Heidi Rice talks about the art of romance writing, and why teaching can be just as rewarding as doing.
Sure we've all heard that old adage - if you can't do, teach. Say what now? Are you nuts!
Not only is that remark an extremely derogatory thing to say about one of life's most essential skills.. After all, aside from doctors, I can't think of a more important profession than teachers (on present evidence in the UK, it certainly isn't politicians!).. But it also simply is not true.
I should know, because I've just spent the last month devising an online course to teach new writers how to do something I've been doing myself for the last ten years - namely writing hot romance.
With three RITA finals, a USA Today bestseller tag and 2 million copies of my books sold worldwide, I think I can comprehensively say I know how to write a romance novel. Well, except when I get a six-page revision letter from my editor, then I usually have several moments when I am absolutely convinced every one of those achievements was a total and utter fluke.
But panic attacks aside, the stats speak for themselves, I genuinely love what I do and I'm good at it. I thrive on creating multi-layered, emotionally complex characters. I adore hypothesising about their kinetic first meeting until I've found the perfect opening hook to kick their romance off right. I love figuring out the twists and turns in their story until I've plotted a course to their Happy Ever After (or Happy For Now) packed with humour, insight, conflict and emotional integrity. I get goosebumps while crafting the parry and thrust of great dialogue loaded with subtext to ramp up the tension. And writing sex scenes that excite and challenge my characters both physically and emotionally? Hell, yeah, bring it on.
And I absolutely adore talking about that process to anyone who will listen, so I've done numerous library workshops and blogs to analysis and interpret all the different aspects of how to write – and how not to write – a great romance story with lashings of heat.
So when the Professional Writing Academy approached me to tutor an online course titled An Introduction to Writing Hot Romance I was all for it. This would be fun, challenging, it would improve my own understanding of the dynamics of romance writing, while also helping others to begin to discover all the elements involved. An insight into the secrets I've learned over the last ten years, but also the chance to discuss with other writers how they develop their characters, their voice, their craft in the PWA's innovative online classroom. I couldn't wait to jump in and get started.
That said, I had no idea, until I started working with the PWA's brilliant creative writing experts on my session documents, devising reading and thinking exercises using extracts from some of the top authors in romance's many varied subgenres, figuring out how all the different elements I love could be taught in a supportive and informative way, exactly how much work would be involved... Or exactly how genuinely fascinating it would be to put this course together.
Having said that, I have also discovered, while making videos for the course on the different session topics, exactly how hard it is not to look like a demented robot who doesn't have a clue what she's waffling on about when you have your son who is an actor and filmmaker pointing his video camera at you... The video inserts are still a work in progress after an aborted session last weekend, when having fluffed my lines about 30 times, he pointed out (very patiently) that if I wanted to not look like a rabbit in the headlights every time he turned on the camera, I needed to learn my lines before we started filming. Oops.
But here's one I made earlier!
Anyway, once I've finally aced all the videos, we've still got tweaks to do and then runthroughs etc before we launch on the 4th October and I can start working with a bunch of new writers at which point I expect this process to get even more challenging and exciting.
But don't ever tell me those who can't do, teach... Or frankly, you'll get a slap. Because getting stuck into my current book again - and the six page revision letter that just landed on my desk from my editor (sheesh, cue panic attack) - after a month off to work on this course, feels positively pedestrian in comparison!
If you're interested in learning more or signing up for An Introduction to Writing Hot Romance you can check out the details here.
Heidi is off to San Diego on Tuesday to preen around the RWA Conference showing off her latest RITA Finalist ribbon for Tempting the Knight.
Once she gets back, she will be hard at work finishing off her next Single Title book for HQ, Harlequin's UK ST imprint.