My Writing Goals

* This post is included in my portfolio, PORCELAIN [different link from below ;)].

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Why I Write (and what I work at achieving, as a writer)…

I use a lot of /slashes/ throughout this post, as a punctuation mark and for various other purposes. It’s an idiosyncrasy of mine when I’m trying to sort out my thoughts. I keep it down in my books (with the exception of the short story, Porcelain!).

Picture: Outline(s) for Book04

Over the years, I’ve scrawled numerous times in my handwritten journals on why I write, things I want to achieve with my writing, projects I have in mind, and so on…

Here’s a distilled overview of what usually goes on in my head, and what guides the direction and perspective(s) of my written work.

1. Stories > Categorization

I understand the importance of book categories (my second book currently sells better than the first — its niche is “erotic short stories”)…but I’ll never write a book “according to the specifications of its genre/category”. I write because I have things to say/share via a story.

There were literary agents who said EyeLeash (my debut blog/IM novel) was more of a blog than a book. There were the agents who handle adult commercial fiction who said it was “YA (young adult)”, while the YA agents said it was “a little explicit” [they were being kind ;)]. Erotica publishers told me to try GLBT publishers with 4:Play (which deliberately crosses multiple genres), while the GLBT publishers said the percentage of GLBT material in the book wasn’t high enough for it to be considered “GLBT”! I rest my case.

Erotica has a vast range of explicitness, types of sex, and quantity of sex. As with erotica, I believe human life is as diverse, which is what I aim to reflect/capture, with writing.

2. Quality > Quantity

There are specific word counts a writer has to adhere to, as I posted on a(n eye-opening) thread on Kindle Boards.

Adult fiction: 80,000-100,000 words
Young Adult fiction: 40,000-60,000 words
Short Story Collections: 40,000-75,000 words
Historical Fiction: 80,000-140,000 words
Adult Fantasy: 90,000-140,000 words

Personally, I like writing in the 40K-80K range. I understand publishers “have a certain formula to determine page length, printing costs…and other factors, which have a direct result in the word count they’re looking for” (jonfmerz, 2010).

Personally, I find writing according to word counts to be quite counter-productive. You go round in circles trying to create a manuscript to appease agents and publishers (and their overhead costs), at the expense of the story, the characters, and the readers. I strongly prefer to read (and/or produce) 3 pages of a masterpiece than 300 pages of garbage. The question is, which do readers prefer? Or do publishers assume that readers cannot discern the difference?

3. Diversity > Stereotyping

According to AgentQuery.com (as of 17 April, 2010):

Multi-cultural can be a tricky genre to simply pin down because it can mean different things to different literary agents and publishers. Most insiders will agree that multi-cultural fiction is a code word for books that possess racial and ethnic diversity within the depiction of its characters, cultures, and conflicts…while we certainly consider works representing Asian, Indian, and other ethnic cultures and characters as “multi-cultural”, some agents and publisher only mean African-American and Latino fiction when they use “multi-cultural” as a genre tag. For this reason, “Multi-cultural” has as diverse a meaning as the racial and ethnic groups it’s intended to describe.

“Code word” being defined as “a word or name used clandestinely to refer to another name or word” (define:Code-word, 2010). I can’t help but gag at the last sentence. At the risk of being blacklisted for being too “outspoken”, the above paragraph can be taken to mean that racial stereotypes are to be perpetuated, because (from the publisher’s perspective), anything else is going to be a commercial risk. There’s always the reason that “publishing is a risky business”, and that something new/different, is “not going to be what the public wants”. On the other hand, how are things ever going to change if the same old things keep being produced? (Answer = indie publishing = no middlemen!)

To my knowledge, I haven’t had any readers/customers complain about the multicultural aspects in my work. Maybe it’s because I don’t deliberately make a big deal out of the respective characters’ cultural background (contrary to what this post might suggest). I just feel that people of all races and cultures should be equally represented in the mass media. I have never underestimated the power of mass media (maybe because I’m a former mass communications student…) — including the effects racial, ethnic, and gender stereotyping in the mass media have on society.

I was aware from a young age that the “multi-cultural” characters in mainstream fiction were (and continue to be) largely portrayed in rather narrow terms. That is not racial diversity. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Singapore (looking back, it’s easy to take Racial Harmony Day for granted). So excuse me while I continue to feature a whole range of multicultural characters (Asian, Black, White, Mixed, etc.) with my projects. A big inspiration is MJ’s “Black or White” video, which never fails to make an impact.

4. Authenticity/Originality > Safety/Conventionality

I know that being an innovator isn’t easy. History proves this time and time again. The product is new, the product is unknown by the market, it might take a while before it “is recognized” as having some worth. Being original is also very tiring. It’s easier to ride along on what’s currently popular, and try cashing in along the way while the topic/genre is still hot. But with fads, perhaps it’s a “here today, gone tomorrow” type of thing. I like being committed to excellence, competence, and the creation of something that has longevity. It makes the effort of writing a book more worthwhile.

Sometimes, I will deviate from mainstream conventions (EyeLeash has deliberate spelling/grammatical errors, at points, like when the protagonist blogs illuminating entries while massively hungover) — but never for gimmicky purposes. The last thing I want to do is bore and/or confuse a reader.

5. Alternative + Mainstream/Commercial

I enjoy writing both experimental/innovative/alternative material, as well as work that could be considered mainstream/commercial. It keeps me balanced (the same way I enjoy writing contemporary fiction, though most of the time, I’m reading old school classics).

