A Thrilling Romance? (Or, Lessons from Top Gun)

So, I submitted The Incident Under the Overpass to some paid review services, two of them. I’m still waiting on one, the other I received a few weeks ago. It’s taken me this long to be able to write about it.

While the review didn’t pan my writing outright, it didn’t exactly fill me with hope and reassurance, either.

There’s a quote I have seen on Twitter, from the Pulitzer-prize-winning Junot Díaz. When I received that review, I kept reading and re-reading this quote. It made me feel better:

“…in my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.”

That quote (and a few other things I’ll get to in a bit) helped me keep writing. I stuck to my weekly blog-posting schedule. I finished the edits on one of my short stories, that’s due to appear in a sci-fi anthology soon.

So I’ve kept writing. But I’ve throttled back on my publishing plans. I had been hell-bent to be at a certain spot before today—Advanced Review Copies ready to go, On Sale Date targeted and ready. The significance of today is that I leave for Europe tonight and will be there for the next ten days. I’ll be there for my Sad Picard job, so I won’t be able to dedicate as much time as I’d like to my Anne McClane job.

Yes, that review took the wind out my sails. But on balance, it’s probably not such a bad thing. Because I think I could really use the time, and the feedback, for a more measured evaluation of my plans.

To be fair, the review was demoralizing, but it wasn’t wholly bad. Here’s the gist of it: the reviewer seemed to think I show “promise” as an author, but that my storytelling is weak. Ouch. (I asked that they not publish the review. On the other side of that, I don’t get to quote or pick a blurb from it. So that’s why I’m not quoting any of it verbatim here.)

So here’s where re-evaluating my plans comes into play. I submitted The Incident Under the Overpass to both review services as a paranormal thriller. But that first review didn’t say much at all about the relationship between Lacey (the central character), and Nathan, her nascent love interest. I think that relationship is pretty core to the story, so I got to thinking that maybe paranormal romance is a more appropriate category.

When I ran this question past Fabulous Editor Shelley, she concurred with the romance-over-thriller categorization. (And, she also said, she felt like the reviewer didn’t “get” the story. I’m inclined to agree.)

I give Shelley a fair bit of credit for pulling me back from the ledge. There’s also my good friend Kristen.

Me and Kristen on a trip to Miramar. A long, long, time ago.
Me and Kristen on a trip to Miramar. A long, long, time ago.

I’ve not yet mentioned Kristen’s influence on this writing journey I’ve been on. It’s significant. We go back to Arizona days, and were companions on long cross-country drives many, many times. We’ve been close friends for 25 years now. Last month, we were in Salt Lake City together for IBPA’s Publishing University. She runs two publishing companies, and has been a trusted confidante and guide on my path to self-publishing.

This is what she had to say about romance vs. thriller:

“As far as reclassifying, think about your reader, think about yourself as a reader.  When you pick up this book what are you going to expect if it is a thriller versus a romance?  Who is getting what they want? Who will be disappointed and stop reading because it was not what they expected?”

I can handle disappointing one reviewer. It’s a bigger issue if I disappoint lots of readers. (Hopefully, there will be lots of readers, and they won’t be disappointed!)

And finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give Husband Tim his due for keeping me writing. He, after all, had to bear the brunt of my bad mood over the review. He told me I was Maverick after the accident when Goose died, and he was Viper, telling me to get back up in the air. I think this is the exchange he had in mind, between Tom Skerritt’s Viper and one-of-my-favorite-journeymen Michael Ironside as Jester:

Jester: He can’t get back in the saddle, won’t engage.

Viper: It’s only been a few days.

Jester: You know, he just might not make it back.

Viper: Keep sending him up.

So thank you, T, for sending me up. I’m glad you’re this romance writer’s RIO.

5 thoughts on “A Thrilling Romance? (Or, Lessons from Top Gun)

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