Author Archives: clancy

Genre Writing is Like Your Favorite Food

Last night I was in a group and had been discussing my book that is currently in edits and being beta-read.  One of my female friends and I began a private talk about reading preferences and she said, “Most romance novels are stupid.”  I write romance, but took no offense because people like what they like.  I get it.

As we discussed this topic further, my friend said the thing she didn’t like about romances was exactly what I like best about romances.  And what I think most people like best about whatever genre writing they read – that they know the formula, they like the formula and they want more of the formula.  Not saying that genre writing is boring or predictable.  I don’t think it is.  I think it’s more resonance and comfortableness.  It’s like your favorite food.  No matter how you change the method of cooking or the ingredients involved – a burger is a burger.  You know it, you like it, you want more of it.   It’s familiar and we like that.

That’s what genre writing is.  Any particular genre has it’s own conventions, things that must happen in order for it to qualify as being in that genre.   In romance, the hero and heroine have to have conflict they overcome in order to be together at the end.  They will be together at the end.  That’s non-negotiable.  No matter the bumpy road (and it needs to be a bumpy road) they must traverse, they also must end up at their destination of happy-ever-after together.   That makes me happy.  I can still get caught up in the bumpy road and feel their frustration and joy with them, but in the end I know it will all be OK and that works for  me.   I like the journey.

I have another friend, she doesn’t like romance writing either, who wants to know what happens after they get together.  She doesn’t want to know how they get together, she wants to know how they stay together for the long haul, the day in and day out.   I don’t care so much how they stay together, I don’t want to see them struggling with how to make time for each other, find romance despite having two point five kids and a mortgage.  This does make for many a great romantic-comedy movie though.  But me, I just want to see them get together after some trials and be left with the fantasy that all will be well – no matter what.

David Farland (aka Dave Wolverton), a SciFi / Fantasy writer (among so many other things he does brilliantly) says that we like genres for what they make us feel.  Fantasy brings us a sense of wonder, Mystery’Suspense gives us a thrill while we try to solve the problem.  Again – this is what makes it genre writing.

I like and read different genres and I know exactly what I’m getting when I start reading.  I know the conventions (or formula) that I can count on, but what I don’t know is the means by which I will travel this familiar road or the sights I will see as I go down it.  But I do know the destination and that’s where I want to end up.  Just watch what happens when a writer tries to not follow the rules of that genre.  It won’t be liked.  Many a reader will be angry in fact.

So back to my first friend and her ‘romance is stupid’ comment.  When she told me what she did like to read, I was amused because she just likes a different genre with different rules.  She didn’t even seem to realize that what she enjoys reading has the same results over and over too.  Different and yet the same.  I didn’t bother pointing that out.

Your thoughts?

Simple Keys to Productivity

I’m sitting here with two tasks I need to accomplish – the first is to write my post for this blog and the second is to write a minimum of 100 words.  So I’m doing both in one fell swoop, but what to write about?  I suffer this question a lot.  A lot, a lot.  A while back, I wrote a post about ideas being cheap and everywhere and while I still believe that, sometimes you’re tired and your brain sees nothing that isn’t blatantly pointed out.

   So, to overcome brain-fade or writer’s block or whatever you want to call it, I’m going to suggest fuel for your body.  Sleep, and enough of it, and eating with some regularity.  It’s preventative maintenance.  We don’t expect our cars to run without gas and oil, but we expect ourselves to run without adequate sleep and food.

I am especially guilty of both these things.  I stay up late, don’t get nearly enough sleep and then eat only when I’m absolutely starving and have given  up all hope of   some magical fairy-godmother coming in and cooking for me.  I’m running on fumes and I have no one to blame but myself if my productivity is crap.

As a matter of fact, I’m tired now.  I did eat and I did sleep last night, but I’m playing catch up from days where I got way too little sleep and ate garbage when I did eat.  I like to tell myself that microwave popcorn and frozen dinners are decent meals.  They aren’t.

So, the final words.  There’s three of them……    Regular…. Sleep…. Food…..

 Let’s all be more productive, shall we?

Writing Guerilla Warfare Style

This last weekend I spent four days in a large house in the middle of the woods with seven other women.  It was understood from the get-go that this was a writing retreat, so excessive visiting would not be tolerated.  While there, we had a morning snack, lunch, an afternoon snack and dinner (we ate really good), and each of us was responsible for preparing one snack and one meal.  We had to clean up after as well, but that was the only time we really had to take out of our writing time.  We would stand around chatting for a few minutes during snacks and we would all eat together and check on our progress during meals.  This was fun and bonding for all of us.  But mostly, we were writing from when we woke up till we went to sleep.

