I’ve just sent in my 20th book to my editor. I can’t really believe I just wrote that. Twentieth Book. In 2005 when I was first submitting to Mills and Boon I could hardly contemplate the reality of one book, never mind another nineteen! But amazingly, I have written twenty. And I’m sure this one will need more work, as they all invariably do, but fingers crossed the revisions won’t be too extensive…
I’m at the stage now where I’m coming up with new plots and storylines for the books I’ll write next year (touch wood), and I’m wondering how on earth I’ve come up with all the storylines I’ve used already. Famously there’s only about seven plots – but it’s our unique perspective on these plots that enables us all to use them over and over again…
Megan Crane who writes as Caitlin Crews for Mills & Boon Modern/Presents managed to articulate perfectly just how hard it is to write these books when she said:
Category romance novels are very, very hard to write well. And also fun! But first: hard.
I think every writer should write at least one. Just to experience what “churning those books out”* is like. Hint: not like churning.
[Imagine if I told you that you needed to sit down and write a captivating, engrossing, heartwrenching/warming love story, featuring two characters who are wholly themselves–complete individuals with their own histories and issues and needs, all of which will complement and complicate each other. And then I told you that you had to make sure these characters and their stories fit within certain guidelines. But that you needed to make sure you used those guidelines to make the story your own! And that you had to do it all in roughly 50,000 words. And that those 50,000 words had to involve a satisfying love story that should, if you did it well, make your reader’s heart pound as she raced to the end, possibly staying up half the night because she had to see what happened. Oh, yes, and that “the end” had to not only tie up all the emotions of the book, but fully satisfy your reader that your two characters are destined to live out the rest of their lives together. Happily.
Go ahead and do that. I’ll wait.
Oh, yes–and make sure you do all of this in an extremely short span of time. I know you blocked out three or four months to write the book, but things happen, don’t they? You have one month, possibly slightly less. Make sure the book you produce is up to standard!]
When you’re writing these books it’s easy to get sucked into them so deeply that you forget just how hard it is to make them compelling, engrossing and entertaining!
But, this is my favourite part of the process – when you’re faced with a blank canvas and the potential to create is unlimited by any plot constraints.
I find that pictures are my best form of inspiration, I’m constantly giving old magazines to friends that will have pages and pages torn out of them because a picture will evoke something in me. I stick all my pictures in scrap books and so now I’m looking at the scrap books and waiting for something to jump out at me. For my next story, I have a vague idea that I want a really strong heroine. As powerful as the hero. My hero will be uber controlled and remote, after having gone through a major trauma in his childhood. This of course could be the germ of an idea that doesn’t even make it into the next book…it could be the one after that.
In the meantime I’m looking at this spread out around me for ideas:
The Ralph Lauren Romance commercial was actually a major part of the inspiration behind my last book, you can see the youtube clip here. It’s a bit sickly sweet but I loved the idea of the heroine in an evening dress on a horse, with the hero pursuing her, so that made it into a scene in the book…
Also when I was looking through the scrapbooks I came across this picture, and she was my inspiration for the heroine in my last accepted book, The Legend of de Marco. Gracie in the book is half Irish with long curly red hair, exactly like this model.
Below is the first time Rocco de Marco sees the heroine in The Legend of De Marco:
Composing himself and irritated that he felt the need to do so, his eye was snagged and caught by a lone figure. A female figure. He could see immediately that she was not half as polished or alluring as the other women in the room. Her dress was ill – fitting and her hair was a long wild tangle of vibrant red. It suggested that there was something untamed about her and it called to him on some deep level. Rocco’s mind emptied of its original purpose. He couldn’t look away from the enigmatic stranger.
Before he had even registered his intent, he’d veered off course and was moving in her direction…
Also, I have a picture in a scrapbook of a model coming out of a swimming pool fully dressed in a gorgeous multi – coloured evening dress. Ever since I saw that picture I wanted to write a scene with a heroine jumping into a pool in an evening gown, so Gracie in The Legend of de Marco did the honours for me ;). And of course what hero in his right mind can resist jumping in after someone so exuberant?!
Back soon, after I’ve come up with characters and a plot, I hope!