Welcome to Romance Weekly! If you’ve come from JJ Devine, then welcome. If you’re starting here with me, howdy! Let’s get to this!
1.) Was there a defining moment in your life when you knew you were going to become a writer? If so, what was it?
The short answer is no. I never knew I would become a writer. I’d wanted it since I was in the sixth grade, but I didn’t know if I’d be able to get published. I don’t think it was until I actually was published that I figured out I was going to become a writer. And even then, because I suffer from imposter syndrome, sometimes I still wonder if I’m going to become a writer, and that’s after four published books.
The long answer is that there was a moment when I decided I wanted to try. My son was two, and my husband decided he was going to start writing apps. And I remember looking at him and saying, out loud even, “I think I can write a romance novel.” I surprised even myself that day, because I never thought I would admit that out loud. That i wanted to be a writer, that I thought I could be a writer, and that I was actually going to try, despite my insane fear of rejection. It’s funny, because after I said the words out loud, I set out to doing just that: writing a romance novel.
2.) When you write a story do you see it unfold as one big picture, or do you add layering in subsequent drafts?
I layer in subsequent drafts. I’ve been known to change a story 70,000 words in, which is crazy, and don’t do that. I usually know where I’m going to end up, but how I get there changes with each draft.
3.) How many drafts do you usually write before you send your work to your editor?
Heh. It depends on the book. I usually edit as I go, and rewrite chapters as I write them (finish a chapter, then go back and re-read, edit a little, fix some more, etc). The bare minimum is three. The first one to get the story down, the second complete re-write to make sure that I don’t have any issues with continuity (though that happens anyway, when, in subsequent drafts, I change something and forget to fix a word. I’m still kicking myself over that one). The third draft is where I run the entire document through autocrit to catch over used words, make sure I’m not using too much passive voice (actually, my major failing is “it/there” and “that”.), and cut out all the damn sighing. Once I start looking for it, I start thinking, “OMG, my characters all have asthma or COPD!” It’s ridiculous.
Typically, the work you are reading is a third completed draft, followed by two rounds of edits, and another read through. And even then, errors get in. By that last round of edits, I don’t see them anymore. That’s what beta readers are for, I suppose, though it’s hard to ask when you’re on a deadline and you know you’ll have to tell someone, “Oh, hey, I need this back in four days. Can you do that kind of turn-around?”
Why not go see what the lovely Leslie Hachtel has to say on the subject?
This week’s questions are from Ronnie Allen! Let’s get to it.
1. When do you decide that you’ve done enough editing and changes would now be making it different, not better? So it’s the time to submit.
That’s a good question. I’m never certain it’s “done enough.” The only time I don’t feel the need to tinker with a project is after it’s been published, and even then, I find errors and things I should change. It’s one of the reasons why I have a problem with reading my stuff after it’s done. I can always think of something I could have done better, or done differently.
I guess what that means is that I’m a terrible person to ask this question of. I tinker until the darn thing is published, and then I generally wish I had tinkered a little bit more.
2. When and how do you accept change advice by rejection letters and critique partners?
It depends on the advice. When a publisher gives me advice–especially when they’re rejecting me–I generally take it unless it would change the overall tone of the story. After all, they’re saying they don’t want it, but they took the time to give me advice on what could be done to make it better. That sort of advice always deserves a second look. The only time I disregarded this advice was when I wrote an urban fantasy, and the publisher asked me to re-write the entire thing as a YA, focused around a single scene in the story (that didn’t even have the main characters in it, since they were both adults). That’s not asking for rewrites or giving me advice about how to make THIS story better; that’s asking me to write and submit something completely different. I ignored that advice, though I’ll admit, the story she wanted would make a nice, gritty NA.
As for changes suggested by critique partners? Well, it depends on the changes. Most of the time, I listen to what people tell me. If it would change the entire storyline, well, no, I won’t change that. But if it’s a change to make it flow more logically, then sure, I’ll look at reworking chapters or scenes or sentences to make it work. I think it’s important to listen to what everyone says with an open heart, but to remember that the work is yours. Take the advice that is useful, and disregard the rest. At the same time, I think it’s important to remember not to view your words as so precious you refuse to part with them or make changes. No one’s work is so good that they couldn’t use and editor, and no one’s story is so perfect it can’t use improvement.
