Massive thunderstorms rolled through our area this afternoon
and Iím now hoping my laptop battery lasts longer than our power outage. On reflection, however, I feel like my
current unilluminated situation parallels my writing style.
Iím following an interesting thread on the always
entertaining Smart B**ches Who Love Trashy Novels blog about writing first
drafts. SB Sarah asked her readers how
they approach first drafts. The plethora
and variety of responses amazed me.
(That and the fact that Iím reading and commenting on a blog along with
Nora Roberts Ė how cool is that? Maybe
we could come up with a romance novelist version of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon
using NR instead. Iím one degree away.) If you want to see what people said, youíll
just have to visit yourself.
But it got me thinking about my first draft process, which,
frankly, is all over the place. Iíve
found that what works best for me is to spit the whole thing out Ė just start
and keep going, for Godís sake, donít stop for anything. If I stop, I stay stopped. For a looooooong time. Itís like my approach to running. I start running as quickly as my still drowsy
body will go in the morning, getting as far away from my house as
possible. Once I wake up enough to realize
that Iím a) actually running and b) want to stop, Iím a mile and a half from home
and I have to cover that same ground to get back. Itís brutal some mornings, but effective.
The problem with this writing approach is that, unlike
running, I donít know where Iím going because I havenít been there before. While writing my first draft Iím in the dark,
on the characters, the conflicts, the major plot points, and the
resolutions. I start writing and things
come into some form, usually a really ugly form. But I learn my characters as I go through and
I come up with some great and not-so-great ideas along the way.
If I stop to edit, I get bogged down in creating
perfection. And Iíll never get to ďThe
EndĒ that way. So editing, for the most
part, waits for draft two.
Some of you right now are probably cringing at the very
thought of writing in the dark. Itís an
exciting but dangerous way to work.
Others might be breathing a sigh of relief to know someone is as
unstructured as you. I firmly believe
thereís no right way to find your muse.
How do you find yours?
If anyone needs one, I can lend you a flashlight for your
search. Just wait till my powerís back
One of my favorite authors Ė she writes mysteries with a
touch of romance Ė will have a new release in one of her highly popular series
out this August. I hurried over to an
online bookstore today to read up on the release and amuse myself by reading
reviews from her last release. All five
stars, except two. They didnít get the
romance part of the mystery, which Iím okay with Ė different strokes, after
all. What Iím not okay with is the two-star
rating which justified the flaws the male reviewer saw in the book by saying,
ďI guess these books are targeted towards female audience.Ē
I know what Yosemite Sam would say about that, were he
blessed with two X chromosomes.
His dissing a book I love was bad enough, but Iíll allow for
that. He probably enjoyed all the American Pie movies, which I could live
without. Iíll even forgive the bad
grammar. But to say the bookís apparent
flaws were more understandable because they were intended for women is unpardonable.
Iím tired of a womanís world being perceived as
ďother.Ē Teaching and secretarial work
were respected, well-paid professions until women began to dominate them. But if a woman can do the jobÖ You can fill in the blank yourself.
In the publishing world, if itís fiction that women would
likely appreciate, itís ďwomenís fiction.Ē
Iíve never heard ďmenís fictionĒ bandied about in the same way. So novels that men might enjoy are simply
part of the standard of fiction, but novels women might enjoy are
different. Lesser and low quality. Trash.
Thereís lots of variety in books out there. Slasher novels, spy tales, mysteries,
romances, and more Ė thereís good and bad in every genre. But to denigrate a novel because itís geared
toward over fifty percent of the population Ė the part that doesnít count,
apparently Ė is to perpetuate the idea that women Ė our tastes, our likes, our
skills Ė are of lesser value. If we like
it, it canít possibly be good. We donít
know what quality is.
I know itís a frustrating effort to fight this
stereotype. Women have always been
ďotherĒ in this society. But Iím going
to rant about it anyway. Some words
canít be allowed to stand unchallenged.
Actually, it has finally cooled down today in New
England, but with temperatures hitting ninety-eight degrees in
early June, it has me thinking about global warming. Add to that filling up my tank this morning
at $4.04/gallon and I wonder sometimes how the planet is going to make it. Weíre a pretty crunchy-granola part of the
country in my little corner and going green is very hip here.
What does this have to do with writing? Iím getting to that, I promise.
So I was thinking about this as I read an essay about
publishing and its unfriendly environmental status. Really, think about it. All that paper and what happens to it? Thousand of books that arenít purchased are
sent back to publishers, tens of thousands of manuscripts unloved by editors
and sent to the recycling bin, millions of partials and queries meeting the
same fate. Sure, things get recycled,
but not everything can be reused. How
many trees do we kill in writing?
Now, there are some positive signs out there. Iíve been pleased to see the growing number
of agents conducting some or most of their query/proposal process online and by
email. Bravo! Letís face it Ė we all know that not every
agent will love our stunning manuscripts and requests for representation. By just being able to hit the delete button, said
agents are saving the world, one manuscript at a time.
I donít have hard numbers, but e-publishing seems to be increasing
in size and popularity. Amazonís Kindle
sales have taken off and many mainstream as well as lesser-known works are now
available electronically. Itís a bummer,
of course, if you lose your reader or break it Ė there goes the library Ė but again,
thanks for being green.
The hard part I come down to is the sheer number of people
who seem to be writing books. I think of
all those drafts, queries, manuscripts, and letters going back and forth Ė and
thatís just me Ė and multiply that by the veritable plethora of aspiring
writers out there doing the same thing and I think, Holy cow, weíre
contributing to the growing homelessness of polar bears and other ecological
disasters. (Of course, law firms,
investment banks, newspapers, magazines, and junk mail producers share the
honors in terms of paper proliferation.)
But really Ė how much paper do we produce?
I have tried to move to a more verdant place in the
world. I no longer print out my drafts
to edit until the last page is written.
I have a fondness for those agents out there willing to take my email
attachments. (Although whoís kidding
who? If a completely paper-bound agent
offered representation, Iím not turning up my nose.) Iím trying to love reading on a screen,
though thatís taking longer to sink in. Iím
recycling every scrap of paper I can.
And Iím hoping others are doing the same and more.
As Kermit noted, itís not easy being green. But, really, I donít want this weekís heat to
be anything more than an aberration in the weather pattern.
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