Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Writerly Identity Crisis

I’m been writing seriously for over five years. I’ve taken time off here and there.  After my second son, I took almost a year off.  But, for the most part, I’ve considered myself during this time to be “writing seriously.”

Not that I’m serious.  Just that I write most of the time with a serious intent. You understand the difference here.

Anywhoodle. Of those five+ years that I’ve written, I’ve completed three books.  I had a misfire on this last one, but I’ve actually finished three.  And all of them have been romance novels. I have always considered myself a romance writer.

But the story I’m working on has other ideas.

The story has lots of romantic elements. In fact, the two main characters have strong feelings for each other of the lovey-kissy kind. But, though it has a lot to do with how the characters grow and how the story plays out, it isn’t the central focus of the story. Their relationship issues aren’t the main conflict. They’re an important conflict, just not the only one.

As the story is upper-YA/New Adult, I’m not really surprised. These are folks in their early 20s. They’ve got lots going on in their lives. Romance is one of them, but so is trying to find their way between adolescence and adulthood. Facing major life changes, new responsibilities. Looking forward at the rest of their lives and wondering what the hell is going on.

So, yes, the romance is there. It’s important. Really important.  But it’s not my main focus for once and I’m a little nervous about it.

I’m having a bit of an identity crisis, you guys.

So, I guess what I want to ask you is…. What books can you think of (particularly this genre as I’m being selfish and want to make sure I’m not out in left field with no glove but really any genre will work) in which the romance is integral but not the major conflict? Also, do you consider yourself a writer of a specific genre or just a writer of tales? Do you think it matters? 


Maureen said...

Well, and my romance credentials are generally on the shadow side...

When it comes to genre...I read a ton on mysteries with an integral romance but it isn't the major conflict. I haven't read YA or the New Adult, but it certainly sounds to me like you're right on target with what you're writing.

Marnee Bailey said...

I hope I'm on the right track with my stuff right now. What's always frustrating with writing is that you don't REALLY know if you're on the right track until you're done. That's a bit unhelpful.

As to genre and romance, for defining, I think it matters for marketing and selling purposes. And those things matter. I just think they matter more in some genres than others. I think there's room to play in YA. I hope there is anyway.

Terri Osburn said...

I'll tell you one more time. You are SO on track with this. You're so on track, the other trains might as well get off the rails now. Seriously.

I'm a straight Contemporary Romance writer, but I won't be surprised if I someday veer into Women's Fiction. I don't have the prose for it yet, but someday. I actually had an idea not long ago that did not have a happy ending.


I know. I was shocked too. But the thought was kind of freeing. NOT that I intend to start killing off my main characters all the time, but maybe not every story can be wrapped up in a pretty bow. Well, all romances, sure, but, well, I don't know. It was a weird thought.

MsHellion said...

Actually I think it's good that your main focus ISN'T the romance, just maybe a nice byproduct. :)

Well, considering my stories...I'm not sure any of them can be classified as romance-romances. I mean, technically it deals with a couple each time because I love romance too, but I don't write because I'm trying to figure out their romance. I'm writing because I'm trying to understand another particular theme. I think my main theme--like my core story--varies around FORGIVENESS and ACCEPTANCE. Ben, Lucy, and Adam--they're all products of this theme; as are my heroines--LIVIA, ELIZABETH, and EVE. Even in my cowboy story--it's not so much forgiveness as ACCEPTANCE, I think, but it's another branch of it. And maybe a little forgiveness...

Anyway, my point is: I agree with Terri. You've got this. Don't let the inner critic destroy your current happiness in the writing. Just enjoy it and have faith.

Books similar to yours--in a sense--DIVERGENT series is more about the characters than any romance, with themes and an alternate world/dystopian setting. And of course, Harry Potter, which transcends age groups.

Janga said...

Marnee, many of my favorite books are hybrids of women's fiction and romance, combining the woman's journey theme with a strong romantic element. Since most romance readers read in other genres as well, I would think mixed genre books had broad appeal.

I haven't read a lot of New Adult yet, mostly just Tammara Webber's books, which I thought were great. But I know it's a hot genre. Just a few days ago someone in a loop I'm on quoted an editor who defined NA as the angst of YA combined with the heat of contemporary romance. That sounds like a winning recipe to me. I'm with Hellie, trust yourself and enjoy the new direction.

