You know, I never figured I actually had any artistic integrity, because I figured I would do whatever it took to publish my manuscripts, but I'm finding out this isn't exactly true. I'm still waiting for a contract from Cerridwen Press, who I hope will publish my first Regency romance, so I'm making a lot of assumptions such as thinking they might also publish some of my other manuscripts.
However, during the last few days I've realized that even if they don't, I will get my manuscripts published, one way or the other. Not the horrible first ones I wrote, but the ones which are good.
And you know what? I don't care if they aren't published by a big publishing house, or if they never come out in paperback or hardcover. I don't care if I can't talk about my published work in our Christmas letter this year or any other year. Somehow, I've discovered I actually have artistic integrity. I'm not willing to write purple prose to get published. While it may be true that my writing isn't great or maybe even good, I refuse to write the kind of schlock I despise, just because it is what seems to get published.
That is another interesting conclusion I've come to over the last few days. I've been scanning other blogs by romance writers and reading their articles about adding sensual elements and writing love scenes, and I'm combing through their examples and what do I find? That the examples I like are the ones which these countless other authors use as the "bad" writing lacking in sensual elements. I've discovered I like a lean style without a lot of throbbing members and heaving breasts and flashing green eyes. I don't like the flowery, sensual love scenes. They annoy the heck out of me. Maybe if they were a little more sweaty and realistic they wouldn't be so bad--in fact I've read a few which aren't so bad--except all the other romance authors use THOSE as examples of what to avoid doing.
Anyway, this has all rather been a shock to me because I've been trying to write romance novels. I've been a member of the Romance Writers of America since its inception over 20 years ago. I like happy endings where the hero and heroine are together and there is the hope (fantasy though it may be) of a bright future together. But I don't like the style of writing most associated with this genre. I like styles more associated with science fiction and mysteries, which has lead me down some very tortuous paths of late.
All the advice to "write the novel of your heart" makes me gag (do I have a heart?) but much as I hate to admit it, I think this is sage advice. Maybe not "of your heart" but a story that you would like to read. Unfortunately, that is where artistic integrity comes into play, because you may find that the novel of your heart does not fit within the current marketing schemes of the big houses.
Or you could be lucky and your work may fit just fine and you'll be published, in which case, get the hell out of here and leave me alone. Sorry. I digress.
You know what? When I finally faced this fact, and found an e-publisher who might be interested in publishing what I write, just the way I write it, I discovered that I no longer cared if I couldn't play in the same field as the big boys. Yes, e-publishers are not the same as traditional publishers. Yes, they do not have the best of reputations. Yes, a lot of what they publish is pretty awful and it's pretty obvious why a "real publisher" did not elect to publish the manuscript. Yes, they do not pay beans and you're lucky if you make $300. Yes, you may not be "qualified" in some writers organizations to be listed as a published author. Yes, you probably aren't really a published author, because you're more like a self-published author who managed to get someone else to add his or her manuscript to their webpage and charge people for downloading it.
Yes, yes, yes. Yes, I know I somehow didn't measure up.
Because what I've realized is that a tremendous weight has been lifted from my soul when I decided to stop trying to write things the traditional publishers might want. For the first time, I'm thinking I'm going to write things I WANT to write. I'm going to write all those stories burning in the back of my mind that I had put off because I knew the traditional publishers wouldn't be interested in them. If I can't even get an e-publisher interested, that's fine, too. I can publish them myself through my website. Pretty much anyone can get a copyright and be their own e-publisher if they want to badly enough.
I want to write romantic mysteries set during the Regency period. I want to develop my Regency world around the Second Sons Inquiry Agency (Discreet Inquiries) and let the Archer family go as nuts as they want. I want my stories to be funny and twisted, and I want the romance to develop naturally without a lot of heaving bosoms and stiff man-roots. I really don't care if the Regency Historical has turned into a genre that spends more time on getting characters into bed than on the story--I don't want to read that, and I'm not going to write it. I stopped reading Regencies after gothics, Heyer, Coffman, and the traditional Regencies bit the dust.
My manuscripts are going to have (and do have) sudden twists, even improbable escapades, because I want them to be amusing, fresh and fun. Some may even be sad or touch on difficult subjects, such as The Left-Handed Wife, which involves the sad death of a gay man trying to disguise his sexual orientation during the Regency period through a very public involvement with a young woman, who is unjustly accused of his murder.
Scary though it may be, I've discovered I do have artistic integrity, after all.
Perish the thought.