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I've not been very productive this week, both in terms of writing and other responsibilities. I've been languishing in the mornings -- there's already a feel of the holidays in the air, which makes it difficult to focus on the things that I'm supposed to be doing. And when I'm not productive in terms of my Real Life responsibilities, I often don't end up writing much -- I feel like I don't deserve the reward.

This is, of course, very silly of me, as I tend to be MORE productive when I'm writing lots, not less. So, I'm wondering if I should allow myself a full day of writing -- all by myself -- in order to get my brain back into action. I could take my netbook out to a nearby cafes, and sit outside in the shade all day, sipping on cold drinks and eating ice cream, as I write and write and write. It does sound idyllic.

One of the problems with this is it would have to be on a weekday, as all of my weekends between now and Christmas are full up. As I don't have a 9-5 job, this is quite doable, but I'd still feel guilty about it. But then again, since technically, writing IS one of my jobs now, perhaps I can convince myself that this is what I deserve.
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...just quite randomly, this afternoon. Well, this evening. Basically, it's the beginning of an m/m urban fantasy romance about a guy who meets a faerie in an alleyway behind a gay bar. I have no idea where it's going to go from here (except for a few minor details), so I figured I'd put it up here to see what people think of it.

Feel free to offer any con-crit you like. I LOVE con-crit.

The first time he saw Flynn, Geordie was taking a piss out back of Maggie’s Hotel )
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I'm not doing NaNo, but over the last week or so, I've started working on the sequel to The Demon Catcher again. I don't have a working title for it yet, which is really something I should remedy.

I'm currently at the stage of writing where everything seems like a huge mess and I feel plauged by doubt. Is this story really viable? Are my characters boring? Are they believable? Am I focusing too much on plot at the expense of character development? Is my plot even working?

I have to admit, the worries about characterisation are not something I expected -- most of the writing I've ever done has been the sort that privileges character development over plot, yet here I find myself wondering if the plot I'm developing is overshadowing the developing romance between Euan and Leon.

I know that a lot of these worries will be resolved as I keep writing -- stories ALWAYS seem like a mess when one gets towards the middle, and they don't start making sense again until one gets to the end -- at which point, one can go back and fix anything that wasn't quite working. It is very difficult, however, to let go of the fear that maybe it won't work; that all this effort is going to go for nothing, in the long run.

Part of being a good writer is, I think, letting go of that fear, or at least not letting that fear stop you. So I won't let it stop me. I just need to keep going until I feel better about it again.
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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.
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I sent the novella-length revised draft of The Demon Catcher off to Dreamspinner today -- now for the 6-8 week wait! That's quite all right, really, since I have this pesky little thesis that I need to finish in the meantime.

I also have a few new projects.

  • Firstly, as I believe I have mentioned here, I am working on a sequel to The Demon Catcher. Regardless of whether or not this story ends up professionally published, Euan and Leon are alive in my head now, and I can't stop writing them. I'm thankful for the internet, as it gives me the chance to share them with people, regardless.

  • Secondly, I'm working on what I think will be a short story, another m/m romance, about an Irish man living on an island as a hermit around the turn of the 19/20th centuries. He's purposefully shut himself off from a world that rejected him, but all that changes one day, when a dark-haired man washes up onto the beach of his tiny rocky island.

    I'm just working on this one very slowly, in dribs and drabs. When I started it, I really only had the image of the hermit finding a man washed up on his island, and nothing more. I started writing, not knowing whether or not I would actually end up finishing it, not knowing if a plot would develop. But now that I'm writing a plot is developing, and I think I have a good sense now of how the story is going to take shape.

  • Thirdly, I'm formulating ideas for a f/f cyberpunk romance novella, which I hope to submit to Samhain Press's cyberpunk anthology. I haven't actually started writing this one yet, but I have lots of ideas for it that still need a bit of time to stew in my brain, and I'm very excited about writing it.

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I heard back from Dreamspinner today -- they have rejected "The Demon Catcher" as a story for the Myths and Magic anthology, but have suggested that I could revise it to novella length (15,000 words +) and resubmit it for consideration as a standalone story. This is rather encouraging -- clearly, they did not simply think it was crap.

I did say that if it was rejected I would post the story here, but as there is still hope for publication, I won't do that. Instead, I'll post the current story to [personal profile] lefaym under flock, in the hope of receiving feedback from my flist, although I will take it down again completely before I resubmit it.

