Writing #OwnVoices – You Are Enough

I’m asexual. I wrote about this just a couple months ago when I realized it for the first time in my 10+ years of adulthood. Since then, I have joined the #ownvoices movement by starting to write a novel with an asexual gay man as a main character.

Let me tell you: It is hard. It is really, really difficult for me, despite being asexual myself. The temptation to put these guys into a regular old sexual relationship is strong. It’d be a lot easier to write. Despite not being sexually motivated or driven myself, writing sex is natural because it is everywhere, and I know it is expected, and a lot of readers live for the sex scenes.

Writing anything is hard. Writing gay men as a straight[ish] female[ish…person] is hard. Writing romance with a character who is not driven by sexual desire is a hard. Put all this together and add a heaping dose of crippling self-doubt on top, and it’s a miracle I’ve put a single word on the page.

“Self doubt?” you say. “Why are you drowning in self doubt? This should be easy. You’re asexual. You’re writing an asexual character. That’s like being a writer and writing about a writer. Right?”

Except I only realized I’m asexual like two months ago, and only decided to apply/embrace the label several weeks later. All in all, I’ve considered myself a part of the asexual community for like, maybe 5 weeks now. So who the fuck am I to write an asexual character? I have no idea what I’m talking about. Right? What if I accidentally write bad rep? Even though I am ace, and I have been ace forever, I could easily write something that offends someone else. I could write it wrong. The internet is a terrifying place. There are a lot of outspoken, aggressive people on every side of every issue (especially on Twitter, where I spend most of my time). What if I write this asexual character based on my own personal feelings and experiences, and someone comes along and says “He’s not asexual.”

But he’s based on me! And I am! Does that mean I’m not?!

What if I write this #ownvoices book and someone comes along and shits on me for it because I’m not repping enough? I’m not outspoken enough? I’m not… I don’t know what, but what if I’m doing it wrong?

TAKING RISKS IS TERRIFYING.

Somebody save me.

Do you see my issue?

And then, while I was musing over this hang-up I’m struggling with, here came Ana Mardoll with a miraculously well-time tweet thread:

If you could just pardon me for a moment, I’ll be in the corner, sobbing.

misha crying

Okay. Better now.

So this is what it boils down to, kids: You are enough, and the world needs your voice. No one is more enough-y than you. No one can write a marginalized character better than a marginalized person, and no one can tell you that your feelings and experiences disqualify you for the group you feel you belong to. There has been a lot of hate flying around lately–transphobia and biphobia, erasure of all sorts. There is no better time than now for writing #ownvoices, and there is no better person than you.

So I’m going to go on writing my asexual gay man, and if he wants to have sex, he will. And if he doesn’t, he won’t. He’ll find his boyfriend attractive, he will be infatuated and in love and make flirty comments and sexual jokes, and if anyone reads about him someday and says that his relationship is unrealistic, I’ll give them a great big middle finger, because I am an asexual person, and I have sex, get crushes, flirt, and make a hell of a lot of sexual jokes. Those things do not disqualify me from the a-spec. I am asexual enough to write an asexual character, even if I just realized it a few weeks ago. It’s my identity and no one will take it away from me.

(If you want snippets and lines from Alex and his asexual D/s adventures, you can follow me on Twitter. I post quite frequently.)

The Road So Far

In my initial post back in October, I said I would be keeping you, my lovely reader(s), apprised of my writing progress, publication attempts, etc. Initially I did not think I would take NaNoWriMo so seriously, but I did, so there has been no forward momentum in the publication process thus far. My plan is to get the manuscript sent out to at least one publisher by the end of 2016. If that means I send the email on December 31 at 11:59 PM, I will consider that goal a success.

To get us all caught up, this is what has happened in my writing/revising/publishing process so far:

I started writing this thing in 2012, and the characters were in my head for at least a year or two before that. I wrote a large portion of it over the summer between school years in 2012, and then didn’t touch it for six months. I finished the first draft in 2013.

I then revised it, and revised it again, and revised it again, and wrote the first draft of a sequel, started to revise the sequel, decided I hated the entire sequel, trashed it, revised the first novel yet again, wrote another draft of the sequel, and now here we are, three years and four revisions later, getting ready to finally try to publish it. I never felt motivated to publish it until recently, so I’ve just been dilly-dallying. My next novel will not take three years to get submission-ready.

Anyway.

I am going to tweak it yet again; just one tiny little thing about one MC that’s always bugged me and I finally figured out why and how to fix it (thank god it’s fixable with a small tweak). Then I will be done.

