I have come to realize recently that I am something of an oddity in the romance community (aspiring and otherwise). It doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that I’ve jumped around from traditional romantic suspense to paranormal romance. Doesn’t have much to do with age (though I have recently discovered that I am actually the youngest among ALL my writer friends–I actually started with this way earlier than most of them–I submitted my first book for publication when I was 15. It was, thankfully, rejected). It’s not even related to all the regular jobs I have that suck away precious writing time (because hey, it’s only the rare ones who are able to support them selves fully doing this, right?). But some recent conversations with various writer friends have made me realize that in some ways I just don’t fit the mold.
- I am not, nor do I ever intend to be, a member of RWA. I cannot tell you the number of writers I have met online who adore RWA. They will proselytize and try to recruit you to the club by extolling RWA’s virtues with the fervor of a TV Evangelist. I try very hard to be polite and accept their suggestions and then change the subject. For one thing, I simply don’t have the money for RWA. Not the membership and not the conference (though the conference always sounds like a lot of fun). In these tough economic times, I’m sure I’m not alone in that particular issue. But despite all the cheerleading talks I’ve been on the receiving end of regarding why RWA membership is great, I just don’t think that the benefits would be enough to justify the cost for me. Anyone can join RWA, so I don’t really see that it’s a particularly impressive thing to be able to quote in a query letter. If you’ve finalled or won any of their contests, that’s another matter. But anyway, while I’m sure it has its awesome aspects as an organization, I am fairly sure it is not a good fit for me.
- I do not write with a target publisher in mind. Let’s face it. I work 3 jobs (have recently taken on a freelance copy editing gig as a fourth because I am insane). My writing time is limited and it takes me, at MINIMUM, a year to crank out a book. Probably another 6 months beyond that to whip it into shape where I can accept someone looking at it. Tack another 6 months on there for finding someone who actually wants to read it (because that’s being optimistic) and that’s 2 whole years that pass between germination of the idea and fruition. What sense does it make for me to write with a particular publisher in mind when what that publisher will be looking for in 2 years is likely to not be the same? Despite the fact that some aspects of publishing move with glacial speed, the particular things that publishers or agents are looking for changes, a LOT. And beyond that, with the whole e-book revolution, the face of publishing is in absolute upheaval right now. Houses are letting people go left and right. Some are folding entirely. Meanwhile, I’m still writing. And in a year and a half, after some of the dust of upheaval has settled, I’ll see where what I’ve written might fit. But I certainly won’t pigeon hole myself at this stage because I am still learning.
- Hi, I’m Kait, and I don’t read category romance. Please hold the rotten vegetables. There are a number of reasons for this, mostly mental hangups or snobbery on my part. For one, category romance is short. Usually around 75k from what I understand. I see them on the shelf at the bookstore and they look miserly and skinny next to the big thick 90-100k novels–like the wimpy stories that were out for teens when I was that age (thank God YA has gotten a clue since then). So in my mind, I (irrationally) feel like buying the thicker book is more story for my buck. Same sort of mentality that often keeps me from reading novellas. I like big, thick, meaty stories. They are what I have always gravitated to since I discovered I loved reading in the 6th grade. The other reason I don’t read category romance (and don’t aspire to write it) is that I got ahold of some bad ones. You know the type. The 80s tripe that gave the entire genre of romance a bad name to the rest of the reading world. The too stupid to live heroines that just make us cringe. This subset of category has done so much damage to the reputation of romance it’s not even funny. People will perpetually hold a prejudice against the genre because of it in the same way that Mississippi will always be considered a bunch of racist rednecks because of what happened here during the Civil Rights Era. Now, I absolutely guarantee that I am missing out on some wonderful books. No doubt. And I could certainly poll my other friends who do read category for some recommendations of titles that do not suck the big one and make you want to throw the book at the wall. I just…haven’t. And I confess it is because of a certain measure of snobbery about it. Yep, that’s right, I admit it. I know it’s irrational and unfounded (hey, we psychology types are good at self-analysis), but there you have it. My dirty little secret.
I think there’s this conception that it’s virtually impossible to break into publishing with full length titles and that you have to start with category. And maybe it’s easier (if anything in publishing is easy) to go that route. Certainly there is a built in audience for categories (because those who do read them are rabidly supportive and awesome cheerleaders to have). But it’s just not what I’m aiming for. Since almost 100% of what I read is full length titles, that affects how I think of story structure and plot, and that’s what I write. It’s what I want to write. It doesn’t mean that I need to tighten my plot (though that’s a frequent problem of younger writers); it’s that I have a bigger story than will fit in the word limit of 75k. As Pot said this morning, if after I’ve got a few books under my belt that my agent isn’t able to find a home for and it’s suggested I try for something shorter, then okay. I’ll try it. But for now, I’m writing what I want to write for me because that’s the only thing that make sense to me.
So there you have it. Some of my dirty little secrets. I walk to the beat of my own drum. Please please please do NOT think I am trying to insult or think less of anybody who IS a member of RWA or who DOES write for a target publisher or who DOES read category romance. I am absolutely not doing that. I’m just making confessions about why they don’t work for me. Everybody is different, and everyone in this game has a different path to publication. There is no One True Way to achieve the dream (otherwise everyone would be doing it). So hey, to each their own. In the meantime, I’ve got a scene to write.