Entering The Clean Up Phase

Cleaning products.
© Can Stock Photo / JanPietruszka

I’ve been busy putting the final touches on the first draft for my upcoming contemporary romance novel, The Letter, and I’m now entering what I call, the cleanup phase.

Something about traditionally published romance novels has always bothered me. The author would reach the big climax scene, and then, once it was over, shazam! Everything magically falls back into place right then and there. It’s almost as if nothing bad ever happened. Then, one or two pages later, everyone rides off into the sunset and lives happily ever after. The end.

Wouldn’t it be great if real life was as simple?

The problem with traditional publishers

Traditional book publishers rely on formulas, and their authors must adhere to said set formula. In contemporary romance, it can mean that the characters have to meet by page ten. The first kiss happens on page twenty-two. The villain must appear by page thirty-nine, and it concludes with the aforementioned happy ending where everything falls neatly back into place.

The problem with formulas is the books become too predictable. I loved reading Danielle Steele back when I was in college. I could relate to her characters. Her stories were believable and entertaining. Over time, however, I started noticing a pattern, and I eventually stopped reading her books. They had become too predictable, and I got bored reading them. It was as if they plugged in a different set of names for the characters, placed them in a different location, pushed a button, and viola! Here’s the next book. And the one after that. And the one after that.  

Why I choose to remain fiercely independent

In the real world the only things that are predictable are death and taxes. Everything else is about how we react to whatever we’ve been dealt. It’s all about the choices we make, good or bad. As a writer, it means the possibilities are endless.

I’ve always strived to make my stories as realistic and believable as possible. In real life, when things hit the proverbial fan, it leaves a lot of fallout behind. So, after the big climax, I include a cleanup phase, which is something I might not be able to do with a traditional publisher because it might not fit the formula. However, my job isn’t to follow a strict formula. My job is to tell an entertaining story that is also a believable story.

Why the cleanup phase is important

The cleanup phase gives my characters a chance to regroup and deal with the aftermath of the events that happened during the climax. It can be as short as an epilogue, or as long as several chapters. If a character is injured, readers will see his or her recovery. If a villain gets caught, the readers find out how long their prison sentence is. If a character leaves town, he or she has a chance to say goodbye. The leading characters will work out whatever unresolved conflicts they may have and be reunited for good. In other words, I take the time to tie up the loose ends before I end my story. I don’t write sequels. Therefore, each ending has to be as complete, and as satisfying as possible for the reader.

The end.

Marina Martindale

0