Friday, September 07, 2007

I am . . . (or what I discovered in Maui)

A literary fiction writer with an emphasis on romance, according to Manus & Associates, anyway.

Romance: Romance is unabashed escapist fiction, following the love story of a (usually female) protagonist, and intended to sweep women readers away from their day-to-day
problems. The Romance Writer's Association defines its genre simply as "a love story with an optimistic and emotionally satisfying ending." However, also key to Romance novels is an absence of moral ambiguity. Courage saves the day, justice triumphs, good defeats evil, and it is always readily apparent who and what is good and who and what is evil. Almost uniformly, Romance involves the "taming" or "civilization" of a wild man by a woman. Sub-plots and minor characters are kept to a minimum; these are not multi-layered works. Romance readers are seeking to relax and enjoy. Romances should be easy to read, but should strike strong emotional chords. Marriage is almost without exception the desired goal of a Romance plot.

Literary: Literary is, of course, a qualitative term, arrived at not by formula or definition but by aesthetic judgment. But, in general, a literary novel tends to be much more character driven than a commercial novel. But just what qualifies a book as literary is difficult to identify, and open to debate even among well established literary writers. Some cite moral ambiguity, an effort to grapple with dark and light and to see a situation in its full complexity, as a key characteristic. Others might point to layers of meaning, or resonance, of the careful use of language itself. Many speak of the "truth" of a novel, of an ability to address the human condition. Still others might stress universality. A dozen other qualities of "literature" might be discussed, but with most of them, whether a book possesses it and in what degree can never be an objective matter.

That fits me, right? The type of work I do? I don't think my romance is escapist, although there is much romance and love an intimacy. I don't tend to, or like, for that matter, escaping from real-world problems. It grabs me more when the real world tries to impede, but the characters, somehow, someway, make it through those problems to their "happily ever after", even if that "ever after" is peppered with more trials and dark times. Those moments do not outweigh, strip, or even diminish that happy ever after. How else can people know they are happy without the sad times to highlight and underscore it? The hope is the happy days are far more numerous than the sad, and that is the arc I want the characters to have; the hope and see that hope come into fruition, or at least the beginning of it.

At the Maui Writers Conference, I had the ability to talk with agents, editors, other fellow writers on the continuum of the writing enterprise. There were screenwriters, LGBT writers, Inspiration writers, Horror writers, Nonfiction writers, Romance writers, and me. LOL. I didn't know what kind of writing I did, although I knew I wasn't fitting as neatly into romance as I apparently I should've been. Few of my "favorite" books were written by romance writers. To Kill a Mockingbird certainly isn't; Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry isn't, but there is love in those stories, hope. They spoke to me because they moved beyond romantic love, they wrestled with the humanity of things, the good and bad, but somehow, they managed to end on that bend of hope. When I spoke to the agents, editors, and fellow writers about my writing, I always said "I THOUGHT I was a romance writer, but . . ." They helped me work through my confusion, the murky area of why couldn't I place myself in one genre or another. One agent told me to put myself in the broadest genre possible and let the publishing houses figure out the rest, and though romance is pretty broad, it's not broad enough.
Or at least not yet.

Another thing agents and editors said was writers should think of themselves as a brand. Shoppers tend to buy by brand, or buy products that complement or are comparable to each other. A big thing is P-n-Ls (Profit and Loss reports). A house isn't going to buy a book unless they think it will sell, and the best indicator of that is when an author writes a book of a similar brand to another author. In romance, for example, Susan Edwards and Cassie Edwards are comparable brands because they both write historical romances with mainly Indian men/White women as the theme. For me, that is hard, because I don't know of many writers who do similar things as I do. And when you are a writer who has a hard time finding comparable authors, it makes you that much more of a risk to an agent or a house. They want originality, but not TOO much originality. Understandable because it's a business. Frustrating as hell because I'm a writer.

True, there are many who write IR fiction, but there is the "don't mention race" school and the "only mention race" school. There is the "old school" IR and the "new school" IR. There's paranormal IR and very few historical IR. It's all over the place. With my writing, I try to pull from all the schools into one. There is something I like about each school, but as a reader, I want all (or as many of) those YES! buttons pushed, not just some of them. The button that pushes me the most, however, is style and how an author puts words together to make my reaction visceral, whether it's a good/pleasant reaction or not. If I don't, I come away with, "it's all right . . .". I don't like that feeling, and I try not to leave my readers with that feeling. I'm well aware some of my stories will be more successful at not leaving that feeling than others, and I have MUCH more to learn, but that's my goal.

Anyway, Maui is gorgeous. The hotel was beautiful, Wailea Marriot Resort and Spa. It was a very, super-quick weekend, but I learned much about myself and met some wonderful people and got great advice. God willing, I'd go again. This conference was just what I needed to get me excited about writing again, especially since I have more of an understanding of what kind of writer I am.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hi savvy, glad your back and will post more soon, hugs you tight