Writing advice

Yeah, I’m back on this.  But it’s important.

So, when I tell people I’ve published a book I get some very odd questions, but one that comes up often is “so how did that happen?”

How does one answer that?  I usually go with “I went through most of a pack of paper and several ink cartridges.”

Thing is, that is how it happens.  I know a lot of writers, but I don’t know many authors.  The difference?  The former have ideas, and they write … a lot … but they never finish anything, or never put it out there when they’re done.

Some don’t want to publish, they write for their own pleasure.  This is well and good.  Just as there are plenty of people, some of them brilliantly talented, who paint or draw just for the pleasure of it and others who sell their work so the same should be with any art or craft; writing is no exception.

For the rest, just get to work.

Now, some myths:

You must write every day, no exceptions and no excuses!

Bullshit.  This is so very much not true.  This seems to be more prominent among Americans.  For those in other countries, America is a barbarism where paid sick leave (or even unpaid!) isn’t always available and rather than rise up in revolution against it we developed “the American work ethic” and it’s as perverse as it sounds.

No, art suffers if you do it when you’re not up to it.  Now, you must be self aware enough to know the difference between “I’m just not feeling it today” and “I really don’t want to write this scene”.  The former is fine.  There is no point spending an hour staring at the paper writing nothing, or in writing for an hour a few thousand words that you’ll throw away tomorrow.  The latter … get it over with and move on.

There’s no such thing as writer’s block; it’s all in your mind!

Mmmm … yes and no.  There can be a number of things that are preventing you from moving forward in your story.  Maybe it turns out you need to backtrack and rewrite something, but until you discover that you’re stuck and you can’t move on.  Maybe your dog died and you just can’t concentrate.  Maybe you’re a chronic depressive and you’re having a low day, week, month, year … and you can’t seem to write anything or write anything you want to keep.

Writer’s block is no superstitious concept.  It’s a simple lack of inspiration.  It can have a billion and one causes and reasons, and it can have two billion and five solutions.

Find your solutions, but don’t let anyone tell you that all you have to do is plant your arse in the chair and write (unless, you know, that actually works for you).

You should write like … / Never use …

Just … no.  No, definitely not.  Proof?  Look at the criticisms of any wildly popular work.  I mean the stuff that lasts, like Harry PotterThe HobbitAlice in Wonderland, and so many many more.  They break rules, some break every modern rule.  Bill Shakespeare broke the rules, his contemporaries did not; who do we remember?  Ms Rowling was writing in a “dead genre”, among other “writing faux pas”; who is the best selling author of all time (no Bible comments, please)?

Don’t take thou shalt and thou shalt not from any author, even the most successful ones.  First off, Stephen King said to avoid adverbs, not to never use them; he uses them.  Thing is, it makes a kind of sense for the pacing and tone of his books, but that’d be horrid advice for Lawrence Block to follow.

I mean “thou shalt write thine own damned book” and “thou shalt finish what thou starts” and “once it’s bloody finished, bloody publish it” and so forth, those are fine.  “Thou shalt find thine own voice/style”, etc. this is good.  Absolutes suck, but “absolutes” are good reminders that we’re creating art.  We’re not building and designing nuclear reactors here, there is no precise science to follow; this is art, it’s all about imperfections, experimentation, creativity, and doing whatever.  Well, unless you’re trying to put out a cheap dime pulp in a hurry that’s deliberately formulaic and such … but that’s a complete other kettle of popcorn.

You must do X, Y, Z before you can write your novel / [blah blah blah] pay your dues …

I don’t know where to begin with this one.  It’s just not true on many levels.

  1. Some people just don’t write short fiction
  2. The “examples” usually given weren’t people following a deliberate career path, they were coincidences (and if you’ll notice it’s generally the same list of specific, mostly, old scifi authors.) and leaves out the numerous examples of people who are just as famous or more-so who didn’t go this route.
  3. There’s not really a short fiction market anymore.  Well, self-published, but not a “professional” short market.
  4. That “gotta write a million words” or whatever it was, wasn’t meant to be literal gospel truth and it certainly wasn’t thinking just write a million words of pure drivel.  You must always be aiming for quality and somewhere in there will be mistakes and pitfalls from which we learn and grow.  Read all of Sir Terry Pratchett‘s work from earliest to final (moment of sadness) and you’ll see it.  Heinlein, Asimov, Dickens … you see it if you look at someone with a long enough career.  Some start to lose their touch and so the opposite can become true as well.

