Thursday, March 31, 2011

Six Benefits of Agent Representation

by Cat Woods

I started my query journey differently than most of the Write Angle Crew. Before I focused on juvenile literature, I wrote for adults. I mostly penned and published short stories, poetry, essays and articles. I even had a monthly column in a fourteen county newsletter. For those projects, I submitted directly to editors.

When I began my juvenile lit journey, I continued this pattern and submitted my book manuscripts directly to editors. I’d heard that securing an agent was more difficult than securing a publishing deal. I also wanted to remain in control. Not to mention, a super-teeny part of me wanted closed publishing houses to lament their lost shot at my writing. Not my shining moment, I admit, but honesty isn’t often pretty.

At one point, I stumbled across AgentQuery Connect where several astute writers convinced me to check out the agent route. I did, liked what I saw and gained a whole new respect for agents, editors and even those stubbornly closed publishing houses.

So, what are the benefits of securing an agent versus subbing solo?

In my experience:
  1. My agent is contract savvy. I’m not, and don’t pretend to be. Not unless we’re talking potty training or preschool curriculum.
  2. He has inside contacts. I don’t. The closest publishing “in” I have is sitting two pews away from the owner of the local newspaper.
  3. He’s industry savvy. What I know about the writing biz would fill one paragraph of a twenty-seven-chapter novel. In this rapidly changing climate, I can’t possibly advocate for my best interests.
  4. I’m still shocked by this, but my agent loves my writing. Okay, that makes two of us, but his support and enthusiasm are amazing and inspiring on many levels.
  5. He was an editor. Me? Not so much. While I’ve got a pretty good grasp of the mechanics, I love having my manuscripts perused with a keen eye toward plot, character and story arc. I’m a better writer for my agent’s suggestions and carefully posed questions.
  6. He has time to shop my writing. With my busy personal and professional life, I have precious few moments to devote to my craft. Having an agent frees up my time and allows me to be a writer.

In your experience, what are the pros and cons to securing an agent? What can an agent do for you that you can’t accomplish on your own?

The Fears of a Conference Virgin

by Brenda Carre

Are you a conference virgin on the brink of your first experience or are you a seasoned veteran with experiences behind you that you'd like to share? Either way I'd love to hear your views.

Here are mine.

I was certain my very first conference was going to be a disaster. I sat in my room for a half an hour trembling like a Hairless Mole-rat afraid to emerge and register for fear I’d screw up and do something idiotish. After all, I was about to meet authors who had written some of my most-loved books. I feared I’d be the brunt of hilarity for years after. Looking back on that day I laugh at my own ego. I had an agenda that day. I wanted to be memorable, but I had no way to go about it. Once I calmed down and told myself to take that first step and let the rest take care of itself, I was fine. One of my best memories of that conference is of sitting in the bar with a brilliant woman author and her husband discussing her research into the history of the Templars. This was a golden experience I could never have predicted happening, and would never have happened anywhere else but at a conference.

Fast-forward several years. I was in the registration line-up and I heard a voice behind me. A quavering voice saying. “But I don’t know anybody here.” I remembered how I had felt five years earlier and I went over to her and introduced myself. It was the beginning of a wonderful friendship that has since lasted ten years with an author who is both a brilliant writer and a brilliant reader. I have learned and shared so much with her I will always be grateful for that moment in the lineup at a conference.

Conferences, especially the ones where you have an opportunity to meet and mingle with the pros are golden opportunities to grow as a writer, to develop friendships, find mentors and make industry contacts. But far more than this, they are a journey to the fire with the tribe. From that very first conference I attended to the ones I still attend, do readings and panels at and also work at as a volunteer, I have learned that we are a tribe of human beings with a very special gift. The gift of communication and empathy. Use it. Be open to it and you will not fail.

Platform vs. Credentials: Not a Minor Point

by Matt Sinclair

While reading through agent blogs recently, I came upon a wonderful distinction that sums up quite well one of the challenges that frustrates writers of nonfiction: Platform vs. Credentials.

