The first few novels I wrote were fantasy and science fiction. Definitely outside the box. In the past couple of years I’ve focused more on romance novels. Inside the box.
Some have wondered how I can stifle myself with the romance formula after experiencing the freedom of soaring around a no-rules story world. Writing within the box is a good education in at least three ways.
Read more here: 3 Lessons from Inside the Box.
I would only add that I believe science fiction and fantasy HAS rules, but they are far less clearly stated than in the romance genre. This complicates the market, because writers, especially those with no contacts in the writing or publishing industry, will believe there are no rules and become frustrated when they break them without realizing it. I thoroughly believe that's why we have numerous writers composing epic fantasy trilogies at 250k words per volume. Then, when they're told it's too long, they get upset. Or worse, their work never gets looked at, because laying out "my 750k trilogy" in the query letter gets a form rejection or is ignored because they don't know the rules — which aren't as clearly stated as they are in the romance arena.
I agree wholeheartedly — if you can write inside the box, you'll be well-prepared to venture outside the box.
You're right, of course. Fantasy has rules. You're also right that they're less clearly defined, and I think the edges are softer. But I do believe that my writing has improved in the past couple of years–not only because I've kept practicing and learning, but because writing within the box has helped me focus what I've been learning. Now I can write my 750K fantasy trilogy 😛
Well, I hope you don't think that's why I've been encouraging you not to give up on your spec fic :). I do agree with your analysis of what can be learned from writing romance novels. It is much harder to brush aside the details of relationships when you don't have adventure, fantasy, mystery, etc. to distract the reader. Romance writing allows you to focus and nail that aspect of your writing in a way that pretty much nothing else will. Every genre has a strength, but pretty much everything needs some aspect of personal conflict, so this is a good strength to study.
Yep. Interpersonal relationships happen in all genres with very rare exceptions, like the single person lost in the wilderness trying to find their way home. (And if nothing is going on in their head besides how to use their compass, it's not much of a story anyway!) So yes, it's vital to learn to write relationships, whether romantic or other.
And for the record, I haven't 'precisely' given up spec fic. Tempest is nagging. 🙂
I'm not sure I agree with the spec fiction as outside of the box analogy. It might be because writing outside the box to me means 'breaking the rules in the genre' in some fashion. Spec fic, SF, romance, steampunk, ect… they all have some rules to follow. My concept of writing outside the box is kinda like taking a SF story and adding a heaping tablespoon of Romance to come up with something like Space Operas. Yes, I do think we have a whole mess of subgenres because of tweaking the rules.
Anyway, just thought I'd add to the conversation.
<< Tempest is nagging. 🙂 >>
Snort. no comment.
By talking about romance as being in a box, I'm referring to the comments I've heard that say it's too formulaic, doesn't leave enough room for exploration. And it's true that the rules in category romance leave much less freedom than in fantasy or science fiction. Maybe spec fic is still in a box, albeit a much larger one?
No comment backatcha on Tempest. She's biding her time.