While all my writer friends are hunched over notebooks and computers, bustling and toiling, penning lines and crumpling them up, or even just jotting down ideas, I’ve been over here… not… doing that.
Since finishing my novel in December, the last creative writing I did (excluding blog posts, which are more article-y or journal-y than creative, um, -y) was a 1000-word fiction in March, that I didn’t post because I’m submitting for publication. Oh, and those one-line stories I did in April, if those count. Otherwise… *crickets*
If any of you are saying, “Who the helvetica is David Foster Whatsit?” please don’t go yet! Yes, this month’s nonfiction revolves around a particular person, BUT the meat of the book is about something more broad: writing. The craft, the business, the joys and pitfalls and neuroses thereof. I chose it for this month’s Let’s Dewey This because his insights are so incredibly relatable that I thought you guys – my fellow wordslingers – would like to read them.
We’ve probably all heard the adage, “Give yourself permission to write crap,” but I want to talk about it because it’s such an important one. We must face the inevitability that not every word we type will be fabulous, and that’s okay. We are allowed to be imperfect. Welcome it, embrace it. It’s your right as a human.
That does not mean I prefer weak female characters. This is not a black and white world in which you either swing swords with swagger or cower in a corner. There’s a vast spectrum in between.
The reason I can’t stand the term “strong female characters” is because women described that way are usually one-dimensional, monotone cutouts of what the writer thinks a strong woman is. Often she’s a woman who can shoot a gun or throw a punch, and that’s enough. She never cries or feels uncertain or has any internal struggle whatsoever, unless of course it’s just for a minute to get the plot going and then she knows exactly how to deal with it. (Probably by shooting a gun.)
This is a tough subject. A meaty subject. A big ol’ gristly steak of a subject that takes a lot of chewing and will not be thoroughly digested within a single blog post, but let’s dig our teeth in, shall we?
As writers, our characters probably look, act, and live like people we’re used to. If you’re white and straight, your characters are probably white and straight, because that’s what you know, and writing someone black or gay or Muslim or in a wheelchair takes some extra thought.
But here’s a really cool thing: the world is a far more interesting place than just white and straight (and male, and Christian, and able-bodied, etc etc), and there should be stories to reflect that. Because all stories deserve to be told. As citizens of the earth we have a duty to represent more than just our limited bubbles.
There are few things more grating to me than the insta-love trope seen so often in fiction. This device essentially involves shoving two characters in the same room, then poking them with a stick until they have nowhere else to go but each other’s arms.
The development of their relationship usually looks like this:
It’s as ubiquitous as “Show, don’t tell.” You probably can’t even remember the first time you heard it, it’s touted so widely – in advice books, in classrooms, in movies about writers. Even the most non-writiest nonwriter who hasn’t held a pen since high school knows to write what we know.
Firstly, I’ve started going by my middle name, Noel. (As in, the Christmasy pronunciation of Noel. NOT the one that rhymes with *roll* which is what my eyes do whenever someone says it like that, hehe.) My full name will still be listed on my blog and Twitter, as that is what I’ll be published as, but amongst friends and such I’d like to be called Noel. 🙂
Secondly, I’m adopting a new system for how I’ll be blogging each week of the month:
In only 1 more day, thousands of writers across the globe will be mopping their brows, nursing their keyboard-burnt fingers, and collapsing into piles of first draft pages. That’s right – NaNoWriMo is almost complete. Three cheers to all those who faced the challenge!
For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and the goal is to write as close to 50,000 words as you can between November 1st and 30th.
I personally don’t participate, but I get asked a lot if I do, so I thought I’d write a post explaining why. This isn’t to knock the NaNo’ers, just to provide my own perspective.
Two years ago I read an amazing book called “The Right to Write” by Julia Cameron, full of warm-hearted wisdom about the creative process, self-doubt, self-criticism, and motivation. I’ve recommended this book to a number of writers since then, and decided today I would share the notes I took while reading, in hopes that you find them as encouraging as I did.
(These are part quotes, part summaries, typed here exactly as I penned them in my notebook. I’ve made bold the ones that most resonated with me.)