Romance vs. fantasy

IWSG_NewBadge2016It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
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The IWSG question this month: In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?

My answer: I don’t usually plan so far ahead, but… I think I see my complete sword and sorcery fantasy series self-published. The first two novels of it are still under contract with my publisher, but the contract will expire early in 2017. After that, I plan to republish them myself, plus another four novels. At the moment, one of them is practically ready. Two others need full revisions before they are fit to go, and one (plus a couple of novellas) – I’ve only partially written the first draft.

Also I’m thinking of self-publishing a second anthology of my short stories. Unlike my first collection, SQUIRREL OF MAGIC, the second one wouldn’t be united by the same characters or the same world. Just a series of unconnected stories, most of them previously published in magazines, all of them in various speculative fiction subgenres: fantasy, sci-fi, and magic realism. I have a couple dozen stories to choose from.

I also intend to make a serious attempt to conquer another genre – romance. That’s what my post below is about.
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Since I was a child, I’ve always made up stories, and the majority of my stories had their foundation in speculative fiction. Nowadays, I mostly write high fantasy. Sometimes, I veer off into the subgenres of science fiction, urban fantasy, or magical realism. But in all my life, I’ve only written one mainstream novel and a couple of flash fiction stories. I don’t think I’ll be writing many more. My brain doesn’t seem wired that way. It always wants some sort of magic in a story, and here lies the gist of my insecurity.

Last year, I experimented with romance. I wrote a regency novella, Fibs in the Family, and put it up on wattpad. It was my first attempt at romance, and it’s done surprisingly well. By now, it has collected over 13K readers. Every time I check my account, I see the numbers rising, and many people put the story into their reading lists.

cover_withcityairship7Last month, I put up another story of mine on wattpad, this one a steampunk novelette Open, Charlie. (You could read it here.) It’s a good story, with magic, humor, dirigibles, and a whiff of romance, but the number of its readers has hardly topped 100. Not many people seem interested. Although I am hopeful – it’s only been one month – but the much more pronounced interest in romance on wattpad echoes what happens in the reading and publishing world outside the enclosed wattpad community.

According to statistics, romance is the winner among all the other genres. It sells more copies than all of the others together. The way for a writer is clear: write romance. Unfortunately, writing a love story is extremely hard for me. I have an outline for a second regency romance – it’s already partly written – but the story keeps resisting. For the past year, I’ve been trying to finish it without success. I will push again in December and hope this time I will prevail.

Still, romance doesn’t feel organic to me. Although I enjoy romance as a reader, I’m not by nature a romance writer. Love eluded me in my personal life and it continues doing so in my fiction. But if I want my stories to find readers, I should at least try to write what they want to read.

This conundrum tears me apart. Both directions – fantasy with its magic and its boundless possibilities and romance with its formulaic approach and its allure for readers – beckon me, but for different reasons. Where should I go? Maybe I should try to combine the two? Maybe with the help of magic as a key, love would finally allow me to open the door into its enchanted kingdom?

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This entry was posted in Fantasy, Insecure Writer's Support Group, Novella, Olga Godim, Open Charlie, Romance, wattpad and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Romance vs. fantasy

  1. Loni Townsend says:

    Though I have romance in my life, I’m a terribly unromantic person. It reflects in my writing too. Every relationship I write either ends up twisted or messed up in some fashion or another. But I think that’s because I’m a twisted person.

    I think romance has always been one of the top sellers, just because so many people crave the warm-fuzzies it leaves us with, the thought that things will work out for the best in the end.

    Mixing magic and romance is popular. I don’t typically read romance unless it contains magic, for instance Karen Marie Moning and Patricia Briggs both combine the two. Yeah, they’re urban fantasy, but I think the Sarah J. Maas books are also classified as romance and are high fantasy.

  2. Hello, Olga. Why not try combining romance plus some other genre you enjoy? From what I’ve read, (and I’m no expert on romance), it seems there are many popular sub-genres of romance. Love in a dirigible? Love that’s only accessible every full moon? A lover who’s trapped in another dimension?

  3. cleemckenzie says:

    I couldn’t write a romance even that was my only way to publication. I seldom read them, so that may be part of the issue. I’ll have to leave romance to others. I love your cover for Open Charlie.

  4. I don’t know much about either of those genres. Is there maybe a sub genre, like Magical Romance or Romantic Fantasy Fiction?

    Good luck with the next story collection! I’ve self-pubbed two myself. Love short and flash fiction!

  5. I’m pretty close to how C. Lee feels about romance. I have come close to writing sweet, very sweet romance (as in, they held hands), but I can’t seem to get anywhere with it. So, I just keep writing what works and what I love.
    BTW – I’m a fan of Open Charlie!

  6. The flip side that people who gush about the selling power of romance aren’t talking about is there’s also a lot more competition–everyone has noticed that romance ebooks are hot, so everyone and their brother’s dog’s nephew is trying to write one. And lots of them are tanking, big time.

    As someone with several romance-writing friends, I can tell you it’s not an easy ticket to writing fame and fortune. And there’s also a lot more pressure. If you do find an audience, romance fans are ravenous–they expect many books per year. Some romance writers put out 20 or more EVERY year. They write 5,000-13,000 words EVERY day. I don’t know about you, but I’d go crazy trying to meet that demand.

    My advice, honestly, is to write what you love to write, no matter what’s selling. You’ll find your people. What’s the point of trying to write something that isn’t you, and that you don’t really enjoy? If it tanks, then you’ve spent time writing something that didn’t thrill you for nothing. At least if you write a fantasy that fails to find an audience, you’ve enjoyed the journey.

    Good luck!

  7. patgarcia says:

    You are branching out and that is wonderful to hear. I am a romantic person, and I write contemporary novels with a tad bit of romance in a real life sense. So you could call them contemporary romance if you like. I am also a member of WattPad and I am presently thinking of putting one of my books there.
    Good luck with whatever direction you decide to take.
    All the best.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

  8. Juneta says:

    Great goals and really enjoyed reading your post.
    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

  9. Those are some good numbers on Wattpad.
    Do both! Or combine them. Science fiction romance sells really well.

  10. cheriereich says:

    I say combine the genres. Science fiction romance, paranormal romance, and fantasy romances can do very well.

  11. spunkonastick says:

    Love is always in my stories although they are not romance either. Combine romance with a genre you enjoy.

  12. I’m lousy at romance. 🙂 But I do love it, and I’ll keep putting it into my novels, but a straight romance, not sure I could. Someone always has to die. LOL
    Good luck with your goals, sounds like you have a plan and are pursuing it!

  13. Denise Covey says:

    You’re right about romance, Olga. It sells over half of all fiction books in the world. There are many sub genres of romance. Maybe you could find one you could feel inspired by. One of my blogger friends, Francine Howarth, who helped me get WEP started in 2010 writes regency romance. She is a top seller on Amazon, completely self-published. She’s written so many, I’ve lost count. 🙂

  14. I know exactly what you are saying. I’ve been tracking my sales and I’m going with what of my books seems to be selling the most. But I am a big believer in following your muse wherever she leads. Wishing you all the best in your endeavors.
    Hope getting your rights back is a seamless process. .

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