IN THIS ISSUE
- From the Editor’s Desk: A NaNoWriMo win!
- On The Wordling: How to write faster
- News & Views: The readership of romance novels has changed
FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK
It’s been a good week in the Khullar Relph household. First, I received the excellent news that after 9 years, 4 months, and 24 days in the UK, I have been granted permanent residency.
Most of you won’t know this but, until now, my status in the UK as the spouse of a British national was that I could be deported and separated from my child based on a single phone call. Not that my husband would ever make that phone call, but the law shows you your place and value in society. Yesterday, I was finally given the right to live in this country, regardless of my marital status or income.
Second, I won NaNoWriMo. By “won,” I mean I wrote 50,000 words of the first draft of a novel this month. My novel’s only halfway done, though, so I’ll be continuing on in December and not stopping to take stock until it’s finished.
NaNo this year led to some interesting revelations for me, the biggest of which is that I don’t need hours upon hours of free time to make progress on personal projects. I track my time, so I know it took me approximately 40 hours to write these 50,000 words. I wrote for an hour every night (though I scheduled two because, you know, anxiety) and did more when I could over weekends. This was in addition to the 25,000 words of writing I did for freelance content clients. It felt fairly effortless toward the end, so I’ve decided to just stick to this schedule going forward.
The other thing NaNo reminded me of is that I love challenges and respond really well to them. Habit formation is difficult for me, but put a challenge at the end of it and the habit forms naturally. I’m surprised I’ve never used this knowledge in my goal setting before, but I’m planning to now.
In 2024, I’m setting challenges instead of annual goals, the first of which is to write a million words over the year. That’s 2,750 words a day, and given that I averaged 2,000 words a day in October and 2,600 in November, it’s not a difficult goal. The challenge, for me, is not in writing that many words, but staying consistent long term and not quitting out of boredom (or poor mental health). The trick is in setting goals I have full control over. I can control how much I pitch, but not how many assignments I bring in. Setting a pitching goal is, therefore, an excellent idea; an assignment goal not so much. It’s why, in recent years, I’ve moved away from income goals and more toward production goals.
The other goal I’m excited about is for Wordling PLUS. In 2024, I’m committing to adding 365 new pieces of content to the membership (this includes trainings, workshops, course lessons, samples, templates, etc). As of this writing, there are already 473 individual pieces of content in the membership (check it out here!) Over the next year, I’ll be finding areas in which I’m not so strong and inviting professionals to share their expertise with our members. I want Wordling PLUS to become a one-stop shop for writing and business advice and not be limited by my knowledge and skill set (or lack thereof).
The third piece is growing the number of subscribers of this newsletter. No idea how to frame that as a challenge yet, but it’s something I want to focus on in the coming year.
As you can probably tell, this is the most excited I’ve been about goals in a while. I certainly wouldn’t have predicted that signing up for a novel writing challenge on a whim could have led to all that! It has proven to me, once again, that sometimes it’s important to just follow a feeling and see where it takes you. You never know where it might lead.
Enjoy the issue!
Natasha Khullar Relph
Editor, The Wordling
ON THE WORDLING
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NEWS & VIEWS:
What’s up with the modern romance novel?
Romance is now the top-selling genre in US fiction publishing, selling over 32 million copies this year alone. And it’s not just a fad—the numbers have been climbing steadily. During the pandemic, when everyone was craving a getaway through stories, romance led the charge, growing more than 50% in a year. The trend’s holding strong in 2023, with US booksellers marking an 11% rise in romantic fiction sales compared to last year. The UK’s romantics are in sync, with print romance sales up by 20% year on year.
If you’ve been dreaming of writing your own romantic tales, here are some trends you might want to bookmark:
“Mild-mannered, squishy-centred men”
More readers are asking for “cinnamon rolls” and “golden retrievers,” Kaitlin Olson, senior editor at Atria told Publishers Weekly, with a romantic lead who has a “warm, floppy energy and positive” attitude. “We’re seeing changing views on identity and masculinity and consent in the larger population, and readers are looking for romance novels to reflect what they’re seeing in the culture.”
Not everyone’s on board. Fabio, the hunky dude on the old-timey covers of the eighties and nineties romances, called the trend “hogwash,” blaming it on the “progressive woke movement.”
A 30-something editor, asked to comment on what Fabio might think of more trans inclusion in books, was puzzled. “Fabio, who?” she said.
Sales of LTBTQ+ fiction doubled from 2020 to 2021 and rose by 39% in 2022, according to the market research firm NPD Group. Queer young adult and romance novels have fared particularly well. Sapphic writers are playing a crucial role in this queer literature boom, author Camryn Garrett told Them. St. Martin’s Press editor Hannah O’Grady told the publication: “The attitude is no longer, ‘Oh, well we have one queer rom-com out there, so the niche is filled.’ I think that publishers out there know how many readers want these stories.”
A decade ago, the main demographic for romance was women aged 35 to 54. But in the past several years, that has widened to include women 18 to 54, Colleen Hoover’s publicist Ariele Fredman, told NPR. “Gen Z is a huge audience for romance,” she said. “If you think about it, like millennials, their youth has been marked by global and social upset and unrest in many ways, so looking for a happy ever after or an emotional outlet in a book seems like a healthy way of coping.”
Racial diversity is still lacking
Despite all the positive news, racial diversity is still getting short shrift. “We have some of the best Black and brown writers ever in romance writing right now, and the fact that they are not at the top of every list and they are not on the tip of everybody’s tongue is an outrage,” romance author Kennedy Ryan told Publishers Weekly. “What makes me hopeful is that even amid all of that we have so many Black and brown readers raising their voices. I have to believe that quality is going to be recognized.”
Subgenres to watch
Romance is not a monolith genre and each year, certain subgenres tend to rule the zeitgeist (remember billionaire romances?). Here’s what’s hot and heavy for 2023:
Paul Lynch has won the 2023 Booker Prize for Prophet Song, his fifth book, a “slow-burning dystopian novel.”
Over in the US, “Freelance Isn’t Free” has been signed into law in New York. “The law is intended to protect freelance and contract workers—including authors, journalists, and other writers on contract—from wage theft, and to ensure that they are paid in a timely manner, with state support provided to help them recoup unpaid wages.”
And here’s a literary twist to the Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce coupling: an independent author released a “spicy” romance novel inspired by the true-life romance that some say veered too close to the truth. It was removed from Amazon, possibly by the author herself.
USA: “Could newsrooms publishing photos from mass shootings help stop them? The question has been asked before, but the deaths of 19 children and two adults at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas seemed to spur a louder-than-ever debate last year. Perhaps, some argued, news coverage has been insufficiently upsetting. “Terror on Repeat,” a new report in The Washington Post’s series on the AR-15, draws on photos, videos, and the experiences of survivors and first responders from 11 mass killings over the past 11 years.”
RUSSIA: “Russia’s Justice Ministry added The Moscow Times, an online newspaper popular among Russia’s expatriate community, to its list of “foreign agents” in the country’s continuing crackdown on critical news media and opposition.”
ISRAEL: “The executive director of an Israeli media watchdog organization says it was simply ‘raising questions’ by publicly wondering whether Palestinian photojournalists who documented the Oct. 7 Hamas attack in Israel—and sent some of the first images of its aftermath to a watching world—had been tipped off in advance that it would happen. The report by the group HonestReporting, however, had serious ramifications at a time of war.”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“We never sit anything out. We are cups, quietly and constantly being filled. The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.”
– Ray Bradbury
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