Monday, August 16, 2010

The Misguided Advice Of Loved Ones...

First off, let me shout out a big ol' thanks in Shiloh Walker's direction for her blog last week on the matter of BAD WRITING ADVICE. It was a much needed and welcome reminder that writing is as individual as the person who writes it.

Are we bound by absolute indisputable rules?

No, not as some would have you believe. Not all techniques work the same or the best for everyone- not everyone writes the same stories or about the same things or in the same genres.

Thank Heaven for small favors because otherwise there wouldn't be books worth reading if we all wrote exactly the same. Where's the fun in that? There would be no such thing as a "fresh voice." What would agents and publishers do? The discovery of fresh new voices is what keeps the business alive and thriving. It's what creates best-selling authors and gives us big names to follow because they are unique in their storytelling ablility.

And guess what? I bet they didn't follow all the hard and fast rules of writing to get where they are.

I'm sure you're wondering if this is leading anywhere...Do I have some brilliant thought or idea to toss your direction today? I suppose I do, but I won't know for sure until I get there myself...hahaha!

No, seriously— I do have something I'm pondering over today and that is a little something I call MISGUIDED ADVICE.

Family and friends are always good at giving you advice, cheering you on or offering words of wisdom or common sense to help us through in life and well, all the aspects of it. Sometimes I think they step off the crazy train because they don't THINK before they speak- or write.

It wasn't that long ago that I was emailing with a friend (who's name shall not be known)- and was telling her how hard it was for me to get back into my writing, that I just wasn't in the "right" place to write the stories I love the most. Mind you, this friend is old enough to be my mother— is in fact the mother of a very dear friend of mine— but she can be very critical and opinionated about just about any subject matter you talk with her about. I love her dearly, but the conversation she and had back and forth in this email was hurtful and stirred up my defenses in regard to the genre I write.
I write romance. I'm fairly sure you're aware of that the same as I am if you've been following me for very long. I have, from a very early age, considered myself a romance novelist. I feel no shame in that, though there are days where I don't feel very romantic or feel that I have any romance in my own life. There are days when real life puts the honkers on it and makes me wonder why I put so much value in love and romance and writing about it when my own life is NOT one big neverending fairytale. I'm sure we've all been there and felt that if we know NOTHING about real love, real happiness, real joy.

There are days when I'm so tired or busy with all the other things that I HAVE to do, that I don't even want to think about it, even though I hope that it does exist. I want to believe, but there are days that I'd just as soon toss all that silly fluff out the window and be done with it because I'm just so mentally and emotionally drained from all the things in everyday life.

I thought I expressed this eloquently and in a way that my friend would understand. That writing romance is hard when you don't feel like you have a grasp on the subject matter. Instead I got miguided advice from someone who thinks she's an expert on the matter because she has college degrees in library science and business and worked for years as a librarian. I got remarks like—

"Have you ever thought about writing something besides love stories? I'm not trying to be negative, BUT....I was a librarian and we classified books in different categories and those definitely had a category. They always say to write what you know and if romance is not something you know, then it has to be hard to write about it." (OUCH! Thanks a LOT!)

"Maybe you should start calling your books under a different genre, it could make a world of difference. Maybe you should stick with the label of fiction rather than love stories. If it's just called a love story or romance, it's automatically tossed aside as airport trade; fluff reading or trash or nothing with quality. It would never be read closely enough to be called a classic. If a book is just labeled as romance it deserves a bad rap. Call them fiction and focus on the life stories but never call them romance or love stories."
Wow....just WOW.....

She also implied the only women who read romance novels are unhappily married women like she was in her youth...then she closed off by saying that she felt like she "discouraged" me though it wasn't her intention and that she guessed it would all depend on the mood I was in when I read it, but that it really was meant in a positive way..... Pretty amazing when you add to it that this friend of mine believes in soul mates. Hmmmm....Sounds bitter to me...

