Tag Archives | romance

Working Your Genre to Improve Your Writing

annabench-shakespeare-paris-1147326-hBack in my early writing days, genre was a dirty word.  “Oh, she writes genre romances,” someone would sniff.  Or, “Well, you know, it’s just a genre mystery.”

My, how things have changed.

Though not everyone apparently approves or even wants to admit it, the lines between genres (or more to the point, between genre and mainstream) are blurring.  Agent Donald Maass wrote a book  about this a few years ago.  Time magazine has covered the genre bending and so has, gasp, the New Yorker (they came out against it, no surprise).  And even a star such as Ursula LeGuin has weighed in, saying that literature is “the extant body of written art.  All novels belong to it.”  Check out the New York Times bestseller list on any given week and you’ll see that it is often dominated by genre.

So, to me, there’s no doubt about it—genre is the new black.  Okay, sorry, I had to go there.  Even literary fiction is considered a genre now, as is my favorite category, and what I write, women’s fiction.  (Where is the “men’s fiction” you ask.  Excellent question.  It is somewhat of a point of contention that women’s fiction must be labeled as such while men’s fiction is just considered literature.)

Here’s a pretty good map  that will give you a good idea of just how far the country of genre extends (though I think their non-fiction categories are rather limited.)  And for a really extensive list, including some I’ve never heard of, go to our old buddy Wikipedia.

My real interest in this post is to explore how working within the confines of your genre can improve your writing.  For years, as evidenced by the kinds of statements I used to hear, genre writers were considered hacks.  Now, with the proliferation of writers and writing styles, genre is a useful tool that differentiates various styles for readers.  And you can and should use it to your advantage.  Here are what I see as the benefits to working your genre:

 

  1. Passion. Most people start writing a particular genre because they love to read it.  If you don’t love reading your genre, and try to force yourself to write in it just because it is popular, that will show.  (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to write YA to no avail.) But on the flip side, if you love romance or women’s fiction, the words will come easily to you. (Or maybe I should say easier.)  Let your passion flow and it will deepen the worlds your create, no matter what genre.

 

  1. Expertise. Embracing your favored genre will give you experience and knowledge.  Rather than trying to write whatever is popular, or what you think you “should” write, allow yourself to sink deeply into one genre.  Read widely in the field, not just other novels, but craft books as well.  And write like crazy. Soon you’ll have all the tropes of the field down pat.  James Scott Bell has an excellent tutorial on this at the beginning of his book, Revision and Self-Edition for Publication.

 

  1. Structure. Genre novels have ready-made structures, which is part of the appeal of reading and writing them. For a mystery you need a body (most of the time) and an investigator that people want to spend time with.  For a romance, you want star-crossed lovers.  For science fiction, you’ll need the future or a unique world.  The point is that you’ve got conventions established and waiting for you.

 

  1. Transcend.  Once you have mastered the lay of the land you can go farther and make the genre your own.  BUT ONLY AFTER YOU’VE MASTERED THE BASICS.  I’ve always thought that a mystery needed a body up front, as close to the beginning of the book as possible. But nowadays I read mysteries that don’t even have murders.  Don’t try this at home, folks, until you have mastered every aspect of the genre.

 

  1. Meld. Similar to #3, once you’ve learned the basics you can blend and shape your genre your own by mixing it with others. Kate Atkinson’s mysteries, for instance are to cozies as a chocolate cake is to a piece of peppermint candy.  That’s because she blends in elements of literary fiction in her writing style and focus on character.

 

  1. Readers. As in, you’ll likely get lots of them. Genre readers are the most avid on the planet, which makes them a particularly satisfying field to write in. And a writer can learn a lot from which books do well with their target audience and which fall flat.

 

  1. Fun. This takes up back to #1.  If you enjoy a particular genre, there’s nothing that’s going to give you more pleasure than writing it.  And, remember, we do this for fun, people! If you’re not enjoying your writing, you might want to go get a job in a dentist’s office.

 

Do you write genre? Why did you choose the genre you write in?  Please weigh in!

Photo by austinevan.

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Cover Reveal: Swept Up by Kayla Dawn Thomas

I am so excited to introduce you to debut author Kayla Dawn Thomas and to have the privilege of showing off her new cover!  Kayla Dawn and I met and made friends on Twitter (see?  It is much more than just a waste of time) and I've loved reading her tweets about the progress of her novel.  Scroll down and read my interview with Kayla Dawn after you admire her cover!

So….drum roll please….

Ready?

Here we go….

Swept Up

by Kayla Dawn Thomas

May 13, 2014

Thomas_SWEPT_UP_EbookEdition

SYNOPSIS

A broken heart and a preference for solitude leads Web Baker to driving a street sweeper on the night shift for Basil City. His mother wants grandchildren, and his sister is intent on fixing him up with every dimwitted beauty she can find. Add that to the late night antics Web encounters on his nightly shifts and he has more than enough excitement to keep him on his toes, but nothing could prepare him for the woman who stumbles into his sweeper’s headlights. Kara Deleray has been fighting for her freedom since she fled her overbearing parents’ home at eighteen. Trouble is, she never learns how to be herself, leading to a lifetime of bad decisions. She hits rock bottom and ends up moving in with her best friend and her husband and manages to land a job teaching English at Basil State University. Kara is finally pulling her life together when a whiskey soaked night gets out of hand, sending her straight into the oncoming lights of a street sweeper.

