First Draft Done – Rent is Theft

I finished the first draft of my novel Rent is Theft.  That sumbitch took 7 years to get through, and unfortunately the second draft will surely be a year or more in coming.  One issue I had throughout was feeling like I didn’t have a distinctive voice / personality for my MC Courtney, but through a quirk of foolery late in my process, I found a fun gimmick to use.  She started telling stories to her gf, and I thought to myself, Satan, you can make storytelling her thing.

I’ll have to do a lot of work to make it happen earlier in the book, in the parts I’ve written over the last several years.  In the meantime, if you want a sample of her storytelling styles, here is an excerpt I amused myself with posting on tumblr.  The uncensored version is funny, the censored one is kind of hilarious.  The background of the scene is that the characters are living illegally in a building that is getting a heat treatment, and for lack of planning ended up having to suffer through the heat.  To get by, Courtney starts to tell stories.  This is about someone they know named Graeme, though they call him Grime.

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Fanfic Prolixity – Why?

Fanfic is an old phenomenon by now.  As a child I found some fanfic my mother had written about The Osmonds.  I don’t remember much but I think it was about her and her sisters meeting the band, mild-mannered hijinks, and a frog in a toilet.  But from the late nineties on, as everybody and their moms went online, it changed, refined and distilled into an ultra high speed turbo form that is staggering to behold, from my place on the outside.  The wordier fanfics routinely exceed the length of original novels, including those they refer to.

It raises a lot of questions for me, as an outsider who has been forced into proximity with it.  I’m in a small writing community, and any given writing community these days is sharing space with ficcers, ranging from those who are shy and circumspect about it to those who talk about almost nothing else.  The ficcers in my little community do not seem amenable to analytical conversation about it.  The main questions today, which I can’t get answered there:  Why can fic be written so quickly, reach such outrageous word counts, and why can it be read quickly as well?

This has become an issue because we’re doing word count -based activities, things like NaNoWriMo, and it seems like anyone doing fanfic can write two to four times as fast as the rest of us.  When the same ficcers overcome the compulsion toward their comfort zone and do original writing they slow to a crawl.  Fic literally is much easier to write for them, and I’m not sure why.  They are willing to admit that.  A common refrain is that “I was going to do something original but life is stressing me out so I’m just going to do fic again.”  But they won’t discuss the why of it.

Ficcers also read fic faster than they read original writing – much faster.  This has also become an issue in that shared space.  Ask a ficcer to return a favor and read some original writing, they say “Oh yeah, I can read anything.  Just read a 100k fanfic in one night.”  Then they fail to read your 10K words of original fic and disappear in shame for seven months.  A little research has shown me people who admit they have trouble reading anything that is not fanfic.  Some say they can’t read something unless it’s tagged with every aspect of its content in a way that lets them feel comfortable before they start.  The more sexually fixated just don’t read anything without their specific fetish or ship involved.  But why can they consume this stuff as fast as its written, which is already outrageously fast?  This doesn’t work in reverse, by the way.  As a non-ficcer, I read fic the same pace as anything written to the same level.

Why all the words, guys?  Of course, you don’t have to do any world building or character development, at least not the foundational kind.  That surely helps, but it can’t be the whole picture, can it?  There are a few conventions of fanfic that might help.  A common issue is that any actions of a non-sexual nature are extremely glossed over.  Was there a big world-shattering event that happened?  It’s written almost in shorthand, like a news blurb.  The writers are less interested in events than in character’s reactions to them, which is kind of reasonable on its face but can be really odd in practice.

In writing original fiction, every writer is going to have strengths and weaknesses – things that can speed them up or slow them down.  It could just be they’re willing to lean into the easy stuff and freely skip doing anything difficult because that’s acceptable in their culture.  Like fanfic doesn’t have to be entertaining or understandable to anybody outside of the fandom, so they don’t bother crafting something that would stand without the foundations established there.

Dialog is one of those easy things for ficcers.  There’s a convention in fanfic of “ice cream shop” chapters.  Something happens in a short chapter, then the characters process it verbally for a much longer stretch afterwords – often in a safe location where there’s no threat or sense of danger that the writer would have to keep in mind.  Chapter One – Snape kills Dumbledore!  One hundred words.  Chapter Two – Everybody chills in a magically safe place eating candy and talking about chapter one.  Five thousand words.

