Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby!… In Fiction.

What is your fiction saying about sexuality and relationships? Probably a lot more than you’d think, and I want to talk about the choices we make as writers when it comes to this. No, I’m not talking about how well-endowed you make your characters, or giving people unrealistic expectations about how mind-blowingly amazing sex will be on the first time, every time (but we should talk about that, too… eventually). I’m talking about the gritty stuff: the relationship. The ways in which two characters interact and how that is received by the world. I struggled for a long time thinking of how to start this conversation, but I finally settled on relating an experience to you all from my earlier years as a college student.

A friend of mine wrote an amazing short story about a young man who ends up giving shelter to a woman fleeing her abusive boyfriend. She waits at his house for a friend to pick her up, and then thanks him and heads out with her friend.

When I first read this story, I thought it was amazing. I still think it’s amazing. The emotion and the raw display of humanity in this story felt just perfect. It was a snapshot of real, gritty life, and it just captured so much about our generation (us 20-somethings) in the small details of the story. More importantly, it captured something distinctly human in the characters.

While it was well received by many people in the class, three young men took issue with something: the guy did not get the girl at the end of the story.

Let me break that down for you. The guy (a random stranger to this woman) does not “get” (as in a kiss, a good fuck, a phone number, a date) the girl (the woman who was just beaten by an abusive ex). This bothered them.

Just the thought of turning it into a love story made me go a little berserk. Why? Because the main character, the guy, and this woman were not meant to be in a relationship. For one, the story was not about that. It was about what a painful, messy experience life can be, and sometimes we can actually be a decent person for someone else.

How would letting the guy “get” the girl ruin that message? For one, it has the chance of reducing the female character to a “prize”.

What is probably the worst part, however, is that it cheapens the main character. I liked him as a character, a lot. He was written to be a decent human being, and the reader got to see him struggling in a dilemma of what the right thing to do is. For him, he questioned whether or not to call the police, whether to take the woman back to his house in the first place, and whether or not to confront the much larger and scarier guy she ran from. These are all feasibly real-life problems someone may have to confront, and this character, while he may not have been the most supportive or helpful, did try to help this woman. If his only incentive for helping her is that kiss, or date, at the end of the story, it warps his actions and the audience’s perceptions of what to expect in these situations.

What does it say about how sexuality and relationships are portrayed in media if three guys in my writing class wanted the main character to get the girl in the end? In reality, the last thing a person fleeing abuse wants is to be ravished by a stranger (think about it for a second, you’ll get the ‘creepy’ vibes). Not one of these guys in the class would (hopefully) try to get with a random lady fleeing an attacker. But for them, the story felt incomplete without that promise for intimacy at the end.

I don’t blame them. I blame the formula people establish for so many books, shows, and movies out there. Most fictional works involving a guy and a girl have them get together at the end. Hell, even the gay stories do it. The hero conquers evil and the protagonist wins the heart of their true love. It’s how it goes. It’s textbook narrative structure. I even happen to like this structure, but I think there are some social problems we need to be aware of when we write in it, and that’s what I want to talk about, after that very long-winded introduction.

I recently finished up a novel for publication (Warrior will be out in July! Lesbians and fantasy adventure awaits! Tell your friends) and when revising it, I noticed something… annoying about the main character. Can you guess what it was?

This girl cared way too much about ending up old, alone, and a virgin, and it wasn’t even in a comical way. Why did I write her that way? Why did I make the main character’s drive something as simplistic as “to get the girl”?

I can’t say for sure, but it made me realize that I was saying something with my characters. I was saying what I expected people to act like, I was showing what I expected the hero to act like. And it wasn’t necessarily the best message.

To give the short story, I found redeeming qualities everywhere, and the character was not so far gone to save her. One thing I did pay a lot of attention to in the story was the portrayal of gay and lesbian relationships (the main characters are lesbians, come on guys).

Here is where I break out the pet peeves. I am very, very tired of seeing lesbian relationships portrayed in stories where the entire plot hangs on the acceptance of that relationship as something socially acceptable.

