Category Archives: elements of writing

LGBT genre is a mess

Camp-2017-Participant-Profile-Photo.jpg… and I seriously love this year’s banners with jackalopes :), must be my inner joke going on, because a hare with antlers is seriously down my alley.

Actually, I just wanted to vent, or do a warm up for the writing today, or tomorrow, because I ran out of steam some time by lunch and after doing the day work, I didn’t get it back, so here I go.

What is it with LGBT being a completely separate genre? Aside the social relationship type there is nothing that actually tells about the story – most of the stuff I find from there is urban fantasy, another part fantasy, science fiction, modern romances (and not at all always erotica). Like, take the relationship type out and suddenly it’s another romance, science fiction, fantasy or modern! Romance is often scolded for not being “the actual” genre as it is big part of other genres while not being the main one.

Most readers, who have ever had to search through that mess this genre is, can vouch when I say – it is one of the most pointless genre separation ever created! And what are the sub genres? Gay, lesbian, trans or bi! So if you want to find one that, for a bad example, is a mystery of gay pair running a steampunk airship, it is seriously time consuming. Especially when Amazon only allows limited tag words for the novels for cleaner search. Which, by the way, I do support for it keeps all the 100 tags lists away that mean nothing regarding the stories.

What I often see is that if the author marks their work as LGBT, then the book is solely shut into that specific genre and does not appear on any other genre lists while historical romances for example show up in both romances and historical. But if you mark your work for LGBT, it is immediately classified as erotica and thus treated as grown up literature.

So I have seen great number of young adult books shoved among erotica only because they wrote about two boys falling in love in school scene.  Or clearly science fiction story listed there only because it had lesbian main character when the story is about how they retrieve some kind of chemical from long lost colony on Jupiter’s moon.  Shifter stories with main characters being gay couple – not more sex in the story than in average urban fantasy – seriously rises the question – what the heck is it doing in erotica? Because then you read the comments under those stories and they clearly were expecting an erotica, when the story didn’t support that belief.

And my only question is, why? Isn’t it time to start using LGBT as a tag rather than genre in literature? It is clear that LGBT as genre in ebook business is defined as erotica and thus no matter what you write, if you do not provide shoppers the erotica specific characters and settings, the non-erotica, which try to crack out of it and have for example mystery or historical or harlequin or whatever other genre as their main genre, are treated as if they do not fit the bill. As if lesbies or gays or bis or trans read nothing but erotica or school books. Seriously – where does that notion come from?

I don’t even know if that makes any sense. Lately it just bothers me for I believe they would have better chances if measured by the genres the stories are in, not by what LGBT pushes them in as long as the genre is seen as purely erotic in nature. I think the LGBT genre would win in great deal if the subgenres weren’t just gay, lesbian, bi or trans, but also mystery, history, contemporary, etc. Then writers, who do not write hardcore erotica can actually set their books in those genres and not be beaten up constantly for not fulfilling someone’s wet dream.

Oh, which brings me to my other pet peeves in Amazon romance section –  Multicultural & Interracial, African American and Clean & Wholesome.  In a world, where we try to erase setting people apart by where they are from or who they are born as, racial, religious or any other aspects of their life, it is very disturbing thing to observe that this is still “a thing” in American Amazon literature section. This isn’t about the story being of main character’s courageous journeys in action, mystery or any other story – it declares me I can choose porn based on fantasies like choosing my whore of the day – by hair color, skin type and how she looks like looking up.

Harsh, sorry, but that’s how it feels like lately when searching something new from romance section. I may love that genre to bits, but this shows nothing has changed since I starting browsing online for books. The saddest part, I know half of those books wouldn’t be treated like this if they were marketed through other genres. And they always do have the other genre. It is just written in the description – tiny note on the side, this is a mystery story of a woman facing down a ghost of a pirate ship captain. Whoah! Suddenly the MC’s not wearing short hot red mini, but has trousers on and is half way in muck jumping through a swamp!

Choosing the correct genre changes perspective we hold over a book. If we present it as erotica, then that’s what it is. If we present it as story of a character and say it’s a mystery, then we treat it based on mystery genre checklist, so to say. So why force LGBT couples into solely erotic environment when they are not erotica?

OK, done. The rant is a result of searching a long lost story which has zero erotica in it, a simple kiss, and I found it in LGBT erotica section when it was a holiday romance through and through and innocent like a lamb. It’s only reason ending up between alphas going after omegas in heat and aliens buying a sex slave was the fact that the story told about gay couple, not a hetero one.

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Message to fellow writers

For young writers, who have their Pinterest filled with quotes and notes under them “I can use that”.

