Embrace Your Garbage First Drafts

Your first draft is garbage.

It’s going to be garbage.

It’s supposed to be garbage.

Sit the fuck down and write it anyway; stop trying to fix something that hasn’t even gotten to the fix it up stage yet.

This is advice that I wish I was given when I first began writing, and then again when I turned to writing as a serious career choice. It’s advice that is so invaluable, that I have it as a sticky note on my computer, so that when I’m sitting down to write, and I try to re-read and edit as I go along with it, I can read it, yell at myself internally (or externally, some days I need the extra kick to my face) and let whatever garbage I’ve put on the screen stay there, until I’m done with it.

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The aforementioned sticky note. Not really verbatim, the message is still the same.

I’ve talked about it before, but I have an extremely debilitating habit of editing while writing. To the point that it’s hard for me (read, I have yet to actually do it. RIP at the last four NaNoWriMo attempts) to get through chaptered pieces because I can’t get a chapter actually written – I’m too busy trying to perfect it rather than move the fuck on and finish the damn book. Which… is a problem. You actually have to get through step one (the book) before going to step two (gutting the book.) It’s something that lends rather well to the bulk of the writing that I do, which is shorter pieces, generally in prose, but it doesn’t work very well when I’ve an idea that works better as a novel and I’m sitting here at my computer still playing around with the first two thousand words of a manuscript that should eventually get to around eighty to a hundred thousand.

Que me smacking myself in the face, because I suck.

And the thing is, it’s not like it’s just me. So many other writers that I’ve met or talk to have the same issue – or, in variation, they get through the chapter, but then they’re stuck, because it’s not perfect and they can’t move on to chapter two since it’s not perfect, and they’re stuck there, editing, tweaking, poking and prodding.

And nothing gets done. Not a damn thing. Suddenly you’re looking through your writing folders and you have about fifty WIPs and your notebooks and loose-leaf papers are full of half-finished snippets of something that could be great if you’d just cool your ass and write.

It’s rather frustrating when you sit down and think about it. For me, it’s a lovely little combination of anxiety, perfectionism, and a very fine dusty sprinkling of inferiority complex that demands that I try to make the first draft as impossibly perfect as possible on the first go – or I’m not a real writer. In fact, I’m the worst writer. I’m terrible. I should just quit because ha, I obviously don’t know what I’m doing if I can’t write a best seller on the first pass.

Thing is, I (and others with this same, persistent, asshole of a problem) need to get over it. Or rather, ourselves. Tough self-care. Remind ourselves that most authors don’t bust out best sellers on the first go. If they do – fuck them – but also, they’re probably either highly experienced and have done this a few good times, or they’ve made a contract with an Eldritch horror to gain their superior skills. Your pick.

Point is – stop getting in your own way when it comes to your writing. You want to do the thing. Do it. You can toil and labor over revisions after you’ve got something to revise, and it’s definitely not in a manuscript that isn’t even finished yet.

June Goals | 2017

This month I’m taking a page out of Jenna Moreci’s book and holding myself accountable for my writing and general writing goals – publically. Though rather than keep track of myself quarterly like she does, I’ll be keeping track of everything monthly (mostly because I know I’ll keep up with nothing if I try and do it quarterly. I’m awful.) The intention being:

  • Public humiliation for failed goals serves as a motivator.
  • Success with goals breeds continued success in the future.
  • The last inch of perfect organization for myself is reached and I’ll actually be keeping up with the 500 thousand things on June’s to-do list.

So –

  • A blog post a day. Habitual content creation, etc., etc.
  • 1,000 words minium of original writing a day; at least 30,000 words towards the current current WIP story by the end of June.
  • Have Tumblr set up and linked to this blog.
  • Have Patreon set up and ready to launch for the Fall.
  • Wrap up last month’s unfinished projects; can projects that I’m never going to complete/don’t feel like writing on anymore.
  • 15 shorter pieces through the month of June.
  • Steady commissions coming in.
  • Consistent client work.
  • Daily reading.
  • Don’t stress.