Our commander-in-chief (and retreat organizer) aka the “Write or Die Nazi” said she would keep us on task. And she did.  We used Dr. Wicked’s Write or Die program ($10) and competed against each (I even did this virtually with a friend who didn’t come).  If you’re not familiar with this program, you set a word goal and a time limit – I use 1000 words in 60 minutes most of the time – and then hit the WRITE button.  It opens a new screen and this is where you start typing.  It shows you how many words you’ve typed and how much time you have left to go.  If you pause for too long, the screen starts turning pink and will go to red while simultaneously a heinous sound of your choosing starts blaring at you, but as soon as you start typing again, it will go away.  Trust me when I say this keeps you motivated.  When done, you can then copy/cut and paste your text into your main document.

Not all of us would participate all the time, but several times a day, our Nazi would call out, “Write or Die” and whoever wanted to join in would get ready and when called, we would all start at the same time.  An hour later, we’d check in and see how we each did.  After the brief cheers, we’d go back to writing.  Some would turn the sound off so as not to bother others (the red screen still keeps you hopping) and do it by themselves in between the group competitions.  We were writing almost all day of every day there.

The energy was supercharged and we all kept each other going longer and more productively than we would have if home alone.  This was exceptionally good for me because I’ve had a hard time writing lately.  I sit there thinking, fingers hovering over the keyboard, waiting for ideas to come.  At the retreat, I did this the afternoon of Day 1 and the first half of Day 2 and I had 800 words to show for it.  I was frustrated.  I had the Write or Die program on my computer but hadn’t used it in a really long time.  So, the next challenge that was called, I participated.  I did more words in that hour than I had in the eighteen hours prior combined.  I used the program and the challenges the rest of the  retreat and ended up getting almost 18,000 words done by the time I went home.  Our highest gal did 24,000 total.  We are romance writers who write in our free time when jobs, husbands, kids and everything else in our lives allows.  Some are better at making that time and being productive, others less so, but no one left from this retreat left with less 15,000 new words.

There are many of you out there that can produce like this or better without breaking a sweat, but for me it was huge.  Having the pressure of the red screen/screeching violins looming kept my brain from sabotaging me.  My inner editor couldn’t keep rereading and fixing the same material or searching for the perfect word.  My doubt couldn’t sneak in and plague me with whether I was going the right direction.  I couldn’t stall by doing research ad nauseam. I had to just write.  And I did.  Sure, I have to go back and edit it and add a lot of details that do take some thought, but it’s easier to do that when you have something to work with.  Surprisingly, it was even good material.  It’d been in my mind, I’d been thinking on it for a long time, but I’d been sabotaging my efforts to get it on the page.  Write or Die was like guerilla warfare blitzing my inner adversary.

If you are one of those who can produce consistently, I applaud you and hope to join your ranks sooner than later.  For those who may need some assistance, Write or Die may help.  I know that even since I’ve been home, if I use the program, I get more done.  I turn to it as a tool when I find my fingers hovering instead of typing.

Have you used it?  Do you use other types of warfare?  The more tools I have, the better.  Let’s hear it, troops.

An Exercise to Exorcise Personal Demons

Pretty much this entire year, thus far, I have been struggling with depression.  I’m doing better now, but I had to shed a lot of responsibilities that I had over committed myself to in order to get there.  That’s another story, and I won’t bore you with it here  🙂

  But, during all this, I wasn’t writing.  Wasn’t doing research, wasn’t brainstorming, wasn’t journaling, wasn’t working on my story – nada.  The only writing I was actually able to make myself do was the few blog posts I had committed to doing – like this one. That’s it.  This was not helping my depression either because I felt guilty I wasn’t working and I felt, acutely, the loss of my creativity.

I was talking to a friend (thank you, Wendy), who had just come out of some rough times herself and is also a writer.  What she had done and suggested I do was to listen to a dark song and write a character sketch for an antagonist with no intent to necessarily use the character.  Just to get dark feelings out.  Any song that took me to a dark place would do.   It took me a few songs and I had to get some suggestions, but I found one (Closer by Nine Inch Nails – the uncensored version – if you’re curious) that was sufficiently dark to me.  So, I listened to it a few times and started writing this antagonist.

What happened half way through was that I could see all the potential for a story using this character.  When I finished with him, I started sketching out the hero and heroine (I write romance – remember).  Already, I was feeling better and inspired.  Then I started writing some rough plot points, followed by the intro to the story.


And now, I’m writing.  It worked.  I hadn’t done any writing in months and through one cool exercise, I was back.  It is such a relief to be feeling more like myself and being creative.  So, I would suggest this exercise to anyone who needs to shake off some darkness from within.

How do you get through rough times when you’re struggling to create?