Maybe even a Chick Lit author. Oh my god. I had to admit it to myself. This was harder than admitting I’m gay.
This isn’t the way I thought I would turn out. My whole life, I knew I would be the next author to address life’s Big Questions with low fantasy as a medium (think Orlando by Virginia Woolf) but it never really seems to work out. To this date, I’ve got literally dozens of false starts junked in my documents folder. I have one completed first draft and one half-completed, my previous record, from a couple of years ago. Both are women’s lit.
Lots of people have different hurdles, like starting novels or writing powerful endings or making it funny. Those things I could do, but until now, I had never finished anything. Miraculously, somewhere in between my last failed attempt at a vaguely supernatural story and now, I learned a few things about finishing a novel.
Halfway through writing the novel, I’m going to decide it sucks. It will be extremely tempting to come up with a new, better idea that will redeem me as an author and protect me from a humiliating debut with this utter piece of JUNK my brain just VOMITED out onto this word file! But I must continue anyway.
It will be tempting to fix it as I go, but I must resist. I’m going to change my mind a hundred times before it’s all over, but by the time it’s all over, I’ll know my characters and plot well enough to change it all at once and in the one way that will actually work. I will lose a lot less time if I save the editing for the end.
Profundity takes time. Stephenie Meyer can write an interesting book, but she barfed out all 150,000 words of Twilight in 3 months, packaged it, and sent it off. I don’t know a lot of people who made it all the way through to the fourth book, but the ones who did all know: the fourth book was way better than the first and not because Edward and Bella started acting like real people act. They were still ridiculous. But that was okay, because at least they began to have some sort of nuance and depth that they could have had in book one if she’d cut out all of the “oh, my, god, Edward’s HAIR is just so…. so GOLDEN” and put some thought into it. Nuance and depth will come with time and patience. As such, they can be saved for the editing stages. It’s okay if my characters start out as awful as Bella Swan. That doesn’t mean I suck or I’m only capable of writing characters that are as shallow as a kiddie pool.
I have to follow my voice. I’m never going to make myself into a sci-fi/supernatural/YA author. It doesn’t matter how well those sell. I’m not going to. When I sit down and free write, women’s lit comes out. My characters are women. My stories are character-driven. I can get a great deal done. I can make it sound the way I want it to. That doesn’t happen when I try other things. And that’s okay. Sometimes, it’s whimsical and fun, but that doesn’t mean I have to get boxed into the misogynist “chick lit” paradigm. I can be funny and even light without writing a love triangle, or having my heroine meet the most perfectest, rich second husband ever (see: Twilight, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Confessions of a Shopaholic, literally every Jane Austen book ever written…) .
Indie lit is awesome. I might write too many gay characters or happily ever afters that don’t involve marriages and babies or failed relationships without romantic counterweights into my novel for it to appeal to a broad audience, but I love them. I want them there. I want my writing to benefit from my personal experiences and I want my characters to find happiness that doesn’t necessarily involve Mr. or Mrs. Right coming along and fixing everything with moneys and trips. I can’t keep allowing myself to be psyched out by the possibility that an agent or a publisher will look at it and think “ugh, who would buy this?” I don’t want to be a part of the artistic laziness that mass marketing has birthed. I can make my fifty grand a year when I finish my degree in technical writing. Selling out won’t guarantee me an agent anyway. I might as well enjoy myself.
Indie lit is awesome. Have you ever read that stuff? I’ve recently gotten into it. This is where rules are broken. I mean, some of the rules shouldn’t be, like that more than one exclamation point on a page better be preceded by the word “bear” or “monster” or something (more on this in a future post) but other times it’s so refreshing not to see characters that reinforce gender and racial stereotypes just because it’s easier and more relatable for all audiences. Like Ernest Hemingway breaking his contract with Boni and Liveright by writing a then-unpublishable novel about a bunch of self-important literary pseudointellectuals and a Native American streaker, sometimes it’s just fun to break the rules and to make novels into a new experience. Kick that Overton window out a little. So, who cares if I never hit the mainstream as long as whatever I write is good.
These are really all iterations of the Nirvana Fallacy, the most insidious fallacy of them all. The Nirvana Fallacy is that voice in the back of your head that tells you you’re no good and so you shouldn’t even try. You won’t be Hemingway so give up. That chapter sucked so the book isn’t worth it. Once I can categorize and understand it, I can overcome it.
I still want to be rich and famous. But I’ll never get there by trying to be rich and famous. Gotta start somewhere.