Sometimes You Have To Write For Solely Yourself

No. I’m not giving up on writing a novel for publication. People have permission to smack me, preferably very hard, if I make such a foolish choice when I obviously love writing and get joy out of it. So, now that I’ve nearly given said hypothetical people a heart attack, we’ll get on with what I really mean.

Writers tend to love what they do and I’m no different in that way than other writers, but I’ve been writing non-fiction essay and essay compilations dealing with fan-fiction in the fandoms I’m part of for a few months. And in that time I have discovered that I love writing those essays. I’ve also been overwhelmed in other aspects of my writing, though I’ve thankfully helped that by going back to drafting initial drafts by. At the same time, I’ve recently gotten an order of books in and one of them is The Woman  Who Would Be King by Kara Cooney and I’m loving that as well.

This lead to an interesting sets of thoughts the other day, which went something the like this:

Me: I love this.

Muse: Doesn’t it make you want to write a non-fiction book of your own?

Me: *looks at muse like she’s insane* Maybe if I ever make my other dream of being an anthropologist a reality. I could probably use my doctoral thesis in that instance. But no, it doesn’t really make me want to branch out into this type of stuff when it isn’t fan-fiction related in some way.

Muse: But I want you to write a publishable non-fiction book now! *pouts*

Me: Um…. I could write something like that, but fictional. You liked when I was looking up treatises just now, didn’t you? It wouldn’t be something I’d write with an eye towards looking to publish right now though, just for fun. Maybe I’ll see about looking at trade publishing for it in a few years.

Muse: *pouts more* I guess I did. It was very interesting and I still like your other fictional non-fiction idea, that fantasyland guide with the orc-like creature.

Me: Yeah, that one has me stumped. I need to fix my format and do other stuff before diving back into that half-finished project. I could write something else though. Expand that short I never finished into a fictional memoir-like story?

Muse: Write a treatise on vampires! You can write about their origin, their history and the role they played in human history, sexuality. Lots of interesting things to write about in a book about vampires, especially if you make the “author” a vampire.

Me: *stares* You know? I actually like that idea. I think I’ll do that. *goes off to format the document like a non-fiction book*

And so it happens that I’m writing a treatise on vampires, set in a fictional version of our own world. I’m really looking forward to it, too. The muse had to do some convincing, but I’m glad she managed it. I needed a tertiary project that I would find fun and just that, while having it not be related to fan-fiction at the same time. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy my more fan-fiction tied in non-fiction works, I do enjoy them. But I, as I said earlier and hope you inferred from the little convo with my muse, wanted to bring that enjoyment of non-fiction into my original work in some way. To expand the ways in which I can enjoy it.

This of course, means that I don’t really plan to document the project in any huge way. But it will come up from time to time on the blog, so be on the look out for that.

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Longhand first? One Writer’s Revelation.

There’s lot’s of blog posts on the nature of writing longhand, explaining how it gets in touch with a creative and more uninhibited part of the brain at the same time as it cuts down on the excess verbiage that can come from composing directly into some sort of word processor. On why it works for a specific writer or doesn’t. That’s all well and good, they’re helpful so I won’t knock them in any way.

But I do feel that in this debate people often neglect an aspect that I enjoy the most about composing in longhand first: the extra editing pass. My problem with direct composition was that it inhibited this aspect of writing for me, forcing me to feel like things either were just destined to be complete shit the first time or they had to be perfect. I had convinced myself that “real writers” didn’t need that extra pass as they wrote, forget the fact that many writers did that once the typewriter went into regular home and office use until computers became the norm and many famous and well-respected writers still work that way. There was something weird about needing that extra pass, about the comfort of my own not über messy but still messy scrawl being where the first draft lived in my brain.

I just couldn’t do it and would keep abandoning projects despite making changes like changing a character’s name, implementing a new change in the plot that I was sure would fix things and make me able to continue on with the story etc. I had tried what felt like every method of plotting and pantsing under the sun before I just gave in and went back to what I did in middle school and wrote my first drafts on paper. And lo and behold, it worked!

