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The impossible choice

Today’s MFRW 52 week challenge asks us to pick between reading, writing, and living.

Reading allows you to immerse yourself in a world. The “real” world falls away and you are sucked into a brand new world. If the book is written in the first person, all you read is I, I, I and it’s impossible not to feel like it’s about you. But even in the third person, you feel like the spy, sneaking into other people’s lives. Seeing their thoughts, knowing their dreams, and in the case of the romance reader–seeing the couple come together despite challenges and obstacles.

Writing allows you to play God. You decide what each character is like, you give them dreams and obstacles, and you create the world in which they live. Sometimes characters hijack your plans, but that doesn’t make it less fun. In fact, some of the most interesting content is generated when characters take over. It can be emotionally taxing though because, even more than when you read, you feel what the characters are feeling. Delilah broke down sobbing when she wrote the fight between Meg and RJ in Capturing the Moment.

And then there is real life. Let’s be real for a moment–real life can be fucking hard. Sometimes it’s awful. Sometimes we just need an escape.

But real life can be just as beautiful as the worlds you escape to. Doing Snapchat at a restaurant to keep a child happy is silly, but it’s a memory. Seeing a movie. Hugging a loved one. There are simple joys like your favorite song on the radio. Real life is hard, but it’s also beautiful as well.

All three share a common thing–they introduce you to new things. Why choose?

Living in Waldenbooks

Today’s prompt from #MFRW is Childhood Memories.

There used to be a chain of bookstores in the US called Waldenbooks. A very young Delilah practically lived at hers. Every month, like clockwork, there was a new Baby-Sitter’s Club book to buy. Every week there were what, at the time, felt like an endless source of opportunities. This particular Waldenbooks was next to a toy store, but little Delilah never spent her allowance there–or only rarely, for there were books to buy!

When you spend as much time in a small bookstore as young Delilah did, you get to know the staff, and vice versa. It was amazing when they started giving her personalized recommendations based on what she’d previously bought–sort of like how websites like Amazon do now. They were the ones to introduce her to the worlds of Xanth (Piers Anothony) and Valdemar (Mercedes Lackey) in the adult section, even though they’re more YA than anything else.

The other place young Delilah loved above all else was the library. Thousands of books to read–for free! The best gift her mother ever gave her was when she signed the form that let an eleven year old Delilah read books from any section of the library, not just the children’s section. Of course she immediately abused by reading Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews. Other books read too young include Gone With the Wind and Clan of the Cave Bear, among many others.

Obviously the common thread is books. Something about being surrounded by books is like feeling endless possibilities. Each book gives you a peek into a new world, or lets you return to a world you’ve enjoyed in the past. Books didn’t care that she didn’t have a lot of money, or that she only had one parent, or that she struggled to make friends. Books were friends, and better ones than the kids who she just didn’t get. (Young Delilah was a little weird, and didn’t find her community until college.)

Books inspired her imaginative play. Dolls acted out Baby-Sitter’s Club scenes. Delilah adopted a nickname shared by a BSC member and used it for nearly eight years after it became habit. A trailer that she lived in had a small copse of fir trees, and every time she passed through it, she hoped that she’d end up in Narnia (Not today–not getting raptured up because you like lipstick? Fuck that noise.) Even today, Delilah will play around with the worlds that she finds particularly interesting–writing fanfic in her head for the fun of it.

True then, true now–surround Delilah with books, and she’s a happy woman.

Is writing for fun, profit, or other?

Welcome to week 1 of 52 prompts from Marketing for Romance Writers.

This week’s question is Writing–Doing it for fun, profit, or other?

I’ve been telling stories as long as I can remember, so I’ve never been motivated by money. The problem with the word “fun” implies frivolity, and writing isn’t a frivolous act for me. I suppose that means I fall into the “other” category. Or at least I used to.

Turning professional has really exposed how much of writing is marketing, and how hard it can be to find an audience and to profit from your writing. Unless you’re Nora Roberts or Beverly Jenkins you can’t expect the money to come pouring in. So, sure, you can say you’re writing for the money, but I don’t know how long you’ll last if that is your motivating factor.

Is writing fun? Yes, although I hate editing. But when I get sucked into the worlds I’m creating and am in the story with my characters, I’m having a ton of fun (well, except when they make me cry, but even that is fun in its own way). I would argue that I wrote primarily for fun when I used to write drafts of stories, not really bother with editing, and then threw them up on websites like literotica. The comments stroked my ego, as did the numbers that told me how many people had read it.

The thing is that while writing is fun, there’s so much more involved with professionally doing it. You hold yourself to a much higher standard, you have beta readers, you go through drafts (don’t even get me started on how many drafts fucking Plunder has been through), and then you either submit to a company (who will expect you to market your own books) or you self-publish (which carries a lot of issues like formatting, making a cover, etc). It is time consuming and often draining. Marketing is where I struggle and, if anything, makes writing less fun for me.

So why bother? If editing is a hassle and marketing can be soul-sucking why do it for anything other than fun? I want to share my stories with the world, and I hope that I will eventually find my audience. I’m still a newborn when it comes to everything that isn’t writing.

I also don’t know how not to write. The stories grow inside me until I have no choice but to write them down. For me, writing is like reading–a compulsion, something as vital as breathing for me. I don’t know how not to do it. While I have taken breaks in writing, I’m still telling stories–to myself, to my kids, to the cats, whatever.

Why do you write?