What's the difference? Well, let's put it this way. Say you're the president of a small company that produces widgets. You started in the field as an unpaid intern in widget making, got a full-time job after graduating from Widget Tech (Go Wingnuts!), and worked your way up the ranks to be chief widget operator and finally president. You're a big wig in your little widget world. Congrats. You have credentials.

But do you have a platform? Not necessarily.

You see, the thing is, you're running a small regional operation that until recently was struggling to make payroll, remains virtually unknown outside of the widget world, and makes decent widgets but is not recognized as an innovator. To make matters worse, you cancelled your subscription to Widget World Times ten years ago. I mean, who does that?

You don't have a sturdy platform. As far as the widget world is concerned, you're a dinosaur. In fact, if it weren't for your son, you might be facing difficult decisions about the future of your little company.

Your son, who you hired a year ago after he earned his masters in widget management and who followed at your heels since he was a kid, not only gets a subscription to Widget World Times, he's been published dozens of times in its competitor publications and has a column in the Widget Gazette. In addition, his blog,, is quickly becoming a must-read for the widget cognoscenti. Not only does he boast of his hundreds of blog followers, his frequent Twitter posts get retweeted regularly by the 4200+ followers he has there. And comments? Jeez, he pays your teenage son $10 a week (and supplies him with a six-pack of beer on occasion—but you didn't hear that from me) to moderate the comments on Widgetwatcher. Not only that, but they both comment on other widget-related sites and blogs. Heck, your son's Twitter ID "Widgetwonder" is known throughout the industry.

Your son is developing a platform. If he can help you grow that company, then his platform becomes even stronger. Because he doesn't quite have the credentials yet. Maybe you and he could write a book together.

Does that help? Do you have credentials but no platform? What have you done to develop either? Please share.

Erotica Writer's Manifesto

by J. Lea Lopez

I write erotica. I don't mean "I occasionally write an erotic story," I really mean I. Write. Erotica.

It's where I plan to focus much of my writing time and energy. It's where the stories in my head naturally lead. It's the type of writing I'm good at, and that I enjoy writing.

You may not think it's a big deal to stand up and announce yourself as an erotica writer, but you'd be surprised at some of the reactions. Sometimes I think people want to ask me why I write erotica (as if the answer would be anything different than one they'd get from someone who writes SF/F). Sometimes I get the feeling they want to ask how I got into something like that, as though I've just admitted to a shoplifting addiction or secret life as a porn star or something else considered equally deviant. I'm sure when I tell some people I write erotica it conjures images of all the really bad sex writing out there, which is NOT what I write. It elicits giggles and blushes as much as blank stares and brows furrowed in confusion.

I want to let you in on a little secret. Lean a little closer so I can whisper it... A little closer...


Sshhh! Don't go spreading that around now, y'hear?

Seriously, though. People have sex. It's been known to happen. A lot of what's communicated—or not communicated—during sex is emotionally loaded, rich with meaning. People relate to each other through sex. People create and resolve issues with sex. They learn about themselves and each other. And aside from all that, sex is just plain sexy and fun, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with reading or writing about it!

So I'm putting it out there for any reader, agent, publisher, editor, etc. who might want to take notice: I write erotica, and if I may say so, I'm pretty decent at it.

I'm an erotica writer, and here is my manifesto:

  • I will not use ridiculous euphemisms for body parts or actions unless I intend them to be ridiculous.
  • I will portray realistic bodies and body images without being condescending, patronizing, insulting, sexist, or demeaning.
  • I will write characters who are realistic and easy to relate to. I will write characters you care about, who will stick with you after their stories have ended.
  • I will write sex scenes that arouse and excite.
  • I will write sex scenes that are thought-provoking and touching.
  • I will make the sexually explicit scenes relevant to the story. Even in erotica, I believe gratuitous sex is unnecessary and boring.
  • I will not write trash.
  • I will portray realistic sexual actions - including, but not limited to, mutual and solo masturbation, oral sex and all the hang-ups that may come with it, sexual dysfunctions, safer sex practices, birth control, sex aids, and much, much more. Furthermore, I will handle these issues with humor, tenderness, valid medical/scientific research when necessary, honesty, and passion.

