Dream a Little Dream

Jaye here, posting from vacation in California. Yes, I am THAT committed. Or crazy. Or maybe I should be committed because I’m crazy? Anywho.

I’m in gold rush country, where scads of pioneers flocked in the 1800’s in hopes of fulfilling their dreams of riches. Mostly men came out here, intent on hitting the mother lode, a huge “harvest” of gold that would secure their family fortune. They were pretty crazy, too.

File:Gullgraver 1850 California.jpg

California Dreamin’.

It brings to mind something I’ve been pondering for a few weeks now.

Recently, the Femmes got together to celebrate scads of  good news. I made a comment about how 2013 has been a great year for our little group. Five of the seven of us have either had our first books published, or received contracts for them. Joanna won a major writing contest. Our discussion turned to our tagline (“Seven romance writers blogging toward the dream of Happily Ever After”). I commented how we needed to change that, since now we are achieving our dream. Joanna (funny, funny woman) was like, “No way! My dream is to be on the bestseller list with Nora!”

“Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.” Goethe

Which made me wonder…what are our dreams as writers? Is it to write the Great American (Romance) Novel? To win a contest? To be published? To be able to write full time and quit the “day job”? Or, like Joanna, is it to be a bestselling author?

There was a time, when I was younger and possibly more idealistic, when I would have agreed with Joanna. The sky was the limit. Now, in my more practical (jaded?) middle age, I find I dream in increments. My first “dream” would be to have the time I need to write, so I could finish the darn manuscript.

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.” Colin Powell

Honestly, though…I have no expectation of becoming a number one (or even a number 20) bestselling author. Do I hope it happens?  Certainly. For me, though, the dream happens when I receive that box from my publisher, and I open it to find a pile of books with my name on them. The idea of being able to hold the tangible evidence of my hard work in my hand; smell the paper and the ink; flip through the pages; marvel at the cover art; and know that my work has a chance of making it into the hands of reader. THAT is the dream.

Everything else is icing.

What about our heroines? They, too, have dreams (as do our heroes, but being a woman, I’m going to concentrate on women in our stories).

Is it necessary for our heroines to have a singular dream, and attain that dream throughout the course of the novel? Or is it okay for the heroine’s dream to change as a result of the events in the story? Do younger heroines (such as those in YA or New Adult romance) have “bigger” dreams than, say, a middle aged heroine taking her second chance on love? How pertinent is it, in a romance novel, for a heroine to have any other dream than that of finding her Happily Ever After?

Personally, I prefer heroines who are working toward another dream, along with HEA. The HEA has to happen in the story, of course. We are writing romance here. But heroines who put the entire stock of their happiness into finding the perfect partner are just too one-sided.

“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.” Anais Nin

If I were the heroine in my book, striving to attain my dream, there are so many events I could include in the storyline. It would be filled with both main and minor characters, and would include a group of supportive women friends who put up with my quirks and cheer me on to the finish (The Violet Femmes). There would be stumbling blocks, conflicts I would have to overcome, like the rejection letters from publishers. I would be taken out of my comfort zone and thrown into new situations (writers’ conferences) where I have to step out of myself in order to learn and take a step forward, while overcoming my fears (editor and agent pitches).

There would be times I nearly lose faith and almost give up the dream, and other times when I become re-energized to reach my dream. Through it all, and possibly despite it all, I would find the love and support of a wonderful hero.

When it comes to dreams, there is one absolute truism.

“You have to dream before your dreams can come true.” Abdul Kalam

What do you think? Is the dream of Happily Ever After enough in a romance novel? Or do you like heroines who have bigger dreams, or who are “chronic” dreamers? What about your own dreams? Have you met them? Adjusted them as you have achieved each increment, or, like Joanna, do you prefer to Dream Big?