Writing is imperfect act.

The purity of thought is not another quote from somebody else’s mouth. It’s your thoughts. If you write your story using quotes, it’s like writing a literary essay with references to other writers, or people.

We already live in the world of copy-paste, wouldn’t you want to stand out of that? Think for yourself. Write down your own thoughts.  I want to read a story, not an essay.

I pick up your story to read your thoughts. I want to read the classics, I go straight to them.
But I am not. I’m interested in you!

So.

Have confidence. 
Impress me with yourself.

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Let’s talk about describing your online fiction piece.

I read a lot of short stories and novel-length things stories that don’t always get categorized as published book. Lately I have noticed that there are few things that bother me about them. Not the actual stories, for most times they are quite fun and if it comes with some grammar mistakes or misspelled words or timing mistakes, they don’t matter, because I know they are not professionals.

However, there are few things that could be done differently. So I decided to add a little list for any aspiring writers, who post on fictionpress or wordpress or fanfiction or any other platforms so they may get readers to read rather to skim past them:

  • Describing your story should really be a one-two sentence description, not “I’m not good with this describing thing” or “You decide after you read” or “I don’t own these xyz-named-firm’s characters, whaaah!”. Or “Your avarage fiction of…” or “I know I’m bad, but it’s actually quite good!” . Oh, and my absolute astonishment “Read to find out!”
    And “Don’t like it, don’t read.” Truly, if I wasn’t interested, I wouldn’t have picked it out of the line of hundreds, now would I?
    There is time and place to spread your insecurities, it should not be the description where the reader expect to find out whom the story is about and what’s the situation. I am consciously skipping every story that “dares” me to find out how good they are, for 3/5 are actually bad. Often not because the idea is bad, but the entire thing is often written sloppily, with little care and almost no editing. I loath stories where one paragraph turns out to be 215 word long sentence with no punctuation, small or capital lettering and pretty much remind me of Timothy Dexter, who added his in the end of his novel. Only, it was annoying 1797 and is annoying now.
    “This is going to be…” is also a kinky way to actually say nothing about the story and thus lose your reader, for after reading the description they still are not much wizer on who did what or what the conflict is about.
    When I am in searching mode, then a simple who did what or conflict description goes a long way. Or if the story is based on some incident.
  • Acronyms, for example   T/S, M/C, P&T&S or anything else that gets invented on the go, should not be in the description unless it is well known. That trend is actually moving into temporary romances as well and it is a big turnoff. Takes forever to understand what you could have either added in the first paragraph in your introduction rather than in that description where “After x-movie timewerse, Tony met Sally on his way to school and they decided to have a lunch” works so much better. Leave the acronyms for the first introductory paragraph, so they are still there, but they don’t take away that tiny description space that can actually pull in the readers.
  • “OC was just a normal person”. Alright, I understand that this is a common noter of a younger writer, which I’m not discussing more than I wish to bring out that if you say normal, try imagining what that “normal” character is doing. If you can imagine them reading a book, eating, drinking coffee with their eyes searching blue sky – maybe there is a better way to describe your OC you wish to mix in the already existing realm? Skip “normal” and say “Patric tested out his new toy and opened up a portal to Avenger movie”.
  • “Disclaimers: I don’t own the characters/movie/realm/etc” should be enough. But mostly it is followed by “If I did, I’d be *something f-u-n-n-y*”. Aside the disclaimer, I have developed a quick finger syndrome to skip whatever rant follows, for one can read only so many witty disclaimers before you get overloaded.
  • Begging for reviews or threatening to quit writing if you don’t get likes or using emotional blackmailing in the first sentences… Blackmailing goes down on no-one unless they have some emotional investment in you. Rather keep your dignity and don’t beg. “It’s my first story, so please be gentle” – it’s like setting up a sign asking all the trolls to gather for lunch. If your reader finds it interesting enough, they’ll let you know. If you are out to get “texts from your readers”, then most see it as time to leave.
  • Which brings me down to the last, and most important reason why I began in the first place – don’t apologize for your writing in advance. If you posted it, you are taking responsibility for it anyway. You already agree that what you’ve posted might be offensive to some, so why apologize to them in advance? Just say “This story deals with mature topics, sensitive topics” rather than apologizing in advance in case they didn’t like your story.
    The thumb rule, at least for me and most of the writers, is that you post only what you are ready to stand up for. If you are uncomfortable or feel insecure about it, then don’t post it. Look it over, think it through and then, when you are ready, then put it up. But what you DO put up, you take full responsibility for. There will always be somebody, who feels they need to point out some moral rule based on their world view or think you should not write this or that. So you have to be sure.
    If you think you can avoid it by warning ahead that this will be “hardcore violent” or anything else, you need to know that it makes you look worse if you don’t deliver. When I read, I deliberately start searching out the promised “warning” and I’m afraid, a lot of beginners don’t deliver what they promise. Can’t blame them, really, for often they need more experience to know better. So my advice would be – don’t do it. Don’t warn people – if they picked your story out in M section, they already expect it to be for adults and thus have no need for warnings suitable for PG-13. Think, when is the warning necessary and when you are overdoing it. 

