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Aug 19, 2010

Too Artsy?

My first born is also available for human sacrifice. Just give the word.*

When I started this blog, I had no readers, so I was free to treat it as my diary, and just jot down whatever I liked. I think I once wrote a post about swine herding in Papua New Guinea. I found it fascinating, anyway.

Now that I have huge numbers of readers (eight? twelve? depending on whether you count the people who googled for the soft porn, "Kama Sutra," and got me instead) I have to treat it as a professional thingymabob and sound all grown-up and stuff. Agh.

The catch is, I would like to share my ongoing career (ahem) as a writer, but I'm not sure where disclosure crosses the line into unprofessional. No, I'm not going to inflict TMI about my bladder, or my cat, or my cat's bladder. (Although if I had a cat and that cat had a bladder, you'd better believe I'd be blogging all about it.)

I have my book out on submission with a publisher I am very excited about. (And by "on submission" I only mean they haven't rejected me yet -- I have no idea how close or far I am to acceptance.) Is it a good idea to blog about how nervous that makes me? I've been feverishly working on (a) the sequels, (b) a promotion plan for the whole series, and (c) counting the chicks sure to hatch from those eggs in my fridge.

I suddenly panicked, for instance, about a "literary" technique I use at the end of Chapter Three in Dindi. I have a few paragraphs where I use -- wait for it --Second Person. I call it a literary technique only because I don't think you'd blink if you were reading a literary novel and a chapter or two in Second Person, or Present Tense or whatever weird shit, suddenly popped up. But will Fantasy readers be Able To Handle That? Or will they scratch their heads and go, "Huh? Why is the author talkin' to me?"

I think fantasy readers can handle it, and I think it works. But maybe the editor will disagree and reject my book because s/he will think, "What is wrong with this author? Did she forget she was writing in Third Person Past Tense? Goddam writing n00b." Or maybe, "Wow, how pretentious. Who does she think she is, Khaled Hosseini? Gimme a break."

And honestly, although I'm fond of the Second Person scenes (there are only three, I swear, to emphasize three key turning points in the novel), I'm not so attached to my Second Person scenes that I wouldn't consider dropping them. Which maybe makes me a wimp rather than an artiste, but there you have it. I'd rather have my books be accessible than artistic, but if possible, I'd like them to be both.

Any thoughts, blog world? Anything too artsy to stomach in a book? Does it depend on the genre? How much of your novel would you be willing to change if asked by an agent or editor?

* But better read the The Ransom of Red Chief by O Henry before you try. ("IT LOOKED like a good thing: but wait till I tell you....")


Ban said...

I'm far from against 'artsy' in writing ... but ... only if it doesn't throw me completely out of the book. If I understand what the author is doing and why, I'll follow along like a puppy after a biscut on a string.
(Working my way backward through blog entries I missed while on vacation)

Davin Malasarn said...

I'm also okay with the artsy unless it feels too forced. Like Ban, if I understand why the author is doing something, or if I can't figure out an easier way to do something, then I'm all for it. I don't think the genre matters. Personally, I think most readers appreciate any literary intrusion into their genre. I'd guess they wish for it. But, rarely can a a good genre writer also be a good literary writer, and vice versa. That's why I'm excited about your work!

Jai Joshi said...

I only ever think of anything as too 'artsy' (ie. pretentious) if it's not sincere. But if the author is genuine and the story is meaningful then I'm happy to read any writing devices someone may have used to convey the character's journey.


Deb and Barbara said...

I think you have to go with it. And then use that old Stephen King lesson: if one person doesn't like something, screw 'em. But if 7 out of ten don't, maybe you have a legit problem. As writers, we want to work around the box, but we do have to take our lessons too, right?

Tara Maya said...

@ Ban. Glad to have you back! Although, that may be selfish of me, given you were on vacation. :)

@ Davin. Thanks! Your confidence in my ability is appreciated, albeit, in all likelihood, wildly misplaced. There are few sff writers who are also "literary" IMHO -- Ursula Le Guin, China Meilville -- and I don't think I'm in that league.

@ Jai. How do you distinguish between sincerity and self-delusion? That's the trick.

@ Deb and Barbara. That makes sense. For me, the point of the literary "trick" is to better convey the story, not the other way around. The story should never, never be sacrificed to technique.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

I didn't know you were out on submission. How exciting!

This is an interesting question. Honestly, I think it matters what you're courageous enough to do and put out there, and if you have an agent who honestly thinks something is over the top, you'd better start communicating with each other on what should be done and whether or not you're willing to do it. I think these things come on a case-by-case basis. If I were asked to change something I felt was intrinsic to a work, I'm not sure if I would, even if that meant not getting a book deal.

Tara Maya said...

Michelle, I don't have an agent. A friend recommended a certain small press. I looked into it and was impressed. The initial response I received was favorable, but it may well not go beyond that. I feel like I'm jinxing it just writing about it, which is probably silly, but there you go.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Does that press start with an R? If so, we should talk. :)