That extra pass means that my work has more of a structure than it did before. I already have the structure of a chapter or scene and can augment and flesh it out as much as I need to without having to spend a ton of time blocking out the scene like my story is some play. Which in turn leads to me producing more words that I can actually use in the first draft, even if I choose not to use those exact words. All in all, the often neglected aspect of the second pass if why writing longhand works so well for me.

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On Being LGBT in Revolutionary War Era America…

One of my projects, much-loved and long-suffering in its wait for me to write it, is an American Revolutionary War vampire spy story. This, of course, means lots of research on my part. Some of it I started before my little break from the research, some of it not yet done, and some that I gathered over the years in capacity as a dork who tends to be obsessive in watching documentaries on subjects that she enjoys. The American Revolution, Revolutionary War, American War for Independence or whatever you choose to call it is one of those topic for me. I just love that time in history. Can’t get enough of it.

Which finally brings us to our topic for the day: the 1785 Massachusetts anti-sodomy law.

One of my POV characters and the main character’s brother, Samuel, is a gay lawyer during the American Revolution. The MA law is a couple of years out from the end of the war, but laws throughout the colonies regarding the topic of men sleeping with men were essentially the same. It replaced the law in effect during the revolution, which itself had replaced an earlier law that was felt to be out of date and too ambiguous in its wording when it was replaced decades earlier. Please don’t read the law itself if you think it will prevent you from reading the rest of the post, or my modern rendering of the law for that matter. This is the law as found in The Perpetual Laws of Massachusetts:

Sect. I. Be it enabled by the Senate and House of Representatives, in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, that if any man shall lay with mankind as he layeth with a woman ; or any man or woman shall have carnal copulation with any beast or brute creatures and be thereof duly convicted, the offender, in either of those cases, shall be adjudged guilty of felony, shall be sentenced to suffer the pains of death, and the beast shall be slain, and every part thereof burned.

Sect. 2. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that such order and form of process shall be had and used, in trial of such offenders and such judgments given, and execution done,upon the offender, as in cases of murder.

In other words:

Sect. I. Any man who has sex with a man as another would with a woman; or any woman or man who has sex with an animal as they would a human and are convicted of the crime should, in either case, be found guilty of committing a felony are sentenced to death and the animal to be killed and burned.

Sect. II The trial and sentence should be carried out in the same way as in cases of murder.

The method of death being spoken of in the laws is hanging, by actual gallows built for the event, already in place, from a tree etc. You get the idea.Methods of execution included forcing the convicted person up a ladder until the height was judged to be good enough to do the job or force them onto a horse or cart before putting the noose over their head. After allowing the person to say some final words, the ladder was turned away from, the horse or cart removed from bellow them, or a lever fulled and a door below the person opened up with them hanging from nothing but their neck. The person’s hand would be bound so that they weren’t able to scramble and loosen the noose that was slowly choking the life out of them. A quick death via a broken spine was the hoped for outcome, but that wasn’t always the case. The person was to be hanged until it was sure they were dead.

All in all, it was a gruesome and quite horrible way to die. This law and the preferred method of execution were well-known by the people living throughout the entirety of the Thirteen Colonies at the time, had been in use in England since before many of their families left for the colonies  over a century before, and is something that Samuel would know even if he wasn’t a lawyer. While it is horrible to think about for us now, some laws such as this one, were based on faith. Individual people didn’t have a problem with homosexuality, but society did and it was accepted by the vast majority that man caught having sex with another man was doomed to not only hell, but to be convicted and hanged.

Because of this people were extremely careful to not be seen, to not arouse any sort of suspicion that would make people look at them harder than others. Samuel and others like him were a wary bunch during the time, so I had to figure out a way to make his having a lover, something that still frequently happened despite the law ( The law couldn’t stop people’s desires or love after all.), possible and cause conflict without making the story his story instead of his sister Elizabeth’s. Enter Nathaniel, a redcoat who is, for the moment at least, being quartered in Samuel and Elizabeth’s home under on of two quartering acts passed in the lead up to and during the Revolution.

Lesbians and bisexual women were covered under a similar law, though I don’t have a copy of that handy at the moment. However, it could also lead to the death of the women involved just as this law effected the men. My conclusion? People find love in the hardest of circumstance, but the 18th century was no pick-nick as far as being LGBT was concerned.

