Musings on the release of A World Apart

Now that my debut novel has been out a couple of weeks and the reviews are coming in, I had the urge to write a little bit about how the book’s reception has affected my thinking of the story.

First of all, thank you so much to everyone who has written an honest review! I can’t stress this enough, I’m deeply grateful to everyone who has taken time out of their busy lives to share their thoughts.

Secondly, I’m not trying to justify or even clarify anything with this blog post. I don’t think any writer has to justify why they wrote the story they wrote. But of course, I have thoughts on my first release, and I want to address one of the aspects that has come up a lot in the reviews so far: The quick progression of the love story between Ben and Donnie.

I’ve said this before in other places, so forgive me for repeating myself: I write relationship stories because I find relationships, of any kind, quite hard. I’m an introvert and like to be by myself. But I like people, too. I like my friends, and I even like meeting new people, in small doses, with lots of time in between to decompress. What fascinates me is how people relate to one another, as acquaintances, friends, family, lovers… I like thinking about that, and I like writing about it, especially about people being kind to each other.

When I started writing, I did so in the world of fanfiction. I’m proud of that, and I carry the flag and talk about it openly. There are a lot of great writers in that world who deserve to have their talent recognized as widely as possible. I’ll always feel connected with the fic fandom. (You can find a lot of us over on AO3.)

Fanfic is different from published writing in many ways, and I want to talk about one of the main differences. When you write romantic* stories in a fandom, the fact that your two characters (or sometimes three, or four, or more) will end up together is a given.

There are heaps and heaps of slow burn fics in fandom. I think, generally, the structure of the romance genre is a lot like those fics: Two people fall in love against all odds, must go through trials and tribulations but, in the end, are HEA (or at least HFN). And that’s lovely, there’s a lot to be said for that and it’s wildly successful both in fic and in romance as a commercial genre.

But I haven’t ever really written those fanfic stories. My stories are about the romance, yes, but they’re also about other things – oftentimes quite serious things like illness, and violence, and dealing with a hostile world (I write The Walking Dead fic, after all).

I think it’s entirely my fault, that I don’t fit all too comfortably into the romance genre. I didn’t do my homework. I didn’t come to romance writing after a life spent devouring books about people falling in love. I read Sci-Fi and fantasy and horror and crime growing up, and I still do. I’ve asked myself why then am I not writing in those genres, and I honestly don’t know the answer.

My next book is a romantic suspense novel, and that’s probably more along the lines of the stories that I’m used to writing.

When you write fic, you can experiment with everything. You make it available to a small audience for free, and while some readers will tell you if they don’t like your story you’re usually not judged on whether or not it fits into a specific genre. Fanfics are sometimes called transformative works, which means that a mainstream text is taken and changed in some way. But I believe that transformative also refers to the experimental nature of fanfic writing. You can write odd POVs (2nd person is something no publisher will even touch, except maybe for RPG which are also transformative literature, in a way), play around with style, with tense, with mixing genres etc.

A World Apart, just like my fic, is a story about a relationship, but it’s also a story about what happens to the characters beyond that relationship. My favourite romance stories have always been the ones where a couple gets together quickly, even if they then have to fight to make the relationship sustainable. I’m no fan of the slow burn, or the “will they, won’t they” trope. (I just want to make it clear that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with those stories at all, they’re just not my personal favourite.)

If I were to write A World Apart now I would write it differently, I’m sure. I might stretch the first story over two books (to conform more with the customary relationship arc), and I definitely would refrain from making the characters use the L word so soon. But I’m not writing it now. I wrote a story to the best of my abilities at the time, and I’m pleased with how it turned out.

I’m not sorry that Ben and Donnie’s story is what it is. Writing about them still makes me very happy, and I’m working a little on the second book in the series now, alongside writing the standalone romantic suspense novel. Another thing I learned from writing fic is that it’s nice to have several projects at the same time, even if they take longer to complete that way.

On a final note: Something from fanfic that I wish was adopted more widely by the publishing industry is tagging. If we knew, when we buy a book, that the story is “slow burn” or “insta love” or “relationship amongst other stuff” or “enemies to lovers” or “angst” or “hurt/comfort” I think it’d be much easier to pick books we’ll enjoy.

*By far not all fanfiction is romantic in nature.