Another possible contributor to easy word count:  porn.  I had some firsthand experience of this.  I was writing a story in a high fantasy setting where adventuring was associated with homosexuality to the extent adventurer was a euphemism for gay dude.  The main character had inspired a revenge plot by characters that were basically the fellowship of the ring.  I was lagging on word count and for a laugh I made the fellowship have a big orgy in a bathhouse.  Just describing several characters having sex required enough words that it became one of my most productive days ever.

TL;DR:  Why is fanfic written so fast and easy?  Why is it easy to read for its fans?

First Draft of The Septagram, Finished!

Anyone interested in reading a fairly rough draft of my complete new novel The Septagram, have at it.  There aren’t an egregious number of typos and such, just writing that will surely need a lot of care in subsequent drafts.  I have a problem not giving character’s distinctive enough voices.  Not all the time, not every character, but I think it happened here.

It’s a little shorter than a Dean Koontz novel.  This was an attempt to make a horror-themed supernatural adventure story in a style like Hideyuki Kikuchi, who wrote Vampire Hunter D and Wicked City – so take from that what you will.  The content warnings are at the link.  I wasn’t as scrupulous in my anti-ableist language stance as usual, so bear that in mind as well.  Bon appetit!

Choose Your Own Adventure

I wrote like the first third or fourth of a choose your own adventure novel last month. I’ve got the pages hyperlinked so you can read it from the beginning here. Unlike the original CYA books, this one sometimes has choices and sometimes has “variables” where you should choose the option that matches a choice you made earlier in the book. If anyone reads this thing, let me know if you run into stuff that doesn’t work or causes problems.

It’s a sort-of-erotic sci-fi space thing. Probably there should be some content warnings here, but I’m not sure what. I don’t remember anything being too egregious. There is one option where you are not respecting a person’s boundaries, but they already made you a captive in the story, so is it more problematic than the setup itself? Don’t know.

I wrote it so that the reader is the main character, which meant making every direct reference to you gender neutral. Hopefully not too awkward. The writing is a cheesy first draft, but not as cheesy as it probably should be. I feel like I need to make the writing more melodramatic and big, give the characters more distinct voices. But never mind all that. Have a go at it, if you please.

Novel Things

I made my goals for Camp Nanowrimo! I have about 51,000 words up on my fiction writing blog. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite manage to finish the story, but I’m close.  I might have it done pretty soon, and you’ll be able to read it there when I do.

Caveats:  The sections it’s broken into now are arbitrary, not sensible chapter breaks.  It’s a first draft and I’m open to critique.  And the thing I put at the start of every post there: My main character is a Filipina trans woman and I am not, so if you want to complain about that or have any advice on how to write it better, let me know.

Thoughts on writing a character who is not me:  I’m tired of seeing cishet white people as the main characters of everything in the world, and while the ideal is to get more non-cishet non-white people writing, does that mean I’m not allowed to write?

In a sense, yes.  If there was someone in a good position to take my place, I’m down with some affirmative action.  On the other hand, no, I want to write.  This isn’t about who’s getting book deals because no one is ever going to publish me.  I’m not taking a resource from anyone else by writing and I deserve a creative outlet, as a human with needs.  If you have a choice between my book and one by an actual Filipina trans woman, buy hers.  Your choice.

Anyway, as a white writer, I’m in that position to make some odd calls.  I’m a white pansexual genderqueer masc-ish dude-esque person, and I’ve written a gay black cis male character, and now a Filipina pansexual trans lady.

Writing the black cis gay character was done in third person, and it helped.  I thought of the character as more different from who I am, so he became more of a character than an experience for me.  I like to think he was pretty charming.  I hope to get that one edited and self-published later this year, maybe the current thing as well?

I’ve written the newer character in first person.  I chose her ethnicity based on people I was familiar with who seemed most similar to the white people I know, so the perspective wouldn’t be too far off.  I’m sure there are some big differences in their experience of life, but Filipino Americans seem culturally pretty similar to poor-to-middle class white people.  I asked a coworker from the Philippines what he thought American cousins were like, and to him they seemed fully American in values and personality.

That’s not to say they’re totally the same.  That would be absurd.  Just a little easier for me, as a writer to bridge the gap in my head.  I could take my voice and try to imagine the differences from there, understanding more these days than I used to about the effects of transmisogyny, objectification, fetishization of Asian women, and the way dark skinned Asians get that combined with worse classist and colonialist mentality.  Starting with a middle class AMAB character meant starting with a voice I was more familiar with, then I’d pull in other elements as needed.