We’ll come back at the end of June and see how well I’ve actually done on all of these.

 

Heteronormativity & Queer Relationships

So, you want to write a queer relationship. Perhaps you have two female characters you just really want to see fall madly, head over heels in love, spiting all the odds and standing up in the face of adversity to say, ‘Fuck you, world, we’re going to bone and kiss and hold hands and shit, and you can’t stop us.’

Problem is, you hit a road block.

Which one’s the man, and which one’s the woman?

Today, we’re going to talk about heteronormativity. Strap on your big-kid panties.

As a queer writer, reader, and general internet gremlin, I come across discussions and opinions on this topic a lot. Like a lot a lot. Especially considering I tend to write predominantly queer characters, follow queer writers… You get where I’m going. There’s always a recurring theme every few weeks or so on the topic of heteronormativity in the portrayal of queer couples. You’re either on the side of aggressively hating heteronormativity, or you just don’t give a shit. Me, personally, I think I fall somewhere in middle.

For a quick run-down, heteronormativity in writing is the phenomenon where a couple is assigned roles expected of heterosexual couples. The man will be the more masculine partner, the provider, the protector – the strong one. The woman will be the more feminine one. The caregiver, the lover, the one needing protection. This is a common trope in romance especially, where the male character and female character fit rigidly in their masculine and feminine roles, and staunchly supports or aggressively pushes this image that men and women have specific, defined, unwavering roles that they cannot and do not deviate from. Overt or covert, it doesn’t matter. Man provide, woman serve, Neanderthal style. From my experience, this is generally accompanied by literally every other couple following the same mold, regardless of sexuality, perhaps with one female character being a lil’ mouthy, just to spice it on up. You can see where this gets dicey in terms of queer relationships, especially when it comes to same sex couples and couples that don’t fit gender binaries.

Get out of here, 1950’s, you make everything infinitely worse.

The biggest issue I see when it’s discussed within the community boils down to this: the idea that any sort of ‘heterosexual presenting’ queer couple is an example of heteronormativity and is therefore a bad, bad, thing, and you can’t do it like that.

Let’s unpack this.

Is It a Thing?

Yes. Yes, it’s a thing. I have read, whether in fanfiction, contemporary romance, a manuscript for editing, whatever, where it’s clear that the author is looking at their queer couple in terms of ‘This one goes in the manly role and this one goes in the womanly role and they stay there. Because rules.’ Where it becomes so painfully obvious they’re trying their hardest to make this couple seem heterosexual while not actually being heterosexual – see: high-femme lesbians being paired with overtly masculine, pink-and-glitter-hating lesbians, or feminine men who ‘might as well be women’ (not my words, I promise) paired with hyper-masculine partners.

Side note: One day we’re going to talk about this, as well, but it is not this day.

Is It a Problem?

This is where it gets tricky. It’s a problem in the sense it’s often the only thing we get out of mainstream writing and contemporary romances featuring queer couples. It’s literally the only flavor I ever see out of queer characters in contemporary romance, especially when the romance is coming from an author who isn’t queer themselves.

On the other hand. When you’re writing, you should strive to make your characters interesting, yet realistic. And, realistically speaking, there are real-life queer couples who are like this. One partner will be extremely feminine and the other will be extremely masculine, and they stay that way; that’s how they are. There’s nothing inherently wrong with couples like this, whether in real life or in fiction.

One Plus One Equals…

So, if heteronormativity is a thing, but not necessarily the big problem, what is?

Perception and execution.

In romance in particular, there’s already the idea that relationships are a specific way. Especially in romances featuring heterosexual couples, the male and female character are put into boring, square, confining little boxes with no air holes and told to stay there. Indefinitely.

No, John Doe, you’re not allowed to get out of the box and cook. What are you a woman?

Similarly, in queer romances, people expect the same thing. For one character to fit into one specific box and for the other to fit in an opposite box. And then the boxes never touch. Except for when they need to fuck.

