Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Oh, Did I Not Mention That I'm Trying to Write a Novel?

Hmm, now that I think about it, that may have been on the other blog.  Let's see:  I certainly disclosed here that I'd tried in my past to write a romance or three.  But no, I guess I haven't mentioned it here.


I'm writing a novel.  Actually, I'm writing two.  Only I'm not currently writing either novel.  One was started last summer and then set aside roughly half-done.  In November, I signed up for NaNoWriMo but as NaNoWriMo didn't want me to work on an existing novel (that would have been cheating), I started a new one.  I didn't get a full 50,000 words done, mostly because the fact that other bloggers were also doing NaNoWriMo meant I got to guest blog.  It was as a result of that guest blogging that this blog was created.

Since I started this blog, I haven't worked on either novel.  Which could support an argument that I'm not currently an aspiring writer (because a writer is someone who writes) but that's a cop-out.

And, anyway, I just joined RWA, so I'm guilty as charged:  I am a writer of romance novels, and I aspire to be published.

Now, according to Maili and Keishon, if I reviewed romances, it would be bad that I hadn't disclosed that I was also trying to write them.  Luckily for me, I don't review romances.  But I want to be fair here: I can see that some (all?) of what I've posted on this blog could mean subtly different things when read with the knowledge that I'm trying to write romance novels.

So here it is.  I'm outting myself as an aspiring romance author.

Now here's why I am not sure it matters much.  I have no special knowledge of writing.  I was a biology/philosophy major in college, have a master's in philosophy, and a law degree -- not a single writing course (other than legal research & writing) in nine years of higher education.  I'm actually a very poorly read individual, particularly compared to various family members.  In fact, one of my reasons for not reviewing is that I'm not a very good reader (too lazy, too critical, etc.).  So, quite the contrary to the presumption that because I'm an aspiring writer I'd have a skewed perspective on the books I was reviewing, I actually think the fact that I'm not-well-read and know nothing about the techniques of writing is what would diminish the validity and quality of my reviews.  If I reviewed books.  Which I don't.  (Do I say what I think about certain books?  Sure.  But those are my opinions, and there are no express or implied recommendations to read or avoid any books as a result.)

Also, the odds of my getting published are slim.  First, I have to finish a book (not everyone does).  Next, I have to pitch it to an agent or submit a synopsis or send an excerpt to someone in the publishing industry.  And I'd have to keep doing that (lather rinse & repeat) until I give up or someone says, send more.  And even that doesn't result in a contract, as we all know.

Plus, what if my writing is crap?  Someone will tell me sooner or later, but I'm not going to slap an excerpt up on my blog until I think it's passed through some process that winnows out the chaff from the wheat.  In the meantime, I have to do what a lot of people have to do: stick with it, write everyday, get critique partners, revise revise revise, and then polish polish polish.  At any point I might lose interest, get discouraged, have someone lovingly explain to me that my writing is crap, or otherwise quit.  And then, magically, I'm the same person but no longer an aspiring writer.

Instinctively, I've not wanted to say anything at this stage of the process, partly because of all the reasons why I might not be an aspiring writer in six months, but also because it gets people invested far sooner than I would like.  It's a bit like any huge undertaking:  getting a dream job, buying a house, starting a relationship, getting pregnant: we engage in these endeavors with no absolute guarantee that we'll succeed.  Having people ask over and over, "How's it going?" can be painful.  If I want to share, I will.  Silence about the endeavor may mean nothing more than, "I'm working on it.  I'll keep you posted."

But if it matters to Romlandia that I'm honest about being one of thousands of writers who want to be published someday, I hear and obey.


  1. Over on Courtney Milan's blog, and in another context, AQ cited Kristin of Pub Rants for this statistic: Her agency got 38,000 query letters in 2009 and signed 6 new authors. (http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2009/12/year-in-statistics.html)

    This may just be me, but I think I'd be delusional if I believed with certainty that I'm going to succeed in the marketplace.

  2. Have you been reading my mail?

    This is all very familiar.

  3. Tumperkin -- No, I'm pretty sure your mail hasn't been rerouted to rural Pennsylvania!

    But I have no doubt you get great mail...