What would you include in your personal Genre Manifesto (erotica or otherwise)?

Sometimes, Things Don't Go As Planned

by Darke Conteur

Ah, the life of a writer. Nothing is more rewarding then seeing a creative part of your soul in print, and being able to say, “Why yes, I did write that!” Yet before you can utter those six little words, you must have something published. Not an easy task, but if you work at it, take your writing seriously, an opportunity will present itself, as it did for me along the line of an opening on the Community Editorial Board.

I saw the ad in the newspaper and thought this will be a good way to enhance my writing skills. I began that night and wrote, in longhand, the essay I was sure would win them over. The idea came to mind immediately: an amusing story of a minor event in my life. It was personal and fresh, just what they were looking for. I transferred it to my computer and began the task of scrutinizing every paragraph, every word, until I felt I’d achieved perfection. I sent it off to a beta reader—that person who loves what you write, and is willing to strain their personal or professional relationship with you to help you achieve your goals.

As I glanced over the polished article, a feeling of pride set in at the thought that this could be the start of something wonderful. I hit the ‘SEND’ button on my email, whispered a farewell prayer hoping it reached its destination safely—only to realize I typed the email address wrong and the damn thing bounced back to me!

Email address corrected, I once again sent out my work, safe in the knowledge that nothing could stop me now. Yet, as I re-read the ad in the paper, I was horrified to learn I forgot to include who I was and why I wanted to be on the board!

There is nothing more humbling than looking unprofessional among professionals, and I breathed a sigh of relief when I learned I could send a second email with the omitted information. A feeling of accomplishment washed over me when days later, I opened my email and learned I’d been chosen. It acknowledged what I was secretly hoping—that I could write, and now someone else thought that too. It gave me a burst of confidence that carried me through the embarrassment of forgetting to leave my telephone number on the Editor’s voice mail, when I called with a question about the scheduled meeting.

I knew it could only get better from there.

A Name I Call Myself

by R.S. Mellette

When I was a drama student at North Carolina School of the Arts, I remember saying to my young self with great dedication, "If you can't put 'actor' as your occupation on your tax forms, then you can't call yourself an actor." Almost a decade later I was doing garage-band level theatre here in Los Angeles with some of the most talented people I'd ever seen—and I'd seen a lot. I was also working with the worst, least trained, people who ever trod the boards. Neither the best nor the worst were able to pay their bills from their acting salaries, but I definitely called the good ones actors, and reassessed my youthful definition.

I reasoned that, once a karate student earns a black belt they can forever be called an expert. Sure, they might get out of shape. They might get slow. They may never practice their martial art again, but their training and their knowledge will never go away. The arts are like that.

If you can turn words on a page into a believable living character on the stage or screen, then you can call yourself an actor. If you can turn blank paper into a story that resonates, then you're a writer. A white canvas, a hunk of rock, an empty stage, a string pulled tight over a piece of wood, a drum, a horn, a dance floor, a piece of clay, a camera, words. These are the artist's tools—and if you take the time to master them, then you can call yourself an artist.

Being able to put "artist" on your tax forms is a whole different subject, and one worth pursuing, but if you never reach that goal do not hang your head. Van Gogh never did either. If you happen to earn a Beverly Hills mansion with your talents, you will be wise not to judge your scene partners, or directors, or writers, or the struggling musicians who clean your pool by the size of their paychecks or lack thereof. Bill Withers wrote Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone, Lean On Me, and so many other songs while installing toilets in 747 airplanes.

We work in a business with 100% unemployment 100% of the time. Those lucky enough to land a job have it on a temporary basis. When there is an opening, a million people apply for the single position. When you submit that query, or go to that audition, or show your portfolio—if you are prepared, if you have mastered your craft—then you are not a civilian hoping to be able to put "writer" or "actor" or "visual artist" on your tax forms, you are an Artist, period. Yes, you need a job, but because of the hard work and discipline you've acquired, you are the best person for that job.