Writing a trans woman felt pretty easy to me because I’ve had a lot of experience seeing gender dysphoria in other people around me, and because in a different world, 5% this way or that, it could be me.  The only reason I don’t present more trans now is because I don’t have dysphoria pushing me to have no other choice, and if a person has the luxury of staying in the closet on this planet of motherfuckers, it’s a safer place to be.

Most important:  I don’t claim to have done this perfectly.  I don’t know all the facts and more importantly don’t have all the experiences that inform a character like the one I chose.  Wide open to criticism.  Say what you like.  Of course, as with my usual moderation, people acting in bad faith or revealing regressive values will get mothafuckin’ nuked.  Not a problem for most of you.

In Honor of Down with Cis Day

I like to have some fun art or good foolery on here for International Down with Cis Day, but I am lost in the woods of Camp Nanowrimo.  It’s a shame, because lately the cis have been at it again.  They deserve a good downing.

A few weeks ago I saw a young trans lady in my place of work.  I feel safe in assuming her preferred pronouns as her entire presentation was femme, hair and makeup laser precise.  She came up to the counter with her mother to buy some goods.  I make chit-chatty conversation and before I know it, her mother had misgendered her three times.

Come the fuck on, cis mom.  The girl was super sweet and maybe overly friendly through it all, like she wasn’t used to customer service people being nice to her or something.  To your mom, I say this:  Your child isn’t being validated by you and that makes her highly vulnerable to abusers and exploiters.  Support your trans babies, or get run over.  The Down with Cis bus is on the move.

And more recently, on the Transgender Day of Visibility, this big tall guy came in with an androgynous teen or young adult child of his.  They were cleanly buzzed on sides and back, wearing nothing at all feminine, and got female-gendered by dad a few times.  Well, who knows?  Maybe he doesn’t know from this trans stuff, maybe the child isn’t even trans.  Or maybe, he misgendered them to a total stranger for no fucking reason on a transgender awareness day.  Fuck that shit.

Anyhow, down with cis, goddammit.

Legal Advice on a Novel

I’m trying NaNoWriMo again, for what that’s worth. My concept involves the events of Revelations and some real life politicians. Question: To what extent is it kosher for me include public figures in a work of fiction? Could they sue for defamation, when the intent is clearly absurd parody?

It may not be as simple as the “fair use” a lot of youtube heads hang onto. Different forms of media have different laws governing them. Any lawyers know off the tops of your heads collective?

Signal Boost: Fuck Marvel Nazis

Via someone who calls herself “drachentöter” on tumblr, regarding the recent “nazis were meant to win WWII” reveal in some recent shit-ass Marvel comics by shit-ass nazi fetishist / “civility advocate” Nick Spencer:

it’s exhausting to keep seeing people talk about marvel’s hydra problem as an issue of them just being tone-deaf or obtuse or clueless, this “boys will be boys” mild eyeroll attitude to the entire conversation that so vastly downplays just how fucking evil these people are

do you honestly think that the CEO of marvel who is an outspoken trump supporter and pumped millions of money into the trump campaign doesn’t know what he’s doing by pushing the nazi faction into the limelight of his comics?

turning captain america, the literal symbol for american nationalism and patriotism, into a supporter of hydra and therefore a nazi, is not a writing accident. it is deliberate.

their latest little ~fuck up~ of asking comic stores to re-brand their stores and work uniforms with hydra logos, is not just a PR gaffe. it’s deliberate.

their continuous campaign to make nazis into a faction readers are supposed to find exciting, supposed to align themselves with, supposed to wear on their shirts like a uniform, is not an accident in the kind of political climate we’re in right now. it’s deliberate.

i don’t care that hydra is fictional, this isn’t like the empire in star wars or w/e where it’s just about some sort of vague fascism aesthetic. hydra were always explicitly n a z i s, since their very conception, have always been called nazis by marvel, have always stood for nazi values. and now marvel is trying to make them cool again. and it’s not a fucking accident.

stop giving them the benefit of the doubt. stop talking about this like it’s something that can be fixed with civil conversation and a stern finger wagging.

nazis and anyone who defends them don’t deserve that much consideration from anybody. just, yknow, a friendly psa from your neighbourhood romani jew.

Oh, did I spoil that plot for anyone here? Sorry. Guess you’ll just have to not spend money on the shit-ass comics now, or just enjoy your nazi wank a little less. Shucks.