In simple, and as always, to be blunt:  go ye forth and write, finish what you write (unless it really is garbage, but get at least a second if not twenty-fifth opinion on that subject before genuinely trashing it), find a means to get it to the world.  That’s the only sure-fire formula for success.  Everything else is superstition.

Beautiful characters

Have you ever noticed how often the characters of our novels and stories are beautiful?

What I find fascinating is, sometimes, they aren’t or at least aren’t explicitly described as such – we merely assume they are.

I think this has to do with escapism and romantic notions.

Too, I think it’s down to perceptions.

Now, it’s no good talking about the ruggedly handsome specimen of masculine archtypicality John Carter, Warlord of Barsoom.  I suppose there are reasons we could, he’s described in pretty fair detail so we could make and reject all manner of philosophical debates about it; especially since it’s never explicitly stated he’s supposed to be remarkably handsome, only the kind of handsome that comes from being a healthy and fit human with self-confidence.

I’m going to use my own writing for this, though, because they’re my characters so I know them intimately.

Sally, Lauren, their friends:  are they beautiful?

Oh sure, Sally describes Lauren as quite gorgeous repeatedly.  Thing is … is she a reliable narrator?  Most descriptions wherein Lauren is any remarkable beauty are (… wait for it …) from Salencia’s point of view!  Sally’s biased.  For one, Sally loves redheads.  Why?  Dunno, she just does.  My high school girlfriend was a redhead, and I’ll admit she had a certain charm, and my wife certainly loves my red hair, and for that matter a lot of women I know (men too, come to think of it) … I suppose it’s something about redheads.  Still, no one else describes her as beautiful beyond circumstantial points or when talking about her spirit and personality.

Lauren is not ugly, I would imagine, no.  Simply put it is hard not to be attractive when you are healthy, fit, and take a certain measure of care in your choice of hair and clothes not in regards to societal expectations, but rather in regard to what suit both your body and your personality.  Suffice to say, I do not have either the face shape nor personality to pull off a Pat Benatar or Joan Jett look, on me it’d be unattractive whereas on them it’s bloody stunning.  She is what she is, a petite redhead with freckles, and a demure hippie fashion sense, and the musculature of a dancer; she’s healthy, she’s trim … and it’s important to note that healthy is specific.  You can work out to the point of unhealthy, all muscle is not actually any better than all fat with regards to your overall health.  If coppertopped pygmies are attractive to you, then yes, Lauren is quite beautiful, but if you’re not into that then she generally falls into the realm of “cute”.

Sally, on the flip side, does trend toward more universally beautiful.  To each her own, not everyone digs the exotic skin tone, dark hair, etc.  But on general terms, while Lauren probably wouldn’t have much of a modelling career, Sally could.  She’s something between 5′ 6″ and 5′ 8″ (167 – 173 cm), proportioned like Shakira, with lots of leg, and features reminiscent of Aishwarya Rai (especially with regards to her hair); Sally could model pretty successfully (well, if she had the personality for it).

The rest actually aren’t described.  They’re as pretty or ugly as you’re comfortable picturing.  Though from my point of view the characters are all fairly attractive in that generic way that comes from good health.

I mention this because it’s an odd criticism that comes up about fiction, that the characters shouldn’t always be so spectacularly stunning to look at.  On principle, I agree.  I mean, Bilbo Baggins isn’t supposed to be some playboy with all the lady hobbits fawning over him, and maybe that puts an important detail into his character.  I also agree that some fiction goes too far and … just peruse some of the not-so-good fanfiction some time for easy access to an example (though the gods know there’s plenty of it on store shelves too).  Romances … okay, they’re given some leeway, for one thing they’re probably narrated from a POV that, like with Lauren, tends toward a bias, the rest is just tradition … for whatever reason, we’re happier with Westley and Buttercup than we are Miracle Max and his wife (whose name utterly escapes me now, even though she has one in the novel).  Still, I think, if we look strictly at the text as given, we find more cases where the characters aren’t especially pretty nor especially ugly; generally the heroes are going to need to be healthy and fit, so a measure of attraction comes with that, but beyond it … I think a lot of character beauty is perceived, not narrated.