This isn’t how people work. Even in heterosexual relationships, there’s variety. Every single heterosexual couple isn’t the same; your queer couples, when you write them, shouldn’t be either, and they shouldn’t consistently be forced to follow gender norms and rules. I find in general this reflects people’s real life perceptions of couples. We look at heterosexual couples – a man, a woman, one fits this role, the other fits that – and then look towards queer couples and expect or in some cases even demand the same thing. It’s toxic. And bullshit. How many times have we heard real-life queer couples recount the dreaded ‘So which one of you is the man and which one of you is the woman?’ conversation?

Too many. Stop it.

So. Perception is a problem. Society perceives mates, couples, partners, whatever you want to call them, in a very specific way. Even with social advances made we still have issues with people having very rigid ideas of how people within a romance act. Our perceptions about life often bleed into writing. Which is where we get the second issue.

Execution.

I’ve read a lot of stories, romance or otherwise, where there are queer couples or characters. And I can tell the author is trying, but they still don’t really get it. This is where we tend to dive into tropes or questionable wording – like the mentioned femme man who ‘may as well be a woman’ and his hyper-masculine partner, for example. And it’s painfully, over the top, in your face in a way where it sort of hurts your eyes just reading it.

I also see that there tends to be an emphasis placed on these aspects and these aspects alone being the reason two characters are together, rather than factors that actually contribute to why two characters would find themselves romantically inclined to the other. The main character is such a manly, manly, man, and his saving grace is his partner, a womanly, domestic man who knows how to cook something that isn’t Hot Pockets and cup ramen. The super feminine woman who doesn’t know how to change her own oil but her beefy lady can do it for her.

And… that’s it. They’re in love because of that. Somehow… There’s literally nothing else going for them.

Execution is where the perception and in some cases lack of understanding an author has of certain people shows through. And people think, that if these roles are fulfilled then that’s it. That’s all they have to do. The writing tends to err on the side of being woefully fixated on emphasizing these points, and results in a lack of substance while seeming to try and push a misguided heterosexual perception onto a queer romance (I also find this in stories where it doesn’t seem like writers understand how relationships work in general. Correlation, perhaps?)

It might not even be intentionally malicious. It might just be an author just doesn’t know or doesn’t get it. I also think that, largely, people writing queer relationships are often afraid of getting it wrong, whether because they simply don’t know how to go about it or they aren’t aware of how easy it actually is to write queer characters in general. And that’s okay. Writing is a learning process.

Fixing the Thing

So, there’s the problem, and the cause. Logical step is the solution, which is obviously going to be a series complex algorithms and equations because this is complex shit.

Nope.

The solution boils down to – perception and execution. Keeping it simple.

Evaluating how couples are perceived versus how they actually are, is a good place to start when applying it to your treatment of your queer characters. You should be treating your characters like people. Would you or literally anyone else you know appreciate having someone else’s relationship standards foisted upon you like some contagious disease? No. Your readers, especially your queer readers, will appreciate you giving them characters that actually read like people, rather than cardboard cut outs of Mary and Gary Sue.

It’s also good to remember that sometimes these aren’t even conscious choices. Sometimes you don’t even realize you have built up preconceived notions until someone’s handing you back your manuscript, full of red ink, asking you ‘Why though?’ And that’s fine. If you’re new to writing queer relationships, or you’ve written them for a while now but perhaps fall into the habit of writing your queer couples in a box, there’s always room for improvement.

