Monday 13 May 2024

Keeping Writing Fresh and Fun!

by Alyssa J. Montgomery

I was a guest lecturer recently at a writer's course and one of the questions I was asked was, "How do you keep your writing fresh?"

It was a really good question as after having 18 books published (still very new to the field comparatively), I started out trying to keep things fresh by changing tropes: enemies to lovers; friends to lovers; second chance romances; ugly duckling heroine; accidental pregnancy etc.

Then, because particular characters simply "appeared" to me, anxious to have their stories told, I started exploring different sub-genres within the romance genre. A lover of history, I really enjoyed writing my three medieval titles (written as Alyssa James). Historical fiction presents its own set of challenges to the writer as the details have to be accurate (and I've seen some very cutting comments to authors from readers when the detail hasn't been correct!). I have learnt so much! Even the vocabulary has to be checked. For example, in Knight of Her Desire, I referred to a stretcher used to shift an injured knight, but my historical expert fact checker and friend Nicky Galliers informed me that it was called a litter not a stretcher back in those times!


I self-published my medieval stories and they were a lovely side-step from the titles that were being published with Escape which were very much along the billionaires/royalty lines.

I was starting to feel a little pigeon-holed and was tremendously relieved when Johanna Baker (acquiring editor who heads up Escape) told me that "rural romance is hot right now" and that I could try writing in this sub-genre. 

The difficulty was that I'd never been a reader of rural romance. So, Sue Brockhoff, from Harlequin handed me two rural romances at the RWA conference last year and suggested I "read these". I saw that rural romances had a slower pace than I was used to writing, with a lot more secondary characters and the lovely feel of community. That was a very different style and story than I was used to, but I rolled up my sleeves eager to stretch my capabilities and explore new creative horizons. Return to Hope Creek was published on April 1st this year and has been well received.

I had so much fun exploring the community of Hope Creek and meeting different people in the community that I'm looking forward to writing books 2 and 3 in the Hope Creek Series. What I have realised is that although I needed some new skills to develop this sense of community and to bring the secondary characters alive, at the end of the day the most important thing for me was to know my characters and to let them tell their story. That is, of course, vital in every story.

Changing up the genre or sub-genre can give authors fresh enthusiasm, greater flexibility and writing skills, and can reignite the passion and motivation. 

Some of my later contemporary romances included elements of suspense and I suspect that once I retire from my day job and can devote more time to honing my writing craft, I just might find my niche in romantic suspense. However, I'd also like to try my hand at a romantic fantasy; and I definitely have a regency romance already mapped out in my mind. Time will tell if I ever get to those  - time and seeing just how pushy the regency and fantasy characters are in getting to the forefront of my mind!

It's said that the negatives in changing sub-genres are a loss of established readership, difficulty building new readership and the risk of unsuccessful transition. However, I see writing as a fun task that is an outlet for my creative energy so I'd like to embrace new challenges, avoid pigeon-holing and be able to expand my skills and identify my writing strengths. I can always return to billionaire and royalty or to the medieval realm. For now, however, I'm looking forward to developing my Hope Creek Series and building into the rural romance sub-genre.

If you're an author, how do you keep your writing fresh? And, as a reader, how do you feel about authors who dabble in different genres or sub-genres?

Love to love developing my skills as a writer and constantly attempting to hone my craft

Love to laugh when I forget myself and say something that is way too modern while writing a medieval romance.

Love to learn what the reader expectations and boundaries are in different sub-genres of romance