Writing is a personal profession. We write what we know, use experiences in our lives to add the spices and emotions. If you take pleasure sitting in front of your computer and bringing your characters to life, then you will succeed in your profession. It takes a lot to learn all of the ins and outs. I’ve found that once I know who my characters are, I let them give me their ideas on what is right for the path I put them on. Usually, when I’m not working my scenes right, they stop talking. I listen to the silence and rework the scene until we are all happy.
When obligations take me away, I actually miss my characters. When my muse does go silent, I put on my Phantom of the Opera (Gerry Butler style) CD and it doesn’t take long before the characters start talking again. I’m not sure if it’s because they are tired of hearing the music or it’s because they considered it a treat.
I joined RWA almost nineteen years ago. It’s one of the best things I have ever done for myself. I suggest that anyone who is serious about writing romance should join this great organization and attend as many of the national conferences as they can. My mentor gave me this advice when she told me about Romance Writers of America, and I listened. I’ve lost track of how many RWA conferences I’ve attended, but would guess ten. Beside learning about writing, I’ve loved being able to spend time in so many different towns around our country.
I have found that writers are the best kind of friends. They know emotions and when I needed someone to lean on, it was the writing community that pulled me through the worst time in my life. Over the years, I have found the greatest, and most supportive friends possible.
A bunch of us started The Playground. We are authors scattered across the country, and one in England. Being able to meet up at conferences became one of the reasons why we would attend. We cheered when one of us won an award and hugged when a book was rejected. Support is like a crutch when you’re an author. There are so many emotions you go through writing stories. If you find people you trust and who will be honest with you about your manuscript, I would suggest you join them. The Playground group consisted of twelve of us. We had different strengths and weaknesses. I mostly had weaknesses because I was fairly new and needed a lot of guidance. We all received a precious teddy bear that resembled our hero in the book that was a first sale. I have a Scottish cowboy bear from when I sold Night Angel. He sits by my desk and listens to my idea for plot lines.
When I sold that first book six and a half years ago, a gift came with the contract. I have a writing partner. He has the most marvelous imagination, lots of experiences in writing his 24 books, and we both worked for the same publishing house. We’ve not met in person yet because of those 1,500 miles between our homes. I live in Wisconsin and he lives in Louisiana. Because we can stay in contact by messenger, working together has become the best part of my education. He does not waiver on letting me know he does not like a scene or praises me when he thinks a scene is perfect. I trust his judgement and he trusts mine. We both write romance, but with different styles. He also has polished what I write. I edit his work as an author and I proofed his college work while he studied for his Master’s Degree in Education. I’m mentioning this, because it’s made writing enjoyable for me and could be for you, too. Look for that perfect partner and learn how to communicate as you work toward a perfect story. I practiced writing for twenty-two years, and it’s been the last six and a half where I’ve learned the most. I suppose it comes down to trust.
by: Marlene Urso
A RWA member for almost nineteen years and WisRWA member for four, Marlene Urso is published in historical romance. She lives in Lincoln County with her husband. She served as event coordinate for Sacramento Valley Chapter for thirteen years, which included setting up monthly meetings and welcoming members to the meetings. She has been a member of several online chapters, including From the Heart where she’s been membership chair for the last fifteen years. She is getting acquainted with the Wausau area chapter members and enjoys the monthly meetings. Marlene has always enjoyed doing volunteer work because it gives her a chance to give back to the industry that helped her to achieve her dream of being a published author.
Many years ago, when I had published just one book, I attended an RWA conference for the first time. Of course I was awed by the many writers with long lists of books and awards, with the appropriate fame to go along. You know, the fan girl persona so many of us get at RWA events.
One of these star authors, a woman I admired for her novels and promotional accomplishments, spoke at an informal session, where several panelists were trying to define the ingredients of a good love story. Let’s call my celebrated star Fiona, in case she’d want anonymity. The conversation snagged on the lack of romances made into films.
“I know why,” Fiona said. “Because love happens in your brain. It’s no action movie theme.”
Then she broke into laughter. “Let me tell you a story,” she went on. “A few weeks ago, I needed to have a new computer connection installed in my office. The workman arrived and started crawling around on the floor under my desk. Then the phone rang, and it was an interviewer from a major newspaper. I didn’t dare ask her to call back. So I sat near my desk and answered her questions, all about the emotional side of love stories and how the brain is the primary sex organ. I finished the interview and hung up about the time the workman crawled out from under the desk, his tasks completed.
“’Listen, lady,’ he exclaimed, “I don’t know about you, but my brain is definitely not my primary sex organ!’”
The entire room of romance writers erupted in raucous hilarity. You can be sure I have continued to read almost every book Fiona publishes.
But this topic is still worth considering for every story we try to write. How does an author express her characters steps along the way toward that goal we all seek, a meaningful and reciprocal relationship? The inner dialogue, the outward evidences of passion, the evocative looks of concern…we must make them come alive in the mind of the reader. And it all happens in the brain! And must be related in words and reflected in conflicts that force those characters apart…to make life-changing choices that enable their love. And how are those choices made? Why, in the brain of course.
A few years ago, I read five or six novels in a row that used the word frisson (French for shiver, usually a thrilling one) to describe “that” feeling. By the third or fourth time I read it, the word just irritated me. But I think I used it once too, and I hope my readers didn’t have the same reaction.
I wonder if Fiona’s computer installer would describe the reaction of his primary sex organ as a frisson?
What do you think? Is the brain the primary sex organ in your WIP?
Victoria Hinshaw has been published since 1983. Her latest short story will be released soon in From Florida With Love: Moonlight and Steamy Nights, an anthology produced by the Southwest Florida Romance Writers, Vicky’s winter chapter. Visit Victoria at her website, at her blog or on Pinterest or Facebook at Victoria Hinshaw – Author.