Book Review, Process

Book Review – The Virgin’s Guide to Writing Your First Romance Novel

The first time that I ever encountered Elda Minger’s books was at the CashWise Grocery Store in Willmar, Minnesota.  I worked an evening shift that went from 1 to 10 p.m., and frequently went there to unwind.  I’d usually have a couple things that I needed to purchase, but more often than not I was more interested in reading the magazines and checking out book covers.

And that is where I found Elda Minger’s books *mumblemumblemumblemumble.”

Oh wait.  This is the part of my blog where I hesitantly acknowledge that I’ve read (and enjoyed) Harlequin romance novels.  So – back in the early aughts, I bought Elda Minger’s “Night Rhythms” at CashWise and although many of the other Harlequin’s I’ve picked up over the years have been donated or discarded, I like Minger’s book.  And I may have a major in English and my shelves may be filled with books from T.S. Eliot, Stephan King, Elia Kazan, etc., but dammit – a decent romance novel makes for great brain candy.  Especially when I can slam something like a Harlequin down in less than an afternoon.

Anyway – I was taking a long walk with my hooligans the other day and a story idea came to me – it was like a wonderful gift that kept me noodling on the possibilities of story lines, situations, and characters until I got home.  Unlike the other stories that I have burbling in my gray area, there’s nothing paranormal or mysterious about this plot – in fact, it’s kind of a simple, human story.  And you know what?  It could turn itself into a decent little romantic tale.

And since I have a hard time finishing any of my projects and because I wanted to approach this story idea like I was crafting a romance, I decided to do some Googling.  And I came across Elda Minger’s “The Virgin’s Guide to Writing Your First Romance Novel” and I downloaded a copy for my Kindle.

As I mentally composed this blog post, I found myself noodling as to why I enjoyed Minger’s “how-to” so much.  To be honest – I’m not a novice or a virgin (heh) when it comes to writing.  I’ve been writing for more than 20 years, nearly 15 of those years have been spent as a professional/paid writer (and to be honest – being able to write that is just a thrill to me).

So why did I like Minger’s book?  First and foremost – Minger has a great conversational voice.  Her book is structured in a Q&A format of the most commonly asked questions she’s fielded in her writing / teaching career.  And it really feels like having a conversation with a mentor rather than reading a tome that regurgitates the “best of” Strunk and White.  Also – her advice is spot on, whether you’re new to the craft or looking for a couple ideas to refresh your existing skills (more where I am at when I read books like Minger’s).

And finally – one of the most interesting parts of Minger’s book that I encountered in the “writing about sex” section was a very brief, but FASCINATING history that encompassed historical romances and debunked some of the common notions that people might have about romance novels.

Minger’s book was $5 well spent.  I’d recommend it to novice and intermediate writers.


Writing / Doing – Despite an avalanche of work, I’ve had some painfully slow but pretty satisfying edits lately on AL.  I also mentioned the other story idea that came to me last week while walking.  I’ve taken some preliminary notes on that story and intend to go back and try to craft an outline in the near future.

I also have another story that I’ve worked on for the past few years.  And it seems like when things are going well with AL, this one wants to barge in and be all front and center.  (It’s kind of like watching my eldest son snatch a toy away from my youngest.  Or how my youngest child is finding his voice and crows just to drown his older brother out.)  In situations like these, I just take notes.  I have notebooks and folders (sometimes entire containers) devoted to my separate stories.  I want to get my first draft of AL edited before I start cheating on her to work on something else.

Reading – Other than Minger, I have a couple other books (well, several) downloaded on my Kindle to read sometime very soon.  The two books that are at the front of my queue are “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak and “Make Art, Make Money: Lessons from Jim Henson on Finding Your Creative Career” by Elizabeth Hyde Stevens.