Writing with the door open, or closed? This is honestly something I’m still not sure about, and I’ve read numerous conflicting opinions on the subject. The closest thing I’ve come to an answer, at least for me, is “it depends.” I think it depends on length, on the level of personal involvement, and on how much is at stake.
There’s an element of being afraid of jinxing yourself that I think a lot of people would probably find familiar, and that comes in especially with longer pieces, because the longer a piece is, the more can go go wrong. There’s more time and there’s more variables, and it’s a lot harder to keep them all under control. I’m working on cowriting a novel at the moment–I’ve mentioned this, I think–and now that it’s very well established and a lot of it’s been dug out of the ground, so to speak, I feel a lot more comfortable talking about it. Before, when we were just starting, I was reluctant to even mention that it existed. Because when people know, there’s pressure, real or imagined. When there’s pressure, there’s fear, and when there’s fear… it’s never been my experience that scared writing is good writing.
But that still doesn’t entirely address the open/closed door issue, because talking about a project isn’t the same as sharing pieces of it. So: yea or nay? Again, it depends. Generally, I think it’s safer to err on the side of nay, because at least when I write, I find that it’s best done quickly and steadily without too many pauses to think too hard about it. You can think within a story–you have to, in order to get it done well–but thinking outside a story is when second-guessing comes in, and once you start doing that it’s all but over. Introducing a perspective outside of yours too soon can bring on the second-guessing. It can cause damage. So I talk about the novel, now, at least a little. But I’ve posted only one excerpt of it anywhere, and I most likely won’t be doing that again until it’s finished.
How do you give up on these things? I mean, they get to a point where they’re almost like your kids. You conceive of them, you work on them until they begin to take shape, you (hopefully) finish them, and then you have to take a step back and try to objectively evaluate what you’ve made. Which you hopefully don’t do so much with kids, but I think the analogy still kind of works.
There are two ways to abandon a story, in my experience. There’s simple neglect–something that I’m trying to be better at avoiding, with moderate success–because I think if you let something sit too long it slips away from you and you lose what drew you to it in the first place. The images fade and you have less to work with. It’s possible to pick it up then, but it’s harder.
And then there’s working on it, finishing a draft, and having to admit to yourself, once it’s done, that you don’t really have much there worth spending any more time on. I hate doing that. I hate it because time is precious right now and I try to make every second of work count towards something potentially publishable, so having to admit to myself that the result of a week of work should be put away and probably not ever shown to anyone absolutely kills me. But it’s also that at least initially, something there made me fall in love enough that I wanted to bring it out into the light and turn it into something real. So I look at the thing that ended up bad or just too flawed to work with, and I feel like a little bit of a failure. I failed the story. I didn’t do my job.
My new Torquere Sip We Are Such Stuff is now on sale here. It’s a short, vaguely cyberpunk-themed thing I wrote on a bit of a whim, and while there’s not much complicated about it, I feel like it goes to some interesting places and plays with some interesting imagery. It’s being marketed as romance but I’m not sure it falls entirely comfortably within that category–there is no happily-ever-after and not even really a happy-for-now. It’s not exactly erotica, either, though there is sex and it is explicit. I’m honestly not sure what the hell it is, except for the story of a momentary connection between two misfits in a world where connections rarely happen anymore.
Reyes is bored. A young man in a bleak future city of endless rain, he finds his entertainment in packed clubs, one-night stands, and the occasional drug. But when the mysterious Ethan catches his eye, he is led on a chase through a nighttime world of dreams and dreamers, a chase that could end in frustration–Or a truly new kind of pleasure.
Excerpt under the cut.
I started the writing thing in a serious way–more serious than I had been up to that point, anyway–shortly after I graduated from college. Because I graduated in a weird mid-year kind of way, I had the spring semester and then an entire summer in which I had really nothing on my plate but a job at the library on campus and, eventually, finding a place for me and Rob to live in while I went to graduate school.
To that date I hadn’t done more than dabble in a really vague kind of way in original stuff, and it seemed like as good a time as any, as I expected to be brain-splodingly busy once school started up again and I was tossed into the navigation of a PhD program. One difference between a regular job and school that became freshly apparent once school was no longer something that I was doing every day is that school wears out the brain-meat in a way that most normal 9-to-5 gigs do not, at least in my experience, because you’re rarely ever done. The work comes home with you. The work follows you around. You go out with friends, the work tags along. You go to bed, the work sits on your pillow and stares at you. Fridays? Hah. They are meaningless, my friend. In a general sense I always found school less draining than a lot of the other jobs I’ve had, but it did seem to make me brain-dead in a way that they had not.
