From Spec-fic to Sports Romance

How on earth did I end up writing contemporary romance? Breaking Out is a sports (ice hockey) romance, so there’s still a lot of action that goes on, but it’s mostly contained to the ice. The other action that happens is more of the romantic variety. And of course, it’s lesfic. So it’s not that different, I guess?

After finishing writing Hunter’s Descent, I tried to work on its sequel, but that wasn’t working. After a few aborted starts, I decided to switch gears. It was November, so I thought it might be fun to try something completely different for NaNoWriMo. (That’s National Novel Writing Month for those of you not up on your acronyms.) I figured I’d take a month and 50,000 words to explore this idea that had occasionally been kicking around my head. If it didn’t go anywhere, I’d only have lost a month to that plot bunny.

It turns out that little notion had some legs to it. By the end of November 2019, I was halfway through the story of Adrienne and KJ, two women living in a small town in central Pennsylvania who used ice hockey as a way to take the edge of the difficulties of their lives. (Don’t bother looking up Sussburg, PA, the seat of Windsor County. I made it all up for this story.)

There was definitely a learning curve. I had to do a lot more revising of this manuscript after finishing the first draft than I normally do. It turns out that romances are hard to write! Who knew? It’s not that I’m a stranger to romance. So far, all my novels have romantic subplots, so I figured I’d be able to pick that up pretty easily. I was only partially right. Instead of working the romance in around the edges of the main plot, now the romance was the main plot and everything else was secondary to it.

There were some scenes that had to be retooled. Some things that had happened to get the romance wheels turning needed to be worked in more organically so there wasn’t a big flashing “plot point” sign in the middle of the scene. My beta readers were invaluable for this work, and I owe them a great deal. A lot of the pacing issues would have been a lot harder to clean up on my own. Apparently, I’d spent too much time writing about the hockey. I now have a Google doc full of removed hockey scenes, but I can always repurpose them if I decide to revisit Sussburg and the women’s rec hockey scene there.

This was the first time I decided to find someone to do sensitivity reading for me. One of my mains, Adrienne, is Black. As I am not, I knew it would be important to get another set of eyes on the manuscript to correct any stereotypes, mischaracterizations, biases, and just plain ignorance that might have crept in. The incomparable KD Williamson agreed to look over my manuscript, and was incredibly helpful.

At the end of the process, I had a book that I’m excited about, and that still makes me teary-eyed in certain places even after reading it so many times I’ve lost count. It’s almost ready to get into the reader’s hands, and I can’t wait to see if they love it as much as I do.

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