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.
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.