Thursday 25 September 2014

Contemporary or Historical Romance?

Over the years I've read a lot of contemporary romance fiction as well as historical romances. Though I never thought I would actually try writing a contemporary romance, I am persisting.

My ideas always present themselves in an historical context, and the majority of them would not work in a contemporary setting, but with the current story it was the reverse.

Meanwhile my historical novella is sitting in first draft form waiting for me to continue the revision notes, while I continue with this contemporary romance.

Set aside the fact that they are about a couple falling in love whichever type you write; my experiences have certainly highlighted the differences.

Writing about the past you have a lot of aspects to absorb, and keep in mind.

I find I have to cut out the outside world completely to get my head into my characters in the past. It truly is going 'into the zone'. So much so that the phone ringing, or letters being put through the postbox are alarming; as my brain can't work fast enough to adjust and put me back into the present with all the normal everyday sounds.

Writing about the past you have to take into account the way society- generally- worked. The limitations and risks women faced. Manners and dress codes were more defined, and preparing and cooking food was time-consuming. Even war and politics played a part.

Yes, we still have the war and politics today, the main difference is technology and that we're part of a global community too, compared to the past when today's allies were once the enemy, and Britain 'ruled the waves'.

The internet has made a lot of research material available, which is good for both writers of historical and contemporary romance.

So what advantages are there to writing contemporary romances?

Our heroines are no longer limited to pre-defined roles in life. If you want her to be an Engineer, or a Detective she can be, and you may even know one or two personally; or at least know how to find out more about their jobs from your research.

Women have jobs, they own their own homes, have their own money and control their own lives- generally. 

We are living in the now so we have a lot of influences, but we also have a lot of accrued knowledge that we can use while we write. Our only limitation is our imaginations- and what publishers and readers want. :)

While the last fifty years is history, personally I consider it a midway point. I was a child in the 60's, but I can still remember aspects of it. Some memories can be triggered by a simple comment on Facebook, or by an object that was very familiar.

If you want to write a story set in the latter half of the 20th century then you can ask questions of people who lived through those times, and there's a lot of documentary evidence from television. 

Digital channels will often be re-running shows and dramas written and filmed in the 70's and 80's. Just like today the cars, the looks and clothes influenced the young men and women of the time, and can be a useful reference point.

Social documentaries were the reality shows of their day.

When the original series of Charley's Angels came out, many young women went for Farrah Fawcett Majors' distinctive hairstyle in the mid to late 1970's.

If you write about now, you don't have to concentrate to the same degree on the attitudes and morality of your characters.

To say it's not important would be wrong, because it does matter to both the reader and the writer. But the boundaries are no longer as tight as they once were, a hundred years ago.

Even though some aspects of modern life may not sit comfortably with every reader, as writers we each decide what aspects of life, as it concerns our characters, to use.

Life today, like life in the past, is certainly not roses all the way.

Comparing writing a romance set in the past, and one set now, I'd say contemporary has the edge on how long it takes to write, but writing an historical romance has something else.

When I attended the talk by Lindsey Davis at The Pump Room in Bath, during my trip in May, she said, "writing about the past has levels to it." I'd agree with that-whether you're writing crime, romance or a straight historical.

I'm enjoying the freedoms of writing for the now, but I appreciate the depths of the past...

Saturday 20 September 2014

Getting Back into Routine...

Normal service resumes from today...

Last weekend was very busy with shopping for last-minute items, and helping my son pack up everything he needed to take with him to university.

Sunday was a very emotional day. Friends had warned me I would cry, but I'd promised myself I'd try not to, but that was a fail on my part. I did shed a few tears, and for a good few hours felt like a piece of my chest was missing.

All is well and he starts lectures on Monday. He's not burnt anything yet, or set the fire alarms off- though a few have already this past week- including one at about 4 am.

So now I'm getting back to my current work in progress, and discovering more about my characters as I write. I've realised my heroine isn't as subdued as I thought she was at the start; and my hero has a cheeky side to his character I didn't know about...

Wednesday evening (17th) I did a session at the writers' club on Manuscript Presentation. It was only meant to be about 40 minutes (with time for manuscript reading in the second half) but every aspect generated discussion, and while it was good that everyone could share their experiences, it took up the whole meeting.

To show how important it was to really read every word and line looking for errors before sending, I gave everyone a brief exercise.

I used the first 153 words of Pride and Prejudice printed out with the punctuation and sentence structure that Jane Austen would have been familiar with. It's an opening most people will recognise.

The one thing I didn't do was remove any commas, as they can be tricky. Austen's language is much more formal and drawn out than nowadays, so I was sure we would have all disagreed on where any removed commas should have gone. So I limited it to creating spelling errors, missing words and general punctuation errors.

Some attendees were finished quite quickly, while others took longer. When it appeared everyone was done we went through line by line, with the victims  volunteers saying what errors they had found.

There were only 7 to find, and while many did find them all, others missed 1 or 2. So it was a good exercise to finish with.

I have great respect for all those writers who regularly do workshops and talks, as it takes a lot of thought and preparation time before the event even takes place.

Honestly, those first ten minutes were scary, but I was fine after that... :)