Going Long

I’ve been trying, but I can’t do it.

After many, many weeks of “studying” the contemporary romance genre from a writer’s perspective, reading as much as I can get my hands on, downloading material to my Kindle like a woman possessed, reading reviews of other authors’ work and detecting patterns of satisfaction and dissatisfaction, I finally understand something. The average romance reader seems to want their resolution around page 250 or thereabouts. On rare occasions they will accept your going on for another 25 or so. Beyond that, there is impatience. And I think I understand. Honestly, two hundred and fifty to three hundred pages is sufficient to complete the basic romantic arc in most circumstances, unless there is a fair amount of suspense and action also involved. Or, let’s face it, if you’re a very skilled writer who can communicate vast amounts of information with relatively few words (which not many writers are).

Turns out, I just can’t do it. Certainly, I could work harder to say more with less or get a real cutthroat of an editor, and I think depending on the voice, in some circumstances I probably should. But sometimes it’s just not possible for me and now I think I understand why.

When I was writing Commitment, The Seduction of Dylan Acosta and Unsuitable Men, I never envisioned them as romance novels in the purest sense. I saw the main characters’ relationships with themselves, and their process of self-evolution as being equally important as whether or not they ended up with the person they were in love with. I wanted to say more about their lives and their worlds than that they had fallen in love, faced some trouble getting together with their love interest and then finally gotten it together.

In ‘Commitment’, I wanted to explore image, fame, the changing face of hip-hop (an art form I’m still very much in love with – as an aside, if you’re in love with it too, you MUST check out  The Anthology of Rap by Adam Bradley and edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.) and a man’s process of learning who he is. In ‘Unsuitable Men’, it was about Tracy and Brendan falling in love, but also about Tracy learning to overcome demons from her past that made her loathe herself and love only her outward appearance. And in ‘The Seduction of Dylan Acosta’ it was about how not knowing who you are renders you susceptible to all kinds of influences that would seek to define you. The romance was the carrot to lure you in, but I hoped the core of the stories was more than that.

In ‘Unsuitable Men’, for instance, I debated with myself for days whether the main protagonists should end up with each other at all. And I was aware that if they did, what would be most satisfying to the reader would be a ring and a wedding. But that outcome didn’t make sense to me, given the very difficult journey of acceptance and self-acceptance that the Tracy character was embarking on. She wasn’t ready for any of that. Her love of herself was too new for her to have perfected love with another person to such a degree that she could marry them. So I just could not deliver that ending. Likewise, I find it difficult to deliver the standard 250 – 275 page romance and say all that I want to say.  And that has had me very conflicted.

No resolutions reached yet, but something tells me that when I come out on the other side of this debate, I’ll probably still go long. At least a little.

-Nia-

Tell Me You Love Me . . . (or that you don’t)

I don’t know any writers who do it for the money. Not one.

I’m definitely one of those who write for other reasons. Now if the money you get through sales is in some way a reflection of how many people were moved by your work then perhaps it becomes important. Still, when I check online to “see how I’m doing”, I hardly ever check my sales. I check for reviews. And when I do check my sales, it’s only so I can see how many people may have read my work and might leave a review. Each royalty payment I get deposited into my account perplexes me each month. There’s always a moment of, ‘what is this? oh yeah, for the books.’ The sums have been larger lately so there’s a brief moment of exhilaration but only because it helps me envision that one day I might be able to pass on the day job altogether and only write, all day, every day. And what bliss that would be.

Still, it’s all about the reviews for me. Good or bad, the feedback you get as a writer feeds your creativity and pushes you to do and be better. I was having a little bit of a block a few evenings ago, and had that moment of desperation that almost every writer experiences, where you wonder whether the angst is worth it, whether you might not be better off spending your time doing something more ‘practical’ than writing fiction. And then I read two of the most complimentary comments on my blog about how a couple of my readers felt about my work. That quickly, and blockage was gone. It was like a well-timed gift, and I was able to write another 100 or so pages that night.

Writing, I’ve said many times before, is the most solitary of pursuits. It isn’t like many other arts (music or visual art, for instance) where the reactions are immediate and apparent. When you write fiction you go into a secret place in your mind and you sequester yourself there, tunneling in, listening only to the voices of your characters and living only their lives, finding everything else to be an irritant. And then you emerge sometime later, squinting against the bright lights of reality and wondering whether the journey was worth it. The process alone justifies some of it: I like writing just because I do and would do so regardless of whether anyone else cared what I wrote. But there is no denying that the greater reward, the better prize is hear that my writing meant something to someone other than me. That it aroused curiosity, interest, passion or even anger and dismay.

So if you’ve read anything at all recently (not just my stuff, anything) take a moment to go to Amazon, Goodreads, Shelfari or whatever your preferred site may be and tell that writer you loved them . . . or not.

Happy Reading!

-Nia-