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Audience & The Writer

I’ve always known who I was writing for, who my audience was. Myself. But not everyone knows that, so I hope an awesome tip I came across a while ago helps anyone who reads this blog.

Tip: Pick a person real or fiction, historical or contemporary and write a story you think they would read.

Say I was going to be writing for Dean Winchester instead of myself. I’d have to know the character pretty well or at least feel like I know him well enough to write a story for him, which I do when I think about it. I would also need to know the genre of the story to work the way I like to, because what I would picture him liking if he was reading a romance differs from what I think would actually be a good Horror story in Dean’s mind. A task that is difficult considering how, pardon my language, fucked up and terrifying his and his brother’s lives have been on Supernatural. But Dean is also loyal, smart, resourceful, hasn’t been shown to be someone who would cheat on a person they’re with, and has lots of little insecurities and desires that you can only learn from watching the show and seeing them in action.  He’s also never shown forcing himself on someone sexually, though he is more than a little bit of a horny bastard who loves sex.

Knowing this gives me two things right of the bat. Dean probably wouldn’t enjoy a Romance that starts with cheating, though others may enjoy it. And he probably can only be freaked out by sex, loyalty, family or a combination thereof in a Horror story. I’d have to write really graphic Erotic Horror where a character is repeatedly sexually attacked by a creature that turns out to be related to them. Maybe something where the creature returns every 30 years or something like that. My Erotic Horror story, which I’ve put on simmer as I try to figure it out more in my head, probably wouldn’t do more than gross him out despite the sex mix of sex, vampires, and cannibalism.

That said, I think I’m starting to gross myself out with all this talk about how my graphic Erotic Horror wouldn’t be horrific enough for him to instill the feeling of fear Horror is meant to instill in its readers. It’s stomach churning the length my mind has to go to in order to come up with something I think would scare him. I’ll probably write it eventually, but I think we’re done for now.

Try picking a character you like and figuring out what type of story you think they would enjoy, then write it!

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April Rains On My Writing Parade…

I’m officially throwing in the towel when it comes to the current Camp NaNoWriMo. There’s only tomorrow left and I just haven’t been able to get in the habit of writing the amount I should in order to keep up with my modest goal of writing a novella in a month. Not to mention the fact I would have to write an impossible amount tomorrow in order to reach my goal. I don’t know why I had that problem this year, especially considering that I wrote a novella two years ago during the July Camp in 3 weeks. Granted I was exhausted by the end and could’ve felt much better if I had given myself the whole 31 days to write, but I did it. It was fun and I did it.

That novella, based on the poem Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe and named Bringing Me Dreams, is now being expanded into a novel. The current novella, being written for the Book Smugglers Publishing novella initiative and what I was writing this month, likely won’t be finished by the end of next month.  Basically, April sucked for writing.

So, I’m coming up with a new goal for May and a new way to do it. Or a set of goals, actually. May is going to be the month that I revert to writing by hand in an effort to get myself consistently writing again. The first week writing a synopsis for one of my novels ideas. Which one? I don’t really know yet and I’m OK with that. All I know is that I WILL be writing two pages a day on whatever this project is at minimum. Nothing too strenuous, but not so lax that I may as well not have set a goal.

In preparation for this, I’ve cleared out my three 3-ring binders, stuffed the contents of them all, which wasn’t organized anyway, into a file folder and then into my filing cabinet. In fact, my binders have their own draw in the cabinet, so I don’t even have to look at it if that’s what I want. Out of sight, out of mind as the saying goes.  Good for the multi-tasker who has trouble focusing when zeroing in on a task or spreading themselves out over multiple tasks. No blinking cursor berating me for not writing when I open up that Word doc to work.

Heaven.

My secondary goal for May will be to gather research for my Historical Fantasy Project. Thank God for my love of research or it would probably drive me insane; something, especially in light of the fact that I’m easily stressed, is hard for me to avoid. Speaking of which, be on the lookout for posts about my research this month. I’ll be doing a post about one document in my research and my impressions of it a week, as well as weekly updates on my writing.