Verity Price, for example?  Is she a Sally or is she a Lauren?  She’s in really good shape, and depending how you like the look she cultivates, you could probably go either way; but the real point is … nothing explicitly says one way or the other.  My vote is more of a Lauren.  Dominic, however, is more of a Sally.  He’s got the muscular Fabio-esque euro-hottie vibe turned up to 11 … well, until he talks, anyway.  (see: Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue Light Special.)

Now, to prove that it’s not always just the men who get to be the supreme hotties.  Let’s look at Barsoom.  Dejah Thoris is, admittedly, not explicitly described possibly to keep her look more timeless, since within Burroughs’ lifetime the epitome of feminine beauty had shifted a few times before he wrote that book.  Still we’re given enough to agree with his assessment, and little enough to fill in the blanks with our own opinion – in short, Dejah Thoris is the most beautiful woman on Mars both because you’re told she is, and because she’s put together in the right way to somewhat ensure this.  Our good gentleman, John Carter, on the other hand is described in detail.  Yeah, he’s got a lot of dashing hero tropes, so he’s going to be handsome in that fit fighting man kind of way; but he’s also described in rather generic terms.  He could be any of our brothers, fathers, sons, etc. if they only had spent so much of a lifetime relying on the strength of both their wit and arms to keep them alive.

What’s the point?  Why does it matter?

I’ve wondered that too, somewhat.  Why should it matter if there’re characters with crooked teeth, or characters with perfect teeth?  Both sides, in other words, confuse me.  Why are describing teeth unless it’s important?  At that point, they’re perfect or crooked based on the dictates of the character.  And, I’m sorry, but some people’s teeth grow in quite neatly without orthodontia (which, I might add has existed since the mummies were still being entombed in Egypt) so a pre-modern character can still have perfect teeth (just now you’ve a reason to mention it).

I don’t understand this idea of forcing “unattractiveness” on characters as some kind of Thing.  This idea that making all the characters flawless beautifies as some kind of Thing is equally strange.  Why can’t we just make characters people?  More importantly, why do we need to describe the characters in such tedious detail that the only explanation of why would have to be that we’re jumping up and down going “look! not conforming to unattainable standards of beauty!” or “lookit how pretty (s)he is!!”.  Oh, yeah, sometimes you gotta if the bloody point is how (un)attractive the character is.  But must you do so for everyone?

I’m starting to sidetrack myself with rambling.  Simply put:  who cares?!  Why should we care?  Lauren an Sally only need to be pretty to each other everything else is just decoration; Sally being so remarkably pretty was because that’s what she looked like when she popped into my head as a character … maybe I’d been looking at a lot of Bollywood and Tamil actresses at the time or something.  I mean, I don’t think it’s good writing to have every character be this flawless thing nor the opposite.  I also just don’t agree with everyone thinking someone is oh-so-gorgeous/ugly.  Even people who are considered “classic beauties”, in other words they fit the biological mould of healthy, good genes, fertility/virility, etc. like Marilyn Monroe, Aishwarya Rai, Chris Hemsworth, and Clark Gable aren’t universally adored as beautiful.  Some people really just have a thing for this hair colour or that, for darker or ligher skin, etc.  Also, Rodney Dangerfield was nothing much to look at, but as I recall the man was married and had children … clearly someone dug something about him, probably even found him attractive.

“Darling, did it ever occur to you that, if Salencia had a six foot nose covered in warts and no teeth and a squint and a great big hairy mole in the middle of her forehead, if you loved her then you’d still see her as beautiful? You’d see past the … mess to the person and heart inside and suddenly … well, very few happy and loving couples don’t think one another beautiful, quirky old songs notwithstanding.”