3. When you’re not writing, how do you spend your day or do you create your day around your writing?
Gads, that’s a hard question. Work days generally look something like this:
6:00am: Wake up. Check Facebook. Try to think of something witty to say, something engaging and interesting and awesome. Usually fail. I might settle for silly.
6:30: Get out of bed and into the shower.
7:00: I’m READY! Oh wait, my hair’s still wet.
7:15: Ah, hell. That’s good enough. It looks the same regardless of the effort I put into it anyway.
7:30: Do dishes, throw something into the crock pot for dinner, make lunches, feed kids.
8:15: Leave for work. Hopefully, the homework was done and checked the night before, otherwise I’m checking it in my office at work. And none of us like that.
8:30-4:30: Work. If I’m lucky, and ate lunch sitting at my computer, I got it all done. If I’m unlucky, I’ll be writing IEPs at midnight. Again.
5:00: Arrive at outside client’s house or a kid activity. It depends on the day.
6:15-6:30. Home. Throw down backpacks and eat. Unless it’s Cub Scout night, in which case the boy and the hubs grab it to go, and head out the door. Or, the kids might have swimming after we see the outside client, in which case we go there instead, and get home around 7:00.
7:00: Check homework.
7:15: Tell the boy he has to do it over, because it’s super messy.
7:45: Tell him he can type it, because it’s just getting worse.
8:00: Everyone to bed. Husband and I chop the vegetables for the next day, if we’re on top of things. Afterwards, I’ll break out the laptop. Get distracted by the piles of laundry. Maybe start a load.
9:00: Girl child complains she can’t sleep.
9:10: I put in headphones and start to write.
9:45: Oh, look, the siren call of Facebook!
10:00: Just this one tweet, and then I’ll get to it.
10:15-12:00: I’m writing! If it’s going well, I might go until 2:00am. Which, by the way, is insane. Don’t do that.
Non-work days often look this:
6:00 Wake up. OH MY GOD, I’M SO TIRED! Oh wait, it’s Saturday. **Snore**
6:30: Boy child walks in, wearing (if I’m lucky) pajamas and a Darth Vader mask. “Mom, can I watch a show?”
Me: “Bananas are on the counter. Don’t forget to do your flamenco dancing. And beware the octopus.”
Boy child, breathing heavily: “Right on, my son. I’ll watch Star Wars. Oh, and Mom?”
Me: “I need to give the unicorn a bath.”
Boy Child, in his best Vader voice: “Uh huh. I am your father.”
Because I am asleep, I can’t explain the physical impossibility of this, but whatever. His father, who is awake during this whole exchange, thinks it’s hysterical, and won’t ruin the moment with things like logic.
7:00: Wake up again. Why am I singing The March of the Sith? Go back to sleep.
7:15: Children walk in: “Mom, we’re hungry. Can we eat chocolate for breakfast?”
Me: “The dog barks at midnight. Are you wearing underwear?”
Girl Child: “Chewey, that means yes. You are wearing underwear, aren’t you?”
Boy Child: “Mostly.”
Girl Child: “Good enough. Come on, let’s go before she wakes up.”
Me: “Wha?” **Snore**
8:00: I get up for real this time. Am miffed because all of my chocolate is missing, and Chewey looks like Poirot, with his giant chocolate mustache. I make breakfast anyway. I make pumpkin pancakes. Unfortunately, everyone wants eggs and toast.
8:30: Do dishes, and contemplate doing more chores.
I usually get the opportunity to write until about 11:00, when I have to take the Girl Child to Girl Scouts. But then I get to sit in the library at the university and write for two solid hours. It’s lovely.
2:30-6:00 Is family time.
6:30: Daddy time and a movie. I write while hanging on the couch with the children.
8:30-????: We all head upstairs to bed. I put in headphones and write until I fall asleep at the computer. The two pages of eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee will have to be rewritten, but hey, it works for now.
That’s it for me! (I say “that’s it!” like I wrote some short little ditty instead of the multi-page manifesto that is actually vaguely embarrassing. Or would be, if I had any sense of shame left)
Since you’ve had enough of me, why not head over and see what Josie Malone has to say?
Welcome back to Romance Weekly. I accidentally took the week off last week–time sort of got away from me. It does that. If you’re here, hopefully you came from Kim Handysides.
Let’s get started!
Have you always written Romance?
Yup. I’m dabbling outside my comfort zone of romance, but romance is what I love to write, and I don’t see myself writing anything else for long. And, even if it’s not strictly romance, everything I write has strong romantic elements.
