Jesus, did I even write anything last year, Lee? Considering that writing is my jam, you’d think I’d show up here more often. Though chiding myself about my blogging habits is not why I’m here- nor is it probably healthy.
What I am here to write about is vision. Everybody has one. …Well, everybody who’s creating something has one. It’s the way they want their creation to come across to the world. The way that it resonates with others when they experience it.
Last night, as has become tradition with my critique group, we went for a drink and a chat. And- as often happens with writers at a social gathering- we talked about the craft of writing. In particular, the topic of “vision” came up, and how there are people out there who are unwilling to consider your suggestions about their work if you aren’t helping them see their vision. Other than being complete horseshit, this is a great way to make sure your work doesn’t improve; you’re willfully donning blinders to your weaknesses.
My theory about artists (and anybody really) who say, “I’m the shit. I don’t need your paltry commentary on my genius!” make pedestrian, pretentious bullshit that few people can stomach, let alone enjoy. And this is because, to make good art, you have to be concerned about the way it’s being received. The inference, if you will. Yes, yes, make what you like. Be true to yourself. Don’t pander. All that’s true. But all of this is just self-petting if you don’t take time to make sure that your audience understands what you’re trying to convey.
For example, in the section I read to my group last night, the term “fucking bitches” came up in the dialogue. Personally, the word “bitch” is unisex for me. And I think that it should be unisex for everyone (i.e. not a term that degrades women). For context sake, the conversation is between two friends, guy and girl, and they’re talking about going out and getting laid. But everyone in my group was confused for a moment, assuming “bitches” meant “women,” until I clarified a few lines later in the dialogue, that the girl was sleeping with men. Now for me, this was frustrating. I considered changing or omitting the term “fucking bitches” many times during editing this section. But, it’s a critique group. Getting their feedback is the whole point. They’re the ones to tell me if something works or not. Which they did. And I’m going to change the dialogue. But not because I’m pandering or my vision is wrong, but because a) making sure my audience understands what I’m trying to convey is paramount; and b) my fantasy novel is not the place for my language revolution.
Part of my choice of phrasing is because I personally would use that term in the way it was used. They’re talking about getting laid by cheap-ass hos- no strings attached one-night-stands. I categorize that kind of hook-up as fucking bitches, regardless of your gender or sexuality. Also, as stated above, I think “bitches” (and for that matter, “ho”) should be a gender neutral term. And the only way to make it one, is to use it as one and hope it trends. And in a way, I wanted to reflect my ideals in my narrative. But this book isn’t a story about sexuality or gender equality. Not even a little bit. It’s about vengeance, and allegiance, and trust, and pride, and friendship, and nothing to do with the power contained in words and their usage. That is to say, my mission to equalize language is completely inappropriate here.
And that brings me back around to making sure your audience is understanding what you’re trying to convey. Is my vision of doing a role reversal and having a female character objectify the men she sleeps with wrong? Is my vision wrong? No! No it isn’t. Not at all. But the method of delivery is wrong. Cora is Cora. She objectifies men. It’s what she does. But I apparently need to use a different tack in demonstrating that. I have to go back in, tear it apart, and find a way to put it back together better than before. Or, as Chuck Wendig might say, I have to “art harder, motherfucker!” I have to learn from my mistakes, and get better at my craft. And when I think I’m done doing that, I’ll know I’ve become a hack. But until then, I’ve got a novel to finish.