Friday, September 24, 2010

The discipline of category romance

I was a relative late-comer to category romance. When I picked up a Mills & Boon romance for the first time, I was already an adult and living away from home. I spent one glorious, long English summer reading through the romances on my friend's bookshelf (there really was a summer in England in 1997, promise!) but it was only years later that I got truly hooked on reading category romances.

Now my reading habits have changed so much that I sometimes find longer length novels hard to read!


Because since I started writing myself, I've come to admire the craftsmanship of these 'little' books. Category romance novels pack a punch, and they require a very special set of writing skills. Every word counts in a 50,000 word novel. In a very short space of time you need to engage the reader, establish your setting, reveal your characters and unravel your plot. There is no place for rambling or huge chunks of narrative.

I wish all writers could do an apprenticeship in category before attempting to write longer works. It would teach them a discipline beyond writing for X number of hours per day, or delivering X number of books per year. Because what I've learned to appreciate in category romance is the way that these writers are able to take me on an emotional journey without ever diluting the story's focus.

Imagine a mighty oak tree. No matter how big it gets, or how dense the foliage, the tree's greatest asset is its trunk. Category romance novels are like that trunk. Given higher word counts these novels could be fleshed out certainly, with secondary characters and sub plots, but that tight central core is what makes the story great.

There are many longer, mainstream novels on the shelves that have all sorts of extra padding added but don't have that strong core. They become weeping willows rather than mighty oaks.

Now I need to get back to my WIP and make sure that I've planted an acorn.


Lorraine said...

Interesting post Romy. I definitely agree that learning the craft of category teaches useful lessons about craft and discipline that can then be applied to any writing. It's a shame growing an oak tree seems to take so long though!

Rachel Lyndhurst said...

Nice post, Romy.

Funny isn't it? You spend ages obsessing about increasing your word count and then end up having to cut loads out because you've overrun.

So yes, much discipline is required. As it is with crisps and (to a lesser degree-cough) wine.

Lots of love,


Sally Clements said...

lovely trees!

Suzanne Ross Jones said...

Great post, Romy.


Lacey Devlin said...

Gorgeous pics :) Another great post Romy!

Joanne Coles said...

I'd never thought of category romance this way, Romy, but you're absolutely right. You really do have to follow the trunk of the tree all the way to the top in order to succeed.