As I read over A Year with the Baptists, preparing to nail down the final draft before sending it to crit partners, this has become my mantra, “I am not writing a romance,” as if saying it makes it true. And if there’s something I avoid at all costs, it’s romance.
Strangely, though, whenever I read my manuscript, it feels an awful lot like chick lit. Granted, it’s not the fluffy or fuzzy kind, but still…
I don’t write romance.
I can’t write romance.
I must not write romance.
I am not writing a romance.
The other day I was reading through the various drafts of The Field as a sort of Ebenezer* with the upcoming release from Vox Dei, and I stumbled across two chapters that I had pulled between revisions two and three.
They were tender moments between one of my protagonists and her love interest, and in the margin of both, I had scribbled, “Irrelevant.” I remember being so sure romance could not and should not be part of their story. In the self-published version, I included about as much romance as I could stomach – of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it variety.
As I began prepping my manuscript for Vox Dei edits, I realized I either needed to beef up the romance between my charactersor do away with it all together. In an uncharacteristic move, I wove in more romance. (I know. I can’t believe it either.)
Even so, I am still fighting romance in Baptists. I mean, is there anything quite like two people falling for each other and sticking together come what may? Living life with someone else on your heart and mind, instead of doing what you want, when you want to do it?
That may not sound bad to some, but I’ve grown accustomed to being a single woman. I am always weighing the cost of giving my status up: what kind of drama am I inviting into my life when I enter a romantic relationship? Because I’m messy enough on my own – why add another person to the mix? What am I going to have to give up? My writing? Work? Ministry? Down time? What if it all keeps me from doing what I’m supposed to be doing? (I realize I’m not painting myself in the best light here, but this really is why I’m still single.)
I have tried cutting the romance. I want strong characters who aren’t afraid to turn down a relationship in order to get what they want. But my characters have minds of their own, and they want to be together. (That may sound crazy to my readers, but ask any writer, you can’t make your characters do anything they don’t want to do.)
Maybe I’m going soft, maybe I’m less cynical, but I think I’m just going to roll with it, and let things develop naturally between my Baptist characters. Maybe they’ll teach me something about love, romance, and relationships along the way.
*Ebenezer – literally means, “thus far the Lord has helped me.” Memorial and celebration.