Letting It Go (Or Getting Over Your Love Scenes)
by Jenna Petersen

The following is a post I made during an online class on love scenes. I figured it might be useful to some people, so here it is:

First off, yes it is intrinsically weird to have people who you know read your work. It’s kind of like singing in front of someone for the first time. I have a reasonably good voice and last night my husband brought a friend over to play the video game “Rock Band”. I sing as part of that game (there are two guitar parts, a drum part and a singing part of the game). So I don’t generally sing in front of people except for him. Not even my family has heard me sing. So I felt… awkward. You can’t help but feel judged, I think partially because singing and writing are things everyone says they can or want to do.

But I did it and once I had a song done (one I’m good at luckily), I was fine and now our friend is convinced we all have to go to karaoke night together so I can share my voice with large crowds of drunk people. And since I’m thinking about singing a song for my brother and his fiancée for their wedding, probably I should do that.

But I digress… the point is… it’s ALWAYS awkward to present yourself before others. You feel naked, because someone whose opinion you may care about is reading and judging what you put a lot of your personal soul into. It makes us vulnerable and no one LOVES being vulnerable on such a large scale.

However, the fact is that if you intend to put your books out there, there is a huge chance that the people in your life are going to find out about it and read about it. Trust me, you’d much rather have the husband who screams from the rooftops about how proud he is (like mine does) and tacks up copies of your coverflats in his office than the one who rolls his eyes and hides in embarrassment. So if you have people in your life who want to do that, there is no stopping them.

So my hairdresser, my husband’s admin, his boss’s wife, several co-workers, my Mom, one of my sister-in-laws and a whole list of other people now read my books. And discuss them with me. At first it was remarkably uncomfortable. But then I realized something. People are, in many senses, a pack. They tend to go along with the mood of whatever group they are in. This means if I introduce myself at a party as “Jenna Petersen, I write romance novels.” And I do it with my head held high and my shoulders back and I smile… most people say, “Wow, that’s so cool!” Versus if I look ashamed, they’re more likely to say, “That trash??”

You have to OWN your writing. Be proud of it! It’s something more than 80% of the US population wants to do and probably less than 5% even attempts, let alone finishes a book or publishes one. Put your shoulders back and declare it proudly.

Does that mean that EVERYONE will be positive? No. I have definitely had people who read my book and felt like they had to tell me how smutty it was. The best thing you can do is just be prepared. My response is generally that, “Yes, the books are quite spicy. You might not be my audience.”

If you say it nicely, they generally shut up because you’re really shutting them down. I’m not trying to convince them that they’re wrong. They didn’t like the book. It’s okay. That’s their right! I’m not trying to write a book that everyone will love. And if they hate hot stuff, they really WON’T like my other books, so why torment themselves (or me)?

But really, don’t apologize. Be proud of what you write. That comes across to people and you’ll find fewer and fewer of them who feel a need to tell you how much you suck. In the end, only you can allow someone to hurt your feelings. So just don’t give them the power. Write books you feel good about. If you publish, revel in the fact that you’ve done something most of them WISH they could do. And then let it go. The books are out there. You can’t control who will buy them or what they’ll decide to say to you about it.