Sunday, October 14, 2012

Reading to Escape

I recently heard an interview with Nora Roberts, aired on PBS. Ms Roberts writes romance. Yeah, I think I heard half of you gasp that I would even mention THAT genre. Why? What is your objection to romance novels?
It’s written for women? I suspect that – like most novels – it’s written for whoever enjoys reading it. There are some men who read romances, and some women who wouldn’t be caught dead with one in their hands.
It’s written by women? Not exclusively. Anyway, can you name a genre that doesn’t have women writing it? Fantasy, science fiction, mystery, horror, paranormal, thriller … they all have women writing them. The most likely genre I can think of that might not have any women writing it is western. Since I’ve dabbled in that genre myself, I’m not sure there are no women-written westerns.
It’s pure escapism? What genre isn’t? I read fantasies about witches and dragons to escape the drudgery and stresses of my real life. The truth is that any novel I pick up and read offers an opportunity to set aside my life for a few hours and escape into somebody else’s life. It helps me put my mundane problems in perspective.
Women who read romance are missing something at home? Where does that come from? It’s true that when I read about witches and dragons, I don’t have any of those at home. When I read a western, I don’t have gun fights at home. But love, romance and a loving relationship are different. I have a husband, and we’ve been together about three decades. We have our ups and downs, like every couple, but the current state of our relationship has no bearing on whether or not I choose to read a romance next. When I do read a romance, it’s nice to have the literary confirmation that relationships require work.
Ms Roberts has over 200 romance novels out. She has sold so many copies, I understand that she is one of the most popular authors in the world. And romance, as a genre, comprises more than half the paperback fiction sales. That means less than half the fiction paperbacks sold are the other genres, including mainstream and literary. Evidently, there’s a lot of people out there who like to read about love, romance and relationships.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Writer's Block

What should I do when I find myself unable to figure out what comes next in a story? How do other writers handle this kind of situation?
1. Some writers figure they’ve taken a wrong turn, and back up a few pages, turn the story in a different direction. 2. Others bang out their word count each day, no matter how bad it is, until some kind of answer comes to them. At that point, they may throw out everything they’ve written since the ‘block’ first occurred, but at least they’ve been working. 3. Still others shove that project into a back corner of their mind and work on something else until their subconscious figures out what went wrong.
I don’t do #2. I don’t like to sit in front of my computer without actually doing something. And sitting here banging out c**p I’m pretty sure I’ll wind up throwing away strikes me as just as big a time-waster. I have done #3 a few times. Some of those projects are still shoved into a back corner, and others have resulted in my doing #1.
But I have a step I do before I do anything else, to see if I really am stuck. I examine the current scene and situation of my characters, not from the point of view of being the author, but from the point of view of the characters involved. What got them to this point? How would they react in this situation?
I look at ‘my’ stories as tales told me by the characters. So if we get to a point that I don’t understand, perhaps I just need more information from those characters. Maybe they’ve been embarrassed to explain themselves more fully and I need to converse with them, understand what they’ve been through. In that case, I may need to make a few changes to help explain things better to the reader (shades of #1), but I can go on.
If the characters are confused and don’t have answers, then I truly have my work cut out for me. That’s when I move to #3 – put the project aside until my characters and I can figure out what’s what.
Goodness, there’s plenty of characters and stories out there for me to work on in the meantime.