Excerpt From: Jaye Em Edgecliff. “Love or Lust.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/0Qu1N.l

Extremism.  It’s rarely good; not never or that’d be a paradox and therefore nonsense.  We should stop criticising works for having characters who are beautiful or not, and start looking at criticising the works that put big flashing neon signs over it needlessly.  Not even for the act itself, but rather for the sloppiness and laziness that it embodies.  Believe me, I’ve rarely met a story that was explicitly trying to make people stunning or hideous that wasn’t just all ’round badly written.  When telling a story it’s down to that balance thing.  Like Show vs Tell – sometimes you should have one, sometimes the other, generally a bit of an ambiguous blending of the two.

Which character is the author?

Among the many odd questions an author is often asked one of the oddest is some variation on “Which character is you?”

It’s so very strange to be asked this – because depending how you look at it, either all of them or none; unless, of course, I happen to have a character who is a shy author named Jaye Em Edgecliff that lives in Georgia and writes teen fiction.

On the one hand, they are all me.  They do, after all, come from my own hand and head.  They may be inspired by any number of things from notions and ideas to other fictional characters I encounter in my reading or watching a movie to real people I’ve met or seen or read about.  In the end, though, they’re my perceptions of those people.  Even if we assume the ficton view of reality wherein all of these characters are very much alive and real somewhere, it doesn’t change that the story on the page is my perception of those very real people.  By that measure, all the characters are me.  They’re all my perceptions of right and wrong, my perceptions of beauty and kindness, my perceptions of humour and sorrow, and so on.  How I narrate the story is going to highlight those perceptions – they’ll paint who is or isn’t supposed to be a villain and who is or isn’t in love with whom.

More accurately, though, they are a part of me.  My own dreams, desires, thoughts, feelings, experiences, darknesses, prejudices, anger, sorrow, laughter, and all go into shaping the words on the page and little pieces of those go into each little person in the dreamworld of the fiction.

In that sense – unless one of the characters shares my name, my description, etc. none of them are me.  I don’t share a religion with any one of my characters; my political and philosophical viewpoints do not perfectly align with any one of my characters.  Yvette and Lucas like eggplant, Lauren does not – neither do I, but that doesn’t make Lauren me.

I’m not sure what the point in asking such a question is.  I have written characters who share nothing with me, personally, beyond morphologically – they’re human shaped, not even actually human, just shaped this way.  I often write characters with different beliefs, different outlooks on life and everything else; major and minor characters, protagonist and antagonist alike.  I assume that this is mostly true of many authors.  I suppose we all, somewhere along the way, do write our views and thoughts into things.  This character or that one will say some brilliant line that perfectly parallels our own views.  Sometimes, if we feel strongly on a matter, we might write a protagonist who shares fully in our outlooks and thoughts; still, I do not believe that means the characters are ourselves – I’ve yet to meet any author who is writing purely from personal experience, using the Dragnet names changed and slightly tweaked reality to write their novels.  Oh, they exist, certainly, but I believe there’s a good reason they’re rare:  most people who live that interesting a life write memoirs, not novels.

So, in answer to the question – no, neither Lauren, Sally, Yvette, Lucas, Allison, Sarah, Lisa, Lucy, nor anyone else you have met or ever will meet in my stories is me, unless there’s ever a quiet author named Jaye … then maybe, but she’s shy and avoids the narrative camera like it’s carrying a plague.

Getting somewhere

Ready or Not is a step closer to release.

I’m in the process of another proofreading pass.  This one, sadly, is less a polish run and more of a revision/redraft/rewrite than when I’d don’t this for Love or Lust, but such is life.  The importance of that distinction is that it means I’m that much more likely to need till June to release.  With luck things will be swift and smooth enough that I’ll be done with this by March and able to give over to my editor for that last check for typos and grammar mistakes … if that’s the case we could see release by April or May.  So, fingers are crossed.

I’ve written one, and may write other short stories that expand things from the final book.  Still trying to decide if I ought to do that before or after putting the book out.  Probably after, at least for the one written already, since it spoils a surprise.

5 more stars!

For those suspicious I’ve made this up, you can see it for yourself at Amazon here and here.

It really is lovely to see things like this.  It’s very heartening to see when the characters evoke something within the reader like this.

I may have mentioned the one from October already — I suddenly can’t recall.  I know I’d meant to, so I’m mentioning it now to be sure.

