*Real* Writing

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

That's the thing non-writers (and occasionally other writers) use to qualify someone's chosen genre. Well, guess what? It's all real writing. Even the unpublishable dreck that fills most agents' inboxes. Every single word someone wrote in earnest, and every line they poured effort into is real writing.

Writing picture books is *real* writing - you try packing character, plot, and setting into less than 1000 words. Seriously, I wanna see you try. Bonus points if you can do it in meter.

Writing MG books is *real* writing - those are the very real books you held in your very real hands when you were a very real child learning to read very real words. They took you on adventures or scared you silly. Sometimes they grossed you out and made you laugh, but they were still crafted, not blinked into being by some genie in a pink gauze bikini.

Writing YA books is *real* writing - sure most of it's commercial (OMG, you're such a sell out!) but commercial - especially of the highly lucrative variety - floats the publisher so all those less than commercially viable artistic tomes get picked up, too. One rockstar writer can make life easier for a whole list of mid-listers. And here's a newsflash, Cupcake, unless you're vanity published, it's ALL commercial publishing. You WANT to sell what you've got because it means someone's buying it. Which means $$$ in your pocket and your agent's and good will with your publisher for the next book.

Writing mysteries is *real* writing - Blech, it's all so formulaic! There's like 3 stories told over and over and over. Fine, write me one. Right now. Plot it out, give me a fully functional hero and villain and at least four twists I don't see coming. I'll warn you, my IQ is substantially higher than you apparently think it is and I can smell a gimmick from across the library. Show me one of those 3 magic stories if you're so familiar with them.

Writing fantasy is *real* writing - elves, and weres, and fairies oh my! Nothing but kids' stuff and geek speak. True, because only a kid or someone with half a brain can remember - or pick up on - all of the intricate storylines and histories. People who write high fantasy should get hazard pay for the amount of traps they set themselves while plotting out and entire universe that doesn't exist anywhere but in their heads, especially if they keep their facts straight. What did you accomplish today? Paperwork? These guys build planets, structure governments, and create religions from the ground up. Who has time for paperwork.

Writing horror is *real* writing - there's no SFX budget in a novel. No creepy music cues to get the reader's hair to stand on end and no mood lighting to let you know the creature's around the corner. You can't "hide it in post" like you can with a movie. The entire atmosphere is created by the author's word choice. Every creak and bump and snarl they put there on their own, and every goosebump they created.

Writing erotica is *real* writing - granted most of it's done with pen names because it's the red headed stepchild of the literary world, just like most of it's read while stashed inside other books (e-readers for the win!), but it's still evocative writing. It's still world building and it's still characterization. It still takes time and effort - especially for the (mostly) ladies who don't want their readers to scrunch up their faces or giggle because what's on the page Just. Isn't. Possible. In. Real. Life. Seriously, human bodies don't bend like a Barbie and/or Gumby. Nor do most parts interchange with others to make the placement more practical for the story at hand (of which, unless you're writing fantasy or sci-fi, your character should only have 2 - and you should know where they are at all times.)

Writing Sci-fi is *real* writing - everything I said about high fantasy to the nth power. Not only do these writers deal with world and culture building, but they tackle the tech that makes it possible, sometimes with agonizing detail. Sci-fi is the inspiration for the advances of tomorrow, and it upholds a long standing tradition of cultural commentary masquerading as entertainment.

Writing comedy is *real* writing - people need to laugh. Not want, need. Comedy is a gift and it's also one of the hardest things to get right. No one can really tell you how to do it, but everyone knows how not to. Can't try to be funny or write funny, it'll throw your timing off every time. These writers tick with the precision of a Rolex.

Writing literary is *real* writing - yeah, I'm sure you knew that because it seems to be the one genre people take seriously, and the one least likely to be read by the most people. It's beauty without form and poetry without rhyme. Snapshots of life taken often without the subjects' permission. Literary writers are the Dian Fosseys of the writing world who observe and record. They speak the way most of us think, with an eloquence that we would be embarrassed to hear in our spoken selves. They are the time and place for reflection and truth.

And yes, writing really bad things is *real* writing - for most anyone who strives to be better, it's the stuff that came before, the broken eggs and fallen souffles. It's all those NYT crosswords we tried in pen and failed on word #2. Purple prose from lilac to ultra violet and run on sentences that never end. It's the telling that later shows, if we re-write it, and it's the bricks that make the road we walk to our destination. It's the cheapest form of therapy and the memories that won't alter themselves over time.

Writing is our proof of life. It's voices that would otherwise be silent speaking to the world one pair of eyes at a time. It's a time capsule and a hope chest and even a census of sorts. There's fiction and non-fiction, and even the middle ground of faction, but the one thing writing definitely is NOT is false. It's all real writing done by real writers with real things to say, and that should never be denigrated because the topic is one you don't like or the genre is one you don't read. Fellow writers are your peers, not your competitors.

You're not competing because there's no even ground to compete on. There's no common prize to vie for. There's my words and your words and their words and they all have merit and substance and voice.


7 Chiming In:

Emily White said...

Hear, hear! :)

Amanda said...

Great post, Josin!!

Terry Towery said...

I hope it wasn't something I said. :)

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

You go girl! It's all good!!!

Stephanie Thornton said...

Hmmm... Looks like historical fiction isn't real writing.

Just kidding! :)

Ashley A. said...


Plamena Schmidt said...

Wow. Beautiful post!

Post a Comment