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


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 RWA 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.