11. Revisit characters.
I didn’t realize how unsatisfying it was to get a zing of excitement when a previous book’s main characters made an appearance, only it was all hunky-dory, happy-happy-joy-joy. The hero we had grown to love in a previous book would say something cheeky - cue toothpaste commercial smile. Then V and Doc Jane had marital issues. Wrath and Beth were hardly able to carve out time for each other. I was like, holy shit! What’s going on here?! Their love was solid, but they hit a rough patch. We got to hang out with them while they worked through their issues. It was like experiencing their love story all over again, but as mature adult love compared to puppy love. I really, really enjoy it (as long as there’s the happily ever after).
12. Write the story for yourself.
I’ve read JR Ward say about Dark Lover, and Diana Gabaldon say about Outlander, that they wrote each book for themselves. How often do we writers strive to maintain status quo? Guilty. I find myself writing the novel I feel like I should write, not the one my heart is telling me to write - the one with more sex, more swearing, and just more. Then I start thinking about my editor, and what will she think about the scene? I think about the few readers I do have. Will they like the way the story is going, or should I change course?
We have to tread a line of being true to our story and keeping our readers attentive and attached to the characters. But if we play it too safe, we run the risk of losing our voice, our identity as a writer, and we start to blend instead of stand out.
13. Do the unthinkable.
I won’t come out and say it because it’s a huge spoiler. The Shadows. Enough said, right? Who does that in a romance novel? While I was reading it, I was like, wow, I don’t know how....No. NO! You can’t do that. It goes against the genre! But JR Ward did it and wrote it beautifully. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Just because certain genres have followed general rules in the past, don’t be afraid to blow your story apart if that’s where it takes you.
I’m writing book five of The Sigma Menace series. All the other stories were full of action, this one…should be? The story’s not going there. The heroine I basically designed the damn series around so I could tell her story has more of a soul searching journey. It scares the shit outta me. Are readers who read books one through four going to get to Pure Claim and wonder, whaaaat? It's her story, and I have to tell it the way I see it.
14. Writing can change and evolve.
I was deep into the first Fallen Angels book and thought, “I don’t want to write unless I can write as good as this.” Anything that came to my head was drivel compared to Ward’s writing. Despite my husband telling me that that all the big writers had to start somewhere, I let it intimidate me. Until I read her early work as Jessica Bird and it didn’t resonate with me. It didn’t feel like her work, even though the writing was solid. Finally, my husband’s words sunk in (You were right, honey). Her earlier work gave me the courage to start writing. Even with little guidance, my work has improved so much in the year and half since I’ve started and my voice will only continue to get stronger.
15. Swearing’s okay.
I cuss like a sailor, y’all. But only to my hubs. Once my son turned two, I figured I’d better clean up my language around the house. I’m so uptight about what others might think, that I rarely swear to anyone, ever. It’s. Exhausting. Constantly monitoring language at work, around friends, with my family, can leave a girl feeling a little repressed. My writing can end up littered with cussing. I’ll even edit many out (remember #12 - tempted to play it too safe).
JR Ward is notorious for dropping some f-bombs and it’s awesome. She can still be refined elegance, but say fuck, and it’s okay.
I love the books I read to have profanity. It’s expressive, it’s emotional, and especially in PNR, there’s definitely a place for it. One PNR author I read would have her heroine say something like, “you big goon” to the bad guy. Seriously? I had flashbacks to old Scooby Doo episodes. In PNR (and many other genres), “you bastard” goes farther.
Come back for the last set next week. Numbers 16-20 are my favorite, and they’re not necessarily about her writing…
I haven’t decided who the next author will be. Larissa Ione? Laura Wright? Kresley Cole? So many damn good writers, I can’t wait!