…I know that at first blush, literary fiction and romance might seem to have about as much in common as vibrant spring daffodils and dried-up old autumn leaves…But I say these two styles of writing are far more alike than that first blush might let on…
Here are a few thoughts on writing in multiple genres (which has also been posted this morning at The Book Pixie):
My sophomore YA, PLAYING HURT, a summer romance that occurs between two athletes, is due out from Flux in ’11.
I know this might, at first, seem a little strange—following a literary novel with a romance. When I was in college, literary (character-driven) work and genre (plot-driven) work were discussed as two completely different forms of writing. But the revision process I went through to sell these two novels proves just how much the two genres depend on one another.
Let me explain:
I wrote A BLUE SO DARK in an explosion of creative energy—the whole process took just a little over two months! I cleaned it up, polished it, and began to submit…and the rejections started flooding my inbox. I was hearing that the book had some good literary writing but was just plain too internal. The novel took place far too much in Aura’s head. So I had to insert some action—instead of Aura telling the reader how she felt about her mother or her school life or her art or her best friend, I began to devise scenes in which we could see her interact with the people in her life.
Once Aura was talking and moving about in the world, she became a fully rounded character. Those editors I was submitting to could actually understand Aura better when they witnessed her interacting with the world around her than they could when she told them who she was straight-out!
PLAYING HURT was originally a romance about a couple of teens who found love through a summer affair. The main character, Chelsea, basically learned, in the initial draft, that there was a difference between friendship and romantic love—for the first time, she learned what lust, what passion felt like. But while the first draft of this book was filled with dramatized scenes, there just didn’t seem to be enough going on internally with the characters.
So…..I took a look at my draft, and thought my main character, Chelsea, seemed kind of…athletic. She liked the outdoor activities that took place at the resort where she met Clint, her love interest. So I thought—what if she’s an ex-athlete? What if she’s been hurt, and is at the resort to get some confidence…and then I thought, what if Clint’s been hurt…I began to build them up internally, focusing on character development rather than plot this time to fully round out the story.
Basically, I had to use what I’d learned from all my reading of genre fiction to infuse drama into A BLUE SO DARK, my literary novel. And I had to use what I’d learned about character development from literary fiction in order to fill out PLAYING HURT, my romance!
…So, yeah, literary and genre…I think they absolutely go hand-in-hand…
Now that I’ve whet you’re appetites, and you’re dying for another serving of writing advice, check this out: HOW DANDELIONS MAKE ME A BETTER WRITER. I’m not joking. They do—find out how over at The Book Girl Reviews!