Execution boils down to keeping some simple things in mind:

  • Erase the ‘which is the man and which is the woman’ thinking from your plotting and writing entirely. Don’t even make it a part of your writing process. It no longer exists.
  • Remember that even masculine or feminine people in real life have cross over traits. Give these to your characters. Make them balanced. Make them believable. They will be far more interesting because of it, and will make the relationships you craft around them more dynamic.
  • Do not let the phrase ‘may as well be a -insert opposite gender here-’ in reference to how a character acts cross your screen. Just. Please, from a desperate queer to you. Stop it.
  • Having a queer couple where one partner is the more masculine and the other is the more feminine isn’t inherently bad – it’s how you present it. If the focus is always on how manly one is while the other is the opposite, you might need to sit back down at the drawing board.
  • Being masculine or feminine doesn’t necessarily equate hating literally everything associated with the opposite. Please don’t let your queer characters fall into this trap. It’s redundant. And silly.

I hope this was somewhat insightful and perhaps semi-helpful. Now it’s time to forth and queer up your writing, as the fiction gods intended.

 

 

Forget-Me-Not

 

“What is your name?”

“…”

He felt the skin of his back split as the oak-wood cane came across it. It stung, biting into his flesh before radiating out heat from the place of impact. No gasps came from him, though; he pain was something he had known for a while and no longer reacted to. It was the question that left him silent, not an answer on his tongue.

“I asked, what is your name?”

Silence. What was his name?

Again, and again, he was asked, and again and again the cane rained down upon his back. The other students watched, as he hunched over the desk at the front of the class. Their russet faces stared back him, dark eyes wide – though they were silent, too, in their horror. Did they know his name? Could they remember it? Could they speak it?

What was his name… What was his name?

In the back of his mind, it tugged. He recalled it in the same way he remembered all the treasures of his youth they had forbade him to keep – fleeting, at the edges of his mind where they’d dance, just outside his grasp. His name… His name…

“Eric…”

That wasn’t his name. His name, he’d forgotten. He couldn’t remember the way it sang against his ear, nor how it tasted on his tongue. Eric… that was what they called him now, he remembered. They called him one of their names. Something other and foreign and far too grating and sharp. It didn’t sound nearly as beautiful, and didn’t taste nearly as sweet, but what did he know? He had lost the other one; he didn’t know his name.

The cane stopped at the utterance of that name. He thought perhaps he should feel something, anything – anger, fear, pain. All he felt though, was the numbness of nothing. He was nothing. Nothing at all. That’s what Mr. Dawson told them, anyway. Nothing but savages until they stripped that all away.

“…forget it next time. You’ll be left for worse. Get out of my class, and clean yourself up.”

He barely registered what Mr. Dawson said to him, and was lucky that he caught up with the last half. He nodded, not having realized he’d shut his eyes, and turned his gaze to his tormentor. A slight man, pale, with corn silk hair – they called that blonde. Mr. Dawson always carried a wicked look in the frost-blue eyes behind the rounded glasses that adorned his face, and those eyes had never turned kind glances to him, nor any other student.

Eric nodded again, pushing himself up. He barely registered the pain of beatings anymore, but he was weak; his body trembled. His pace earned him a smack to the calf from the cane, and he was too weary to hide the intake of breath at the sting again his flesh.

“Get out,” he was ordered. “And don’t come back until tomorrow.”

On another day, he’d perhaps welcome the dismissal, but his absence for the duration of the lesson would be punished the next day – it didn’t matter that it was at the order of his instructor, nor because he’d been beaten. There were no excuses.

You’ve brought this on yourself.

As he exited the classroom, he couldn’t even remember what he had said to set Mr. Dawson off. It had been a slip of his tongue – something in that language they weren’t allowed to speak anymore – and though it had rolled out of his mouth like water from a pitcher, smooth as could be, he had no idea what exactly he had said. And then, Mr. Dawson, flared up and angry from his mistake, had demanded to know the meaning, asked Eric to tell him what he had dared to say.

Who is Eric? he had asked Mr. Dawson in response, confused. Who is he, who is he?

Perhaps in the moment he had had a flare of rebelliousness; it wasn’t uncommon. To not claim the identity they had given him when they’d taken him from his mother’s arms, cut short his raven hair, removed his furs and his leathers and put him in the clothes he wore then… Well. He’d received his punishment, hadn’t he? And for what?