The newest one is something that is very uplifting to an author.  Just as with my three star review, I’m very proud of this one — not because of the rating (though I can’t say I’m displeased with it ;)) but rather because it’s nice to know that one has created something that really jives with certain people’s lives and experiences.

And yes, I know the story is a little hard to believe.  That’s the point of fiction, though, it’s always a little hard to believe; I mean you have to swallow a lot of coincidences of one form or another — but then again, life is full of those coincidences.  It’s why people say truth is strange because fiction has to make sense; trouble is, the odds don’t normally work out so conveniently in regards of both good and bad, so the job of a writer is to balance the amazing coincidences with the day-to-day expectations to make them ignorable, or to play magician and keep distracting you from them by sufficient waving of wands and flashing of shiny things.

For those awaiting Ready or Not will be happy to know that it is, so far, still on track for release between Easter and June.  I know that’s a frustratingly vague range, but I promise to do all I can to have it somewhat more specific date by the end of January.

5.0 out of 5 stars None, October 29, 2013
This review is from: Love or Lust (Now & Forever) (Kindle Edition)

Wonderfull book. I could not but i down. I have read it twice now i love it so much. Hopefully the next one come out soon. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, December 8, 2013
By
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: Love or Lust (Now & Forever) (Kindle Edition)

Great story even if it is a little hard to believe. This book really hit close to home while reading what “Pixie“ was going through. Just about every gay person goes through having those fears and freak out a as she did. I really hope their story does continue into another book. I know I’ll be watching for it.

And the month comes to a close

So ends another November, and with it another National Novel Writing Month.

Those who participated, I hope the experience went well for you.  You’ve now got pages of text — or one hopes as much, at least.

Just because the month is over, doesn’t mean you’re done.  Is the novel finished?  Excellent!  Time to get hard at work proofreading and editing.  Before you ever hand it to another, sit down and read it with your read pen in hand and fix it.  Make it say what it ought to say.  You got the idea on the page, now polish it, sand it, take off the rough edges.

Maybe it’s only half done.  50,000 words sounds a lot, but it’s maybe around 200 pages, give or take — many’s the novel that’s 100k or larger.  Is your’s one of them?  Don’t give up.  You may not have the cute graphs and such to guide you, but the practices you started to get this far, keep them up!  If you’re stuck, my deepest sympathies, I’ve been there and it’s Hell, but those who aren’t keep going!

The world waits with bated breath to see the prose you so diligently stamped upon the page.  Okay, possibly not.  Odds are, we don’t know yet who you even are; change that!  You believed in yourselves enough that you have 10,000, 25,000, 80,000 or an even million words … buff them and polish them, turn them over to a good editor and let her polish them further, check her work and watch for places that just don’t quite jive as yet … there is such a thing as over-editing, but do try to make sure it gets a good few proofreads for mistakes and 2 good hard reads from yourself for clarity.

When you’re done sweating, and crying, and tearing out your hair — editing is truly the hardest part of writing, in my experience — unleash your masterpiece upon the world.  Be warned, you’ll not please everyone.  Maybe I’ll love, maybe I’ll hate it, but the man standing next to you on the train may have the opposite opinion.  Someone will read your words, place their emotions in the hands of your narrative and your characters, bare their emotional heart and hand you a proverbial sword … they’re who you’re writing for.  Someone will love you, so give them this story they didn’t even know they were looking for.

Just remember:  the story will no more edit nor publish itself than it will write itself.  Don’t give up.  I’d add not to despair, but perhaps a little despair wouldn’t go amiss — means you’ll be carefuller in your editing — and it’s not like many artists have sufficient ego to listen to such advice as “don’t despair” in any event.  Regardless, good luck.

Taboo

Oh what a subject.  And, no, I’m not here to talk about weird board games, either.

I was actually participating, not just browsing, today on the NaNoWriMo forums and incest was brought up.

Should it be incorporated into a tale?  Oh, dear me, I believe I’ve said all I can about an author asking “should”.

Still, that aside, it is an intriguing question.  Taboos aren’t like eye colour, and hair colour.  Should my character be blonde, should they be Asian, should they be Jewish.  While, perhaps, in other eras those questions can carry the same weight as incest, today it’s really unimportant.  Oh, but incest.  The ultimate sexual taboo, well it or bestiality anyway.