May’s tertiary goal will be to write a poem a day, several of which will hopefully count towards a novel-in-verse that I’m planning to write. There will be a post on this project by the way, probably explaining a little bit about what a damn novel-in-verse is to start with and why I’m writing one.

That said, I’ve rambled on long enough and I’m sure that you’re sick of me by now. Until next time!

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No, no-one else could’ve written that story…

The other day on my favorite site another member said something that made them seem a bit like a, for complete lack of better phrasing and no desire to censor myself, a pompous jackass. They made a comparison between more literary novels like Buddha’s Little Finger and more popular commercial novels like Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and said that anyone could’ve written the commercial novels had things been different. That would’ve been all well and good, not that I would agree with that sentiment. However, they then went on to say that only the actual writer of the literary novels could’ve written those novels.

Had I been in the same room as this guy, well, I don’t think it would’ve been pretty. I’m not much for this type of pure foolishness.

I love literary stories, wrote a Literary SF short myself and have plans for a Literary novel with a contemporary setting, one that is Lit Paranormal, and one that is Literary SF. I read both straight Lit and Lit-Genre crosses whenever I can get my hands on them, not caring whether the story is short or novel, adult or Young Adult/ Middle Grade.

But there’s simply nothing to what this guy was saying. There’s nothing special, better about Literary fiction in any objective sense. Maybe I don’t like Twilight or another popular novel for my own reasons entirely, but that doesn’t make the novels I do like, commercial and literary alike, more unique and what I don’t like less so. Because each came from the mind of a unique person, and what we write is often tied to who we are as people. We have themes, genres, styles, and ideas that call to us when we write; I tend to love vampires and other supernatural creatures, write characters that are POC ( People of Color. i.e. people who aren’t White.), and characters that are in some way LGBT+. Sure, lesbian characters are my normal choice, but that’s not the extent of my ideas. Nor are the supernatural elements of a lot of my Speculative Fiction that isn’t Science Fiction/Scifi.

Yes. Maybe there are people with similar ideas to mine. But, you know what? An idea isn’t what makes something unique, though it sometimes does when the idea is rare, that’s the execution of the story. A story is as unique as the person who wrote it regardless of genre and with proper effort by the writer, because characters are people no matter how alien they may be. My fan-fiction background has taught me that someone not the creator can’t predict fully how another person’s characters would react to something. They can certainly make educated guesses that make sense to even the creator, but they can’t say for sure how someone else’s characters would act.

So at the end of the day my opinion is this: anyone telling you that only literary works require a specific author is talking out of their ass.

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The Muse

It’s hard to describe what goes on in the head of a writer. Things are varied, as diverse as the writers themselves. Then you have the concept of the muse, an artist’s source of inspiration and where their work comes from, which also varied. Some don’t feel they have a muse and some see their muse as a personification of their subconscious who comes complete with a personality of its own.

I belong to the later group. My muse, who doesn’t have a name because I would probably just end up cursing it, is a personification of my writer’s brain. She’s the part of me that comes up with all the ideas, my creative side.

The following is how muse moments normally go for me.

Me: *Looks through story ideas and wonders about what to write* Nope. Nope. Oh, that’s almost ready to be worked with. Nope. That’s ready but I don’t wanna work with it yet. That needs more research and an idea revision.

Muse: Write about vampire, sexually and emotionally satisfying cannibalism, and a descent into darkness arc filtered through a romantic tragedy type plot. Oh, and Lesbians.

Me: *glares at muse* What the fuck am I supposed to do with that! Why can’t you give helpful opinions?!

Muse: Not part of the job description. I supply the plot bunnies and give the occasional nudge in the right direction when it’s needed. YOU are the one that makes sense of what the hell I meant by that.

Me: Well, do you at least have an opinion on which idea that’s already developed enough to outline and write that I SHOULD focus on?

Muse: *shrugs* Not at the moment.

Me: I hate you.

Muse: You love me.

Me: Yeah, I do. You fucker.

It’s not the most intellectually stimulating type of talk. There’s often longer and in-depth arguments with my muse in which I insult it in every way imaginable. But I’m ok with it. Things being the way they are work for me.

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