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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Confession time: I don't love New Adult as much as I thought I did

As I may have mentioned, I am currently in the process of submitting my new adult* novel to various independent publishers. I am also working on drafting two new projects -- a contemporary young adult novel and another new adult.

Because of my new-ish fascination with the new adult category, I've been reading a lot of new adult lately. I mean ... a lot.

And I've come to a conclusion -- I don't really love it. Which is kind of a problem since I love the idea of writing it.

At first, I thought maybe I just had accidentally one-clicked a few bad eggs. So I read more. And more. And more.

And even though I have found a handful of new adult novels that I genuinely like and would recommend to others (seriously -- email me if you want some suggestions), I've found even more that kill me. Seriously, kill me. The jokester in me seriously can barely resist blogging all my thoughts on every ridiculous characterization, ludicrous set up, and saw-it-coming-from-a-mile-away plot twist.**

So here's some general beefs I have with new adult. Feel free to disagree with any of them or all of them.

1. Dangerous situation that forces the love interests into close proximity.

Look, there is always an exception to the rule, but in general, no one believes that a 20 year old who has been recently diagnosed with Celiac's disease needs to move into her her hot physics TA's house so he (and only he!) can keep her away from the dangers of wheat.

Realistic dangerous situations are fine, but you have to ask yourself--is this really the only solution to this dangerous situation? (Most of the time -- no, it isn't. And if it isn't, what was the point other than to artificially raise the romantic stakes?)

And if the situation isn't actually dangerous ... yikes.

Please rethink this trope altogether, NA writers of the world.

2. Everyone is super awesome at sex.

Virgins! Sufferers of PTSD! Strangers! There is no scenario in which sexytimes cannot be had, and had SUPER SUCCESSFULLY!

Look, I know most of these books fall squarely within the romance genre, and in romance, you don't have funny-awkward sex scenes.

But maybe some New Adult should. Because if I read one more book where another recent attempted sexual assault victim virgin who's dating the dean of her college (who has emotional abandonment issues after his mother's death from Parkinsons, natch) are INSTANTLY AMAZEBALLS in the sack, I'm going to throw it.

And that will be super sad, because I only buy these books on my Kindle.

3. Woman. Man. Blech.

Look, I may be closing in on 30 here, but I remember college very well. And none of us ... and I do mean NONE OF US ... ever referred to the people we were dating as "men" and "women." It was the same as high school -- guys and girls.

There is nothing that will squick me out faster than a supposedly 20-something guy talking about his amazing "woman." Gag.

4. Inappropriate relationships with no consequences.

Everyone has that friend (or was that friend) who dated a professor in college, who got involved with a coworker, or who had a string of inappropriate one-night-stands.

And these relationships usually ended in tears and recriminations.

And even when they did not, there was lots of unpleasantness along the way to happily-ever-after.

And no, that unpleasantness was not limited to "eep, we can't tell anyone about our relationship because it must remain seeeeeeecret!"

5. The death of feminism / The hypermasculinization of men.

You guys. YOU GUYS.

Don't write books with slut shaming. Don't write books where the female main character (and perhaps one female friend) are the only "cool" girls and all other girls "suck." I mean, do we have to continue discussing this?

Just. Don't. It's super gross.

And don't write write heroes that abuse women and call it romantic. Don't write male characters that assault other men in the name of "chivalry," especially if they don't face any legal consequences for that behavior. Don't conflate self-destructive behavior with "masculine" behavior. Don't write codependence and call it vulnerability.

And if you don't want every woman in the world to have to aspire to a photoshopped, impossible-to-obtain standard of physical female perfection? Don't write male characters with effortless six-packs, rock-hard pecs, and tattoos that would make the Pope weep from the sheer beauty.

Kthxbai.



* "New adult," for the people who read my blog for the Spencer pics and funny dating stories, is an emerging category of fiction that focuses on college-aged protagonists.

** For the record, some of these cliches may sound familiar because a few NA books executed them first, and sometimes well ... and then everyone scrambled to copy them, almost-never-well.

NO. MORE.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

the joys of social media

I have a weakness for candles.

Bath and Body Works and Anthropologie have the best candles, hands down. When it comes to candles, I don't skimp.





Yesterday I went to Bath and Body Works to pick up some new candles. While I was there, I saw a cute haunted barn luminary that holds three mini candles. Since I already had a haunted house, and I had a coupon, I figured, "Hey, why not?"

So I purchased the haunted barn, and as I was checking out, one of the Bath and Body Works girls said, "You're going to be the coolest mom on the block!"

I, of course, thought that was Twitter-worthy.





The best part of the story, though, is the fact that Bath and Body Works saw my joke and un-ironically re-tweeted it.

Thanks, social media!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

getting back into the swing of things

1. I've been writing two different projects. I'm going slowly on each, but at least I'm going.

2. For awhile, I had some good news. I still have good news, but that news is delayed to the point where it's kind of not worth talking about. That fact has put me in a strange place, blogging-wise. For awhile, I thought there was going to be lots of exclamation points, and now I kind of don't know what to say about anything.

