Lost in Translation

I might have lost my first reader because of what I’ve been writing.

If you don’t write there’s this thing that seems to be something that even the most carefree, fearless of writers goes through–somehow, someday you’re going to write something that is going to get you into trouble. Writing has caused an uproar before, for sure. There’s what happened with Dan Brown and the Da Vinci Code or the many people made about the portrayal of sex and just relationships in general in Fifty Shades of Grey.

Notice that both of those books sold very well.

That’s not an invitation to write the worst things that you can, but there’s obviously something to be said about the controversial selling or the shitstorm that brews around a thing actually helping to fuel its ascent.

We could only hope to be that lucky. In my case I passed a story along to a woman who I wouldn’t call a friend quite yet, but there was something budding there. She had asked to see something I was writing and as she actually reads a lot I thought that this could be a common ground for us.

I e-mailed the first chapter to her, because I almost never send out the complete manuscript, expecting to hear back in a couple of days. The idea was that she would read it and make some comment like “that was really cool, I’d read this” or “nah, not really my kind of thing”. In the past I’ve gotten either.

I’ll interject here that one of the things that I read in Stephen King’s On Writing that has always rang true with me was that the writer in us has this desire to find an ideal reader–usually a spouse or friend or family member whose feedback they write for. This person would be the audience you have in mind. Maybe not so much in the sense that they are the type of person that you’re writing for, but more that you write everything to filter through them. The writing process is lonely by necessity, even when you’re writing with a co-author. That first time that you hand someone the printed stacks of paper that are your novel or send out that little file attachment is a big step. Their impression of the thing is your first impression of what anyone else thinks.

And in a way I’m kind of searching for the person to be that. It takes more than just being the first to read a thing; they have to be honest enough and brutal enough to be willing to take a stab at something very personal that has, up until then, been your own little secret creation.

Sure, you learn to get hardened to criticism and to take it as a critic of what’s on the page and not you, but it’s still a part of you. It’s still a very vulnerable give and take relationship.

So when I didn’t hear back, I figured that it was because she didn’t like it and was scared of hurting my feelings. I actually like hearing someone didn’t like it, someone telling me that they loved it doesn’t usually tell me what needs to be fixed.

Something always needs to be fixed.

She and I talked over the next few days about photography and kind of joked around. We came to the point where she was going to meet up with me the other day and then the day of she backed out. And I did what I do when anyone does anything, even a small thing. I over analyzed it.  It really works in my favor some of the time. If there’s a problem that needs a high level of scrutiny I can do that.

The phrase she used was “no contact” and it seemed like a very specific sort of language to use with someone who you had very lighthearted contact with in the first place. Looking back over the conversations we’ve had since I got the iPhone (and looked for an excuse to text anyone I knew had one to see the little blue bubbles) there’s nothing alarming in my language with her. We had breakfast together once a while ago and haven’t seen each other sense, but I wondered what I’d said to get this response.

The old “what did I do that upset you so much” conversation isn’t one I usually have to have. I know what I’ve said, I probably said it on purpose. I was careful this time; I’m usually extra careful because i can get carried away with jokes that are too much for people and topics that shouldn’t be discussed.

Then I realized the only place I hadn’t been careful was my writing. The first chapter of the novel I sent her has some choice words in it and some choice imagery. She actually questioned it when she first started reading the whole thing, but that was the last conversation where we mentioned it. At that point she seemed fine with there being a little adult content. It wasn’t there for no reason, that’s for sure.

I think she read the rest of it either days ago or very recently and had been thinking it over. Is this the kind of person that I want to be friends with? Someone who would write this must be sick or someone who would write this must have a real problem. Authors aren’t the people they write about in their stories, although part of us does go into the process. I’m no more Lissette than I am any other character written by someone who just had the idea. But she’s up here in my head, she came from there and I can pull that personality forth and put it on the page (haven’t been doing it as much lately).

The writing scaring her is all that makes sense to me with the scant information that I have. This isn’t really the first time this has happened, but it is the first time that someone has not wanted to be my friend anymore because of it and it’s sad because she seemed really sweet and I wish her the best.

Does this mean that I stop what I was doing before or change how I have been writing, no. I don’t have direct feedback to know what it was that caused her issue nor do I want to be the kind of person who censors their writing. I’d rather write things better and strive to take offensive subjects in a thought provoking way, rather than hiding from them or appealing to the lowest denominator.

If I’m published someday I hope she sees the book in a store or while scrolling through Amazon and decides to take it look; I hope she gets that what I’m trying to say is clear. I hope she keeps turning the pages and finally gets what I’m trying to say.