So if you are just starting out, great. Everyone is an apprentice at some point. If you have been at it for a while, but are still struggling, then welcome Journeyman. Let us learn together. If you are a seasoned Master Craftsman, then please share what tricks of the trade you're ready to let out of your bag, that we might call you a mentor—and if you are truly a master, you'll know there is much you may learn from beginners.

Thanks for reading.

Agent Research

by Jemi Fraser

You’ve written your draft. You’ve rewritten it ... several times. You’ve edited, revised, tweaked, slashed & burned those adverbs, then polished your story so it gleams. You’ve read Calista’s Ready to Query post & Mindy’s BBC’s Query Tips. Now you’re ready to send out your query to those agents lucky enough to receive it. Right?


Willy-nilly querying doesn’t work. Agents are specialists. They each represent genres they feel passionately about. Do you want someone representing you who feels ‘meh’ about your genre? Do you want to annoy an agent by sending him or her a genre they don’t represent? Heck no!

Agent research is a necessary part of the querying process. Researching is time-consuming, but if you don’t do it, you’re wasting a lot of your time—and a lot of agents’ time as well. I use three sites in particular to help me research agents. There are more out there, but these are three I use the most.

Agent Query. AQ is the first site I stumbled upon when the thought of attempting to publish my work crossed my mind. It’s an awesome site. AQ has a searchable database of current agent information. Once you’ve clicked on the link, you’ll see a couple of pull down menus on the left. You can choose fiction or nonfiction then a whole slew of genres. Choose your genre and you’ll get a list of all the agents who represent it, along with more specifics about them & links to their sites. You can narrow the search by clicking on Full Search and selecting from the new choices. This is really helpful when looking for agents who represent more than one genre.

Query Tracker. QT has another searchable database of agents. A free membership will give you access to the database and will help you track your research. Once you’ve logged in, use the tool bar and hold your mouse over the Agents tab—click on Search Agents. Like AQ, you can narrow your choices by genre and other items. We’ll get into more details about more options at QT in another post!

Both AQ & QT will lead you straight to the agents’ websites and blogs (if they have them). These are invaluable resources—we’ll tackle this topic with more depth later on.

Preditors and Editors. AQ & QT are fabulous for checking the agents they list. If the agent is listed there, you know the person is legit. There are far too many scammers out there. The P&E website is another check. This site shows you if the name (agent, agency, publisher) you search is legit or not. Click on Agents & Attorneys or Book Publishers, then click on the first letter in the name (it’s an alphabetical listing). A $ indicates actual sales listed for the person or company. Warnings are usually written in red.

Obviously, researching agents and deciding which ones to query is a huge topic. Hopefully this will give you a good place to start. In other posts we’ll cover agent bios, websites, Publisher’s Marketplace and more!

Have you used any of these sites? Any others to suggest?

Are You Ready To Query?

by Calista Taylor

After slaving away for months—years even—you’ve finally completed your first novel. You’ve given it to your friends and family to read, and they all LOVE IT! You do a happy dance with visions of a massive advance on a multiple book deal and a movie—make that movies!—starring your favorite actors. Ready to get that contract, you put together that list of agents and get ready to query.

But are you REALLY ready? Maybe. Maybe not. And I won't even comment on the massive advance or the movies.

There are so many things that need to be done before you query, and it’s very easy to either overlook something or not even be aware that you’ve missed a crucial step. Like anything, it’s all a learning process. When I finished my very first manuscript, I didn’t even know what a query was, and was woefully unprepared for the reality of querying agents.

So before you query, here’s a checklist to help make sure you truly are ready.

• Have you edited your COMPLETED manuscript?—Yes, for fiction you need to have a completed manuscript. And by “edited” I don’t just mean doing a read through. Of course, you need to make sure you’ve checked spelling, grammar and tense. But have you edited for info dumps, unnecessary words, words and thoughts that echo. Does your first page grab the reader and keep them turning the page? Have you made sure your first page doesn’t start with a dream sequence? Does your plot capture the reader’s attention? Does your plot make sense? Are there holes in your plot? Has your point of view remained consistent? Does it have voice? Is there too much description? Not enough? Are you showing versus telling?

