Monthly Archives: June 2017

Tripping Over Tropes, Part One: Romance

“What kind of books do you write?”

I’ve always resisted attempts to fence me in—not a good trait in a writer who wants to sell books.

I want to write, and read, stories of adventure, love, domesticity, revenge, creative self-fulfillment, murder, introspection, friendship, and vanquishing evil. The thread running through my favorite stories is the sympathetic, realistic protagonist who defies expectations to make a fresh start.

Wise writing mentors tell us: You’ve got to know whom you’re writing for and what sort of book experience she wants. You’ve got to know which shelf your book is going to land on. Romance readers expect certain things, as do mystery fans, women’s fiction fans, etc.

Who doesn’t love a good love story? Most books I’ve loved have a strong romantic element woven into the plot. And I love romance’s optimism—you know there’s a happy ever after coming, no matter how bad things get for our heroine. Life outside the book covers (especially politics) provides plenty of doom and gloom.

But my recent efforts to read good romance novels have led to a big pile of unfinished books. I like my characters believable, my heroines smart and brave. So far, I’ve found very few women like that between the covers of romance novels. Of course, an interesting heroine will have insecurities and past failures–everyone does–but she won’t be a quivering puddle of self-doubt.

I also love steamy sex scenes—in the context of a relationship, of course—but most of the sex scenes I’ve read so far sound like they were written by guys, or by women who’ve never had an actual orgasm. And romance tales about instant love? She sees him across the room and melts into a quivering puddle of desire and love, knowing he’s the one and only for her, forever and ever, amen. Yeah—that doesn’t happen. That level of love comes only after a slow build-up of getting to know the guy—and that build-up is what I want to read/write.

Oh, and domineering males? Can’t stand ‘em. I’ve never longed for some handsome guy to show up and boss me around. What’s up with that? I don’t care if he’s a bazillionaire—don’t tell me what to do, Bud! So much for the alpha hero.

And inexperienced, sweet young things? Meh. In real life, that rosy first kiss of maidenhood seldom results in lasting love. I’d like to read about mature women finding love after the first blush of youth.

So perhaps I’m not cut out to write romance fiction. Except all my daydreams, all those elaborate tales I’ve spun since I was a wee maid, have all centered around falling in love. That sort of story is calling to me. I guess I’ll keep writing them, and hope there are readers out there who want to read about love that could actually happen.

Can you recommend a trope-defying, believable romance novel?

An At-Home Writer’s Retreat

What’s an introvert to do?

I’m not a mole-woman who never emerges from her writing cave, but I do need a hefty portion of alone time every day for my writing, as well as solitary time just to process my thoughts and feeling and settle into my own rhythm–not to mention checking social media for cute puppy memes.

Whereas hubs, whom I love to the moon and back, needs more social contact, both from me and from others. He’s supportive of my writing, but living with a partner means I have to leave my office from time to time—often just when the writing’s flowing. And while errands and other projects give us the chance to reconnect, they often end with me grumbling about the writing time I’ve missed.

Enter the golf trip! Last week, D met two old friends for a week of golfing and male bonding, leaving me alone at home to write, write, write. It was marvelous! I had a few social meetups with friends, but otherwise kept my own company for eight days. Never have I been so productive!

I spent most of the week at my desk, wearing exercise clothes, typing away madly. When my head began to buzz and my body to ache from too much sitting, I’d go for a walk, then pour another cup of coffee and mount a fresh attack.

In that time, I finished reading Lisa Cron’s Story Genius and doing the exercises therein for half-finished mystery novel. What a revelation! If, like mine, your stories are overpopulated with characters and subplots, if your pacing drags, I highly recommend her techniques. It took me about three weeks to work through all these exercises, but the story is now so much more intense, so much tighter.

Sure, if money were not a concern I’d go find a wind-swept coastal cabin to hole up and write for a week, but I wouldn’t have been any more productive, any more at peace. A week alone at home was all I needed to clean out my pipes, rebalance my attitude, and shut down my grumbling. Not to mention how glad I am to see Hubs again.

Vive la staycation!

Never give up! Never surrender!

June is truly bustin’ out all over. (Bonus points if you can name that musical) Here in Tacoma, Washington, we’re enjoying intermittent spurts of lovely summer weather, punctuated by bouts of drizzle.

Tacoma’s Chinese Reconciliation Park

Once again, we welcome a new month with a blog hop from the Insecure Writers’ Support Group. Here’s their mission statement and a link, should you care to join the conversation. Please do!

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

Thank you to this month’s co-hosts, JH Moncrieff, Madeline Mora-Summonte, Jen Chandler, Megan Morgan, and Heather Gardner!

June 7th IWSG Day Question: Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing? My answer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fdcIwHKd_s

Seriously, I’ve never given up writing, though I have put a project on the back burner when my daily life became overstuffed with job/family demands. Speaking of…

In a recent online discussion over at the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, (another fine group I highly recommend to writers in that genre), some wise writer said, “We’re all just working out our own stuff.”

So, I have this protagonist named Lola. She’s fifty-five, and is my fictional role model. At least, that’s how she began. But a gleaming, perfect role model isn’t as interesting to read about as someone with problems—lots of relatable, complicated problems, with roots deep in her past.

I’ve recently worked my way through Lisa Cron’s game-changing craft book Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel. Her main point: Story is not about what happens, it’ about what those events mean to the protagonist, and how they cause her to change.

I’m using Cron’s techniques to rework a half-completed novel, and it’s coming together in ways that have eluded me until now. I can now see a steady march of cause and effect based on Lola’s inner conflict in the story. Huzzah!

But in digging into Lola’s past and her mistaken beliefs, I’m seeing unsettling parallels to my own, ahem, issues. Up until now, I’ve believed that Lola was connected to me only by a few superficial details: hair shade, retired teacher, love of belly dancing, artistic pursuits. But in creating a more fleshed-out inner conflict for her, I’m having epiphany after epiphany.

For example: Lola has not spent as much time as she’d like on her artistic pursuits, and she’s blamed the demands of job and family. Of course, this leads to resentment about those demands. Zounds, that’s me!

Writing is therapeutic, but until this experience I’ve thought of that truth mostly in terms of writing in a journal, or creative non-fiction. It turns out that I’ve actually been processing lots of my own internal conflicts via my fiction.

Well, duh! I don’t call myself a late-blooming rose for nothing. Do you see reflections of yourself in your fictional characters?