Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Romance-Writing Career that Wasn't

Monday night, Dan and I went to the monthly Fiction Talks meeting of aspiring writers living in western North Carolina. The speaker was a fellow who had recently begun a career in the world of writing romance novels. He gave us all sorts of advice on how to start our own romance-writing careers. He also showed us a couple of "bookshorts" his company had produced for a couple of romance authors. The "bookshort" was a kind of five-minute commercial for the book, something you could send to a publisher or a potential agent on an easily viewable DVD.

Not a bad idea--the DVD, I mean. A pretty darn good idea, in fact. I was impressed; the "bookshort" was a sort of "book video" (like a music video for a song). You can see an example of his work here. Just scroll to the bottom of the page and click the link.

Now, about romance novels ... they (whoever "they" are) say that aspiring writers generally choose one of two types of writing careers in order to support their more "literary" (and generally less lucrative) writing habits: technical writing or paperback romance writing. Two very different beasts, indeed.

Since I'm decidedly more of a mushy emotional person than a clear-minded and logical technical person, I decided I would write romance novels, so I bought a bunch of paperbacks and Xeroxed pages and pages of romance publishers' guidelines (this was pre-Internet) before heading to Gulf Shores for several days of solitary reading, note-taking, and the like. (I'd never read romance novels ... so I figured I should learn what I was getting into, as well as learn from those who were successful at it.)

Unfortunately, I didn't like the first book. At all. Didn't like the second one, either. The third one, about a medieval knight who goes forward in time to the 20th century and learns how to act and dress by reading GQ magazine, was so badly written that I didn't know if I should laugh or cry. The fourth one, a Danielle Steele, was easily the best of the bunch ... but, honestly, it didn't do a whole lot for me either. Maybe I am a snob, but after two days, I found myself at the local used book store, desperately searching the shelves for a good Thomas Hardy or Jane Austen novel.

But I didn't get one. Back to the condo and my romance-reading project.

By the time I'd read 10 or 12 paperback romances, I realized that I was not going to be able to write romance novels. I just didn't like the genre. I'm not against sex in books, if it's performed by complex and interesting characters in equally complex and interesting situations (like Mellors and Lady Chatterley). But 21st-century paperback Harlequin-type romance? And the plots were so formulaic, and the conversations and descriptions laden with cliches. I just couldn't do it. More power to those who can write these books for a living and enjoy it. I'm sticking to my cushy tech-writing day job and the creative-writing-whenever-I-can-squeeze-it-in lifestyle for now. No "paperback writer" career for me.

Even though, according to Monday night's speaker, who was clearly a very intelligent and nice man, I could make three times what I'm making if I wrote romance novels.

Hmmm .... maybe I can get ideas for characters' names from Cousin Drew's blog ...


emily said...

I really liked the information on your blog about technical writing I have my own technical writing exposedblog if you would like to come and see what I have on mine

Rolo said...

I really liked the info on your site about Technical Writing - nice work. I've just started my own Technical Writing Secrets blog and would really appreciate you stopping by

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