I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on the distinction between romance and women's fiction. I'd always thought that women's fiction was the sort of book Oprah tends to pick, usually a female author, female main characters, themes of family, children, relationships. But a couple of recent references have left me questioning my assumed definition.
Would be interested in hearing how you diferentiate a romance story from a love stoy, too.
A romance by definition has a happy ending. The focus is on the relationship -- the process of falling in love and the obstacles that keep the couple apart. A love story can have a tragic ending (Love Story.) Romance tends to focus on the emotional experience while a love story might focus on events more than emotions.
Women's fiction is really any story that focuses on a woman's journey. So the Oprah books qualify, but so do less-literary titles. Now many publishers are publishing "Women's fiction with strong romantic elements." So, the story may focus on a woman's struggle with issues besides romance, but there's a romance involved, or the promise of a romance. The emphasis is on other things in her life -- her relationship with family or friends, overcoming an illness, coming back from a setback, and the romance is more peripheral.
I really love women's fiction, but it's still a tough sell.
Hope that answers your question.
Cindi, thanks for all the info.
Did you set out to be an author? Currently, I am also dabbling in freelance writing (trying to get some cash flow while writing and querying the novel).
How long did it take you to become published? (Or become contracted to be published) I've read blogs from some really famous authors that say it took them up to three years or more, and hundreds of rejections.
How many times, on average, do you think you edit a piece of work?
Sorry, if i'm bombarding you with questions, but I won't be on again til after midnight again. And, much appreciated, in advance.
Thank you for your time and your willingness to help
Seeing quite a few "historicals" among your books, I would like to ask if you have any tips for the historical fiction writers.
Is there anything particular to this specific genre? Any professional tips, aside from a willingness to spend much time researching this or that period of time?
I decided when I was 8 that I wanted to be a writer. I wrote stories all through school, and sold my first short story when I was 19. But it took me a long time to sell my first book. I did get an agent for my first novel and she spent two years trying to sell it, with no luck. Then she retired. I ended up writing 10 complete manuscripts in 10 years before I sold my first book. I was able to later sell seven of those books, so the effort was not wasted, and I learned a lot writing those books. As you can see, I'm really stubborn. And since I never really wanted to do anything else, I couldn't give up.
I have done a lot of nonfiction freelancing over the years. I still do. As you say, it's a good way to bring in extra money in between books. I've written for magazines and newspapers and online. Editing books depends -- I do editing as I go and do a couple of edit passes after the manuscripts are complete. Some books have trouble spots that need more editing than others. I seem to rewrite endings quite a bit -- 7 or 8 times sometimes. Every book is different. And of course, I have to edit it again after the editor gets a hold of it.
I LOVE historicals. They are my favorite books to write. I write western historicals because I've always been a history buff. I love learning something interesting about history and writing a book around that. For instance, A Long, Sweet Ride takes place in a Wild West Show -- like Buffalo Bill's Wild West. I read a book about Annie Oakley and was fascinated by the setting, so I wrote a love story set there. My advice when writing historicals is to pick a time period -- the old West, Regency, Victorian -- and stick with it for several books. That allows you to learn the period. And don't get too bogged down with research. Do enough to have a feel for the period, then write your story. Go back and fill in the blanks later. Otherwise, you can spend all your time researching. And with romance, at least, the love story is the most important thing. Your history should be accurate, but it's not the focus of the book.
Thank you so much for your response and a great advice!
I went to your website earlier and "A Long, Sweet Ride" sounds fascinating. I will most definitely read it.
I love your advice. I think I've followed it with this current MS, picking the period I like, then researching it until I get the breeze of the story I want to develop. At this point the much-enjoyable research can be put aside, but then the small details of the various PROs' everyday life are bursting in, sucking the history buff back into the textbooks. How do you balance the historical accuracy with the... literary licence?
(not that I'm not doing my best to keep the history buff under control )
Zoe, when I write the draft and I come to a historical detail I need to know, I flag that and write a note to myself. You can use a symbol such as a # or *. Then I keep writing. When I do revisions, I do a search for the symbol, then look up those facts one at a time. So, little things like the kind of gown, or what tool a character would have used, or the historical term for something. Leaving those little things until later helps keep me from getting off track. Obviously, if you need to know something that will effect the whole plot, such as the date of a battle, you have to stop and look that up. I do try to be as historically accurate as possible. I know authors who've changed dates and things and they handle this by including a note at the front of the book acknowledging that they're aware of the real date and changed it for a particular reason.
I'll admit I love research. When I wrote A Long, Sweet Ride I spent the whole day with a woman who was a trick rider with the rodeo and she showed me how she would teach someone to do all the tricks she did. She also knew the historical basis for all the tricks and which ones were actually performed in Wild West shows. So much fun!
Great suggestion for those historical tidbits you don't want to stop to research while you're getting the story down. I'm so taking this idea, but broadening it to several bits like that that I don't want to take time to figure out on the first or second draft.
Couple more questions.
With forty books, I imagine you've put some thought, and perhaps some time, into building a repeat readership. Have you developed a fan base of readers? If so, how many published books until you saw this kick in? What do you do to foster this? What do you wish you would have done earlier in your career? Any thoughts on this subject would be interesting to me.
Second, how has your writing and your writing process changed through the course of your career? What are you concered with in your writing today that you wouldn't have given two thoughts about a decade ago? Guess just trying to get some feel for how you see the evolution of your writing, if that makes sense.
Again, thank you.
I wish I could say I had put thought into developing a fan base, but honestly, all I've done is try to write good books. Writing for Harlequin, they do a good job of promoting the lines and that is sort of a built-in fan base. Category readers are loyal and I got fan mail from the very first book . I have a website, I do a newsletter, I'm on facebook -- but I'm not a publicity maven. And because I write lots of different kinds of books, I have lots of different types of fans. Maybe that's not the best career move, to spread myself around like that, but I like writing a lot of different things.
As for the process of writing -- the market today is very different from a decade ago. I think it's tougher to sell books to mainstream publishers and there are fewer slots. Ten years ago, the category writers I know made a lot more money than they do now. Ebooks have garnered a bunch of new readers, but I think the market is still very unsettled there. I feel like even after 40 books I'm still trying to figure out what readers want and what I'll find fulfilling as a writer. I'm exploring new markets and seeing where that will lead me. I'd like to write more historicals and think ebooks may allow me to do that. (I've heard for years there's no market for western historicals, but ebook publishers are more willing to take a chance on a niche like that. Whether one can make a living writing for a niche ebook market remains in question.)