When I was a teenager, I used to read a lot of romance novels. I always thought they would be fairly easy to write.
Enter stage right. Boy meets girl. Boy chases girl. Boy gets girl. Boy does some bodice-ripping. His willy gets mentioned, but you call it something sexy and use the word “throbbing” a lot. Drama happens. Girl leaves boy. Girl cries. Things get fixed. Boy falls at her feet and they make up. His wiggling … errrr … throbbing willy gets mentioned again. Life is good. Curtain.
I have a friend who reads a lot of romances. She calls them her “girl porn.”
I’m poking just a little fun here, but I mean no disrespect to romance writers. Anyone who can weave a story and get paid for it is a hero or heroine in my book. But a few years ago, I actually read some romance publisher’s web sites, and they gave a formula much like this one as the key for successful writing. They didn’t mention the throbbing or the willies, but the rest was pretty much there. I thought seriously about giving it a go. You could make a few thousand dollars as a new published romance writer, and if you clicked, things could get better from there.
But I never did.
Of course, I can say “I never did” about a lot of the things I’ve thought of writing so far. In this case, though, I have a little more understanding of the reasons. My long-term writing goals are in very different genres. Those genres aren’t better or worse than romance fiction, but they are a far cry from it. It seems to me that romance novelists get pigeonholed. For some, I’m sure that’s because they are doing what they want to do and they never try to publish anything else.
But I have to wonder. If an author has a stack of published novels with Fabio on the cover holding some swooning chick who is just about bursting out of her peasant dress, how do publishers react when the same author tries to submit something different?
I’m pretty sure a lot of romance authors write under psuedonyms for that very reason. I thought about that before too. But for me, part of the whole thing was about gaining credibility because my name was in print. If I didn’t want my name on it, I didn’t want to write it.
I’m still kind of that way, and feel a little snobby for it. But we had an interesting discussion in my writing class the other day regarding psuedonyms and whether or not you should use them. Writers publish under different names for a lot of reasons. There is the whole fear of being pigeonholed in a genre. But there’s also just not wanting the attention or simply having fun. Some even create names that sound more “authorlike” because they think their real moniker is boring or silly.
I also learned in that class that Stephen King once wrote a romance novel under a pen name. Now, I have known forever that he’s written tons of things under psuedonyms. I just didn’t know that romance was one of them. And I can see why. For him, it would be just the opposite of someone like me. I’m a new writer who wouldn’t want to get boxed into the romance genre and be dismissed when I tried to transition to something else.