The romance of writing (or why I didn’t write Twilight)

Allison Tait blog
Posted on June 1, 2010

Don’t you love it when something arrives in the post that makes you smile? Not only smile, but motivates and inspires you to action? No, I’m not talking about the Aldi catalogue (colour TV and a garden fork, anyone?), rather my copy of the RWA newsletter.

For the uninitiated, RWA stands for Romance Writers of Australia. I’ve been a member since before Mr6 was born. I joined up when I thought that writing romance novels would be a fun way to work from home. To supplement my freelance income.

In short, when I was deluded. (And it was before I was pregnant, so I can’t even blame the hormones responsible for scrapbooking.)

I went along to my first Romance Writers of Australia conference, at Sydney’s Kings Cross, with no real idea what to expect. I found a bunch of warm, welcoming, encouraging women (and two men) – one of whom was wearing a ‘Just Finish The Damn Book’ t-shirt. It’s a slogan I’ve tried to live by ever since.

I confess I was somewhat overwhelmed by it all. Everybody was so friendly, so approachable, so not up themselves. The published authors – many of whom have incredibly successful careers – were happy to mingle with the plebs (which is the word I prefer to the currently fashionable ‘pre-published’, which is, frankly, awful), and it was all very jolly. Enid Blyton jolly.

I left with a few new friends and the impetus to write my first romance novel. Which sucked. My heroine, named Celeste, wore a Winter White suit. Enough said.

Between babies, and halfway through a second book, I managed to make it to my second conference. It was here that I met my beloved friend A. She was, in fact, witness to my uttering, sotto voce, the immortal line: “Don’t you think sex with the undead might be a little, er, icky?”

In my defence, a woman who looked like the worst cliché of a librarian had stood to put several pressing questions about Vampire sex to the presenter. In public. Out loud. She may well have been Stephanie Meyer.

All I know is that I have no prescience when it comes to publishing trends. And I still think that if people thought about the actual reality of horizontal folkdancing with someone who’s been dead a century or two, they might rethink the whole Twilight phenomenon.

But I digress.

There’s a real art to romance writing. It’s all about character. It’s all about the relationship. It’s all about emotion. The middle of the book can be a very long place when that’s your focus (think about the couch and dvd phase of most relationships and that’s about where you’re at in the very long middle section).

My second novel was rejected as being too complicated. I’m not sure if it was the late-night DJ sub-plot, the elusive ingredient sub-plot, the wicked uncle sub-plot or the random trip to Paris, but I came undone.

I went on to something different after I won a competition to secure a mentor who kept repeating (ad nauseum now that I think about it) that she felt that I might need to try something different. It seems I was trying to stuff too much into 60,000 words. It’s amazing how few 60,000 words can be.

I’m still a paid-up member of RWA though. I don’t think there’s a more inclusive, more accessible writers’ association around. I’ve met some amazing people through the group and am looking forward to sharing cocktails with them all at my third conference in August.

All I need to do now is to track down a ‘just finish the damn book’ t-shirt. Either that, or just finish a damn book.


  1. Anj (@anjwrites)

    What?!?! I need the t-shirt as well…and haven’t thought of romance (yet), perhaps I should. 😉

  2. allison t

    LOL! I don’t think Celeste will be coming out into the light for quite some time (read never) unless I have a very ‘non-inspirational’ day and am very short of a blog post. Will let you know if I find/make the t-shirt!

  3. brismod

    Celeste who wore a Winter White suit sounds like it would be a hit! You must post extracts of your first romance attempt or at least give a fuller synopsis. I’d read one of your books too.

  4. Imperfectly Me

    Go to Remo online and make your own T Shirt – it’s great!! I keep thinking I need one that says “I’m not a control freak…I’m a control enthusiast”!!!

  5. livinglifeasme

    I’d read your book too Al. The fact that you have finished two books has me in awe. I have 3 books started – 1 chapter each. Something wrong with that I think. I like to think I’ve got a book in me, but maybe I’ve just got a series of first chapters?

  6. Margie Sheedy

    I’ll try to track that T-shirt down for you. If it’s gone into the great romance recycle bin, would a “Just do it!” t-shirt do?

  7. PinkPatentMaryJanes

    I have the greatest respect for romance writers – and anyone who successfully completes a book in any genre. I don’t think I’ve got a book in me, I’m happy just to keep reading them!

  8. Kylie L

    Everyone thinks romance writing is a formulaic piece of cake, until they try it. (Guilty as charged). Actually, everyone thinks writing a book at all is feasible and enjoyable, until they try it. Suckers.

  9. lifeinbalancesortof

    What about sex with goblins? Ghouls? Pale, ornery people in general? Have those markets been tapped into yet? Those are my ideas when it comes to romance writing. You’re welcome.

    Great post, by the way. I’d buy your book. When you finish it.

  10. Megan

    Writing romance is my worst nightmare. I am far too prudish – I mean, the characters usually have sex at some point and what if my mum read it?

    So, when’s the book being finished? 😉

  11. lifeinbalancesortof

    How about sex with goblins? Ghouls? Pale ornery people in general? Have those markets been tapped into yet? Those are my ideas when it comes to romance writing. You’re welcome.

    Great post, btw. I’d buy your book. When you finish it.

  12. Lisa Heidke

    I love receiving my RWA newsletter, too – even though it takes me most of the month to get around to reading it. ‘Just finish the damn book’ is very apt, but sometimes easier said than done.
    Cate, despite the name, RWA offers great tips, articles, competition announcements, etc for writers of all genres.

  13. Cate Bolt

    Romance…why didn’t I think of that? I know! Because the thought makes me want to spoon my own eyeballs out.

  14. Chantelle {fat mum slim}

    I’d be first in line to read a book that you’d written {perhaps not on CC debt, but… actually I probably would}.

    So… just finish the damn book. 😉

  15. deer baby

    Love this post! ‘In short, when I was deluded’ made me laugh out loud. I can’t say I really get on with the Twilight phenomenon but I wouldn’t mind the cash! It’s weird how it goes in waves – vampires must surely be out soon to be replaced by….? Who knows. Even Stehenie Meyer must be sick to the back teeth (fangs) of them.

    As you know, I’m still struggling with my book. Could do with that T shirt. I posted one of my rejection letters. Said it was too full of doom and gloom. And that was back in 1986.

  16. MOLLYC

    Keep writing! I couldn’t write a romance novel if paid a fortune for it! On second thought, if paid a fortune, I probably could come up with something! I saw “Twilight” at the nail salon yesterday, and couldn’t understand the appeal. However, that Robert Pattinson has a heck of a FACE, I must admit. molly

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