Insecure Writer Wednesday

IWSG

 

Okay, it needs to be said.

I write romance because I read romance.

Deal with it.

I am so tired of hearing people dismiss romantic fiction as being somehow substandard. Being a fan of romantic fiction doesn’t mean I am stupid. Nor does it mean that my books are easy to write or that I am in some way “selling out” by writing in a popular market. It doesn’t mean that I am sexually frustrated, lonely, or lost in a dreamworld of unrealistic expectations when it comes to love.

It just means that I enjoy stories in which everyone gets a Happily Ever After. So sue me. Okay, so I’m also frustrated, lonely, and lost in a dreamworld of unrealistic expectations when it comes to love, but that’s not why I write romance novels. That’s just a lucky bonus, I guess.

Other writers are the worst. In writing forums, there are those who bemoan their own lack of sales and then say things like, “I should just give up and write romance novels to pay my bills until my REAL books start selling.”

How’s that working out for you?

One of my friends, a man whose writing talent leaves me in awe, has told me on more than one occasion that “You are a really talented writer, Amy; I don’t see why you waste your talent writing romance novels.”

Ouch. He means it as a compliment, but I rank it right up there with compliments like, “You’re really pretty for a fat girl”.

Do I sound defensive? Probably. But damn it, I am defensive.  I could list all kinds of statistics and facts about the popularity of romantic fiction; I could throw out some dollar figures that would blow your mind. I could even take a scholarly route and point out the classic, respected authors throughout history whose works could be classified as romantic fiction. But I don’t think it would change many opinions.

Or maybe I could take a deeper look and ask myself just exactly why I’m feeling so defensive on the subject.

You know, romance novels are not the only kind I want to write. When I was growing up, I wanted to create the next Three Investigators or Trixie Belden series. I still want to write for young adults. I want to write mysteries too. Or adventures. Or historical fiction. I’ve even thought about writing my own memoir detailing my 2011 freak accident and the long recovery that followed.  But right now, I choose to write romance. I’m not settling. I’m not selling out. I’m choosing a genre that I love, and I hope I’m good at it.

I’m still planning on trying all those things. Okay, maybe not the memoir. Nobody wants to read that. Then again, nobody seems to want to read my collection of humorous essays, but that didn’t stop me from writing and publishing it. I’m sure the thirteen people who bought it have really enjoyed it.

The truth is that I have doubts, too. Most of the time, I’m content to set my writing goals at “Have fun, make people happy, try to make enough money to pay my bills.” Most of the time, I can accept the fact that, as a romance writer, I’m a very small fish in a very big sea. Odds are good that I am never going to be a multi-millionaire making guest appearances on “The View” to talk about the billions of people whose lives were changed by reading my masterpiece. I am happy doing what I love, living out my dream of being a writer, making a little bit of money.

I have my bad days when the doubts take my breath away and I wonder if I’m wasting my time writing in a genre that isn’t going to be taken seriously. Like when I just read Wool by Hugh Howey. I have to be honest; I wasn’t expecting much. I figured it was all hype and no substance. Ladies and gentlemen, I was wrong. So very wrong. It was amazing. I don’t think I breathed the entire time I was reading it. I had to follow it up immediately with Shift and Dust, and then I dropped into a huge, deep pit of despair at the realization that I will probably never, ever write anything that good.

But I might. I may still have the Great American Novel churning away somewhere inside me, trying to get out. Then again, that may be gas.

Either way, I want to write the books that give me pleasure. I like entertaining people with the things that I write, and I’m having a blast coming up with ideas to write about in several genres — and yes, that includes romance. It takes effort, practice and talent to write well in any genre, and we all suffer from enough doubts and insecurities on our own. 

Can’t we all, as writers, be supportive of our fellow writers in all genres? Because, to be honest, I sometimes feel like romance writers are the Rodney Dangerfields of the writing world.

respect

 

This post was written as part of the Insecure Writers Support Group, where writers gather to share our concerns and show our support for each other.  Remember, guys, we’re all in this together.

 

 

 

 

 

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22 thoughts on “Insecure Writer Wednesday

  1. By the way – I LOVE your books, and I am not typically a fan of romantic fiction, usually it’s too predictable (of course, I HATE suspense, and will ALWAYS turn to the back pages of a book to search for my character’s names if I think they are going to die – which, by the way, Kindle makes seriously difficult!). But I love your characters and care about them – right from the start, so you get me there.

    I do TOTALLY agree about the happy endings thing – I LOVE them too — when asked why HGTV is my favorite show, I reply “Because in 30 or 60 minutes they are always able to take ugly and make it beautiful, hopeless and make it grand, and the end is ALWAYS a good one!” — Even when they run over budget, it’s not MY money, and I still get to see the end done right.

    Trust YOUR OWN passion, not theirs! The most important thing is to do what you love, not try to do what makes others happy (at which you will never succeed). Remember that little quote from middle school? “You can make some of the people happy some of the time, but you can’t make all of the people happy all of the time” Just be yourself – that’s what you are best at anyway!

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    • Always a pleasure to hear from you, Laura! That’s why I love those shows on HGTV too. Even when I don’t always like the final results they come up with, I like the way the fact that they can wrap it all up and make everyone happy by the end of every episode.

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  2. Good for you! I hear the same thing from people about my status as an indie author. They say, “You write so well, why don’t you get a [real] publisher?”

    As a reader, I, too, like happily ever afters. I’m a highly intelligent woman who loves reading about friendship and love. In a complicated, difficult world, we need our escapes. We also need writers who are comfortable enough to write those escapes, whether or not some people approve. More power to you!

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    • Ugh, I hear that one, too! Don’t you just hate the note of condescension when they say that, or “It’s as good as a REAL book.” As though a self-published book isn’t a “real” book!