It's taken me MONTHS to compute this in my brain, and my HEART, that someone I consider a good friend would say such a thing...Honestly...the fact that she has college degrees and was a librarian doesn't weigh that heavily on my opinion. She's like so many others who see romance novels as trashy, bodice rippers. She devalued every romance author I know and love as though what they write is dirt and though I'm not published, that lumps me in there too and it really makes me mad because I KNOW for a fact there are a LOT of talented, wonderful writers in my genre and her "professional" opinion leaves me begging the question—
Is the misguided advice of loved ones always worth it? No- its like bad writing advice...sometimes its well-meaning, but its not always valuable in a productive, positive way. We just need to remember to weed out the bad parts so it doesn't choke and stifle our inspiration and creativity. Bless their tactless, thoughtless hearts...they don't always know what they're talking about.

It also begs the question of how much longer the romance genre will be treated like the black sheep of the writing industry family. What did we do to deserve that honor? And why does it seem more like a punishment?

Have a great start to the week Peeps!
Write On!


Jennifer Madden said...

Ouch! That is pretty harsh!
I think every piece of advice you get needs to come with it's own 25 lb. salt block attached. She should have been sensitive enough to know this is what you want to do, and held her tongue.
I've been asked before ,"You write those trashy books?" my standard answer is 'Yep, with lots of sex in them!' That usually shuts people up. My family is very supportive, so that's all that matters. Everybody else can just deal with it.
Sorry, that makes me mad, can you tell?

Taryn Raye said...

I'm with you there, Jennifer. And I think the next time someone asks me if I write trashy books, I'm going to say what you and see what that does.

I get so sick of people looking down their nose when I say I write romance.

I don't blame you for being mad, it still rubs me the wrong way when I think about what she said. I just had to get it off my chest today before it ate me up.

Devon Matthews said...

Taryn, you already know that I've been doing this for a lot of years, so I won't go into that. Just know that I've experienced what you're talking about many times over. I'm so sorry that this woman's words threw you for a loop and made you stop writing. I've also been there many times. If I had listened to my family and friends over the years, I wouldn't be writing today and never would again. And like you, I've let brainless comments from people who don't know squat affect me. For me, here's what it's come down to. I've learned that I can't discuss my writing with people outside the romance community. Other than hubby, I just don't anymore.

My advice--do what makes you happy and shut out all the negativity. It's taken me years to actually achieve that place in my own life, but I think I've finally done it. Hold on to the dream of happily-ever-after. Yeah, it's pretty much a fantasy, but what would life be without our dreams of something better?

Jennifer Madden said...

Consider it done with and move on. Well, until you ship your NY Times Bestseller to her...
Wouldn't that put a kink in her shorts?

Amy Durham said...

Not to be critical.... LOL! What did she think she was accomplishing!

Sounds to me like one of those people who always wanted to write a book, but never did. Sour grapes. UGH!

I've found that most people who trash romance and lump us all into purveyors of soft-porn have never READ romance. Or maybe they did... as teenagers... sneaking and reading without their parents' knowledge, just for the sake of titillation... in which case, they deluded themselves into that skewed opinion by not reading the books for the right reasons.

I'd say take it with a grain of salt... but I think it's much better to just flush that advice down the toilet with the rest of the crap. And get back to writing what you LOVE!

Oh... and just for good measure, I took this off the RWA website, about the state of romance in 2008, when the rest of the economy was tanking:

"Not only did romance fiction generate $1.37 billion in sales in 2008, but also it remained the largest share of the consumer market at 13.5 percent."


Taryn Raye said...

Thank you ladies for your comments and thoughts on the subject. I knew I'd rally some troupes with this blog post.

LOL Jennifer! Yeah, wouldn't that be something?!?! (She had mentioned how there are some romance writers who are flukes- who somehow manage to end up on Best Seller lists...)

And Amy- you're spot on- she has mentioned numerous times how she always wanted to be a writer, but instead of ever becoming one she's simply come to accept that she can write technical papers and skits for her church and be happy with that because if something she wrote ever got picked up or published, she might just die...

If she ever brings it up again (because surely I won't) I will point out the stats on the industry and where romance stands. Probably wouldn't matter- she's such an expert, I'm sure she'd find some way to turn it around or argue it.

Thanks again ladies! You're great!