• Is your word count appropriate for your genre?—This is very important. You don’t want to stray too far outside the norm. Yes, there are books that break the rules, but I’d argue that for every agent willing to overlook word count, there are another ten that won’t. You don’t want word count to be the reason an agent rejects your query.

• Have you had your manuscript critiqued?—Family members and friends do NOT count. It’s like asking your husband if your arse looks fat in the jeans you’ve been gushing about. In addition, most non-writers won’t have the skills needed to figure out what is wrong (please see points in editing your manuscript). For me, finding good critique partners was crucial to my development as a writer. You’ll likely have to don some thick skin, but honesty is critical, and it’s also why your friends and family do not make good beta readers and critique partners. Need a crit partner? Find one HERE.

• Write a query—There are a ton of great sites that address how to write a good query letter. The forums on Agent Query Connect and Query Tracker are great. You may also want to have your query critiqued. However, you should be careful about editing the voice and character out of your query. Too often, over-revisions can lead to a query that’s technically perfect but bland as baby food. You’ll also need to make sure each query is individualized for the agent it’s going out to. No mass mailings!! When you’re ready to query, it’s wise to query in small batches, in case your query isn’t working and needs to be tweaked. You only get to query the agent once per project.

• Write a synopsis—Wait! Make that—“Write multiple synopses.” Some agents will request or require a synopsis of a certain length and that can vary from agent to agent. You’ll want to write a short one and a long one, though you may find you need an extra short one in addition to the other two.

• Edit again!—It’s best if you let your manuscript sit for a few weeks (or even months) between edits. This allows you to look at the manuscript with fresh eyes.

• Research agents— There are some great sites for this—see Jemi's post for more details. I like using Agent Query and Query Tracker. I’d recommend sorting agents into your A-list, B-list, etc. and then when you query, select a few from each group so that you don’t burn through your A-list only to find you have a query that doesn’t work.

• Prepare your manuscript, query, synopsis—Make sure any tracked changes and comments have been removed and your formatting is correct. It’s also a smart move to send yourself a test query to make sure things aren’t getting jumbled in translation.

NOW you’re ready to query. Or should be. There are a few more things you may want to consider. Do you have a dedicated email for querying? Please make sure the email you’re using sounds professional—your name is fine, but a humorous email that may turn off an agent is not. Also make sure you don't have any weird filters on your email, and that your email does indeed work. Do you have a website or blog? Not exactly necessary at this stage, but it might be a consideration in the near future since it’s important to start building a platform.

When you do start querying, make sure you track things—Note the agent, the agency and the date you sent it. Note the query version you sent. Did you send a synopsis? Did you send pages? How many? And then when (if) you hear back, make sure you note that also.

It may seem like a lot, but being prepared will help you get through querying, which is never easy. I wish you the best of luck!

Two Sides to Motivation

by R.C. Lewis

No, this is not a post on how to get yourself to meet your NaNoWriMo word count goals. This isn't about "get your cursor moving" motivation at all.

This is about motivation within the story—motivating the characters as well as the plot. First, a little background on what prompted this post.

I was reading (and generally enjoying) a pair of books from a particular series. The first red flag came when a side character was killed and I felt nothing. Maybe it happened too fast, maybe it was a failure to develop an emotional connection earlier ... or maybe it was because it "just kinda happened." Moving on, the MC executed an impressive string of "just doing things" for no clear reason other than to conveniently get herself in trouble. That's when I really started thinking about it and the failings of motivation.

Anyone who's tried to write a query letter has probably explored character motivation related to central conflict. What does the MC want and what stands in his/her way? My exploration has taken me from that macro level to the micro level of individual scenes and character actions or decisions. I've concluded that there are two types of motivation to consider at this level. I'm sure someone out there has more technical names for them, but this is how it's worked out in my mind.

