Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Get rich quick! Write a romance novel.

Cruising About.com this morning, I got lost and ended up on this page for freelance writers, which said:

Romance novels not only bring decent income, they provide excellent training for more serious writing.
Don't bother to click through -- there's nothing much besides ads on the page. I'm merely providing the link so you'll know I am not making this up. Can you believe someone actually packed that much stupidity into a 15-word sentence?

If my romance-writing friends are finished gnashing their teeth and rolling their eyes, let's continue.

I'm a member of Romance Writers of America and I'm on hugging terms with roughly a hundred published romance writers. Yes, many of them are names you would know. But very, very few of those people are what you might call wealthy. In fact, most of the published romance novelists I know have other sources of income. "Real" jobs that provide them with a regular paycheck, health care benefits, and a retirement plan. (Although a few savvy writers, like me, have spouses who provide those things.) These women (and even a few men) are writing romance because they love writing romance. Yes, they're hoping to get rich doing it, but anyone who's played this game for a while knows just how heavily the odds are weighted against us.

Which brings us to the second part of that clueless quote, the suggestion that writing romance novels will not only pay off that Lamborghini in your driveway, but will also provide you with "excellent training for more serious writing."

Trust me, this drivel was not written by a published romance novelist. I know that because published romance novelists are, by definition, not stupid people. Unless, of course, you consider it stupid that we spend hour after solitary hour for months on end writing stories that are not going to snag us a $50,000 advance even if and when we do manage to talk our editors into taking a leap of faith and publishing them.

Harlequin Enterprises has told its authors that each of them is "one in a thousand", meaning that something on the order of one manuscript out of every thousand submitted to Harlequin/Silhouette/Steeple Hill is ultimately accepted for publication. You may or may not consider romance novels to be Great Art; that's something we could have some interesting discussions about. But please don't tell me or any published or aspiring romance author that this business is easy to break into, a great way to earn a quick buck while you hone your writing skills and position yourself to do some "serious" writing.

Romance writers are deadly serious about their writing. They sweat and bleed, swear and plead as they birth page after page after page and then somehow (this part's magic -- I can't explain it if you haven't experienced it for yourself) manage to pull it all together and produce a deeply moving love story. So the suggestion that anyone who has a modicum of writing talent and no respect for the genre could effortlessly imitate the work my sister authors are producing is not just breathtakingly ludicrous, it's downright insulting.

Update to this post, March 2, 2005.


Kate R said...

Ack! Ack! Eeergh! Brenda, you do know how to get a woman's blood pressure up first thing in the morn--oops, afternoon. No wait, I've changed my mind: I think I'm gonna laugh instead. Yeah, that's better.

As you pointed out, so much stupidity in just one sentence.


booksquare said...

I'm with Kate...amazing how much stupidity can be packed into a single sentence. You have to wonder about the kind of person who not only wrote those words, but actually believes they're true!

Brenda Coulter said...

Kate and Booksquare, I'm afraid laughing is all we can do. I have a feeling ignorance of that magnitude just can't be mitigated, no matter how patient and reasonable we are. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Great blog Brenda.
Another writer posted your link on a website and I had to read it. I frequent a few writing sites and came across this comment. It is from a writer who is offering "advice" to a young writer seeking help with a query.
"maybe you could write a trashy romance paperback? I don't think they require too much grammar or punctuation knowledge."

Brenda Coulter said...

Anonymous, just toss that clueless clod on top of our Stupid People pile until we decide what to do with them all. (Suggestions are welcome. Just no violence, please; the punishment should fit the crime.)

Thanks for checking out my blog.

Shesawriter said...

Obviously, he/she/it/they are 'Real Writers' (insert eye roll) while we lowly romance writing hacks are great pretenders.

Brenda Coulter, I agree with everything you said. You GO girl.


Anonymous said...

i don't read books from authors I don't respect and can't stand. I will never be reading your material.

Brenda Coulter said...

That's fine by me. I don't respect hit-and-run commenters who hide their identities.