Why? It raises the question of whether or not LGTBQIA relationships are acceptable, and the only answer to that is yes, they are. I understand a need to explore prejudice and struggle, but seeing it played out every time and in every story can make the audience feel as if there is something deviant about these sexual relationships.

And it does not have to be an LGTBQIA relationship. Portraying the female character as the passive damsel, the male character as the sexually dominating force, both of these are perfect examples of how a story’s portrayal of relationships can set a standard for those reading it. These portrayals are not a standard, they are not a norm, but we can begin to see them that way if we are not careful about how we write our worlds, especially fantasy and science fiction universes, where any construct of relationship is truly possible.

I made sexual relationships between characters of any gender a norm in my universe, save for the royalty who are expected to pop out a baby because, you know, babies need to happen. And even then, there were ways around that minor detail that the characters discussed. There are so many other ways to explore relationship dynamics between characters, however. It never just has to be, “the hero gets their true love.” Yes, that’s an important part to a lot of base fantasy narratives, but it does not have to be the defining aspect. Like the main character in my friend’s story, the quality of writing does not have to hinge on the character’s sexual conquest.

What I am trying to get at here is that writers set up what is “normal” in their worlds, and readers pay attention to that. Not every story needs to break out of these molds we created, but all stories featuring a strong romantic relationship should contain some level of awareness.

I’m going to leave my thoughts on the subject there, because any further efforts to expand have left me dissatisfied, and I’d rather tease out more meaning in conversation, if you’d be obliged, readers.

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Exciting News!

Well, this happened a little while ago, but I suppose I should make some official announcement for it.

I am happy to say that I am now publishing with Desert Palm Press, a small publishing company devoted to quality lesbian fiction. My new book coauthored with Rae D Magdon will be released in March for purchase through Desert Palm Press. I’ll have more details about that closer to the release date, but for right now, let’s talk about small press publishing.

It’s a tricky business, getting published. I found it to be so tricky that I took the quick route and self-published. Despite my wild success at that (our book did fabulously; thank you all, my amazing, wonderful fans!), people were more excited to hear I got a book deal from a small, independent publishing press than they were to hear about how well my self-published book was doing. Why is that? Why is there something immediately more special about be acknowledged by someone else who lives off of judging writing?

Some would say it’s an honor, but I think there’s some monetary prestige built into it.

Now, I haven’t made an insane amount of money off my writing. I didn’t do bad, mind you, but I wasn’t JK Rowling or anything. Neither will I be with this small press. The way I see it, I’m taking a slight pay cut to reach a broader audience (and work with some wonderful writers and editors, never discount that experience). Yet why do people value this move in my career more than when I was doing all the work myself? That was pretty impressive, mind you.

I think there’s a nasty association of wealth with “publishing”. If you’re in with a press, you’re gonna be rolling in it, or at least that’s what the urban myth tells you. And people are welcome to believe that and to benefit off their writing. They should, actually.

What bothers me is when a writer loses sight of what they’re writing about and focuses on just money. This is a fairly idealistic, rose-colored argument, but I like to think that writing, good writing, should be about the conversation between a writer and a reader, not the overall monetary gain at the end of the day. I bring this up mainly because I see writers fall into the trap of seeking the perfect publisher for their story, but then never sharing anything because they’re worried they’ll miss their opportunity for “the big break.”

When a writer holds back from an opportunity to have readers see their work, whether it’s at a local contest or in a national magazine, they’re allowing themselves to think that the amount of “good” writing they can accomplish is finite. We as writers have so much to say and so much to give. That is simply human nature. Share your ideas. Share your drafts. More will come. Part of the publishing process is spending time in those little nooks and crannies of writing. Publish with the local anthology. Apply to that short story contest down the street. Get yourself writing to interact with others, not just a faceless agent. That is what the writing process is about, communication, a dialogue between writers and readers.

