Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Slacker's Lament

I've spent the past two weekends in beach paradise, in Quogue, Long Island and Sea Girt, NJ in the company of good friends and good food and lots and lots of sun. I've also spent the past two weekends wracked with guilt over the fact that I had to sacrifice a day of writing, as my laptop was stolen a good year or so ago and I have no transportable writing implement (except paper and a pen...but that would be, like, so not 21st century of me, right?).

Refecting on this, I've realized that guilt is my dominant writing mode. I haven't written enough, this chapter's getting too long, my characters are behaving erratically, and the whole thing's a pile of crap. Oh, and I've been neglecting my studying/friends/reading/whateverelseyoucanthinkof.

This could be a symptom of runaway Catholicism. But maybe it's just that I write historicals. Think about it: all those Waterloo vets/impoverished gentlewomen/responsibility-laden heirs are always stressing about their battle-wounded friends/underage orphaned siblings/tenant farmers. Do I write romance because of my superabundance of guilty feelings? Do I read it as a way of neutralizing and exploring guilt, as much as a way of solving the eternal romantic dilemma's of the world, if only for a moment?

Maybe I need to switch to contemporaries. I've even got a great plot all picked out, set on the Queen Mary cruise ship. And that would clearly involve some first-hand research.

So I could take my vacations without the guilt.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Queer Ache

I'm in the middle of cramming for the GRE Literature subject test, so the above title immediately sets me to thinking about queer theory (though I have only a passing familiarity with it thanks to not having been an english major in college and not having taken an intro to theory class. And now I'm thinking about my lack of preparation for grad school and the impossibility of my getting in anywhere...STOP!)

But, all LM Montgomery fans can explain what it actually refers to...and I now come to the point of this rambling introduction...that queer ache I get when I read something so beautiful and wonderful I love it for itself and wish painfully that I could have been the one to write it.

I just read Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty and its sequel, Rebel Angels. Imagine Harry Potter, but set in a late Victorian girls boarding school rather than at Hogwarts. Imagine Harry Potter, but written by an author with a lushness to her prose that is almost Victorian in its beauty and vivid imagery. Imagine a world of magic that is about exploring the boundaries of feminism, female friendship and female power. And imagine a story that is gripping, characters that are complex, contradictory and alive and relationships shown in all their maddening incomprehensibility.

The novels are technically for young adults, and they took me back to the almost mystical, transcendent experiences of reading books like Anne of Green Gables, the Chronicles of Narnia, Jackaroo or A Wrinkle In Time when I was young. I stayed up until at least 3 am for four nights in a row reading these books and even later thinking about them after I finished each. Gemma Doyle's world, her friendships with Felicity and Pippa and Ann, their quests in the realms as they discover the power that hides inside them all and then their struggles to contain that power when they're back in 1895 London...I didn't want to leave any of this after the books were finished. Thankfully, she's writing a third and final book in the series, though it won't be out for at least a year.

But my joy in these books was complicated by the fact that I wanted so much to be the person who had written them. There was a burning envy combined with my yearning for the characters and their world. And this happens more and more as I become more involved in my own writing...I either fixate on all the things I would have done differently to make a book better, or I want to weep because I didn't get a chance to write something that means as much to me as Bray's books did.

In any event, I highly recommend both novels. Now I'm off to re-read the Harry Potters, which are a much less complicated pleasure.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Can you have too much sex?

Chapter 14 has just been put to bed...and I should follow suit. But one question floats around my mind like a miasma, infecting all my sleepy thoughts with revision-y thoughts.

Does it contain too much of what some quaintly call the sex?

I know, I know, it's a romance novel. You can't have to much sex, right? That appears to be the uneducated assumption. After all, when I told my boyfriend I was nervous about writing my first sex scene a month or so ago (after what he knew were at least six months of working on this novel) he said, "But isn't the whole thing just sex scenes? Isn't that what a romance novel is?"

Uh, no. Not quite. I just read one over the weekend (How to Marry A Marquis, for all you Julia Quinn fans) in which there wasn't any sex at all until the very last chapter. That's chapter 36 or so.

My characters were very happily fighting and flirting and doing nice things for each other and misunderstanding each others' motives throughout the first 70,000 odd words of the novel. And then they had sex and it was all well and good and created all kinds of complications and led to scenes with secondary characters and that was good too.

And now they won't stop doing it.

Which is a problem, because while I'm sure they're greatly enjoying it, I'm not so sure anyone who reads the chapter will. There's nothing so easy to write as a boring sex scene.

I guess I can always hope they get tired of each other.