When you lay out the Tarot cards, the card that falls in one position has to do with the opinions of friends and family. No matter what you do or don’t do, there will always be opinions from friends and family. That is one of life’s little certainties. How to handle them is one of life’s big perplexities. Recently, an example came up, in the form of well-intentioned advice.
Someone – well, okay, it was my mom – sent me an article about several women who write romance novels, with stories of how they broke into the field, and so on. At the top of the page she wrote, “I know it’s against your principles to make money, but…”
That’s just my mom’s sense of humor. Actually, she’s been very supportive.
Anyway, the idea of trying to sell a romance book had crossed my mind before. It’s not like I never gave the notion a fair hearing. But here’s the thing. The romance genre has numerous sub-genres, too many to list here and, if the truth be known, too many to contemplate without bringing on a headache. So that would be the first task – Read examples from several of the specialized areas of romance, pick one, and then read several more books from that sub-category. Already, we’re talking about a time investment of a couple of weeks at least.
Then of course there’s the writing of the book, and the seeking of a publisher, all the usual tasks that come with any book. You can talk about dashing off a quick romance novel, but any book is a lot of work, and I’m full of doubts about trying it just to make some money.
What it looks like is, you can’t just drop a manuscript into the romance publishing arena out of a clear blue sky. I think you have to adapt the lifestyle – go to conferences, join your local Romance Writers group, and so on. It’s an investment of time and money. You have to do book signings and drink tea with people. If you’re lucky and the book gets some kind of audience, there are even more obligations for the professional romance novelist. I hate to generalize, but readers of this genre include some lonely people. They want contact, they want to connect with the author of their latest favorite book. To be a successful romance novelist, you have to become the role, and do things like maintain a frothy website and answer all your fan mail. It’s a career, if you do it right. It’s not the kind of thing you can do half-assed.
I probably could do it. So far, I’ve been able to write anything that anybody has wanted written, as well as the tons of stuff I wanted to write. So far, I’ve been able to play public roles when required. I could probably become a romance novelist and pay the bills. But if I’m going to put that much time and energy into something I don’t really want to do, then it’s just another job. And if it’s just another job, then I might as well look for a “real job,” become an insurance biller in a medical office or something. And then I wouldn’t be a writer any more. No, if I’m going to put that much energy into something, it going to be something I really care about.
Well-intentioned people might say, “So, get a real job for a while, and pay down the credit balance a little, and then go back to freelance writing or your own novel or whatever.” It ain’t happening. The concept of writing “someday” must go out the window. There is no someday. Someday is now. I don’t have that much time left, and there are enough ideas on the list to keep me busy for a hundred years, never mind however many I might realistically have, by even the most optimistic estimate.
But here’s the main thing, and it’s a thought that I might never have formulated in just such a way, if not for the little nudge from my mom. Here it is:
There are thousands of people out there competing to be romance writers. There is only one person competing to be Pat Hartman.
I don’t know yet if I’ll call my mom and explain all this. That’s the downside of advice from friends and family. If you choose to talk to them about their opinions, you can get dragged into endless unproductive discussions and even arguments. Which all have their place, because important personal stuff is a totally legitimate subject with friends and family. I mean, if all you ever talk about is the weather or the football game, what’s the point? For that, you’ve got strangers.
Still, dealing with all these opinions can be exhausting, however you approach it. Even stonewalling takes some energy, and leads to trouble. The problem will never go away.
But it’s almost never a waste of time, to actually take under consideration some of the things people say. Can’t hurt, might help. Rather than let it sap your energy, you can make it into an opportunity to clarify your thinking and reaffirm your position, in your own mind. There is only one person competing to be Pat Hartman, and that’s where, as a writer, I succeed. Nobody else can do it better.
Dedicated to MM, my Ideal Reader