I’ve had several people ask me why I’m writing a Romance novel…especially people who have known me for awhile and know how much I enjoy reading a good book. And up until the last few months, I never would have put any “romance” novel into that category of “a good book”. So what has changed?
First of all, I started looking at the romance genre in a different light when I found out that Harlequin (yes, Harlequin) will consider publishing unsolicited, un-agented manuscripts from previously un-published authors (aka, newbies).
It is extremely hard to break into the publishing world, no matter how talented you are. My childhood fantasies aside, no publisher is going to pick my manuscript out of the trash pile of unsolicited manuscripts and shout “at last, I’ve discovered the next great American novel!” No. My unsolicited manuscript wouldn’t even reach a publisher’s office, let alone their desk. The same goes for agents – after all, who wants to risk anything on another crazy lady from the mid-west who thinks she can write? But there are places for newbies to get their material in front of the right eyes – one of them is to write a decent book and get it published by a house like Harlequin.
So I started reading these things, surreptitiously checking them out from the library in the self-service line. I was surprised at what I found. Some of them, to be sure, ended up being returned before I reached the second chapter, but most of them were pretty good stories. I started finding the genres within the genres and started identifying my favorite authors. I started reading the books critically (as in “How to Read a Book” by Adler and Van Doren) and discovering the formula.
That’s where romance novels got their bad rap, of course. They’re unapologetically formula books – just like westerns, mysteries, adventure stories, science fiction, fantasy….. There are some elements the story must have, some way the ending must come about, or else the book doesn’t belong in that genre. Unfortunately for the reader, a book doesn’t have to be good to get published if it fits into the genre and the publisher thinks they can make money off of it. But the best stories in any genre are written by talented people who make their readers forget that they’re reading a certain genre – they’re just reading a good story.
And then the formula writer who can write a good story and get it published has a way into the publisher’s office and the agent’s list. Once published, an author has cred. The better the book, the better the cred, and the better the cred the greater the hope of eventually being published outside the romance genre. If the author wants to. Because once the author discovers the secret joy of writing romance fiction, they may never look back. But that’s a subject for another post.