Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Wake-Up Call

To get credit for the course I’ve been taking all semester, I have to make a speech about something I’m passionate about. We were specifically asked not to talk about our families, so all my maternal pride has to be squelched. Sorry, kids.

But the choice of subject matter was easy. I’ve been consumed---no, obsessed---with writing. The path hasn’t always been strewn with rose petals, and sometimes I’ve stepped in unpleasant fecal matter. But I thought I’d share with you what I’m going to read in class this week. I hope I’m sufficiently passionate and pass.

Several years ago I got up in the middle of the night. I’d had an argument with my husband and had gone upstairs to sleep and found sleep not forthcoming. I’ve been married forever so fighting is nothing new. I’ve always said I’d kill him before I’d divorce him. However, I’m pretty much a pacifist, so he’s probably safe. So far.

I sat down in the dark and decided to write a romance novel. Now there was a way to get a man to do and be exactly what I wanted. I hadn’t read any romance novels in years, but why would a little thing like that stop me? The fact that I can’t type---I dropped out of an adult typing class one summer so I could go make out with my college boyfriend---see, even back then I was an impractical romantic---was no deterrent either. I didn’t even know there was a word count in the writing program, so it was an enormous surprise to discover after a few weeks that the “book” I had written was only around 25,000 words, only a fourth of what a normal-length book is supposed to be. I regret to inform you that my first effort featured an amnesiac bluestocking who winds up in a brothel. Enough said.

By this time I’d made up with my husband and I told him about the crazy couple I created. He has supported me 1000 percent from the beginning, hoping that somehow I’ll be able to support us in our old age if I ever get published. I had to break it to him authors only get about 25 cents per book, so genteel poverty is still on the horizon.

I did online research about publishing, and wrote a bunch more novellas. Which don’t sell, unless you’re an established author. So I embarked on two real, full-length books, written simultaneously so that sometimes I couldn’t remember which names went where. I also started buying romances, too. I figure I’ll never get a return on my “research” reading investment unless I become the geriatric Nora Roberts.

But I found a world where everyone has a happily ever after. Certainly not like real life. And I read a ton of crap which convinced me if these people can get published, surely I can.

And then my computer crashed. I was wild. So I started writing something in longhand which has recently been finished, 92,000+ words of a romance satire. It’s typed up now. And the two works in progress that were so rudely interrupted by a virus are done. In more ways than one, I’m afraid.

I’m not a plotter. When I write I am a pantser---writing by the seat of my pants--- which means there is no outline or even much of an idea as to what’s going to happen, which can be pretty scary. I’ve tried to take notes, but then I can’t read them or remember what the hell I meant by them. When I go back to read my work, I have no recollection of writing some of it. It’s like some body snatcher invaded and took over. I’ll blame this creature if my books never get published. When the snatcher is working, my fingers fly and I have an actual sense of euphoria. I make myself laugh. I’ve never taken drugs but I imagine there’s nothing better than feeling like an accomplished writer---except, of course, for living a real-life love scene.

Right now, I’m querying, which is the worst. It’s so much easier to write a 400 page book than to sum it all up in a one page letter and not look like a crazed nitwit. I need to get an agent; so far I’ve been gently rejected. My critique group seems to like what I’ve written though, my weekly blog is fun (I just got a Thinking Blogger Award---thanks, Jacqueline Barbour!) I did well in the Avon contest in the fall, so somebody thinks I can write. There are positive comments from established authors that I read when I wonder if I’m wasting my time.

I’m giving myself a few more years. Sometimes I’m sorry my husband and I ever had that fight (of course I can’t even remember what it was about) which put me in front of a blank computer screen with a bunch of squirrels tap-dancing in my head. But on the whole it’s been a harmless diversion, garnered me some lovely Internet friends, and saved me from ever watching reality TV. Give me unreality. Give me romance.

What made you “wake up and write?”

Now that I’m a “Thinking Blogger,” I’m supposed to link to blogs I’ve loved. Being technologically challenged, I’m going to recommend all six Romance Vagabonds and call it good. You can check Jacqueline Barbour’s April 23rd blog (at left) for the “rules.”


Sara Lindsey said...

Congrats on finishing! TRR is so wonderful - I'm sure it will find a home somewhere soon, and they'll pull Fabio out of retirement for the cover!