I suppose I’ve waxed poetic long enough, already. Before I end this post, I’d like to let you all know that if you’re looking for some interesting lesbian fiction, check out what Desert Palm Press has here: http://www.desertpalmpress.com/

AJ Adaire is fabulous, as are Stein Willard and SL Kassidy. As always, thank you to my readers who support my fiction, wherever they find it. If you’re curious Rae and I are releasing a sci-fi romance in March. I also have a fantasy novel on the table, but that will be released some time this summer. Chronicles of Osota deserves my full attention, which I cannot give in the middle of completing graduate school.

Less Is More

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How many times have you heard that little piece of advice, hmm? A lot probably, but I want to talk about it again in relation to some of my recent activities. But first let me say, “hi, how are all of you? How have you been? My handful of regular readers, I’ve missed you!” Sorry for vanishing, but I was sucked in by this torrential force known as academia. While I was away I wrote articles for journals, arranged to go to a conference in Canada (and hopefully lead a panel), and learned more than I ever needed to know about Utopianism. Brain = full. Now to cherish my month of pseudo-freedom by goofing around on the internet.

But this is not goofing around. This is serious business. In my time away, I also sent a short story out to some different anthologies. It got rejected every single time, sadly, but I plan to keep trying. Recently, I got caught up talking to a colleague who used to run a journal in my field. He heard that I was sending this story out and failing to get in, and said I should read it for a class one day. That translates to me reading a reject story to fifteen of my peers and one brilliant pioneer of science fiction studies. No pressure, right?

So I sent the story out to some friends for some quick edits. The two that got back to me said the same thing, “We need more.” The emotion was not translating on the page, and they wanted to see the character’s feelings.

I struggled with this kind of feedback, because I always hated writing about my character’s emotions in excess. Nobody wants to hear what you have to whine about, protagonist. Shut up and do what you’re supposed to do. Your actions will convey the emotions. I always made sure to show something happening rather than say, “She felt sad” because really, how much more imprecise can you be after “sad”? Sad means something different for every single person, so I always try to show the emotions through physical actions. A person jumps. They frown. They have a nervous tick I describe comically. There’s something to tell what kind of pressure or elation that character might be feeling, and it certainly does not take place in the form of an adjective.

Now, this isn’t a hard rule. Of course the simple adjective gets out every now and then. It’s necessary for good writing to be varied. But I was having a hard time seeing how I could bring the emotions of these characters to the forefront without explicitly saying, “Character Y was pissed off”.

But I tried anyways, and I read the story to the class. Some of the changes I made worked really well. I changed the beginning to show the terrifying enemy my protagonist faces. It was an emotionally charged scene. It really sucked a reader in… And then there were some scenes that flopped. I added some inner dialogue from the protagonist like my readers suggested. It felt flat when I read it aloud, though. There were literally moments when I was reading when I thought, “Why the hell is this in here?”

At the end of my reading, the professor, my colleague, was impressed. He asked, “And have you published this, yet?”

So I explained to him the tragic tale of rejection after rejection I had faced. Before I started submitting it places, I had won some local readings with it, so I thought it would actually stand a chance. After the class ended, the professor gave me some advice, “You know. It’s really quite good, and this is coming from someone who reads a lot of fiction. My only suggestion for you would be this: less is more.”

So, this man who edited a national journal had found some value in the story. Granted, he’s probably more fond of me than an anonymous reader, considering we work together. But his comment makes sense. I was trying to add more where the story really did not need more. I added to the beginning, and that worked out, but nothing else really needed extra. In fact, there were some scenes I could have done away with entirely. They were dull. They did not contribute emotion or meaning, and so the readers who wanted me to add more reacted against these scenes.

What I think I am trying to convey is this: sometimes, the answer to bringing the emotion is cutting out the vapid and empty parts. It’s easier to tell more with less of a story when the parts there express so much already. This might seem like a ramble, or a really long way to say “less is more” but I think it is some valuable tips on writing that every reader or author could benefit from. I also thought it was the perfect way to resume regular updates, which I sincerely hope will stay regular.

Before I go, I want to fill my readers in on my schedule. Over the next month, I will be finishing a novel with my coauthor, Rae D Magdon, for publication within the next few months. I will also be working on my story Chronicles of Osota: Warrior, a fantasy novel to be released some time in the next few months. For those of you who are fans of my fictionpress or fanfiction.net stories, I will be updating those as well, hopefully. Anyways, happy holidays, and please comment if you have any thoughts to share on the craft of writing, this topic, or anything else you with to discuss.

