Friday, December 12, 2008

serial writing

The book that I'm writing now is single title. At 400 pages or so, there's no doubt about it. But remember - my goal is to be published - so my next book is going to be a category romance. I WILL get my foot in that door.

Like many romance readers out there, I cut my teeth on the category romance. Starting with those old '70s Mills & Boon before I hit my teens and graduating into Harlequin Blaze of the new millennium right before grad school. When I went back to reading, it was all about the single title.

But let's be honest here, because this blog, if nothing else, is about my honest feelings regarding writing in this industry--the formulas that have served categories so well bore the avid reader. Interestingly though, I don't think Harlequin et al is especially interested in the avid reader. They are interested in delivering a good enough romance to the occasional reader who will come back for more, hoping to find that one story that gives them butterflies in their stomach... just like that other book did four months ago.

Keep delivering Good Enough and the occasional reader keeps coming back. I keep coming back, and I am the avid reader. But now I'm coming back for a reason. I'm trying to dissect these books, deconstruct the formulas so I can replicate them for myself, only 'harder, better, faster, stronger.' However, now that I'm reading so many of them, I find myself doing a lot more editorial reading and a lot less enjoyable reading, simply because category romances are less enjoyable in bulk.

Oddly, I don't find this with single title books. I can read them hand over fist and not get tired, so long as I move from author to author. But the voices in the various series are so watered down and so pushed into a mold, that it's getting harder and harder to find that fresh new author where you just want to glom their entire backlist because somehow, within the formula, they still manage to say the same damn thing in a whole new and intersting way.

In the past 3 weeks I've started two books in Silhouette's Romantic Suspense line that I simply couldn't stand to continue reading. The first one had a heroine's son kidnapped by the big, bad guy who thought he was the daddy. The heroine had been abused by the guy during her time with him, had run from him, was in hiding from him, and when her son was kidnapped, she went back to him. I don't like to say this, because I know that I will have to resort to some sort of weak plot twist myself eventually, but why didn't she CALL THE DAMN POLICE??? So what if her ex is powerful? Grow a pair and demand your rights. Ugh. I was so glad that was a library book and I hadn't spent money on it.

The other Romantic Suspense I started had a cast of characters of over ten people on the page before Chapter One. I am not a stupid woman. I am not so casual a reader that I can't keep a hero, heroine, and the important people in their lives separate for a mere two-hundred pages. But apparently this author is ... okay, let me take that back. I don't know if it's the author or the editors, because it's not the first time I've seen an introductory cast of characters. So let me say it this way instead - if the writer cannot intoduce the character in such a way that we know who they are, why they matter and what relevance they have to the story, then maybe the work needs to be attended to a bit longer before it goes to publication. I lasted fifteen pages. (skimming ahead, they were still on the same night the book started on by page 145 - it was a good choice to bail)

Shouldn't Romatic Suspense hook you from page one? I (try to) read them because I'm not the best plotter, I need to see how successful authors create a tight plot, drop their clues, flash their red herrings. But it's also a romance, I want to care about the chracters, I want to be rooting for their HEA. In the two books mentioned above, I could not possibly have cared less whether those two characters found love in each other. That's a shame. I wonder if maybe suspense just doesn't belong in category format?

I've been reading a number of Silhouette Desire books as well. God I used to love them. They've changed. Ahem. I'm trying to see if the Blaze line will work for my writing style. If not, I have a few Special Editions in my TBR and a box of books purchased second hand that contain Presents and Americans as well. Somewhere in there will be a line that I can win over.

Currently reading: All or Nothing
Currently reading: Forbidden Pleasure

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