No such manual exists.
Ask authors for the key to success and you'll get as many answers as authors queried. One such sub-topic is reading. What do they read, how often do they read, when do they read, why do they read, how does reading impact their writing?
What's the right answer for the aspiring novelist?
That's easy. Whatever works for you. (I'm learning that this generic answer works for pretty much everything in life, short of defining Christianity, becoming an astronaut, and mathematical computation.)
I read. A lot. If you've ever read my blog, you know this. I wish I wrote as prolifically as I read but I find reading much easier to fit into an already hectic life. And just what I need to get brief respites from said hectic life. One of my 2007 goals is to make more time for writing, less for reading.
But reading does something else for me too. It helps me to know what I want to write...and what I don't. I read a lot of things that I would never, could never write. Some are just too challenging, like those epic sagas that cover multiple generations. Some I enjoy but know that I don't have the inclination to write, like thrillers. Others I simply don't enjoy and therefore, would never attempt.
I've been tossing about as to writing inspirational vs. secular romance. As a pastor's wife, perhaps the answer should be obvious but it's not. At least not to me. I love inspirational romance. It was while reading inspirational romance that I first got the bug to try my hand at writing a novel. I'd had the bug for non-fiction a few times before, and I am pretty sure I can write it if and when I choose--because researching and writing is something I do a lot in my professional life--but something about writing a novel really gets my juices flowing.
Yet, I enjoy secular romance as much as I do inspirational. I have my limits. There are some things I just won't read. Too explicit. Too gory. Too fantastic. That's just me. I like stuff that's in this world, with a minimum of blood and mutiliation, and where I can utilize my imagination for the love scenes. I can enjoy a well-written, reasonable explicit love scene though, if it doesn't start to feel pornographic. I'll even venture to say I've learned a few things. (I'll let my husband be the judge of whether I'm a good student.) I just prefer to focus on the feelings rather than the act. And I recently read a paranormal that was just the right mix of fantastic and contemporary. Great book.
But can I write secular romance? Why do I want to? Because. Because some of the stories swirling in my head just don't feel as though they have a spiritual component. And I don't see that as a bad thing. I believe part of my witness as a Christian writer is how I conduct myself in business--in my dealings with readers, other authors, publishers, book reviewers, agents--which does not mean that all of my stories have to preach a message.
What about the love scenes? I've written a few, and even published some. But they are "tender", meaning everything is pretty much behind closed doors. The trick is building the sexual tension and leading the horses to water. I don't actually have to paint the picture so that the reader can watch them drink. Yet I know that there are folks out there--lots of them, some even close to me--who would challenge this notion.
As a pastor's wife, I don't begin to suggest that I'm perfect or somehow a better Christian than anyone else (I try hard not to project that image because I know the hard, cold truth) but I certainly have to be mindful of anything that might
be confusing and misconstrued. This is a constant concern, but that's a whole 'nother blog.
I've considered writing secular romance under a pen name. But a Christian blog post convicted me on this point. Part of my integrity comes from not hiding beneath a made up name. I've written for the confession mags (again, sweet or tender romance with no explicit sex) and that means no byline. But I'm not hiding. I'm more than glad to share the issues and story titles for my work. I admire those authors who write for multiple genres using their real name. It takes courage, fortitude, and real talent.
So I've continued to struggle with this issue. This morning, I finally realized that I can absolutely do both. I can write tender, sweet, secular romances. There is a market for them. My revelation came from finishing a recent Harlequin Romance release, "A Nascar Holiday". I won it in an author book contest. (Boy, how I love those book giveaways!) After completing the third novella in the anthology, I realized that I had not read a single sex scene. Not one. Lightbulb! This is the line I need to target. My stories will most likely be multicultural so I hope the editors find room for them. I've checked out the Kimani lines but, with the exception of the New Spirit line, they generally have love scenes, as far as I can tell. (I read a LOT of these books in the last year.)
I will write the stories that come to me, in my own way, and find the right home for them.
Pray for me.
Peace & Blessings,
Peace & Blessings,
Stay focused. Be deliberate. Believe.