Legit Publishing

So a little over a week ago, I published All The Pretty Things with my coauthor Rae D Magdon. We went through Kindle Direct Publishing figuring that it would be the fastest, easiest way to reach the few fans we managed to collect over the years. Fast-forward nine days and we’ve sold over 500 copies and are listed as #1 seller for kindle sales in Lesbian Romances. Crazy, right?

We did all of this ourselves, though. We didn’t send out query letters. We didn’t talk to agents, didn’t pursue publishing companies, didn’t do anything my writing professors advised. It was just us and the supportive community of the interwebs. Now the question is: are we legitimately published?

I think the answer is yes. I think this new form of indie publishing has gotten a bad reputation from the abuse of anyone using it, but I think if a professional approaches it in the right direction, it is just as legitimate as any other form of publication. That being said, I think indie publishing opens up authors to some shortcuts I do not advise them to take.

To begin with, there’s no one but you running the operation when you self-publish to an online format. That means that if you’re not looking for help, no one is going to edit your story but you, and that is not acceptable. I don’t think authors should go out and pay for a book doctor, but I think now more than ever writers need to network with one another and exchange resources with one another. Writers in groups will get access to five or six competent editors, some of them more often than not with degrees or real world experience. Someone asked me one day if I thought there was a loss of quality in writing through the self-publishing route. I think as long as a writer is working with other quality writers and editors, they have the potential to be just as high quality as a book that was published through a company.

Honestly, indie publishing is going to become a serious form of getting your book out there, just like kickstarter can be a legitimate form to fund serious projects. If writers get lazy, their work won’t sell. It’s as simple as that.

But it’s a hard gig. I sit here panicking once every few hours that I’m not doing enough to make sure it stays successful. I got into writing and publishing because I wanted to reach a wide audience. I wanted people to read my stories and find something worthwhile in them, and waiting to see what will happen in the next few months is tough. It’s the toughest thing I’ve had to do as a writer.

So, I hope I’ve provided some food for thought. If you like what I said, or disagree, go ahead and comment. I’m always happy to have a conversation about writing. And if you like lesbian romances, you might consider checking out the novel All The Pretty Things. You can comment on it through goodreads or amazon if you feel like. If not, Rae and I are always providing new and interesting fanfiction, always for free.

Receiving Criticism: a look at proper responses

We as writers often seek audiences for our work. This part is usually the scary bit of the job because of one word: rejection. We want people to like our stuff, really badly. So much so that sometimes we don’t know how to respond to constructive criticism. I’m not talking about flamers, the people who say “this sucks!” and have nothing more to do with it; I am talking about genuine feedback that highlights the important things a writer needs to work on to move forward.

I suppose I am devoting time to this topic because of how many people I have observed that cannot take criticism to save their lives. They turtle up, retreat, lock their stories away to never see daylight again. The worst response is, I think, “you just don’t get it.”

Well… yes, I don’t get it. That’s why I have a hard time reading it in the first place. Now I am just fine with people writing whatever the hell they want and never being concerned about sharing that story successfully with an audience. The problem is that these people responding negatively to feedback are not writing for themselves in that instance. They are writing for an audeince, and they owe it to the audience to provide the tools necessary for a reader to arrive at the end of the story.

Notice I didn’t say enjoy or raptly devote themselves to. No. Sometimes you get to the end of a story, and whatever was said doesn’t settle with you. That’s fine, but there sould be palpable points of discussion to share with other readers. The readers should be able to read and get to the end of the story without wanting to stab the writer for poor style.

My problem comes in when someone shares a story that is basically a whole lot of nothing, and everyone knows it. They convey their misgivings to the author and the author just says, “Well, what I meant to do was this” and the conversation ends there.

No.

