In my early 20s, I’d given up my degree in order to work, so hubby could finish his degree. The two of us spent the next six years paying off our mortgage, renovating our house and saving for the day we’d have kids. We both agreed that we wanted me to stay at home and not work while the children were little, and in this economic climate, that takes some sacrifice.
We’ve done everything we said we would, and I am enormously proud of the both of us. But there was something looming I had not considered: re-entering the workforce.
I had been stewing over it for months. In February 2015, my youngest child will start full-time school, and we had agreed that I would attempt to secure part-time work at that time. Just a few days a week. Nothing huge. But my problem was, what did I wish to do?
Back in January 2013, I had spent months of soul searching. At that stage I had two years to plan, and I was weighing up the options of returning to university. I could perhaps complete a couple of units over the two years to get a head start. Is that what I wanted to do? I could finish my Physics/Chemistry double degree and then do a year of Education, and become a high school science teacher. Or I could try something completely different. Psychology interested me, as did Nursing. But it would mean I would spend at least four more years not working, and end up with a debt of at least $60K for fees. I needed to go back to work for money, not put us deeper in debt.
My other option was I could just re-enter the workforce doing what I had been doing previously. I had experience in retail, and had also worked in administration and finance roles. The pay wouldn’t be fantastic, but I didn’t care about that. But did I want to do that until retirement age?
Not that I’d ever written anything in my life, apart from a couple of plays for the kids to perform at church. But the idea wouldn’t go away. I had a look at how much authors earned and was not cheered. But the damn idea would not go away!
I was at home, so I had occasional free time, I could do it. It would take me some practice (if I had any sort of talent), but I’d never know until I tried. I didn’t have to earn big bucks, just some. I didn’t have to be famous. I didn’t need anything more than a computer to start me off. So I decided to try. I gave myself 24 months to learn how to write a story, and get something that was decent enough for a publisher. I gave myself until January 2015.
I wanted to dive directly into m/m romance, but I was nervous – what did I really know about it? I am female, and straight at that. So instead I wrote a cute little story I called Windmills Of My Mind. It's m/f, and it's a sweet and humorous little tale of a girl who falls in love with the boy next door, the one she’d always considered a brother.
My BFF loved it, and demanded another, this time starring the next brother. I hesitated, but could see the value of a series. I would write #2 and then submit both to a publisher, along with outlines for #’s 3-5. So I stowed it and left it until I had written #2.
Unfortunately, the next book to come gushing forth was Loving Jay. Then The Blinding Light. I was on an m/m roll, and was completely shocked when they were both contracted by Dreamspinner. I was ecstatic and concentrated on more m/m, deliberately ignoring Windmills and its sequel.
I was expecting that, so it didn’t come as a big shock. I’d felt it too. It was my first book, and I wasn’t writing about sex, more about story. There is sex in the story, it just doesn’t happen immediately. It’s my first reject letter, but I’m not upset. I’m more perplexed as to what to do with this manuscript now.
It seems that sex sells.
Yes – that is a huge newsflash for everyone, I’m sure. But it does beg the question, is there an audience for books without sex?
I admit that I like sex in the books I read – not sex for sex’s sake, but it’s just that, in this day and age, a relationship without sex is odd. I like a couple of full-on sex-in-your-face novels, the same as the rest of us, but there doesn’t have to be sixty-page descriptions of every single position the MCs tried in order to keep my attention.
When you have a look at many of the websites (publishers and eBook sellers), it becomes apparent immediately that the sex in the books drives the sales. Many of the websites not only give the books a star rating, but also a heat rating to show the spice. eBooks are great for readers who like spice, but don’t want to purchase them from the local Target store while everyone watches. So if you have a non-spicy novel, what are your options? The answer? Very few. The bigger publishers do these books, but competition is fierce and cut-throat. Only the best of the best get a look in. In Australia, the pond is smaller again.
So I have a choice – I can cut the sex that is there and try for more mainstream publishers who prefer their manuscripts pretty and clean, or I can throw in more sex and re-submit to this publisher.
Choices, choices, choices.
It does seem to me that it’s a little like prostitution in a laughable way – give them sex and I get the job. But at the end of the day, it’s the readers who provide payment, so we have to give them what they want. So yes, you need to put out to get paid.
So what will I do? I’ll pack up Windmills into a box (or a folder in my computer) and leave it for another year. Perhaps one day I will try again. It’s a cute little story. I like it. I’ll re-read it. And I’ll always remember it was my first. My first novel written, my first novel rejected, my first novel I had no idea what to do with.
Everyone has a first they can’t forget.