How writing romance has helped my crime fiction

Romance isn’t just for romantics

Creating compelling relationships is crucial to authentic writing. Faber Academy and Writing Romance alumna and crime fiction author Sabine Marschner explains how, despite being a crime author, crafting romantic relationships is vital for whatever genre you’re writing in.

Sabine Marschner
Sabine Marschner

I still can’t exactly say what prompted me to sign up for a course called Writing Romance. I’ve never considered myself a romance reader – preferring crime, spy and adventure stories instead.

There was, however, a nagging suspicion that the characters in my current first novel-in-progress – a crime novel for a female readership – were lacking something and that this was the reason why I wasn’t really progressing much beyond my existing 50,000 words.

So, on a hunch and with a desire to try something new and unfamiliar that might give me my much-needed kick in the butt, I went for it. Turns out that hunch was spot on.

Finding the emotional core

This course made me understand that my novel needed a much stronger emotional core to be interesting: gripping relationship developments, plausible character motivations, and a convincing outer and inner plot to move it along.

It was exactly what I had been looking for and, at the same time, showed me how little I was aware of the genre at all. Learning from our reading materials how many sub-genres there are on the book market today blew me away, and I realised that romance can be incorporated into any genre – or any genre can be incorporated into romance.

One of the most important things I’ve learnt, though, is that strong relationships make for stronger books.

Creating collaboratively

Our group was a joy to work with, too. With gusto we dived into relationship matters and gave each other feedback, drawing on both our writing and life experience.

My fellow writers were all in different project stages from the very planning to actually finishing a book-in-progress.

Some wanted to write a romance, others were planning a different kind of novel featuring important love relationships or even biographical non-fiction.

I think I can truthfully say this intense commitment was one reason why we have all evolved as writers, and have made a big jump forward as a result of the course.

– Sabine Marschner

Committing to the process

They were individuals from different walks of life who understood very well that there are no shortcuts when it comes to writing. It was great to have them as appreciative readers who could relate to the amount of work and struggle behind a submitted text.

We spurred each other on, kept going through the tight course schedule and produced work every week – regardless of night shifts, impossible workload or family matters.

I think I can truthfully say this intense commitment was one reason why we have all evolved as writers, and have made a big jump forward as a result of the course. I miss my group already and look forward to keeping in contact via the Alumni Area.

Learning in-depth

The other reasons were the cleverly chosen course material and our tutor. The weekly lessons and their assignments were spot on. They made us engage in-depth with all the essential topics of the romance genre and writing about relationships in general: characters, conflicts, intimacy.

I loved working with our tutor, Heidi Rice, who gave us succinct and helpful feedback and advice. She’s a very successful published author but totally down-to-earth and has an absolutely realistic approach to both the writing and publishing process which she was happy to share.

As a result of the course, I’ve found many unexpectedly colourful puzzle pieces that were missing from my work.

– Sabine Marschner

Embracing the strange

It was such a relief to hear from Heidi that there is no ‘normal’ way to write! What matters is that you get the job done, whether during your lunch break or day-long sessions, in a writers’ retreat or on the train to work, and to accept all the help you can along the way.

Heidi went to great lengths combing through our texts, pinpointing areas for improvement, praising good efforts and encouraging us. She always took into account the kind of book each of us wanted to write instead of just sticking to the Romance genre conventions.

In her comments on everybody’s work, she also shared her extensive knowledge as a writer by pointing out guiding principles that were very helpful – like, for example, having to present every character’s side fairly in more complicated relationship constellations.

Revealing our strengths

I found these remarks especially thought-provoking and very useful. I’m sure I’ll want to go over Heidi’s comments again when I get stuck (in other words, often). As a result of the course, I’ve become aware of untapped strengths in my writing: mood evocation, intimacy and couple dynamics.

I found many unexpectedly colourful puzzle pieces that were missing from my work and am truly grateful to Heidi Rice, the Writing Romance class of Spring 2019, and our course moderator Lucy Cripps who made this intense learning and writing experience possible.

I still haven’t become a regular romance reader – but there’s a sort-of-love story in the spy novel I’m reading right now, and it has all my attention.

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Meet your Alum

Sabine Marschner

Sabine Marschner

Sabine Marschner studied English and French literature at university. For a couple of years she worked as a product manager in publishing but wasn’t happy that her creative impulses had few outlets. So, she struck out on her own, working in the production office of a large commercial musical theatre and writing texts for a marketing agency, with a detour into selling organic groceries along the way.

Currently, Sabine works as a fundraiser for an NGO with projects in Africa, East and Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

Although Sabine was born and raised in Germany, for some reason she can’t quite explain, the English language has always been close to her heart.

Sabine loves studying via online courses because it brings her into contact with people she’d never have met otherwise. She has completed Faber Academy’s Work in Progress and Professional Writing Academy’s Writing Romance courses. She’s currently at work on her first crime novel with the working title Dead Chic.

More about Sabine Marschner

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