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 started writing a new story, set in the same 'verse, with the same characters as the short story I just finished. I have a basic plot outline, and I think that, if I manage to keep going with it, this could end up novel-length.

So far, I've really been enjoying working on it. I'm enjoying spending time with these characters. I'm learning about them -- they're revealing new things about themselves to me that I didn't originally plan, but just work in perfectly with what I've already planned. Or sometimes those new things don't work in perfectly, and I have to change things to accomodate this new information. Feeling this thing coming to life is great, and that's something I'll have even if no one ever reads the story.

However, at some point, I DO want people to read this story, and that is where all the self-doubt creeps in. I'm under no illusions that what I'm writing will be a great work of literature. If the short story that introduces this world gets published in the Dreamspinner anthology, then I will probably try to submit this story to Dreamspinner too. However, I am not counting on that happening, and if that's the case, I want to do something akin to the Extribulum process that [livejournal.com profile] copperbadge uses when producing his original fiction -- that is, putting the work up here on my journal, asking my readers to provide concrit and then edit with that concrit in mind -- with a view to eventual self publishing, if everything all works out.

The thing is, I have this nagging little voice in the back of my head telling me that I don't have the right to do that. After all, my fanfiction isn't wildly popular. It's appreciated by a small core group in one or two fandoms, and I don't think it's bad at all -- but I'm hardly one of the writers that one HAS to read in order to feel at home in my particular fandoms. And the reason that that core group of people reads my fic is because I'm building on something that other people have created -- I'm asking them to take a chance on an extension of something that they're already familiar with. But with original fiction -- I'm asking them to take a chance on something that doesn't have that basic groundwork already in place.

Now, of course, with ANY fiction, we're always building on things that other people have done; all fiction exists in an intertextual space. And, indeed, this story I'm working on now was originally something that I intended to write as an AU Torchwood story -- although I abandoned that idea when I realised that the characters were doing their own things. This story didn't WANT to be limited by a broader canon, and it's a better story for that. But at the same time -- it makes asking people to read this story a completely different thing. There's less in the way of familiar territory. If I ask people to read this, I'm asking them to invest their time in something that's less certain, something that isn't limited by the boundaries that are present when they read my fanfiction.

And this nagging voice inside my head? This voice tells me that I shouldn't be asking people to do that. It's telling me that I'll look silly for making the presumption that anyone would want to take the time to review my work, to offer criticism ... let alone consider buying a published copy of anything. Even now, I'm feeling doubt about whether or not I should post this -- but I WILL post it. And I will post my fiction here too. (If not the story I'm working on now, then something else.)

While I know that everyone experiences self-doubt, I have the feeling that this sense of presumptuousness in WANTING to put one's work out there is something that bothers a lot of women in particular, due to the fear of appearing arrogant. There is, I suppose, a certain degree of arrogance in putting any of one's work out there, and I need to learn not to fear that.

After all, if I fail, I've lost nothing.


lesley_hastings: The words "Lesley Hastings" on a parchment background (Default)

March 2011

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