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Want to have your work published? I wrote a thing that might help

This weekend I attended the Nine Worlds Convention in London and got to chair a panel, From Fanfic to Book Contract and Beyond. While this is a terrifying prospect for an introvert, I think it went rather well. Many thanks to all attendees, and to the organisers to make this happen!

During the panel, I mentioned a document I pulled together. In it, I list (and ramble about) all the resources I’ve been using in the last few years to help launch my writing career. If you’re looking to do the same, you can find the document here: Mel’s Resources for Writers Who Want to Go Pro.

I hope it’s of use to some of you. And because the WWW is truly bottomless I’m already working on the next list of resources. Stay tuned!

The greatest honour

Back in May 2015 I wrote a Walking Dead rickyl fanfiction called Contact. (If you want to ready it do feel free, but be aware, this is slash fiction. This is how I started on my writing, I’m not ashamed of it!) It was sweet and fluffy, and there was sex. I had nice feedback and a fair number of likes on it, for a one off.

A very lovely reader called saffron_chen over on AO3 said that she would translate it to Chinese. I felt honoured and a little nervous, but mostly just amazed that someone actually liked the story enough to do this.

And today saffron_chen sent me a link to part of the translation! You have to log in, and it’s all in Chinese, of course, so I’m copying the text here. It looks so pretty!

I am still flabbergasted that she actually did this. Thank you so much, this is the most wonderful thing that’s happened to me in my writing adventure so far!

If anything looks wrong, my apologies, the Unicode browser probably makes a mess of it.

授翻 rickyl contact [复制链接]

SIGHT
Rick看着Daryl,对方正专注在自己的弓弩上,摩挲着把手周围的皮带。他看着另一个男人如何检查武器的每一寸,全神贯注地不放过任何细节。他注意到弓弩手在找到一个新的小刮擦痕迹的时候都会皱起眉,注意到那手指如何灵活地驱走每一处瑕疵。
看着对方的时候根本就没法再多想些什么。他不清楚日光是否在他们周围消失,不关心他感觉到了多么疲惫,不介意任何人看到自己专注地盯着Daryl。视线沉浸在注视着他的伴侣之中,只有一件事是重要的:不再让视线从他的猎人的身上松开。
Daryl感觉到了他的注视,他一直都知道的。Rick在他抬起眼看回自己前很长一段时间就很清楚这点,那双蓝眼睛对上自己的。Daryl的感官十分敏锐,他拥有绝妙的视力,穿过整个房间,他们的视线在闹哄哄的团队中,在Daryl笑的时候胶在一起。Rick可以感到对方注视的热度像是接近心窝的一团火,温柔得像是爱抚。什么环绕在他们身边并不重要,重要的是他们都能看到些什么。
Rick轻微地仰了仰头,这是他问问题的方式:一切都好吗?
Daryl的回应是点了点下巴,以他们确认的方式。一切都在控制之下。
Rick知道接下来会发生什么,他看到Daryl放下弓弩向楼梯走去。他后悔打断视线的胶着了,但是思绪已经开始探索即将到来的东西。

HEARING
Daryl可以听见脚步声在金属楼梯上消失,在他跟上去的时候坚硬的重靴子声音实实在在地响着。他知道这上面除了他们就没别人了。他一般都清楚他们团队里的每一个都大致在什么地方,这让他感到安全。现在就能听见大家在下面交谈的声音,碗碟在他们准备晚餐的时候敲击着发出声响。Beth在唱歌,Carol因为某些笑话大笑出声。他们都很安全。
他自己步声在光滑的地板上是几不可闻的。大多数时候他能,更是本能地去无声追踪任何他想追踪的人或物。他拉开自己房间前的窗帘,那玩意儿发出安静的沙沙声。Rick就坐在里头背对着他,不过现在转过来了。
‘‘hey,Daryl。‘‘
从Rick口中说出的他的名字带着他人无法企及的亲密,那感觉像是安抚的拥抱,一只在他心上放着的沉静的手。如果爱在他们两个独处时有声音那一定是Rick的。
Daryl跟他的爱人站在一起,看进他的眼睛。Rick跟他对视,然后一只手穿过对方的发间,轻压着他的后脑勺。Daryl附上他们间的最后一点距离,而Rick则伸手抱住他。
他们安静了几分钟。Daryl闭上眼睛,聆听着。他能听见Rick的呼吸近在咫尺,那么缓慢又强大。他能感受到自己的心跳紧挨着对方的,平和而安静,这也让Daryl慢慢平静下来。
Daryl知道,这是他们的所属之地。