2. How do you deal with critiques about the romance genre?
I’ll admit, it used to bother me. It used to sting when my family–not the hub, who has always been outrageously supportive–would ask, “When are you going to write something good?” Or, the other question, “When will you write something people will actually read?” Or, even better, “I will never read anything you write. Romance is trash.”
Of all the published books in the whole entire world, the romance genre holds the largest market share. More romance books are read than any other genre. Romance readers can be voracious, reading hundreds of books per year. Any author thanks their lucky stars for readers like that.
But, I don’t say any of that. I merely smile and nod. That’s all you can do with the people who don’t like romance. Just as no one is going to make me want to read a cozy mystery, I’m not going to change anyone’s mind. The people who want to denigrate romance as a genre, who think it’s unimportant, who don’t think it’s any good, well… they’re not reading it.
I have read romance novels that have made me laugh out loud, and I’ve read others that have made me cry. And just because it’s not packaged as literary fiction doesn’t mean it’s not well-written or that it’s not important. Genres are merely a device created by people who needed to know how to shelve books. In reality, there is only nonfiction and fiction–genres exist to make a book seller’s life easier. Marketers and publicists and publishers have made literary fiction somehow more important than other genres, as if the only beauty in the whole world is encapsulated within the pages of either the classics or literary fiction (and, truth be told, some of it is beautiful and thought-provoking).
But, just as some of the romance books I’ve read are drivel, I’ve read some pretty crummy literary fiction, too. And just as some literary fiction is beautiful, there is lyricism in romance, too, and beauty in the prose.
Not only that, but there is something inexplicably compelling about a romance, about the love two people have for one another. When I need to escape from my real life, I open a romance novel. In the world of romance, I get the happy ending so many people never get. I’ll get insurmountable odds that somehow, miraculously, a couple can overcome. And maybe it gives me hope that tomorrow can be better, and the mountain I have to climb seems just a little bit smaller.
Romance novels are about hope.
So, when I hear about someone criticizing someone else for reading romance novels, I think about how small, how sad they must be. We hear so much about how everything moves so fast, how everyone stares at their smart phones and doesn’t connect. But romance is all about finding that human connection. It seems, on it’s most basic level, that anyone who would criticize someone else for wanting to read about hope, about romantic love, is disconnected. And that’s just sad to me.
I get not everyone wants to read a romance novel. I’m cool with that. A lot of my friends read only nonfiction, and I’m cool with that, too. But just because I like romance novels doesn’t mean I’m not intelligent enough to enjoy other genres, too. I do. I just prefer the hope I get from a romance novel, I prefer to think about the connections we make to one another.
I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t care what other people read. And, in a kinder, gentler world, no one would care what I read, either. In that world, all fiction is equally important.
3. What’s the one thing about our genre you’d like people to know?
As I said above, I think romance is important. I don’t think reading a romance novel gives women unrealistic expectations for our own lives. I don’t expect my husband to constantly declare his undying love for me–I suspect that would get old after awhile, and I’m just enough of a cynic to think he was lying to me if he did it too often. Or, really, ever.
That conversation would go something like this:
Him: “You are my sun and my moon. I love everything about you. I think you are perfect. We are one, you and I.”
Me: “You’ve said something like that three times today. Are you having a stroke?”
Him: “No. You move me. Without you, I am a mere shell of a man, incomplete and desolate.”
Me: “Did you just find out you’re dying?”
Him: “Of course not. The very thought of shaking off this mortal coil without you by my side makes me want to weep with despair. Our love is strong enough that we can transcend anything.”
Me: “OH MY GOD WHO DID YOU SLEEP WITH?”
So, it’s probably a good thing that he doesn’t do that.
In any case, however, reading romance isn’t about reading about sex (though I will admit that I enjoy that, too), it’s about that connection between two people. Because even though my husband doesn’t tell me that I am his sun and his moon, I suspect, somewhere in his heart, I probably am.
Every time I read a romance novel, I feel that little spark of hope, and I remember that connection I have with him. It’s not about bodice rippers or naked men (again, I like those, too); it’s about that connection that, as humans, most of us are hardwired to seek out. We crave it. We want it. And, in the end, that need for a connection with other human beings is so strong, so ingrained in our DNA, that we are broken without it.
And if that’s not important, then I don’t know what is.
I’ve talked your ear off enough for one day. Why not check out Katherine Givens? See what she has to say…
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