A real writer who wants an open relationship with their audience will say, “This was what I meant to get across. How do you all think I might better acheive that? Where did you fall off the wagon?” Notice that the writer is not catering to the whims of the readers, but is using them to empower their own work. And sometimes you won’t be able to incorporate all the ideas readers help you generate. Sometimes there will be one thing that one reader cannot get along with. You won’t make them all happy. But if the general consensus is “shit be whack” it is your duty as a writer to respond to that criticism and attempt to remodel your story.

Like I said before, I don’t care what you write if you’re not concerned with sharing it with an audience. The moment you want to establish a reader/writer connection, however, it is your responsibility to be open to what they have to say. Writing and reading is a conversation that occurs without vocals. We need to both speak and listen. If we never stop to listen, our readers will know we are not interested in the conversation any longer.

And then who will want to listen to us?

Those Who Found Elissa: Chapter One

Those who found Elissa

Chapter One

Something tickled a strand of Elissa’s hair. Maybe a spider, she dare not move to brush it away, though when the tickle moved down to her throat she raised a hand and flicked it aside, taking flecks of dirt with. She imagined she was quite covered in it by now, a healthy coating to assist her blending in with the shadows. The night had swallowed her up and her pursuers were none the wiser.

Her thighs ached though, by Neniton did her thighs ache, and her ankles too; she could not move her feet into a comfortable place. One shift against the pebbled ground would give away her position. She raised herself slightly, untensing her muscles for a moment before easing back into the crouch. She had lost track of time. It could not have been more than an hour. Still, that was a long time for three drunk, possibly now sobered men to stumble around looking for her in the middle of the night. She heard them moving, pushing things, shaking boxes.

“Where are you, bitch?” one called out. She hid between the outer and inner wall of an old house. A loose wooden plank hung in front of her. She stared out the knothole at the men. Behind her, sod walls and support beams concealed her. Her right hand cramped from clutching at the worn journal she had taken. She felt the old leather crack and creak against her fingers and tried to breathe a little softer.

“Did she get beyond the wall?” one of them asked. The three dark silhouettes gathered in the center of the square. One of them spat.

“No one has seen her. She’s likely still in the town.”

“We don’t know that,” said another. “Maybe she knows a different way out.”

“No matter. Give the authorities a description of the little rat. Someone will find her.”

“And if they don’t?” one asked.

“I’d rather not think about that.” The three of them stood there, shuffling, swaying. They mumble to one another as they walked away, abandoning the dark square once more. Elissa breathed a little deeper. It was just her and the night again. She waited a while longer, despite the way her legs shook. Finally, she pushed the wooden plank forward on its nail and slid it aside. The fresh air felt so good in her lungs. She unfolded herself as she stepped out of her hiding place, holding back groans of pain when her joints protested. Her legs wobbled, but she had the journal. She sighed and brushed off her dark clothes. The morning dew was already beginning to collect on the cobblestone, though the sun had yet to rise.

Elissa set off in the opposite direction the men had gone. It would take her longer that way, but she would be safe. She stayed in the shadows and side-passages. Thankfully, no one else lingered on the streets that night. She made it back to the patron’s house easily. It was a shabby home, nearly identical to the others surrounding it. Pieces of the roof hung off itself; the windows were darkened. It was designed to not draw attention, placed in a shady neighborhood and surrounded by quiet homes. Elissa had to pause and admire her employer’s discretion. Usually, she took jobs from the wealthy. They often employed her to steal some meaningless trinket from a rival, and then gloated about having it once it came into their possession.

She shook her head and ducked down the side passage, a small patch of dirt between the two houses. Her hand searched along the rough wooden paneling until her fingers slipped into the catch. She stopped and pulled the false panel aside. She slipped into the revealed space and closed herself into the darkness. The passage was small; she stooped and felt ahead blindly as she descended into the basement. She finally caught hold of a curtain and pulled it aside. She stepped into the false wardrobe and opened the door, revealing a small, well-lit room. The basement held an assortment of candles and little else. A table lay in the far corner with two chairs. Her employer sat in one.

