Beginning Romance Writing Again
By Beth Barany
After writing two novels (one a historical novel, and one a romance that was grand adventure, mostly), I decided I was really an adventure writer, so wrote Henrietta The Dragon Slayer, a YA epic fantasy novel, Book 1 in a series. I published it myself in 2011, and even won a Grand Prize for it in 2012 in a California Independent Author Fiction contest. Woohoo!
But I never lost my love of romance, and read it as avidly as I read fantasy. Now I'm trying my hand again at romance novella.
So I feel like I'm beginning again and have had to take stock of what I knew and what I needed support on. While you read my list, note for yourself what you already know and what you need support on. I'll also list some resources for each of these elements. Because I'm always learning I may have forgotten some elements of writing a romance, so please add them into the comments. Thanks!
As a fantasy writer, I spend a lot of time thinking about my new and wonderful world. I keep a word document with all the facts, lore, and history. For my novella, I call it a Wiki, because I think that's cool. As questions come up for me, I also list them here. Since I've also taught on this topic, I have a cool handout on world building topics I can send you if you write me http://bethbarany.com/contact.html.
Since I'm writing a paranormal romance, where my modern day heroine travels to 13th century France, to a town that is building their cathedral, world building isn't that different than when I write fantasy, except now I can use the Internet instead of my imagination for many of the world building facts. Well, I'll still be using my imagination about the magic.
So a brief spiel on the Rules of Magic: You get to decide on the level of scarcity, magic's difficulty, and the price of it to the magic's users.
Btw, I'm now using Scrivener to write this story, and keep all my world building notes handy. I like Scrivener because I can load up pictures, maps, and web links. Best of all, everything is in one place.
Plot & Story Structure
This is where I'm the weakest, no matter what the genre. One tool I've recently tried and enjoyed is a synopsis tool in beta by award-winning author, Patricia Simpson. (She's also one of my awesome critique partners.) Her beta tool helped me think about the theme of my novella: Trust, and to wrap the inner and outer conflicts through this theme. Her tool, Synopsis Maker, is here: http://www.patriciasimpson.com/PlotSpinner/snapsynopsis.aspx.
I love creating my stories from my characters. But I notice that when I'm about a quarter to half way into my story, I've lost sight of my characters a little. I've gotten carried away by the new plot points I've come up with, because, yep, I'm a seat-of-the-pants writer, mostly. So I go back to my character notes (Scrivener is great for this!) and revisit the useful character tools of Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. For a resource, so visit the book by Deb Dixon on this title, Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. It's cheapest to get it directly from the publisher, Gryphon Books for Writers: http://www.gryphonbooksforwriters.com/.
(Thank you Deb, for bringing this powerful tool to us!)
Romance, Intimacy, & Sex
I'm leaving the hardest bit for me the last. As I dive back into writing romance, I'm reminded to revisit the 12 stages of intimacy. Here's a good summary post by author Terry Odell: http://terryodell.blogspot.com/2010/03/12-steps-to-intimacy.html. I'm brushing up on this topic because I know I love writing about intimacy, but not so interested about writing about sex. My big question as I finish this novella is how do I write in a deliciously sensual and yummy way that doesn't bore me or make me uncomfortable. Any tips and resources welcome!
So, while I've written fantasy and dabbled in historical fiction, and feel confident in many aspects of writing, writing romance is new again for me. I look forward to getting comfortable and making the genre my own.
Beth Barany is a novelist of the award-winning YA fantasy, Henrietta The Dragon Slayer. The second book in the series is due out Spring 2013. Sign up for Beth's newsletter at her author site: http://author.bethbarany.com and enter her current fun Giveaway. The romance novella as part of an anthology will be out later this year.