A word he no longer understood.

This is a section of writing that’s been sitting on my computer for… a while now. It’s a bit of practice writing in a new character’s point of view, for a story that I’ll be revisiting this year. 

Get on my Knees and Ask, ‘Will You Hire Me?’

One of the things I disliked the most about public school ‘getting to know you’ assignments and college entrance essays, were those prompts they would give you where you would have to talk about yourself. What are your strengths and weaknesses in this subject you’ll forget after your exams? Why do you think you’d be a good fit here at the University of Charging Too Much?

On and on and on.

The reason I disliked these so much could easily be summed up by two things: I find it very fucking uncomfortable talking about myself for the scrutiny of others, and my brain is an asshole who would rather do literally anything other than function long enough for me to strum up an essay’s worth of reasons why I think I deserve a higher education that isn’t ‘I don’t want to starve in the future because I have a terrible job.’ The anxiety of having to explain myself and up-talk the person that I am to total strangers in the hopes that maybe they find the train wreak that is the inside of my head interesting or easy to relate to, was always the bane of my younger-self’s existence; I had a visceral need to appeal to and please people. I was very glad to leave those days behind after finishing my degree (and am dreading it currently when I go back to round two of the educational boxing match.)

I bring this up, because the longer I freelance the more I find myself writing these god-forsaken essays, though now at a weekly rate depending on work flow. Since freelancing often comes with one time jobs and consistent, long-term clients can be rare, there’s a lot of shuffling about and cycling around new clients – and their dreaded but needed work proposals.

Often, I’ll be sitting at the computer with one pulled up. And I’ll know that I qualify for the job. I’ll have all my past experience lined up, ready to tailor to the specific requirements. Maybe have looked through some of the follow up questions that need further answering. Fingers poised over the keys and a tiny little mantra after I’ve looked over payment and decided that I can work with parameters – I’ve got this.

My mind draws blanks.

‘Why do you think you’re a good fit for this job?’ My answer? I don’t know shit fuck, my guy.

Points for creativity to me, minus a grade for lack of actual answer, however.

 

Morning Salt

I sit at my desk, breakfast finished, coffee made. It’s the thirty minutes or so before I need to settle into work for the day – about five thousand words and some plotting and planning for May. So I occupy my time on the internet, because why not? Scroll, scroll, I like a post here, reblog there. Maybe I leave a comment.

I come across a post.

I do a double take.

“GUESS WHAT WRITER!? YOU’RE STILL A FUCKING WRITER EVEN IF YOU HAVEN’T WRITTEN ANYTHING LATELY!”

O… okay. I guess I’ll just sit here and stare at my computer screen in a perpetual daze, not writing a thing, but somehow, I’m a writer.

Now, I get it. It’s an affirmation. Motivation. That push to remind you that you’re the thing even if maybe you’re not doing the thing as regularly as you should. It’s supposed to bolster you. Here’s my issue.

To be a writer, you have to write.

I’ll say it again: To be a writer, you have to write. Something. Anything. But you have to do the work to claim the title. This often involves writing even when you don’t want to, or when you’re tired, or when you’re not feeling motivated, or when writer’s block sets in. This is common. Writing doesn’t come without obstacles. You just have to bust them down. By writing. I think it does a great disservice to people who are writers or who want to be writers to foster this idea that going without writing is somehow a thing. That you don’t have to put in effort.

Please note, this is mostly for people who want to be writers for a living. It also doesn’t really pertain to people who have established works and can probably live off those works for the rest of forever. This is for the writers, who are writing now – or maybe not, who knows – who want to claim the title.

Perhaps it irks me more than it should because as someone who writes for a living ‘not writing anything lately’ means that I’m out of a job. It means I’ve let my lack of motivation ruin my discipline – something that you simply cannot do when you claim to be a ‘writer.’ No one is going to take you seriously if you sit around and tell people, yeah, I’m a writer, but I have nothing to show for it. But I’m a writer. In spirit.