Gillian Layne said...

Maggie, TRR is excellent, and so fun to read!

I didn't so much 'wake up' as finally listen to the little voices that have always been there. They simply got louder once I'd established myself in a career that could support my family should my husband decide to run away with the circus one day :)

Good luck w/the class-I liked it!

Beverley Kendall said...

There is an agent out there for you. It just might take awhile to finally find her/him.

You have a wonderful, witty and funny speech there which will go over very well.

And as everyone knows, the key to writing success is never giving up.

Janga said...

Maggie, you always make me laugh, and usually you make me re-think something I had firmly settled in my mind. Your speech is genuine Maggie; that makes it extraordinary.

Lenora Bell said...

Your posts always make me smile, frequently make me laugh, and often give me a renewed sense of purpose for my own writing. This one accomplished all three. I love the image of a bunch of squirrels tap-dancing in your head. My squirrels began dancing a Quadrille, I think, because the first romance I wrote was so damn mannerly that the hero and heroine didn't meet until page fifty--hot stuff. I sat down to write about a year and a half ago because I read an article about Eloisa James and went straight to the library and checked out Potent Pleasures. So it's all Eloisa's fault that my squirrels became ambitious for romance.

But "an amnesiac bluestocking who winds up in a brothel"? I want to read that!! Post an excerpt, oh pretty please...

Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe said...

Sara-Hmm. Fabio. Mullet. Cheesy accent. Margarine as lubricant. I'm there.

Beth/Gillian from FanLit!! So excited you found me. How's everything going? What are you writing? Tell your husband elephants really smell.

Beverley-I sure hope you're right. I'm going to get a little more serious about querying soon and sending some pages.

Janga and Lenora-glad I can make you laugh, and love it that I'm read in the deep south and China. How cool is that? Makes me feel very cosmopolitan up here in the mountains and woods of Maine. But no one will ever be reading about Isabella Marchant and "Lucky" Lucas Anthony any time soon...great names, though, huh? Isabella was immediately shortened to Bel because the whole name took too long to type. I am such a lazy girl. :)

Terri Osburn said...

Maggie - you always make me smile. And often giggle. And spew a time or two as well. *g*

That agent is out there. You are so great and you're already prolific so that geriatric Nora Roberts thing should be a breeze.

I love the names. You know my daughter's name is Isabelle and I call her Is. It's an odd nickname but it's just what comes out. Her dad's family calls her Belle which I kind of like too.

I always loved to write in school but didn't do it for years. Then I found the wonderful EJ bulletin board (now JQ too) and between all the great ladies (and Q) over there and taking part in Fanlit, I somehow got an idea for a book. So I'm toiling away and really enjoying it. You're so right about when something else seems to take over and the book just writes itself. Sometimes I feel like I'm just the typist in this scenario...

Ericka Scott said...

I simply love your posts. . .so you are read regularly in California too!

Good luck with the class.

Hmmmmm. . . I started writing when my ex-husband started cheating. Odd fact, but very true. I needed something to occupy my time while he was "working late"

irisheyes said...

I have absolutely nothing to contribute today, but was so excited I finally got logged in I had to post!!!!

I've been trying to post for the past 2 weeks and finally figured out my error! It's a good thing our national defense doesn't rely on my IT abilities.

Anyway, Maggie, congrats on your success. I still haven't had a wake up call. I'm in the pondering stages and may be content to stay here forever. But it sure is fun watching all of you budding authors make it through all the stages. I bow to all of you who have the courage it takes to persevere in this business.

Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe said...

Terrio, I can't wait to read your chapters. And I totally agree if not for those crazy drabbles and FanLit, I never would be puttering around like I am today. Until then, everything I'd ever written had never been seen by the naked eye...or the clothed eye for that matter. ;)

Ericka, I will bet you a lot of romance writers got started because they were ticked off at men. This way we can make the ideal guy...makebelieve, it's magic.And I'm humming some Maine to California song...

Irisheyes, glad you're back! And as I have a character say in TRR, "Write! I know it sounds obvious, but you just have to sit down and do it...Don't let anyone stop you, especially yourself." So if you're thinking about it, just do it. That way you can be as crazy as the rest of us!

