Top 10 Obstacles to My Romance Writing Career

Amazingly, it seems that there is an assumption out there that dedicated romance readers can easily convert to being great romance authors. In fact, every so often my mother says to me, with complete sincerity, “Katie, you should write romance novels.” And every so often, I think, “Yeah, maybe I should.” Luckily, this period of self-delusion doesn’t last long. I know where my strengths lie, and this just isn’t one of them. But Mom has that blind overconfidence in me that only a mother can possess, and she isn’t backing down from the idea. So I’ve come up with a list of all the obstacles to my career as the next Nora Roberts, and whittled it down to the top ten. Mom, I hope you’re paying attention this time.

#10 I do my best writing the old-school way: with pen and paper. If I had to write an entire novel, my hand would curl up and die.

#9 I’m one of those people who thinks of the perfect comeback 12 hours later. It would take me 5 years to write one book with witty repartee.

#8 Is there a market for a mini-mini-novella? Because frankly, writing all that gradual story development with flirting and conflict and chemistry and nuance sounds exhausting.

#7 My vocabulary is seriously lacking in imagination. I’d end up writing the entire book using the same 5 adjectives, then pull out my thesaurus and hit “Find and Replace.” And we all know what embarassing things that can lead to.

#6 I’m a terrible procrastinator. I’d put off writing by watching TV. Then I’d feel guilty. So I’d read from my TBR pile to “seek inspiration.” Then I’d feel guiltier. Then I’d stuff my face and take a vacation to de-stress from feeling so guilty.

#5 Research? I have to do research? So what if plumbing and electricity didn’t exist in the 18th century? This is fiction, right?

#4 Any creative writing ability I may have had has been systematically sucked out of me as I developed my academic writing ability. But if you’re looking for a paper on the long-term impact of British colonialism on Haitian agriculture, I’m your gal.

#3 After failing to hit upon a unique story idea (an inevitability, really), my book would deteriorate into variations of the fantasy Roarke Divorces Eve and Marries Katie, or Roarke and Katie: Together Forever, or my personal favorite, Roarke and Katie Make Beautiful Love and Babies.

#2 I couldn’t handle the rejection. The first rejection letter would send me on a late-night run for Ben and Jerry’s. The second would have me drowning my pain in margaritas and cheesy dance movies. By the third letter I’d be crying in my Cheerios.

And the number one obstacle to my career as a romance novelist:

The thought of my algebra teacher, or boss, or grandma, or anyone I know reading one of my sex scenes would be like having a picture of my bare ass magnified and posted on a billboard in Times Square—absolutely mortifying.

So, you see? I’m much better at appreciating the inspired work of professional authors.

Have you ever considered writing a romance novel? If so, what happened? If not, why? Why do you think non-romance readers assume it’s easy to write romances?

-Katie Mack

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23 Responses to “Top 10 Obstacles to My Romance Writing Career”

  1. LinnieGayl says:

    LOL, Katie! Love the Katie and Roarke fantasy.

  2. BevBB says:

    Thanks for the chuckle. Chuckes, truthfully. :D

    To answer the questions, after reading them for this many years, of course I have. And after actually trying my hand at writing some TV based fan fiction and enjoying it, I knew it wasn’t for me. TO MUCH WORK. I mean it’s one thing when someone else has already created the character for you. But create them and the world? Heh.

    Doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally play around with story or world ideas. I think we all do. We have imaginations after all. But there’s a big difference between that and being totally dedicated to it as a “job” or even just as an obsession, as it were. Frankly, I think one major thing good about fandoms is that they encourage people to explore that creative side and just possibly make that jump to creating their own stories. Somewhere along the way in our move towards technology, we almost lost that.

    As to your final question of “Why do you think non-romance readers assume it’s easy to write romances?” you want the top ten or the basic – I really don’t know. ;)

    Seriously, it’s one of those mysteries of life that people just seem to make assumptions about until the truth smacks them in the face. If it ever does.

  3. MaryS says:

    I am writing one right now . It is incredibly hard. Much harder than I thought at the outset. I have been writing for years, but it has been technical writing. I actually have several stories that I have begun and then abandoned for one reason or another. The impetus for my writing came after I read a Pride and Prejudice sequel that was so poorly written I had to grit my teeth to finish it. My first thought was, “surely I could do better than THAT!” I have to give that writer kudos for simply persevering and finishing his work. My technical writing takes up a block of hours, not a block of my life. I keep reminding myself that what I do now with ease was not always so. I agonized over my first attempts. It took me weeks to do what I can now accomplish in a day or two. I hope the same is true with fiction writing…that practice while not necessarily making perfect will at least make what I write fit for some type of consumption. Even if it is only my mother and sisters.

