glitter_n_gore: (jean gray)
So, since I'm not that great at blogging regularly, and since I've noticed that I tend to write faster and more smoothly when I'm doing it longhand, I've decided to use one of my (many, many) notebooks as a Blogging Journal. Meaning, I'll write up blog-style "essays" (That's what we call these things, isn't it?) in one of my black-and-white composition books before typing them up. I don't know whether this will do any good or not, but it's worth a shot.

Anyway.

I've been thinking about the various challenges in writing in different genres. I've blogged before about the challenges in the time-travel plot specifically, and included a few examples in which I thought the subject was handled particularly well.

Another thing I've talked about before is that I read books (and watch movies and television) above all for the characters. I enter fictional worlds to meet new imaginary friends anf follow them on their personal journies. And I still maintain that a compelling cast of characters can make readers overlook a great number of sins like poor setting description, unambitious word choices, or a hackneyed plot.

However, one place attention to detail is absolutely necessary, no matter how great your characters are, is sci-fi. And I'll tell you why: the audience in sci-fi is not reading just for the characters. They will watch you like hawks to make sure you get the science right, in order to make the fiction plausible.

Historical fiction fans are the same way--you must get the history right, or the fiction won't fly.

I mention this because I've been fighting with the details yet again for "Hoppers." One of the great--and one of the damning--things about having a dedicated writers' group to critique you before the thing goes to print, especially when you have a novel with lots of weird technology, parallel universes, and time travel, is your fellow writers/readers will call you out on everything. And I do mean everything:

"Wait, how many alternate universes are there?"

"How does X Character know which world she's going into when she goes through Portal A?"

"Who's in charge of this evil empire anyway?"

"How do they get WiFi down there when the evil empire cut their power off in Chapter 3?"


And so it goes.

Some of these are questions I had in the back of my mind filed under Deal With Later while I was powering through the first draft--others are new things I hadn't thought about before. In either case, I now have to deal with them. Will my theoretical future readers ask all these questions? If they do ask, will it stop them from reading the rest of the book if they decide I have no idea what I'm talking about? Most importantly, can I live with myself if I know these questions need dealing with and decide to ignore them anyway, or should I commit to making this the best possible book I can write, even if that means many more hours of research and revisions?

Ultimately, that last question is one every writer has to answer for herself. Me? I'm doing the research. It'll take time, and I might not enjoy it, but the story will be better for it in the end.
glitter_n_gore: (stargate snark)
Here's what I'm working on right now:

"Hoppers," which needed massive revisions, is getting them as we speak, and I'm running it through a local critique workshop to see if the plot makes more sense now. Have you ever tried to write a story with time travel as a central theme? Jiminy Christmas, it is HARD! Having said that, I've also recently rediscovered my love for Doctor Who, and trying to do this at the same time has given me even more respect and admiration for the writers on that show. The episodes aren't always perfect, but still pretty damn good. This stuff is so, so tricky to plot. Gah!

I also have a new-ish WIP (meaning a handful of preexisting plot bunnies have joined forces, either for good or for evil, can't tell yet) that's reached 3k so far. Still early, but I have a new monster to play with (a burrowing parasite that feeds on negative emotions), ghosts, space ships, and a supernova. It's gonna be fun.

"The Fire Worker" is DONE, at least the first draft of it. Yay! I so love typing "The End" at the bottom of a manuscript. I know I still have proofing, editing, revisions, beta reads, and then the query-synopsis-submission process to look forward to. But none of that even takes place if you don't get to "The End" first. It was a hard place for me to reach, and I burned through several half-finished manuscripts before I got there the first time. I'm proud of it. Completion is something to celebrate.

Honestly, there's not much else going on with me right now. Well, it feels like not much, but really I have one novel in revisions, another in the beginning stages, a third resting, and a short story still out waiting its turn in the submission queue. But since I'm usually writing several things at once, it doesn't feel like much. It's weird, but I think it's good. We'll see.