  4. I can respect people's concerns about a reviewer not disclosing their writing aspirations. But at what point should they mention it? The moment they decide to write a novel? When they actually sit their butt in a chair and write a page? When they finally finish a manuscript? When they bag an agent?

    There are too many variables here, IMO. There's a world of difference between someone who has the vague notion that they might write a romance someday, someone who only writes during the month of November, and someone who has already completed a manuscript and is actively seeking publication.

    I know I've mentioned my writing in a few blog posts and in the interview I gave for the Book Bloggers Appreciation Week. It's not something I stress on the blog as I want the focus to be on me as a reader. In other words, someone who only stops by occasionally might not know that I write. Am I expected to put up a disclaimer?

  5. Hey Sarah and Magdalen and Tumperkin, aspiring authors all :) ... I don't know why you should feel you have to put up a disclaimer. Remember all the gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes when the new proposed FTC regs came out? How many people said it was no one's GD bees*wax how and where they got their books -- who they were friends with -- yadda yadda. I figure if someone is a "writing fool" it will come out in the wash eventually.

    Who is this "they" and "should" and "expected" persona/personage anyway? It's your blog: have at it!!

  6. I can almost see the point of disclosure (if I squint a bit), but I agree with Sarah: When is disclosure required? At what point in the hypothetical writer's proto-career do we have to tell the world?

    (And while we're asking rhetorical questions, allow me to echo Janet: Who made these rules about what bloggers/commenters should and shouldn't do, and where are they codified?)

    Moving on. I'm about to write something very pompous, so brace yourselves.

    I don't consider myself a writer of romance. I consider myself a student of romance.

    I know -- simply dreadful, isn't it? But I can't escape that as the answer to the underlying issue. Because if I'm being really honest here, some of the things -- no, pretty much all the things I write on my blog are the result of my thinking about, studying, contemplating some aspect of the romance industy and romance fiction.

    I'll give you an example: I wrote a post back on November 30 about flowery language. I was reading a very, very flowery book, and it got me thinking. My motivation was two-fold: I wanted to know if flowery language was the reason I didn't like some books but did like others, and I wanted to analyze how some writers write. Yes, the fact that I'm thinking about writing romances has something to do with that question, but it's also about being a reader. So, when I said of LaVyrle Spencer's "Morning Glory" (revealed here as Book 7) "I would give a lot to write half as well as Author 7 does," clearly I was thinking as a proto-writer. But I was also feeling, as a reader, how incredibly humbled I was to re-read that book. I think I would have felt the same, but perhaps phrased it in a less envious way, if I wasn't contemplating writing a novel myself.

    My point is, romance fiction interests me. I think about the books, the authors, the industry, and the history (a little). I think about what it must involve to write a romance novel. And I think about what makes a novel one that I love to read and reread. Where's the line between me as a writer and me as a reader? I dunno. But it's all about learning.

    Sorry. Pompous rant over.

  7. See, something wonderful did come out of NaNoWriMo- your blog and the beginning of a wonderful journey. You should pat yourself on the back.

    I am in the same boat as you. I suck, I don,t, I am on a high because I wrote a certain word count, I can't believe I spelled a simple work like "The" wrong in my whole manuscript!

    I wouldn't worry about "worrying about" getting published. Just write and when the time is right you will know. I've been writing for almost a decade and finally 2 years ago decided I was ready to show the world my words I've written.

  8. Well, you know, I'm a big proponent of following one's bliss. I also don't know that I agree with "a writer writes." I mean, a writer DOES write, but the act of NOT writing for X amount of time doesn't make you suddenly NOT a writer. [Insert mini soapbox on the futility of guilt for not writing.]

    I also don't think there's such a thing as an "aspiring writer," except in the context of, "You know, I'm thinking about writing a book..." casually tossed out there by just about everybody you know.

    I think what the self-professed "aspiring writers" are are "aspiring published authors." If you write but you're not aspiring to be published, you're still a writer.

    Yeah, I know. It's all semantics, but words mean things and I think there's too much baggage packed into some of these little idioms we've collected over the years.

