lesley_hastings: The words "Lesley Hastings" on a parchment background (Default)
Over the last few days, I've spend a lot of my free time (and some of my not-free time) reading the Bookends LLC Blog, the blog of the Bookends Literary Agency. While this blog addresses a range of issues relating to the publishing industry, much of the focus is on how to write a good query letter -- the letter that one first sends to an Agent or Publisher when seeking representation/publication. One of the key themes that keeps coming out of this is, "don't disparage yourself". If you don't have faith in yourself and your own writing, how do you expect an Agent or a Publisher to have faith in you?

I have been guilty of this. When I wrote On Feeling Presumptuous, I said, "I am under no illusions that what I am writing will be a great work of literature". Implicit in that statement is the idea that if a story isn't going to make it into some sort of literary canon (mostly made up of dead white men), then on some level it's not worth writing. This is wrong.

If finding publishable stories is a matter of seperating the wheat from the chaff, then I am the wheat.

I believe that the stories I am writing are stories worth telling. I believe that I am the best person to write these stories. I know I can write well, and I know that I am capable of improving my stories in response to criticism. I believe that my stories are worth reading, that they should not spend their lives languishing on my hard drive.

It is difficult to overcome notions of what makes a "good" book, what makes a book worth reading, and for some of us, it's also difficult to overcome the idea that there are certain types of books that we "should" be writing. When I was a child, and my proud doting parents realised that I enjoyed writing and was somewhat better at it than my peers, I heard a lot about what a great writer I was going to be someday. During my teens, surely I was destined to write the Next Great Young Adult Novel, yet somehow my seventeenth birthday came and went, and I failed to morph into S. E. Hinton. But it didn't matter -- no doubt I would write something Great and Wonderful in my adulthood. My English teachers also encouraged me in this belief.

Somehow, though, the stories didn't come to me. I could create characters, I could create settings, I could write up nice prose accounts of role playing games, but coming up with a plot on my own? It didn't happen.

I decided that I wasn't destined to be a writer of fiction.

Then, of course, I discovered that I could write fanfiction. After all, that didn't necessarily need plot -- it was about writing around other people's plots. I also discovered that I'm pretty damn good at writing erotica -- I got a lot of people telling me that, even though they didn't usually read porn, they would read mine.

But still, I thought, this didn't make me a real writer -- and in some ways, that was a very good approach for me. It meant that writing wasn't something I had to stress over, and as a consequence, I started doing it more and more. And then, somehow... the stories started coming. Stories that didn't fit into the canon that I was writing for. Stories that started living on their own, that started making their own characters who refused to be moulded into someone else's creations.

It still took me a while to start writing those stories... but now I am doing it, and it feels wonderful. It feels right. It feels far more right than any of those literary stories that I attempted in my younger years, trying to live up to the expectations of my parents and teachers. It feels like I have something real to offer the world.

I am sure that writing erotic romances is probably not what my parents and teachers had in mind for me when they told me that I would be a writer someday. I'm sure that many of the people who encouraged me in my younger days would say that I'm wasting my talent. But I'm not.

I'm telling the stories that I want to tell, and I know that there are people out there who want to read these stories. I am writing stories that will make people happy, because they are romantic, and my characters ultimately get happy endings. I am writing stories that will make people think, becuase even though my characters do end up happy, they still have to deal with some pretty nasty stuff. And I am writing stories that are hot and sexy, and will hopefully increase the number of orgasms in the world. This is most certainly a Very Good Thing.

So, no more apologies from me. I am the wheat, and I'm not afraid to show you that.
lesley_hastings: The words "Lesley Hastings" on a parchment background (Default)
I've created this journal because after two years of writing fan fiction, I've started writing original fiction, and I wanted to create a space to talk about that. While I could do so on my fanfic/personal journal (on Dreamwidth: [personal profile] lefaym/on LiveJournal: [livejournal.com profile] lefaym), I liked the idea of a place that is specifically focused on writing original stories (to the extent that anyone's stories are original, anyway) -- a space that isn't all cluttered up with random squee, ranting, and personal issues.

The name "Lesley Hastings" is a pesudonym -- it has a particular meaning to me, which I won't be talking about lest it reveal my True Identity. The awesome icon that you see above was made by [livejournal.com profile] lionessvalenti. The name of this journal, "Small Rewards", refers to why I write. I write so that I can experience a sense of achievement -- ever paragraph, every scene, every story that I complete is like a small reward to me.

I'm not aiming to become the greatest writer ever, although I do hope that my writing will improve all the time. At the moment, I'm writing a short m/m romance story that I hope to submit to Dreamspinner Press for their "Myths and Magic" anthology. I'm not pinning my hopes on getting accepted, but it's nice to have something to aim for. If it's rejected, I can always share it here. If I do share fiction here (which I probably will), I want it to be completely open to constructive criticism -- so if I post something, then please, have at it!

I don't plan to limit myself to writing in just one genre, or to one type of romantic pairing, where that's relevant (and I probably won't even limit myself to pairings -- I'm rather fond of poly groupings too). The story I'm writing now is m/m, but ideally, I'd like my writing to include f/f and m/f too, and hopefully I'll be inspired to write about trans characters as well.

I'd like to do all of this in a socially aware and responsible way, and that's one of the things I'll be talking about here. I'll talk about concerns that might be raised in terms of writing race, class, disability and other groups to which people are assigned for the purposes of marginalisation. I hope I can avoid committing fail in my writing, and if I do, I hope I can be big enough to admit it and to apologise -- and then not make the same mistakes again.

I also want to talk a bit about the philosophy of writing -- for me, it's all about making people happy and bringing them pleasure. This doesn't mean my writing won't be dark at times, but I think the most important thing to me, when writing a story, is that people come away from it glad that they read it. I think that in order to achieve this, writers need to respect their audience. I don't think that the audience should be able to dictate to the writer, but at the same time, I think writers need to acknowledge that once they put a work of fiction out there, if that fiction is successful, then the audience will become invested, and that investment is something that should be honoured, and never disrespected.

So... that's my Grand Plan for now. I'm looking forward to seeing how this develops.

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March 2011

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