Something that seems to be a recurring theme among writers is how to find time to write. Even non-writers tend to have something to say on this front. Many people seem to think that they could easily be the next great author if only they had the time to write. Keyword “if.” Continue reading
Who are you writing for?
This is a question that gets asked a great deal on a writers’ site I frequent. I have always answered, rather flippantly, ‘for myself’. Yet I am now beginning to wonder if, by writing for myself, I am missing a trick.
After receiving multiple rejections from literary agents both in the UK and the US, I’m having to rethink my whole writing process. My novel is historical, it is romance, yet the two main characters do not get together at the end – and there will be a sequel. My novel is also long, at almost 100k words, and that doesn’t fit a romance publishing model either. It is not your regular, expected story for an historical romance and although I like the story and I wrote it for me, I wonder if I should now focus on writing genre fiction for the sake of publishing and earning a crust or two. Publishers seem to want only sure-fire bets since they are looking for the next big thing, and therefore unwilling to take chances on a lowly newbie. I don’t know why they are so intent on having books in nice, neat little boxes; I’ve always hated being put in a box, and now my novels can’t be either! Oh well.
I started writing years ago because I couldn’t find a romance novel that related to me and the life I have. I wanted to write about women who have precious few choices in their lives and the consequences of the choices they do make. I wanted to write about women who struggle with issues I struggle with (relationship issues where I have little choice, dreams and desires versus reality, e.g.) and see if they found an answer I could adapt for my life.
Should I keep writing the stories I want to read, or should I adapt my work to fit a genre in the hope I can make some money and increase the options I, and my children, have? It’s a dilemma I know that faces many an author, including Ottessa Moshfegh, and I don’t know what to do. Ottessa decided to write a genre novel, albeit one that turned out to be nominated for a Man-Booker prize…I’m a slow writer, so anything I do will take a while. Any ideas?
My Dad asked me what, as an author, I want to be known for.
What do you want to be known for in life?
I’m a pantser by nature. My mind rejects organization.
When I think of a story and the characters speak to me, I’m happy as hell to let my fingers make some invisible connection to the ether and spew whatever they find there into my computer. This freedom is a phenomenal, almost spiritual, feeling.
But there’s a problem.
Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
-E. L. Doctorow
I have been working on my first novel for a year now, but if I’m being honest I’ve not been serious about it. It’s always just something I work on when I don’t have anything else and even then only half assed. I guess subconsciously I put it so far up on a pedestal that it sort of became this magical, unobtainable glass ceiling that only “real authors” were allowed to achieve. Continue reading
Over the past few weeks, I have been working on a special assignment for RWA-SD with C.J. Corbin, an author and all around nice lady. We’ve had so much fun and I have made her my unofficial mentor. You can find her wonderful paranormal books on her web page: http://cjcorbin.com/home/ Continue reading
I am a feminist. I make no bones about it.
This is reflected in my characters and storylines. Mina loves clothes AND hitting people, but more importantly, nobody finds that odd. Conversely, Rick and Sam are bad ass demon hunters who are also super caring, homey people. Sam does almost all the cooking, and Rick is, in universe, a calming, soothing presence. And, more importantly, nobody comments on these behaviors negatively.
On the other side, neither does anybody look down on the non-action characters, male or female. Jeff is a non-action oriented, male hero. He’s the cleric (if we want to get really geeky, and I usually do.), and is well respected by the monster hunting community.
One of my big beefs, as a feminist, is the fact that male villains are almost inevitably rapists. Look, I know the stats on sexual assault, and I’m not saying that we should ban rape and sexual assault in media.
On the other hand, can we not also admit that making almost every villain a rapist is lazy writing? 1, it short-changes men and their emotional depth (as usual), but 2, it reduces rape and sexual assault to the mundane. A paltry banality that every captured female character “must” suffer.
And I realize that this is a fairly heavy topic for me, so let me explain where it’s coming from.
I’m working on my novels these days. It’s a series, and I have this former couple, Edie and Randal. She broke up with him and took a vow of abstinence. In Book One, Randal was pretty much the bad guy, sullen and uncooperative, usually ruining whatever team building Edie managed to do.
The books begin knowing that they broke up nearly a year before, but not what lead up to it. Now in Book Two, I’m getting into it. So to sum up, he’s angry, and she’s trying very hard to ignore it, because they work together, and if people think there is a chance she’ll break her vow of abstinence, they will kill Randal. Which she doesn’t want. Because his jerkass tendencies aside, he’s still important to her. It leads to this exchange:
“What happened the night Edie was invested?” Miguel asked.
The memory of Edie’s tear-streaked face as she ordered him out of her rooms haunted him for a moment. “Ask your sister,” Randal responded, unable to do anything but snarl and glare.
“I’m asking you.” Miguel’s rock-hard tone demanded obedience.
“I’m not sure which version Edie prefers these days.” It was a cheap shot. But the truth would likely end in his exile, if not his death. Edie was keeping her mouth shut, and he’d do the same.
While reading this passage out loud to my husband, he stated that I needed to change it, because it sounded “rapey.”
Now, both of us know exactly what happened that night, and it was not rape. But to my husband, the implied sexual violence of the image combined with slightly ambiguous wording would damage my attempt to redeem Randal in this book.
My (feminist) argument for keeping this particular wording is that people shouldn’t jump to rape when reading this. Randal’s a jerk in the first book, but at no point do I ever, remotely hint that Edie is afraid of him, or that he was ever, ever violent towards her in any manner.
The idea that our immediate assumption as readers would not be that a young man got in a fight with his girlfriend, said something that made her cry, and she told him to leave, is an insult to men. And it really is infuriating.
As a feminist, I’m ready for men to have relationships with women that show depth and nuance. I’m ready for men in stories to engage with women on levels beyond the physical, be it romantic or violent.
Yes, Randal shoulders the role of antagonist for most of the first book. That shouldn’t mean that people automatically jump to rapist, but we do. It’s so universal that it’s a running gag on series about movie cliches.
As a feminist, I know I need to write more complicated men. Because keeping my men simple and one dimensional also limits my women. It reduces their interactions with male characters to shallow stereotypes.
We need to challenge the idea of men as oversexed, under emotional, perpetual children that women must ‘tame’.
It’s not about conceiving a universe without sexual assault, or putting women above men. It’s about conceiving a male antagonist who doesn’t default to rapist. It’s about letting men and women interact with the richness and complexities of real people, good and bad.
In short, I’m a feminist writer, and I refuse to short change any of my characters based on gender.
Kate Whitaker writes for fun and profit from the woods of the Olympic Penninsula. You can most likely find her sitting at her kitchen table yelling at kids as she tries to figure out a new way to kill made up monsters. She has a newsletter and a comic.
Have you ever read a book that stayed with you? One that you could read several times over, and come back and re-read the entire book? Or just maybe certain scenes over and over again? There are some books either on my shelf in paperback/hardcover, Kindle, or Nook that pulled me deep inside them. Continue reading
I actually did it!
And I think it’s taken me almost up to now to realize it.
A couple of weeks ago I packed up my whole house. Well, technically the brick building is still standing, but I stashed all our belongings into the spare guest room and basement. Then I jumped on a plane to move halfway across the world. To study literature. Continue reading