3. I just started watching Homeland season 2. Man, I love this show, though Carrie's behavior gives me serious anxiety.

Current random prediction: The vice president is a pedobear.


Friday, September 20, 2013

libertarians

I will admit that, despite my political science background, the following is an oversimplification.

But I finally realized what I don't like about libertarians.

Most of their ideas I can get behind. I like limiting the power of government. I prefer to allow markets resolve themselves, individuals to govern themselves. In the small scale.

But taken to the extreme--which is how you have to test every idea, in the end--libertarianism falls apart.

When confronted with the fact that there will always be poor that need a social safety net, always be children who are abused or neglected,* the libertarian points to the inherent goodness of people to prove that private charities will step into the void that government leaves behind. Yet the problem libertarians have with government is that people in government are corrupt. They simultaneously express boundless hope in the human condition, and no hope.

Libertarians fear those who are in power. Yet their solution is to spread the power to everyone.

The rallying cry of anti-statists is "government for the people."

They all conveniently forget that government is also "by the people."

Government is not a computer program, nor is it run by robots. Government is, from its smallest component up to its largest, just people. Some of those people should not be involved in it.

But most of those people are just trying to do their best.







* The issues critics of libertarianism point to are usually child welfare and social safety nets for the poor. But the issues are bigger than that. How does a limited government have the resources to prosecute conspiracy? White collar crimes? Mass fraud?

How does a libertarian deal with environmental problems? When 7 states and Mexico rely on water from the Colorado River, how do small governments of limited power prevent upstream users from completely decimating those downstream? (Realistic proposals only, please.) When water or air pollution effect everyone, globally, how does a limited government address that problem? 

(End rant.

This is what happens on a Friday night after two weeks of hell at work.)




Friday, September 13, 2013

Bloggers

Oh bloggers.

Bless your narcissistic, sensitive little hearts.

(Wait, RuthAnne -- aren't you a blogger? Well, yeah, in the sense that I do sometimes blog. But my profession is lawyer-aspiring author-amateur whiner, and I happen to blog. See the difference between me and someone who gets their dolla dolla bills ya'll from producing Internet vomit?)

There are a few bloggers I read on the regular because I think they are really talented writers. There are a few I read because I can't tear my eyes away. Either way, my page clicks contribute to their financial well-being.

Which is why it is so terribly disappointing when they start in on a self-pity spiral.

Bloggers, for better or worse, you are also writers. And writers are subject to criticism for their writing. I know you feel like it's more personal when it's directed at you, because you post (cough cough inappropriate cough) details about your personal lives on your blogs. At the end of the day, though, your blog is a product. And people who don't care for your product cannot be blamed any more than the people who don't like lefty scissors or universal remote controls.

When people take the time to criticize something you produce, you have one of two choices. First, you can ignore all the criticism. This is not a terrible strategy, if you are able to also ignore all the compliments. If you live in an echo-chamber of you're so awesome OMG I wish I knew what brand of toilet paper you used so I could wipe just like you wipe!, then you soon will become a Douchebag of the Highest Order--the Manticore Douchebag.

Alternatively, you can choose to examine the criticism and sort it into piles of valid and invalid. This requires both thick skin and a serious amount of self-reflection, but if you can do it, it will make you a better writer. I PROMISE. No one but trolls take any significant amount of time detailing their complaints about something unless their complaints are, on some level, based on reality. And once you understand those complaints, you can still disregard them, but you are then free to be more conscious about your decisions moving forward.

Any questions? No? Good.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Public service announcement: For writers

When you're a writer, you definitely want someone to critique your writing. I have been very lucky to get some great critiques from some great writers (thanks Sarah, Melanie, Krista, Jo, Phil, and Lindsey!) (Those were all real names. FOR REALS.)

If you're a good writer, you probably also want to return the favor. First, it's just good karma, and second, I find that critiquing makes you a better writer.

I love critiquing. It's one of my favorite things about being in the writing community. First of all, I am about a thousand times faster at reading than I am at drafting, so it helps me feel productive even when I am technically at my least productive. Second, it reminds me of the good old days at The Daily Utah Chronicle at the Blessed U. Because of this, I have critiqued a lot of manuscripts in the last few years.

So here a few tips for critiquing, if you didn't know them already:

1. If you are asking someone to critique your work ...

A. Let them know beforehand if there's something you would like them to focus on. If you feel like your dialogue is fine but your pacing is off, TELL THEM! If they know what to look for, they can look for solutions.

B. Let them know beforehand what level of critique you are willing to accept. BE HONEST.

Look, if you can't handle someone telling you exactly what is wrong (and right) with your manuscript, that's ok. Everyone has a different comfort level when it comes to criticism. But you can't expect someone to read your mind. If brutal honesty will kill your passion for a project, SAY SO. It's as simple as, "I suspect X, Y, and Z might be a problem so far, but please be gentle when you find problems. My ego can't stand too much criticism." People will understand that, and if they don't, then they aren't someone you want reading your manuscript anyway.

