2013 was a quiet year for TLC Creative, though I kept myself busy by producing a couple of scripts and some e-books, as well as a record-breaking year for the Appraisal Service. This year TLC are back with a vengeance, planning to write TWO pantomimes and a bunch of other stuff.
I also have plans, and they begin with a project I mentioned last year. Fascinated by the volume of “Harlequin” romance novels that cross my desk at the library, I decided to investigate the appeal. On the 2nd I booked out 10 novels, chosen pretty much at random from the stacks, and am working my way through them, taking notes.
There’s a perception that these novels are written to a formula, that there’s nothing clever or noteworthy about them. The readers themselves will often be dismissive about them, calling them a “guilty pleasure”, like they were junk food.
I’ve only read four so far, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The stories hold up well, and the characters are more than just sketched in. The prose is a little flaky at times, but overall is better than some other professionally produced books I’ve endured.
And I haven’t found a “formula” yet. You’d think four books would be enough to spot a pattern, but there doesn’t seem to be one. The only constant is that in each book the lead male and lead female are introduced right at the beginning and there’s a mutual attraction. Sometimes that attraction is welcome on both sides, sometimes it isn’t. But it’s always there. Whether that feeling gets acted upon sooner or later, whether circumstances or personal duties get in the way, that’s the stuff that varies from book to book.
I imagined this would be a relatively easy challenge – read a bunch of books (something I’d be doing anyway) and throw down 35,000 words or so (something I’ve already done several times.) Yes, the deadline might make it harder, but simply because of the logistics of getting the words down. I didn’t think WRITING the story would be difficult.
But now I’ve read a few it’s clear the bar is higher than I thought. I’m still going ahead with it, still running some potential storylines through my head, but it’s going to be a tougher job than I expected.
The lesson I’m hoping to learn here is about determining what I write for myself. I’ve mentioned before my desire to be a Sci-Fi author, and how I feel it’s stymied by the stories that turn up in my head. If I can write a Harlequin Romance, then I can write ANYTHING. And I think I can. These stories are all about love, about two people feeling an attraction and working through whatever is preventing them being together. I can think of dozens of other stories where the same is true, but they’re spy stories, adventure stories, space stories…. Love is a constant theme in most tales, when you come down to it.
I mentioned this challenge on G+ and a friend came up with the suggestion that this might be a good challenge to formalise. Are there any authors out there who might be willing to take on a genre challenge in March? Spend February reading books from a genre you don’t normally tackle, then produce your own in March, with cover artists taking on the illustration during April? Let me know in the comments below.