Here is what I can tell you about writing a novel…I am semi-doing it. I am trying to do it? It is slowly happening?
Okay. Let’s start this again.
I am writing a novel. (Applaud now, please.) It is not ready yet, so that’s cool. I’m still writing a lot of short fiction and even a little poetry now and again. However, I am taking this next step and wondering where it will lead. Let me clarify: I don’t expect a plethora of publishers to step up with enormous checks and arms filled with roses. I just want to get it published when I am done and then I want to see this thing on shelves in bookstores.
I don’t think this is impossible…I am trying not to find it improbable.
Sometimes you have to just roll the damn dice and do something. I’m writing this and I am getting this bastard published, somehow. That’s the whole thing with writing and publishing–you have to be a weird blend of certain and uncertain, humble and proud.
For now, the plot is a secret. For now, it is just mine. But, when the time comes, it becomes something else. It becomes a thing shoved out the door and sold. A product.
Although, I can tell you, it never really has felt like that with any story I have had published. I read them in publications and it feels like an odd surprise to find some private endeavor has become public. That said, what is revealed is usually entirely imaginary–with a few notably honest exceptions. So there is it in a public forum: some random thing that I felt compelled to share with the world. Fiction has a way of saying bigger truths than my facts. In a fiction there is a thousand bits of me, and yet no me there at all. All of the characters are me, and none. It never really works any other way. You’ve got to walk into the funhouse and see yourself in all of the mirrors, every one of them a distortion. Then, you write what you see.
Contests, contests, contests!
They are everywhere. I rarely enter because losing seems like an inevitability when so many are clamoring for a single prize or two. However, each year I try to enter one literary contest and each year when I do, there is a moment right after submitting that is a huge high. I fucking did it! I sent it out and my work could win!
It’s not impossible. I was a finalist in a Glimmer Train competition once. That’s pretty prestigious. That’s why I am telling you. It is my way of proving to you that the work that I do has some kind of worth. I was a finalist. Therefore, I do not suck. I should continue to enter contests. I could win. Need further proof? I refer you to my previously published page.
That said, I do not think that I will win. If I actually thought that I would win, then this would lead me to feel like a pretentious, arrogant, dick. So here’s to the thrill of not having lost yet!
Of course, the next thing we need to mention here is that even the best judges are still making a choice that is not perfect. It’s not math. You don’t just select the “right” one. So that is a part of it too. Whether I win or lose could be dependent on who makes the choice. Maybe another good judge would make a different decision. Maybe the same judge would make a different decision if asked again a year later, or after a big breakfast. Who knows?
But for right now, I have the high of not having lost yet. It is sort of like the high of realizing that one day you will be dead, but not today. Today, you made it!
And to you, the contest that shall remain nameless, I will name you if I win. And I will say to all the nay-sayers, I do not suck.
So I have the same conversation about books all the time, just with different people. I look at the publishing industry and for all of amazing, brilliant work that I love dearly, I rarely find books that do LGBTQ stuff in a way that satisfies me.
A few things:
- There is really not much out there…at least comparatively
- Lots of authors who do LGBTQ characters are telling a “coming out” story. I don’t want that. I might have as a teen. Not now. But hey, at least it is something.
- The premise of the book is that someone is gay. So what?
What interests me are great stories in which somebody happens to be a lesbian or bisexual, whatever. I don’t want the book to explain the identity to me or to reassure me. They don’t have to be a brave hero toiling for their rights. They can be an asshole. That’s fine. They just need to be an asshole as part of being a person, not as a result of being gay or trans, etc.
The simplest way to say what I want to read is to say: name your favorite book. Now make a character queer. Resume story as usual. My precious Wuthering Heights could have been Catherine and Heather, as opposed to Heathcliff.
Books about what it is like to be a lesbian or how it feels to be bi are usually written more for the benefit others. They are most beneficial as a sort of minor epiphany for those who have trouble conceptualizing what it would be like to have a different orientation, etc.
We could certainly be having this conversation about other types of diversity too. I’m not attempting to ignore the lack of representation for any number of races, ethnicities, religions, etc. I’m not prizing one fight over another. The fights all overlap anyway. I’m not just a lesbian. I’m also an atheist. I’m also lower working class. Oh, and I have a master’s degree. I’m all kinds of things.
When I write fiction, my characters tend to be lesbians. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about “representing” them. They are just people bumbling through the world and (hopefully) keeping readers reading. I don’t want to be ghettoized on some half shelf for a niche market. I don’t want to hunt for representation in a cobwebbed corner. I want diversity to be mainstream. And literary. And in genre. And in local. I want diversity to be: DIVERSE.