Thursday, December 19, 2013

Oh, yeah, YOU know the perfect romance arc

Okay, I shouldn't claim perfection. But I've spent years studying the romance arc while you did things like feed your children real food, mow your lawn, check on your elderly neighbor, watch your kids' track meets, listen to your spouse, and ride the stationary bike at the Y. All those hours, I was learning and relearning a romance plot, with part of my mind thinking "grilled cheese sandwiches are fine for dinner, this is art."

And that's important. Because when someone tells you what the romance arc is, at first, you'll hear formula. But it's art. Shakespeare wrote in iambic pentameter. And I don't want to guess how many people told him that was formula and not art. Probably everyone. To this freaking day, a pile of centuries later, we say "He wrote for money." Well, of course he did. But it's still the pinnacle of art because he described human nature. And that's what romance writers do: describe universal human nature in a structure that is thankfully more forgiving than iambic pentameter.

The structure is actually so simple that most people forget it's a structure, but it's the same principle that guided Shakespeare's lovers: 1) two people meet who are right for each other because 2) they will help each other defeat their fatal flaws but 3) their flaws are deep (childhood trauma + society's dictates) so 4) they will be forced to be together and as a result 5) they will either change and grow or lose the love of their lives.

That's it, really. I'll admit, I fudged on the SO they will be forced to be together part but that's the basic structure. The adhesive is a post for another day.

Here's the really cool thing: the romance arc works even if you're not writing a romance. I can guess Shakespeare didn't intend for MACBETH to be a romance, but you can see pretty easily that he understood that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth had fatal flaws that, with each others' urgings, would cause them to lose everything.

And that's where the art comes in. Because whether you're writing about a nuclear engineer whose fatal flaw is mistrust or an overweight, divorced mother whose fatal flaw is that everyone in her life has told her that she's stupid, you're connecting with the best in human nature. You're reaching what can make people overcome those ground-in flaws, and let's not pretend anything but love is that powerful.

Nice to Meet You All!

For the last year and a half, I have had the privilege to edit romance novels for Entangled Publishing. We are associated with Macmillan Publishing and look for romances that many different people would enjoy. So we have Young Adult, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary, Suspense, and New Adult lines of varying heat. And we welcome multi-racial and same sex romances.

If you'd like to query me, the link is at Trust me, it gets to me much faster through this system than through email, plus other hungry editors get their eyes on it. What I want is different than what they want. We all have lines to build.

So what do I love? Historicals. Look, sometimes they sell well, and sometimes they don't, but when they sell well, huzzah! I love to research so this suits me well. Regency is a hard sell to us (though not to the reading public) because the writers who specialize in Regency are CRAZY KNOWLEDGEABLE. I am in awe of their broad and deep knowledge of the era. So be aware that's who you're up against. I would love, love, love to see more Tudor romances, and I'm still craving that historical Caribbean romance.

If you had asked me if I'd be clamoring to edit adult paranormals two years ago, I would have laughed. Not too hard, mind you, because my talented crit partners can pull it off. But what I love about historicals is what I love about paranormals: I'm in a new world and I can research it! The paranormals I've worked on at Entangled ended up becoming my favorites, and nobody was more surprised than me. But excellent world building will win me over every time. And my paranormal authors are the nicest, hardest working authors I've ever met. They write both thematically deep and really fun sexy at the same time. So our sales are pretty damn good!

World building is not restricted to paranormals and historicals. Oh, God, no. Give me a contemporary that lets me see life in another country or another profession, and I'm yours. I'm editing a novel right now about a reporter investigating adventure vacations. The author is a reporter herself, so all those details are authentic. And she researched parachuting and diving in Florida. The setting is so real and the characters are so motivated and falling in love! Yum yum!

At heart, I read to be transported. But some of my favorite authors tell stories that could take place in my backyard. In my next post, I'll describe the perfect romance arc. In the meantime, if you have a paranormal or historical written for adults (I'm not talking about heat level when I say adults, I'm talking about the age and concerns of the protag), or a contemporary with a unique profession or setting, QUERY ME.