Saturday, October 25, 2008

Writing Romance, by Vanessa Grant or: The Dangers of the How-To

This is a dangerous book.

Lisa Roe, the famous on-line publicist, approached me about reviewing this book a couple of months ago (oops). I greeted her with a suspicion that turned out to be well-founded.

“I don’t read non-fiction,” I told her. “I have no idea how to review non-fiction.”

“If you love romance, you’ll like this book,” she coaxed.

“I’m not an aspiring author,” I told her.

“Who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired!” she replied with an evil cackle.

Though I had doubts, I could not resist the lure of a free book. Lisa Roe, Evil Publicist, knows this about book bloggers.

I avoided it for awhile. It sat in my TBR pile while I worked my way through some of this summer’s rather delicious offerings. Then school started (I have a 3rd-grade daughter). Then stuff at work. Then stuff at home. You know how it goes.

Finally, though I had a teetering pile of new fiction to read, I grudgingly picked this up, like the homework it was.

It’s surprisingly readable. It’s… interesting. Absorbing.


Grant walks you through the elements of writing a romance novel and makes it sound so easy, so simple, that you’ll be tempted to write your own. You know, in spite of the many other things that require your attention… like, oh, I don’t know. Your kids: Mom!? Spaghettios again??!… Your job: Err, project plan? I was supposed to do a project plan for you? Oh right, that project plan! Uh, I’ll have it for you by end of day, I promise… Your laundry: <sniff>"It’s not that dirty…” Your blog: *looks at date of last entry…sigh* …You MAY find yourself neglecting such things. You’ll think, “this author thing doesn’t look so hard…” and “hey, NaNoWriMo is coming up; maybe this is my year….”

If you’ve ever tried and failed to write a romance – and I’m not saying that I have, mind you—you MAY find yourself thinking “Aha! So that’s what I did wrong!” Hypothetically, of course. In which case, you may be tempted to try again. [see again: neglect of certain life elements].

That is, you might be. I'm not. Really, I'm not.

A couple of caveats – Grant writes category romance, which is certainly a good way to start out in the industry AND make a living at it. However, they aren’t my favorite kind of book to read and I found myself wondering a little if I would want to read the kind of book that this guide teaches you to write. The “f” word entered my head once or twice – no, no, not that one-- “formula.” Or “formulaic.” I think that’s the potential danger of a guide like this that boils the process down into such simple terms.

Caveat 2: one of the things that convinced me to give this book a try was the contributions from well-known authors like Jo Beverley and Mary Jo Putney about certain specialties and subgenres. Don’t expect a lot from them—most are just a couple of pages.

Caveat 3: the book comes with a disc containing tools and links for authors. They sound way cool, and I installed the disc… but I make no critique about how good they are. Without actually having a work in process, I’m not that interested in spending the time to poke around the tools. They do seem like they could be helpful, though.

All in all, a dangerous book. That's all I'm saying.


Lady of the Review said...

LOL! This was the first book I ever bought that was about writing. It's not bad, but I've found ones that are much better. I review, but I'm also a writer (non-published as of yet *sigh*).

One of these days...and I think there should be other books out there about writing romance that focus on writing the romance, not the how to's of this is the basic stuff. I'm talking writing a smokin' hot love scene, sexual tension, etc. THAT is almost impossible to find. :(

Anonymous said...

I am getting ready to post a review about this book too. Had to "lol" at you. Too funny. :)


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