Sierra Wyndsong (sierrawyndsong) wrote,
Sierra Wyndsong
sierrawyndsong

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The best advice from odd sources

Post my journalistic escapades, I was left floundering around with my own scraps of fictional writing that had been shoved to the wayside. With not many hours in the day, most of my writing was for the newspaper only. What little extra writing I did was for a friend's MUD game, Mozart MUD. (Yes, this is that sierra wyndsong, if you play or have ever played that game. It's fun, go play it! http://mozartmud.com/index.html). Anyway, per the sage advice of Stephen King and other writers, I started reading more and more, with my focus on the SciFi genre. Since I had a world concept for my own fantasy novel, I tried out various novels. Then my husband made a significant observation that changed my course of reading - "Why aren't you reading more female writers?" he asked on one trip to Barnes & Noble. I blinked at him for a few minutes while I processed the information. I gave my little shrug, chewed my lip for a bit and then sighed. I had nothing to offer that was SciFi. My female writers on my shelves at the time were mainly Maya Angelou and Amy Tan. Both excellent writers. But not so much SciFi. The shelf was even lacking in Lackey.

It wasn't that I was just drawn to the standard popular writers. It wasn't that I was reading only certain concepts such as werewolves, witches, wizards, etc. I was just grabbing what seemed interesting that was nearby to what my husband was reading. I mean, I had to start somewhere. Then my husband waved his Deathstalker book at the shelf in front of him. To the left of the Simon R. Green garden of Deathstalker wonderful was a book called Staying Dead by Laura Ann Gilman. To the right was a handful of novels by someone named Laurell K. Hamilton. He pointed out that if I was going to write SciFI and have one of my major characters be female, then I should read novels written by women who had female main characters.

Now, I should point out that my husband has been a Dungeon Master for over 20 years. His world creation ability and his character building concepts are magnificent. And he builds awesome female characters. He pointed out that I shouldn't limit myself to just the standard Mercedes Lackey or Anne McCaffrey. Best advice I ever got about writing, period. He strolled off and left me with my one Lackey book. So, I grabbed the Gilman and one of the Hamilton and made my way off to get my caffeine fix. (This was all pre-pregnancy circa 2004.) Since then my reading list has expanded to include Sherrilyn Kenyon, Karen Moning, Charlaine Harris, Kim Harrison, LA Banks, and many more. In fact, I put Brust's Jhereg series on hold to start my female reading endeavor. My husband had made a very good point. If I want to read women written well, then I should read them as they were designed, created and written by female writers. I had honestly not given it much thought. I was just reading whatever popped out at me or what seemed to satisfy the mood. 

I give everyone the benefit of the doubt that a writer is doing solid research, whether they have first-hand knowledge about something or not. But that was probably a bad move on my part. There are a lot of writers out there who write decent stuff but hide behind the old "poetic license" excuse when they deviate from certain accepted ideas or canon. For me, it all depends. If you are going to create something that deviates from accepted "norms", then build the world, lay out the concepts from the start and then roll on. Don't write about anything and everything, and then go "Oh, but that's OK because it is poetic license" or toss in a tired, hack character that is the same that someone else has written. That's just lazy writing. 

There is a lot of that going around. However, I think that people should write the story they want to tell. They should write what they love. They should write what interests them. I do not think that writers should be held hostage by a readership or a viewership. Spoonfeeding society only what they want to see or hear is not the way to learn and grow and evolve. Simply dismissing something without investigation is ridiculously naive. What I learned from reading female writers versus male writers is that there is a significant difference in the stylistic choices in how the words are presented. And no, I don't mean that women write flowery and men are rough. No, it is something more intuitive. It is more visceral. It comes down to the detail of the word choice and patterns.

But overall, I think there are a lot of good writers out there who make the effort to create really solid characters and worlds. We might not always agree with the way the characters are handled. We might not always agree with the way the characters evolve with the storyline. We should be willing to approach all writing with an open mind and attempt to learn from it. Even if all we pull from the experience is : Hey that was a steaming pile of shit! Then, that is a lesson, too. Do this or don't do this type of lessons. 

At the end of the day, if the writing is good, then it will stand the tests of society and time. If it isn't, then it won't.

Tags: writing
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