‘Easy reading is damn hard writing’ said Nathaniel Hawthorn.
I realised the truth of this when I sat down to write my first romance novel. It would be as easy as a lark, I thought. After all, Mills and Boon have been light and easy reads and my record of reading an M&B in one go, stood at forty five minutes flat!
Moreover, the books follow a set format; the hero is TDH, rich, suave and successful; the heroine is heartbreakingly beautiful, feisty and vivacious yet shy and innocent. The story is a romantic fantasy with glitzy, glamorous settings. The hero and heroine meet amidst strong emotional conflict and sky-rocketing sexual tension. Just throw in some love scenes, resolve the conflict and viola! I’ll have a manuscript ready!
How naïve I was!
Countless mounds of paper and several bitten nails later I fell at the feet of the deity of romance, La Cupida — propitiated myself, offered a lock of my sparse hair and even spilled a teeny weenie tear vowing my eternal devotion. The goddess took pity on my plight, sent her arrows soaring that pierced through the cloudy skies of my imagination and light filtered through.
I came up with a manuscript that was graciously accepted and I was on cloud nine! Years of perseverance had paid off I thought with glee! Little did I know that more hard work was to follow!
My editor’s congratulatory email also contained a list of revisions that would ‘tighten up the story and develop my voice as writer!’ As I got down to work I realised that story telling is not just imagination and creativity but also a craft which requires learning and training.
The characters have to be well thought out, etched to the minutest detail; the plot has to be believable, fast paced and slick; the story has to follow a set format and yet be new and refreshing; the underlying ideas have to be positive, affirmative and upbeat.
And here the important role played by the editor comes in. A book germinates in the author’s thoughts but the editor’s insights and feedback go a long way in shaping it and contouring it to perfection. Thank you Megan and Laura!
Two books later I’m ready to take up arms against all those critics who regard M&Bs as a piece of fluff and call them “mush” and “slush.” M&Bs like any other book of fiction or non-fiction require painstaking effort, eye-wrecking labour and toiling while the world sleeps. There are other hardships as well. The kids will get ‘late submission’ for school projects, phone chit chats will have to be ditched, late evening drives will have to be abandoned, the family will frequently have to endure ‘Maggi dinners’ and some of those Page three parties will have to be given a miss!
But the finished product is worth it! And when one holds the little blue book, embossed with one’s name, in one’s hand the feeling that lights up the insides is indescribable. So, all you fellow romance readers and aspiring writers, pick up a pen and write the book you always wanted to read!