This morning, I have:
– Written two freelance articles for publication
– Done an in depth analysis of user trends on a product
– Completely forgotten about the report I write every Monday before my kid wakes up, and I can hear him waking up now
What I have not done this morning:
– Put any words into at least one WIP. I try to do 250 words every morning. My real writing time is in the evening, but getting one manuscript page complete each morning sets such a good tone for the rest of the day.
What I wish I was doing:
– Reading the copy of Gwenhwyfar I got for Mother’s Day.
I’m only a chapter in, and already I’m so excited. I cut my fantasy teeth on Valdemar, and loved it more than anything, and I know I’m not the only reader who started feeling a bit… disappointed. Like the well had run dry and someone was still making Mercedes Lackey throw down the bucket. Her “romance” series for Luna made me feel a lot better, because they were great reads. Still, there was sometimes a sense of automatic pilot. But this Arthurian book is the good stuff, the vintage Lackey but now with all of the craft and power an author with years of practice can command.
I used the word romance in quotes there because it’s a freaking fantasy series, but it was branded as a romance, which irritated… huh. There’s a whole pile of assumptions to be examined right there. I’ll get to that one of these days when I’m not so crazed.
Because it seemed like a nice day for tilting at a windmill, I posted in a message board discussion where one of the participants was slagging category romance. (If you’re not a romance reader, a category book is one of the very short books found in grocery stores as well as bookstores, with a cover that highlights the brand, not the title or the author. They come in categories – suspense, average girl heroines, rich man heroes, etc. Most category romances are published by Harlequin, so some people just call them “Harlequins,” even though Harlequin publishes tons of other stuff.)
Here’s what I said: “I liken category fiction to sonnet writing. A strict form (so strict that deviating from that form literally makes the result not a sonnet/category book), but total freedom to say anything within the form.
“*Most* books have the same plot, conflict, and resolution.”
I have tried to write category, and I have failed. Flat on my face, failed. I can’t work in all the requisite elements with enough development of any of them to satisfy a reasonably bright housepet, let alone a reader who consumes dozens of these things a month and won’t buy me a second time if the first one is crap. Anyone who has said, garsh, I’m gonna write me one of them Harlequins and make a million dollars has not actually tried to do it.
I don’t write them, so why defend them? The answer is that I adore golden age science fiction. Many of the arguments used to mock and belittle category romance were used against my favorite stories, with an extra vengeful little twist of misogyny. Me, I see a parallel.
One of my WIPs (works in progress) is a steampunk. I’m mentioned before that this came about by accident. The house publishing my first novella had a blog entry from an editor saying she was looking for more steampunk. I mentioned this to my husband, who tossed out an entire plot off the top of his head. (My husband sparks off brilliant ideas like a unicorn’s ass shoots out glitter. He’s actually much better at plotting and world building than I am. The reason I’m the writer in the family is because I’m the one putting my butt in the seat and typing. Inspiration isn’t everything.)
It’s a terrific story and I’m madly in love with the characters. I am a huge fan of Victorian literature, and I even have my very own Godey’s Lady’s Book here in my office (a bound copy of ten issues).I started to type out the plot for you before I remembered that I wasn’t finished working yet and I don’t want to jinx it. I’ve done a ton of research on top of my existing knowledge of the period and my existing love of alternate history/worlds.
What I haven’t done is read a lot of steampunk. The giants in the genre don’t appeal to me, with the exception that I enjoyed Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon. Notice that’s not his steampunk work. A title that never comes up in steampunk top ten lists that I loved was Pavane by Keith Roberts, even though it’s an alternate world where the tech is steam powered. (Although set in the present day, the world is built on the assumption that Elizabeth I was assassinated, England went Catholic, and the Catholic Church repressed technology such that industrial progress evolved very, very slowly.)
But I felt like I should read more of what I’m trying to write. I went to the library and got Steampunk, since that one is recommended on every top ten list on the topic.
The reason I haven’t declared it a wallbanger is because I would never huck a library book at a wall.
Also, I have not read all the stories yet. I got pissed off by the scholarly essay at the front of the book, where it basically says that steampunk, without the “punk” aspects of thinking negatively towards the society so described, is pitiful. Under this theory, focusing on the imaginative aspects, the technology, the social norms, and the clothing, without writing the rebellion, make the story inherently less valuable.
Pish and tosh. You can’t write about Victorian era clothes without considering what those clothes suggest about the society’s expectations and desires. Ditto relationships between men and women. And I’m sorry, but some of the stories I have read so far are just gadget porn. Science fiction is infested with this kind of “story” – endless nattering about how this doohickey works and blah blah blah. So to suggest that anyone writing fiction for the pleasure of invention (as opposed to Making Statements) has taken a step down is to be one of those people who doesn’t read or write popular fiction.
I’ve read enough to figure that out. So thanks, but I’ll take it from here.