INTERVIEW WITH KAYLA DAWN THOMAS 

–Tell us a little bit about Swept Away. It's a romance, right?

It is a romance! I'm a deep down, true blue romantic, so it's no surprise that's where my writing has gone. Kara is a hot mess. She’s smart, but she doesn't trust herself. She comes from a troubled background that she can never seem to quite overcome. Instead of going through the pain of figuring herself out, she just goes along with whomever she’s with and makes choices to numb her frustration. Web is Kara’s opposite. He knows who he is. He’s a fixer, so he’s drawn to broken people. His struggle is to figure out how to love Kara without becoming just another person telling her what to do.

–What inspired you to write it?

A couple of things. First, I was struggling to find my way as a new stay at home mom. I needed something to challenge my brain. That was the birth of Kara, who is also looking for herself. I was able to work through a lot of things while I was writing Kara. Second, I became fascinated with the street sweeper that rolled by our house on a regular basis. It’s silly but, the idea of driving a vacuum cleaner just seemed cool, and as far as I know nobody has written about someone who makes a living driving a sweeper. Thus, Web was created.

–Why did you decide to go the indie publishing route?

I want to work for myself. I don't want my writing to be on someone else's timeline, or have to wait for permission or approval to publish. The industry has evolved so much over the years, that it's pretty simple to assemble a professional team to help you get your book out. So far, I love the process, and I'm grateful for my degree in Public Relations. I always wondered how I was going to put that to work!

–What's been the best thing about being indie? The worst thing?

The best thing–freedom! I love calling the shots on my work. The worst thing–learning the ropes. Which, means this is just going to get easier! I'm so grateful to all the people I've met over the last year who were kind enough to answer my questions.

–What's a typical day like for you?

I'm a stay at home mom, so every day is a little different. Some days I go to the gym when my daughter goes to school, some days I'm volunteering at the school. I've been trying to devote as much of my day as possible to writing while she's gone. I've learned I have trouble sitting at my desk for more than thirty minutes at a time, so I work in spurts. I'll write for 30-40 minutes, then get up and switch laundry or something like that. I'm more productive in sprints versus marathons.

–Plans for future projects?

I am so excited for my next novel! I grew up on a cattle ranch way out in the boonies. While I didn't appreciate the experience as a kid, I realized now what a gift it was. Tackling Summer takes me back home. The setting is based off the ranch’s summer range in Idaho, and is one of the most beautiful places on earth. It’s a great place to fall in love.

–Any advice for writers–on writing or publishing?

Don't wait! Just get busy and make it happen. I also encourage those looking at the indie route to seek out professional editors and cover artists. Being an indie writer doesn't mean you do every little thing yourself. It's impossible to catch your own mistakes, and not all of us are great visual artists. You want your work to be it's best, so hire out the things you don't excel at. Not only will your finished product be better, you will free up more time to write!

You can learn more about Kayla Dawn on her website.  

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Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior

EmmaJeanCoverFinal

My novel available now! 

Buy from Amazon.

Buy from Powell’s.

Buy from Barnes and Noble.

“I have three kids under the age of 5 but I managed to finish this book in under a week because I couldn’t put it down.”  Molly, 5 Star Amazon Review

“This well-written, funny, poignant, amazing book has opened up a whole new fiction genre for this lover of dystopian fiction.”  Samantha, 5 Star Amazon Review

“I just spent a weekend with Emma Jean and had such fun!” Jenni, 5 Star Amazon Review

Here’s the synopsis:

At age 48 (43 according to her blog, Life, Full Tilt) best-selling novelist Emma Jean Sullivan has longed for a baby for years, but after she and her husband Peter are unable to conceive, she staunchly vows to become the standard bearer for all childless couples. And she succeeds spectacularly. Emma Jean’s novels, up until recently, have sold millions, and she enjoys a rabid baby-hating fan base. But now she confronts a dilemma larger than any her heroines have faced: she’s pregnant. And the baby’s father is not her husband.

Through no fault of her own (he was just so damned adorable), she began a passionate affair with Riley, a fetching airplane mechanic she met at a book signing in LA. The rapturous relationship reorders her priorities, and she realizes that her life isn’t quite so blissful as she formerly believed, though she struggles valiantly to maintain her marriage and her sham brand throughout her wrenching travails.

Her husband is busy embezzling Emma Jean’s money and completely uninterested in fatherhood, and her lover has his hands full with problems of his own. Not only that, her latest novel is a miserable failure, and a Vanity Fair reporter, who plans to out Emma Jean’s pregnancy to her fans, is stalking her. What’s a suddenly broke, failing, middle-aged pregnant novelist to do? Why, flee to a glamorous resort town, of course. There, Emma Jean seeks privacy to figure out her next move—and finds unexpected spiritual and emotional solace.

 And don’t forget–we authors love reviews!  Please consider taking a few minutes to write a review (not just for me, but for all authors.)

 

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