And almost married twice more.
Ergo – I’ve had more than my fair share of romance.
So, in the months that I’m able to attend MRWG meetings, why do I sit there constantly making excuses for my lack of progress towards my goals as a romance writer? You’d think that someone like me would have an endless supply of joyful life experiences to draw upon.
Hmm … could it be that they’re countered on the debit side by three divorces? Perhaps the divorces explain my romance writer’s block, dulling my senses and completely squashing incipient story ideas.
The goal of becoming a romance writer looked much easier twenty years ago, when I was still married and still in the workforce. I was a monthly subscriber to my four ‘sneaky reads’: Mills & Boon books, never read in public but swallowed whole as escapism after a long day at work. For me, they provided much better entertainment than the available TV offerings. A ‘category romance’ started at 8.30pm would easily be finished by 11pm and I would sigh contentedly and think to myself ‘I could do that’.
But the task is easier contemplated than implemented. It doesn’t help that friends and family have always scoffed at the idea that I should write such a book. In their minds, I should be aspiring to literary endeavours at a much ‘higher level’. In vain do I tell them that writing a ‘category romance’ is one of the best training grounds for writers in any genre. You have to tell a convincing story about a meaningful relationship with a restricted number of words and still satisfy the reader’s emotional yearnings.
Don’t get me wrong. I have actually completed one ‘category romance’ manuscript, and 80% of a second story lurks within my computer. However feedback from my first attempt made me realise one thing: I’m targeting the wrong type of writing because, believe it or not, I’m too old-fashioned.
As long as I can remember, I’ve been in love with the idea of love … not sexual love, perhaps not even romantic love, but love in all its guises. It’s becoming less and less popular as a topic for discussion but I know people must crave it, as so many shows with the underlying broad theme of love are popular. The expressions of love evident in ‘Call the Midwife’ and ‘Australian Story’ convey a deep meaning. Even the Jack Reacher books that I’m crazy about at present can be interpreted as ‘love’, despite Reacher’s frequent acts of violence. He’s a hero, always helping the underdog goodies and eliminating the baddies. These errant thoughts make me suspect that, deep down, I’m not willing to slot neatly into the various ‘category romance’ niches.
Research is my ‘thing’, so maybe I should try writing historical romance. These days, they’re my preferred recreational reading titles (other than the Jack Reacher novels). I even joined that marvellous institution, the Melbourne Athenaeum Library, because they hold a full set of Georgette Heyer’s ‘Regency romances’. I’ve devoured every one of them, and quite a lot of the other lovely romances stacked on the Library’s shelves. Melbourne writer Anne Gracie’s historicals are also a joy to read. Trouble is, historicals need to be so much longer than ‘category romances’, and at present I struggle to reach a writing target of 60,000 coherent words of fiction. (Non-fiction books? No problem. I can churn them out.)
Statistics show that the romance genre attracts voracious readers … or is it that voracious readers are attracted to the romance genre? Should I just give up on the idea of writing a romance and continue as a voracious reader, enjoying the fruits of other people’s free-flowing imaginations and skill with words?
No. Definitely not. My bucket list contains very few items and ‘writing a romance’ remains at the top of that list. Who knows why, but there it stubbornly remains, an insistent little voice that won’t leave me alone. I’m encouraged that another regular MRWG attendee told me recently that she came every month for five years before she ‘did anything’. She’s a lot younger than me, but I’m determined that one day I’ll walk into a meeting of the MRWG with the exciting news that I’ve sold my first romance. Meanwhile, I hope all the supportive, warm-hearted and generous-spirited women belonging to the MRWG will continue to humour me as one of the ‘gunna’ members of what is otherwise a very productive and inspiring group of writers!