I’m sure you will learn something and you may just find your next favourite book.