Represent, yo

Okay, so something bugs me, at least a little. Except I should embrace it openly, and I do, just not as wholeheartedly as other writers do. And it’s a thing that mainly just writers and editors cry out about.

That thing is representing the under-represented. People of colours other than white. People of sexualities other than straight. Transgendered persons. Women. 

On the one hand I believe it’s right to represent in fiction those who are not straight white males. It’s better than right, it’s great. But only because we have a lot of homogenisation in fiction. According to writers, editors, and maybe readers but you should, I don’t know, ask readers whether they care or not. Fun fact: readers don’t care (as much) about the things writers and editors bang on about there not being enough of, or there being too much of, necessarily. The general audience, anyway. Genre savvy readers – speaking as one – don’t mind stuff that pushes the boundaries and goes down the paths less traveled. But less-read readers probably don’t have as much of a radar for these sorts of things as writers do – and have to, because as a writer, your best weapon is Different. Then comes Good Writing, and Punctuality, and other things like that which show editors that you’re a professional and not some loser. (Although, you could say these weapons can go in different orders.)

The point I started writing this post to make is that it’s not a crime to write about straight white dudes (for example). It will NOT get you awards for being different, though. It isn’t the crime writers make it out to be, but it is a disservice to anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the default.

The straight white male, though, is a target of lazy marketing. Or in other words, SAFE marketing. Especially those 18-30. Your dude-bros. Your Call of Duty players, if you’ll forgive the vidya game interjection. I think it’s a crime that LGBT (and the other letters I’ve seen attached to that, but can’t remember all of), non-white races, and women aren’t represented as much as maybe they should be. More stories about women? Cool with me. Written by women? Cool. I don’t tend to have that much success with stories written by women, for some reason, but the spirit I agree with. Same with gay, lesbian, African, Hispanic, Italian, or whatever… it’s all cool with me. I think we really do need more. All things in balance, and all that.

Just as long as it’s well written and engaging and not boring. Otherwise I’ll throw that shit against the wall.

GTA V Australia

In case you’ve been living under a rock in Canada, GTA V has been pulled from shelves in Target and Kmart in Australia. Why? Because of the soccer mum brigade. It’s GTA. It’s violent. Back in the day, when it first came out, it was talked about as a violent game where you play as criminals and run down pedestrians and steal cars and shoot people and drive around a taxi collecting an honest day’s work (if you want to). And back when it came out, and almost every new game since then, has had some level of controversy involved. This time, it’s killing hookers. Or it’s that you can have sex with them in first person (on the PS4). It seems to be either or, depending on who you ask, but let’s say it’s both. The feminists are really getting into bashing on its treatment of women, not to mention how they’re written – the gist being that they’re written poorly. So you’ve got people pissed about violence in a video game (really, this again?), hookers, the treatment of females, and the writing of females.

I know a female friend who wrote in to the newspapers and radios and defended GTA. I myself don’t like GTA, but I defend the studio’s right to include whatever they want to include in it. If they want to include extreme violence and hookers and criminals and car theft and all that controversial stuff, then I’m not going to worry about the children (“Won’t somebody PLEASE think of the children!”) who shouldn’t be playing this game anyway. Is it a bad game? I don’t really know, I don’t play it, I’ve played a couple of them here and there for a bit but haven’t really liked the series. Not really my bag, baby. I prefer fantasy and sci fi RPGs and FPS and RTS games. Sandbox driving-centred games aren’t really my thing. I guess that’s what I’d call GTA, at it’s core, but there’s a lot of other stuff – shooting, destruction, chases, you know, exciting stuff. GTA is an exciting sort of game, though I don’t really like it’s sandbox style nor anything about it, really. But I don’t get offended by it’s treatment of women. It’s a game about violent, fucked up criminals. You know, half of a prostitute’s client base. It makes sense that you have the option to harm prostitutes. It’s all in the spirit of the game. Not a spirit I like, but I don’t see it as the big deal that everyone’s making it out to be.

And anyway, Target pulling it from shelves just means it’s in the news. Generating buzz. Getting publicity. And there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

Nanowrimo

WOW that’s a large gap since the last post!

So, this year’s nano effort was putting the finishing touches on old work. I am 100% completely DONE with it. I never want to write another word of it ever again.

A few people were like “no, write something new – let it rest for a year” while others were like “maybe you should just go ahead and get the damn thing published”. Being pulled in two directions, there. But I decided to finally go for broke one last time and get it written. It came in at just over 50k, enough to ‘win’ nano, and I got a certificate and everything. I’ve contacted a certain publisher who might be interested still. Or might not. Who knows? Let’s see how it pans out. Either way, it’s probably as good as it’ll ever get, and any more tinkering will just be a waste of time. I understand that. I will leave it alone for the 6 months or so it’ll take to get back to me with corrections to make (assuming that’s the way they work) and I can now just lie back on my hammock by the beach and sip pina coladas (I can never remember how to spell that drink).

