I mentioned on Monday that I always wanted to try writing romance - I have always loved the character-driven aspects of books the most, and the idea of an entire genre that's character-driven (because, really, what else can you call a genre that's all about two people figuring out how to be together?) appeals to me a lot.
For anyone who feels the same, Kate Walker has posted some tips for writing category romance over on Sally's blog. Even if you don't write romance, several of the tips are useful for other genres (I especially liked No. 11, the Intense Black Moment).
Ms. Walker has written successfully for Mills & Boon for many years. I admit I have only read one Mills & Boon book, which came free with a magazine (so I didn't even generate income for a publisher - oh, the shame). I read it when I was 14 or so, and in spite of the fact it didn't have Holden Caulfield in it, I found myself enjoying it. The premise was especially mad - from what I gather, it was madder than most M&B novels - and involved a woman ending up in the wrong room on her honeymoon (well, not really a honeymoon as the wedding had been postponed). She slept with, and later fell in love with, the guy in the wrong room. By accident.
So not the most realistic premise. But I cared.
I cared about the characters. Their situations may have been far-fetched, but the quality of the writing was strong and the characters sympathetic. Based on my one experience over ten years ago, Mills & Boon - and their writers - do their job well.
It drives me nuts when I see people patronise genre fiction - any genre, whether romance of sci-fi or mystery or crime. There are many readers who have a particular genre they love, and they read widely in that genre (sometimes exclusively, sometimes not). They are not undiscerning - they are the exact opposite. They are experts.
And you can't fool them with pretty language or literary tricks. They know what works in their genre, and what doesn't. They know when your idea isn't original, when your character is a secret rip-off/homage, and when your plot twist doesn't ring true. They get all your in-jokes. Such readers consume a genre extensively because they love it, and they expect your book to keep that love alive.
Now, I'm not saying that the book about woman who ended up in the wrong hotel suite is an overlooked work of high art. But it's not surprising to find that the writing and the characterisation were strong - it was written by someone who was writing for a genre audience.
Do you write genre fiction? What's your experience been like?