      You’re right, everyone needs an occasional escape from life, whether it’s with a romance novel, or a spy novel, or an afternoon with Netflix.

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  3. Amy, I have an advertisement on Facebook for my six book boxed set, which is historical romance. I had a comment posted on that advert yesterday, which said: ‘Yuk! I hate romance.’ So don’t bloody well read it then was my reply. I have seen the success of some writers of contemporary romance, like yourself, so thought I would jump on that bandwagon. I could not do it! I have a lot of followers on my historical fiction novels, but could I put together even a novella of contemporary romance? No, I could not. I admire anyone who can and having been told I am an awesome author, but I cannot write a contemporary romance, I have to conclude that people who try to belittle authors of that genre do so because they are jealous, because they can’t do it!

    Was Gone with the Wind a romance or a story about the civil war?

    Do we think Jane Austen was a romance writer? Or the Brontes? Cheer up, Amy; when you’ve been dead a couple of hundred years, people will be stealing your characters and making sequels, feeling themselves superior because they are emulating the classics.

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    • Margaret, I love your historical romance, and I envy your ability to write them! I’d like to try that someday, but at this point I’m just too lazy to do the research involved. And for the record, I loved the way you combined contemporary with historical in Old Fashioned Values. I think I just may like that one even more than I liked Mirielle.

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  4. If you’re gifted in a popular genre, count your blessings. Try not to let the negative comments get you worked up, just smile and count your money and published books. If you have ideas brewing for another genre, go for that . You’re not selling out, you’re expanding your horizons. Good work.
    Mary at Play off the Page

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  5. Amen to this post! And all the comments!

    I belong to Romance Writers of America, and prior to joining I was reluctant to admit I read romance (and truthfully, I read very little of it, but RWA came highly recommended as an organization to help writers pursue publication). Since joining almost 4 years ago I’ve been hugely inspired by the industry and the feminism within. Often romance is maligned by women too, when the reality is this female-dominated industry supports women as entrepreneurs and innovators. When people dis romance, I ask what they like to read and am always ready with a recommendation. Molly O’Keefe, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Nalini Singh, oh I can recommend all sorts of books!

    I’m really glad there are more mainstream outlets holding romance to a higher standard. Book Riot in their articles and podcasts are doing a wonderful job, and NPR books has featured a really positive romance series over the past year. They even polled the industry for a best of romance article of something like 100 books to recommend. Jezebel and The Mary Sue are feminist leaning pop culture sites who have put out pro-romance articles over the past few years. I bookmark them and link to them when the inevetible lazy commentary comes out yakking about Fabio and bodice rippers. It happens every Valentine’s season, so watch out.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I always speak up when I see romance books dissed. Veiled within those attacks is an underlying message that women’s interests are trivial and not valued. That all women need are a real man to sex them up right, or perhaps they are oversexed which is “wrong”, because we should all be chaste “mommies” until men determine our sensual appeal. I sound like a man-hater, but I’m happily married to a dude who would never shame my interests. So keep fighting the good fight!

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    • Wow, I never really thought about there being an underlying message about women’s interests. I know a lot of the anti-romantic fiction sentiment stems from snobbery — an attitude that it’s all formulaic and oh-so-easy to dash out. That it doesn’t take a lot of intelligence to read OR write it. But I think you may be right, too. You don’t sound like a man-hater, but you definitely gave me something to think about.

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  6. What you’ve said is so true. Just because it’s a romance novel doesn’t make it any easier to write than any other type of fiction. There’s nothing wrong with any genre. You should be able to write whatever type of story you’d like without anyone looking down their nose at it. Do what makes you happy.

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  7. I generally keep my opinion (‘sucks to be you’) of romance-haters to myself, because haters gonna hate and I don’t need to waste my time trying to convince them otherwise. But I got a kick out of your post. Spot on, every word. Actually, I write romance because it sells. If my work doesn’t sell, I’ve got other things to do. But it’s a load of fun, and I’ve met some awesome women, both as a member of my local RWA chapter and online, with whom to talk about writing. Bottom line? No one’s opinion counts except yours and the people who bought your book. Guess what? They LOVE romance.

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    • Well said! And I love being a part of RWA as well, although I haven’t been able to join my local chapter just yet. “Local” for me is still more than an hour away, so the meetings are a bit out of reach at this point.

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  8. Romance writers don’t get the respect they deserve. I’m not sure if it’s a misogyny thing or what, but women write them, women read them, and women enjoy them. I say stand up for yourself and know that you are a talented writer that writes books that people enjoy.

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  9. *High five* Romance reader here–and trust me, I’ve tried to write romance and I just can’t. It’s so hard to get the nuances and the chemistry correct–and it’s so precious to want to give people a warm, fuzzy Happily Ever After.

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  10. I am a memoir writer that wants to be a romance writer because I have always been a romance reader.
    I will never understand why some writers judge others. It must be their own insecurities. It’s hard to ignore mean people but you have to concentrate on the words of people who are for you.

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  11. Puuuleeeze I’m green with envy that you’re a published novelist (green with envy in a good way of course,) I certainly can’t imagine people belittling anything about that no matter the genre. You are a superstar no matter how you look at this. And romance novels are a sellout? Yeah, if they sell out that’s what I’d be writing if I could muddle together more than a few paragraphs. Your friend is right. You are deeply talented. And that shouldn’t be followed up by “but…”

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  12. Like you I read romance so I write romance and I stopped being ashamed a long time ago. Writing romance isn’t any easier than writing any other genre and and any book published is a massive achievement. Maybe one day I’ll try my hand at dystopian fiction but I’m fairly in love with the happy every after!

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