What I’ve Learned from Writing My First Romance Short Story

Second Chance-cover

It was started with wanting to write a romance novel based on what I had discovered from my MBA alma mater, even though this novel is going to be pure fiction and is not going to be fully related with what happened in the school. Because novel is usually long (around 90,000 words*), I thought why don’t I write a short story instead as kind of a practice, especially that I already had an idea for this short story.

During the process of writing my romance novel, it has never dawned on me that it would lead me to a path where I discovered so many things. I ended up sort of finding myself and knowing myself more. I get to realise that behind this ‘strong fearless woman’ facade of me, I am very vulnerable inside. There are things that I’ll be ashamed to talk or discuss about. There are parts of me that have never been explored before, and those parts are parts that are related to my heart, feelings, emotions and all other things that are not related with my brain and my logic.

I’m a very logical, strong in math type of a woman, whose political and economical articles are supported by evidences, proofs, analytical thinking, etc. Suddenly I found myself in an area that feels foreign to me, an unknown territory where I’ve never been before in my life. It felt like a challenge at first, but before long I was going through this dark tunnel  exploring the unexplored side of me and let me tell you it was painful. There were sleepless restless nights. 

During this journey in the unknown territory or dark tunnel, I questioned so many things about love and life. The first question that popped into my mind when I started writing my romance novel was What is Love? I realised I know nothing about love. I said to myself “Who am I kidding? I don’t even know what is love, how am I going to write a romance novel?” Panic struck me. 

Because I am the type of writer who thinks that I need to know what I am writing otherwise the romance novel will feel shallow or lacking depth. Realising this, I went to some kind of soul searching, a bit difficult in time of pandemic because I can’t just take vacation somewhere and do contemplating. I have a huge forest garden surrounding my house, but it didn’t help with my soul searching. This whole lockdown and pandemic made me feel a bit depressed.

But as a stubborn woman who won’t easily give up her aspiration to write a novel, I pushed myself through. I started this journey of learning whatever I can about love, feelings, human emotions, and all other things that are not related to the logic side of me. Love is an abstract subject, you can’t really see it only feel it, so I need to reflect on my own love experiences only to find out all the unresolved and painful issues of my past. But through processing them, I get to know and understand myself more. I get to see my own problems and struggle that I didn’t see before or that I refused to see or in denial, maybe as a result of my own defence system not to get hurt so bad that it might break me. I didn’t know that I’ve been broken thus I can’t heal what I don’t know is damaged. The whole process ending up in me discovering myself and healing from past issues. 

Slowly but sure I managed to finish writing my short story titled “Second Chance”. It is around 15,000 words or around 70 pages. 

Here is the synopsis of my first  romance short story:

When Vinna Iskandar dated Richard Erhart she didn’t know that he is her true love. They were once an MBA sweetheart but clashes in cultures and values separated them apart. 

Vinna is a beautiful and intelligent Indonesian woman raised in a traditional conservative values where religion plays a significant role in society and where premarital sex is forbidden. Richard is an intelligent and handsome French man raised in a liberal culture so contrasting with that of Vinna’s. Richard is ambitious, he knows what he wants and works hard to get whatever his heart desires. After their breakup, Richard knew that Vinna was the one that got away and that he has always wanted her. 

Vinna became a successful author living in the French Riviera and Richard became the youngest Head of Equity Trading Department of one of the most prominent French banks. When they met again a decade later at an MBA reunion, they couldn’t deny the attraction and deep feelings they still had for one another. They fell to temptation as they were forever trapped in a burning passion and desire. Their long journey to be together again was marked with passionate affair, long separation and fate that finally reunited them.

I’m still in a battle with myself whether to finally publish this short story or not. I don’t intend to write erotic novel, and I don’t think this is an erotic romance, at least I hope it’s not. But yes there are some foreplay and sex scenes in it, because I find those as a must to depict Vinna’s struggle as a virgin who wanted to keep her virginity until she gets married which is part of her traditional values of how she was brought up in Indonesia. In deciding to include foreplay and sex scenes in my romance story I am only exercising my freedom as a writer to express myself and also because I think these scenes are important part of the story. Honestly I prefer not to write any sex scene, but this is part of the job as a writer and I need to do it when it is required or as I see it fit.

Thus the challenges in writing my first romance story include also writing sex scene. In conservative East, sex is taboo. What I wrote is taboo and controversial for the conservative East’s standard. This will be like the Fifty Shades of Grey in the eyes of the conservative Asians. I hope that they can see pass this and see the messages I am trying to send across which are about differences in cultures and values and how they affect relationship especially love relationship between people of different races, nationalities, etc. 

I’m still not fully comfortable with publishing the book because of the sex scenes content in it. This is a challenge for myself as an author that I need to tackle, this is part of me growing and overcoming any shame and inner vulnerability. If I want to be a real artist or author, then I have to be free to fully express, to be courageous and to be true to myself in the name of art. 

I have said that I will write more asian characters to voice minority in the mainstream media and film industry. This is keeping my words as I incorporate Indonesian woman as the leading protagonist in an English romance story. We rarely see asian characters in novel written in English. So I hope that I contribute in making a change in this world somehow, how little it might be. But first I need to find the courage to publish my first romance story. 

Overall writing romance has been an eye-opening and enriching experiences, I learn so much about love, life and myself. I also know that I won’t stop learning from now on. 

30 April 2021: * Edited to 90,000 words from 200,000 words. I made a mistake about the amount of words usually are in a novel. 

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