Front-End Motivation
This is what triggers a character's actions. Why does she do this? Why does he react that way? It stems from preceding events as well as the character's personality and values. The trick here is to make sure our characters act and react in realistic and consistent ways, keeping them imperfect yet still believably human. If a character's going to make an obviously poor choice, the reader should be able to buy into the reason. Show the doubts or the willful rebellion, whatever it is that drives the decision.

Back-End Motivation
This is why an event/decision/development is worth including in the story. A few random details for flavor are fine, but anything more substantial should have a reason for happening. It may be the resolution of an earlier mini-conflict or the catalyst for something to happen later. In essence, it's what keeps individual scenes connected.

Both types are necessary, and different scenes will have a different balance of front- and back-end. I imagine few could be described as 50/50, but 5/95 (or 95/5) should be likewise rare. What happens when the balance is weighted too far to one side—or worse, when one side of the motivation is missing?

Back-End with No Front:
This dilemma inspires the "Well, that's convenient" reaction in readers and seems to be at the root of my instigating experience—the MC who "just does stuff." As authors, we know what we want to happen, so sometimes we force our characters to jump through hoops, just for the sake of making something work in the plot.

Front-End with No Back:
Scenes with this problem may come across as feeling random, tangential, or even indulgent. I suspect it occurs more when a writer is trying to pad the word count, or perhaps when the plot isn't yet fully formed. The characters do things that make sense given their personalities and prior events, but it doesn't really go anywhere. I'd say it's nothing to be too afraid of in a first draft if you're a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pantser rather than a planner, but definitely something to watch out for in editing.

Neither Front Nor Back:
Sound the alarm and get thee a reality check, pronto! Characters are reacting inconsistently and randomly, and the story is going nowhere. At its most extreme, this isn't a story—it's words spewed onto a page. Might be okay for a free-write to play with dialogue or characterization, but once you're in story mode, these things need to be reined in ... at least to a degree.

So, let your characters be human (even if they aren't human, SF/F writers). People rarely do anything truly random. At the same time, be judicious in choosing which human moments to include in your story, and be mindful of why you've chosen them.

What motivational pitfalls have you encountered? More importantly, how have you avoided them?

Sharing The Genre-Joy: 6 Reasons Why Romance Rocks

by Lucy Marsden

Granted, I’m not exactly an impartial judge: I’ve been reading Romance for thirty years, and writing it for the last six, so it’s fair to say that I’ve drunk deep of the genre Kool-Aid. Nevertheless, Romance—and the cultural dialogue around it—have grown and evolved in ways that I’d argue are worthy of appreciation, even by folks whose usual reaction to a book covered by bulging male pectorals (hereinafter referred to as man-titty) is something akin to anaphylaxis. So without further ado, here are 6 great reasons to celebrate the Romance genre:

Reason #6: Romance Kicks Market Share Butt. A lot.
Romance represented the largest share of the consumer market in 2009, at 13.2 percent. It was the second top performing category on the New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists, surpassed only by books with movie tie-ins. Romance fiction garnered $1.36 billion in estimated revenue for that year, up $100 million from the year before, which is pretty impressive, no? And these high sales and indications of profitable growth (which appear to have continued into 2010, if Torstar/Harlequin’s first quarter earnings were any indication), deserve even more applause when you consider the overall decline in many other areas of publishing during the same period.

Reason #5: Have RWA, Will Travel—It’s The New Writer’s Secret Weapon
The mission of the Romance Writers of America “is to advance the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy.” My take, as someone who came to writing fiction from a completely different professional background, is that RWA membership is one of the fastest ways for a new writer to get up to speed with craft and publishing—whether they write Romance or not. Romance intersects with a lot of other genres, and the breadth of the RWA resources is huge: national and chapter conferences on publishing, craft, and the writing life; regional and special interest chapters (145, at last count); and the monthly professional journal The Romance Writer’s Report, where the latest information on deals, agents, and publishers is available. Is membership in the RWA necessary in order to write a great book or have a healthy publishing career? No—but it provides the tools and the company to make meeting these challenges a lot more fun, so why go it alone?

