So You Want To Be a Writer.

I had a high school student email me with a bunch of questions about writing, so I thought I’d share them and my answers.

 

*What is the job really like? Well, no one tells you how much marketing is part of it. I’ve always found that many writers are by nature fairly introspective- we want to spend our time just imagining things into existence on the page. However, when you start your agent search, and then after that when editors get involved, they look at your involvement on social media as part of their consideration. Someone who maintains an active Twitter, FB, and blog they believe has a built-in fan base. When I signed my contract with my publishing company, I had to fill out a questionnaire on my marketing plan. Related: book tours aren’t as profitable for the industry these days with newer authors, so they send you on blog tours instead. This means you can expect to spend hours answering questions (often the same ones) and pulling excerpts and doing “character interviews” for various book blogs.

*Pros and cons of a writing career: Pros- it’s an infinitely varied and exciting job. You can literally do anything you want. Travel, commit crimes, fight crime, fall in love, develop superpowers- all through your characters. I also think by and large the community is extremely supportive (although for you as a fantasy writer, I have to say there have been a lot of accusations of misogyny there. As crummy as it is, it may be worth considering doing the JK Rowling thing when you query, so your gender isn’t as noticable.) Cons- there are zero guarantees. You may or may not get an agent who may or may not sell your work, which may or may not sell to the public. The percentage of writers who survive on that alone is depressingly small. That being said, when writing’s something to look forward to after your day job, it maintains a bit more allure than when you have to get up every day and treat it like you would an office job.

*What kind of viewpoint do I prefer to write in? I tend to prefer third person past because it lets you, as you said, flesh out the story a bit more. You aren’t tied to one person’s observations, and you get to observe them more closely than most characters would examine themselves. However, the last two books I’ve done have been in first person present and the writing goes much more quickly that way. It also gives a sense of immediacy that works better for certain stories.

*My favorite thing to do when writing a story is jokes. And Easter eggs. I have a couple good friends who read everything I write before anyone else, and if they text or call laughing or saying “I see what you did there!” I am satisfied.

*How do I get romance to work? I learned this trick from my co-writer, who was a theater major. In every play (or book) your main character wants something- be it a job, a victory, or a love. You have to imagine a string connecting your character to their desire. And then keep it taut. So for example in romance, once the characters meet, their thoughts continually drift to one another, even if they fight it. Especially if they fight it! They’ll order a coffee, and idly wonder if the other takes cream, or smell perfume on a passer-by that instantly reminds them of The Night They Met, or whatever. Wherever the object on the other end of their string goes, your character will follow. Also, witty banter. Insta-love only goes so far, especially when you can’t see the chemistry.

*How do I get inspiration for romance? A combination of asking what-if and being a fangirl, mostly. I wrote a short story once based on a real-life brief relationship I’d had- what if it had been more? My first published book was based on a craigslist ad where a guy advertised for a matchmaker. What if the matchmaker turned out to be his match? Or then, the second book was “What if You’ve Got Mail was modernized and kind of mashed up with the movie Once?” The one I’m working on now is, “What if 21 Jump St was romantic AND funny and also smashed into Never Been Kissed?” I know people who write heroes based on celebrities just so they can pretend to fall for them.

*Do I have any writing tips? Firstly, READ. Read constantly. Read in your genre, but also outside of it. Read non-fiction and fiction. All of it makes you a better writer. Second, and I am saying this as someone who was an English major- being an English major won’t necessarily teach you much about writing. My co-writer’s theater degree was much more applicable- they do character studies and all that immersion in acting really helps you get inside a character’s head- plus you get familiar with pacing and structure. In English you learn how to be a reader, with some writing experience; in theater you learn to be a writer, a director, and an actor. Much more well-rounded. However, if (and reasonably so) you are concerned about real-life applications of a degree like that (although the business world loves good public speakers!) a History major also helps you draw connections and see the narratives in a way that is particularly appropriate for a fantasy writer. Third- make some writer friends who can help critique you. The QueryTracker website has a forum where you can find critique partners. Fourth- READ some more!

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#IBelieveWomen

Although I suppose a lot of people would dispute this, I consider what I do for a living to be semi-related to the sex industry. Writing romance, sure I understand I’m not naked on camera, I’m not writing hard-core erotica, yes. But.

Like a growing sector of the porn industry, I’m selling sexual fantasies to women. I casually use words and portray scenarios that would give me sainted Ma a heart attack. I profit from someone else’s desire. 

In the fan community, there’s a lot of overlap as well. I’m personally part of at least 4 Facebook groups whose only purpose is to direct liberated ladies to porn Tumblrs, gifs, penis pics, etc. It’s all part of the same beautiful community of women who are not ashamed to discuss their sexuality, their fantasies, who casually discuss sex toys the way men have discussed women for centuries.

I love being part of it. As a feminist, it feels like a natural step towards equality.

The elephant in this sexy little utopian room, of course, is James Deen. We were ALL obsessed. He was so cute. He did all these supersexy moves while staring intensely into the girl’s eyes. He made a huge deal of being into sex with ALL women, not just the shaven, tanned, siliconed ones.

We were all complicit in equating that to him being an ally. Or at least a lover of women. Even less than that, he just seemed like a regular guy who was really good at sex. We all projected on him. 

When Stoya came forward with her allegations of rape, I thought we would all stand with her. I thought we would all say, “holy shit were we wrong.” I thought we would all delete the Instagram pics of ourselves in WWJDD tees. (Um, well me anyway. Cause it turns out what he would do is NOT something I’m okay with.)

The thing is, that’s not what happened. More and more and more women came forward. Some had assault or rape stories of their own about him. Others just heard enough rumors that they refused to work with him for fear of rape or assault.

And in return, more and more women from the romance community defended him. One woman even started a campaign for survivors of rape to support him. Think about that. 

A survivor of rape, supporting a rapist.

It’s truly time for this community to stand up. We are empowered, liberated, sexual women. We need to stand up and say- no, SHOUT- that we believe women. That sex workers are due the same protections and sympathies as the characters in our books. That we are like them, because we. Are. Women.

And we stand together.

I’m with Stoya, and Joanna, and Tori and Ashley and Amber and Kora and Nicki and Lily and TM. And I’m with every single one of YOU who has been scared to come forward. Because I am a woman. And a mother of a girl who will someday be on her own in this world. And I never, ever want her to wonder if women will believe her.

Come stand with us.
And something else that just occurred to me and made me immediately ragey. That statistic about 1 in 4 women being victims of sexual assault? That we learned in health class and Cosmo and everywhere on the internet? 

WHERE IS OUR ANSWERING STAT ABOUT HOW MANY MEN ARE ASSAULTERS???