I watched a documentary on Sunday (thanks for spotting it Dave!) called How To Write A Mills And Boon. I was interested because it’s something that my mother has always insisted I try. The very fact that she says it suggests to me that she either doesn’t know what I write, or has never read an M&B book before. Regardless, it was an idea that always made me laugh, shake my head and change the subject.
Watching the documentary, in which Stella Duffy takes up the task of writing the first three chapters and synopsis (query style) of one of these novels only served to reinforce the idea.
It seems that M&B books work to a very specific formula and that any deviation from that will lead to rejection. There is very little space for characters other than the ‘rich, alpha male hero’ and the ‘wholesome, likeable heroine’ who meet, fall for each other and live happily ever after. Yikes! The last time I wrote ‘romance’ my main character was devastated because his lover had been chosen by the Queen to ‘seed’ her (yes, it was a homoerotic piece, that falls more under erotica than romance, but still). His lover was then going to be ritualistically murdered to ensure conception. Certainly not HEA. Even in early drafts of Silk Over Razor Blades, Ileandra can’t hold down any of the men she ends up with; one tries to kill her, she kills another and the last is shit scared of her. In my stupidly epic (I mean in length) fantasy piece Gaea (yes, I’m still working on the title), T’keyah declares her love for Kane one night and the next he is turned into a wolf by a vindictive wizard. Before she can even sleep with him! So… happily ever after? Not my style.
Some of the comments from the workshop in Tuscany (back to the documentary now, though I would certainly LOVE to go to Tuscany) made me cringe. What do you mean less prose and more dialogue?! Readers aren’t babies; they don’t need to be spoon fed every detail and emotion. To paraphrase my writer’s group, they need to have something to do. Giving them every detail with simple writing is boring as well as insulting. At least to me. When I read a book, I want to feel the story and do a bit of figuring out for myself; I don’t want the author to simply tell me how awful/wonderful/sad/scary everything is. Particularly when I can figure it out myself from the setting/atmosphere/simile/imagery. *sigh*
Anyway, this post isn’t designed to bash M&B. They have their place, people love them, so they must be doing something right. No, this post is about writing to trends. M&B accept unsolicited works which you would image would be wonderful for poor lil me. But that is not the genre I write in. So should I chuck in my dreams of seeing SORB (and several other novels) on bookshelves and concentrate on writing what sells? Should I bite my lip and write drivel along the lines of FSoG because that bandwagon is rumbling along at high speed with no obvious signs of stopping?
No. Of course I shouldn’t! Not only would that make me an unforgivable sell out, but I’d be soooooooooo unhappy! I want to write what I want to write and though it would be lovely if other people wanted to read it (obviously!) I can’t pander to that. Otherwise I won’t be writing as well as I can be, nor will I enjoy the process. And, since I’m not going to make millions of pounds with any of my books, I damn well better enjoy the process of writing them. Otherwise what the hell am I doing it for?!
So… there will be no following the leader for me. No chasing after current trends or fads, or even putting aside something I want to work on because someone, somewhere has an open anthology. Obviously if I have a story that suits, or if I’m working on something that matches the criteria, that is another matter, but my time for writing is so constricted right now; I have to give the time over to writing what I want. Even if it has nowhere to go.
I read a little bit of Walking The Razor’s Edge last night. A small portion of it was floating about on my laptop desktop and returning to those characters was like stepping into a room full of family. I miss them. Ileandra, Shawn, Tristen, Saar… they’re all characters that I’ve worked so hard to round off and make whole that it seems a shame to just leave their story unfinished. After all, Silk Over Razor Blades is just the story; this is a trilogy and I’m never going to finish it if I don’t spend some time on it.
What about you guys? Have you ever found yourself inadvertently following trends? Or have you done so in the past and regretted it? Or has it worked out positively for you? I’d love to hear from you. As always! 🙂