That being said ...

C. Refer to Subsection B, and then remind yourself that writing and publishing are tough businesses. You've got to develop thick skin at some point, so it might as well be sooner rather than later. A criticism of a project is not a criticism of you. It's not even really a criticism of your writing. Lots of good writers make lots of mistakes. Great writers are able to fix them.

D. Always, always remember that if someone critiqued your work--particularly if it was a full manuscript--they have spent a lot of time and energy on your project. Even if you disagree with their assessment, THANK THEM. I really cannot emphasize this enough.

And then refer to Subsection F ...

F. Some critiques will be up in the night. But before you conclude that this critique is up in the night, take a long, hard look at it. If you trusted Person X to critique your work in the first place, why do you now distrust their assessment?

If it's because you didn't really put much thought into who you asked to critique your work, and how you asked them to critique it, then you've wasted their time and yours.

If it's because you just can't stand someone saying, "Umm, this isn't the special snowflake of a story that you think it is," then you've really wasted their time and yours. I mean, if all you wanted was compliments, then only let friends and family read your work.

But if it wasn't a bad critique fit, and you honestly aren't being too sensitive, then no big deal. Not everything is everyone's cup of tea, not everyone's assessment is always on point. You may now feel free to ignore the critique, so long as you have fulfilled Subsection D by thanking the person.

2. If you are critiquing someone's work ...

A. Be honest. No one ever thanked someone for blowing smoke up their skirt.

B. But don't be mean. Just because you have a funny, biting way of pointing something out doesn't mean you should. Humor can go a long way in softening a blow, but not if it's not constructive, it's not worth saying.

If the writer has not followed the aforementioned suggestions by giving you clear instructions on what sort of critique they expect, ASK. "Do you just want my basic impressions, or do you want something in depth?" Hopefully this will prompt them to give you some guidelines.

C. Have solutions. Don't just say, "I don't buy your characterization." Explain why you don't buy it and what ideas you have that could potentially fix it.

D. But don't take over. Suggestions are one thing. Re-writes are totally another.

E.  Start with what you liked. End on a positive note. Remember Part A about being honest? Well, if you HONESTLY cannot find ANYTHING positive to say ... this is your one opportunity to lie. And lie you must.

Look, writing is hard stuff. You don't want to be the jerk who killed someone's dream, even if the dream is really misguided. So after you (gently) point out what's wrong (and it may be a lot), then you've got to come up with a pep talk. Tell them that their dedication impresses you. Tell them you think the basics are there. Tell them the idea is unique. Tell them you could see someone buying it someday. If you have to be vaguely kind, that's ok, as long as you are kind.

Tell them whatever you have to, without veering into snark territory. (No compliments about formatting or font choice. They wrote one bad story, they aren't an idiot.) The only thing you cannot do is give them false hope, so no "Your characters are so realistic!" if they are, in fact, not realistic.

Any comments, questions, criticisms, or concerns?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Oh boy

Well, things have been ... strange ... in Ru Land the last little while. Here's a rundown:

1. New neighbor drama. I shan't bore you with the details, but in essence, my neighbors threatened to sue me, I told them to go ahead (because their "case" is terrible-to-non-existent), I immediately regretted my decision (despite their terrible case), but Diego is still in full support. He hopes they do sue us, and when we win he wants to make a banner for the roof that says, COME AT US, NEIGHBORS!

2. Hannah moved out of the house and in with S'Wally. It's a sad day for me, Diego, and Spence, but a happy day for Hannah. (Well, a little sad for Hannah, too. There really aren't any better roommates than me and Diego. Sorry, S'Wally.)

Speaking of Hannah, last week was (in her words), the week of shy, mild-mannered girls politely sticking up for themselves. (See my exchange above with the neighbors.) (What? You didn't realize that real me was shy and mild-mannered? I apologize for having misled you.)

Hannah works in [censored to ensure Hannah's future employment] and has one client above all others who makes her life M-I-S-E-R-A-B-L-E. She and that client were scheduled for a review, and the client told Hannah how disappointing her performance had been, how Hannah was rude and disrespectful toward her, and how no one appreciated her enough.

Hannah (GO HANNAH!) replied, "I'm sorry you feel that way, Client, and I will work on it. But to be honest, I also feel the same way. You are very short and condescending to me, and overly demanding of my time, and I don't appreciate it. But I do appreciate all the other wonderful things you do."

Client refused to look at Hannah for the rest of the meeting.

3. New writing drama.

Oh friends. There's a reason why everything is so very secret in writing land. It's because when things suddenly change in a direction that is surprising and frankly disappointing, you don't have to tell that many people about the new circumstances.

So I've slunk off to my little corner for a week of self-pity, followed by a new project beginning this week, hence the blog silence.

What have you all been up to? Spill, spill!