Novel #5: ~5k / 50k? words
I know what you're thinking, which is the same thing I was thinking, which was "Why the hell am I starting ANOTHER novel when I already have 2 WIPs?????"
And to make things worse...it's another queer romance. After I swore off writing queer romances, for the time being, to further my career.
But this is actually a huge topic, so let me back up and explain.
My first two completed novels (one published, one currently seeking publication) were queer romances. I wrote them after I had fallen hard and fast for queer romance, first through fanfiction, then through original fiction when I left the Captain America fandom.
Even though I deliberately left Novel #2 open for a sequel, I consciously made a choice to stop writing queer romance, due to a number of reasons combined:
- I don't want to--and can't--make a career solely off indie publishing queer romance.
I don't write fast enough for self/indie publishing to ever be significantly profitable for me, plus I'm terrible at self-promotion. Yeah, some queer books are being published by big traditional publishers now--but not enough for me to be confident in continuing to query queer romances after my first unsuccessful try.
It might sound callous that I made this choice as a business decision. But the truth is, I don't have a day job I love enough to soothe the sting if writing isn't a viable career for me.
- The (indie) queer writing community isn't very friendly to authors of color.
I wouldn't say it's openly hostile, but lack of hostility/overt racism does not equal welcoming. The indie queer writing community is incredibly white-author-dominated, which makes it very hard to bring up issues relating to race. And because it's so white-dominated, many white queer authors feel entitled to write about queer characters of color (rarely ever well) and there aren't enough voices who can speak out against the poor portrayals or appropriation. So I wanted to leave the community.
Okay, you might be thinking, but how come you're still writing another queer romance anyway??
The answer is long and complicated and ends in, "Basically,I don't know."
I often don't control what ideas catch me by the throat and don't let me go until I've written them. Yes, I have felt awkward writing M/M romances as someone who doesn't identify as a (binary) man and couldn't be openly nonbinary even if I'd come to the conclusion that that was my gender identity, but who is attracted to men (though as an asexual and demi/grayromantic person).
And yet. For years, I've felt more comfortable writing male protagonists than female protagonists. I can fill my stories with strong female characters as side characters...but I have a hard time spending a long time in their heads. I tend to gravitate toward writing angsty, conflicted, traumatized characters, and I can only ever write those characters as male. I can't write them as female.
So, naturally, when I write romances involving mentally ill and/or traumatized, angsty characters, they end up being M/M, because I can't make them M/F.
The logical explanation in my head is that I'm too cautious about avoiding problematic gender roles/stereotypes. If a woman is the traumatized one, she is the "weak" one in the relationship who needs a man to take care of her. If a man is the traumatized one, the woman has to shoulder all the emotional labor in order to put him back together.
"But it doesn't have to be this way? Plenty of authors have written these kinds of romances without them being problematic?" you might be thinking. And yes, I know. But for whatever reason, I still can't do it.
I have a hard time writing female characters as being emotional in general. I used to write M/F romances (back when they were all I knew), and they were terrible. But making the leap to M/M has made me far more comfortable with exploring emotion and intimacy.
All of this is stuff I think about and reflect on frequently. Even if I identified as nonbinary, as someone who will never "pass" for male, I don't have the lived experiences that I write about, and I think a lot about why I feel drawn to writing these stories and whether I even should. I believe I have that responsibility, at the very least.
But, like I said, somehow I can't stop. I resolved not to write any more M/M romances and yet I'm still doing it.
So, as I said, the answer boils down to: "Basically, I don't know."