At Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference a couple of years ago, I attended a workshop taught by an acquisitions editor for Harlequin’s Love Inspired line. After putting on my wig, baseball cap, and sunglasses, I slunk into the chapel and slouched down in the seat. God forbid any serious writers saw me in a romance writing workshop. I’d lose all my street cred as a women’s fiction author.
Once upon a time, I looked with derision on those men and women who chose to write sappy romance novels. How hard could it be to create two characters who should be together, but because of obstacles hurled in their way, can’t get together until the final chapter. Easy, peasy, extra cheesy.
What I learned at that workshop astounded me. Love Inspired releases six books a month. Six books. Seventy-two a year! They sign their authors to two-and-three-book contracts. Wait, what?
Visions of contracts, large advances, and huge royalty checks swirled in my brain. Surely I could write one of those books. It would be my foot in the door as a fiction author.
I dreamed up two great main characters, Dale, an FBI agent, and Mark, a rancher. Side note: men in cowboy hats or in uniform are favorite romance book tropes. I had a suspenseful plot with lots of bold action. Love Inspired Suspense, watch out. “Lipstick and Gunpowder” would be their next breakout novel.
Until it wasn’t. The book was rejected. It wasn’t that the writing was bad, it just “Doesn’t fit our model.” Notice I said the book was rejected, not I was rejected. But that’s another blog post.
Finishing that book was a months-long lesson learned. Writing romance is hard. Creating believable characters and creating the tension between them requires a ton of work. Your dialogue has to be so strong the reader knows who’s talking without using a dialogue tag. The romance piece must tip toe around the physical aspects of a relationship, especially in Christian fiction, to avoid being prurient. Your characters must be fully formed, 3-D, and likable.
Writing romance is not for the faint of heart.
My friend and fellow author, Jim Rubart, says that he can tell all about you by your three favorite movies. Here are mine:
- The Proposal
- Christian Mingle
I liked to label myself as a “Women’s Fiction Author.” However, as a very good friend recently pointed out, I write romance. A few years ago I would have scoffed at the label. But check out the list of my favorite movies. Yup, all romances. Oh, and throw in a fourth – Young Frankenstein. Again, everyone ends up married at the end. Well, except for Igor.
But the point is, don’t discount the hard work it takes to stuff a love story or a suspenseful love story into 55,000 words. You are a serious writer. Don’t let anyone (like me) tell you anything different.