Midweek Writing Links

I’m working on a longer post, but meanwhile there has been a lot of interesting writing discussion going on the internet. So here are some writing links.

Just in time for International Women’s Day Kat Latham explains why romance novels can be feminist.

Genre romance has been accused of being anti-feminist at least since Janice Radway’s study Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy and Popular Literature, one of the first serious academic takes on the romance genre, was published in 1984. But Radway’s study is twenty-seven years old by now (and it has never been entirely uncontested), the genre has changed and romance can be and often is feminist, as Jennifer Crusie, academic and feminist romance writer, explains here, here and here. And this is just a very short excursion into what could be a whole essay about the popular and academic reception of romance.

I don’t really write straight romance (though “the novel”* comes close), but most of my work has romantic plots/subplots. One constant I have noticed is that I often contrast a bad, unequal (and sometimes borderline abusive) relationship with a good relationship that is based in equality and respect. Since I keep writing that theme over and over (three times and counting), feminist romance is obviously important to me.

Jay Lake has an interesting post on consumers versus producers of stories and to what degree it’s possible to be both.

I know Jay Lake is very vocal about giving up TV and videogames in favour of writing and if it works for him, that’s great. But my creative mind obviously works different from his and it craves a steady input of stories in order to produce stories. What is more, my storytelling brain craves visual stories, i.e. films, TV shows and comics, in order to do its thing. When the visual input dried up a while back, once stopped reading comics and enjoying the new films and TV shows on offer, my writing quickly suffered as well, because it was lacking sufficient story input.

Sometimes, I can directly track the inspiration for a certain story back to some other story I read or watched, even if no one else can see the influence. For example, Prisoners of Amaymon, my one day to be finished SF novel, took its setting from a dream I had and its plot from a trailer for a movie I had not actually seen at that time, but which wormed its way into my mind during the initiating dream. And one of the seeds of “the novel”* was a wonderful relationship and particularly a wonderful character in some other story, which the creators of said story chose to do nothing with (they first killed the wonderful relationship and then the wonderful character). So I started wondering about the story that could have and should have been and began writing it down to get it out of my mind. By now the serial numbers have been filed off so thoroughly that I doubt anyone but me would notice the influence. In other cases, the influence of other stories is so subtle that I don’t even notice it myself until much later. But very few stories I ever wrote or told myself sprung fully formed from my mind, they were always the fermented result of anything that went into my brain, including other people’s stories.

Stacia Kane writes an angry posts about writers, reviewers, the cardinal sin of reacting to reviews and why it’s wrong to expect authors not even to care about negative reviews.

The background to this is that apparently some posts of Stacia Kane’s about whether it is wise for an aspiring author to post book reviews on their blog have become the source of all that talk about an alleged YA mafia that is willing to crush people’s writing aspirations that has cropped up in various places of late. Which is strange because a) Stacia Kane does not write YA and b) I never understood her posts as saying such a thing at all. I guess it’s yet another case of a totally exaggerated reaction to a writer’s work and blog posts. We keep seeing such reactions, though it’s interesting that of late they are taking the form of conspiracy theories about secret cabals and mafias. Though it’s sad that we are losing a good writing blogger to this.

For the record, I do occasionally discuss books I’ve read in this space, though I don’t post hatchet job reviews, keep it polite and always try to mention the good aspects of a book along with the bad. I did post a very negative review on the old blog once, but it was of a reissued book by a bestselling author, whose sales were unlikely to be hurt by my disliking said author’s book, and the book was genuinely awful with no redeeming features whatsoever.

*”The novel” is my current novel length work-in-progress. It actually does have a working title, but that working title includes a rude word and will almost certainly not survive publication, so I try not to get attached to it.

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2 Responses to Midweek Writing Links

  1. Kat Latham says:

    Thanks so much for including my post in your link round-up! And for linking to so many other interesting posts on the topic (isn’t Jennifer Crusie awesome?).

    I love what you say about bad reviews, too. I write reviews for The Season, but I only repost the ones for books I liked on my own blog. I’m honest in my reviews and, if I don’t like a book, I try hard to explain myself in a way that respects the author. Authors and publishers give away review copies to selected reviewers in exchange for a fair and honest review, not for bottom-licking. As a reader who can’t spend much money on books, I appreciate intelligent reviews that are balanced far more than boot-kissers.

    That said, I wouldn’t go out of my way to write a review of a book I hated if it hadn’t been sent to me specifically for that purpose. So, if I buy a book and loathe it, I won’t tell the world. I’d rather spread my love of good books than my hatred of bad ones.

    • Cora says:

      Thank you for writing such a good post. And yes, Jennifer Crusie is awesome, both as a romance writer and critic. I’ve quoted her essays in my MA thesis, PhD thesis and at least one paper.

      I agree that reviews should be both honest and reasoned. Even if I don’t necessarily agree with the reviewer, a review which explains why the reviewer feels the way he or she does is a lot more useful to me than mindless bootlicking.

      I wouldn’t normally review a book I hated either. Even if a book doesn’t work for me for whatever reason, I always try to find something positive to say along with the negative. Normally I wouldn’t even finish a book I hate, unless I was contracted to review the book or otherwise had to read it for work or my PhD. Because, to quote German literary critic and reviewer Helmut Karasek, “life is too short for bad books”. And yes, spreading the word for good books is much more fruitful than trashing bad books.

      As it was, I only finished that dreadful reissued book by a New York Times bestselling author (which really had no redeeming features at all), because I was stuck in a doctor’s waiting room with nothing else to read.

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