Friday, April 8, 2011

Embracing My Obsession

I do not write romances. I write urban fantasy with a romantic subplot. A small sub-plot. Life is about more than love, folks, and I want to write about things that are more important than two teenagers finding their soul-mates in high school, dang it. Like, um, teenagers solving crime. That's more important than love, right? And discovering themselves. I'm sure THAT's more important than love. Self-identity is very important. How can you be true to yourself if you don't know who you are? Right?

Right?

So here's the thing. During my recent reading famine, while I worked very hard on my editing, I finally learned to read books in snippets. No more did I need to devour the whole book--no matter the genre--with single-minded obsession, turning pages as if the turning itself was the accomplishment of an important life goal. Instead, I was living my own life. Writing my own book. I learned to be more selective--if a book hadn't gut-hooked me by page 50, and I found myself able to put it down for days at a time, I no longer force myself to finish it. I simply stop reading.

And then, as inevitably happens after any period of self-deprivation, came the binge. I simply cannot get by without books. It's time I accept that. So, for the last week, while I try to get over my lingering cold, I've been reading like a starving woman in a grocery store. I went to the library, got the books that sounded the absolute best, took them home, and have been reading, reading, reading. It has been very nice. Very cathartic.

Only, I have not been reading urban fantasy. I have not been reading stories of people finding themselves or of solving crime, though those have often been subplots.

I have been reading (don't judge) ROMANCES.

I can't get enough. I am obsessed. I can't put them down long enough to even think of editing my own little urban fantasy. I eat less at dinner (which is good for my weight) so I can leave the table and get back to reading. I stay up late (which is NOT good for my health) trying to get to the next chapter before my husband flips the breaker on my light. (And when he does, I'll just read by the light of my cell phone.) I surf the net less and Twitter less because, let's face it, the books I'm reading are not streaming on Twitter.

Here's the thing about romances: there are no surprises. Not really. By the end of the second chapter, you know how the book will end. Which guy will fall in love with which girl. The genre demands the HEA (Happily Ever After) and the authors (wonderful, wonderful authors) deliver. Over and over again. Browse your library's romance section, pick up a book at random, read the first paragraph of the first chapter, then the first paragraph of the second chapter, and most often, you'll know who is going to marry whom.

And. I. Love it.

I love the feeling of happy inevitability. The joy of being right (even on such a simple question).  The sweet pain of watching a couple who absolutely have to get together suffer as they deny their feelings, or wonder about the other one's feelings, or miscommunicate and make wrong assumptions that drive them apart even as they both pine away for each other. *Swoon*

And here I am, NOT writing romances. Relegating my romantic subplot to the smallest portion of the text I can shoe-horn it into. I'm so dumb.

I'm not saying that I'm going to start writing romances. Not ROMANCE romances. I'm not sure I'd be able to focus a whole plot on boy-meets-girl right now. I need more plot elements to play with, and I really do enjoy the other aspects of the urban fantasy genre. But I'm going try to honor my obsession. I'm going to edit my WIP to insert more romantic pain. I want my readers to know that my MC should be with that boy and be waiting with baited breath for his next scene. To swoon when they kiss. To feel strangely complete when she is with him and discontented when she is not. To feel personally betrayed during that scene where everything she thinks she knows about him turns out to be wrong. (Duh.)

Maybe, if I have more romance in my WIP, I'll finally be able to wrench my attention away from other people's romances and focus on my own. #headdesk #headdesk #headdesk

What about you? Are you writing the books you most like to read? Do you have a secret reading habit you try to deny? Which elements should you be using more in your own WIP?

18 comments:

  1. I love to read romances, but I especially like to read books that just have a strong romantic element. There are times, like you recently, where I just cannot get enough. But I love to read a lot of different books--but most have some kind of romantic element. Right now I'm reading The Princess of the Sword (romantic fantasy where the romance is integral to the story but there's a ton of other stuff going on), The Way of Kings (where there is romance sprinkled in as you know), and Starship Troopers where there is no romance at all (though there are hints there could be and is the true basis for why men fight anyway). Having read your book, I love that you're going to put more romance in it. =D

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  2. Oh, good. I was wondering if my alpha readers would be relieved or confused. :) I shouldn't have worried--you're all very smart. :-D

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  3. LOL! I love the hashtags, BTW! I'm a very ecclectic reader, and romances are one of my fave genres for all of the reasons you've stated. When I first started writing, I had a very lirerary slant to my voice. But I loved romance so much that everything I penned had very strong romantic elements. Sadly, I just can't stay within the "romance" rules. So it eneded up that I was writing literary love stories. There's nothing wrong w/reading romance, at all! Like you say, they are very talented authors. Heavens knows I tried to learn the tricks of their trade and just couldn't fit them into my voice. But, that said, we can learn from them. Like you said, adding more romance to a MS, (esp a YA) is only going to make it better. So I think you're on the right track, Robin! I'm not twittering this weekend, but when I get back on monday, I'm RTing this post. It's excellent.