Oh, and I gave my speech last night. There actually was laughter and applause*blush*. It was so interesting to see what my classmates were passionate about. One teacher brought these fabulous hand-painted quilts she does, one talked about his 20+ years of coaching football (he's the only guy in the class, poor thing), one talked about greyhound rescue; it was an eclectic bunch!

Tiffany Clare said...

Don't set a time limit are meant to be just have not found your agent yet! I know it! All the vagabonds know it! We can all attest to your brilliance.

Why did I start writing? who knows...I needed a change in life most likely. But before I wrote my my stories I would just do descriptive passages, it was sort of an escapism...usually when the hubby pissed me off...Cause it would piss him off that I was scribbling away at something. Something he thought probably had to do all about him...I really should tell him to stop with the swelling head syndrome...But I did enjoy the childishness is pissing him I write because I want to, I want to be published, i want writing to be my career choice, something I love and will continue to love...

Tessa Dare said...


You have such a gift with words, and this post just proves it again. If you can't get published, I have no faith in this industry, or in the general justice of the world.

Thanks for sharing your speech with us!

Hellie Sinclair said...

Hmm, I'm not sure about Wake Up calls. I remember being in 5th grade, doing our journals and realizing being a writer was a "job" and thinking, "that'd be a cool job."

And I wrote love stories in high school--most unfinished (imagine) though I do remember one I wrote, a fairy tale with a Prince Caspian--and a kidnapping with a rescue scene. Lots of kissing, but sex scenes that ended at a kiss and then the next chapter was the next morning--and everyone smoking cigarettes. (Well, not cigarettes...Scarlett O'Hara smiles, more like.)

Wrote through college. Wrote after college, but it was probably Sept 11, 2001 that was the literal wake up call. And I hooked up with a writing group--and finished a manuscript the next spring. It sucked obviously, but it was finished.

Congrats, Maggie--I love TRR! It'll be so awesome when it's published!

RevMelinda said...

Hi Maggie,
You're read in France, too, because that's where I am right now!
Mullets and margarine--makes me think of Michael Douglas in Romancing the Stone which I watched in its entirety last night dubbed into French--the only word I understood with any certainty was "Merde!"
I only write sermon--which,come to think of it, offer more opportunity than you would think for sex and violence. Your speech is fabulous!
A bientot--

Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe said...

Tiff, you've proved my point that annoying men are necessary for our creativity!

Tessa-From your lips to God's (or some agent's--I'll compromise)ears!

Hellion-I bet your mss is not sucky, either. And it's finished. This is a good thing. You know you can do it.

Melinda-Je suis thrilled you're reading me on your vacation! I hope you're having a tres bon temps! That pretty much exhausts my high school French. :)

Erica Ridley said...

I regret to inform you that my first effort featured an amnesiac bluestocking who winds up in a brothel.

Bwa! This killed me. Mostly because it's something I would read. =)

Unknown said...

22well, the biggest thing that got me writing was about a year ago, I did a search online for my first crush. That resulted in me finding out he had died previously in a freak accident. I told you about that a while ago. That 'what-if' was suddenly gone. It totally shocked me and made me realize how short life is. That, coupled with my fellow RV's and the Eloisa James/Julia Quinn Bulletin Board... and Avon Fanlit... (yes, I'll admit to it) All of this combined made me jump seriously into writing. BUT. I've been writing short stories, even romance, since I was in high school. I just did it for my own recreation, writing out dreams I had and fantasies I would have about guys I had crushes on. *g* LOL

lacey kaye said...

I was one of those people who think you can write! Still do. And love this speech-- you made me laugh. Good luck!

Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe said...

Lacey--I always think of you when I hear "Diamond Girl."

Aza--Thanks so much for visiting. No matter the sad circumstances---I'm glad you're hearing your own call too.

And Ericka--There's a brothel in my latest thing. And a bluestocking. She just doesn't have amnesia. I'm going straight to Writer Hell.

Jackie Barbosa said...

As one writer in search of an agent to another, I feel your pain. But like everyone else, I'm sure there's a home for your work somewhere. I'd like to think there's a home for all of us somewhere.

As for the wake-up just happened. I wrote a lot in elementary school through college, but lost the spark sometime between grad school and having kids. But last year, the voices came back and, whammo, I had to write. It wasn't a choice; it was a compulsion. Still is.