These were my grains in the pot. Something that has been bothering me, and will continue bothering me, when reading online. Hasn’t stopped me from reading yet, but sometimes it’s better to learn from other’s mistakes than repeating them yourself.

Have a nice writing day!

 

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Filed under Drama, elements of writing, kirjutamisest, Writing, writing trivia

Work space

I wanted to show off 🙂

We all know that for a writer, their office, or wherever they work, is pretty much their temple. Same with me. One needs a GOOD feeling place to create monsters that take over the world. I just had my last piece of the puzzle put in place, so I’m very happy and exited to show it off.

2180485929007716668-account_id=0So, a bit about this tiny room. It is actually a half of a room. The big brown cupboard is actually the back of another small office space which is occupied by my brother. Yes, I am living at home right now and yes, we do share a room. I actually have a decent job, time for my writing and time to play with my dog. So, sue me. It’s down to practicality of life, times are hard enough.

Enough of the introduction – this is my office. Welcome! That Monopoly on the left side on the wall – I painted that some years ago. Worth that 3 months of mini brush work. Around it are artworks by my niece. You can’t see on the pictures, but her artwork is also on the other side of the office, on the wall, framed. In an easy reach, there is also the loupe, for we two are pair of curious people, so we need our main tool in fast reach.

9177896642838483138-account_id=0The second picture is closer up on my book shelves. I was very happy, when it turned out that all my books fitted in there just right, with only few places empty of fairy tale books that are now in niece’s collection.  In front of the books are the few things that I keep – the tea box is Idea Chest Game I once did for my writing group. Still plenty of pieces to go. The small chest next to it is my collection of story cubes. I need a next box for the new ones :).

As you can see, I have a collection of dolls around me. Might be, because I’m a bit of a kid in heart, but I’ve always kept some kind of tokens near me. They all have their place and reasons. Maybe I’ll tell you about them some time. Next to the Barbie is my writing mug. Sis got it for me from the last Hanseatic Days fair. It is usually full of coffee with milk and I absolutely love it!

3105966192191881356-account_id=0Yes, I do own a green chair on a yellow carpet I can pick on with my toes. I like colors. I can’t keep my toes in place when I sit, so somehow I’ve come to like those bathroom carpets with long bristles. On top left you can see Tobbie, my scull. He sits on top of a box made by my grandpa. LOVE it so much! I have a huge chest like that too.

The place has some hidden secrets too, like the tiny table where the keyboard is on – it comes out easily to make a full size table where I can paint. The cupboard beneath the table is where all my art supplies are.

I know it’s small. I don’t really care as what I need is right there. All the books for writing, the art supplies for painting, the printer, the computer. And privacy. It is the most private place in the house and for that, I am very, very happy for writing does not always want an audience.

That’s it. That’s my work station at the moment. It has childish features, and will get some of them more over time, but it has what I need as a writer – a chair, my notes and possibility to write until early hours of the morning without disturbing others. Perfect in every way :).

 

 

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Project notes

I promised some time ago that when I get towards the end of editing the book this notebook is about, that I will show you what this notebook actually looks like.

I don’t have such for each story, but I have got few.

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Lazy backstory

My pet peevish of the month.

Ok, so here’s the thing. Because I’ve been writing a short story that wasn’t going at all, yet it didn’t let me rest as I did want it to work – go figure the logic – I tried to get in mood of writing by reading a lot of short stories. From 5 pages to about 30 pages. It was good procrastination, so… As I did use the ones I liked as sort of a study experiment, I came to a conclusion there is really one thing that bothers me about most of those short stories. Because a lot of those stories were written by young people, I am not criticizing their choice – when I started out, I did the same thing.

Still, after about 300th time…

We all know there are certain themes that run through most stories around the world. No matter what culture, the writer’s background or any other thing you can think of – doesn’t matter at all. It’s the basic plot thing here as well, sort of the basic elements of the story.

