Monday, December 27, 2010

Writer Wrestlutions

That's right. I'm calling for a fight. Romance writers unite!

Forget resolutions about keeping our butts in chairs, submitting, or getting published. Face it. Those things WILL happen because we're writers. Those things are a given. They're hand carved into every one of our hearts, so no need to scribble them on a sticky note or whiteboard. I'm a believer in success for those who really want it...even if it takes time.

Our resolution this year should be to team up against romance novel ignorance. We need to wrestle all those stupid, eye roll comments about what we write to the ground. Join me in the ring for a word fight. Hey, we're supposed to be word experts, aren't we? We're supposed to be creative...quick with our fingertips on a keyboard. But sometimes we're not so quick with our feet and tongues (yes, there are exceptions and you know who you are). As writers, we're used to mulling over our thoughts, rolling words on our tongue until they feel right...we're used to editing. Low blows against romance novels can take us off guard and land us on our backs.

There's no time to edit when someone makes a sny remark to your face or asks an irritating question about writing romance. So I say we need some strategy here. We need to share examples of stupid comments and the best come backs we can think of. We need to be smart, sassy, and strike hard. No more cheap shots at romance novels. No more getting bumped by ignorant remarks. Let's take 'em down and be romance champions!

"Oh, Harlequin huh?" (wink, wink) "I don't read that kind of stuff."

My favorite attack on that one is to throw the exact opposite of what they're thinking of at them. It freezes them up. Takes them off guard.

"Really? Have you tried their inspirational line? You know, their more religious, closed door stuff?"

Heh, it always works. I get a very confused "Really? They have that?" response.

Oh, and I get the eye roll, wink wink, "So what does your husband think of what you're writing?" (chortle)

I give them back the 'wink, wink' and say "Why don't you ask him?"

What comments have you endured? What responses did you give? I'd love it if everyone shared what they would say to the comments others have faced. Come on. Let's put our minds together, share strategy, and give romance ignoramuses a match they'll never forget in 2011!


  1. Here, here! You know, at each of the RWA national conferences I've been to, I hear authors (best selling) talking about the snobbery against all popular fiction. They've specifically said romance is just lumped in with all of that. I strongly disagree. Romance in particular is the brunt of more concentrated snobbery and even ridicule. Mostly I think it's from people who've never read it or let the 'bodice rippers' of the past still color their judgement. The romance genre has eveolved so much, even in the time I've been reading it. Sure, there's still some books out there that make me cringe, but on the whole it's filled with incredibly talented writers and moving, powerful stories. The sales numbers should speak for themselves, surely? I've come across those snickers, the snide remarks, the winks and the 'oh, I don't read *that*' comments. I'm learning on the comebacks. I'll often lean in and tell them how much fun the research is. I'll agree my hubby is a lucky guy. I'll site the sales figures. I've even been known to offer up one of my books :). It's a slow road, though. Hopefully, eventually, it will be a genre that gets the respect it deserves. Great post, Rula! Got me all riled up LOL.

  2. Hey Kaily! They really are powerful stories, and those who don't read them are missing out. They don't realize how empowering a romance novel can be. So many important issues are tackled in romance novels these days. Issues like emotional abuse, sexual abuse, cancer, adoption and various insecurities. These books can enlighten some readers and give strength to others. They realize someone out there knows what they're going through. They can draw on the heroine's strength. Sometimes a story is the final nudge they need to take action for themselves. I think that's partly because these stories do impact our emotions. I've read comments that some readers have left published authors and know this to be true.

    Because of that, sometimes when someone asks what I'm reading (and it's clearly a romance novel), I answer by telling them it's a story about XXXX (filling in whatever important social issue the story tackles). That takes them off guard, LOL :)

  3. Hi Rula,

    I'm learning to make a comeback now. I always think later that I could've said that..but at the time I can't think of an appropriate comeback. And I agree with Kaily's comment. It will be interesting to see all the comments and tips.

  4. Great post, Rula. I tend to get the same ones over and over. My respose (or lack of) is typically dependant on who the person is and the insult, which can range from something unintentially insulting out of ignorance to downright bitchiness (which, contrary to popular belief, can come from women or men). The three I hear most, starting with the least offensive:

    Insult: Oh, you write romance? I've been thinking I'm going to get into doing that myself, I've just been busy.

    What I WISH I could say: Yeah, I'm not busy. I just sit around and eat bon bons all day anyway, so I was like "What the hell" and ALA KAZAM! I'm published, cuz they just let anyone in. So, yanno, just whip up some garbage next time you have a spare segundo and send it on in.

    What I actually say: You should totally do it!

    Why do I not take the time to correct them? Mainly, because everyone and their mother thinks they're capable of writing a book and then getting it published. Until they try it. Nothing I say is going to prepare them for the reality of it, so let them try. Who am I to stop them?

    Insult: Oh, you write romance? I don't read that (emphasis on "that").

    What I actually say: What DO you read?

