As a slight corollary to our Rules discussion below, I have a question for y’all. While doing my “romance in the news” search today, I found an article about an author, Lori Wilde, offering a course online through Kent State’s Trumbull Campus titled, Romance Writing Secrets. Wilde, according to the article, will instruct online students “how to structure a romance novel, how to get a novel published, and gives tips on students’ writing samples.”
(Tangent alert: does anyone else love how every single article about romance and the writing or publicizing thereof features the same fraking set of statistics from the RWA on romance sales? I wonder if the PR director for the RWA has a recording of herself just for reporters, so that when they call, she can rattle off the standard set of often-published statistics without hurting her voice. None of these news articles ever really branch past the “look at all the sales- can you believe that?” tone to deal with much else in the way of romance as a market. *Le sigh.*)
Anyway, here’s my question: do writing classes, specifically those targeting romance, help? Published authors, did you take a class or merely take the plunge into writing? I don’t mean the question to demean Ms. Wilde’s course, as I haven’t seen a syllabus or assignments for her online course, but having seen a few similar course offerings, I have to wonder what is ultimately gained from the course assignments, because many of the most popular authors in romance today are largely, to the best of my knowledge, self-taught. They learned their craft through writing, rejections, sales, pitches, and manuscripts. I haven’t heard many authors discuss creative writing courses or instructional guides to romance in their bios, leading me to believe that for the aspiring writer, the best training is, “Pick up pen. Write words down. Repeat.”
Back when I taught remedial composition to college students, I used to quote Nora Roberts to them when it was time for drafting an essay, or editing that essay: “I can fix a bad page but I can’t fix a blank one.” It didn’t matter how bad the first draft was; it was only important that they had one. I’m guessing that the best way to learn to write romance is to actually write said romance, and not read about or talk about writing romance. Certainly a familiarity with the genre and skills in writing dialogue, plot, and conflict would help (oh, laments the Smart Bitch, would it help), but can one acquire those skills through a course or a book, or must they be learned through practice?
When I look at all the book available to teach aspiring romance novelists the skills needed to craft a novel, I have to wonder: do the guides and the courses help at all? Or is it a good step for some, but unneccessary for others? Perhaps the real goal of these guiding options is to offer the aspiring writer a way into the writing process, aside from, “I bet I could write one of these.”