“All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure.” — Mark Twain
Rather tongue in cheek, but true in many ways.
Look at myself, for example.
I’ve been thinking today how much I enjoyed writing when I first started. I had no doubt I’d be published and that what I was writing was good.
At that time, I wasn’t worried about the market trend. I wasn’t worried about making the NYT list. I was interested in who my characters were, what they were doing, and what they were about to face (as I was a sadistic girl back then — I still am, but that’s for a later discussion).
I was so excited with my characters and my story that in two months, I wrote a full length novel—all 400 pages, formatted properly in Courier New 12 double-spaced to fit 25 lines per page. During that time, I wrote at least twenty pages a day — single-spaced in TNR 12.
But this was in 1996, and I was writing a futuristic romance novel, back when nobody was buying such things.
Then I discovered the online loops and RWA and everything else.
Many were very helpful and well-meaning. But what I heard the most (and very frequently) was that I was doing it all wrong. You see, nobody writes such things (futuristic or paranormal, etc) because it’s just not fashionable to do so. The big NY publishers will NEVER publish them. I’m wasting my time. I’ll never be published. Ever.
I belonged to a small critique group, and one of the writers there encouraged me to write category. Why? Because all the big names started there, and that’s what I should be writing so I can pay my dues. Harlequin/Silhouette buys more manuscripts than other big single title publishers.
So I listened. I was a newbie. What did I know, right?
I read a lot of H/S, enjoyed many, didn’t like some, and got exasperated with the rest. I tried my hands at writing them. I sucked. Big time.
Because after I decided to write category, the well-meaning CP said I couldn’t write about musicians, artists, actors/actresses, sports figures, dancers, etc. She said I had to write something with cowboys, ranches, secret babies, amnesiac runaway brides, matchmakers, and more cowboys. She said there was a formula to writing category, and that I should study it.
When I asked for the formula, she couldn’t provide one except that I should have at least two sex scenes and throw in more cowboys, ranches, secret babies, amnesiac runaway brides, matchmakers, and … you get the idea.
In 1997, I entered college. I tried writing again, but it became a chore to write to the “formula” because I couldn’t care less about cowboys, secret babies, amnesiac runaway brides, matchmakers…and more cowboys. I have nothing against people who write them — after all, I found some that are really enjoyable. But I couldn’t write them.
Sucks to be me.
So I stopped writing when spending time with my characters stopped being fun in 1998.
Then I discovered Dara Joy. But everyone said she was an exception and that I should never ever write futuristic or paranormal because I was never gonna sell if I did, and nobody wrote such things and expected to sell.
I tried another “trend” again.
And failed. Again.
By then, I just gave up on writing romance altogether. I’d think up some other stories — most fantasy and science fiction. Why? Because nobody I know from SFF told me I’d never sell if I write about weird creatures or make up stuff about history or whatever.
As long as my story made sense and people enjoyed it, it was OK.
But I didn’t write them because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a writer at that time. Money was good in consulting although I worked hellish hours.
There are times I really wish I never heard of the words “market trends”. I wish people wouldn’t tell me what the editors and agents are buying (the kind of stories they want) and what kind of stuff I should write so that I can become published.
Perhaps Mark Twain was right. All you need to succeed in life is ignorance and confidence.