Considering the theme for this month, I thought of this story immediately. At first, I was afraid to tell it for fear of sounding negative toward a certain person, but I decided the life lesson was too important to ignore. So some of the details are missing, deliberately.
None of us are born experts, and we all have to start somewhere. Like everyone else, I started writing fiction before I knew what I was doing, and got advice and help from more experienced writers and others along the way. But that doesn’t mean that everyone had valuable advice for me—I had to sort out what was true for me. Here’s the most obvious example.
I signed up for a manuscript review at a writing conference. A successful agent met with me to discuss the first chapter of my first novel, a sweet YA romance set in the 1940s. The agent knew her stuff, and had several authors placed with big publishers. But she didn’t know me or my writing goals—that became apparent during our meeting.
She began by pointing out the things I did well and the places where I needed to revise or make changes. (I am still grateful to her for that.) Then she said, “You’re a high school English teacher. You know about literary fiction. Why are you writing romance?”
I could only manage an incoherent stutter for an answer.
She went on. “You should put this aside and write something important, something gritty and edgy.”
I stumbled through a thank you and shook her hand. Then I went upstairs to my hotel room to take in what happened.
At first, I had to giggle. The agent wanted me to take a complete 180 in my writing, either from snobbery, or from not understanding who she was talking to. I don’t have a gritty or edgy bone in my body.
But as I thought more about it, I became angry. How dare she tell me what to write?! How dare she suggest that there was something wrong with a sweet romance?!
By the end of the conference, I vowed to write the best dang romance she’d ever see. And I came up with the plot for Fools Gold, my first published novel, on the trip home.
Life Lesson: Listen to the experts, but only take the advice that works for you. Disregard everything else, or use it as motivation to do what you want to do. As Polonius says in Hamlet, “To thine own self be true.”
Lynn Lovegreen grew up in Alaska, and still lives there. She taught for twenty years before retiring to make more time for writing. She enjoys her friends and family, reading, and volunteering at her local library. Her young adult/new adult historical romances are set in the Alaska Gold Rush, a great time for drama, romance, and independent characters. See her website at www.lynnlovegreen.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.