Hi folks! Sorry I missed posting an entry last week, but I was in the final stretch of editing the second draft of All’s Fair and could not be derailed for anything. Let me just say that it’s been a trip, and it ain’t over yet, but I’m enjoying this slight breather. Back in February, I sent All’s Fair through it’s first round of beta readers. This resulted in a major overhaul for my manuscript: 1/3 had to be cut entirely, 1/3 needed extensive reworking, 1/4 needed to be moved and/or have minor editing, and 1/12 could be kept as it was. And Draft 2 is easily 100 pages longer than Draft 1 due to all of the stuff that was missing during my first attempt. Needless to say, it’s been quite the learning curve, especially since I have never written in these two genres before; normally I stick with high fantasy. So, what are some of the things that I learned at this juncture?
1) Writing a romance is just as difficult as writing in any other genre.
I confess, I picked romance because I thought it would be easier to write. A little more formulaic, a built-in audience, and less expectations of breaking the mold. Well, that might be true in some cases, as it is with any genre, but I quickly learned that I was lacking an entire skill set needed to tackle this genre. Oddly enough, this was in the character department. With two main characters I’d spent about 3-4 months with, I didn’t have a good idea of who they actually were nor did I properly justify why the audience should care about them and why they would be attracted to one another. Normally I’m pretty good with character development, but most of the characters from my other works are either A) in fanfics and therefore don’t need as much justification, or B) I’d already spent years developing them and learning who they were, like with Ryn, Scion, and the rest of the cast from Ravens and Roses. Even more odd, my secondary characters in All’s Fair were more compelling to my beta readers than the main ones, so you can imagine my surprise and consternation!
2) It’s hard to write sexual tension if you have little to no libido.
I’m a demisexual (someone with a very low and very selective sex drive who requires deep emotional bonds before forming a romantic relationship) so trying to write a romance with two more traditionally heterosexual characters was… interesting. The emotional connection I was better with, but the physical side is almost completely alien to me. I had to read a lot of romance novels and watch a bunch of period dramas (namely A Royal Affair and The Making of a Lady) in order to get into that headspace. My goal is to craft a delicate balance between the more unrealistic but more traditionally satisfying fantasy inherent in romance novels and the emotional maturity and conflict that comes from trying to make a relationship work. Hopefully things don’t seem… too awkward.
3) Don’t forget the steampunk!
I chose steampunk as an ingredient in this mix because I didn’t want to write another straight-up fantasy, but I also didn’t want to just do a straight-up Regency Era romance either. I needed some extra flavor for the setting, and steampunk seemed like a good compromise. However, I found it was also easy to forget the steampunk elements until I absolutely needed them for something, which was rather jarring. I feel that the steampunk was integrated better in Draft 2, but I’ll have to wait and see what my betas say.
4) No matter how cliche you feel your characters are at the start, they do evolve into something far richer and more compelling.
My protagonists from All’s Fair probably will never be quite as fleshed out as Ryn or Marella or my other long-lived characters, but they have come a long way in a year. The old adage about finding out what your character wants and then throwing obstacle after obstacle in their way to prevent them from reaching it really works. Conflicting desires, motivations, pathways, and roadblocks all conspired to enrich my characters. Even the secondaries, who already had more life in them, became more integral and their own problems and quirks also helped shape the plot. The more I understood everyone’s position and motivations, the more everything made sense as plot holes and leaps of logic filled themselves. It’s probably not perfect, but hopefully it’s a lot better than it was.
So, with these new lessons under my belt (and many more sure to be on the way) I now get a month off from All’s Fair so I can catch my breath and start researching the next stage that is fast approaching: finding an agent. Wish me luck!