Sunday, February 15, 2015

Oh Fiction, I Seem To Be Deserting You, Or Are you Deserting Me?

I have a stack (um, stacks, actually) of books by my bedside winking at me every night begging to be read. My husband, concerned about the perilous stacks shoved up against the wall of my side of the bed, said at one point, "Let's get a bookcase. This is getting ridiculous." And now I have a bookcase of books begging to be read. Happy day!

Except. The stack is getting increasingly filled with non-fiction as opposed to fiction. I am currently switching between three superb books of non-fiction: Anderson's Lawrence in Arabia, Jones' The Plantagenets, and Roberts' Napoleon. I leap merrily from 14th century England to 20th century Arabia to 19th France on any given week. All three of them have very different styles of writing, and all three of them are crackerjack writers. It's a total joy to read them. I have no idea about the scholarship in these books, but it doesn't really matter. They are fantastic reads.

And then we look at the decreasing fiction pile. There is very little there to excite. Somehow I never got around to reading The Night Circus, and I'm looking forward to that. Nothing else grabs my eye. So I toddle downstairs to the office where the real bookcases live and pull out an old favorite when I feel I'm in the mood for fiction. The other night I was feeling "capote-ish" and singled out his The Dogs Bark. It's easy to forget what a wonderful writer he was because he became so malicious and angry at the end of his career, and the very thing that he despised, a literary clown. Anyway, much sadness there because much greatness squandered. The book is lovely, especially the bits from Local Color. I highly recommend it.

I guess the point I'm making is that non-fiction is still getting the rigorous go through by editors and fiction isn't. How many books have I read in the past two years that had me pulling my hair out because the editorial "pass" just didn't happen. The book was rushed to publication to feed the ebook reading masses. The real tragedies are the books that are near misses. The ones that could have graduated from being a Saturday afternoon read to being the sort of book you keep, that you will pluck off your shelf one night when you hanker for some decent writing. I have lots of books I have kept. And yet rarely do I keep a book these days. Very few of them grab me and the ones that do tend to be non-fiction.

Not that I have any room on my bookshelves for more books, but still.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Your Identity as a Writer

I'm writing a new novel these days but I can't say that I will ever ballyhoo it here. Why, you ask? Because the readers who have read the Mary Ryan mysteries or the Austen pastiche would flee screaming into the hills if I wrote this book under my real name. It's a "New Adult" novel, primarily catering to the market between 20-35. So there is casual sex, lots of swearing, drinking, and drug use (maybe, not sure about that part yet, except my 20-something kids tell me that pot use is rampant, so I need to shoehorn that in somewhere). It's written from two male POVs. It's sort of a mystery but not, and I'll probably have a bitch of a time trying to sell it.

So why am I writing it? And, more importantly, why am I spending so much effort to get it finished when its place in a market is debatable, it doesn't piggyback off of my current readership, and if the targeted readership knew that this was a 58-year-old women writing, they'd flee screaming into the hills.

Because it's there. Because I had an idea and I wanted to write from a male POV and I wanted to play with different POVs. And I wanted to feature people drinking, smoking, swearing, and having casual sex without alienating a bunch of readers. I wanted to write semi-graphic sex scenes. In short, I wanted to play with words.

I've reached the sad truth that I will never become rich and famous from writing. I don't write a book a year. I can't write a book a year. That day job thing. So I've decided to write what I want to write. In this No-Name book, I'm writing in a different gender and from two different POVs. This forces me to change the pacing, language, and feel of the two protagonists as I shift from chapter to chapter. It's not merely a question of changing the names. Both of these characters are wildly different, and the writing itself has to reflect that. One character is acerbic and formal-ish, and the language for his chapters reflects that. The language is more nuanced. More commas, believe it or not. The second protagonist is a simpler, nicer person. His chapter has shorter sentences and is less "verbose" if you will. This leads to two "voices" and a juggling act in regards to pacing.

It's been challenging and, I think, has moved me forward as a writer. I started this out by writing it in first person POV. That seems "thin." Then I thought, well, why not two POVs? So I kept one POV in first person and the second I moved to a third person POV. Still wasn't right. A year later, I finally found myself with two POVs in third person. I rewrote the beginning 30,000 words something like five times before it "clicked" into a shape that I could move forward. I'm at over 60,000 and hope to finish it up shortly. I'm not sure that this story will find a home anywhere in the publishing world, but I took some chances, and I think I benefitted as a writer from those chances.

Pseudonym for sale?