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Friday, January 4, 2008

SFF, Romance & CPs

There were two blog posts yesterday that touched upon subjects that are near and dear to my heart. Ironically, even though they are on diverse topics they are somewhat related too.

Maya Reynolds had a blog post the other day on how to find critique partners. It's a good post and I urge you to check it out.

Critique partners are not cheerleaders—or they shouldn't be if you're smart. Good CPs are supportive, but their main job function is to catch what you miss. They serve as a microcosm of the reading (buying) public.

As I mentioned on Maya's blog, I have been burned too many times by people looking for validation. I hate to sound harsh, but grow up! Publishing is a business. If you need to be stroked and loved, go into the dog-sitting business.

This falls into the second post I read on the same day at BookEnds, where Jessica Faust fielded a question from an email she received from someone who was looking for 'quality' writing in the romance genre. The email was from someone IN a romance writing group, so I'm wondering if she was basing her opinion on the work of unpublished writers in her circle, or if she never read beyond a thin subcategory of romance.

I've probably read more SFF than romance, and to date I've read more mediocre SFF than mediocre romance, and from seasoned writers, no less. Sure, there are formulaic stories out there---in every genre, but the romance market of today isn't the same one that your mother experienced.

There are as many different types of romance as there are readers, from sweet romances to hot, from formula to one-of-a-kind. I've read some excellent stories that kept me turning the pages, whereas books from veteran SFF authors who spit out the same old stuff year after year ended up in the garage sale box.

Regurgitating old tropes is part of the problem (I think) on why the SFF market is dwindling. Thanks to the digital age, people have heard it all, seen it all. If you want to grab a reader, give him something bold and innovative.

Romance, particularly paranormal romance has been booming. People can't seem to get enough. Eventually, I think that market will become saturated, but for now I've been fascinated with all the new angles I've been reading, not to mention writing.

Tying both Maya's and BookEnds' posts together, the bottom line is business acumen. Finding crit partners that will help you hone your skills will get you in the door. Treating your audience with respect and giving them a good product regardless of the genre will keep you in demand.

I cut my teeth in the SFF environs, which I still love, but it was the romance venues that strengthened my resolve and taught me more about writing than I ever learned on any SFF forum.

RWA in particular has been a huge help and I haven't even joined any of their subgroups yet. These people (both men and women, mind you) are so focused and serious about publication that I immediately felt comfortable there.

I want to be around people (CPs) who take writing seriously and who aren't there for ego stroking, or need a platform so they can share their hobby. That isn't why I went into this line of work. I enjoy writing. I love the journey, the discovery and the growth. It's the reason I went through all the trouble of learning how to write. This wasn't part of my original repertoire. I earned this puppy from the ground up, and it took three HARD years to make it happen.

Seeing my name on a cover or a byline is nice, but not a big wuffie for me. By the time I see my name in print, the actual writing was so long ago it no longer holds the same excitement. For me, it's old news.

I do get excited when I see my name on a check though. :o) Every time.

I had a seven year plan for publication and got my first contract at year three. You bet I have more goals in store. I have four more years to prove that first contract wasn't a fluke.

The more you accomplish, the more pressure there is to do better. But never forget that it's the public that keeps you in play.