Last book read: Moxyland, by Lauren Beukes

Currently on: The Wayfarer Redemption, by Sara Douglas
glitter_n_gore: (samara)
Let's hear it for fellow horror hound, Diane Dooley, who has not just one, but two stories out as of this past month: "A Womb of One's Own", her first print publication which is out in this summer's issue of Golden Visions Magazine--read more about it here; and "Served", a short, nasty piece about waiting tables (kind of) which you can read here. (Scroll down to the end, but be warned--it is NOT for the faint of heart. Mature audiences ONLY.)

Also there's a great conversation/interview up on her blog with Fiona Dodwell, on the perceptions and difficulties of being not just a horror writer, but a female horror writer: "Most people who find I enjoy horror are shocked – they usually respond by saying, “But you’re such a girly, feminine woman!”, as if being into horror means I have to grow horns and wear black all day! Really, I’m a happy, contented woman, but I like to explore darkness from a safe place – and for me that is through the medium of writing." Read the rest of the interview here.


As for myself, progress is slow but steady on my various projects. I am four pages and one last edit away from finished with "Doppelganger," the horror short I've been working on with the writer's group here, and have signed up to do a reading with them in September. It's a first-come, first-served sign up list, so hopefully I'll be able to get in there. Even if it's full, there's usually at least one person who can't show up due to some emergency or other, so I'm hopeful. Stay tuned--I will tell you when and where for anyone who wants to come.

The rest of my projects are, as usual, getting eaten by plot bunnies. I got one more rejection back for "Hoppers," which I hate to admit probably needs another rewrite--or at least a fresh beta reader to tell me what needs fixing. I'm torn between the voice that says "Put it away and deal with it later, when you stop hating it," which is probably the best; and the one that says, "But it's YA dystopia--if we don't find a buyer now, people are going to be sick of them! It'll be vampires all over again!" although I know, I know, that's my impatience talking. The market is unpredictable--dystopias will come back around, or not, and there's nothing I can do about it, so there's no use worrying about that.

"Dusty" has a mind of its own and won't do what I tell it, although I think the first chapter is pretty good. A first chapter does not a good novel make, but it's a start, and it's better than what I had before. I think I might just be taking this project too seriously, because--apart from the vampires--it's about a topic that's very close to home for me, and that's making it exceedingly difficult to write.

I have several more on the backburner, but right now my focus is mostly on "Doppelganger." Having a critique group to report to makes things go so much more smoothly.

As for the plot bunnies, I'm just going to throw a dart and see where it lands.

Last book read: Spindle's End by Robin McKinley.

Yearly total: 38
glitter_n_gore: (frank)
Like monsters? Read this article by self-described "icky bug" fan and author Fred Hayworth.

Like zombies? Check out this book trailer for Mira Grant's Newsflesh trilogy--the second of which, Deadline I bought just last week.

As for myself, I haven't accomplished as much word-count wise lately as I'd like to. However, I am progressing in a slightly different way, and pleased so far: I finished my "final" edits for my YA dystopia, which I wasn't expecting to happen as quickly or easily as it did, so I'm starting the query/synopsis/submission process again. YA dystopias are reportedly "hot" right now, and I just happen to have one, and this manuscript is decidedly more polished than the last one I sent out, so I'm hopeful.

Also, I joined a sci-fi/fantasy/horror workshop last week with a focus on short story format. I haven't successfully written a short story before, so I'm taking a stab at getting the form and pacing figured out. It's a good group, and I've workshopped with them before, so I'm excited. Wish me luck!
glitter_n_gore: (samara)
Many of you know about the dysfunctional love/hate relationship I have with Twilight. Many more know what a gigantic success that series is, and a trip through any major bookseller will reinforce that success by all the paranormal romantic YA books on prominent display. I've decided to call this trend The Sparkle Phenomenon. If you don't understand that reference, let me direct you to [livejournal.com profile] cleolinda's fantastic glossary of all things Twilight: http://cleoland.pbworks.com/Twilight

One of the biggest criticisms directed at Twilight and its successors is the way the female characters are portrayed: they're often bland, weak-willed, and void of personal interests or goals outside of a relationship with some brooding, handsome boy, usually supernaturally inclined in some way, and the boy dictates the terms of the relationship and more in varying degrees of possessiveness and manipulation. The naysayers say these books are antifeminist and put the women's movement back several decades, reigniting the traditional gender roles we've fought so hard against for so long. There's a great essay entitled "YA and Rape Culture" here, which uses as its example Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush, Hush--a "romance" starring a fallen angel that sounds frankly horrifying.