As far as revision of the story goes, I'm considering two different options -- the first is that I could try to embellish the current story a bit more and do exactly what the Dreamspinner editors suggested -- resubmit a longer version of the same story. However, I also have the option of taking certain elements from "The Demon Catcher" and combining them with elements of the new Euan and Leon story that I'm working on, in order to produce something novel-length. I think I'm going to wait and see what sort of response I get from my flist re: "The Demon Catcher" before I make my decision.
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I sent "The Demon Catcher" -- my original short story -- off to Dreamspinner last week. I'm extremely pleased that I managed to do this, regardless of whether or not it is accepted. I'm very grateful to everyone who took the time to offer me constructive criticism via email -- I found the editing/re-drafting process to be rigorous, and very beneficial.

I am also continuing to work on my new story set in the same 'verse, with the same characters, which is challenging but enjoyable. One thing that I'm finding new and slightly disconcerting about writing these original characters is waiting for them to reveal their motivations to me. I need to keep writing in order to get a sense of the characters, but then when I discover something new about them, I need to go back through what I've already written to ensure that it's consistent. I also find that I'm a bad judge of how much information that I need to give about what a character is thinking and feeling -- often, I like to leave that stuff implicit, but this can have the effect of making my characters seem rather detached and emotionless. This early on, I think readers need a little bit more. Of course, part of it is that I'm still not sure exactly what motivates my characters 100% of the time -- right now, I'm sketching the outline, and I'll have to come back to colour it in as things develop.

In the context of the short story, dealing with motivations was simpler. Euan (my POV protagonist) and Leon (my dashing hero) were immediately attracted to each other, they had a specific set of issues they needed to work through in order for that attraction to go somewhere (Euan's religious upbringing), and then at the end, it seemed believable enough that both of them wanted to stick together in order to explore their relationship further. Now, I need to work out how they feel about this thing lasting longer -- how do they perceive each other over an extended period of time, and how are their perceptions affected by their past experiences? I also want to avoid setting up a dynamic between them where one party is desperately in love and the other is cold and distant -- basically, I want both of them to be pretty well into each other, and for any tensions in their relationship to come from somewhere other than non-mutual-affection.

Another thing that I'm realising as I continue to write is how much I'm structuring this like a TV show, rather than a novel -- which makes sense really, given that most of the fiction I consume these days is television based. In many ways, "The Demon Catcher" is like the pilot episode, while the story I'm writing now (which I think will be novella-length) is like a three-episode arc in the context of a larger series. I imagine that this would pose some problems for traditional publishing platforms, but since I'm open to non-traditional platforms -- well, we'll have to see how it goes.

First, we'll see if Dreamspinner accepts "The Demon Catcher", and if they do, whether or not they'd be interested in more stories in that 'verse. If not -- well, I will find my own ways of getting the stories out there. :)
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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.


Jul. 21st, 2010 01:19 pm
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I've finished the first draft of my short story! I've formatted the Word document in accordance with the Dreamspinner guidelines, and now I'm just letting it stew for a bit -- I'm tweaking little bits here and there and desperately hoping that it isn't full of really obvious plot holes. Overall, though, I'm really happy, because this story is mine.

And I want to share it, because even though it's not the greatest story ever written, even though I doubt many people will read it, fiction is all about that sharing. Writers need to relinquish a bit of that ownership, because that's how successful fiction works. So, if only a few people out there read it -- if they take a chance on it for any reason at all... then that would be great.

I'm hoping that I'll be able to send the story off to Dreamspinner by the end of the week -- and then, of course, will come The Wait, but that's okay, because I have other things that need my attention. And, as I said earlier, if the story is rejected, then I will post it here, because even though it's just a romantic little puff-piece, even though it's probably full of cliches, and not terribly realistic on some points... it's still something I wrote, and I'm proud of it.
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One of the nice things about writing fan fiction is that you don't always need a very solid plot -- and this is true regardless of whether you're writing porn or something else. You can bounce off plots that already exist in order to write missing scenes, develop characters, etc.

Since I've started writing this original story, I've been enjoying, in many ways, writing without those constraints -- I've been liking not having to rein my characters in, in some ways. I can add new elements to the characters without fearing that I'm contradicting canon, or that my wonderful new idea will be jossed at some point. At the same time though... I really do need to make the plot I'm working on WORK. I'm 2/3 of the way through the story now, and, as you might expect, the final third is where everything gets resolved -- I just hope that my resolution doesn't come across as too forced.

I'm not used to doing this!
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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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