Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Temptation of Captain Monkeypants...

So, as I've mentioned many times, I'm a struggling writer. Well, actually, I hate that phrasing because it implies that I'm struggling with writing and I'm not. Writing is the easy part; it's doing something with the writing that's hard. In a couple of my previous posts, I've grumbled about how hard it is to get published. It's a catch-22, no agent means no publisher and no publisher means no agent is truly interested. There are exceptions, naturally. In some writer's cases, they get their foot in the door by knowing someone who can get their work to someone who'll actually read it. Other times, they're in the right place at the right time. Of course, there are exceptions and some writers do get published on their own merits. But it's hard.

I read an article in Entertainment Weekly a few months ago regarding memoirs and why there are so many cases in which people like James Frey and Margaret Seltzer who have written best selling memoirs are exposed as frauds and what was supposed to have been an honest portrayal of their less-than-perfect lives turns out to be pure fiction. What it came down to is that the books couldn't find a publisher when they were submitted as fiction and so, a few tweaks later, voila! Fiction became a gritty literary portrayal of a brave writer's life.

This is one of the reasons I could never join Oprah's public flogging of James Frey. Ok, so he lied. And, ok, he lied a lot and made a lot of money off his lies. I don't deny that's wrong. I do, however, understand to some degree. Trying to find a publisher when you're a new writer who hasn't gone the academic route and done some networking is extremely difficult. I, personally, have chosen not to pursue a degree in writing. Lately, I've rethought it just because it would be a way to maybe make some connections. Yet there's still a voice in my head that says why? I don't want to be a literary writer, each word carefully phrased for meaning and symbolism. As I've said before, I want to tell stories and I don't think any of the writers I truly admire have gone for a Masters in Writing. I'm a big fan of the movie Wonder Boys. To me, that's what life as part of a prestigious writing program would be like, well the part that actually focuses on the writing, that is. Not that I'd mind if Robert Downey Jr. would come and hang out at my school (in which case it might be worth going for a Masters in Writing) but I don't think that'd be likely to happen. Sadly.

So, because it's such a hard field to break into, I've recently been toying with the idea of writing a romance novel. I've had the idea before; Harlequin, as a publisher, is rather accepting of new writers and there are always divisions of their romance novels that are accepting submissions. I had the idea before but, the last time, I had the (rather) foolish notion that I could be a romance writer who actually wrote well. I got rejected. Story of my life.

But, recently, they're started an eBook service in which they're looking for shorter pieces- novellas that are only 15,000 words. If you haven't figured out from these blogs, I'm rather prolific. I use a lot of words. Thus, 15,000 words won't take too long.

This time, however, I'm doing my homework. I've been reading a couple of these novellas in the series for which I'd like to try writing. It's called Silhouette Nocturne and the focus is any supernatural, psychic, mythical creature type story that also has a strong and sensual romance. So that's what I've been reading. I don't think there's any way to not sound like a condescending snob here but, wow, they are BAD. I've read three now and the formula is pretty simple. Beautiful, strong (yet vulnerable) woman with some supernatural ability must save some child/animal/person/victim from some crime or horrible happening. In the process, she meets a strong and handsome man who instantly is attracted to her vulnerability and beauty. Together they save the day. The sex which, in these books, never goes into the full description that other erotica does, merely lingers at the descriptive, sexy and incredible love making that, inevitably occurs. In the end, the heroine and the hero wind up engaged.

Here's what else I've learned:

  • When in a situation in which her vulnerability is exposed, the hero will refer to the heroine as "baby". A lot. In fact, in happened six times on one page. The page is not that long.

  • The heroine must not like to receive help, she likes to be independant. The hero will see this and give her space. Yet, eventually, she will realize that she doesn't want space from him and that she needs him. Then they have sex.

  • The heroine must always be the one to save the day. The hero can merely assist. This allows the heroine to remain strong and independent. She will, however, end up at the hospital because she is hurt (but never too badly). This allows the hero to call her "baby" and take care of her. Then they will have sex.

  • When describing sex, it must happen gradually and very slowly at first and the pace of the scene will grow hotter.....and hotter....closer...and closer...and then they reach towards each other, lost in each other's bodies and then WOOOW! It's magic.

There is plenty more that I have observed but that gives you an idea of what I'm up against. I get the feeling that the writing is secondary to the story and the sex because it's, um, not good. For example, in one of the books, the heroine goes to bed and closes her eyes to sleep. And then she shuts her eyes and begins to dream. It left me wondering how many pairs of eyes she had. Then again, given that this is the 'fantasy, myth and sci-fi' division, maybe she did have more than one pair of eyes.

But you get the idea. Yet, these novels sell. These writers make some money from their efforts. Ok, so it's not enough to quit work and take up writing full time unless you're really good but it's definitely more than I'm making now on my other work. Part of me is wanting to run away screaming, salvage my pride and remind myself that it's just a matter of time before an agent/publisher/magazine realizes I'm brilliant.

Then there's the other part of me that wants to write and get paid. I'd write crap if they'd pay me for it. Seriously. At this point, I just want to do something with my writing. And I'd publish under a psuedonym. Probably not Captain Monkeypants because that doesn't, uh, scream romance but maybe something like Lavinia Lovejoy (thanks mum, for that suggestion). Ok, so it would be a little akin to being a writing whore but then, it is Harlequin and...well, wouldn't that fit? I just have to get them to want to publish my stuff...always a challenge. But it's SO tempting to try. It would be fun, if nothing else.

So, I'll keep debating and doing my...research. I'll move on from the psychics and try to find some romance about werewolves and vampires. They're out there, buried between the Scottish Highland Lords and the Pirate romance....oh, wait...pirate romance...that may have given me an idea....

I'll keep you posted...

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