Category vs. Single Title Romance

June 13, 2011

I started reading romance in my teens. Back then, I devoured glitzy, single-title contemporaries written by Judith McNaught. I strayed from her list to read a Danielle Steele novel or two. In truth, I didn’t realize anything else existed.

By the time I started writing romance, I was familiar with a few more authors, but single title was what I equated with romance novels. It never dawned on me to write anything other than 100K words in multiple POVs.

But then I read my first category romance.

As a reader of single titles, I’ve been known to skip large portions of the story where the H&H are not featured. I’ve missed entire subplots, refusing to read the extraneous materials and simply using my imagination to fill in the blanks if necessary. Admittedly, it’s not the best way to read a book, and knowing some readers do this would probably make some authors cry.

Huge portions. Page after page. I’d skim. Read a sentence or two. And then I’d skip to where the H&H were the focus of the story again.

Imagine my surprise when I read my first category romance and never left the hero’s or heroine’s head. I couldn’t believe I’d spent so many years skipping pages in fat books only to find skinny books that removed the fluff for me.

I had to write one of these “condensed” novels. I had to see if writing one suited me as well as reading one.

Of course, it did. For awhile. But then I felt something happening inside of me.

So many of the category romances I read today are “drive-by romances.” They are quick reads that leave fleeting impressions on my heart. Sometimes, I don’t even get to know the H&H enough to fall in love with them. And that leaves me unsatisfied.

I’ve read category romances where the author is able to transport me into a deeper experience, and those books are my favorite—but they are far and few between.

As a writer of category romance, I think I know why—at least in my case—it’s easy to write a book that doesn’t leave a lasting impression. It’s hard to keep the magic alive when you’re worried about line constraints. And with so few prominent publishers of category romance, it’s easy to get tunnel vision, focusing on one house, one line, one opportunity.

Recently, I turned back to reading single-title contemporaries to see if older and wiser now I’m ready for a stab at something broader.  (Okay. This is a really simple statement on a topic I’ve been struggling with for months. See this post for oodles of backstory.) I find I’m still not an automatic fan of multiple POV. My first instinct is to skip over those parts—skim them at the very least. And when my e-reader shows more than 350 pages in a book, I grimace. (Gees, I don’t have all day.) But the sheer number of magical moments between the H&H in a single-title contemporary keep me coming back for more.

I wouldn’t say I’m ready to write single-title. I have other issues to conquer first. (I write short, remember? And I have at least one more category stuck in my head.) But I’m thinking about it.

When I read these days, I’m on the hunt for category romances that leave an impression on my heart and single-title contemporaries with only the hero’s and heroine’s POVs. These are the books I want to read. These are the books I want to write.

Which do you prefer to read and/or write: category or single-title? Why?

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One Response to “Category vs. Single Title Romance”

  1. Tari Says:

    I read them both. It really depends on my mood and time. I love a category romance for a quick light read, or a single title and a single title when I have time for something more in depth.

    And to write, I’m starting with a category, but I have a couple of single title’s burning in my heart, so we’ll see!!

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