Like so many authors, I have a day-job. In my case, it’s as an attorney for a large research university. My days are spent sending emails answering legal questions from members of the university workforce, reviewing or drafting contracts, reviewing new laws or regulations and putting them into a digestible format, and sometimes writing full blown legal memoranda. Of course law school taught me the basics of legal drafting, but it took romance writing to really hone my writing skills. Here are the top five ways writing romance novels improved my professional writing.
1. Even though writing romance novels calls for flowing narratives and descriptions, the writing still needs to be sharp. Don’t use five words when one will do. Using strong verbs, concise descriptions, and contextually appropriate words (see below) is important regardless of the type of writing, be it technical, professional, or prose. Sharpening the focus in my romance writing has spilled over into my professional writing. Also, if not completely ridding myself of passive writing — one of my bad habits — at least recognizing it more. Writing in active voice has strengthened my prose. And in the legal field, strength is always good.
2. Learning to plot my novels (loosely, since I’m a pantster), has changed the way I present the legal material to my client. I’ve learned to tell a story with whatever law or regulation it is that I’m educating them on. And a well-organized piece is clear and logical, which is what my clients need when dealing with a complex regulatory scheme.
3. Language or word choice. Using precise and accurate words adds clarity to writing. While fastidious may have many synonyms, not all synonyms are created equal. There’s a big difference between someone who is meticulous (positive) and someone who is fussy (negative). Finding the right word within the context of the piece your drafting is important.
4. Grammar and Style. I’ve always been decent with grammar and punctuation, but I’ve learned so much more since I’ve been writing books, and after edits and re-edits, I can spot an error (in someone else’s work) from a mile away. In fact, my colleagues call me eagle eye and often ask me to review their important documents before they’re finalized.
5. Sentence structure. Mixing simple sentences with complex, compound, and compound-complex sentences keeps the reader interested and engaged. And nothing needs a little pizzazz like a mind-numbing regulation. Continued use of the same sentence structure can turn a piece into a dull, plodding passage that soon puts your reader to sleep. And over-use of compound-complex sentences when you’re explaining a convoluted law doesn’t lend itself to clarity. Just like in a novel, simple sentences pack a punch. When there’s an important aspect of a law, like, say, the penalty for violating it, nothing gets that point across like a simple sentence: Failure to comply with the law is a felony. BOOM!
The improvement in my professional writing has paid off, because my boss says I am an excellent writer, that my emails and memoranda are concise, informative, and well-crafted.
Has writing romance changed the way you write in other aspects of your life? If so, how?