Contemporary Romance: My “Side” Project

Writing SFR is hard. I like making up my own universe and not having to do research. But it’s still really difficult to stay within the realm of believable, create a good story, and make it interesting enough to be distinctive. Then there’s the length – both of my completed SFR projects are over 100K. Way over. So they’re complex stories with lots of threads and stuff to keep track of. I also have a problem with the voices in my head sounding an awful lot like contemporary characters.

All that combines into SFR exhaustion. So in October of 2009, I heard about this thing called National Novel Writing Month, NaNo for short. The idea is to write fifty-thousand words in one month, along with a couple hundred thousand other folks. I was struggling to finish a complete book and thought “Hey, this is what I need.” I’ll push myself to write this 50K, which is the perfect length for say, a Harlequin novel, and it’ll be contemporary, which is way easier than SF because I already know the contemporary world (one of my SFR worlds takes a whole month of planning just to get it straight). Fifty thousand words is half what I would normally write. It’ll be fun and just a little experiment to prove I can do it.

The words – they poured out of me. The plot came to me almost overnight. I never had blank page syndrome. I finished the 50K with a day to spare. Then I reread what I wrote and you know, it wasn’t bad. I polished it up and promptly became a finalist in the first contest I entered it in. And the second, a little competition called New Voices, where I made the top ten out of eight hundred entries. I’m still in shock over that.

Then I submitted this little experiment to Harlequin and got a request for the full. What? I don’t write contemporary. I mean, I read it. Of course I do. I’ve loved Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Nora Roberts since birth. Or shortly thereafter. J Contemporary was just my side project, to get me out of the SF quagmire for a little while. So then as a result of being a finalist in the New Voices contest, an editor asked me to submit something else. In two weeks, I had the rough synopsis, characters, and the first three chapters of a new contemporary. And I LOVED IT.

I’ve been trying to figure out what’s so great about writing Harlequin length stories and I think it’s because you don’t have room to mess around. They’re so short and the focus is all on the romance. It’s boiled down to its elements – man, woman, and a happily ever after and holy cow, that’s what I love to read! Why wouldn’t I love to write it? There’s also this formula aspect. Harlequin’s guidelines are pretty specific and that’s cool. I will readily admit – I love structure. I thrive on it. I have schedules, spreadsheets, lists. When I’m given criteria, I’m in heaven. Not everyone can write like that, but it’s really well suited to my personality, so that’s probably the other half of what’s great about it.

But I love SFR too, with all its complexities and room to see what great things my imagination can come up with. What’s a girl to do? Write both. So I am.

How about you? If you write in more than one genre, does one come easier than the other? If you only write in one, how did you know that was the genre for you?

P.S. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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