    I know how you feel about the sex scenes. I think all of my first attempts stopped at that point. How do you write about THAT with the idea that your son and daughters might read it? Or heaven forbid, their friends! I finally sat down one day and wrote the first titillating thing of my life and then immediately emailed it to my mother for critique. I also emailed it to my husband and he replied with, “please write some more!” The second sex scene came a little easier.

    I am over 100 pages in now. There is something about the number 100 that gives me hope I might actually finish at some point. I have always respected authors; held them in awe as a matter of fact. Now I have even greater respect for the sheer hard work it takes to pound out the words that transform the lives of strangers. I am not a cowardly person. If others can place their ideas out there, maybe I can too.

  4. I cannot tell you how happy I am that my mother doesn’t read books, esp. not fiction. :-)

    Growing up I used to laugh about her having read a grand total of one novel in my entire lifetime. But WOOT, how that freed me when it came to writing hot stuff.

  5. BevBB says:

    I cannot tell you how happy I am that my mother doesn’t read books, esp. not fiction.

    Growing up I used to laugh about her having read a grand total of one novel in my entire lifetime. But WOOT, how that freed me when it came to writing hot stuff.

    That is probably the funniest thing I’ve seen in years because I can so identify and I’ve only written fan fiction. Ain’t it the truth, though. There is just some people one does not share with. Uh-uh. ;)

  6. Lynn Spencer says:

    I have to say the “mom reading my sex scenes” issue factors pretty high for me. Even if it weren’t for the fact that deep down I really prefer reading and nonfiction writing, that one would be very hard for me to overcome.

    Well, that and I have the attention span of a fruitfly!

  7. Katie Mack says:

    Thanks LG! I’m sure I’m not the only one out there with Roarke fantasies. :D

    BevBB and MaryS – Yes, writing a novel–any novel–is a hell of a lot of work. Frankly, that more than anything else bursts my little bubble of self-delusion every time. And MaryS, good luck with the novel you are working on. 100 pages is impressive.

    Sherry – LOL! No such luck for me. Although no one in my family reads romance, they are all voracious readers and of course would read anything I wrote–and tell everyone I know. The worst would be worrying over whether the people I know were picturing me while reading the scenes. Aaah!

  8. Katie Mack says:

    Lynn – Yes, the whole attention span thing would be a problem. Kind of like right now. Should be working, but instead I’m lurking on the AAR boards. :)

  9. Abi says:

    No 8 is totally me. All I want to write is the epilogue :-)

  10. MaryS says:

    Lynn Spencer said “I have to say the “mom reading my sex scenes” issue factors pretty high for me. Even if it weren’t for the fact that deep down I really prefer reading and nonfiction writing, that one would be very hard for me to overcome.”

    It is actually harder for me to think about my 23 & 17 year old daughters or my 20 year old son reading about the sex than it is my mother. Twenty years ago I would not even have THOUGHT to let my mother read something sensual that had come out of my head, but then I hit menopause and a lot of the old chains of decorum went out the window. My mother is a Flannery O’Connor type short story writer and some of her plots can get a little gritty. I figured if I could let my 78 year old mother read it, then I could eventually let anyone else read it as well.

  11. To add to the “Mom reading my sex scenes” discussion, I’m so very lucky I have a cool Mom. After my aunt recently read my debut novel, she phoned my Mom and made some snarky comments about how “experienced” I must be to have written such explicit, imaginative sex scenes.

    Fortunately, my Mom didn’t miss a beat before giving her reply. She simply said, “You probably think Lisa Marie was there when the Eddystone Lighthouse was washed away during the storm, too,” (which is a critical event described in the story).

    Way to go, Mom!!

  12. BevBB says:

    It is actually harder for me to think about my 23 & 17 year old daughters or my 20 year old son reading about the sex than it is my mother.

    It grows on you. ;)

    I’ve never been able to share reading with my mother. I swear the woman has no imagination and keeps her eyes closed for everything. :D Now my dad was a different thing entirely. He was the one who introduced me to Errol Flynn movies and swashbucklers in general. Still, the thought of either one of them reading a sex scene that came out of my head–ain’t gonna happen. ;)

    My kids, though, are both in their 20s and read all the time, including romances. Even my son, who for some odd reason developed a taste for Christine Feehan’s Carpathians of all the romances I tossed his way over the years. From Robert Jordan to Feehan?!? I will never get it. Seriously. :?

