Monday, September 13, 2010

No Pulled Punches by Megan Crane

I learned to stop pulling my punches by writing romance novels.

Seriously.  I teach writing classes, and spend a lot of time talking about pulling punches in your story and how not to do it.  Don’t be afraid to hurt your characters, I’d say.  Don’t be afraid to really wade into all that pain and make it worse, I’d say—because that’s the only way to make it better.  And I meant it.  I’d written four chick lit/women’s fiction books, and a whole bunch of YA work-for-hire books, and I thought I knew what I was talking about.  But it was not until I tried to write my first romance that I discovered I’d been pulling punches all along.

Because the romance demanded MORE.  More pain, more joy, more confusion, more certainty.  As a longtime romance reader, this shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me.  Here’s what a romance novel does that other books don’t: it makes the reader feel the way she felt when she was falling in love.  Remember that?  Everything was that big, that desperate, that encompassing.  I remember driving home from my then-maybe-boyfriend’s house, crying uncontrollably, because it was all too much.  That story is only cute (in a psychotic sort of way, I grant you) because I married the guy.  A romance novel captures that feeling, and makes it even bigger.  The fate of the world hangs in the balance, and it feels real to the reader, because that’s what love feels like.  The stakes really are that big.  Will you stay together?  Will you marry, have children, build a life?  Will it all fall apart?  Will you have to rebuild?  Every answer to every question is a different life.  A writer who takes the easy road, the safe road, in a romance novel will find herself without readers—because love is about not feeling safe, about being outside of your comfort zone, in order to feel safer with someone else than you ever imagined you could alone.

In my latest book, due out in just a few weeks from my alter-ego Caitlin Crews, I really played with those punches, and tried my hardest not to pull any of them.   

 Majesty, Mistress…Missing Heir is a very special book for me, and I hope I managed to tell the story without keeping to the safety zone. 

Will Jessa tell her recently returned-ex-lover Tariq about the child they made years ago, before he became the king of his far-off country?  What will he do when he finds out he has a blood relative--an heir?  What are the consequences to the choices Jessa made at the worst time in her life?  And who will she protect—Tariq, who she never stopped loving?  Herself?  Or the child she's always wanted to give the best life possible, no matter the cost?

I hope you'll agree that the punch is worth it!

 Majesty, Mistress...Missing Heir will be out October 1, 2010.  

USA Today bestselling author Megan Crane has written five women’s fiction novels, many work-for-hire young adult novels, and five category romances (under the name Caitlin Crews) since publishing her first book in 2004. Her third novel, Frenemies, was a BookSense Notable in July 2007.  She teaches various creative writing classes both online at and at UCLA Extension's prestigious Writers' Program, where she finally utilizes her MA and PhD in English Literature.  Megan lives in Los Angeles with her comic book artist/animator husband and too many pets. For more info visit her at or


  1. You're so right, Megan. There's nothing more earth shattering than falling in love. It's takes a really skilled writer to make a reader feel those emotions again. Great post!

  2. Pulling punches is probably one of the hardest obstacles to overcome for a writer of any genre, but you're absolutely right about love being the kind of experience where a writer can't hold back on the pain. Even the most die-hard Casanovas have a life-changing heartbreak in their past...even James Bond!

  3. Thanks for bringing back all of my happy memories of reading romance novels. I knew there was a reason I loved them so much as a teen. That's when falling in love seemed like my greatest goal.

  4. I was just thinking about that yesterday as I was working on revisions on my YA. Great post!

  5. Great post Megan! Love is what we build our world around. And who can resist that--falling in love--whole deal? Sigh.

  6. Megan, I love the idea of "don't pull punches" as a writing motto! It's like a reminder to go for it rather than holding back. I'm at two months 'til deadline so it's great timing. :-)

  7. Wonderful post Megan. You are so right. Can't go pulling punches in romance. It's all or nothing.

  8. This post totally made me want to go out and buy a romance novel! I haven't read romance since my high school addiction to Danielle Steel, but I may have to get started on a new addiction with your novels!

    I love how writing romance taught you something new about your writing.

  9. Well said, Megan!

    For readers of romance and women's fiction, and I'd say YA as well, emotional connection is the ultimate measure of a book's success. Love IS everything when you're first in it, or newly out of it, or when something/someone you love is in danger.

  10. I read a lot of romance as a freelance editor and copywriter, and yesterday I was SOBBING over a particularly touching-to-me scene between the hero and heroine (in a Harlequin inspirational). The emotion in romances, particularly category romance because of the shorter format and absolute focus on the hero and heroine, never fails to impact me. LOVE romance and will seek out your Presents.

  11. Congratulations on your new book. You are quite right about not pulling punches.

    Greg Gutierrez
    Zen and the Art of Surfing

  12. I've always thought romance was one of the hardest genres to write in. Great, insightful post!

  13. Nice post! I can't wait to read your book.

  14. Thanks for this! It's always good to hear another writer say "I thought I knew blah, blah, blah until...." I think we all learn something with each book. Or we should.

  15. This answers a question I didn't even realize I was asking! I'll often look at my material and know inside that it's just not quite there and I'll give up on trying to figure out what's missing or wrong(deluding myself into thinking no one else will notice it), cruel as it sounds, you're 100 per cent right. It's pain.
    The more the better. Fightbook Club.

    Very insightful.

    Thanks for sharing,