That one hundred words back in the early 2000’s qualifies me, indefinitely.

Mostly, I think it’s because it’s rather silly and wrong to claim that you can be something without actually doing the work required to be that something. You are not an artist if you do not produce art. You’re not an architect if you do not design buildings. I think people like the idea of being a writer, but when it comes down to doing the work of a writer, suddenly they’re pulling their shades down and their computer is nowhere in sight and their fingers don’t work.

Writing is enjoyable, but it is also work. It requires dedication. It requires discipline. Motivation is merely an excuse when it is lacking. It’s nice to look at writing as this lofty, I’ll get to it when I’m blessed with mystical inspiration shining down unto myself from between the clouds of an overcast day parting just right – but that’s not how it works. I wish more people understood this. Unless writing is merely a hobby, in which case I think the better distinction is ‘you write’ as opposed to ‘you’re a writer,’ in the same vein that I can tell people ‘I play musical instruments,’ but it’s been years since I’ve dedicated myself to being a musician.’

 

Welcomed Weariness

I’ve never been more pleased with exhaustion. The kind that comes when you’ve worked all day pouring over words and typing pages and pages of story; when you’ve managed to grab a few hours of sleep but you should probably have curled up for a few more because five isn’t technically enough; when you roll out of the bed in the next morning and you’re still so tired you forget that you need your glasses to function, but you let it slide for a few moments until you accept that you really can’t function – then you spend about a half hour trying to find the damned things, because your bed ate them when you didn’t even have time to consider taking them off before you passed out.

It’s throwing back coffee and tea like water and taking five minute naps in between chapters of editing. It’s writing down your half-asleep ideas as they come to you, because you know those are your best but if you don’t jot them now they’ll be gone the next time you blink.

It’s a satisfied sort of constant tired, where you know you probably need to slow down but it feels good when you don’t. Where your motivation outweighs the limitations of your body and sometimes your brain, but you’re a creator and those limitations don’t matter where there’s things to do.

It’s that feeling when you fall into bed at the end of the night and you’re already asleep before you hit the pillow, but you do it again the next day because there’s no other way you could imagine going through life.

 

Dear Writers: Feedback is not Censorship

When you decide to become an author or a writer or whatever ‘free spirited creative thinker’ title you call yourself, you knowingly enter into a pack with the writing gods of old, accepting the fact that anything, everything, and all of the things you write and send out into the world will be analyzed, combed over with a microscope, shot with ultraviolet lights, and whatever else it is those CSI guys keep in the backs of their vans. Your work will be ripped apart, put in a blender, likely incinerated, and probably fed to wolves in the process.

(We call this wildebeest feedback, in laymen terms.)

Many authors welcome this passionate evisceration of their work with open arms. Much like a sadomasochistic relationship, it’s going to hurt you – but you’re going to like it. Feedback is a grueling, though essential, tool to the writer. What we don’t see in our work, others will, and where we fall short, or stand tall, others will find it, too. We need to be able to utilize all of these lovely little nuggets of information. Sometimes, something doesn’t work out quite the way we expect – it happens. Contrary to popular belief, creative types make mistakes all the time. 

So why is it so many authors seem to think we exist in a bubble, where our work cannot be touched, prodded, poked, and opened at the chest cavity to expose all the goop inside? Why, on the flip side, are there authors who go as far as to claim any sort of feedback or editing that points out vital flaws is ‘damming’ to the creative process, claiming that it’s ‘censorship?’

I don’t know. I’m not one of those authors. I actually appreciate when people tell me I’ve, for lack of my caring about propriety this morning, fucked up. 

To put it into context, an article was posted to one of the writing groups I belong to. This article, in fact. The gist of it highlights certain publishing houses hiring what they call ‘sensitivity writers,’and their utilization in the publishing process. The naming could have been done better, but we won’t talk about that. The main point of the article is highlighted at the beginning:

Before a book is published and released to the public, it’s passed through the hands (and eyes) of many people: an author’s friends and family, an agent and, of course, an editor.

