Stumbling into Romance by Guest Blogger Betsy Horvath

Hold MeThe book that eventually became my debut romantic suspense novel, Hold Me, went through a few major revisions on its road to publication. In its first incarnation I only gave a passing nod to the romance part. The characters were developed, but they never established a…personal contact with each other. I had a vague notion of a grand, sweeping story arc, heartbreaking in its intensity, requiring several books (maybe 6) to do it justice. I sent it out to publishers and agents and waited.

It was rejected.

After a while, I rewrote the book. This time the romance was a little more defined. You could tell the hero and heroine would end up together, but the end was kind of like the end of the movie “Heaven Can Wait” where Warren Beatty says, “How about we go get a cup of coffee or something?” In fact, I think I used that very line. I sent it out to publishers and agents and waited.

It was rejected.

My writing had improved, thank God, so that time I got a fair number of personalized rejections. Everybody—and I do mean everybody—said they liked the basic characters, but not what they did. I thought, “Hmmm…I wonder if they’re trying to tell me something?”

I’m quick like that.

I read my book again and I saw what they saw. I wasn’t being honest. I had created honest characters, but I hadn’t let them be honest in their situation. I was writing a romance novel, but I still hadn’t admitted to myself that it was a romance novel.

It wasn’t because I don’t like romance novels—I do. I love them. They’re basically all I read. They’re pretty much all I own. I am a romance junkie. It’s really not surprising that any book I wrote would be a romance.

No, I hadn’t wanted to acknowledge the romance in my book because I was afraid. And I was afraid because romance—in novels and in real life—is a very intimate thing. Not just the sex scenes, but the whole emotional dance between characters. Romance demands honesty, and I was afraid of putting myself out there. I was afraid of being vulnerable.

But I loved my book. So I rewrote it again. And this time around, I just let the story flow, baby. I focused on telling the truth to the best of my ability. I let the characters dance. And I finally let the romance out.

It wasn’t perfect. It still had some structural problems. But this time, after a few changes, my book was accepted for publication by Carina Press.

The moral? You need to be honest. Don’t be afraid to do what you know to be the truth. If you’re a writer, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. And for heaven’s sake, don’t try to stop the true story from coming out.

What about you? Have you ever been afraid to tell the truth? Have you ever almost given up on something important simply because you didn’t want to change it? I can’t be alone here! 😀

*****

Betsy Horvath was raised on MGM musicals, old-skool Harlequins, and Nancy Drew, so it should not have come as a shock that one day she’d be writing romance. The biggest surprise was that it took her so long to actually buckle down and do it. Hold Me, her debut romantic suspense novel, is available from Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books On Board, and anywhere fine ebooks are sold.

You can usually find Betsy at her website: www.betsyhorvath.com, on Twitter or hanging around Facebook.

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16 Responses

  1. Everyone, Betsy will be here after her day job to respond to comments!

    Betsy, I’ve probably done the same thing with my writing, held back because I was afraid what I wanted to do didn’t work.

    I KNOW fear holds me back from a lot of things IRL, mainly social fear. Thank god for my friends who don’t have it. I’d miss out on some fantastic experiences if they didn’t make me join in. 🙂

    • Hi, Natalie! I’m jumping on before I head out to my muggle day job to say THANK YOU for letting me be a guest blogger today!

      I know what you mean about social fear. I can’t even tell you how terrified I was to go to the RWA conference in NYC this year, but if I hadn’t gone I would have missed out on so much. It’s easier to be stuck in your routine – but it’s not nearly as fulfilling. LOL 😀

  2. I think it is hard to be completely honest in our writing because we have that censor in the back of our mind that impersonates a reader and keeps us aware of an eventual audience. I think you hit on something pretty important in that you have to let go and let the story tell itself.

    This is something I’m pretty big on. I can fix a lot of things about my story, but the story is the story. Can’t change the way it unfolds itself without taking the heart out of the story. And stories can’t function without a heart.

    I try really hard to let my story unfold, not worrying about plot points, turning points and all that other crap you find in writing books. Is that stuff important? Sure. But there is no definitive recipe for a good story. Just get honest, tell the story, and then worry about layering, fixing charaterization, etc during rewrites.