    I don't think I've ever gotten back a "strictly Dickens" response. Invariably, people read popular fiction or that pseudo-literature that they tout in book clubs. So they say that, or mysteries, suspense etc. I say "I want my books to be an escape, a form of entertainment, something you look forward to at the end of a long day. Real life is hard and sad enough, watch the news. For pleasure reading, I want to enjoy the ride, and be assured of a happy ending and my readers do too. Hopefully I come through for them. But I totally understand if it's not your thing. It's not for everyone, but it IS for millions of us."

    Insult: Do you have to write romance, can't you write something else? And does it have to be so dirty (or morally wrong etc. etc.)

    My answer: No. I'm a very capable writer so I can (and have and will) write in other genres. But I LIKE it. I like to read it. I like to write it. It's FUN. As far as using explicit language (which I use in my Chloe Cole books, less so in Christine Bell books) I use whatever language the story that's in me calls for. I don't think sexuality is dirty or gross, and words on a page are just that. No one is being demeaned, or exploited so why is it bad? This is entertainment for grown ups. Why should I be ashamed to write it, or anyone else be ashamed to read it? We are built to do this, hard wired to think about it, fantasize about it, enjoy it.

    Anyway, people are going to think what they want, but like Kaily, I know the numbers, and I know people are reading romance. Do I think it's for everyone? Not at all. But that dosen't mean it's LESS valid than what non-romance readers might like. I look forward to the day where people don't look at it like the bottom of the barrel.

  5. Hey Nas, that's exactly why I want to get some good responses rounded up. I used to fumble for a response, but now I'm getting better at thinking in the moment. It's all about being prepared...expecting the odd comment...because you know you'll run into one sooner or later.

    Christine, you and Kaily are to be reckoned with ;) I dare anyone to shoot sny remarks at you! You make an important respond with confidence and absolutely no shame. Tell it like it is without being defensive, because defensiveness can implies lack of confidence in what we do. No one can argue with an intelligent answer like the one you use about why you write what you do. I love the one about 'You should totally do it!" I've used that one a few times and they never answer with 'yes I will'. They either change the subject, or if they say they don't have time, I just give them a knowing smile (because everyone who knows me knows how busy I am). Like you said, sometimes there's no point in pursuing it further. It definitely does depend on the person/situation.

  6. Oh, and another one I've used that works against several different remarks is to ask them if they've watched...XXXX...and list several famous, romantic movies that everyone has seen (ie. You've Got Mail, Pretty Woman, Top Gun etc...). I usually vary the heat level in the ones I mention. They say 'oh, yeh, sure I've seen it' (I've had a few folks who think that I've changed the subject. The look on their face says it.)...I say 'Those are romances. Same thing different media, only I believe that less screen time and more reading is a good thing.' They simply can't argue with that. Some reply with 'Oh, I guess I hadn't thought of it that way.'

  7. The one thing that shuts people up faster than anything I've ever said, is when they say --

    "Oh, you write romance." and whatever snide comment they say after.

    My response --
    "Yes, romance has remained consistent in its monetary value, generating 5 billion dollars a year in revenue, not to mention e-book sales, foreign copyrights and movies. I write romance to get in on the bandwagon, because even in this economy, romance sales don't slump."

    EVERYONE understands money. And even if you're not writing for the money, it shuts people up. And most will respect you for understanding the market. It's a win-win.

  8. Thanks, Anne and all of you for chiming in with wonderful commments. It looks like everyone agrees that no one argues with numbers, and everyone takes money seriously. I agree that someone who knows their figures comes off as business intelligent...the opposite of what they expect from a romance novelist stereotype. Great stuff my friends!

  9. I love this post!

    Strangely, I've never been insulted (at least not to my face) but that might have more to do with me. LOL! Maybe I scare people.

    I think the best compliment I ever got was from someone who read one of my books and said her HUSBAND stole it from her and wouldn't let her have it back until he was finished.

    Men do read romance--and some even write it. Now we have to get them out of the closet and admit it.

  10. Maria, that's definitely a wonderful compliment:) and a great point about men and romance! It's unfortunate that sexism still exists in today's society (even if in milder form), but I wonder how the perception of romance novels would be affected if more men did come out of the closet as writers and/or readers. I'm willing to bet it would be taken more seriously. I'm not condoning different perceptions or stereotyping of men vs women, I'm just saying it does exist and it is what it is. Great point!

  11. ha ha Rula, for me its all in the eyes, when I tell people what I do I wait for the snide remark and God bless the fool who makes a dumb comment. I have gone as far as telling someone i write about people and anyone who has ever had a fulfilling relationship will understand my work

  12. Hey Jo! Thanks for stopping by. You're so right. 'The look' can be a powerful thing...especially when complimented with the rest of your body language (posture etc...). It can convey 'I'm serious' or 'Don't mess with me' or so many other things without even needing words. I like what you tell them too. Hard to make a sny rebuttal to that ;). Well said!