Chasing Inspiration

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Paperback Writer

"Anyone can write a book. I mean really, how hard can it be?"

If I ever hear those words uttered ever again in my lifetime I swear I'm going to drop-kick someone through a window. I'm not violent by nature but even I have a breaking point.

A friend, who is aware of my rather eclectic taste in reading material, noticed both my wip and a copy of a romance novel I had with me on the table at the coffee shop where she bumped into me. Of all the genres and sub-genres of fiction, romance consistently gets a bum rap. People think its trite, formulaic, easy to write, and often a waste of time. My friend picked up the book, took one look at the title and snorted. Not laughed. Snorted.

Rolling my eyes a little bit, I looked at her and waited for her to explain her outburst. No prompting is necessary, believe me.

"Why do you bother with this? It's all heaving breasts and turgid passion and all that crap. It's not real writing."

Not real writing? Not real writing! You explain to me how developing characters, devising a plot and creating relationships within that plot is not real writing. You explain all the blood, sweat and tears I've put into my work and how it can be anything but hard word and real writing!

Will romance change the world? Probably not, but name one of Oprah's Bookclub novels that ended turmoil in the Middle East or put a stop to world hunger. Romance is what it is. Genre fiction with a formula - a happily ever after ending. You know the main characters will end up together. The interesting part is how. What's their journey. Besides, you tell me that there isn't a "formula" for most genre fiction and I'll have to wash out your mouth. Mysteries are at the core a whodunit. Fantasy novels feature stories set in fanciful, invented worlds, an alternate and more fanciful version of our own world, or in a legendary, mythic past. I could go on.

Romance can contain suspense, comedy, tragedy, mystery, history, fantasy. It can be based anywhere with any combination of character archetypes. Sure, there are poorly written romances - I know, I've suffered through many of them. But there are amazing romances as well! Judith McNaught has written some moving stories, rich in emotion and wit. Nora Roberts is astounding when it comes to creating a sense of place within a story. Emma Holly writes rich plots with such honest and vibrant sensuality you become lost in her worlds. Marjorie M. Liu makes me want to weep with her rich plots and lyrical writing. Patti O'Shea has deftly created worlds that feel just as real as the one we live in now.

These are just a few authors who write wonderful stories. Stories people! Not tomes, epiphanies, diatribes or sagas. No great American novels here. Just stories. Wonderful stories about flawed people.

So I asked Ms. Book Snob if she's ever read a romance. "Nope, wouldn't be caught dead reading them. Unlike you."

Ignoring the slight, I snatched the book from her hands and turned to a section of the story where the two main characters are playing poker. Great details, witty dialogue, a subtle sense of sexual tension. You feel as though you're in the Northwoods cabin during a thunderstorm, sitting at this elegant wood table that seems out of place for a cabin, shuffling cards and shooting the breeze with the hero and the heroine.

Ms. Book Snob's mouth gaped like a guppy. "That could be out of any of the books I read."


Just when I think she's starting to understand, she flicked her hand at my wip and muttered, "This writing thing must be easy. I bet anyone could do it."

No, it's not easy. There are days its not even fun. There are days where the words don't come, the characters don't behave, the scenes are shit and all I want to do is toss the computer off the deck. Then there are days when I write like a woman possessed and laugh with the voices in my head rather than argue. Days when I know the words I've written are golden, forming not just sentences and paragraphs but weaving the tapestry that is my tale. Those days make it all worthwhile. But they don't make it easy. At least not for me.

So, to all the Ms. Book Snobs out there, go ahead. Try to write a book. Try to write a romance. I dare ya! Then you come and tell me just how easy it was. Until then, you have no right to comment. Or complain.

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