Over at the London Times, there’s an amusing article about a journalist who tries her hand at writing a romance novel.Â When I saw the headline, my first reaction was to groan and assume it would be another hit piece on romance novels and novelists.Â I could predict the tenor of the story: “I’m already a journalist, so I know how to write!Â Â Romance writers make a fine living, so I’ll give it a whirl!Â Romances are simplistic love stories, told to housewives eating bon bons, so how hard could it be?”
I was relieved to find that the article wasn’t a hit piece after all.Â The writer interviews two charmingÂ editors from Mills and Boon, who ably defend the genre and its readers.Â And they encourage the journalist to try her hand at it.Â So she does … discovering that it’s not as easy as it seems.Â The editors critique her novel in progress, give her a few tips, andÂ encourage her to keep writing.Â Which the journalist intends to do, and she’ll share her progress with the London Times.
The best part of the article were the writing tips the editors shared.Â Among their tips were a few that apply to every genre:
“Base your story on universal emotional truths. Not just love and death, but renewal, justice, truth, strength, contentment, passion and tenderness.
Make your characters resonant and believable as well as aspirational. Have them communicate with plentiful dialogue, and motivate their actions soundly.
Who is driving your story? Make sure the conflict always comes from the main characters and their emotions – not from the supporting cast.
Layer the drama with highs and lows, advance and retreat.
To develop your heroine convincingly, feed her backstory through the action of the book, avoiding â€œchunkingâ€ – shoving in lengthy chunks of interior monologue. “
ThisÂ is some of the same adviceÂ I give when I teach thriller writing courses.Â
Whatever the genre, these tips are universal.