Incest.  Calls to mind scenes of brother raping sister.  Of father molesting daughter.  Of mother seduced by son.  Mostly, in today’s society, it is firmly in the public consciousness as a Bad Thing, so you say it and people do lean in the direction of rape and molestation, drugging, slavery, torture.  Even in the V C Andrews book my sister likes so much (no, I haven’t read it and I know it was a series and so am uncertain which title to reference, sorry) where the incest is treated far more consensually and even slightly more romantically … it’s in the face of abuse and isolation.  It’s not so bad, next to everything else going on in the characters’ lives – or so I gather from listening to her go on and on about it.  Even if I’m mistaken, it’s a good point and one someone has probably published.  QED.

Sex is a good question, in the end, when the characters will be deviating from expectations.  This, today, makes some people very squeamish.  People are unlikely to be neutral about a sexual taboo.  Take homosexuality.  Today, it’s fairly acceptable in the main stream.  Oh, certainly, you won’t get the bible thumping Southern Baptist next door to much appreciate your story (though, he may surprise you, it’s unwise to judge an individual on what they are), but in the broader scope of things people will shrug and move on.  Now, make your terrible perverted faggot a school teacher; well,now they’re someone who should be ashamed of themselves as should you for writing him!  Dear me, gay is okay, but don’t let them near the children!

Oh, dear me, the children, oh what a fun time that is.  “Oh, how sweet, little Johnny has a crush on Violet, the girl who sits next to him in Kindergarden”.  And “OH!  How romantic, they go to the prom together, they’re high school sweeties, they marry and have ten kids.”  Of course, this is how society ought to be!  That indisputable spark of True Love, the growing story of love and devotion – the opening montage of Pixar’s Up.  And, for the record, I agree.  Doesn’t have to be when you’re 5, but society could do with more thinking with hearts and less with stock portfolios and logic … where love is concerned, I mean, obviously we need far MORE thinking with our brains in many other regards.  Now, let’s make that little Johnny has a crush on little Timmy, or Violet is trying to steal a kiss from Talia.  Perversions!  My God, how could the writer do such a thing?!  That’s sick, that’s perverse, they can’t possibly be … oh what a different story it becomes from those people who’d just moments before been singing your praises.

People will ignore the narrative, the dialogue, every clue, every explanation, every characterisation, everything so that they can love or hate your for a sexual taboo.  Now, in honesty, they rarely do so to love you – partially since it’s safe to assume that some explanation is needed to actually give context to this taboo so that it might be made inoffensive; exceptions abound, there are going to be some who will just go “right on!  lesbians!” or “the author is so brave to explore incest”, but not as many.  The opposite, though.  When it comes to that which will offend them, though, people will not see that which might take away the offence.  I love to take Heinlein’s work for examples of this.  He toyed with taboo, society, norms, mores, morals, ethics, and values.  Stranger in a Strange Land, Time Enough for Loveand others.  They ask hard questions about our selves, our societies, our beliefs.  Thick books, long books, lots of very profound prose and entertaining at that; still all some people walk away with is “eww, OMG they ate part of that guy after he died!” “WTF?!  Lazarus just had sex with his mother, Heinlein is a very sick man.”  Oh, sure, taken out of context, these do seem pretty bad – hence what I said about few loving you for the taboo.  In context though, it all makes sense, it all comes together.  You understand the reasoning, the thoughts … maybe you don’t agree with it, no one said you did, that’s not the point of writing, the point is, if the author does her job correctly you have all the data necessary to understand. Your opinions will forever and always be yours to keep and have, but the narrative opens the door to comprehension.

In my opinion, taboos are fun.  I like them.  It’s, I think, why I love to read SF.  I love the way that some of the greatest talents in fantasy and science fiction hold up mirrors and lenses to what we hold to be normal.  The way the run you through a funhouse of cultures and societies, of normals and taboos that are like unto our own, except when they’re not.  Like the mirrors that make you short, or tall, fat or thin, or the trick one that makes you a gorilla … Elves, and aliens, fairies and space pirates, they challenge us to reconsider our opinions, ideas, beliefs, faith, and thoughts.  Some become reinforced, some are shaken, some are shattered, but with the shaking and shattering, even with the reinforcing, that self examination and self-exploration broadens and strengthens us, because there is usually (at least in the stuff I like) a new selection of thoughts, beliefs, faiths, dreams, and opinions to take and make your own, to shape and consider and adopt to fill the void.

