Everything I know about writing… Part One

Everything I know about writing I learned from two sources.  The Alberta Romance Writers’ Association (ARWA) and Michael Hauge.

ARWA is a wonderful writing organisation. If you want to learn about the craft of writing, this is where to do so.  Established in Calgary twenty-six years ago by the writer Judith Duncan, it remains one of the most successful writing organisations in Canada.

Still, when I tell people I belong to ARWA, they sometimes give me ‘that’ look.  You know the one.  It’s the expression that says – You wouldn’t catch me dead reading one of ‘those’ books.   (Which doesn’t exactly ring true because 80% of all books sold in North America are romance novels, so somebody has to be reading them.)

I have to wonder what it is that makes people so embarrassed about the idea of reading – or writing – a love story.  No other genre comes in for such ridicule.  (Western, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Who-dunits.)  It makes me question whether or not we really believe in that famous quote,  “No man ever said on his deathbed, ‘I wish I had spent more time in the office.’”   But I think we do.  Remember Hugh Grant’s line from the beginning of Love Actually, where he recalls that all the messages sent from the twin towers on that fateful day were messages of love?

I’ll be honest, I joined ARWA with the notion of scribbling a few romance books, making some money, and then going on to write ‘real’ novels.    I mean, how hard could it be?

Very hard, as it turns out.

Before the reader even cracks open the front cover of a love story she knows how it’s going to end. This is unlike any other genre and means the romance author must be highly accomplished to keep the reader engaged with her characters and story through 50,000, 85,000, or 100,000 words.  To do that, one needs a thorough understanding of plot, character, conflict, structure, theme, POV, voice, dialogue, tension, outlines, synopsis, etc.  Which is where ARWA comes in.

For twenty-six years, ARWA has offered monthly classes in all aspects of the craft of writing.  They’ve hosted conferences and brought in writers, agents and editors from all over North America.  For the last two years, they’ve hosted a panel discussion at the When Words Collide Conference in Calgary.  This year, two of ARWA’s members, Sarah Kades and Lorraine Paton are presenting a three hour workshop on Creating Sexual Tension.  This workshop is for all writers, not just romance writers. Some of the most memorable/iconic moments in ‘non-romance’ books/movies are the relationships between the characters.  Think John Book and Rachel in Witness.  Han Solo and Leia in Star Wars.  Hawkeye and Cora in Last of the Mohicans. Rick and Ilsa in Casablanca.

I’ve known Sarah and Lorraine for several years.  Both are intelligent and passionate writers and teachers of the craft. Their upcoming workshop is not to be missed. I’m going to register right now.  Why don’t you join me?


Ooops.  I seem to have run out of time. I’ll tell you about Michael Hauge tomorrow.


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