I celebrated my birthday the same week I struck 50k, by going to the pancake manor. I had their beef burger, it was okay, not great. Tomorrow I think I’ll go back and have some more of their pancakes (I tried a bit of my brother’s). Or I might do something else entirely. But whatever, I get paid tomorrow so woooo! (is not officially a Woo Girl)

It’s over, guys. It’s done. Finished. No more.

I can relax.

Until the editing phase. But that could, and probably will be, 6 months away.

Amputee challenge

The time I put my arm in a sling for research

I challenged myself, as part of research for my writing, to wear a sling for 24 hours. The idea is to remind myself not to use my hand – and even worse, it’s my dominant hand.

The fact that I had to unplug my computer for a heavy storm might have had a big part to play in my taking it off (it’s difficult to reach into that particular space, with the growing pile of stuff in the way and the sheer awkwardness of getting in there regardless).

And the hardest thing is not cheating. I remember when I had a broken arm for reals, it was hell doing everything. And I couldn’t cheat, not even a little.

You have to do everything one-handed. EVERYTHING. Getting dressed. Toilet. Shower. Eating. Computer use. Paying for things (but paypass is good in that regard, as it mostly eliminates the need for coins and notes and change and all that associated noise). You become somehow less of a human being for the inability to do the daily things with the ease you could.

I found I couldn’t use a knife and fork, meaning I had to cut potatoes with the knife and then switch to the fork to eat them. And don’t get me started on eating chicken wings one-handed! (I am right handed, but I use a knife and fork like a left-handed person because that makes sense to me)

I had to change my mouse to right-click mode, which wasn’t a simple tick box (there were tick boxes, but the fact that it wasn’t a simple ‘click to set mouse buttons to left handed’ box meant a bit of awkwardness. I’ve used it left-handed before, sure, but doing so for extended time kinda sucked.

I ripped the sling off to go out. Partly because there’d just been a storm and partly because I was already sick of using my left hand for everything. The neck cramp might have contributed.

Getting the safety pin out of the bandage was also a bitch, consuming much more time than with two hands, as I expected. (It’s a safety pin. With my off-hand.)

I considered whether I should leave it on to go to the pub. But I doubted they’d give me free drinks on the basis that it would be a nightmare getting my wallet out and handling the cash in one hand. Maybe I should have tried anyway. Except the farce would be up as soon as they saw me use my right hand for literally anything.

I’ve typed one-handed before, but let me tell you, it’s painstaking. Either you hunt-and-peck, or one hand does the job of two, touch typing on one side of the keyboard then switching for a tiny bit then going back, back and forth, and it’s not smooth or easy.

Going to the toilet was an ordeal. The less said about that, the better.

Brushing my teeth is tricky. Typing is strange, but not impossible. It just takes time. And shortcuts. Hand-writing is out of the question.

Everything is a process, one you have to do one labourious step at a time. One where you don’t have another hand to steady, ready, stabilise, or hold the other thing while you do the important thing with the main hand.

And if you’re alone, premade meals become your friend.

I don’t really remember what it was like with a broken arm, the one time it happened. Not the way I did tasks. But I’m seeing how it affects me not having the use of one of my hands in the here and now. And it’s my right hand, the dominant one, for added challenge. But I do remember the pain that took easily two weeks to go away. And that was just a hairline fracture in my wrist. I imagine a full-blown shattering or the like would be a much worse ordeal. And actually losing the limb… well.

More on this tomorrow.

How many words make a novel?

This is a contentious one to answer, because every publisher is different, as is every genre and indeed every person (the writers themselves).

Here then is my universal definition of fiction lengths. New York Times take note! (or not, I’m only some internet blogger with one short story published)

Flash Fiction: 1000 or less. The places that specialise in flash fiction are very strict about it. Which is good, because it forces writers to be succinct, which is in the mission statement of flash fiction itself.

Short story: 1000 – 6000. I’m pretty sure this is a universal measure. Longer than 6000 and people have a bit of trouble reading it in one setting, unless it’s really engaging. That’s fairly agreed-upon.

Novella or Novellete: 6000 – 50000. Novels are at a bare minimum 50000, according to Nanowrimo. Let’s give it some credit.

Novel: 50000 to 100000. Here’s where it gets contentious. Some people say novels are 50000 (Nanowrimo, for instance) while some say 60000 minimum, while some people can easily write 100000 and that’s still a novel. So, as a bare minimum for novel, and thus an absolute maximum for a novella, I’d say 50000 is a good bench mark. Nanowrimo has been around since 1999. It’s been here a while, enough to gather some clout.

Mega-novel: 100000 or more. I don’t know what you’d call it, but I like Mega-novel. 100000 words is pretty epic. In fact I think epics are about that many words (albeit of poetry) so “epic novel” also has a nice ring to it.

