I’ve been published since 2013. As of today, including the 6 books contracted for publication in 2018, all the previously published books I’ve since got my rights back to (publishers closing, end of contracts, publishers changing their strategy), and my self published title, I have written and published 15 novels. Although some divided opinions I’ve received some lovely reviews from readers and review sites, which is heart-warming. I am very grateful for the publishers who’ve published my stories. Very. I also have a non-fiction title in the works which I’m self-publishing and which I received wonderful reviews from my author friends when they read the ARC - Marketing the Romance, I’m reliably informed by my publisher (Himself) will be out in May/June 2018. I have another 7 completed novels on my hard drive which I’m self-editing, sending to beta readers and submitting to publishers during 2018 – 2019. I’ve ghostwritten a client’s autobiography which currently has an average of 5* on Amazon and which, although people can be very sniffy about ghostwriting, I would do again. In a heartbeat. It made me the most money I’ve ever made from writing anything. In fact, that one ghostwritten book made me more money than all my other royalties added together. For all of this, I am very grateful. I’m grateful for the friends I’ve made through writing, the events I’ve been to, the fun I’ve had.
So, why am I here? Why am I writing this post?
Recently I’ve been writing some male / female romances because I’d like to join a more mainstream genre of romance from gay romance where I am currently published. In 2016 I wrote a first three chapters of what is normally described as women’s popular fiction and received feedback that as I was writing from the female point of view it wasn’t working, that my writing was all telling and no showing, that it didn’t have much emotional depth, that I was trying to be in the head of the type of person I am not, so probably I should read some gay literature instead. That story never got beyond chapter 3. It probably never will.
In 2017 wrote a male / female category romance set in a hospital, aimed at a large publisher of such novels. I’d been reading many similar novels from this ‘line’ and really enjoyed them. That was rejected and so I changed Rosie to Davie and it’s now contracted as a gay romance set in a hospital. To be honest, I did more than just do a ‘find and replace’ for the female character name to another male one. Reading through the manuscript it occurred to me that the heroine – as my beta readers who are published in this genre had pointed out to me – was a bit...weak...wobbly...quivering...indecisive. Which I find odd, since all the women I’m friends with are anything but these qualities. And when I edited the story, turning Rosie into Davie I found myself saying I’d never have a man say that, or behave like that so I changed a lot of things here and there. And, well, it’s now contracted to be published later in 2018.
In 2017 then wrote another male / female category romance, which has probably been the hardest thing I’ve ever written. Not only that but I think it’s needed the most editing and still it has serious issues. Character, conflict, plot, everything. It. Is. A. Mess. I’m working with an editor to improve it at the moment and will submit it to the large publisher of such novels I’m aiming for. I’m determined to see this project through to completion. If it’s rejected I don’t know what I’ll do with it, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I think I may print it out and bury it in a time capsule in the bottom of the garden with a picture of me doing so, posted on Twitter – could I be any more meta?
The characters in this male / female category romance just didn’t ‘come to me’ they weren’t ‘speaking to me’. It all felt a bit forced while I was writing it. But write it I did. Right to the end. This in in stark contrast to last month, when I wrote a sort of gay contemporary saga with an exclusively gay male cast – Kieran and His Friends. The characters spoke to me, the story just flowed, it all came to me, and it all just felt right.
In 2017 I wrote a sort of clash of worlds comedy / romance, similar in concept to the films, Pride, or Kinky Boots. I don’t want to give away the whole plot, but it’s about a local women’s group and a gay man, focussing on overcoming prejudice, lots of humour, and people becoming friends with those they wouldn’t normally have passed the time of day with. I’ve submitted it to a number of different sources, all saying it’s well-written, enjoyable, but they wouldn’t know where to place it. The undertone of which seems to be it’s too gay to be mainstream. (Because, rest assured, it is pretty gay, gay main character, gay sub characters, among the straight female other main characters. But no apologies, it’s pretty gay.) In short my gay stories seem to be too gay for a mainstream romance audience (to be contracted).
Coming back to my gay stories now: because I don’t write gay cowboys, firemen, bodyguards, cops; I don’t write BDSM; I don’t write stories with lots of on-page sex – I do write on page male male sex but I like to focus more on the what the characters are feeling; I don’t write alpha, omega, male pregnancy, shapeshifters; my stories don’t fit what a lot of male male romance readers enjoy reading. In short, my gay stories don’t seem to be gay enough for that audience (to be popular). No judgement about any of these other types of male male romance – if that’s what you read and write – it’s just that I don’t / can’t write them.
So in summary, my gay writing isn’t gay enough to be popular with a male male romance audience. And my gay writing is too gay to be contracted and published by a mainstream publisher. And my male / female writing has so many issues because the characters don’t speak to me and the story just doesn't flow...I. Just. Can’t. Even.
Which feels like it sort of leaves me nowhere. (Not nowhere completely, see second paragraph, for which I’m grateful). But it does leave me a bit lost in terms of wanting to become more popular in either the male / male romance genre, or reaching into a more mainstream genre of male/ female romance.
So, my questions are:
- How can I fix this? And should I try to?
- What should I write next?
- How do people feel about me making my gay stories more gay or less gay?
- What should I do about my male / female stories?