Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How To Become A Romance Author

How did I get here? Contrary to popular belief, I did not wake up one morning and decide I was going to write romance novels for Harlequin. If anything, the opposite happened. Let me walk you through my patented* steps to arriving at a career as a Harlequin Author, results guaranteed*!

1. Decide to write a novel.
2. Get busy for the next 20 years with schooling, jobs, marriage, family, and home-ownership.
3. Picture a scene with two people arguing. Wonder who they are.
4. Figure out who they are. Wish they would stop talking in your head.
5. Give up trying to get the imaginary people to be quiet. Decide that writing down what they say will get them out of your head.
6. Write a 537 page novel. Decide it's brilliant and New York Publishers will be crawling over each other to get to it first. Envision six-figure advances to honor your awesomeness.
7. Realize you have no idea how to alert New York Publishers to your awesomeness. Discover things called 'query letters.' Start writing them.
8. Get your first rejection. Rationalize that that person wouldn't know literature if it bit them on the tush. Send out more query letters.
9. More rejections. Conclude that, while your novel is brilliant, query letters are hard. Dig a little deeper into what goes into a query letter.
10. Discover your supposed to know what genre your novel is. Realize you have no freaking idea, because you haven't read a full-length fiction novel since you burned out on 70 of them in three months as a part of your Masters defense, and those were all Victorian novels, anyway.
11. Figure since your brilliant novel has people who fall in love and live happily ever after, you might be somewhere near a romance novel.
12. Refuse to label your brilliant novel as a romance because everyone knows romances are trashy, crappy things passing themselves off as literature.
13. Finally settle on 'women's literary fiction with strong romantic elements.' Decide that sounds serious and literate, just like your book.
14. More query letters. More rejections. Rationalize that if someone would just read it, they'd see its awesomeness themselves. Write different query letters.
15. Meanwhile, as this process has taken more than a year, also continue to write other novels. Three, to be exact.
16. Enter a contest with your first novel--contest wins will get your work read by agents and editors!
17. Come in dead last in your category. Read the comments and sob hysterically.
18. Decide to put that first novel away. Rationalize that, when you're rich and famous, people will want it then.
19. Write a novel in six weeks because it was so much fun. Because the characters are different, they wind up having a lot more sex and saying funnier things.
20. Have your readers tell you they actually ENJOYED reading this novel.
21. Decide to skip sending out the middle two novels and go straight to the one people seem to like.
22. Get a request for the full within three months, followed by a request for a partial three days later.
23. Get really, REALLY excited. Finally--someone is going to read your writing and discover your awesomeness! Go back to envisioning six-figure advances.
24. Get the partial rejected.
25. Get the full rejected, with the comment "I normally love western romances, but the characters just didn't work for me."
26. Realize you write westerns. And romances. And there's nothing wrong with that, because you like them and you have good taste, so they can't be bad.
27. Send that novel back out.
28. Find an agent who loves it.
29. Sign with the agent. Begin to think about what you're going to do with that six-figure advance.
30. Struggle for a year and a half with editor rejections on two different books.
31. Decide to write a category book to 'break in' and 'establish your brand name.' Sure, categories tend to be a little trashier--not that you know from first-hand experience, because you haven't read that many. But everyone knows that, so it must be true.
32. Read some categories. Discover a few stinkers--but a lot of them are really good, and easier to fit into your busy writing schedule because they're shorter than full-length novels.
33. Write a category. Embrace a feminist point-of-view that because romance novels focus on a woman's happiness and sexual satisfaction, they are dismissed as being 'unimportant' and 'sleazy.' Briefly feel bad for having once thought the same thing, but get over it.
34. Find an editor who loves it. Win and place in several contests.
35. Feel a great deal of personal and professional satisfaction with writing a book that you like and other people--people who are not your mother--also like.
36. Realize that, while you won't be seeing any six-figure advances any time soon, you're being paid to write novels, and it only took three and a half years!
37. Celebrate!

*not really

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