Learn to Write Romance: What Inspires the Craft

April 25, 2011

Hands down, consistent reading and daily writing have taught me the most about writing romance novels. However, a few other experiences have sped up the learning curve:

 1.      Books about Craft

On Writing by Stephen King is my favorite, and highly inspirational. I dog ear, underline and nod my way through the pages. There are specific writing tips to put into practice every day, but mostly a read through acts as a pep rally for those times when I’m certain I should quit and find another way to waste the hours.

The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass runs a close second behind the King book. Truthfully, the Maass book contains more practical knowledge (exercises). I see an immediate change in my writing (for the better) when I’m working through this book.

2.      Classes and Workshops

Before You Hit Send (Angela James) opened my eyes to mistakes of overconfidence and simplified my writing, allowing me to hear a rhythm in my words. This workshop, which is packed with far too much information to process the first time around, is a must-take…over and over again.

Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist (Margie Lawson) taught me “atmosphere.” Before this course, I wrote dialogue with little in between. How I love my dialogue! But one line after the other—no matter how brilliant—doesn’t make a sensual experience for the reader. This course taught me how to balance my writing. (But be careful, if you’re like me, you’ll be so thrilled with your new “embellishment” skills that you’ll go overboard and need to de-purple-prose-ify your manuscript.)

The “W” Plot…or the Other White Meat for Plotters® (Karen Docter) is the Sweet Baby Jesus! workshop for synopsis haters. I have read other instruction and taken a workshop specific to writing synopses, and nothing has worked but this one. While I sought out the workshop for the benefits to synopsis writing, I also learned and adopted new and effective plotting techniques, which is quite the miracle for a onetime pantser.

3.      The Good, Old-fashioned Critique Partner (Not that my CP is old. She’s younger than me!)

I’d thought about jumping into the CP relationship off and on over the years. I wanted the insight into my writing, but then again I didn’t. Writing with only one critic is so much easier when the ostrich syndrome has a hold on me. But the longer I wrote, the more I ached for the feedback. I tried an ideal reader (Stephen King does this too!), but she didn’t pack a lot of punch behind her criticism—not the kind that comes from another writing.

I stumbled onto my CP at the Harlequin forums. She was actively looking and posted in the Find a Critique Partner forum, which I perused daily—just in case. I emailed her. We exchanged first chapters as a trial, and the rest is history.

I write for many reasons, not the least of which is publication. For years, I wrote simply to clear my head and for the sheer enjoyment of it. But when publication entered the mix as something more than a niggling dream, I understood that more than reading and writing had to be done. So far, these are the experiences I value the most.

Maybe they can help you too.

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One Response to “Learn to Write Romance: What Inspires the Craft”

  1. taristhread Says:

    Some great advice here!! I’ve read On Writing, by Stephen King, but not The Fire in Fiction, I’ll have to check it out….and I haven’t done any online classes, although I’ve been considering. It’s been years since I had a critique partner…. in fact, it was before I had internet service, so MANY years.

    Good inspiration for a Monday morning, thanks Elley!

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