Studying fiction as a writer

Posted by Bonnie Marlewski-Probert on 3/13/2018 to Join Me On My Journey
Because I come from a background of non-fiction and in that world, it is all about "telling" or "teaching" in a language that your reader can connect with, I figured writing fiction would follow the same protocol. Of course, it DOES NOT, BUT, I did find some interesting intel in the process.

* Note: very often, when I'm doing research on one thing, I find out interesting facts about something completely different and so will YOU, so don't get discouraged when you are looking for "X" and you don't find "X" but you do find "Y" insetead. You'll need "Y" at some point so be sure to keep that intel filed away where you can find it later on!

For example, I wanted to study the masters of the contemporary romance craft and in my world as a professional writer, the masters are those who are making their living at it. So, I checked out the best sellers and discovered several (Nora Roberts and Tawny Weber to name just two). I decided to study Nora Roberts because she is AMAZINGLY prolific (more than 240 novels in print and at least one on the Best Sellers list consistently for over a decade.)

* NOTE:
if you are a purist or a student of fine literature and you take issue with considering commercially successful contemporary romance authors as "masters", no worries, get your own blog and say whatever you want. On my blog, as a writer who makes their living "serving my audiences," as long as millions of readers enjoy Nora Robert's work, in my world, SHE is a master. I'm not interested in writing the "perfect" piece of literary fiction that no one is going to read. My goal is to write books that take my readers on a journey from their daily lives to a new place that is fun and exciting for a few hours and along the way, I want to share some life lessons that they can also apply to their normal lives to make them better. If I achieve those goals, I'm a happy camper. *NOTE: I think it is really helpful for all aspiring authors to define what THEIR goals are as a writer (as I just did) or what contract they are making with their audience BEFORE you start writing. 

When I was doing magazine work, I discovered there was a formula and if I honored that formula, I could sell a lot of work to a lot of different magazines, and I did. SO, being the NEWBIE in fiction, I figured there had to be a formula you follow in order to be as prolific as someone like Nora Roberts. I was NOT ENTIRELY WRONG, but I was also NOT ENTIRELY RIGHT either.

Because I'm the TOTAL NEWBIE in this world, I wanted to know things like:
* How many foreplay scenes are there? (you know, how many times does the couple look longingly at each other from across a crowded room or how many times do they touch or hug where there is no sex involved but things get steamy?) and 
* Where do they show up in the book? (how far into the book does my reader have to go before they find the first steamy moment?)
* How many pages are their in each chapter? (for organizational purposes)
* How many chapters are there in successful CR (contemporary romance) books? 
* How many sex scenes are there in best selling CR books? (I didn't want to over do it or under deliver)
* Where do those sex scenes show up in the books? (again, how far into the book does my reader have to go before they are rewarded with a steamy sex scene?)
* How graphic are those sex scenes? (a soft hug or the other extreme which is closer to a gynecological exam!)
* How many characters are there in successful CR books? 
* Do successful CR authors do stand-alone books or are they into writing series instead? (this is important to know from a marketing standpoint.) For example, if I take months to develop wonderful characters that my readers adore, what happens to those characters after the book is written? What if I set up a series of 3 or 4 or 24 books in which the same wonderful characters appear throughout? THEN, the series of romance books becomes a lot like your favorite TV weekly series (an ongoing story with the same repeating characters that you care about just finding themselves in different challenging situations in each episode).

In my next blog post, I'll tell you what I did to find the answers to those questions and more!

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