    Thanks for visiting!

    • Hi, LIz! I said to myself, “well, if it sucks nobody except me ever has to read it” LOL And when it was finished, I knew I was finally heading in the right direction – and I’d learned a valuable lesson. The story is the story. The characters are the characters. All you do, as Stephen King says, is uncover the fossil and try to tell the truth. 😀

  3. Well said, Betsy. I felt your pain with those first two rounds of rejections. I also understood your need for a series of six novels!! 🙂

    I am currently reading HOLD ME, and whatever magic you weaved on the last revamp worked wonders! I love it.

    • Hi, Maureen!! I’m glad you’re liking the book. 😀 My last hurdle was letting my mother read it because there’s smexy sex sex and cussing in it. But she really liked it. While she was reading it, I asked her if she’d gotten to the first sex scene yet. She said “No. But I’m looking forward to it.” Okay, TMI Mom! LOL

  4. Hi Betsy. Great post. I wanted to kill off a much-loved secondary character once and I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I finally convinced myself it needed to happen and worked on the scene for three days. It destroyed me. I literally needed to rest after writing it because I was so emotionally drained. When I finally came out of my emotional stupor, I knew I had to keep that scene!

    Congrats on the release of Hold Me.

    • HI, Adrienne! Thank you! When Rhonda at Carina Press got my submission, she asked me to do a revise and return and pull out a secondary character I’d really worked on. I cried. Then I did it. LOL

  5. Hi Betsy!! Welcome to ENLR!! Glad to have you here! Congrats on the debut book!

    On the subject of giving up…My first book was initially titled The Sand Castle Trilogy: Hot Sand. That book won first place in a contest in erotic category, but I don’t really write hot enough for erotica. So I rewrote that book to Sand Stalker. It didn’t take a lot of changes. That book never won a contest but finished 2,3 and 5th in contests. I still love that book but it’s under my bed while I work on my Montgomery Mavericks series (coming from Samhain) BUT I cannot give up on my Sand Castle series and I’ll be going back someday.

    • Hi Cynthia! Thank you! I know what you mean about not being willing to give it up. I can’t tell you the number of times I put this book down and said “Enough! I just don’t want to work on it anymore.” But then I would look at it and know that I was just afraid to take it where it needed to go. I’m glad I kept at it. LOL

  6. I think one of the reasons I didn’t start writing until my thirties was because I wasn’t comfortable writing “romantic.” Even though the stories in my head always had a strong romantic subplot. But I’d been conditioned for so long to relegate any kind of romantic elements into a kind of genre ghetto, that it was hard to just write what I wanted to write.

    I still struggle some even now, largely because I think I’m a romance writer, but I like to write (and read) stories where the romance and other plot elements are balanced. (I confess, I’m not that crazy about stories that focus on The Relationship and where the rest of the story is really just a backdrop.)

    But all in all, I’ve been a lot happier with my writing since I just let the “lurve” out.

    • I know what you mean – back in my misspent youth I think I saw myself as writing sweeping tales of majesty, but I didn’t think I could do that in a romance, much as I loved reading the books. I know better now. Romance entertains, but it can also say important things because it’s about two people who are at their most vulnerable. Not only are we, the authors, allowed to be completely honest, we kind of have to be. I love that about the romance genre. 🙂 Oh, don’t you get me started. LOL

  7. Being sort of in the middle of the beginning (which translates to “I’ve written several extremely flawed novels” but am now writing one that has my heart), I am having all the what genre is this problems — is it straight historical romance or is it women’s fiction with strong romantic elements, and I fear it falls somewhere between the two, but the story is a story I believe in, and I shall send it out on its tentative way and see!

    Can’t tell all of you who know what you’re writing how much I admire (and envy) you!

    • Hi Beppie! Yeah, sometimes it;s tough to pigeonhole what you’ve written, isn’t it? I guess it’s all where the emphasis of the story lies. My story wanted to be about the two of them finding their way to each other – ergo romance. I think I was trying to force the first version into some kind of women’s fiction, but since that wasn’t the real story, it was just ugly. LOL 😀

  8. So glad you joined us today! Congratulations on your new book! 🙂 And no you are not alone. LOL

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