The Red Room of Pain

fifty-shades-of-grey-cac1d39d5bb5c20810b1314bcbf61dee35d8219b-s6-c30I’m only closing in on the halfway point of Fifty Shades of Grey now, after several months of not touching the book I decided that since I paid for it I had better read the damn thing. It’s truly proving to be a taxing experience. I would say that without knowing exactly what’s coming up when they reach the actual place that the idea of a red room with torture implements sums up this book pretty nicely.

The characters a stale and for the most part it’s easy to see how she drew inspiration from Twilight . The male lead reads like a control freak to the point that I am wondering how the women reading this book weren’t seeing red flags all around them. I would call the writing amateurish, but that would be a disgrace to armatures.

There are times when it’s clear that she needs a better editor and other times where it’s clear she lacks confidence in what she writes. Sometimes a passable attempt at not telling will be quickly followed up up by her explaining everything and thus telling.

I’m going to hold off the final judgment until finish the book. But I did finish Ten Little Aliens and I have to say that it’s to date the best Doctor Who book I’ve read.

Third Time’s a Charm

It is with deep regret that I inform you that I’ve started reading, for the third time now, Fifty Shades of Grey. This time it seems like the task is within my grasp. But only because I’m determined to learn the lessons of the book. People will say that there is nothing of value in bad books, but bad books that sell well can teach you a thing or two. People like something for a reason–no matter how much you might disagree with that reason and if I can harness some of that without compromising my writing’s integrity, more power to me.

Last week I managed a rough draft of a short story based on the characters from Keep Austin Safe. I was impressed with myself as it was both a somewhat recognizable short story and it was in first person. I need to do some more of these little pieces with the voice of my main character so that I become accustomed to her and how she thinks. A lot of the ideas about what I want to do with the book are changing. I read The Well of Ascension last week, it’s the second part of the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson. I’m starting to see what romantic plot lines can do to a story when they’re not the full focus and made only to distract.

While I am reading two books that might be technically romantically focused (Fifty Shades and the much better Shades of Milk and Honey) I doubt I will ever see the appeal of the romantic plot as a centerpiece.

Adventures in Erotica

With all the hoopla over Fifty Shades of Grey lately, the erotica market has been either rejoicing or recoiling—that all depends on the side of the fence that you stand on. And while I won’t go into that argument here, for the sake of time and because I have a point I’m going to that doesn’t involve that book, I will say that there is a lot to be said of whether all attention in a certain market is good attention.

Admittedly I have some idea what makes a  market have a niche. I can understand mysteries, science fiction, traditional romance—even though I might not have any interest in those genres. There is something there that can understandably ring true for someone.

I didn’t know what made Erotica fans tick. I couldn’t understand it, whereas pornography has a purpose. I couldn’t see how someone could write something in a literary fashion that fit that niche because, and this is me trying to be blunt without the over-share—who needs hundreds of pages to accomplish that goal?

So I set out to figure out what made Erotica, it’s too hard to ask other writers about the elements of their genre. You’re better off seeing them for yourself and the only way to do that is to read a little bit. I wasn’t prepared to jump into these pieces full scale, I just wanted to dabble in it so that I knew what people were expecting from the genre.

I took the hunt to Amazon to find the highest rated books of the genre and came across Delta of Venus. It’s a collection of short erotic stories by Anais Nin. The title sounded flowery enough, so I cracked open the Kindle preview and read the first chapter or so after the foreword. Let me just tell you there’s going to be spoilers, but you’d be better off reading them before you read the actual text, let alone pay for it.

The basic story I found had a traveling adventure chatting up women and sleeping with them, there wasn’t much detail in these encounters. The book goes quickly into the detailed account of the man’s sexual assault (though they don’t notice most of it) of two young girls, their ages said to be around 12 or 10. It progresses from there to the man’s sexual assault of his own daughter because she’s too beautiful to resist and then into his descent into madness.

Preview over. I’d seen all that I wanted to see. Maybe it’s a matter of taste, but I don’t get a kick out of pedophilia, especially when it’s treated the way the author does. I know there are other books out there that feature it, Lolita being the most obvious candidate. But this struck me in a bad sort from the start of things. It might just be that this is the one genre I have no business near. To be frank I had to write something sexual in the novel and it was the most painstaking thing I have done to date when it comes to writing. But the subject matter was between adults, consenting ones and it was relevant (very relevant actually) to the story. It takes place around 71,000 words into the novel and by that point we care about the characters if we’re ever going to.

Delta just turned me off to the genre (excuse the pun) and I don’t feel the need to pick up another book and try again.