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  • eemontgomery11


Some writers settle into a preferred genre to write in straight away. Some writers are published in a particular genre and get stuck there. Some writers continue to play with different genres for years, never really deciding which genre is ‘theirs’. I fall decidedly into the last camp with one or two riders:

  1. Most of what I write has a romance of some kind in it, and

  2. I don’t write literary fiction. I’m very firmly a genre writer.

Because I fall into the last camp of people who’ve never firmly settled on a particular genre, other than romance, you might be wondering why shifting genres is such a big thing for me. I do it all the time. I write contemporary romance, historical romance, romantic fantasy, romantic science fiction. The romantic part is fairly settled because, within those genres, I write, almost exclusively, MM romance.

I thought that too when I decided I was going to write a cozy mystery. It’s a genre I’ve never written before although I’ve dabbled in some murder mysteries (Ordinary People – Dreamspinner Press) but I’ve written in a lot of genres. This is just one more. A minor shift in focus.


It didn’t take me long to work out it’s not that easy. Cozy mysteries are a very different beast than high fantasy. With a fantasy story, as long as I hit the plot highs and lows, build the tension where it’s needed, and remember the romance beats, the story basically writes itself (not always well, but that’s what editing is for). I can write a 100000 words fantasy novel with very little planning.

I can’t pants a cozy. I have to plan some things in detail. So that’s the first loss I’m facing.

Loss 1: Impetuous pantsing.

I tried to pants it, I really did but I didn’t get more than a page or two written before I realised it was absolute rubbish and I didn’t know what I was doing. Privately, I’m really, really glad I realised that with little more than a few hundred words done.

Most of my writing begins with nothing more than a nebulous idea of a character or a scene and the story grows from that. I do plot a bit, usually when I get to about chapter 4 and realise I have no idea where I’m heading. That’s when I do a rough outline, some character sketches, delete the first three chapters because they’re nothing more than me getting to know my characters, and start writing again. Three or four chapters later, I look up and realise I’ve only followed the first paragraph of the outline and then run off on a completely different tangent that seemed like fun at the time and I have to write a completely new outline (or rewrite that section, but we all know that’s never going to happen).

I can’t work like that with a cozy. There has to be a definite plan for the mystery. There have to be red herrings. Certain things have to happen at certain points of the novel, and in a much more organised and precise way than what I can get away with in a fantasy.

I’ve also needed to research what elements must be present in a cozy and when they should arise in the book. I’ve then mapped them to a basic three act structure and begun writing, with mixed success, so far. I’m learning all the time, though, so I’m confident that by the time I have the first draft written, I’ll have a better idea what I’m supposed to do to end up with the story I want.

I’m also hoping my ability to structure story improves overall.

Another thing I didn’t anticipate when I began this project was the way the cozy mystery genre would impact on the way I write romance stories. That brings me to the next loss.

Loss 2: Spontaneous romance

I’ve tried writing the elements of the romance I would normally include in a story, at the beats I would normally put them, but it hasn’t worked. It feels contrived, or I lose the cozy elements, or the mystery parts. I’ve realised that a romance can’t develop the same way in a cozy because the murder and the investigation of that murder, the characters and their interactions with the murder, the victim, and the perpetrator, have to take precedence.

So the romance has to go. I still have hopes I can feed it back in, but it’s going to have to:

  1. Take a back seat to the mystery,

  2. Possibly take more than one book to develop, and

  3. Be a very different type of romance than what I usually write.

It’s taken me some time to come to terms with this one. Accepting the need to learn how to plan and plot a story effectively was much easier than giving up on the romantic elements of the story. I’ve always written romance. That’s the one constant in my writing.

Because I’m generally a positive kind of person, I immediately started looking for the positives.

  1. It’s good for me to learn to write differently. I’ll be able to learn a lot of new things, stretch myself, improve.

  2. It’ll be fun (really, I’m going to enjoy this) to learn how to do a romance with such a slow burn it will take a whole book to recognise attraction and another whole book to get to the first kiss.

  3. Not writing a romance in this story won’t mean I can no longer write romance. If I’m so desperate for the romance to happen in this book, I can write my own fanfic story. That’s actually not a bad idea because the two characters I have selected for the romantic interest really aren’t working that way. There’s another person who works better with one of them.

Don’t you love it when your characters take on a life of their own and begin to dictate their own stories?

That’s two losses I’ve suffered so far with this story and I’m only 30000 words in. At this point I’ve totally lost track of where I’m supposed to be at with the story. I’ve lost track of where what I’ve been writing fits with the necessary elements of a cozy. I’ve lost track of where I’m at with the plot – still no idea where my transition points between acts are sitting.

It’s all a bit of a mess, but this mess is a whole lot better than the mess I began with and had to rewrite (twice already). I’m not going back to do another rewrite. If I keep doing that, I’ll never finish the story. I’m going to keep going and hope that by the end of it I’ll have a story worth editing into something polished and publishable.

Next time, I’ll recap where I’m at and talk about some of the things I’ve gained with this story.


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