It could be due to the fact that I’m astrologically a Virgo/Pisces (sun/moon) combination (like Michael Jackson, Moby, Leonard Cohen, and Liam Gallagher). Virgo (#6) and Pisces (#12) are opposite signs — so I’ll always be pulled in “two different directions”. If you think astrology is bollocks, okay. If you’d like to know your moon sign (as opposed to the sun sign), you can start with this moon sign calculator. Once I knew my moon sign (back in mid-2006), it was full speed ahead from there with the rest of my chart, lol.

So there you have it…my writing manifesto.

P.S. I just cleared out a bunch of redundant/boring/useless blog posts here. Since I spent SUCH a long time with writing/fixing/editing EyeLeash: A Blog Novel, I think it’s only “proper” that I should make a similar attempt to maintain some kind of quality in this blog of mine.

P.P.S. Drop me an email anytime if you’d like to discuss astrology/writing/indie publishing :)

About Jess C Scott

Author/Artist/Non-Conformist @ www.jessINK.com View all posts by Jess C Scott

10 responses to “My Writing Goals

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  • Mike Fook

    Niiiiice Jess. I enjoyed all of that.

    We’re similar in a lot of ways I can see now, more clearly than before. I meant to compliment you on your erotic stories you gave me through SmashWords. QUITE good writing. QUITE entertaining. Not boring. Not confusing. I like your writing style and I can’t imagine thousands and millions of people not liking your style. It’s unique and yet easily reaches a lot of people.

    I’ve not written down my goals as a writer – but now that you’ve blazed a path, I’ll follow. I’m not typically a follower Jess I gotta tell you. Lol. You’ll see that, if you haven’t already. You’ve obviously put heaps of thought into this… I haven’t. Soon, soon.

    My main goal with writing is to share some of what’s inside my head with others. Most won’t agree with perspectives I have – but, it’s the sharing and the feedback I enjoy.

    I’ll have to think much more about it – you’ve given me something to obsess over for the next few days.

    Cheers my friend,

    MF

  • Jess C Scott

    Hi MF!

    Thanks for the comment (and Q&A — I’ll post soon). Glad to hear your comments on 4:Play. Thanks for checking that out. Man, some parts of some stories were tough to get around.

    I’m typically not really a follower either (more of a thief — I’ll subconsciously steal all sorts of things from all over the place…). I’ve some “ideas” in mind, not really co-ordinated at the moment. But hopefully I’ll be able to get it/something together by…mid-late 2010, maybe. I’ll be happy just to be able to keep going, haha.

    Well, I’ve always thought that a good story inspires a reader to open up their perspective ^^!

    Happy obsessing. I’ll “obsess” over future blog posts, once the remaining essays/exams are cleared for this semester…

  • New Media Literature « Blog Novel :: EyeLeash

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  • Tom Dulaney

    My personal take on word counts (judging writing by the bucket) and categories (let us label this, thus terminating thought) is that they were dealt mortal blows as of Jan 2010.

    The gatekeepers of publishing, loving folks all i as sure, had to structure their profession to move The Word on paper. That meant: printing presses, labor, warehouses, trucks, boxes, freight charges, delivery schedules, shelving, people to fill and maintain the shelving, cashiers, etc etc etc.

    So they sensibly streamlined what to publish.

    That’s history, I think. Now that The Written Word (ta-da) is freed from all those physical constraints, we no longer need the gatekeepers. Without them, the whole world changes, I think.

    Now anybody can write anything, put it in the Kindle bookstore, and maybe it’s audience will find it. That is another issue.

    Fascinating time to be a writer.

    Tom

  • Tom Dulaney

    PS. Sorry for the typos. Ready…shoot…aim…that’s me.

    To make many points, I published a short work by a new author to Kindle yesterday.

    “Turtles Can Teach Responsibility.”

    It is a poignant 250 words long. It argues the case for acquisition of a pet turtle. My daughter, 11, and a born writer (like me), wrote it.

    We haven’t gotten the turtle–yet. Adoption is so fraught with rules these days!

    Point: Anybody (i.e a 5th grader) can publish anything.

    It was also a test by me to see if Amazon has a lower limit on digital text publishing.

    But more than anything, it is a statement of love between father and daughter.

    It should appear on Amazon in the next day or so. Search author “Amy Dulaney”

    Watch it be a bestseller!

    Tom

  • Jess C Scott

    Hi Tom,

    Yeah, I can see the importance of word counts and categories from a production/marketing/book-shelving perspective — but personally, I’m more interested in nice stories + characters vs. what category they fit into. “Mortal blows” has such a lovely ring to it (Jan 2010’s kind of specific as a date!).

    The speed and efficiency of indie publishing are factors that are too significant to ignore. Industries that get too locked into their ways of working tend to get less and less progressive (I say that based on the wise words of others with the years of observation and business experience).

    I can be “Ready…shoot…aim” sometimes too (beats sitting around waiting for things to happen).

    I see that Amazon doesn’t have a lower limit on digital text publishing? ;) — I think you can add/combine names (so that “Amy Dulaney” turns up with “Tom Dulaney” on the Amazon author page — saw something about it on https://authorcentral.amazon.com/

    Way cool statement of love between father and daughter — as a bestseller, “Turtles Can Teach Responsibility” would be a statement in itself as compared to many a modern day bestseller ^^

  • traiccamuck

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Cheers
    Christian

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