Romance is one of the top selling genres and writers of romance can make an extremely good living providing books that avid readers devour.
Nicholas Sparks, author of The Notebook, is one of the highest earning authors in the world, making millions from his romantic love stories so it can definitely be done. Here’s guest blogger Matthew Turner on writing romance as a man.
My name is Matthew Turner and I’m a dreamer, optimist, and silly romantic fool.
I’m not saying I write romance in the same manner as E.L James or Bella Andre, rather in the style of a Nick Hornby or David Nicholls.
Frankly, I’m far too awkward to ever write erotica or intense romance. As soon as I have to explain a sex scene I blush and stumble and stutter and stammer. It’s quite pathetic to be honest.
But every idea I have ever had has resonated around some kind of romantic conflict. It involves a man and woman coming together and battling through the hardships of life. They argue and love and cower in the corner. I’m sure you know the process.
Being A Man In A Female World
The reason I came to Joanna with this idea is because she understands my pain. She writes in a genre dominated by men. People assume a woman can’t write a good thriller, and although this is a quite ridiculous perception, gender issues in publishing forced Joanna to create the pen name J.F Penn.
I believe I face similar obstacles as the assumption that only a woman can document a romantic journey. It’s not the end of the world as there are many men earning a good living for what are, in essence, stories built around romance and whimsy. I do face an uphill battle, though, but what can I say, this is how I write.
My debut novel, Beyond Parallel, was started in 2006 after a rough breakup. The entire premise is built around two young lovers trying to find their place in the world. It’s foundation stands upon passion, romance, and the idea of what could be.
It needs romance and whimsy and silly little fantasies. This was a book I NEEDED to write and I didn’t want to conform and try and turn it into a story more appropriate for a man to write. It’s my story and I’m down proud of it. If that makes me sappy and sensitive, so be it.
Overcoming The Slope
One of the two lead characters in Beyond Parallel is a young twenty-something woman. This means a great deal of time is spent in the head of a lady. This is no easy feat for a guy who has NEVER understood women in the first place.
I also know a vast majority of readers will be female, which means I have a responsibility to craft a story that connects with them. Again, no easy task. This is how I overcame these issues:
1) I Worked With A Female Editor
Arguably the most important decision I’ve made in recent years. Not only is Susan a fantastic editor, but she’s a woman. She’s by no means a girlie girl, but she is a lady who knows what ladies think about.
On many occasion she would alter certain aspects and ask me to dig deeper. She would push and expect greatness. If something didn’t sound right, wasn’t presented properly, or didn’t showcase the female mind, she’d call me out on it.
This was a HUGE game changer!
2) I Spoke To Female Friends
I’m lucky to be friends with women I can lean on for help. I know some fantastic minds, of varying personalities, with stories to share and elaborate on. Sometimes I would ask how a certain situation would affect them, but often I would merely observe.
What I found was this: men and women are rather different beings.
This is fantastic, but also difficult to capture in word-form, especially if you don’t fully understand the ones you need to use. Speaking to women I trust, though, it allowed me to tell a story that appreciated a wider audience. It went from a guy telling a story, to a human being sharing one.
3) I Used Past Experiences
My family has a lot of women in it. Aunts, cousins, sister, close family friends, second cousins, yep, just about all of them are women.
Although this is a nightmare in its own right, it does allow me to call on many memories. I’m not saying I understand the female mind – far from it – but I can emphasise with it – for the most part.
Much of Beyond Parallel was difficult to write, but looking back on years gone by helped pull me through. I thought about my sister and cousins and considered how they would feel, how they would express themselves, and how they would share ideas with me. It made my task much easier.
4) I People Watched
Creepy? Absolutely, but 100% necessary for a writer – at least this is what I tell myself. I would often sit in a coffee shop and observe a pretty girl. I would document how she acted around a boy she was clearly ‘in to’, how she would react around friends, and what she would do on her own; reading a book maybe, or listening to music.
As soon as I started to understand these little quirks, it helped me take my female characters down a more believable road.
A Rough Ride Ahead
Do I expect an easy ride? Nope, not at all. I understand that some people will be put off by the idea of a man bringing romance to the table. I appreciate how some of my words and style will send people running.
I also believe it will connect with others. This is the story I NEEDED to write and I have no regrets whatsoever.
What about you? Are you writing in a genre that is traditionally for the other gender? Do you use a pseudonym or initials to mask you gender identity? Does it all really matter?! Please do join the conversation by leaving a comment below.
Matthew Turner is a writer from Yorkshire, England. His debut novel, Beyond Parallel launches today (8th January) and now is the perfect time to download. For the first three days you don’t only get the book, but over $50 of extras.
In the tradition of Sliding Doors, Beyond Parallel flips between two parallel tales. Grab yourself a copy and be part of a true coming-of-age story that everyone can relate to.
You can get Beyond Parallel on Amazon.com here.