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Archive for June, 2010

Yesterday, I had a great meeting with kc dyer, SiWC webmaster Dale McGladdery, and a guy we’ll call “Chris” who will be bringing us a fabulous Saturday Night Owl event at SiWC. (Hmmm…. Could that be a clue? Those of you playing along with our mystery on the SiWC blog might think so, but I’m not saying either way.)

Anyway, in separate conversations, both men asked me what I write. I answered, as I usually do, “Women’s fiction.” Both were utterly confused, if the blank looks on their faces were any indication. One asked me if that was a euphemism for chick lit. It isn’t. My last MS could most accurately be called chick lit, if half a dozen people wouldn’t immediately leap in to point out that “chick lit is dead”. But ignoring that, sure, the last book qualifies for what people think of when they hear the term. But I also have a couple of partially-written romances tucked away, and the book I’m working on now, the one that leads me to use the slightly vague “women’s fiction” is… a book. It’s fiction. There’s a romance in it. Two, actually. Maybe even three or four, if you count existing marriages and a possible date for a minor character. But it’s not a romance in the traditional sense.

What it is is fiction written by a woman for a primarily female audience. And so I call it women’s fiction, and that’s how I’d pitch it in a query letter. Except that the men who’ve read bits of it for me have loved it, too. Clear as mud? This book would probably go on the fiction shelf at my local bookstore, the same shelf as every other book that doesn’t clearly fit into a defined genre like mystery, romance, or fantasy. There’s a huge variety of types of books on the fiction shelf.

So I got thinking about the existence of the term. You almost never hear someone talk about “men’s fiction” even though there are lots of types of books that appeal more to men than women, generally speaking. So why women’s fiction? I know what I mean when I say it. I know who my intended audience is. They’re fans of other women who write fiction about women and mostly for women. So I guess women’s fiction really is as good a term as any, even if it makes men go blank when I mention it.

Before I could get too wrapped up in definitions and labels, as interesting as the topic is to me, I came across something local blogger Steffani Cameron said awhile ago: “For all of history, arts and passion are born because of what makes our hearts swell and break. Wars and uprisings and cultural revolutions wage because of matters of the heart.” That reminded me of a keynote speech agent Donald Maass gave a few years ago at SiWC, in which he talked about firing up our writing by tapping in to our passions. With characteristic straightforwardness, he asked the audience, “What makes you hard? What makes you wet?” and then told us to put it in our books. Good advice, no?

So how about I forget about the label for the moment? There’ll be time enough to define that when I’m ready to pitch this thing. In the meantime, Don’s and Steff’s words have reminded me to write with passion, whatever it is I’m writing.

I love people, the way they think, the way their lives unfold, how they interact and how they love, why they get into the situations they get into and what they do next. I love happy endings and exploring the bumps and detours along the way and wandering down the ‘what if’ paths of human relationships. That’s what I write. I’ll be hiding out in my word processing program this afternoon if you need me.

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The Result

I spent an hour on my WIP yesterday afternoon. My concern about not being able to get back in were unfounded. And I made myself sniffly reading the first couple of chapters, which made me very happy, paradoxical as that may seem.

After mulling it over for months, it turned out that the bit of distance gave me the, well, distance I needed to make some pretty drastic changes. I’d come to the conclusion some time ago that the book might be stronger if I cut whole chapters and POVs. It was a painful thought at the time, because months of work would go in the bin if I did it. But I’ve lived with the idea for a long time now, all through the break from writing, and somehow it was easier than I expected it to be when I actually started doing it.

So far, I’ve cut 3650 words, and that’s just a start. It’ll take a while to complete the process, because not only do I have to cut whole chapters and scenes, but I have to find a way to work that information into what’s left behind before I move forward. I’m not sure yet how that’s going to go, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

Off to find the machete and get back to it…

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Coming Up For Air

Can’t quite believe it’s been two months since I posted here. They’ve gone by in a blink while I worked flat out on getting ready for SiWC registration opening on June 2. I got there, and am very proud to have presenter and workshop information all available on the site along with registration options and all the other goodies you’ll find, like our contest, hotel information, awards and so on. With a wonderfully successful first week of registration under our belts, things have eased off just enough for me to remember that there are other things in my life. So it’s catch-up time. I’m terribly behind on personal correspondence, for one thing, and haven’t so much as looked at my WIP in three months. Ack!

So today, I tackle the blog, the correspondence and, if I’m lucky, reading the printout of my MS that’s sitting here beside me, reminding me of the pleasure to be found in working on it.

I don’t think I’ve ever taken a three-month hiatus from writing before. I’m a bit frightened about what having done so will mean. Will the words still be there, waiting for me, or have I let myself get too rusty to get back into it? I certainly hope it will be the former, because the latter’s too awful to contemplate. Guess we’ll see.

My good friend karen says it’s a good thing to have put the WIP aside for so long, because I’ll come at it with fresh eyes and make it stronger. That sounds good to me!

Have you ever taken a long break from writing? How was the journey back into it?

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