MsHellion said...

Oh, oh, oh!! I bought this book by Donald Maass--it's called 21st Century Fiction--and it's basically saying that fiction isn't just commercial appeal or literary appeal anymore, it's BOTH and it's MORE. So the fact you're writing something with commercial appeal AND literary appeal--that's just the way fiction is going! As Terri says, the other trains should just move out of the way. :) You're on the right track!

P. Kirby said...

I think some of the harder boundaries between genres are blurring, due to several factors, including the popularity of YA, which quite often is cross- and multi-genre. Also, with the rise in self publishing, and the move away from more traditional publishing methods, including a reliance on agents and publishers --who expect a book to "fit" into a category -- will blur the lines even more.

I haven't read any NA yet, but YA is typified by stories that offer a balance of romance to other plot elements. That's why I like it. I find the romance decree -- that the relationship must be central to the plot -- often results in a story where the lurve is overpowering to the point of dull, and....unromantic.

Looking at my recent 5-stars at Goodreads: Jellicoe Road by Marchetta Melina is a coming of age story with a strong romantic subplot. The Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor is epic fantasy driven in part by the on-again, off-again romance between an angel and a chimaera. Grave Mercy by Robin LeFevers had a good balance between romance and espionage.

Me, I see myself as a writer of fantasy with strong romantic elements.

Marnee Bailey said...

Ter - I'm glad you have faith in this project. It means a lot.


You know, I was reading reviews last night for Gone Girl and thinking about the whole happy ending thing. Frankly that book doesn't sound like anything I'd ever pick up. Those characters sound nuts and I think I'd walk away feeling bad about humanity. That is not how I like to walk away from a book.

But, I don't know if a book needs a happy couple at the end to be a satisfying ending. Satisfying, not "HEA."

Hells - I'm going to check out Divergent. Ter recommended the Mortal Instruments series and I think the POV and the action in them is similar but she has a different voice than I do. And her characters are definitely more YA than mine. I'm enjoying the first book very much though.

I think writing to a theme or greater idea is a good way to think about it. I could see how I have a greater idea here. Trying to find a home, kind of. Who a person is and what a family means. And learning who to trust. All that stuff.

Janga - I'm going to check out Tammara Webber too. I read YA and enjoy a lot of it, but I'm trying to hone in one a little bit of the older "upper-YA" voice and thoughts. So thanks! :)

Marnee Bailey said...

Hells - So the fact you're writing something with commercial appeal AND literary appeal--that's just the way fiction is going!

Is this what I'm doing? LOL!! You guys make it sound like I'm planning this out.

I will say that it's nice to leave historical right now. I needed a break from that, for real. :)

Marnee Bailey said...

Pat - Thank you for the recommendations. And I'm with you; I like that the lines are blurring. It's making room for some interesting stuff out there.

I know what you mentioned, sort of dull romance, is why I'm having a hard time reading historicals these days. There are a LOT of amazing voices in the genre, don't get me wrong, but there are also a lot of stories right now that the characters feel the same and the stories aren't that different from every other story in which a couple dances at a ball, rides in a carriage, and has some scandal that ruins someone's reputation.

Maureen said...

The direction you're taking is simply the direction you're taking. And it's right for you. With YA/ much is changing constantly, it's just impossible to know where any genre is going, let along a new one...

What you're creating is on target, period. Which target? Who the hell knows? Doesn't matter! Just go!!!!

JulieJustJulie said...

What books can you think of (particularly this genre as I’m being selfish and want to make sure I’m not out in left field with no glove but really any genre will work) in which the romance is integral but not the major conflict?

I just finished Julia Quinn's "The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After".
The final story, Violet in Bloom, Definitely had elements of romance. But the real conflict in the story , at least in my opinion, was not about romance. it was about not having Romance in one's life. This is a very well constructed story. Thoughtfully written, and the final sentence perfectly sums up this character's life

Marnee Bailey said...

LOL! Thanks Mo! I'm going, I'm going. :)

Julie, I've been curious about that book. I loved all the Bridgerton books. I'm tempted to read the HEAs. :)