But I must say it gets really annoying, to the point you just skip it altogether, when you read about 100th time the tragic story how the main character lost their parents at early age, sometimes live alone with their older/younger sibling (usually the MC is the younger one, who now rebells against their older sibling, who can’t seem to understand they have grown up while the other is desperately trying to keep them safe from the world) and just in case you toss in one more tragic accident or happening just to make it more dramatic for the reader. Or if we are talking about grownups, there is the aura of a lost family member or entire family.

I’m bothered by this, because it’s too easy. Yes, it’s tragic beyond world, but I don’t think it does much for character. Everybody have some tragic event in their past. Just because it’s bigger does not mean it makes the person more interesting. Twist that tragic story around! I don’t mean the character should have the perfect childhood, it’s just… it’s boring. it’s too simple. It’s too easy choice. It’s Batman story all over again.

How about close scare on a icy road? A fight with a close friend that tore the relationship apart? Educated by listening adults talk on their own? Boring office life after end of a promising University life, where they got with sports scholarship? Growing turnips in their flowerpots in their apartment because they fear hunger? Having to… anything else besides death in the family! Car accident that sent your best friend in wheel chair. Ant invasion, someone left them, someone’s arrival, someone used them and then tossed them aside – anything! Spice it up, not pour it over with black pepper!

Plus, who better can mess up your character later in the story if not the person, who know them from their early life? Mother, who wants them to return home for reunion? Old friend, who just can’t seem to shut up about you being caught on doing something naughty? A box of old memorials, which include a tiny spark of fire’s phone number that just happens to be working, when you call? A dog, who used to be your best friend, but now only bits you, when you try to touch it? Old roommate that knew your dirty secret? Old roommate, who has decided it’s utmost time you change your lifestyle? Or perhaps a priest, who thought you are devil incarnate and is now out to stop your job, because they happened to see you on town and are now determined the other party must know your very cruel character from childhood?

Killing is an easy choice for a writer. Together with that it also takes away opportunities for the story itself, of things your character must endure later in the story. A living hellion from the past is far more interesting addition than a body in a casket hidden under a headstone. Unless, of course, we’re talking about vampire you buried with thousand thorns, who has now finished gathering them all up and has returned. Or zombie, who you really don’t wanna meet. Or perhaps a ghost, who thinks you just have to be its playmate. Or maybe an illusion you can’t get out of your head…

Yeah, choices are still ours to make. But you can do so much better than just killing it.

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Building systems for writing

Every now and then I put my writing aside and do reading of my own works. I have a somewhat secret motive to it, but besides getting to know my own, it’s also to see if I’m one step closer to the idea I’ve had since I worked on Moonmace stories – do I have enough info now to put together the sort of an encyclopedia of three worlds.

The reason for this is simple – for about 10 years now I’ve noticed that I have only 3 worlds I operate in – a modern, a high fantasy (which I also use, when I write historical, for they end up in factual mess anyway) and now I’ve added the gargoyle world and, as a sidekick, I now also have a science fiction place, which, by itself, isn’t really a world of its own, but it has its own rules and history.

So, as there is a big gap between the November and now, I’ve decided that perhaps it is time to see if I can create a system for them, something that would work as my own personal database, both for characters and the lands and histories. I know I should have started that together with the writing, but you don’t think on such things as a kid and, well, I rather wrote the stories than work on databases, so… However, as I am at the moment in the middle of putting the gargoyle world together for it to function next to the modern world, I need some kind of solution for things are getting messy and I need a place of set rules for them, where I can always hop in to check on them.

Also, when I read the old stuff, I realized few things about my own writing:

  • I had about year long period in my writing, where I used only two names: Alexander and Jean. In different variations to fit the male or female, but that was always set for the main characters.
  • I judged the side characters through paintings they had up in their living rooms. I literally described the paintings as part of description when somebody visited their place.
  • I have never liked clear cut characters. Even when I was still starting, they are twisted.
  • I have never used “looked in the mirror” trick. Which was a nice surprise, for I expected to find it at least at some point in my writing.
  • I have collected tons of character sheets, but I’ve never fully used them. Seems what works for me is more like writing free form background story. So I have no need to push myself to find one that works.
  • When I’m interviewing my characters (there are all sorts of questioners out there), I usually do couples together. And instead of them answering for themselves, I have them answer about each other. I noticed it has jolted my writing in a good direction since I started doing that.
  • it takes me about a year to analyze or mull through the info I learn about writing. It is weird, but I can surprisingly pinpoint down (thanks to having the info of purchase) of when I read the workbook and when the method appeared in my writing.

Ok, so yeah, I’m thinking on a database for my characters and worlds. Perhaps one day they might even have access to internet :).

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