TASTE
Rick从怀抱中撤开些许,重新观察双眼紧闭的Daryl,他享受此刻。随后他的伴侣张开了眼,里头裹藏着Rick见过的最美的实现。Rick明白自己是有多幸运,跟他在一起的时候,Daryl的眼睛总有不一样的神采。没有丝毫怀疑,没有一点心眼,没有审视和恐惧。Daryl花了点时间去聚焦在Rick的眼睛上,现在他这模样不似以往对方看过的任何一个。
对视已经足够长了,但还不够。Rick感到对他伴侣的渴望在不断增长,最后这些都化作一个吻。Daryl温暖的嘴唇跟他的饥渴地交叠,他们一同享受着彼此的气息。手四处游移,准备着做些其他的。
Daryl尝起来像是香烟。Rick从前可从没如此热爱这味道,直到现在。这味道附在Daryl身上,一切都刚刚好。这味道尝起来是Daryl独有的,跟Rick从前轻吻任何人都不同,这味道带走了从前以后的忧虑,只剩下此时此刻。
Rick躺下,开始亲吻伴侣的脖子。Daryl的身体渴求地专注在这个环节,仰起颈项发出呻吟。他喜欢Rick咬自己,当然,Rick也挺喜欢这么干的。他从落下轻咬开始。他们接下来拥有大把时间。他可以品尝Daryl汗湿的肌肤,今日让他们身体疲惫的奔波。咸涩的滋味在让他们在某种程度上更真实可感。Daryl在Rick绕着圈舔舐着第一个咬痕时抽着气。

tbc—抱歉我明天就把剩下一点翻完,今天实在太累了orz

 

Do I want my characters to be hated?

I’m reading a Candace Bushnell novel. I thought I should try reading some chick lit/women’s fiction/romance for research purposes. After all, that’s what I’m supposedly writing. The novel is One Fifth Avenue, and I hate it. I tried reading Trading Up first, and I hated that even more.

I have no experience reading chick lit. I’ve never had an interest before. My favourite authors are Stephen King, Maria Doria Russell, Cormac McCarthy, Ursula LeGuin and a hundred more I can’t list or I’d be here all night. Not one of them writes the kinds of stories I write.

The reason why I’m writing romance is pretty clear. That’s what you do when you start writing fanfiction. Stories in fandom are stories about relationships.

But maybe these stories we write in fandom aren’t romance at all, or chick lit. Or any of those genres that are so familiar in mainstream fiction. After all, fanfic is transformative. It changes the text it’s based on, it challenges perceptions about how relationships work, both romantic and platonic. Heteronormative, serial monogamy is the exception in most parts of fandom writing.

Why am I trying to fit my writing into a pre-existing category now? Simple answer: Because I want to publish. The problem is, right now, while finishing off my manuscript edit, I’m starting to hate my characters, just like I’m hating the characters in One Fifth Avenue.

I don’t want to hate my characters. I want them to be as they were when I created them. They were different, the story was different from what one sees published. But what if I can’t sell that story? I’d love to have the recognition one gets from publishing through the established channels, I won’t lie. But can that happen, really, with my kind of story?

There’s no answer here, just lots of questions. This post wasn’t planned, it just happened. Stay tuned, maybe I’ll have an epiphany one day. Otherwise, come looking for me on AO3. At least I understand the rules over there, and I don’t hate my characters there, either.

A week of concrit

I had a few reviews on youwriteon.com, and that’s useful. But the big thing this week was the feedback I got from a fellow fanfic writer who is a professional editor and who has just found an agent for her own book. In short, I got professional constructive criticism on my first two chapters. Absolutely priceless, I’m so grateful! 🙂

This weekend is all about editing. I’m going to use the concrit I got to get the first three chapters up to scratch. By the end of Monday I want to send them out to some American friends for them to read the dialogue. Yes, I know, don’t let your friends edit your work. But that’s who I got right now. All I need from them is to help me make my famous American actor character sound less like a posh English schoolgirl. I guess we can manage that much.

And on to the edit

At this point I’m still enjoying my story. I’ve been told that’ll quickly change.

Today I sent the first two chapters to a professional editor who is looking them over for free. I also submitted the first three chapters to http://www.youwriteon.com/. Very curious to see what comes of these two things.

Now my brain is toast and I need to sleep for a week.