Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Guest Blogger ~ Missy Tippens

Missy Tippens is an award-winning writer and was a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Contest. She has a story included in Blessings of Mossy Creek, published by BelleBooks. After ten years of pursuing her dream, she made her first sale of a full-length novel to Steeple Hill Love Inspired. Her debut novel, Her Unlikely Family, was a February 2008 release. Her next, His Forever Love, is on the shelves now! It will be followed by A Forever Christmas in November.

Be sure to leave a comment for Missy to be entered in a drawing for her new book, His Forever Love.

I just finished edits on my third book for Steeple Hill Love Inspired and mailed off a proposal for the next. And on each book, I feel as if I’ve learned a bit more about writing category romance. I thought I’d share with you some of what I’ve learned.

But first…some terminology. When I talk about category romance, I’m talking about shorter books that come out monthly and are only on the shelves for one month that are from a publisher like Steeple Hill. (Other examples that aren’t inspirational would be Harlequin Super Romance or Silhouette Special Edition.)

The publisher puts out these books in these lines, and each line has certain characteristics. Some people like to say these stories are formulaic. But I don’t believe that. Rather than A+B+C=D, I think of it more as writing within certain boundaries. And those boundaries are the reader expectations.

So what do readers expect from a category inspirational romance? I’ll share what I consider as I write my stories. And though some will be particular to category, a lot will be the same for most romance novels.

1. A certain size book that can be read in a day or two. (Contemporary Love Inspired books are 55-60,000 words by computer word count.)

2. Flawed characters who have some type of spiritual journey or spiritual growth through the story. You don’t necessarily need a conversion scene, but there should be growth on both characters’ parts.

3. An internal struggle (aka internal conflict) that keeps the hero and heroine from falling in love on page one.

4. Some type of external conflict that forces these two to interact while they’re trying NOT to fall in love.

5. A sweet romance—not too steamy with the physical attraction. No love scenes. Kissing is okay, but they can’t be thinking so much about the physical as they think about the emotional. One thing I learned in an editor workshop that has really stuck with me is that the Love Inspired reader is typically a married, working mom. And she feels guilty when she takes time for herself to read (love that mom guilt!). So she doesn’t want to read stories that make her feel even more guilt.

6. A setting readers can relate to. Most seem to like small towns. They don’t really go for exotic settings.

7. The romance is central. There are usually secondary characters and family relationships, and also the faith journeys, but they can’t overshadow the romance.

8. The story and characters can’t be preachy. They can’t be used to deliver a message about an issue. Refer back to number 7.

9. Personally, I think of category stories (as well as most books I read) as escapism. They transport me away from everyday life into the world of someone else, someone I can relate to, someone I can root for and worry about until…

10. The happy ending!

So what do you think? I’m sure there are things I didn’t think of! Do you have anything you’d like to add regarding category inspirational romance?

If you haven’t read a category romance lately, Missy’s second, His Forever Love, is on the shelves now! Visit Missy's website for more information.

His Forever Love
by Missy Tippens

In Magnolia, Georgia, local legend says that a couple who holds hands around the “forever” tree will have an unending love. Even so, Bill Wellington held Lindsay Jones’s hands around that tree years ago...and then left her behind. He chose the big city, and now he wants to bring his grandmother there. But to his amazement, he finds that Granny has a boyfriend—and a vibrant life. A life that includes Lindsay, Granny’s caregiver. Bill never thought he’d want to come home, yet Magnolia clearly has its charms. As does Lindsay, who makes him long for a second chance at forever love.


brendalottakamaggiebrendan said...

Oh, this sounds like a wonderful story. Since I live in Georgia, I'd love to read this book!

Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Brenda! I was at Julie Lessman's lunch the other day and heard you live here in GA. We'll have to meet sometime! :)


Myra Johnson said...

Nice explanation of category inspirational romance writing, Missy! This makes a good basic checklist for anyone interested in writing for lines such as Love Inspired or Heartsong Presents.

Sheila Deeth said...

I only started reading these recently, and I love your description of boundaries rather than formula. You're so right.

Missy Tippens said...

Thanks, Myra. I should have mentioned Heartsong Presents. And I can't wait to read yours! Isn't Autumn Rains coming out fall of 2009?

Sheila, I'm glad you've been reading them!

Anonymous said...

I enjoy category inspirational romances when it's obvious to me that the characters live their faith on a daily basis. They say grace before meals, or pray before bed, or regularly take a moment to give thanks for their blessings. Subtle touches, rather than a big hammer. Then when they are faced with a conflict, the faith journey doesn't come out of nowhere.

I don't enjoy the evangelist/proselytizing stories (not sure the difference in terms, but basically I mean that one character does not have faith or wasn't raised with a religious background, and the other does and spends the whole story trying to convince the first person to "give yourself over to God's will" or some such).

The first type shows and the second only tells, which is not as strong a story and sometimes I feel steps over the line into coercion. "If you really loved me you'd believe exactly as I do."


Carrie Turansky said...

Hi Missy,
Great job giving us all more info about category romance. I loved your first book and I look forward to reading this one.
carrie (at) turansky (dot) com

Vince said...

Hi Missy:

I like an inspirational novel to be inspirational. That is, I want to be inspired by the story. I want to feel uplifted and more optimistic about tomorrow. I even want to feel better about being a human being. I want to see characters display inspirational reactions to challenging events.

I think Inspirationals should be more than just good Christians falling in love.

I love the theme where a man, who has become materially wealthy by thinking only of himself, encounters the love of a poor widow, with young children, and because of her virtuous character and strong sense of caring, finds fulfillment and meaning in his life.

I like to read about a character, hero or heroine, who against great odds leads an effort to save a town or start a medical clinic or do something greater than himself or herself.

In short, I want to be able to stand up and cheer at the end of an inspirational.

Give me a “Rocky” or a “Chariots of Fire!”

That’s not asking for too much now, is it? (LOL)

What I enjoyed most best about your two Inspirationals, Missy, is that I just felt better, as I read them. than I have felt in reading other inspirationals. I think you have the most likeable characters and sincere voice.

Now, I can’t wait for your next book because Christmas stories are by far my favorite!


Anonymous said...

I got a free chapter of His Forever Love in the mail and loved it! I ordered the book and I'm reading it now. Very sweet story. I love it

Missy Tippens said...

lw, that's a great point! Show, don't just tell. And making it gradual is another great point.

After I finish a book, I go through with sticky notes and tag each scene that has to do with the romance, and on each note, I write what happens. then I go back through and read each sticky note to makes sure it's gradual. I hope it helps prevent problems with all of a sudden telling.

Thanks for your comments!

Missy Tippens said...

Hi, Carrie! Thanks for reading my first book. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Vince, thank you so much for your kind words. And also for the helpful comments. That's such a good point about the characters working for something bigger than themselves. I think it helps give the reader something to root for beyond the romance. Although we all love to root for the romance! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Anonymous, thanks so much for getting the book after reading the chapter! I'm so glad you're enjoying it. :)

WonderousWomanRetreat said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Debra E Marvin said...

Missy, I really like your list -- a concise and clear look into what makes these lines tick.

I hope to see mamy more of your stories published!
Please enter me in the drawing if I'm not too late1

Missy Tippens said...

Sheila, you're the winner of the drawing! I'll email you to get your address.

Thanks to all who commented and joined in the discussion!

Ane Mulligan said...

And the winner is .... Brenda Lott aka Maggie Brendan! Congratulations, Brenda! Missy will mail you the book. :D

Missy Tippens said...

LOL! Ane and I both jumped in and drew names, so we have 2 winners! :)

I'll get both books in the mail tomorrow if the mail is running. :)