Thursday, May 19, 2005

Time to take a stand...

As a young girl, one of the things my parents took great pains in teaching me was that to gain respect you had to earn it. You had to deserve it. It wasn’t one of those things that “just happened”.

For years now, decades actually, the romance genre of the literary world has bemoaned the fact that even though they have a commanding share of the reading market, they “can’t get no respect”. Romance Writers of America (fondly known as RWA) was established to promote the genre and its authors. It has spent countless of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars defining romance in hopes of building a respectable image. Thus far, success seems to have been minimal. The battle is one that is uphill, and the mountain just keeps getting steeper.

I have long been thinking that perhaps I am the one who has outgrown romance, and that my career really needs to be defined as “women’s fiction”. Even before the turn of the century (yes! this century!) I felt that perhaps I should be “looking outside the box”. Today my writing partner took a stand and declared herself a women’s fiction writer. Good for her!

So, while the romance genre continues to wonder why it doesn’t garner respect (uh, maybe a good place to start would be by taking a hard look at the book covers…), and RWA continues to spend money trying to buy it, I am going to go out and earn it. I will be defining my career in a way that I can be proud to say that I am a writer.

From this day forth, I write women’s fiction.

3 comments:

While I heartily applaud determined and proud self-definition, don't you think this may eventually come to be seen as repackaging? The subtle scorn delivered upon romance novels is not so much a matter of what it is called...I think it is more about the disdainful stereotype about what the novels have to offer (not calling down any judgements, here...just sayin'...).

It strikes me as though you intend more than a simple change in nomenclature though, mostly because of your comment about thinking outside the box. Is there a new direction you're planning on heading with the genre, or a new flavor to be added?

Not trying to be critical here, just curious. I have a friend who reads romance novels, and she is almost apologetic in a bookstore, even though I've never implied that she should be.

OK, what is up with you and Randy? If your romantic writing is now women's fiction, am I going to have to write men's fiction? Somehow that doesn't sound quite right.

I do agree with your conclusion about romance writers being the Rodney Dangerfields of literary pursuitors. And Randy's comments (paraphrased) about the rise of graphics and the fall of quality book covers. Who would have thought that graphic art now refers to literary content?

The other comment certainly was well written. Maybe I need more lessons.

Hi Guys,

Oh definitely…it is totally repackaging…no doubt about it.

But at the same time, it is also getting back to what I originally started out as: a fiction writer. When I first began writing, before I knew about genres and rules and stuff like that, I knew I wrote fiction for women (because most men would find it boring). Then…someone “wiser” than me said I should write “romance” because that was an easier market to break into...category romance in particular. And so I did. Except my category was too single title… and so the advice continued.

I am not sorry for the twists and turns I’ve taken…I have learned a ton. But at the same time, I am not a romance writer. I write women’s fiction with a romantic element. And since I am not sure I like the direction that “romance” is taking, I may as well return to my roots.

At the same time, I also believe it will “release” me from a lot of the “rules” that writing romance seems to demand, so yes, in a sense I will heading in a slightly different direction. I will certainly feel “freer” about the mechanics of what I put on the page…and that alone will no doubt create a better product. Because after all, writing for publication is a business as much as a creative pursuit.

As a side note, I don’t believe that anyone should be made to feel that they must apologize for reading what they enjoy (though I know it happens all the time!). Reading and the enjoyment of reading is such a wonderful thing, it is a shame when stigmas are attached that one book is not “as good” as another.