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14 Comments

  1. Like Joanna, I’m all for dreaming big. It’s nice to keep moving the goal post each time you achieve one of your dreams. I’m the kind of personality that needs to keep reaching for something or I get bored. I’d love to be able to quit the day job AND hit the bestseller list. If I’m fortunate enough to reach those two goals, I’ll start looking for new ones!

    Reply
    • I hear ya, Diana. Moving the goal post and trekking forward definitely works for me…not only with writing, but with just about everything I do. It helps to always have something to strive for.

      Reply
  2. Jenna Blue

     /  August 13, 2013

    Jaye, I love this analogy: the gold prospectors and us writers, both mining against the odds for that rags to riches dream. I’m for both: celebrating every accomplishment, being mindful (easier said than done) that every single step is a dream come true. Actually finding hours to write in may day is it’s own kind of dream come true. Finishing the first manuscript, landing an agent. Finishing the second and surviving scads of revisions. I eat up any and all praise from those who’ve read my stories. As for dreaming big, no longer worrying about income is the be all end all. How amazing would it be to be able to afford a beach home or lakeside cottage to both enjoy as a family and scurry off to write when peace and quiet is required? That’s BIG, huh? I think the reason hitting the besteller lists or becoming a keynote speaker is a dream for so many is because it’s success that’s measured by others, by outside, by the industry and all the people who make it spin. Either way, Dream Away!

    Reply
    • Hah, that retreat is just what I’m yearning for right now, Jenna! Staying in a home in the middle of the woods outside Yosemite this week has brought that dream to the fore again. While the family went off and hiked, I had the luxury of staying at “our” house and catching up on laundry. I read Brenda Novak’s When Snow Falls, all 441 pages of it. I can’t remember the last time I had the luxury of reading an entire book in one sitting.

      Having that same luxury of time, and peace, in order to write wasn’t far from my mind. Now that’s a dream!

      Reply
  3. This is a heavy post. It touches everyone. Age is not a barometer for feelings of helplessness or the atmosphere of “wasting my time. I enjoyed this imagining you speaking it. Your advice is always welcome and is consistently on target. This is your beat, most important to a writer post.

    Reply
  4. I made the errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation to add dramatic effect. Or, Bo Bo wrote it. Forgive him.

    Reply
  5. The heroines in my books have dreams to pursue and they’re not afraid to take action. Similar to Diana, I believe in moving the post as I achieve goals. For me, setting the goal too high can be depressing if I have to struggle to achieve it. I’d much rather set smaller, more achievable short term goals and then have longer term (or stretch) goals. Here’s a quote I got from Bob Mayer’s “Who Dares Wins” book, which is a fab book if you haven’t read it.

    “If you don’t know where you are going, you are liable to end up somewhere else.” Casey Stengel

    Of course, dreams (and goals) evolve.You meet people (like you fabulous ladies) who make you feel anything is possible and you can take on the world. Have I realized my dream yet? Definitely not. But I’m making small, positive accomplishments to get there. For now, that’s enough.

    There’s an Amanda Bradley poem I found on a Hallmark card many years ago. It’s call “Always Have A Dream”.

    http://www.angelfire.com/ma/charlotte74/poems/alwayshaveadream.html

    I have it framed in my office. The words always inspired me to never stop dreaming.

    Reply
  6. Good advicc in that poem, Maria. Thanks for sharing it.

    I agree about setting your goals too high at the start. They take that much longer to achieve (for most people, anyway), and it can definitely get depressing. It causes you to live with failure for too long, rather than celebrating small successes that act as stepping stones toward that ultimate goal, whatever it may be.

    Reply
  7. This is an interesting conversation, and perfect timing as our careers are evolving.

    I can dream BIG, but that doesn’t mean I’m not grateful and humble for every step along the way. I hope that came across when I made said comment about my goals.

    No doubt that goals shift as you learn more, experience more. Five years ago, most people would have agreed that getting an agent was The Big Goal. Now, with self-publishing and the digital presses, a lot of folks are publishing without agents. And the idea of “getting published” has also changed and will continue to change as the publishing industry evolves.

