Isn't It Romantic?

While I endure the waiting game to hear about my proposal for my next mainstream (which, when you submit in July, means a wait of all summer and into the early fall) and the comfortable feeling of having my publishing obligations satisfied, I've been working on a mainstream romance, which for all you folks who don't follow the industry means a romance without the sometimes constricting rules laid down by publishers of dedicated romance lines. Anyone who is familiar with my mainstream novels knows they have little to no romance in them, except for the one I just finished, which will be out next spring.

As many of you know, I won't be writing for Arabesque anymore. The word given to me from the brass (which still hasn't been officially announced, but at this point I feel the five months I've waited for them to say something is long enough) is that they are turning Arabesque into a showcase for the top authors in black romance, with a mix of reprints and new titles (with the advent of Kimani Press, Arabesque was reduced from four books per month to two). While this is a wonderful opportunity for the shining stars of the genre to get their older titles (many of which are continuing/connecting series) returned to print for thousands of readers who discovered them later in the game and wish to read their entire body of work from the beginning, it leaves li'l old me -- more accurately described as "reliable" than as the creme de la creme -- without a home.

You might be saying, "What about Kimani?" That won't work, either. I don't think I can produce a romance manuscript every five to seven months and still write an annual mainstream for my other publisher, which is the frequency they're looking for. Yes, these category romances are shorter than Arabesque, but they're still full-length books, and 70,000 words isn't all that short. Nor am I fond of the continuing series (I know I'm a real oddball there, but I'm just not) that they want their writers to concentrate on; and the idea of writing a modern-day fairy tale and/or stories featuring alpha males, both of which are also on their desired list, isn't appealing to me either. The authors writing for Kimani Romance all have one thing in common -- they enjoy their work and are writing the stories they want to tell. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that writing something you don't want to be writing is agony for most of us.

I write because I enjoy writing . . . not because I expect to get rich from it, not because I want to be a household name. The days of torturous writing (like writing a book report for school on a book I had to struggle to complete and absolutely hated) are behind me forever.

So I'm just writing. In all honesty, I did ponder making my WIP a trilogy and taking a shot at category, then decided that wouldn't work. There are plot issues to consider; one of the romances is based almost exclusively on voice contact until late in the story (try filling an entire book with that). Then there were age issues to consider; one couple is older, which might make it a hard sell by itself in a package with the other two much-younger couples. Better to combine all three in one big book.

I'm writing this romance with no restrictions, and I must say it feels wonderful to throw out all those don'ts and just write what I want to write. The story is constantly evolving, and I can shape and develop the conflict as I feel fit without worries that it might be too gritty or too risque for the publisher's guidelines.

I'm only a third of the way through, so two questions remain. 1) Will I be able to finish it? Yes, I think so. This is still an experiment for me, but so far it's successful. But I do have to consider that my steadfast progress on this manuscript, which I've been quite happy with, will surely decrease when I return to my contracted work, which naturally takes first precedence over mere wannamake sales. 2) Will I be able to sell it? Again, yes, I think so. I'm not entirely objective, but I happen to think it's pretty good. It will have to finished first, since I know where I'm going with it, but the precise manner in which it will unfold changes all the time. I'll need to know all the answers before I sit down to summarize it.

That old standby, time, will really tell the tale. Wish me luck!


Gwyneth Bolton said...

Good luck. I think it will be wonderful. It makes me think of what it was like to write my first novel, before I had a deadline, before I was bogged down with the rules... That was a wonderful andcreative time....


bettye griffin said...

I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts . . . because it won't!


Patricia W. said...

Much luck, Bettye! The book sounds like a winner to me.

Sorry to had to go through the whole Arabesque thing but thanks for sharing. It's helpful for newbies like me to learn about the realities of the publishing industry.

bettye griffin said...

Publishing is much like life: Do your best, but always expect the unexpected. And pay attention to what's happening. By doing the latter, I had a pretty good idea what direction Arabesque was moving in from the time my editor talked to my agent, although a few more months went by before I got the official word.

Another suggestion: Don't be lax in getting in those proposals for subsequent work. Ideally, I like to submit three weeks after submitting my manuscript, whether there's another manuscript due on my present contract or it's time to negotiate a new one. This time it was more like three or four months, sometime after the first of the year, presumably because I was busy working on my mainstream (I really don't recall). I might have slipped in under the radar if I'd submitted last fall.

Ah, well. Such is life. And publishing.

Donna D said...

I admire your decision to write what you want. It sounds interesting and I hope it gets picked up. If not, there's always self-publishing!

I'm working on a sequel to my first manuscript and I'm not really feeling it. Something keeps drawing me back to another story I'd started but I had made up my mind to finish this one first. After reading your post, I think I may go back and work on that other story again.

bettye griffin said...

Self-publishing? Uh-uh. Not for me. Too much work. It'll sell. To somebody. Eventually.

I think going back to the other story you started is a good decision, Donna. Write what you're feeling!

Lynn Emery said...

I'm feeling you. I turned down a contract and now I feel free to write what I want to- a mystery. Will it sell? I hope so. I'm going to make it the best book I can write.

As for the novel grind- like you I've been on that particular hamster wheel. I hated it and I will not miss it one bit. My story lines had crept outside the boundaries frequently (and I've been shooed back across the lines by a couple of editors LOL). So I feel free.

We're in a tough market so let's support each other and keep writing what we want to cause life is too short!

bettye griffin said...

I'm with you, Lynn! Thanks for the support, and keep me posted on the mystery so I can get a copy when it sells - I'm sure it will.

Allison Brennan said...

Hi Bettye: Thanks for sending me this link! I can't believe after "chatting" for years on the Chick Lit loop, I've never been to your blog.

I definitely wish you luck in your endeavor. Being a writer today is hard--especially being a published author. I know unpublished writers will disagree, but when you don't have a readership, you are really free in being able to write what you love to write. Once you're established, you have reader expectations--so you'd better be writing what you love, or you're sort of stuck.

Women's fiction--which is where I sort of see your WIP fitting in on the little you shared--is a huge and diverse market that can take a broad range of stories, with or without romance, or with a "different" romance. I think you'll succeed :)

bettye griffin said...

I appreciate your optimism, Allison! Thanks for stopping by, and please don't be a stranger.