“Welcome back, shadowbird,” he said. The man dressed in plain trousers and a cotton shirt. He kept his beard well-trimmed, though not immaculate, and his hair was always presentable. On the whole, he made a completely unremarkable merchant. Though Elissa would be a fool to think him just that.

“I have it,” she said, ignoring the handle. She walked over to the table and waited for the next move.

“I know you do. You wouldn’t be foolish enough to return without it,” he said. The man stroked his beard lazily and watched a candle’s flame. The light caught the copper strands as his fingers wound them.

Elissa dropped the journal on the table. Her fingers ached as she flexed them, free of the burden at last. The man gestured to the chair opposite him, but she remained standing. “They searched for a long time,” she said, remembering the frantic shouts as the men had overturned the market square looking for her.

“Of course they would,” said her employer. “You would too if it were yours.” He reached out and laid a hand on the journal cover. He smiled and felt the grooves her hand had left in the leather before he hooked a finger under the flap and opened the journal. He turned the pages slowly, almost daring Elissa to look. She kept her gaze firmly planted on the table’s surface. She had no desire to be caught any more in this man’s business. “Ah, you did well.” The man readjusted himself and bent over the table to better study the pages. He pressed a finger to the page and traced the path of the lettering. “You don’t have any idea what’s in here, do you?” her employer asked. He stopped tracing and looked up at her.

Elissa shrugged. “It wasn’t my place to look.”

Her employer chuckled. “My blind little shadowbird,” he sighed and continued reading. “Perhaps you should have looked.” This time, Elissa could not help looking at the ink blots on the page. She could not make out words, but she knew they were not prose. No, he was reading a list.

“What does it show? Supplies? An incantation?” she asked.

The man shook his head. “Even better.” He shoved the notebook toward her. The ink blots took shape. “Names.”

The list was long, tightly packed with the short scrawl of people’s names, signatures, and little tallies written in the margins. “Whose names?” she asked.

“Traitors,” said the man. He closed the flap of the book. “Illegal practitioners, dangerous people.” The information chilled Elissa’s core. If she had just given a list of names to a Hand, she had killed every person on it.

“And to what purpose do you intend to use this list?” she asked. That was a mistake. Elissa usually enforced a rule: never know the ends to an employer’s means.

The man laughed. “You know what we intend to do.”

Elissa shifted. She stepped away from the table. “You can’t kill all those people.”

“Of course we can,” said the man, waving a hand. “We do it already. You know this.”

She looked down at the journal. “I’ll take it back.”

“I doubt that,” said the man. Elissa looked back at him. Her fingers twitched. He stared at her for a long while, as if challenging her. “You won’t do it,” he said. “You’re a thief. What use are morals and scruples to you? No, the book is safe with me.” The candles flickered. The room smelled strongly of moss and dirt. “You don’t know these people. You don’t care.” She stared at the journal as if it might burn. Her heart beat in tempo with the crickets outside and in the walls.

“You’re right,” she said. “I don’t.”

The man smiled and patted the worn cover of the journal. “Smart girl,” he said. He pulled a small pouch from his vest pocket and dropped it on the table. She heard the coins jangle from within. “Your payment, as we discussed.” He picked up the journal and stood from his chair. “Do not come back to this place,” he said as he walked toward the stairs. “You will find nothing.” His feet thumped up the wooden steps, disrupting the discourse of the crickets.

Elissa remained in the room even after he left the house: the damp, mossy basement of an unowned home. She breathed in and tasted bitterness. Then, she took the bag of coins, the new leather crumpling in her grasp. She tied it to her belt, not bothering to count. The purse felt heavy. She glanced at the stairs then back at the secret entrance she had been instructed to use. Elissa sighed, blinked, then moved to crawl back up the narrow tunnel out into the night once more, where the crickets sawed and the stars whispered of her treachery.

 

More Thoughts on Writing

A writer on the fanfiction.net site recently sent me a message asking for advice. They wanted to know how I got such a high readership for my work compared to theirs. They asked me to look at their own work and see if I could explain why people did not flock to it quite as obsessively. In the following conversation, I thought I made some good points on writing style in general, so I’m going to repost the advice here for anyone to read:

While your writing style is solid, the pacing feels off every now and then. It may be the sentence structure, it may be the concept.  I think it’s a combination of the pairing and the weight of the details. Details are good. Sometimes you have to trim back though. Give only what the reader needs to get there. A good way of looking at it is the old man example.