So at least, the job I had–locating and scanning articles for Inter-Library Loan–was singularly un-taxing, and I found myself with an unforeseen surplus of mental energy. So the writing began, took off in a biggish way, and here we are.
My science fiction short story And Would Suffice has been posted over at The Absent Willow Review. They always include pieces of art with the pieces in their issues, which is cool, and in general I’m really pleased to be included.
I got the idea as Rob was reading 2010: Odyssey Two to me, because there’s a sequence on the ice fields of Europa that I thought had some great imagery. The title is taken from the poem Fire and Ice by Robert Frost. While I wouldn’t say the story is exactly apocalyptic, I think it has that kind of flavor, which it shares with the poem.
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
Excerpt under the cut.
The edits on We Are Such Stuff (Torquere) have been made and the manuscript has gone to proofing. Edits on Hieros have yet to be made–I still haven’t heard from whoever’s been assigned to me as an editor over at Liquid Silver–but I found out who’s doing the cover for it (Christine Griffin, whose art I used in the post below) and I’m extremely pleased because her work is pretty awesome and she’s been absolutely fantastic about communicating with me so far.
I still have no idea about specific release dates for either of these, but naturally I’ll be spreading the news when I do. Things are moving and that’s what matters.
It’s somewhat embarrassing for me to admit this but I might as well, since it’s something of a matter of public record: for a long time, when I wrote, I did not really write about women.
Image by Christine Griffin
They were present, certainly–they showed up in my various fics and I always tried to treat them well when they did, but they weren’t particularly central. A lot of this, I think, was just due to what I was writing, which was generally slashfic. I’m sort of peripherally aware of the fact that there’s been a lot written in other places about how female characters are treated in M/M fanfiction, though I haven’t read much of it myself, but regardless of detailed complaints, it’s definitely true that M/M stuff is a genre that lends itself to women being subtly pushed to the side. The stories aren’t about them, after all; they’re about the two male characters and whatever relationship they do or don’t end up having. And that’s fine. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that. But it did mean that, just in practical terms, I didn’t write about women for many years.
Then I started writing original fiction, and something interesting happened: the women appeared. Not here and there, either; they’re all over the place. The first story I ever sold, Crystalline, was a science fictiony piece of lesbian erotica, a kind of erotica that I had barely even dabbled in up to that point. The first anthology sale I ever made was a F/F/M menage, featuring two female characters strong enough to basically push the man into the background. I didn’t intend this. It just kind of… happened.
We Are Such Stuff, to Torquere Press for their Sips line. It’s a kind of semi-cyberpunk thing, and another one of my “two people meet and the experience is transformative in some respect” pieces. I was worried I’d have a hard time placing it since it’s a little odd and doesn’t exactly have a happily-ever-after ending, but I’m glad it’s found a home.
So I’ve decided to try to do something a little more consistent with this space than just using it for news about publications and the occasional bit of thinking. Partly inspired by features on other writer blogs regarding tips they’ve picked up and things they’ve learned, I am going to start doing a regular column on what writing has taught me, what I’ve figured out about the creative process, what’s involved in trying to sell and market work, and some combination of all or none in general. I’m calling it The Object Lesson, and I’ll be trying to do one every Sunday, though they may become more irregular as the semester heats up and my workload increases.
I am speaking from no position of authority except as regards my own experience. Your mileage may vary.
Today: It’s lonely out here.
This is a lot more to do with one of the specific differences I’ve observed between fanfiction and original fiction, especially original fiction written for eventual publication. I want to stress here that it isn’t a value judgment; it’s merely a statement of fact, or at least fact as it is observed by me (and therefore probably questionable, but me is pretty much all I have to go on). With fanfiction, you’re dealing with fandom, and fandom is an extremely focused beast–it tends to be all about specific characters, which are pre-existent and established for you; your audience and your community are therefore generally pre-existent and already interested in what you have to say. Everyone knows the characters, everyone knows why they’re there and what they’re about. You pick up the thread and run with it, and there’s usually a strong sense of community around it. There’s usually a lot of encouragement, and often a lot of praise and positive comments to go around. This isn’t to say it can’t be mean, cold, and unpleasant, as far as online environments go, but there’s still something there.