From as far back as I can remember until I went to college, I wanted to be a writer. But then I realized that I needed too much therapy to handle the rejection that goes hand-in-hand with writing. So, I decided I wanted to work in publishing. Then, I realized what working in publishing is actually like (because I did it, and it feels like when you take the tube of a vacuum and you point it directly in front of your face and try to breathe normally, only instead of the air leaving your body against your will it’s your self-worth), so I decided I wanted to be a homesteader in an idyllic setting where I could preserve all my own food and weave lovely and practical things. But I don’t want to live in a rural area, canning is a little scary, and I don’t actually have room for the wedding china my mom insisted I register for, let alone a loom, so here I am.
Some things just won’t die though, and for me it’s how much I love writing. It doesn’t even have to be my writing—I could sit in a writing circle and pick over someone else’s hard work for hours, happily. I do it with my author friends now just for fun. So, when Erin and Holly suggested I channel some of my “I know how the author executed that THING in this book and I can gush over it until either your eyes glaze over or you suddenly see what I’m talking about” impromptu lectures into a feature where I discuss the craft of romance novels, I immediately thought, that sounds like a terrible idea. I’m one of a gazillion English majors, from a college no one knows exists, and my resume isn’t impressive at all. (Seriously, Erin once called it “a hiring manager’s nightmare”.) Lots of people like writing, and lots of people critique it, but that does not make them Anne Lamott. And I am not Anne Lamott. I pick dried applesauce out of doll hair and keep track of who went to the dentist when. I am not qualified to present anything to anyone.
So anyway, my answer was no, that’s a terrible idea, I would love to. Let’s absolutely do it. Also, let’s do it as a recurring feature so I can really dig in and get nerdy about it. Because it’s fun, and really good romance novels have a ton of interesting things going on that work together to make them look “easy” and “trashy” and like “mindless beach reads”. And honestly, it turns out that unlike doctoring, there isn’t a regulatory board for romance novel analysis. So no one’s going to arrest me for failing to be suitably superlative. (I did check.) I can just do it because it’s fun, I can, and I want to.
So that’s pretty much the idea here. I want to isolate some of the tools and skills romance authors use to craft their work, and I want to explain how they’re used effectively to evoke a strong response in the reader. I’m going to pick apart things that can be really subtle but make a huge impact on how we readers respond emotionally and mentally, like pace, sentence structure, and dialogue breaks. And I’m probably also going to make some wild assertions that I hope you can challenge me on, like, “slow burns work better in 1st person present with a single POV” and “for good tension, it’s more about what you don’t say than what you do”. And I’ll come with receipts, because I paid like, $80,000 for my English education and I might as well use it properly.
So this is Hearts and Crafts, where I take my glue and scissors and break down how we make romance work so beautifully. Is there anything YOU want to learn more about?
4 thoughts on “Hearts and Crafts; or, How Do They Do That??”
ooooh, I love reading about the craft of writing! Right now I’m thinking of the kinds of things I see people talking (complaining) about on twitter and other places. Like how well a book does or doesn’t execute the 80% conflict/third act breakup. (and relatedly, KJ Charles recently wrote a blog about writing successful argument scenes.)
The art of pacing is something I’m excited to hear more about. That feels to me like a “I know it when I see it” kind of thing. But small things like sentence structure and dialogue breaks is something I never consciously notice, so I look forward to learning more about it from you!
I’m really enjoying these deeper discussions, like your “what makes a romance” series too.
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I like the idea of pacing. Switching genre’s in romance, and trying to write under a pen name. And then back to pacing. For me, switching from deep third person pov characters in Historical Romance to first person pov in contemporary Romance has giving me pacing fits. I’m used to action, fight scenes, and deaths everywhere, (pirates, wars and plagues.) I switched to people having kids and normal everyday drama. So keeping that tension and pacing is harder. So pacing would be good._
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