Here’s the thing: I’ve been writing romances and selling them since I was in my forties. I’m now in my late seventies, and wouldn’t you think I’d have learned through the course of sixty plus published books how to write a romance?
But no. See, I spent the last couple of months writing one. I had it edited professionally (always my first advice to any writer.) I went over it, looking for flaws. It seemed okay, not brilliant or innovative—but still a good solid romance.
So I published it on Amazon and asked the avid readers on my email list for reviews. That was Monday.
Tuesday morning my email inbox contained some private and disconcerting messages from my fast readers about the book, and when I went to the reviews on Amazon I found that I’d gone way off the rails. In fact, the book was a train-wreck.
The romance was fatally flawed. Honest feedback said that the heroine was not sympathetic, the very first requirement for any heroine in any romance. In fact, one reviewer called her downright mean. The plot was jerky and shallow. The secondary characters were stereotypical. In other words, the book was a bomb.
Humiliated and, yes, deeply ashamed, I wrote a new email to my followers apologizing, offering a refund should they want one, and promising to take the book off of Amazon.
One of the beautiful things about self-publishing is that you can disappear a book in about three minutes flat. Which I did.
So, a lesson in humility, big time. And one that led me to examining how I deal with failure.
I’ve been through two divorces, numerous failed love affairs, harsh criticism from my adult sons for my inadequacies as a mother and the general flotsam and jetsam that comes with living a long life and making mistakes. Guilt and regret have plagued me during countless sleepless nights, and I know all too well the hardest person to forgive is always myself.
My first instinctive reaction was always denial; it wasn’t my fault, I didn’t do it, the men were alcoholic, the reviewers are idiots, my kids just need someone to blame, the book is great.
This is where age comes in. Denial takes so much energy. As the years add up, it does become clear that just owning up to whatever is less tiring, no arguing required, just yup, the fault is mine and I’m sorry. Not that I’m a doormat; far from it. Taking the path of the peaceful warrior instead of going in guns blazing is easier on the equipment.
Thinking back on horrible scenes in my past, I can see now that a passive approach would have left me less devastated. There’s a mantra that I try to use—if I remember in time, which I often don’t. It says, “I would have peace instead of this.”
With the book, I did remember. Peace meant taking the damned thing down. And the wonderful emails that followed my note of apology filled my heart with gratitude. They reminded me that I’d written other books that readers loved, that everyone screws up once in a while, that my wonderful posse of readers is willing to keep faith with me.
So now I’m going to write a book called How Not To Write a Romance. I’ll include some (a lot??) of my experiences with writing as well as with dating, during many years of being single and producing numerous books. I’ll compare real life and fantasy. I’ll examine the elements of a good romance.
I’ll be authentic and honest. I’ll do my best to be a sympathetic heroine. I’ll reveal why my nieces have dubbed me Catch and Release.
Is this something you might want to read? I’d love some input now, at the beginning, to keep me on the straight and narrow this time.
Email me at email@example.com with your honest opinion.
And remember, tears are what happen when the ice in the heart melts.