These days, though, a book may get an additional check from an unusual source: a sensitivity reader, a person who, for a nominal fee, will scan the book for racist, sexist or otherwise offensive content. These readers give feedback based on self-ascribed areas of expertise such as “dealing with terminal illness,” “racial dynamics in Muslim communities within families” or “transgender issues.”

“What? There’s people that read books specifically to make sure I’m actually portraying things right? To tell me if I’ve incorrectly handled an issue I have no personal experience with? To help me better portray different kinds of people in my books without relying on tropes or insensitive content?! Sign me up! Give me all the feedback!”

^ things no one in that particular writers’ group thread said.

Instead, there were cries of outrage over the censorship of the creative process, how authors are no longer able to write what they want, how they want, how freedom of creativity trumps delicate sensibilities. All from people who claim to be writers (you know, that group of people who made the pact and – you remember, you’ve read this far.)

One woman I engaged with even likened this phenomenon with book burning. Book burning. Being told perhaps you shouldn’t refer to your trans character in a book as ‘a tranny’ is the equivalent to book burning. 

I’m going to let that sink in before I move on.

This is just one, ridiculous, example I’ve seen from people claiming any sort of negative feedback or criticism is censorship. It’s one of the more inane ones, given that these books aren’t even being censored – they are being read, by readers (not altered by editors) to give feedback (not directly change the content of) the books they are given to read. That information is then relayed to publishing companies and the author of the book. This is somehow a problem…?

I don’t think these people understand how writing or reviews work. Boy are they going to be surprised. Let’s break it down: feedback is when people give their opinion and suggestions regarding your work with the intention of improvement. Censorship is when I go through your work with an XL Sharpie and live out my fantasy of being in the FBI on your manuscript.

And I get it. Facing the daunting wall of people telling you that you suck is hard. Being a writer is hard. It’s not pretty most of the time. That’s why you suck it up, understand it comes with the territory, and if you actually give a shit about your content or your writers, you might take something away from services like that. And it’s not about blindly accepting every single piece of feedback as law – that’s just asking for a manuscript that makes no sense. But it is understanding that a lot of feedback is being given for a reason.

I have read countless stories that attempt to write marginalized characters or portray certain situations, and the author could have benefited infinitely from a reader giving them feedback on the portrayal of those characters. It’s not about censoring the creative process, it’s about the collaborative effort between writers and readers to put out good content. Why would you, as an author, want to put out work that is poorly written, with terribly conceived stereotypes? Technically you can, because as a writer you can pretty much do whatever the hell you want, but why would you honestly want to portray certain groups of people badly? Just because you want to write that way? Like… is that your gimmick? Is that just your aesthetic? Are you wanting to make trolling your full time job as an author…?

I don’t get touting mediocrity as creative freedom in these cases where people snub actual, helpful critique, because that’s what snubbing any form of feedback or constructive criticism as an author is. Mediocrity is not interesting. Mediocrity is not innovative. Mediocrity is not creative. It’s mediocre. It’s what everyone else with a computer and access to Word is doing. Mediocre, unedited, unchecked garbage. As someone who gets paid to beta read and give constructive criticism to authors for a living, I can tell you that manuscripts benefit from these kinds of services. As a reader, I wish more manuscripts had gone through it before publishing.

If, by chance, you’ve made it through this behemoth relatively unscathed, I encourage you to read the article linked in full. I’ll even link it again right here. Happy reading.

 

 

Promotion Commotion

Lai Cathwell is good at keeping secrets. Being a mind reader and feigning insanity for the past two years to escape military service have only improved her ability to deceive others. And as a supernaturally gifted Nyte, feared by the ungifted and shunned, this skill is essential to survival. But when the rebel Nytes’ latest […]

50 Shades & The Public’s Misinterpretation of the Real Problem

I hadn’t intended on writing about this particular topic. I feel like the subject of the 50 Shades of Grey series has been hit at so many different angles and beaten over the head so many times already, that I can’t really say more than what has been by others. We all by now either love it, or hate it; there’s rarely an in between, and everyone has a reason for why they do or do not support the franchise.

