Gender in Fiction

Back in November, the idea was born to create an ebook and a series of blog posts on gender in writing- specifically fiction. The project was an extension of the genre project of the same nature from last year. It was fun and a pretty neat experience covered a lot of ground and exposed some different approaches to genre.

My intent was to expand on that and include a couple more people. A little ebook and some blog posts was the initial plan. The project grew and grew in both time and scope. We ended up with 7 contributors plus myself which would make it 7.5 and 6 months before it all came together. But it did come together. It grew into a full blown book, it's only fifty some pages but it was way too big for a blog post.

Did I learn anything? Oh did I.

Here are some of my lessons-

  • If something is well written the reader shouldn't need to wonder about who wrote it. It wouldn't cross their mind. If the writing takes you that far out of the story, as far as I am concerned, it's a mistake. I've lost you. I shouldn't read a passage and have the conscious thought "this sounds like a dude wrote this" and vice versa. 

  • If I am writing a character way out of my realm I should do some research in whatever form it takes. This research would be more beneficial beforehand than after the fact.

  • Some people make ebooks and then work towards turning them into paperbacks. I have never done it this way and Amazon offers it as an option. Someone in the project told me don't do it. I did not. I think it is easier the other way around. I start paperback on CreateSpace and go from there.

  • Formatting for ebook is considerably different from paperback. Amazon KDP does not like PDF. And stuff like formatting seems to get lost in the upload for an ebook- including color. If there is a way to get color in an ebook- I don't know it.

  • Communicating with 7.5 people from different parts of the globe who are all insanely busy is damn near miracle worker territory. One of the contributors very accurately called it herding cats. I am continuously neck deep in several all consuming projects and so is everyone else- try to bring that together. 

  • We were able to communicate as a group of friends and collaborators. It was enriching and inspirational. 

  • The end product was worth the time and effort and completely exceeded anything I could have imagined. I think they call that synergy.

  • A history of being abused is not a very good reason to inflict abuse yourself. I think it extends the power of the initial abuser. This has nothing to do with the book but I'm sticking with it.

Next post I will try to add some excerpt teasers. The plan is for it to be released on May 11.

Thanks for reading- G

In search of (writing) perfection

Here I am on the first or second day of spring. It was fantastic. Got the dogs out a couple times and even walked to town. It was only two blocks but hey- I did it. Last summer and fall I was fairly certain I would have a book ready about February time frame. Summer and Fall came and went, now guess what? Yes, Winter is gone too. I saw a pair of robins at least a month ago and it has been bitter cold since then, I think they may regret falling for the trick of an early spring. Did the book get done in February? Kind of yes and no. I definitely had a rough draft done. I even went as far as to get a paper proof which led to a massive batch of edits across the board. The problem might be this has led to the unending batch of edits. I don't really mean problem let's just call it "the situation." It's not a problem, its part of the process. A very necessary part of the process as frustrating as it gets.

This should mean I am making progress and learning. I must be. Can I pinpoint any specifics? Yes, if I had to nail it down, my biggest problem is confusion. Not confusion on my part other than my role in writing passages that don't make sense to anyone but me or leaving out details that I know but there is no way the reader does- especially when I don't include them. This might sound obvious, but it's not. I know all the details of the story, for the most part, I really know what happened in the story. So much so, I skip details while I am trying to stuff them to my computer.

How can I avoid this? I do not have the answer. I believe it is more than discipline. How I have discovered the problems is an easier question to answer. Step back and let someone else read it to provide the objective observer. The answer seems obvious but it is not necessarily as easy as it sounds either. Finding someone willing to read part of a book, much less the whole thing is a pretty big favor to ask.  Big isn't the right word, it's huge. Getting them to provide a minor amount of feedback- a monumental act of generosity. Fortunately, I have a couple of people who have helped in this area, this is a giant blessing. Fortunately for my wife, it's not her, she has the book almost memorized by now which may lead to therapy on its own merit. I cannot spend the better part of a year explaining a story and step back even a couple weeks and come at it objectively, I have tried- it doesn't work.

At this point, my expectations for perfection have taken away most of my "I'm going to write what I'm going to write" attitude and replaced it with something a little more dangerous- knowledge and experience. I will admit it is not a great deal of either attribute but taking everything as a learning opportunity adds to both. As with any creative work, I have to decide when it is as good as I can do at this moment. Hopefully, I could do better at any time in the future or I am not growing. This doesn't need to mean the best thing ever done, but I think it needs to mean the best I can do where I am right now. After time has passed I certainly hope I will have evolved more and my level of perfection will remain the same- I will need to do the best I possibly can. That's all I can do, my personal best and trust me here, that is not a very low bar.

My mom has a great line she has used ever since I can remember. It goes something like this- "when people offer you advice, just politely listen, thank them and go do whatever it was you were going to do." It is kind of funny and if you knew my mom you would think it's hilarious but it is a deeper thought and one worth thinking about.