Reason #4: The Academy Has The Hots For Romance
And it’s about time. From Princeton University’s 2009 conference Love As The Practice of Freedom: Romance Fiction & American Culture, to Depaul University’s Romance Scholar Digest: A Listserve for Scholars and Teachers of Romance, to the popular blog Teach Me Tonight (Musings on Romance Fiction From An Academic Perspective), Romance is establishing itself in academia as a genre worthy of analysis. It’s an acknowledgment of the popularity of Romance, certainly, but it’s an acknowledgment of its significance and relevance, too, and that’s beautiful to see.

Reason # 3 : Heaving Bosoms and The Smart Bitches
Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan say Smart Bitches, Trashy Books began in 2005 “as a community of romance readers eager to talk about which romance novels rocked their worlds, and which ones made them throw the book with as much velocity as possible.” Since then, the site has become a magnet for readers, writers, academics, and spectators addicted to the blend of thoughtful, incisive, and howlingly funny commentary the Bitches provide on every aspect of the Romance industry. Their book, Beyond Heaving Bosoms, The Smart Bitches Guide to Romance, was published by Touchstone/Fireside in 2009, and it truly is an A—Z tour. From the provenance of the “Old Skool, rape-tastic” romances of the late '80s/early '90s, to a discussion of the significance of “The Magic Hoo-Hoo,” and “The Heroic Wang of Mighty Lovin',” Tan and Wendell celebrate everything that’s awesome and absurd about Romance, and they do it with wit and verve.

Reason #2: Within Romance (And Erotica!), Sex Gets The Respect It Deserves
Let’s face it: sex is still trivialized and exploited in the wider culture. We value sexiness in women, with its emphasis on objectified performance, but still treat actually being sexual as something taboo. Men, on the other hand, are expected to always be ready for and interested in sex, even if they’re not emotionally engaged. Sometimes it’s a WTFBBQ for everyone concerned, so thank heaven things are different in modern Romancelandia, where a woman’s sexual agency and satisfaction are key, and men are allowed to acknowledge the human need for intimacy. I’m not going to tell you that the sex is always well-motivated (or even well-written), but as a genre, Romance usually invests sex (and the emotion that accompanies it) with significance and power. Sex scenes are important turning points for both character and plot in many Romances, not because we writers are obsessed with Tab A and Slot B, but because we duly acknowledge the impact of sex. It can be tender and reverent, or edgy and explosive, but sex raises the stakes for people—in stories, as in real life. (By the way, if you haven’t already done so, please read Jen Lopez’s post: An Erotica Writer’s Manifesto. It’s fucking marvelous—pun absolutely intended.)

And Finally, The #1 Reason to Celebrate Romance: An Emotionally-Just Universe
Always-amazing author Jenny Crusie talks about this on her website in her essay, “Let Us Now Praise Scribbling Women.” Though genre fiction in general makes the promise of some form of justice—moral or intellectual, Romance fiction makes the biggest promise of all, she argues:

“It says that if you truly open yourself to other people, if you do the hardest thing of all which is to make yourself vulnerable and reach out for love and connection and everything that makes life as a human being worth living, you will be rewarded; it promises, in short, an emotionally just universe.”

I love that. I love it because that’s the universe that I inhabit, and contrary to some pundits’ criticism of Romance, it’s not a deluded fantasy dimension full of pink candy-floss. I’m quite aware of the fact that bad things happen for no good reason—that’s why the act of choosing to create beautiful things and love people anyway is such an act of everyday heroism. Thorton Wilder said as much in The Bridge of San Luis Rey: “There is a land of the living, and a land of the dead, and the bridge is love; the only survival, the only meaning.” Romance privileges loving relationships to a degree that no other genre does, putting them at the center of the story, and testifying over and over again to their power and possibility.

And that, my friends, is why Romance rocks.