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