  9. @Katiebabs -- Thanks for the kind words. My past history with blogging is a bit like my past history with fiction writing: nothing that would suggest a long term likelihood of success. But I'm really, really enjoying this blog. Haven't run out of things to write yet. (I just agreed with Edie on Twitter that I think too much. Like that's a big surprise - - not.)

    I agree with everything you say about writing -- and that's actually one of the reasons I hadn't previously said anything about it. Everything -- every single thing -- I can think of to say about writing sounds stupid, or too self-deprecating, or too pompous (already crossed that line!), or too arrogant, or too banal. I had thought to spare you all . . . (she declared pompously).

    Which is why whether I succeed or fail isn't even the point. (But if I do get published, I'll pimp the hell out of it!)

    @Moriah -- You are such an inspiration because you've truly followed your bliss. In a similar way, I was struck by Jo Beverley's story: nearly 15 years passed between her completing her first manuscript and getting it published.

    (Henceforth, I'm telling people that Grandma Moses is my role model.)

    I've clearly bounced around careers: pre-med, philosophy, public health, bankruptcy law. But I wrote my first (bad) romance before any of those, and I really would like to end up where I wanted to be 30 years ago. I may write for the rest of my life, and I think that would be a great occupation. Whether it pays for anything -- we'll have to see.

    Thanks to you as well for your kind words.

  10. I am much more interested in whether a reviewer has a relationship with an author or publishing house etc than whether they are a writer.
    While it is interesting to note, and it could colour reviews/opinions a little bit... not sure whether it is full necessary to divulge (?). Unless you think they are going to go kinder on a publishing house as they want to publish with that house?

    - And my other ID has locked me out.. buh Edie

  11. As a commentator do I have to divulge that I am already published, but never plan to write again?? Or is the lack of authorly skill fairly obvious from the content of my comments?? ;)

  12. @Edie -- I can't answer those questions. I honestly don't know if a writer-cum-reviewer is going to be nicer? Less nice? Suck up to influential people? Still don't know.

    Janine at DA -- whose reviews I love -- has on her profile that she's critique partners with Meredith Duran and Sherry Thomas, for example. I would imagine that's relevant to any reviews she does of those writers' books. But I hadn't known that when I first started to read her reviews. Does the fact that Janine's trying to get published make a difference to me when I think about her reviews after the fact? I'd say not.

    But -- the fact that you're published? Priceless!!! Could we have an ISBN puh-leeze?

  13. Standing in line for Edie's ISBN(s).

  14. Not priceless, just that the publishing standards could be lower in Aus?? Especially in relation to teen short story dreck?

  15. I am so going to try to never out myself when trying to be a smartarse again LOL

  16. Moriah said, "If you write but you're not aspiring to be published, you're still a writer."

    I agree.

    Me, I like to hear how writers, and readers who are not necessarily reviewers, think about fiction. Often their opinions are more valuable and interesting to me than standard reviews.

    Have fun with the writing!

  17. Edie -- I bet you have one or both of those short stories lying around, perhaps at the back of the closet under some shoes you haven't worn in years? Pull one out and quote some of it for us. On Twitter. What YA short story wouldn't be even more fun in 140 character bites? (Seriously, we're very curious, if not technically nosy, and would love to read a little teeny bit...)

    Victoria -- I actually really thought I'd never again write romance. I blame it all on Julia Spencer-Fleming's Millers Kill books. There is something about the way she conveys Clare and Russ's relationship that made me think, "I really have to try this again!" (And that's another writer I can only study in awe. She makes it look so easy, and it so isn't!)

  18. "If you write but you're not aspiring to be published, you're still a writer."

    Thank you for that. I love to write, but I'll never be published. And that's okay with me, because it's not my main goal. :-)

  19. And let's not overlook all the people who write professionally or personally thousands upon thousands of words. Technical writers, academics, lawyers, bloggers, etc. We all reflect the communication of thought through the written word. It can't be that some alchemy occurs with publication such that if you are seeking publication you are more legitimate than if you aren't.


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