One day, Sam will move to the beach…

Category: Rant

NaNoWriMo Again!

I’m sure the idea that I’m taking part in National Novel Writing Month is shocking for everyone, but I’m just going to take a minute to sing its praises.

There are a few haters here and there who complain that a lot of bad novels are written during November, but they’re one hundred percent to be ignored. A lot of bad novels are written every month, but so are a lot of good ones, and the only way to know which yours will be is to write it.

Inside of NaNo, there are debates about word counts. There are a few people who, through copious application of coffee and a lack of concern for their sanity, write the whole fifty thousand words in a day or two. On the other end of the spectrum, there are people who couldn’t write fifty thousand words in a month if their lives depended on it. Maybe I’m being too optimistic, but I think both have the potential to write excellent finished novels, as long as they keep going after the end of November.

As writers, we’ve spent a lot of time being trained to compete with each other, from the idea that a higher or lower word count makes a better author, to the notion that only a precious few books will ever be published. There are only so many books a publisher will choose, they tell us. There are only so many writers who can ‘make it.’ If someone buys that writer’s book, this logic tells us, they won’t buy ours.

That’s a lot of nonsense. People spend millions of dollars on books every year, and if your books are good, people will buy them, whether they’re the big five, small press, or self published. Maybe you won’t be the next J.K. Rowling, but you’ll never know until you try.

The thing that NaNoWriMo gets to the heart of, which too many of us forget, is that writing a book isn’t about author vs. author. It’s about author vs. self. No other author is holding a gun to your head, telling you not to write. (I hope.) You need to get past the idea of competing with anyone, and just sit down and write that novel. NaNo helps remind us that the only thing stopping us is ourselves. The other authors? We’re in the same boat as you, fighting against ourselves to write the best book we can write. So maybe instead of fighting over who gets the best oar, we should all grab one, sit down, and row this thing together.

All the ways to say said

Fun story with a twist ending.

I worked with kids in an ELL program. That’s ELL for English Language Learners, not ESL/English as a Second Language, because for many kids learning English in the American school system, English isn’t a second language, but a third or fourth.

With one student, we were working through a novel intended for teenagers about her age. (16-18) She went through the words she knew easily, and her vocabulary was pretty impressive; after a year of English, she knew words her US-born contemporaries would have scratched their heads at. She liked to read, and it helped build her vocabulary a lot.

Anyway, every other paragraph or so, she’d stop and ask me what a word meant. And after a while, it almost became a game. Because every single time in this novel, the word she was asking about was a clumsy replacement for “said.”

“Don’t do that,” she yelled.

“I’m not angry,” he hissed.

“You can’t make me,” she growled.

“I didn’t mean to,” he sobbed.

Okay. Sometimes I understand this necessity. It’s important that he’s sobbing, and we need to know that. But seriously, there’s a limit–and there are better ways to say these things.

If my student would have to stop five times on every page of your manuscript and ask what that word means? You need to rethink some of your word choices

So stop it, okay self? Now get back to writing.

My Ration of Anxiety

I know that every author has been through this moment.

Everything is done. The files are ready and waiting. All that’s left is the actual upload and release. As of next Monday, I will become a published author.

Yeah, yeah, it’s ‘only’ self publishing. Whatever. The point is that I’m putting my first novel out there to be judged and rated, but hopefully mostly enjoyed.

Every author I know has admitted to being nervous about putting their first book out for sale, and right now, nervous doesn’t really cover where I am. I’m going to spend my time between now and Monday wondering if this is actually a terrible idea. Then, I’m probably going to keep wondering that.

But I’ve dreamed of becoming a published author since I was a little kid, and at this point, nothing is going to stop me from pressing that button, short of being hit by a bus.

That’s it, I’m not leaving the house till Monday.

Content Warnings

One of my fellow writers pointed out to me this afternoon that I should include a content warning on my novel to indicate that there are sex scenes that are intended for people who are 18+. I thought this was an excellent idea, and assumed that other people must have been in the same situation, so I started searching the web for information on how other people note content warnings in their works.

Interestingly, what I found was a mix of often angry opinions. Many think that content and trigger warnings are either necessary or at least acceptable, and offered suggestions on things that they might warn for, and where they would put that information. A surprising number of people, though, seemed personally offended by the idea that they should offer warnings, for reasons ranging from the idea that it would spoil their content, to rants about ‘special snowflakes’ that I’m not interested in going into.

For myself right now, I’m not worried about spoiling people. Guess what? My non-sweet romance novel has sex scenes. If that offends you, I’m not sure how you navigate the treacherous waters of romance novels. So I will shout from the rooftops that there is sex in my book, and if you don’t want it or can’t legally read it, please don’t buy it when I release it.

I’ve got to say, though, that if I ever have triggering material in my books, I’d much rather warn for it than not. Being a PTSD sufferer myself, I’m all too aware of the need for trigger warnings. Some days I just can’t handle reading about certain topics. Other days I’ll read them and be fine. So someone warning me about their content gives me the choice of when to read their work and enjoy it most. It gives others a reason to avoid them altogether. Yes, avoid them, and that’s a good thing, because you don’t want your fiction to hurt people, and you don’t want them to leave a nasty review on your work because you couldn’t be bothered to say ‘warning: domestic abuse.’

I’m curious. If you disagree with content and trigger warnings, why do you think they’re a problem, and what do you say to people who want them?

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