I’ve been reading romance novels for a long time. I started with young adult fiction before I was old enough to truly understand the topics, read fanfiction far too mature at far too young an age and have continued to both consume and create since.
I always knew that I would write romance and I long assumed I would write the kind of romance that I read–historical romance, erotic romance, romantic suspense. I had never been particularly drawn the sweet romances, to the Hallmark movies, to the closed door, hushed whispers and allusions. Until recently.
At the moment, I’m challenging myself to write a book in a genre I’ve only recently started to explore. And it’s hard. The deadline is incredibly tight, but more than that, I’m approaching storytelling in a brand new way.
Yes, sweet romance is still romance. But the lens has shifted considerably and the way I approached storytelling is unique to this book. The physical relationship between the characters is subtle, nuanced and quiet. Where I would usually have several chapters or scenes devoted to an unfolding physical intimacy, I must now find ways to both lengthen the book and establish intimacy without those scenes. There is still anticipation, but it is anticipation for a purely emotion connection. Each small movement, each brush of fingers or locking of eyes, is far more loaded and must be used properly.
Not only have I found that I have learned an incredible amount on this journey–and truly, I have, but I’ve also quite come to enjoy writing something so far out of my comfort zone. As an author of erotic and steamy romances, I never truly felt like this was an area I was welcome to explore. But this experience has shown me that I can take the skills I have from writing other types of stories and apply them to something that feels a world away. I cannot swear. I cannot kiss. I cannot approach relationships the way I always have. I can, however, come away understanding more about myself as both a writer and a person.
Yes, this new experience has been a remarkable challenge for me. One of the reasons I’ve always been drawn to romance is because of the celebration of female pleasure and sexuality. But I’ve so been drawn to romance because it encourages and celebrates female friendships and relationships as well. In the course of this book, I’ve come to understand the sweet romance has a strong focus on not only the core relationship but the hero and heroine’s communities. My heroine in this new novel has a daughter, a best friend, a new neighbor friend and fellow teachers, all supportive women within her sphere.
Will I continue writing sweet romance after this story? I never thought I would start writing sweet romance, but I have to say that it’s been far more fun, far more challenging and far more enlightening than I would have imagined. It doesn’t have to be sweet, it doesn’t have to be erotic, it doesn’t have to be romance, but stepping outside of the comfort zone where all of your stories have been told is a challenge worth taking.
As writers, we must strive to push ourselves harder, try new approaches and dabble in the things that scare us. I would never have expected this to be a genre I would want to write again, and yet, here we are. The very worst thing that can happen is that you don’t like it. But then again–what if you do?
I can sympathize to a degree. I write adult paranormal/fantasy fiction (the proverbial sex and drugs and rock and roll, so to speak) and because I truly enjoy writing that kind of fiction, I always thought I would have problems in writing something that wasn’t minimally R-rated.
One day, I decided to challenge myself by writing a 100% clean story. Didn’t have to be novella or novel length, but lengthy enough to satisfy my whim. When all was said and done about a week later, I had a 100% clean as a newborn duck short story that I was able to eventually get published. Granted, I was happy to be able to complete the challenge of writing something out of my comfort zone, but I don’t think it’s something I’ll do again.