    In contrast, the daughter has every single one of the In Death books as the core of her romance library. Both of them prefer some “spice” to their romances over “sweet” and will let me know if I recommend a romance to them that they find lacking in that department. Which is odd because they’re both perfectly happy reading books from other genres that don’t even go there.

    Or maybe it’s not odd and all about expectations.

    I have no idea if I could ever share a sex scene I wrote with them – assuming I ever wrote one. Ten to one, my son and I would get in an argument over the world-building in the story first and never even get to the sex scene anyway so it probably wouldn’t matter. ;)

  13. Katie Mack says:

    Abi – Totally!
    MaryS – I don’t have kids but if I did I’d definitely feel uncomfortable about it.
    Lisa – That’s awesome that your mom is so supportive.

    BevBB – I have to confess the same preference as your kids. For me, the romance is all about the journey the couple takes, and a BIG part of that journey is sex. If I’m not experiencing what the characters are experiencing, I end up feeling like I missed a whole chapter in the book. I want to know what they are thinking, feeling, etc. But when I’m reading non-romance books I don’t care about sex scenes at all because the main storyline isn’t romance, therefore it’s not part of the journey for me. Does that make sense?

  14. Katie Mack says:

    I was over at Sarah Mayberry’s website and just had to share this:

    “A good friend said once that when she read the love scenes in my books she just imagined me and my partner, Chris. Please, anyone who knows us, don’t do that! My characters are fictional!”

  15. MaryS says:

    Lisa Marie Wilkinson said: “To add to the “Mom reading my sex scenes” discussion, I’m so very lucky I have a cool Mom. After my aunt recently read my debut novel, she phoned my Mom and made some snarky comments about how “experienced” I must be to have written such explicit, imaginative sex scenes.”

    I have already figured out my answer to that one. I have been married for 25 years and produced three children. I certainly hope I am experienced!

  16. LeeB. says:

    Great article Katie! And just think, if you could write something as funny as this blog, a book should be easy peasy. ; )

  17. Renee says:

    Katie, great story. I definitely laughed out lot. I have tried my hand at short stories but the writing takes so much out of me that I am exhausted before I even finish a page. Also, I would be afraid that a publisher would put my book in one of those embarassing covers that have nothing to do with the story. Forget worrying about what my mother would think of the love scenes. I’d be concerned about what she would say about the cover :).

  18. willaful says:

    I like to write stories in my head but am seriously hampered by the fact that any romance plot I come up with is either a) totally ridiculous or b) already been done. Actually, usually both. But the sex scene embarrassment is way up there too. Oh well, they help me fall asleep.

  19. Katie Mack says:

    LeeB – Oh yeah, easy peasy. ;)

    Renee – I totally forgot about embarrassing covers! My family would never let me live it down.

    willaful – LOL! That’s my problem too. Hence #3 on the list. :)

  20. skrabs says:

    I’ve always written (I pity the poor grade five teacher that told my parents I had to write something, anything that didn’t have horses in it for my next assignment!).

    I’ve just finished my first completed (and edited) manuscript. I say completed because I honestly have about forty half written novels on my laptop. I get an idea, write furiously for weeks, make about page 100 and suddenly there’s another idea clamouring and I just have to get it down before it dies away… My Just an Idea folder is overflowing.

    When I’m not writing, I’m reading and when I’m at work I brainstorm and plot. (: I am going to try and send my manuscript in this month to an agent and fingers crossed, hope I get picked up. My dream in life is to write fulltime.

    I don’t find writing hard – I find finishing hard. Now I am sitting around playing with things, wondering what I’m going to finish next. The idea of other people reading my sex scenes doesn’t bother me, though I hate people (family etc) reading any of my work. I prefer an anonymous stranger or critique partner. My boyfriend sat down and had a look the other day and the way he read it made it sound like some bad theatrical play. Then he found one of the sex scenes and kept ribbing me about ‘writing porn’. I love him to bits but sometimes I could cheerfully throttle him.

    Just last night I had another little idea and I’m off and running again.

  21. Dawn says:

    willaful Says said: I like to write stories in my head but am seriously hampered by the fact that any romance plot I come up with is either a) totally ridiculous or b) already been done. Actually, usually both.

    That is my same exact problem and sex scene embarrassment would not be a problem for me because I normally skip the sex scenes (well some of them anyway) so I can get on with the story, I can’t wait to see what happens next, which means I would be a horrible romance writer.

  22. * says:

    The artical is superb!

  23. Sonny Lambes says:

    If the face book is closed how to play the games?