Friday

It's Not About Formulas

I've been stressing a lot about my genre. Not about which genre my novel fits - it's romantic suspense. Has to be. The romance is high, and sweet, and strong, but there are some pretty harsh elements that are not so romantic.What I mean is: I don't follow the formula for either category (romance/romantic suspense).

I'm not writing a story about two "wrong for each other" people who lust/hate/misunderstand/love&all is perfect.

I'm writing Kasia & Jake's love story. Sure, Kasia is overly reluctant to get into the relationship, but she's not an idiot. She and Jake are meant for each other and they both know it early on. That doesn't mean there's not tension between them, sexual and otherwise. It just means they don't assume things, not ask, and go off in a huff before falling into bed, then fighting about a silly misunderstanding, then...love. In fact, they don't fall into bed for quite a while, and not until the relationship is solid and sure, and there's love. It works, simply because that's who they are.


And I'm writing Kasia's story. She's emotionally/socially immature maybe, but that's all. She's been taking care of herself for a long while, and she has the brains and bravado to back it up. When things go awry, she doesn't wait for a knight in shining armor. Instead, she takes a deep breath, gains strength from her love for that knight and figures her own way out a terrifying situation.

Not the formula. At. all. Publishers claim to want fresh and new, but that's not what I'm seeing so much - especially in my genre. I'm happy with the story I wrote. Otherwise I wouldn't have taken 2 years perfecting this one before sending it out into the scary world.

My story is true to my characters, not my genre.

I prefer to read outside the box. How 'bout you?

Does anybody else out there stray from the formula of their genre/s?

39 comments:

Bonnie R. Paulson said...

Your story sounds intriguing and suspenseful. I hate formula stories. They annoy the crap out of me as a reader. But as a writer, i stress out too. I write unconventional romances - like between married couples who rediscover each other. second chances, that kind of thing. I think the hook is where it is and they editor can always suggest you up the romance, if needs be. but if the story and writing are strong, then the little formulaic issues aren't that huge.

good luck on submissions, I'm rooting for you!

Jillybean said...

Good luck Tara!

I don't like genre boxes. Really. I think genre soup is a great way to keep things fresh and new. [g]

I think your point about staying true to the characters instead of a genre is right on. Amen! I feel that a story that does otherwise comes off kind of contrived.

Deniz Bevan said...

Hello! Raises hand...
Formula? I'm not meeting it either. My characters fall in love. They don't succumb to silly misunderstandings that drag on and on. But it's romance right? It's sweet and exciting and - well, I hope it's all those things. They solve problems together. Is this a bad thing?

Zan Marie said...

Have you thought of it as Women's Fiction? I found the niftiest definition at The Writers Workshop http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/blog/ the other day. FRIENDLY FIRE fits like a glove. Romance isn't counted out. The hallmarks are: a woman as main character, emotional growth, and relationships. Just a thought. ; )

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I don't think mine stuck to the formula, especially since so many outside my genre read the book. Go with your gut instinct, Tara.

Old Kitty said...

For my current wip, I started to write it not even knowing about genres and suchlike! I only wrote what got me most excited and it's only now I find it;s paranormal! So I say - go with what your passion dictates!! The genre will fit in later! I'd like to think so anyway! Take care
x

Meredith said...

Sounds like the perfect rule to break! I love strong, real female characters. I say stay true to your characters and don't worry overly much about what your genre dictates.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Good luck on the submission,

Yvonne.

Anne Gallagher said...

I know I broke a lot of rules writing my stories. But I think I remained in my genre because the MC's get their HEA. However, they had to fight for it every step of the way.

Mary Aalgaard said...

I am so tired of the formula stories and the publishers who are to afraid to print anything else. They're liars about wanting fresh and original. Look at Hollywood and part 7 or 8 of the same thing or the same old predictable plot. Dare to be different! We all need the "feel of something new."

Stephanie Faris said...

I've found they want fresh and new that fits within what readers expect. Not so easy to do, I know!

alexia said...

I think it's the stories that are outside the box that get a lot of acclaim. While yes, there is still lots of formulaic stuff out there, I think publishers do really want fresh, new stuff.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I have a hard time staying in a genre, so I'm pretty sure I'm not sticking to the formula! :)

A friend who has a romantic suspense novel was recently at a workshop with me. She had talked to a published author about genres and what to call it - she was calling hers romantic suspense, but the author said that was a "dead" market right now (which always changes). The author said Small Town Romance might work for my friend, and that it's a hot trend right now.

Best of luck to you!

Jai Joshi said...

All I can tell you is to follow the story your characters are revealing to you. That's more important than any genre.

Jai

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

p.s. Also Contemporary Romance is apparently big. :) Which is nice, because it covers a lot.

tfwalsh said...

Really like the sound of your story... Just remember, there is no original ideas out there regardless of agents / publishers saying they want something new - what they want is probably a spin on ideas... find the unique nugget in your story and flog it:) That's what I'm trying to do in my Urban Fantasy story.

