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.

 

 

 

 

 

Give a Little Bit

IWSG

As a member of the Insecure Writers Support Group, I am grateful for the opportunity to share my insecurities and worries with like-minded people. It has been so refreshing to discover that other writers are feeling some of the same things, fighting some of the same inner battles.  Two things I keep hearing over and over: we’re all in this together, and we are not alone.

So what’s my freak-out for this month’s IWSG post?

I worry that I take more than I give. After all, what have I got to offer other writers? Who am I to give advice? Let’s face it; I’m a self-published romance writer who doesn’t earn enough to support myself with my writing. I’m part of a crowd, lost in a sea of self-published authors in a huge genre. I’m not exactly a glowing success with heaps of wisdom to bestow on others.

Some folks might even call me a failure as a writer.

I work three part-time jobs on top of writing and still can’t make my rent, but I’m optimistic enough to keep writing anyway. Or stupid enough. I’m not sure which. Depends on how much coffee I’ve had on any given day, I guess.

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to meet one of my writing heroes. She treated me with respect as a fellow writer; she gave me useful advice and some great writing tips, but she did so much more than that. She believed in me. She didn’t mock me or condescend to me, or treat me like someone chasing a stupid dream. I don’t think I would have finished my first book without her encouragement.

Since then, I’ve encountered so many others who have given me that same gift. The kindness of my fellow writers has been nearly overwhelming. These guys give, give, give. Sometimes they give great advice, and sometimes they merely dispense a heartfelt “attagirl” at just the right moment. There are days when my fellow writers tell me something I really need to hear at a time when I really don’t want to hear it, and they care enough to tell me anyway.

How many times can I say thank you before the words begin to lose their meaning? How do I give back? In the grand scheme of things in the writing world, I’m pretty much a nobody at this point.

I worry that I’m wearing out my welcome among writing groups by always taking, taking, taking the good stuff and having so little to offer in return. If the time ever comes that I can truly call myself a success, I’ll do everything I can to reach out for those who are struggling in all the ways I’m struggling right now. But until that day, how do I pull my own weight among my peers?

I’m interested in hearing what some of you do to support each other, no matter what your level of success. I’d welcome any tips or suggestions on what I can do to give little something back to the writing community.

Sign Me Up!

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In three days, I will be facing one of my greatest fears.

In three days, I am going to wake up in a cold sweat and probably spend a couple of hours fighting back nausea as my nerves go haywire. I’m pretty sure I’ll screw up my hair and end up with random pieces sticking up to do their own thing; I’ll probably jam the mascara wand in my eye while applying my make-up, too.

It’s a safe bet that at least one earring back is going down the drain or into my cleavage.  Either way, that sucker is going to be long gone, because I’m not going in after it in either place.

In three days, I’m doing my first book signing at my local library, and I’ve got to be honest: I’m almost praying for a power outage or possibly an alien abduction somewhere between now and then. Sure, I signed books at a booth during Octoberfest, but this is different.

I am terrified, but not for the reasons you might think.

If the only people who show up are my relatives, I’m going to laugh. Hey, more chocolate for me! If I sign only a handful of books, it’s okay; after all, I’ve already sold them to most of the people I know around here.  When all is said and done, I get to spend an hour and a half at a library with a very nice librarian, talking about books, drinking tea, and eating chocolate.

Successful book signing or not, that pretty much describes my perfect Saturday afternoon.

No, I’m not taking this little drive down Anxiety Lane by way of Panic Avenue because I’m afraid of poor attendance.  It’s not the where or what of the situation that’s got me gnawing off my fingernails; it’s the who. Specifically, me.

I don’t think I thought this whole author thing through. I like writing and telling stories. I enjoy being around people. I just don’t like being in front of people.  I sweat when I get nervous, and I start talking fast. I mean really fast. The first time I had to prepare a lecture for a classroom, I delivered forty minutes of material in just under nine minutes.

Nine minutes.

When I finished and looked out at my audience, this is what I saw:

"Did you catch any of that?"
“Did you catch any of that?”

I have a tendency to giggle when I’m nervous. And I blurt out things that I really have no reason to be blurting. You know that filter that some people have between their brain and their mouth? I don’t have one of those. Especially not when I’m nervous and giggling and talking too fast.

I’m reminded of the episode of Coupling when Jeff is so worried about an upcoming job interview that he panics about “accidental words” popping into his brain, causing him to blurt out “Thighs!” and “Vulva!” at really unfortunate moments.

I should probably not do that.

The truth is that I’m not sure I’m the kind of person who belongs in front of people. I’m overweight, middle-aged, and I only have one nice dress to wear to an occasion like this. I’ve got funny posture and my hands sort of flail about when I’m talking. I don’t even like putting my picture on my Author Profile page – in fact, for a long time my profile picture was a shot of the stump of the tree that fell on me. Seriously, that says an awful lot right there: I hate my picture so much that I’d rather shine the spotlight on the tree that bounced off my head four years ago.

Lovely picture of me, eh?
Lovely picture of me, eh?

All kidding aside, I’m really grateful for the opportunity to do this in my own town for the first time.  If it goes well, I may approach a few other libraries about doing it again. I understand that it’s necessary to put myself out there as part of any marketing campaign, and I think I’m probably going to end up really enjoying myself once I get over being nervous.

As long as I don’t suddenly blurt out “Penis!”

What about all of you?  Do you get nervous about making public appearances? Are you comfortable attaching your picture to your work, and if so, how did you get to that point? If not, what would it take to get you there?

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This post was written as part of the Insecure Writers Support Group.