In the end, and in all honesty, I thought it might be nice to write a good ol’ sweet, light hearted boy-meets girl, except that’s so been done I wanted to put a twist, so it becomes girl-meets-girl.  Harmless, yes?  No.  now it’s a taboo.  Sure, not a big one.  But … I wanted to write for teens, young men and women, adolescents, perhaps the young ones just entering puberty.  The ones whose bodies have or are beginning to shift gears and open their eyes to a whole new package of wiring and experience that had been hidden away the decade leading up to this point.  Boy, that sounds twisted and perverse, doesn’t it?  I’m just saying, the ones who want to read something more emotional and complex than the latest misadventure of Amelia Bedelia.  When I was eight through ten, many both male and female took up watching Beverly Hills, 90210 and reading Sweet Valley.  They were curious about romances, sex, love, dating, etc.  That’s all I meant.  When you introduce a minor taboo to “children”, and I use quotations because they’re not so much any more at this point, the gears have shifted and they’re accelerating to adulthood, you open a can of worms where people panic and become defensive.  Little Suzy is just too young to know about that.  Worse, I made the characters, themselves, young adolescents.  Now I’ve not only become a dangerous person, but one who is a corruptive influence as now these impressionable children who can’t possibly think for themselves, and know their own bodies, hearts, heads, and passions, Lord Jesus, no, of course not, why they’re only reproductively capable now, they can’t possibly have the slightest idea what sex even is!  Let’s not be silly here.

No, no one has much taken that approach with my work, thankfully, I’m honestly not sure how I would or even ought to react to such a thing.  I’ve seen it though.  I’m sadly only adding a bit of snark to arguments I’ve seen or heard before regarding other works that parallel mine in regards to those particular themes and elements.  Are You There, God?  It’s me, Margaret., Harriet the Spy, and Harry Potter … no, not homosexuality, not sexuality in “children”, but the fact that they paint children and “children” being exactly what they are and ever have been, sometimes with the fun twists of fiction — Harry’s wizardry, for example, but it’s taboo that Margaret should be having anything whatsoever to say about sex, masturbation, and faith – it might be interestingly controversial, if the book weren’t meant to be read by children Margaret’s own age, but rather as a philosophical exploration for adult readers, but give that same exploration to those of an age to be going through that very exploration!?  God, no.  Harry’s wizardry, and Hermione’s witchcraft does bother some, yes, but besides that there’s the fact that the children, through formation of their own opinions and thoughts, challenge some authority and respect others … doesn’t Ms Rowling know that, if she’s going to be writing these books for children, then the children in them ought to do everything someone older than them saws, just because they’re the teacher, adult, etc.?!  Good God, authority should never be challenged, questioned, or ignored, let’s not be absurd, wherever might our society be today if people went around doing such things?  Cute how Harry and Harriet both have the same criticisms, I didn’t choose the two for that reason, but I may consider pretending I did, since it looks bloody brilliant.

Taboos, really are great.  They force both the author and the reader to think.  Some resist, some go with it.  Some are changed by it, some don’t bother to keep thinking for longer than needed to get through the chapter.  Still … I guarantee people will definitely talk, you may not like what some of them say, but you’ll have ’em talking.

Considerations

You know, it’s strange.  As a fan of Scifi & Fantasy stories I’ve, naturally, heard of the SFWA … hard not to given that its members seem, so often, to be the winners of the Hugo, and certainly its members would be the ones winning the Nebula (or is that the other way around?  I can never recall).  The SFWA never much appealed to me though.

In the mean time I’ve discovered that there are other writers’ guilds.  The RWA, the MWA, and HWA to name a few.

Given that I write romance, the RWA was something I looked into.  I must say … it’s significantly more impressive and … nice?  Whatever the word I’m looking for, I was intrigued by it.  Seriously considering joining.

