Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Encouragement to All You Writer Wannabes

Sometimes, you just want to quit. Sometimes, you look around and see that the genre you love has changed and is no longer what you love and you are feeling lost and lonely out there, trying to write, and darn it, trying to be published, even though you know that what you're doing is no longer what anyone seems to want.

Or maybe it's really something different that no one wants.

Sound like you?
Sure sounds like me.

I've pretty much always wanted to write, heck, I wrote a charming little story about a germ in first grade, complete with illustrations (in LIVING COLOR) and even went so far as to bind the darn thing, myself. I joined Romance Writers of America when they first formed and maintained that membership because they are one of the few writers groups that permitted non-published members to join. Right now, I've got over ten completed manuscripts, and I have great hopes for the last five. I got an agent on the 6th manuscript, so there are four more even newer (better?) ones after that.

So why, you ask, are you depressed?
Well, I'm not published. Sure, I have an agent, but oddly enough, in my fearsome mind, that means I now disappoint TWO people when I get a rejection, instead of just little old me.

However, that's really not the REAL reason. The real reason is that the romance market has changed. The books I love have morphed into something I no longer relish quite so much. All the forums seem to talk about is how to make your books hot, hotter, HOTTEST! when all I want is a good story. I don't want explicit body parts/exchanging of fluids -- the mechanics stopped being interesting to me after I found out how it all worked for myself (oh, sure, you crazy thing - I *meant* me and my boyfriend--duh!). So what interests me now is the story. I don't mind a little nooky. I don't mind a brief interlude of closeness if someone realizes something or shows something relevant to the story, but going on, and on, and on about throbbing members and the hot, wet lips of heaven (chose your metaphor) is just too much.

To my sadness, I've even stopped buying a lot of genres I used to enjoy, e.g. historicals and romantic suspense, because I no longer trust authors not to make me wince with pages of entirely gratuitous engorged cucumbers-and-ripe-tomatoes in some Duke's pants.

When I read them, I wince for the same reason I wince when an actor entering on stage accidentally trips--because I'm embarrased for them, not because I'm shy (just ask my husband, or read my earlier blog, to whit it would be hard to call someone shy who is willing--for whatever reason--to stand outside in January in the pouring ran, naked, and to calmly lather up, rinse, and repeat). Those agonizingly long scenes seem like the author has made some huge mistake and their editor was too embarrassed to point it out to them.

Oh, sure I guess readers do like this cucumber-and-tomato stuff, but for those of us who'd rather gloss over it and concentrate on the emotional life of the characters and the story, it's a bit of a bore.

So, anyway, the reason I mention this is because as a writer, I feel increasing pressure to put those sorts of salads in my manuscripts. To make them more sensual (that's what they're calling this purple prose stuff).

I don't do purple prose and I don't do rules. But I do get depressed when I'm told what I write--romantic, historical mysteries--maybe won't sell unless I add more sensuality (i.e. purple prose). It isn't my style and sadly, even though, sure, I could toss in a few salacious salads, if I did that and for some reason one of my manuscripts sold, I wouldn't want to read the darn thing post-publication.

Here's the thing. I like mysteries and science fiction because even the boys like Heinlein tend not to go in for the throbbing cucumbers when they write the salacious bits. Strangely, I like Chick Lit for the same reason. Sure, they have sex scenes, but the prose is considerably less purple and they don't go on about it for days. And usually the scene makes some point so it serves a purpose other than titilation. I used to like romances until they took a 90 degree turn and headed off down past the belt line.

And sure, I can add sex scenes. In fact, I've done it (where appropriate and the characters both agree) in a *few* of my manuscripts. I just don't do it in *all* my manuscripts because in some, it isn't important to the story and the characters violently object. And after all, as a writer, you're relying on the cooperation of your characters to strip and coordinate the action. If they won't do it, then to force the matter just makes them...boring. And wooden.

So. Do I quit Romance Writers, because the only thing anyone talks about anymore is making "it hotter"?
Do I just quit, period, because clearly I'm not in step with the times?
Will times change - frankly, on this last question, I think folks misunderstand "change" and cycles. Yes, things cycle in and out, but each cycle morphs so it never cycles back to precisely where it was before - it's similar, but different. So I don't expect it to ever really cycle back to the good old reassuring days when the hero and heroine kissed at the end. The best you can hope for on the cycle back--if it occurs--is a shorter sex scene without a lot of explicit descriptions. But, I'm good with that.

For writers who also feel lost, abandoned, out of step with today's markets, and generally depressed, I will point to another blog. Miss Snark is reportedly an agent. She's got a fascinating blog and she continually makes one point. No matter how out of touch you are, how bad you think your writing might be, whatever the case, Don't Give Up!
Don't stop writing just because you're feeling a little out of touch.
Here is a link to her blog. Use it.

Finally, don't feel alone out there. There are a lot of reasons to feel things aren't going your way as a writer. I'd love to hear from you about why you think your work isn't selling or won't sell. Misery loves company.

1 comment:

qory said...

Hey there. I don't know you but you write a nice blog at least. Writing is lonely but keep it up.

- a lonely closet writer.