Nadia Lee | NYT and USA Today Bestselling Author of Contemporary Romance » Blog Archive » Ignorance & Confidence
Ignorance & Confidence

“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 listened.


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.

6 comments to “Ignorance & Confidence”

  1. Chi
    · September 4th, 2008 at 12:54 am · Link

    Here, here sister! :) It’s all about the love.

    Some writers will chase the trends and do fine. The writing will be spectacular and their books will sell.

    But that ain’t me babe.

    I write in a sort of “off” time period and genre, but luckily most of the feedback I’ve gotten is encouraging. It’s out there, they say, but if the writing is phenomenal…so I’m working on making the writing phenomenal.

    I’m glad no one told me to write cowboys instead.

  2. Debora Dennis
    · September 4th, 2008 at 1:21 am · Link

    I’m sorry you’ve had all those nasty “well-meaning” comments that caused you to lose sight of your love with SFF, but I’m glad you finally found your way home – cause what you’re writing now rocks! :mrgreen:

  3. bettie
    · September 4th, 2008 at 3:11 am · Link

    I know what you mean. Me, I always thought the traditional hero and heroine were kind of dull. I liked SF/F, action movies, and hard-boiled detective novels. I liked books with anti-heroes and unreliable first person narrators. I always wondered why the two show-stopping numbers in any Disney musical cartoon belong to the villain and the side-kick.

    Seemed to me, that in people’s attempts to make protagonists people with whom the reader could identify, they came out bland and boring. But I was told a ton of times that my favorite style of character just wouldn’t fly in Romance. So I wrote nice. And I gotta say, the only stories I’ve ever written that have gotten a lukewarm reception from critters and readers were the ones about nice people.

    My heart was not in it, and it showed. My motto now is, Write what you love, and you’ll write well.

  4. Nadia Lee
    · September 4th, 2008 at 1:26 am · Link

    Chi — I think if the writing voice matches the trends, you’re in luck. Otherwise, not so much.

    DD — The whole thing happened very early on, before I ever met you and the PC girls. I almost quit because I just can’t write cowboys. (You know me…a hard-core city girl…) I don’t mind writing contemporary, but I just have a hard time finding a theme / story setup that really excites me.

  5. Nadia Lee
    · September 4th, 2008 at 3:04 pm · Link

    I always thought villains and dark heroes were more interesting too, and I always liked action movies. I also thought evil female characters always got to do more interesting things than 99.9% of the heroines.

    Seemed to me, that in people’s attempts to make protagonists people with whom the reader could identify, they came out bland and boring.

    I think this is a bit inevitable. If you want to please everyone, you end up with something bland. A bit like college cafeteria food. It doesn’t offend anyone, but it doesn’t please anyone either.

  6. May
    · September 6th, 2008 at 12:52 am · Link

    This is why I’m the stoopid one.

    I knew all about trends, how little writers are paid, how many submissions vs how many books are sold AND on top of that how many books are released each year, and I’m doing it anyway.

    You’d think that since I mentally do cost/benefit analysis for everything, the cost would be more than the benefit and I would not do it, but you’d be very wrong because I too am stoopid sometimes.

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