Every now and then, though, I come across an article, and it makes me want to say something. [This article,] for example, posted to Fight the New Drug, was one that had me squinting a bit – and that’s saying something considering I actually managed to put my glasses on this morning.

I want to start off and say, that I think the author’s heart was in the right place. 50 Shades of Grey isn’t the best portrayal of a relationship – the story is rife with stalking, abuse, and themes that, by 2017, you would think wouldn’t be so prevalent in romantic literature or even erotic literature. That being said, I think the article ultimately fails to explain the real problem with 50 Shades of Grey, and stories like it.

A large portion of the criticism that I see for 50 Shades of Grey, especially in this article, lies less in criticism that it normalizes an abusive relationship, and more in the criticism of the kind of sexual relationship that’s portrayed, and the demonization of ‘deviant’ sexual relationships by associating them only with abuse.

To break it down. Christian Grey is marketed as a sadist – a person who enjoys inflicting pain during sex. He and the main character, Ana, are written as entering a BDSM relationship – which, for those who are unaware, means bondage, discipline, domination, submission, sadism, and masochism.

Kinky sex, in laymen terms.

This, at the end of the day, wouldn’t be a problem. BDSM, while not for everyone, is a sexual and emotional relationship that requires a lot of trust and care, and most importantly, active consent from all parties involved. 50 Shades of Grey, if it were truly a story about BDSM, revolving around a Dominant and his submissive exploring their desires together in a healthy way, would actually be an interesting story, especially given BDSM is so misunderstood by mainstream society, and mainstream portrayals of it (in books, on T.V., in porn, for example) often don’t touch on the intricacies of what a real BDSM relationship entails.

Unfortunately, 50 Shades of Grey takes elements of BDSM (the sadistic Dominant, a submissive, bondage, etc.,) and wraps them around what is, inherently, an abusive relationship. 50 Shades of Grey is not an accurate portrayal of a BDSM relationship; it’s the story of a man with a slew of personal and mental issues using his desires as a justification for his actions. While BDSM is involved on the surface, yes, the problem is not inherently in BDSM, it’s in the fact that Christian Grey is a creepy scumbag. E. L. James did not do her research, for one, before setting out on her journey to write 50 Shades of Grey, and rather than deliver what could have been an eye-opening story about a BDSM relationship, instead gave something wildly different from what an actual BDSM relationship is.

What articles like the one posted to Fight the New Drug fail to realize, ultimately, is this distinction. BDSM is not inherently sexual abuse, and abuse is not inherently BDSM. What we’re left with is a distraction from the actual problem at the core of what the popularization of 50 Shades of Grey does (the normalization of abuse against women) as well as a lack of understanding the differences between consensual ‘deviant’ sex, and harmful sexual violence. People write stories like 50 Shades of Grey, or who write articles like the one linked, ultimately fail to understand BDSM at its core, and are not equipped to write informed pieces about it.

Further, while 50 Shades of Grey is a very good example of the exploitation of women, and the public’s fascination with the romanticizing of violence and abuse against women, conflating BDSM as inherently exploitative to women specifically, implies that women are the expected ‘victim’ parties, and associates submissiveness within the BDSM relationship as being abused. Submissives, whether they are women or men, or nonbinary, are not victims because they have chosen to be submissive within the realms of their personal relationships between them and their Dominants.

I could easily go into how insulting that entire notion is, not only to women as a whole, but to victims of abuse, especially those who enjoy BDSM in their relationships, but that is another topic for another day.

The bottom line is, when we discuss 50 Shades of Grey and the problems that come with it, we need to understand all aspects of the content we are critiquing. You cannot claim to be against something you do not understand, and this ultimately causes more harm than good.