    For me, the ride doesn’t stop once I publish one book. That is not enough. Will I be thrilled? God, yes! Unbelievably so. But I want longevity. Does it need to be on a Nora Roberts-level blockbuster scale? No. But I don’t want anyone to say, “Whatever happened to that author who wrote that one book…”

    I agree about having realistic short-term and long-term goals. I love what Kristan Higgins said at Nationals, that she has a post it note on her monitor saying, “Just do your best today.” That’s an amazing short-term goal.

    And celebrating the short-term goals is key, as you said, to keep from getting discouraged. That’s where all the lovely Femmes come in!!!

    Reply
    • Joanna, I would never in a million years describe you as anything but humble, and grateful, for all that you have achieved. That is what made your comment so funny!

      Interesting that you brought up the whole agent discussion. I think there will always be publishers who prefer to see works that have been vetted by an agent first, but the same publishers will have to keep their ears to the ground for those self-pubbed authors whose works take off independent of any kind of traditional publishing medium.

      The added benefit of being in a group such as ours is that, even if I am finding it hard to reach our own goals, we know it is possible because we are seeing the success our partners-in-crime are achieving. Your successes give me hope that my dream is just within reach.

      Reply
  8. RoseAnn DeFranco

     /  August 14, 2013

    Beautiful, heartfelt, thought provoking post, Jaye! In both my Contemporary and YA writing worlds, my “dream big goals” are very different. But from here to there, there are a million dream markers that are the same. Some dreams belong to the writer, and some the woman. Many of those dreams are similar to the ones you’ve touched upon. The just like others have already said, it’s important to continually strive for more. While I’m currently fretting over marketing plans and potential sales, I’m planning to be in this for the long haul. From that perspective, the ultimate long term dream is longevity. In order to maintain longevity, some sort of pacing, or a life in balance needs to be reached, which is a dream of mine as well.

    When it comes to my heroines, they have dreams outside of their heroes. In fact, the heroes usually come along when they are preoccupied with other, larger matters and present a distraction to the goal. I like a strong heroine who is more than her man.

    As for the YA Heroine, from what I’ve read, their dreams and goals are more immediate, just like teenagers today. But at the same time, teens deal with really large issues. Mostly their journeys are about getting through whatever crisis or crossroads they are facing to feel GOOD in their skin or life circumstances…and then go to the prom. It would appear that no matter the age, feeling good about yourself, and your place is the world is a universal dream. Going to the prom, or snagging a RITA nod…well, that’s just icing on the cake!

    Maria…Thanks for the poem!

    Reply
  9. RoseAnn, I love your comment about some dreams belonging to the writer, and some to the woman. So true. I might add, that sometimes, the two intersect. Romance writing is primarily the domain of women, as witnessed at just about any romance writers’ conference you might attend. I don’t know of a romance novel where the focus is on the hero, finding his own true love, do you? Of course, the love found is mutual, but the heroine’s HEA is the predominant theme, don’t you think?

    As writers, the truth in our stories comes from some particular awareness or feeling of how the world should be. Our perspective, our dreams as women, necessarily find their way into our stories, whether we mean them to or not. In that way, the dreams of the woman, and the dreams of the writer, are inextricably linked.

    I’m loving everyone’s comments!

    Reply
  10. Checking back with my favorite Romance Writer. This reply is for everyone else on you blog.
    I have read more romance stuff(using that term due to never being able to read more than 6 pages of JD/Nora or Janet Evanovich) from Jaye than anyone else. (Except my critique partner, Robben) I just returned from Paris. I guess in August all the rude people are on vacation cause everyone was nice and I even made some friends. The atmosphere I felt visiting all the tourist spots…Versailles, Eiffel Tower etc had me thinking about one of your tales(you know which one.)
    So, blog member tell Janet to finish my favorite romance story.
    Joe

    Returning to NJRW in November. See you there.

    Reply

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