Chick Lit in the News Again

I’ve been pushing hard on the newest edition of my ‘shitty first draft’ novel (thank you Anne Lamott for your wisdom.)  Not that I’m entirely convinced that the work is good enough to see the light of day, but I have managed to elicit the promise of a highly educated and well-read lady to read my novel when I’ve completed edit number five to gain her thoughts on whether to keep working on it or let it die a quiet but dignified death on a USB stick in the back of my desk drawer.

Of course, as I read my own work for the umpteenth time  I’m convinced that I am a fool to think that I could ever find people willing to read my imagination on the page.  It’s at those times that I want to pretend that I don’t have to keep going and search for diversions.  When the sheer size of the task ahead leads to a thumping headache, I attempt to get the creative juices flowing by reading newspapers book section and opinion pages.

This article really got me questioning many things within the field of women’s writing.  Truly it isn’t hard to dislike many front covers of countless works of literature done by or written for women. Pink is the overwhelming theme, alongside fluffy and pretty.  And after reading this article, I’m not sure I’m ever going to be able to look at the humble cupcake in the same way ever again.

Sometimes it feels like the genre of  Womens Contemporary Literature – Chick Lit -won’t ever be accepted as a true, noble or worthy  form of literary creativity. I have to confess that when I was a member of a now defunct writing group, I was intimidated by the genres that the other women were writing in. Biography. Creative Non Fiction.  Literary Fiction.  And there I was with what I considered to be my ‘chick lit’ efforts. I was apologetic about writing in the genre and called it the comic relief portion of the evening when it came to my turn to edit my work, it felt so undervalued in the literacy scene.  In 2009 I figured out I was writing with one of the literary greats of the Western world who, to all intensive purposes was a chick lit writer.

So it’s a little frustrating to read opinion pieces that whilst sounding like they are defending Chick Lit and its writers, still feels a little like a backhanded compliment.

 

…the frustration many women {authors} feel because their novels are being marketed as chick-lit when in fact they are aimed at thinking readers.

 

I’m pretty sure it’s this one line that really got up my nose. Apparently as a chick lit reader you’re not considered a thinker. Chick Lit is pink fluffy fun that requires no brain work what-so-ever. Maybe our definition of what makes Womens Contemporary Literature  is where the difference lies.  Perhaps the current list of genres just isn’t expansive enough.

Personally I classify Phillipa Gregory as a chick lit author as she tends to write about female protagonists in historical settings. Kate Holden is another of my newest favourite chick lit writers who writes historical pieces with strange little twists. Im not sure if they would be too pleased to read that, depending upon thier personal stance towards the genre.  I read swathes of female authors who have female lead characters, which fits the definition of chick lit.  I  adore authors like Jennifer Wiener, Erica James and Penny Vincenzi, who make many a hot summer day at the park more pleasurable. And maybe I’ve just lost my ‘street cred’  from any new reader of this blog for admitting I have copies of their work on my bookshelves.  Could it be possible that we just need to be more open to see all literature styles are good ones; even if it’s not a style that particularly appeals to you?

I’m somewhat sick to death of all the chick lit bashing that goes on in the mainstream (and probably not so mainstream) media.  In all honestly  I don’t think that Sydney Smith is actually bashing the genre, rather she is highlighting the laziness of the publishing industry to better categorise literature written by female authors and lump them all together as Chick Lit, losing the male portion of possible readership due to ‘typical’ styles of publicity and marketing.  I just wish that the genre didn’t come out in such a negative manner whenever arguments about women’s literature are discussed.

The reality is, it’s a genre that sells and it sells well. And in a world or rapidly diminishing readership, any genre that sells is a good one for writers.  Right?

Write a Draft in a Month?

30_Days book cover

I’m really very proud of the fact after years of procrastination and doubt, I got my first rough draft done before my official deadline of December 31st. But that still means that I was working on the draft for a full nine months (talk about it being my baby!) And people like Nora Roberts seem to churn out new books every six months or so, which got me wondering: how?

How does Nora get her ideas, transfer them to paper, write, revise, adjust, and get through the official editing process so quickly?  I’ve read that she is a much disciplined writer, spending eight hours a day in her office writing, which would be helpful.  And I would love to be able to write at such a speed and for such extended periods of time in the day. Of course, I don’t think Nora Roberts wrote so prolifically when she had young children (although I truly have no idea as I haven’t followed her career all that long) and until Bronwen is in school full time and has the ability to understand what “Pleeeeeeease… leave me alone” really means when Mummah is sitting at her writing desk, I’m not going to be getting eight hour writing days anytime soon.

But I do have a book on my bookshelf that suggests it’s possible to pull a first draft together in 30 days. I’m only glancing through the introduction where is fully exposes that really, the first draft is actually a very detailed outline that is about a quarter of the whole books length, but that according to the author, having completed such a detailed outline means that writing the missing bits will be easy.

I like the idea of having such a complete outline in a month. I’ve used an outline for my first novel (that is still –  *STILL* nameless!) and found it really helpful to make sure  correct seasons were described at the right time of the year and that the flow of the story happened over the same passage of time. There is nothing worse than an author who writes about a winter Christmas in Australia for one character and how delightful dying Easter eggs is in what would be August for another! Details people – details. I like the idea of being so clear about what will happen in the story that you can see the strengths and weakness’ at a glance, making revision somewhat easier.

So I’m going to read the book this week and see if I can start learning the art of  the whole ‘outline/draft in a month’ skill set. Because the idea of whipping out books at such a speed sounds like a wonderful thing to impress an agent or publisher with – don’t you think?

First Draft in 30 days; a novel writers system for building a complete and cohesive manuscript.

Karen S. Wiesner, Writers Digest Books, 2005

ISBN: 13: 978-1-58297-296-1

ISBN: 10: 1-58297-296-6

PS.

There are 137 (!!) copies of Twilight in the Ottawa library. I’m number 30 on the waiting list but the notice says it’s in transit which means I will get it in about two weeks (this Friday is New Years Day, so no library time). Reviews from other readers on the library website either love it or hate it. Wonder what camp I will fall into?