So that’s my guideline. I expect you all to bow to my wisdom and adopt my teachings. :p

All The Money

If someone tells you don’t write fantasy, it won’t sell, well there’s a few things you can point out to that person.

First, their information is from pre-1977. Point that out to them. Highlight it in big neon letters. Because 1977 was the year Terry Brooks topped the New York Times Bestseller List with a fantasy novel. This ushered in a new era of fantasy novels selling pretty well.

The second thing is to show them research that states how much the top ten fantasy writers earn. Wikipedia is a good place to start but like everyone who’s ever heard of it (ie everyone but grandma) knows, Wikipedia can be edited by anyone and shouldn’t be taken as gospel.

J K Rowling has earned a billion dollars. What she did was write a good children’s book for children and found a publisher who tried the radical notion of giving it to a child to read. (They asked for more) While it’s true she didn’t start out so well, initially, well, you know she now has approximately All The Money.

George R R Martin has half that, and when Winds of Winter is released, he’ll have approximately All The Money too.

Stephen King has several books, many of which turn into successful movies, and he mixes it up between proper, supernatural horror and non-supernatural suspense thrillers. You don’t need figures to know he’s doing well. But his net work is approx. $400 million. How is that not profitable?

And don’t even get me started on Patrick Rothfuss, we’ll be here all night.

Finally, point out that Young Adult fiction is in high demand, and will probably be so for as long as there’s a YA market. It’s hot, but there’s no telling how hot it’ll stay or for how long.

DON’T write something because it’s Hot Right Now. It’ll be cold by the time you publish it. Write what you’re passionate about, and market it, and get it professionally edited, and pay good money for good cover design, and you’ll have a good chance of a return on investment. Authors should have other revenue incomes, sure. It’s a fickle business and there’s no guarantees. But those who succeed repeatedly are the ones with professional attitudes and who’ve done the hard work and their homework too.

And you can always write crime fiction.

Except you shouldn’t do that just to get rich, as it’ll be an obvious cop-out if you know you’re not interested and no-one will buy it. Write crime fiction because you like crime fiction. Write memoirs because you like memoirs. Write speculative fiction because you enjoy speculative fiction. Write what you’re passionate about, and it’ll show. That will win you serious points. There’s few guaranteed strategies, but if you follow these guidelines, you’ll maximise your chances.

Probably.

And when the haters hate on you, just keep going. You’ll be able to laugh at them from your mountain of gold. Theoretically.

Doomsday Prepping (please don’t shoot me)

Doomsday Preppers. You may be inclined to make fun of their “silly notions” that the world will end, but maybe they have the right idea.

That makes me sound like one of them. I’m not. I’m just a writer who is fascinated by apocalypse literature, films and the like. It’s my autistic focus-passion. That, and fantasy.

Now, I don’t believe preparing for the end of the world is such a great idea. But I do believe that having a few extra boxes and cans of food in case of emergencies, that idea’s not so bad.

Emergencies happen, often with little or no warning, and people rush out and buy up on essential food big time, leaving none for anyone else. They panic-buy.

Preppers think those people are silly and manage to put some food in storage. That part isn’t stupid. It’s just being prepared for various circumstances. It’s a just-in-case measure.

Except, from what I’ve read, they bring the apocalypse – be it Revelations or zombie or other – into it.

Here’s the thing. 1: in the Bible, it states that only God knows the hour upon which he’ll unleash Armageddon. Him and Him alone. Not us. So our efforts to be prepared for Revelations are laughable. And 2: if you’re a devout Christian, you’ll be… well, it gets a might fuzzier there. Probably go to Heaven, and if you died before then, you’d be resurrected in the new Heaven or the new Earth or something. Like I said, fuzzy.

As for the zombie apocalypse, well, popular culture loves that shit and this generation I’m a part of is amazingly keen for one, by the sounds of it.

Are Doomsday Preppers Americans with tonnes of guns? I haven’t met any, myself, but a couple follow my blog, because of my writing of apocalypse fiction. (I felt legit when that happened). I don’t want gun-toting American DP’s coming after me, enraged and loaded for bear, so if I’ve offended any with this post, I’m sincerely sorry. Please don’t shoot me.

I visited a couple Doomsday sites that followed me, and there’s wisdom there, but also I saw what looked like conspiracy theory news sources. I don’t put much faith in those, though I also don’t trust the media because anyone with a brain knows they skew things to their own biases and show things that can be taken out of context to make certain persons look bad (all of them, I’d say).

So in summation, I think stockpiling a few cans of food isn’t a bad idea – heck, even the Bible says to store up for winter/lean times on multiple occasions – but I don’t believe that we can ever truly be prepared for the apocalypse. Unless it’s zombie; we’ve got that shit covered.

And we’ll look so cool and badass doing it. That’s a bonus.