M Pax said...

Your story sounds fantastic. Stand behind it. You could be the one to start the new trend. Being unique is a good thing. I think.

roh morgon said...

Hey, girl!

You're absolutely right - the number one thing is that the story stays true to the characters.

I like the idea of romantic suspense - to me, one without the other sounds kinda boring...

My WIP is a genre-breaker as well. I suppose it's general class is urban fantasy, but that's too tame. Dark fantasy fits better, but what it really seems to be is romantic horror. And no, not gothic horror. That usually has a wimpy female MC, and my MC is anything but wimpy - in fact she's a little scary, but not as scary as the guy she falls in love with!

But regardless of what genre the publishers say your story falls into, I LUV Kasia & Jake's story (and for those of you who haven't met Jake yet, he is HAWT!). I think romantic suspense fits, or better yet, call it post-YA - for the YAers who've finally grown up!

Tara said...

Awww, Roh, you're so sweet. :) Haha, it kinda is post-YA. They're right at the top of the YA age, but her maturity and the underlying adult themes make it too much for YA. Hadn't looked at it that way before.

Thanks for stopping by everyone :)

Terry said...

Tara,
Sounds like you are doing a great job..... Since I write like a hick... I love reading stories from people who know how to write...

Tweeted and new gfc follower.
http://twitter.com/CandidaJourney/status/84066493834338304

Nas Dean said...

Your story sounds interesting. And I don't really care much for genre as long as the story delivers. Would definitely pick a book with your blurbline.

Manzanita said...

Rules, Schmules. If the story is in your heart it will find the hearts of readers.
Lots of luck....
Manzanita@Wannabuyaduck

Carol Kilgore said...

Waving hands and shouting, "Me!"

One day will be our day. Let's hope it's soon :)

Liz Fichera said...

I stay away from formulas and I've been able to get published although, admittedly, it's not been easy. So I hear ya, girlfriend!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I hope romantic suspense isn't a dead market. There are two sessions on it at the RWA conf next week (I'm going to one of them).

Maybe yours is commercial fiction.

I don't really follow any genre rules, or maybe I do but don't know it. I think there's more flexibility in YA because of the different subgenres. :D

Alleged Author said...

I had an issue trying to classify one of my WIPs. Still don't know what the heck it is, so I guess *had* is have...LOL!

Talei said...

Hearing you on that, sometimes I stray with formulas too and then I have to get all 'hard' with the editing process and cull it all out (again). Le sigh.

Happy writing my friend!

Lisa Gail Green said...

One of the reasons I love YA so much is because it blurs genre lines so often. There is no perfect formula. Sure there are elements that are often there, but it's not set in stone. :D

Tara said...

Stina, I hope you'll be posting all about the conference (especially the RS stuff) on your awesome blog. ;)

Madeleine said...

So could you categorize it as chick lit/realistic fiction. It sounds more involved than a ususal romance. I guess the genres are there to help the reader home in on what interests them, but outside the box, is always interesting. Good luck it sounds like an interesting read. :O)

Lydia K said...

I think you're doing the right thing by sticking to your gut. I agree with Lisa, in that I like writing YA because the "rules" are more generous.

Tara said...

Madeleine - no, it's def. romance first and foremost. Very strong romance. Just suspense mixed in.

I'm starting to get jealous of you YA writers and your freedom. ;-)

Miranda Hardy said...

It's great that you are writing what you want. Too many people write to the audience.

Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting. I appreciate it.

Good luck with the submissions!

Jemi Fraser said...

I love romantic suspense - one of my favourite genres! Your story sounds terrific! :)

I hear ya on the 'not quite fitting the expected pattern' thing. I bet you'll find the right agent to love your story though!!

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Genre is becoming a blurred notion. So much crossover now. I would do just as you're doing now and set aside any hard and fast notions of genre. You'll need to choose one for querying/pitching, but fewer books now can easily fit in one category alone. Staying true to your characters and their story is really the best way to write, I think.

K.M. Weiland said...

Sounds to me as if your story has avoided all the cliches that drive me nuts in most romance stories. I say: good job! Following the guidelines of genre is one thing, but getting sucked into the stereotypes (especially silly ones) is another. Be true to your story, and it will be true to you.

Merissa said...

Keep at it. All we can do is write the best, truest story we have in us, polish it till it shines and send it out. If luck and timing are with you, someone else will love it like you do. If not--you wrote the best, truest story you had in you, and really, that's an amazing accomplishment.

Angela Felsted said...

I think it's great that you're true to your characters.

Ninja Girl said...

As I writer, I definitely stray. My second MS is a mixture of YA, romance, murder mystery, and humor. (I know it sounds like a jumble, but it's good, I promise...or at least I think so :)) Like you said, it's all about telling your character's story, not writing to formula. I enjoyed your post and decided to follow!
Hope you have a great weekend,
Ninja Girl