Welcome to my first joint cross-blog, which offers tips on writing, with particular emphasis on the romance genre. Every month, authors Kathryn Ledson, Sydney Smith and I will get together to discuss some aspect of the writing craft. These posts will be concise, to allow room for discussion with our readers. We welcome your questions and comments; feel free to respond on this page.
Kathryn Ledson is the author of Rough Diamond and Monkey Business (Penguin), part of the Erica Jewell series of romantic adventures. You can visit her website and find her blog at www.kathrynledson.com
Sydney Smith is a writing mentor, teacher and author of short stories, essays, and The Lost Woman, a memoir of survival. She is currently writing The Architecture of Narrative, a book about how to plot and structure fiction. She offers writing tips at www.threekookaburras.com. If you have a question on any aspect of writing, feel free to visit her at The Story Whisperer.
This month’s topic for discussion is:
Romance is a huge genre. What do you advise writers to do to get their novel noticed by editors and readers?
Kathryn: VOICE gives an author’s work a unique flavour. Like a fingerprint, the writer’s voice, however similar it may sound to others, and however much others might mimic it, is pure and unique. But without the writer’s PASSION, voice alone may be weak and bland. Passion breaks through the monotony of stories built on formula and shines a spotlight on that author’s work. In novel writing, my passion for humour and action in stories emerges almost without my permission. As a young child I adored adventure stories, reading everything Enid Blyton and Elyne Mitchell could produce. Through television and film I discovered my sense of humour. Even as a child I understood that irony (for me) is the funniest form of humour. So it’s not really a surprise that adventure and irony feature in my romance stories. My character and her actions give them form, which in turn gives my voice its strength and individuality. And this ultimately gives me, the author, a distinctive identity.
Jennifer: I agree with Kathryn that a distinctive identity is important to any author, especially a genre author. There are two aspects to this – one is voice, and the other is branding. Developing a unique voice is an organic process. It’s more than style, or vocabulary choice, or the decision to write in first or third person. It’s the authentic expression of you on the page – your feelings, dreams, passions and fears showing through in the words that you write. It takes courage to write so honestly, and not hide behind a derivative mask. But it’s worth it, because a truly original voice will always attract attention.
Branding is more strategic, but it still evolves from who you are on the inside. An important aspect of my novels, for instance, is a passion for nature. This became my brand, my point of difference, as my editor calls it. We all have a personal brand; it’s just a matter of recognising it. Romance is a crowded marketplace. Your brand will make you stand out from the pack, help you market your writing and attract a readymade readership of people who identify with your particular sub-genre.
Sydney: It’s interesting that both of you identify passion as an essential ingredient. Passion for the story you are writing, passion for your characters, your themes, passion for the things you want to communicate to readers about your concerns as writers – Jennifer for nature, and Kathryn who loves humour and adventure, which is as legitimate a concern as anything. The writer’s passion speaks clearly to the reader and helps to get them involved in the story. Other things have to be there to hold the reader’s attention, but passion is as essential as technical skill.
What do readers think? Do you like reading about certain themes? Or a certain kind of romance (adventure, comic, mystery? They come in so many hybrids.) What attracts you to a particular novel in a genre?
Great concept, ladies. Love the topic (you know I am a brand bunny!) I can honestly say that my branding strategy helped me secure my deal with S&S. Would I have secured it without the branding and on my submissions alone? Can’t say for sure. But why not do everything you can to stand out and make a publisher want you.
It’s hard at first to identify your brand. Was that the same with you Jenn?