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  4. I like romantic subplots and all my story ideas come with an element of (usually messed-up) romance but I haven't read any romance novels because I think I wouldn't enjoy them for the reasons you state: there are no surprises and there's always a HEA. I'll see when romance month rolls around, maybe I'm secretly a horrible romantic and I don't need to cling to the 'realism' of heartbreak, or banal relationships!
    - Sophia.

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  5. Confession : I struggled with my WIP because it was crossing multiple genres and involved massive world building beyond my newbie novelist capability. I gave up. My instructor had me reexamine the parts of my story that were working and that I liked the best. Stripped down my WIP looked like a romance novel. I was petrified. I have read only a handful of the genre (Nicholas Sparks referred by my wife and the final Twilight book to see how it ended after watching the three movies with my wife). Turns out I'm writing a romance now, and still uncomfortable saying it out loud. It's not a sex based romance but it is completely focused on the character struggle to find and keep love. Oh well.

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  6. Anita--thanks! I can use all the RTing I can get. Isn't romance awesome?

    Sophia--my favorite romance authors are in the sidebar: Robyn Carr, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Jennifer Crusie. Check them out and report back. Inevitable HEA can be VERY good--at least as a primer for your subplots. :)

    Josh--I think a male tax attorney who writes romances is a very cool concept! :) Can't wait to read it! :)

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  7. So far, almost 300 pages into my WIP, the story my wife and I are writing is exactly the type of novel that I like to read. I like an easy to read novel that draws you in. Is very easy to follow, but little seed threads sowed into the book in preparation for sub-sequent books.

    Basically, what I like about books are books with great plots, which is why one of my reading interests in classical literature. Those classical authors knew how to write great characters and great plots.

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  8. Oh, sure, Eric. I confess my obsession for romances and you confess your love of classical literature. Way to make me look bad, cousin. :)

    I think, at the end of the day, if we can write books we ourselves would love to read, we're well on our way. (Bonus points if others want to read them, too, of course.)

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  9. Great post, Robin. I must admit, I cringed at the thought of all that romance. And then I thought about what I like to read and write... like you, I love urban fantasy but my other greatest genre? Chick Lit. Otherwise known as... yes, you've guessed it. ROMANTIC comedy. Duh. You're not dumb, Robin. Not really. But if you are, I am too!

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  10. Suzy--I love chick lit. You should definitely add a little romantic comedy to your urban fantasy. Read MaryJanice Davidson to find out how. http://www.maryjanicedavidson.net/

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  11. I'm totally with you. My betas had to literally twist my arm to get me to add any romance into my first book at all. I've always relegated it to the back burner, but romance is a pretty darn strong plot element that shouldn't be disregarded in any storyline.

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  12. Jenn--it sounds so obvious, doesn't it? I'm always disappointed when I read a book without a romantic subplot. I've always loved romance in whatever I read. And yet, here I am, blindly ignoring my favorite element. Say it with me: DUH!

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  13. Thanks for the link to Mary Janice Davidson's website, Robin! The funny thing is, I'd actually come across her books on the Book Depository... they're in my Wish List!!! Great to actually get a recommendation, as I'd just liked the look of them!
    Now I know to definitely buy them! Thanks : )

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  14. Suzy--LOL! The Undead series is an awesome blend of chick-lit and urban fantasy. Brace yourself, though--the most recent book took a turn that felt like a punch to the gut. She's promised we can trust her, and I'm going to read the next one... but MAN!

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  15. Awww, I love this! I love that you've found something you didn't know you loved so much, and now you're letting your writing grow from that. It's exciting and inspiring! I've read some romances lately, and I quite like them, too. Especially if I need an escape. It just depends on my mood. I'm more of a realist, though, so I'm often annoyed by any relationships that don't feel very realistic. Still, romance definitely has it's place in my heart. Good luck with your WIP! :)

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  16. Michelle--the really dumb part is that I KNEW I loved romances. I've loved them for years. I have no excuse for my romance-as-a-minor-subplot attitude. I'm even good at suspending a lot of disbelief (though it's better if the romance is realistic). Romance is pure escapism. So wonderful.

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  17. I tried writing romance for a while, but I always liked the "B" plot--the not romance plot better than the "A" plot--the romance. But I do like some romance in a story.

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  18. LOL--I like reading romance no matter which plot it is. Still, I think in writing, my romance plot should be B... not D. :)

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