To be perfectly honest, I don't mind fiction that upsets or even terrifies me. I'm a fan of dystopias and supernatural horror after all. The disturbing aspect of these books isn't the action that unfolds between the covers, but the reactions of young readers to them. I have no problem separating fact from fiction in these contexts--I have a zero tolerance policy towards controlling jerks in real life--but what worries me is that so many teenagers don't seem to notice that the relationships in these books are neither normal nor healthy, and often wax poetical over how much they wished they had someone just like Edward, or Patch, to come and sweep them off their feet. Here's another essay on that part of the Sparkle Phenomenon: Do Books Teach or Reveal? And another word from Cleolinda on the subject of bad boys in literature: My thoughts on Twilight, let me show you them. (Scroll down to Point no. 2.)

Amy and Cleo both raise some great points, and this is what I think folks need to keep in mind when they complain about successful books with bland, weak, or even masochistic female leads: There is no lack of strong females in YA literature. Katnis in The Hunger Games; Lyra Belacqua in His Dark Materials; Tally Youngblood in Uglies; I have many, many issues with PC and Kristen Cast's House of Night series, mainly the juvenile vernacular, but I do appreciate Zoey Redbird's stubborn streak and proactive attitude. The good stuff is out there. My point here is that writers of YA fiction have every right to do whatever they want with their worlds. Their job is to entertain, and as a writer, I'd be pretty pissed if someone told me to change the tone or theme of my work just because they didn't like the ideas some kids might get from it. The problem isn't with the books themselves. It's that the overwhelming majority of YA sales are going towards a certain type of book. If teenagers wanted to read about strong females kicking ass with or without a romantic partner, that's exactly what they'd do. The sales would reflect that--and with The Hunger Games, maybe things are already moving in that direction. But for the moment, they're reading about Mary Sue types falling hopelessly in love with big, strong, superheroes who push them around and tell them what to do. That's what worries me, because I don't understand how something like that became so popular in the first place.

I've always gravitated towards strong characters in fiction. Even if they have issues, such as being antisocial or even psychotic, characters who own their identity and get things done are always my favorites. (I'll be blogging about some of my personal favorites soon, but that's another project for another day.) Twilight lost me at the "lion fell in love with the lamb" line--not so much that I quit reading (to my occasional dismay), but that was the moment I realized I could never relate to Bella as a character. Ever. And I discounted her narration as biased and untrustworthy from then on out. If anyone calls me a "lamb" to my face, you can bet I won't take it as a compliment, and I might just have to prove how wrong they are. However, I was raised to own my identity and not let anyone else tell me who I am. Looking at the essay linked in the second paragraph showed me just how rare that is, because I can't see myself following any of the "rules" outlined about how polite females are supposed to behave. I err on the side of standoffish and bitchy (as my ex-boyfriend knows perhaps a little too well), but considering the alternative, I'm kind of okay with that.

What I'm wondering is just how widespread that mindset is. Obviously someone--many someones, all over the face of the globe--believes so strongly that validation by a man is required for one's self worth that they'll delve into a romantic fantasy with that very plot at the center. I know the teenage years are hell on self-worth, but I honestly don't remember feeling unworthy or "less" than my classmates on account of not having a boyfriend. I had crushes--oh, lordy, did I--but I had plenty of other things to occupy my time than pining over them. I've discovered over the years that I'm better than most with self-esteem, but I'd like to hope I'm not completely unique in this.

Anyone else like to chime in on this? I know I've rambled here, but I've been thinking about this a lot lately and wondering where all the attention given to this "romantic" YA trend comes from.

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