A writer can say, “An old man stood by the bridge. He stooped, picked up an apple, then walked down the road.”

A writer can also say, “A doubled-over old man stood by the bridge, his face sagged away behind wrinkles. He knelt down on shaking, unsteady knees and reached out to pick up a shining, waxy red apple. With the apple retrieved, he rose slowly, tucked the fruit into his coat, and walked down the dusty dirt road.”

This is an exaggeration, but you get the idea. One is simple and allows the reader to fill in the blanks. One traps the reader in lock-step narration. Details should be used as needed to convey meaning of only the things that matter. That way when you do use a lot of detail, the reader knows they should pay attention. The simpler the writing, the better. That doesn’t mean we’re dumbing it down. Use big words. Vary your vocabulary. Just say it in the least amount of words possible without losing meaning.

There is a science of words. Greats like Stephen King and John Gardner stress the importance of using as few words as possible to convey meaning. It’s a matter of addition and subtraction.

The writer then replied and asked a few more in-depth questions. The following ensued from me:

I had to take multiple classes to get these ideas down. It’s a hard thing to master and there’s no “right” way to write a story. Read Stephen King’s “On Writing” if you want further examples. John Gardner’s “The Art of Fiction” is okay, but he sometimes doesn’t follow his own advice. We can break rules, that’s what creative writing is all about. That’s how it develops. I strongly suggest you start reading some successful authors you enjoy and examine what you love about their writing style. Nothing from the enlightenment era. I’m talking modern fiction. Some authors I’ve critically examined are JK Rowling, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, and Ursula K Le Guin. Jane Fletcher would be a good author of lesbian fiction to examine. For literary fiction, I’d look at Tea Obreht. William Faulkner is also good. When you are reading through these books, note where people spend their time with detail. Note where they summarize a sequence of events to move us from one action to the next. Note how they describe physical action and use to it space dialog.

And always keep in mind that you may try one thing and it won’t work. Every writer is different. It just takes a lot of reading and writing to make a polished writer. I highly recommend taking some workshop style writing classes from a university or joining a local writing group. That is one way to nail down the specifics of your writing. They can help you edit out clunky phrases and over-zealous description. Too much description was called the “purple phrase” by ancient writer Horace. You can read his take on it as well, if you like.

Any one person’s “style” is hard to categorize. Right now, categories don’t really exist for us new writers. In ten years, literary critics will slap a name on our style. It was born in the online writing community and shaped by the rampant publications of great sci-fi and fantasy works. Our writing values character-based story-telling, but doesn’t necessarily let the characters drive the plot 100%. Like I said, almost Post Modern. Our writing favors description of action rather than waxing poetic over emotions (as it should be, who wants to read what’s going on in a thought when we can see the action that expresses it? Concrete writing!). None of these are bad. They are all strengths you can play to your favor. You also run the risk of overdoing them.

One of my best writing professors told me creative writing was like flying a plane with a hood over the cockpit. You can’t see where you’re flying. You’re monitoring the instruments every second to make sure you don’t crash. Our minds are constantly going over the controls of writing on a subconscious level, just like those pilots obsessively checking their instrument read-outs to make sure no one crashes.

So, I hope I have rambled enough to your liking.  Think this stuff over. You’re not going to improve your writing 100% right away. It took me 4 years to start seeing what my professors were talking about. And you are a good writer, so don’t stop.

It’s not a verbatim copy, but people get the idea. This is what I have to say about writing, for now. I think it’s a pretty good summary to mull over, and it contains some of the best advice I ever received.

Also, I’m thinking of doing a short free-to-read novella. I’d be posting chapters here and on fictionpress. If I start that, it would not be for another couple of weeks. I will try to start posting here regularly, regardless. Leave comments! Tell me what you think. Tell me your favorite piece of advice about writing.