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Book Reviews

Writing Romance

by Vanessa Grant

For the romance-novel addict who’s always dreamed of becoming an author, or the writer who wants to conquer the genre romance form, this guide will make the transition from reading to writing seem more inviting than ever. Vanessa Grant is the Canadian author of 25 Harlequin Romances. She’s also given many workshops and seminars, and helped design word-processing software for the romance novelist.

Grant doesn’t underplay the amount of work and the degree of skill required to produce a saleable romance, but she does make the project seem do-able by including concise, easy-to-follow, practical advice on everything from writing convincing dialogue to formatting a manuscript. The section on computers is aimed at absolute beginners – the people who try to correct typos by putting white-out on the screen – and it’s a very helpful and sympathetic introduction. Tips on setting up word-processing templates may be useful to the more computer-literate reader. A section on research offers some bright ideas, and covers basic interview techniques. There are also some inventive suggestions for overcoming writer’s block.

Writing Romance is fascinating as a sort of Fodor’s Guide to the strange world of the genre romance novel. It’s a world where human psychology is comfortingly linear and logical; “prime motivating events” in early childhood determine people’s personalities in a simple, cause-and-effect way. It’s a world where sexual activity is always referred to as “sensuality,” and where grown women are often named Misty. In spite of the independence and spunkiness of today’s romance heroines, it’s also a world where men and women conform to strictly traditional roles. For example, Grant tells her readers, women’s brains are less suited to math and mechanics, so, “if you create a heroine outstanding in these skills, be sure to balance that strength with other, female strengths. You want your reader to realize that your math-loving heroine isn’t just a man wearing women’s clothing.”

The book offers a clear practical introduction to the basics of character development and narrative structure. It will be of use to romance-writing hopefuls, as well as creative writing teachers at the high school level and up.