Have you ever switched genres? I have. The first few novels I wrote were fantasy and science fiction. Definitely outside the box. But since 2008, I’ve focused on inspirational romance novels. Inside the box.
Some have wondered how I can stifle myself with the romance formula after experiencing the freedom of soaring around a no-rules story world.
Writing within the box is a good education in at least three ways.
1. Writing inside the box teaches story pacing
Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl.
There is a definite rhythm to a romance novel. When getting the whole story into 60-80,000 words, the writer needs to nail those pivot points within a couple thousand words or the whole thing feels off. And if it’s off, that means the levels of conflict aren’t ratcheting up evenly to reach the ‘black moment’ at the right percentage to wrap up the tale within the wordcount.
So the negative becomes a positive. You can learn lots as you develop your feel for pacing within a specific wordcount. When/if you move back outside the box, this training will hold you in good stead.
2. Writing inside the box teaches the rules of writing
Bah, who needs rules? It’s tons more fun to play with words any which way we please. You’ve heard the frustrating mantra: You need to learn the rules before you can break them.
If you want to sell novels, you need to learn to write correctly. Not just punctuation and grammar, though they’re important. Conflict. Cause and effect. Characterization.
Yes, these can be learned by writing speculative fiction. Fantasy, with its overarching themes of good versus evil, is especially good at demonstrating conflict. There’s nothing like a good swordfight or waving a magic wand to destroy entire nations. Romance, however, focuses less on external conflict. Instead there are nuances of tension to explore, and these are also useful in making fantasy worlds more dimensional.
3. Writing inside the box gives the imagination a workout
I can see your mental question marks from here. After all, there’s nothing more imaginative than a fantasy novel. It’s relatively easy to think up otherworldly characters and conflicts for wondrous new worlds. If even stranger things come to mind, it’s easy to expand the world or the magical rules to allow the new idea room to grow.
That means it is more challenging to think up unique situations and characters that need to live within the confines of the ordinary world. Everything’s been done before. Or has it? Not with my spin. Not with yours. But it does require some truly creative thinking to come up with those exclusive perspectives.
- Is writing inside the box good or bad? 3 Lessons from writing by formula: click to tweet
- Today’s mantra: THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX! Sometimes writers can learn lessons from INSIDE the box: click to tweet
There may be other lessons to be learned from writing within the box. Can you think of anything I’ve missed? Or, on the flip side, do you disagree with my analysis?
(Image courtesy of mrpuen at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)