In preparation for the publication attempts, I have: begun paying more attention to who publishes the M/M romance books I read. I’m investigating every publisher I see. I’m following publishers, editors, and authors on Twitter (I created a Twitter specifically to do so). I’m entering giveaways, joining reading lists, and of course, reading more in the genre I write. (contemporary gay romance)

These are all things the internet has told me I must do in order to prepare to publish a book. And so far I’m finding it helpful.

Now I just need to figure out how to write a synopsis. God save me.

Let’s Not Talk About Politics

I considered writing a blog post weighing in on the political field, but I just can’t deal with it. I try to be an adult and not sweep problems under the rug, but… I’m just overwhelmed by what’s going on in this country right now.

So let’s not talk about it here.

Instead, I continue to focus on improving myself as a person. Improving my writing. Spreading light and acceptance and joy where I can. Books have always been an escape, albeit temporary, for me and millions of other people. Sometimes, when things are out of your control, the only thing you can do is mentally escape to a fantasy world, invest your heart in fictional characters, and share their joy at a happy ending.

I feel like fiction is going to be a very important part of many peoples’ lives in the next four years. I’m going to keep writing. Hopefully I will have something published next year. I’ve been treating writing as a hobby, but I need to start treating it more like a second job. I see all those quotes that say “people need your writing” and I’ve always kind of scoffed at that, but I’m starting to see that it may be true. Given the results of the US election and the likely struggles to come in the next four years, my writing may very well help someone. And if it does, if it can, then it should.

So let’s not talk about politics.

Let’s just focus on being lights in this mess.

Here’s a picture of my cat for good measure.

loki

New Story

First things first, I feel like I should clarify that I do not write short stories. I need to start. Maybe if I can bust out some short stories, I can get them published. However I tend to devote all my time to novels and I don’t really know how to write short stories, so anytime I talk about a “story” I’m writing, it’s a novel. I just don’t like saying I’m writing a novel because it sounds pretentious.

That said, I know in my last post I said I wasn’t going to really devote myself to the word count goal of NaNoWriMo, but so far I’m really motivated on this new story and I’m on track with my word count. It’s day 5, so I should have ~8,300 words, and I have just over 8,700.

I’m getting to know the characters. I did some development and pre-writing in October, but things always go awry whenever I start the actual writing process. The character profiles I put together are a good starting point, but once I sit down and get into their heads, things always start to change. Or a secondary character throws me for a loop because I didn’t spend much time developing him so he doesn’t want to fit into my preconceived plot ideas.

This story is meant to be kind of an action/adventure but also a m/m romance. The idea originated in my head when I played the final Uncharted game for PS4. Around the same time, I also read Strange Fortune by Josh Lanyon. I decided I wanted to write a cool swashbuckling treasure hunting type character. I sat down to create said character. I didn’t want him to be a Nathan Drake rip off, though. I wanted him to be not quite what you’d expect. So I ended up with a cat burglar with a sweet tooth who is incredibly squeamish.

That guy did not survive. We didn’t click. I felt no real motivation to write him. But the idea continued to linger in my head for a couple months. I wanted to write urban fantasy. I wanted to write an adventure type novel. And obviously, I wanted gay characters.

I often start writing with a concept or an emotion in mind, and no idea who the characters are. I just enjoy exploring the emotions. Plus sometimes I just want to write empty plotless smut. This one day in particular, I had an idea in my head that basically went like this: Two characters on opposing “factions” or sides of some issue or event. But they can help each other. But one doesn’t trust the other, even though the other is literally the most trustworthy person in existence. So the non-trusting one tricks the trustworthy one and basically takes him prisoner (even though there’s no need for it) and demands his help in exchange for freedom.

That was the vague notion in my head, and I started writing. And none of it went according to plan. It just all fell apart… into something better. Lo and behold, this new guy just steamrolled my brain. He just came barrelling in, full tilt, got up in my business and was like “Here I am! I know I’m not what you had in mind, but I am fucking fabulous. Write me.”

So there’s no longer any kind of opposing factions or taking prisoner or deep-seated distrust of each other. One character is a mage in a modern-day city (haven’t decided which one yet) and the other is a bit of a scholar/explorer type guy. I’m working really hard to not make either of them seem anything like the characters who gave me the desire to write an adventure/urban fantasy type novel (Indiana Jones, Nathan Drake, Harry Dresden, Atticus O’Sullivan, the characters from Strange Fortune whose names I cannot remember right now) while also still making them compelling. And of course gay.

Anyway, that was the birth of this story. It’s very strange how an entire novel can be birthed from a single vague notion or feeling or image. (I guess I shouldn’t say that as if I’ve already finished the novel, because I haven’t. I’m 8700 words in.)

I’m going to go continue writing said novel now.