Is the romance genre so low that it's considered a publishing backwater? Is the crime genre really so prestigious that it can break all the rules?
I'm wondering the same thing...
I did something extremely stupid this week that I pray I never repeat. I critiqued a friend’s writing who was entering a short fiction contest I alerted her to. The contest deadline was looming and her ms arrived in the email. I read the 5k story carefully and spent a couple of hours creating edit examples.
Guess what? She really didn’t want an edit…
My first mistake was stepping out of friend mode and viewing her ms with detached eyes. I went on autopilot and told her what I was having a problem with.
My second mistake was applying rules of erotic-romance to another genre crime-suspense, which is a genre I don’t read and know little about.
The problem was within the ms there were at least three POV’s sharing the space and often sharing internal thought, actions and dialog in the same paragraph. It shifted from (two) first person POVs to third person, to narrative, past to present and all three main POV characters often in the same paragraph.
The basic story was good and interesting to read, but I thought it was being held back by unnecessary clutter. I strongly suggested my friend choose one maybe two POV’s and revise the ms in third person. Based on the time she had left to revise and still meet the deadline I viewed that plan as the path of least resistance.
It didn’t work. My friend was very upset and insisted I knew nothing about what she was shooting for. I got flooded with pages of examples of fiction and blogs where best-selling authors, agents and publishers encouraged breaking the rules (which I agree can be done by highly skilled authors who already know the rules.)
Unfortunately, I’m not a highly skilled author and either is my friend. The argument quickly became a disaster with unwelcome results far from what I intended.
My stomach dropped when I realized she didn’t want an edit at all she wanted a thumbs-up. When she emailed the ms and said, “Look this over before I send it… She actually meant, “Look it over and tell me to send it.”
It’s too bad because I know what a sour critique feels like.
Two and a half years ago, when I was getting my first manuscripts ready to submit to publishers, I asked my sister to proof one of my ms’. My sister is an avid reader and booklover who hates the romance genre. I thought it wouldn’t matter because I needed help with grammar and story flow. What I thought would be okay became a nightmare. My sister was very uncomfortable reading my erotica and our conversation went to some awful places including her comment that I should aim higher because the erotic-romance genre was so low… I was assured I would never be published because I was starting too late, I did not have any real writing experience or a degree in literature and the craft was far beyond me. She believed publishing was only for a rarified elite and I was warned those involved were very mean people.
She also had lots of practical advice I badly needed to take.
At the time I was so hurt and shocked I didn’t speak to my sister for months but I didn’t tune out all of what she said.
She was wrong about a few things but I knew I had to improve my basic skills. I made it my mission to do better. I went back to the drawing board with my manuscripts, submitted them and got three book contracts almost back to back.
Those were mentally painful, intensely focused months but I learned enough to get my foot in the door. It was a huge victory for me and it might not have happened if my sister had not pointed out a few of the areas I genuinely needed to improve. (I do love my sister we email everyday)
I hope my friend learns something useful from her uncomfortable encounter with me.
My questions today are:
1) Have you ever offered help and had it backfire?
2) Am I completely wrong about the crime-suspense genre can the POV float that randomly? I don’t read crime-fiction and I don’t know what the current trends are.
I learned a horrible lesson about not offering cross-genre advice. It doesn’t work. No one respects romance authors except other romance authors.
I wish I were going to Romanticon more than ever.