Hello, my darlings, from deep within a tent in a forest at Camp NaNo! I’m pushing through with my fifty-page goal in hopes of finishing my rewrite on A Scandalous Reputation this month.
ASR is a novel I completed about three years ago, sent out on a round of submissions to various romance publishers and editors, as well as giving it a go with a group of beta readers. Comments back were fairly consistent: it was well-written, my historical detail and references are solid, the characters were compelling… but this “isn’t a romance” because Margaret, my FMC, does not want children, and she does not reconcile with/fix/save her estranged husband, which made her “unrelatable.” Furthermore, she brings my MMC, Hal, more into “her” world rather than what “should” happen: him bringing her into “his” world of wealthy aristocracy. Hal “wasn’t Alpha enough” and even “was a wimp” because in once scene, he respects when Margaret tells him no; instead, “this is when he should sweep her off her feet and carry her upstairs to the bedroom!” I had a couple people in the beta group complain that it did not end with a pregnancy or newborn because “there better be babies!” Thus, A Scandalous Reputation was “not what romance readers want” and “isn’t marketable”/”won’t sell.” Okay.
So I tried revising with those critical comments in mind, but… that wasn’t the story I wanted to tell. Margaret “saving” her husband or Hal beating the shit out of him for Margaret… cutting out all of the “literary references” or other key things that “weren’t romance”… toning down the “potentially off-putting” feminist tone… ending with a pregnancy or a child… no. Those weren’t my characters. Margaret needed to go through what she did with her husband to be ready for Hal. Hal needed to make the decisions he does to indicate his growth. They needed to remain two individuals until the end, and her giving up ___ for him or him taking her away from ___ was not in line with who they were, or their stories.
I let this manuscript languish for a year or so, but a while back, I dug it out again.
At last, I knew what changes I wanted to make, and, in fact, some of it was going to be in direct opposition to “it’s not a romance unless ___.”
Not only was I not going to “cut out” certain things, I was going to take them further, push them more. (There was going to be way more explicit sex, too, just to make the point.) I want to write stories about women who are in charge of their own bodies and lives, and men who respect and honor that. Not only do I not want my MMCs to be afraid of FMCs like that, but I don’t want readers, editors, or publishers who are afraid of or put off by that, either.
I’m writing the story I want to tell, and it may not be groundbreaking or fit in with the beats of the popular romance genre in some ways. But I already know it’s said important things to a few early readers out there. Perhaps by the end of this year, I can self-publish it and see what you think of it, too?
In the meantime, as I write this month, I’m immersing myself in Margaret’s and Hal’s world with a contemporary soundtrack.
Care to join me?