Thing is, $95/yr isn’t a lot, but it is if I’m paying it for nothing.  Certainly the benefits of the RWA look promising, in the ad copy and PR.  That’s kind of the point of ad-copy and PR.  I do, also, know that Elaine Cunningham — a personal favourite among the authors producing Forgotten Realms novels — is (or, at least, was) a member of both RWA and SFWA and had quite a lot of positive things to say about the RWA — especially as compared to the SFWA (Færie Patrol would qualify me for the SFWA in case any are wondering why I’d really care much about the SFWA beyond amusement or head shaking at the latest scandals).

In practical, rather than “this sounds good” terms — anyone know what benefits there are to joining a writers’ guild?  Is there, especially for a self-published author, much use to the networking (I’ve always hated that term, don’t know why) opportunities?  Anything for a shy person not wont to spending over much time in internet forums to gain?  In good ol’ plain English — what is to be gained for the price of one’s dues?

Ah me, but decisions are rough — especially when one has so much caution and so little idea where to begin in researching?

Romance is not porn.

A perfectly wonderful post.
Just as nudity isn’t sex, romance isn’t either — a romance needn’t have any erotic element at all. Even if it does, it doesn’t have to reach pornographic levels. There’s a reason Erotica is a separate genre, after all.

Love, Lust, and Laptops

I feel like this should go without saying, right?

And yet, not a day goes by when I don’t read some tweet, some article, some inane facebook post by someone who has never even read a romance novel, decrying “mommy porn” or “mummy porn” or “porn for women.”

And then, just yesterday, I caught this little forehead smacker on the NPR book blog (hat tip to @sesmithwrites on twitter):

“The American Library Association and Barnes & Noble were among the groups named by conservative group Morality in Media in its “Dirty Dozen List” of “the top 12 facilitators of porn.””

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/04/02/175987431/book-news-american-library-association-barnes-noble-called-facilitators-of-porn

Okay, full stops between every word required this time.

Romance. Is. Not. Porn.

This comparison does a disservice to romance writers and readers, and it does a disservice to the hardworking men and women in the pornography industry and their fans as well.

So why do we…

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I really hate this part

I, honestly, hate being done with a story. While you’re working on it, it’s such a wonderfully frustrating thing that you can think about, daydream scenes for, and occupy lulls in life with finding out what happens next in.

When it’s over you don’t have that. This is when the Work starts. This is when you need to drag yourself to the computer and start proofreading, revising, polishing, considering.

This is the part where it’s easy to break down crying, certain beyond any doubt that the 110000 words before you are horrible, worthless trash and ought to not just be deleted but data wiped (this is deletion with extreme prejudice for those of you not very computer savvy).

This is the point where it’s hard to really want to start the next book because you feel like you really ought to feel a little more confidence in the previous book – at least in terms of a series – before you start. This is so you feel more confident of the contents of the previous book available for referencing back to in the next narrative. But it’s also hard to start another project because the insecurities and shoulda-coulda-woulda imps are invading your mind, causing you to see every scene of this newly completed novel in a distorted, mangled form that makes you positive you must rewrite it, but doing so would force a rewrite of everything after … truly, finishing a novel is agonising.

True, being stuck behind an impenetrable wall of writer’s block is no picnic either, but there’s nothing like the existential crisis wrought by the completion of a story. Or worse, the completion of, not just a book, but a Story – the whole series, a standalone book, etc – when you then stare at the finished pages and thing, Dear God, what in Hell am I to do now?!

Needless to say I have not yet started on Book 3, nor picked Færie Patrol back up, or anything of that sort. This means I’m terribly bored, especially at work, but I know I need the break. I also know I’ll refuse to listen to me, as I’m sure I can’t possibly know what I’m talking about; I doubt not at all that in a week or two I’ll have a pen in hand staring at paper and contemplating the eternal question, “what comes next?” it probably won’t be book three though, because I really am nit as happy with Ready or Not‘s last couple of chapters to want to start a book which may need to begin in a way that inseparably ties to the ending of its predecessor.

Hopefully I’ll veg out for part of this break I’m taking and reset my neurons a bit before I get back to work. Nintendo and DVDs are healthy things, sometimes.