‘Write a Christian Romance’ was the last session I had planned to attend at the Susquehanna Valley Writer’s Workshop held in Lewisburg, PA October 7-8, 2011. I don’t have anything against the genre, but I haven’t read a romance in at least five years. However, I did attend the session and it proved to be the most rewarding and thought-provoking of the other sessions I attended.
Before I go any further, I want to tell you that this session was lead by Mary Sue Seymour (The Seymour Agency), a writing agent listed as a top deal-maker for inspirational fiction on Publisher’s Marketplace. Everything I share with you is courtesy of her workshop on writing ‘Christian Romance’. She struck me as someone who knows her business. If you write Christian or Inspirational Romance, Mary Sue is the agent for you!
Although I originally didn't plan to attend the session, due to last minute schedule changes and a tiny nudge, I found myself listening to Mary Sue explain the secret formula for writing a romance novel revealed by Stephanie Mittman:
Take a wonderful, loveable, sympathetic heroine and a wonderful, loveable, sympathetic hero, throw them together in a dangerous, or difficult situation with insurmountable obstacles for them to overcome; break them apart so it seems they can never be together; add a complicating twist, and finally bring them together to live happily ever after.
Unlike in the other sessions that day, we did writing exercises in ‘Christian Romance’. And as is often the case with writing exercises, I learned something valuable about my writing (actually I already knew it, but the writing exercise confirmed it) –deep down I’m truly a mystery writer. Mystery is in my bones.
For the first exercise we were to create a hero and a heroine; then describe them in three sentences each. Here’s my first sentence:
Hunter Cayden moves to a small lakeside town after his wife is murdered and the police fail to find any suspects.
My mind immediately conjured up a troubled character with a mystery to solve. I didn’t consider Hunter’s appearance, and I struggled to create a female character to pair him with. At this point, although I wasn’t demonstrating the skills of a romance writer, I wasn’t bothered because I felt more confident in my mystery and suspense writing skills.
Throughout the session, Mary Sue stressed that if you read romance novels, you can write romance novels.
“Why not write a romance novel?” she asked.
I thought, “Because they’re predictable and it’s apparently not in my skill set.”
Mary Sue went on to tell us about a client who got a contract for a three book deal based on just 50 pages. Christian romances are selling. In fact, the ‘Market’ is clamoring for more Amish romance novels.*
This was a startling revelation to me. First, I wondered, “Why Amish romance?” Second, I thought, “Um, she's right! I could try to write a romance.”
The prospect of almost certain publication, a contract with a publisher, and an advance in the thousands of dollars is, needless to say, enticing to an aspiring author. But my sudden change in perspective raised the question: Should I write the book of my heart or a book for the market?
Join me next week as I consider the issue in more detail!
*Specifically, Mary Sue is looking for Amish or historical (1800s) romances around 85,000 words. Plan on making the book a trilogy –pulling main characters from supporting characters in the first book.