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Posts Tagged ‘women’s fiction’

Well the study junkie’s been at it again. As usual I ‘ve had my head up my (*cough*) in my books, immersed in one topic or another for the past several months, undoubtedly at the expense of my writing. Well, in the short term anyway. In the long term, I hope it all adds up to something even better.

One of my recent distractions, and it’s been a MAJOR distraction, has been screenwriting and film making. But I’ll get to that in another post.

by ambernwest @ WANACOMMONS

by ambernwest @ WANACOMMONS

Most recently, I’ve thrown myself into a new topic, one which I realize is a shortcoming in my own writing – and that is emotion. I entered two of my unpubbed manuscripts into the writing contest of my local RWA chapter, The Judy, and last month discovered that I placed second for one of them. Yay! A prize! This is a rare and beautiful thing in a life so lacking in validation.

What I valued even more than the prize, however, was the detailed scoring and comments of the six judges who read my two entries. The perspectives of experienced writers, many of them published, with fresh eyes on my work, and the generosity to tell me what they think – that is priceless.

So, ironically, it was the comments on the manuscript that did not win that I focussed on first, because this is the manuscript that I earnestly pitched at the National RWA conference in Anaheim this past July. And to my surprise and delight, the one agent and four editors all asked to see it. So of course I hurried home and took a good hard look at it.

One of the things I decided to do was apply Margie Lawson’s Deep Edits technique to at least part of the manuscript to discover if there was something I had overlooked. It’s not that this story hasn’t been revised and edited a thousand times already. It’s pretty tight.

And that brings me back to emotion. What I discovered, over and above the valuable suggestions made by the contest judges, was that, according to Margie’s system what my manuscript lacked was, of all things, emotion. Well, in fact it’s not absent. It’s just not explicit enough for the particular market to which this book aspires.

My reading history is broad and deep and varied, and one of the things I sometimes have trouble doing is adjusting my writing to suit a particular market. So I might be writing a commercial women’s fiction story but use language or voice that’s more suitable to literary fiction. And I’m beginning to see that this just won’t work. I think. Or at least I have to find the balance that’s just right for my story and my “hypothetical” readers – whoever they may be.

So while I believe there’s tons of emotion in my novel, I don’t necessarily make it as obvious or visceral as I probably should to give my target readers the kind of reading experience they are looking for, and are used to. The emotion is situation and character based, and it’s often between the  lines. I know readers are clever, but I’m learning that there’s a pretty powerful effect that certain kinds of language has on the reader’s emotional engagement.  So my current learning curve is all about finding artful ways of engaging my readers in the emotional experiences of my characters.

And the material I have from Margie Lawson is invaluable in helping me to do that. Revisions are underway.

But of course when you cast the net of consciousness you catch all kinds of things. One of these, that kind of fell into my hands last week, was a book entitled The Passional Muse: Exploring Emotion in Stories by psychologist and author Keith Oatley, Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto. Someone with the same professional background and perspective as Margie Lawson.

While I agree somewhat with the Quill and Quire review of this book, and did have the same difficulty the review discusses engaging in Oatley’s short story, One Another, embedded in the academic text, I still found much of his discussion of the role of emotion in fiction in our developmental experience as fully formed human beings quite fascinating and enlightening.

In any case, it points to the fact that wherever my work fits on the commercial-literary continuum, emotion is such a central part of fiction and the reading experience that I’d better get some clarity about how this ought to be conveyed in my own writing.

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See how good I’m being?

I said I was going to write, and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. I’m up to about 88,000 words on my WIP Coming About. I’m smack in the middle of writing my climactic scene, in which… no wait. I can’t tell you that. That would ruin the surprise.

At this rate, I might just complete the first draft of this manuscript by the Surrey International Writer’s Conference on October 20-23. I know, more workshops, but I never miss it, and by then it will be a well- deserved break. I registered for three Master Classes this year, and I’ll be pitching. Probably The Aviary again. Maybe I’ll even sell it this year. But I’d be happy enough to start with agent representation.

Back in May, when I pitched to a couple of editors at the Write On Conference of the RWA-Greater Vancouver Chapter, one of the two asked for a full manuscript (not sent yet) and the other talked about how difficult to define Women’s Fiction is, and how important it is for writers of women’s fiction to work with an agent, who can get to know the work and target it to the editors and publishers most likely to appreciate it.

True, true.

On the subject of women’s fiction, I want to note here how much I appreciate Amy Sue Nathan‘s regular women’s fiction writers blog, in which she interviews… wait for it: women’s fiction writers! I have discovered many terrific new books and authors here, expanding my reading list every week, and I particularly appreciate the stories of their journey to publication. Amy asks each of her guests to define women’s fiction, and although there is overlap, each one is unique in its perspective. This week’s guest, Stacey Ballis, author of Good Enough to Eat and soon to be released Off the Menu, said it thus:


I have always found it interesting that if you are a woman who writes a book with female characters about life and love and relationships and career, it is called Women’s Fiction, and if you are a man who writes a book with female characters about life and love and relationships and career, it is called A Book.”

Hmm. Yeah. Well, nuff said.

In other news, I’m doing my happy dance because– I just got tickets to Sting’s Back to Bass tour in Vancouver December 9th. I haven’t seen him since the Police reunion tour a few years ago. Yay! I’m not really dancing. I’m not much of a dancer. Except in my head. In there, I’m definitely doing my happy dance. ; )

Back to work.

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