My thoughts on Clean Reader and Censorship

This morning, I woke up with a link to this post in my Facebook feed. Wait wait wait! Before you go, be warned that Chuck doesn’t mince words and doesn’t delete expletives. Still curious? Then by all means. I’ll wait.

Back? Good.

For the TL;DR crowd:

And it’s upsetting quite a lot of writers. For good reason.

From my point of view, if profanity has been placed in books, it’s there for a reason. And no reason justifies someone changing any words in a book without the author’s consent.

End. Point. Period.

This is coming from me as an artist, being upset at other artists’ work being damaged. Yes. I’m calling this damage.

I believe that most authors publish wanting to feel like they’ve remained true to their original vision warts (and profanity) and all. Yes, that might mean that they don’t sell as many books or that their books might not be as widely popular as other books. But it’s not as bad as having rabid fans demanding books you don’t like writing.

And sometimes, I wouldn’t like the book I’m writing unless there’s profanity in it. For no reason other than the fact that if I’m writing someone like, say, a battle hardened bad-ass with scars and emotional damage, having him say: “Gosh darn son of a buck” just won’t cut it. Why?

Well this goes back to my whole belief about writing. This has come up before, and every time I DO bring it up, someone disagrees. (Which is fine. I’m lucky enough that the people who disagree with me are usually mature about it and that means we all still get along afterwards.)

To those of you who don’t know, my point of view on writing is as follows:

Fiction writers shouldn’t be expected to teach, preach, or lead anything except for (maaaaaaybe) thought. Yes, our art could do all that, but it’s not our main mandate. Our main mandate is to 1) be true to ourselves and 2) create a world and story that’s as real and visceral to the reader as possible (as determined by the story’s needs.) 

Having any effort of creating this experience for the reader to be ruined (whether they choose to do it to themselves or not), completely goes against everything we writers are supposed to do in the first place.

As Chuck said in his post, there’s a social contract between a writer and a reader. The reader has the choice of supporting our work or not. And we have the choice of putting whatever the hell we feel is necessary into it. If that means a reader or two thousand is lost as a result, so be it. But I don’t see why we’d have to stand by and have our work butchered simply for the comfort of someone who shouldn’t have bought it in the first place.

I’m not here to comfort anyone in my writing. I’m here to create stories. If you don’t like my story, go buy something else. Point. Period. The end. You as reader do not, at any point get to dictate the look, feel and dialogue of my story without my permission.

Why not? Because of what comes next. There’s a very small step between people telling writers which words are allowed in the story and telling them which types of scenes aren’t allowed in the story. Yes, here, Clean Reader is painting this as the reader’s choice. But the point is that if the reader is reading the book, he/she should be trusting that the stuff inside it is there for a reason. Because they are. 

After screwing up our books by taking out scenes, it’s a small step to banning books for having scenes and words in them in the same place. For burning them for because they were written in a way someone just didn’t like. Where exactly would this end?

Oh? Someone might say. It’s not that bad. I’m just blanking out some words. 

No. You are betraying the social contract between the writer and readers. Once you start doing that, all bets are off.

Change my story and take out any of the dark/twisted/violent/profane or otherwise *gasp* challenging to you, and you’ve destroyed hours of dedicated work that I and/or my editors, crit partners etc have put into putting the thing before your eyes in the first place.

We writers don’t expect much. We don’t expect everyone to buy our stories. Hell, we don’t even expect everyone to even like our stories. But when we do sell a book to you, we do expect you not to fuck it up. For whatever reason.

If you want to read something I’ve written that has profanity, but you don’t like profanity, suck it up. If you’re worried about your children reading profanity… get them to understand why their reading my books aren’t acceptable to you.

But you DON’T teach your children how to be censors from a young age. 

Because this is exactly what this app was originally designed to do. And if it takes… if children do take to bleeping out expletives, because they weren’t taught to respect the work, thought and time put into writing the book they’re reading… we might as well kiss our artistic expression good bye, because the rest will be sure to follow. 
It’s really that simple. 
Thoughts? 
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Indecision



Credit

I’ve got a bit of uncertainty going again. See… I’m coming closer and closer to finishing the edits to Doorways. And… I’m starting to think I don’t know what to do with it.

I mean… now is the good time to start drafting my query. But do I really still want to go the traditional route?

Yes, it would be a huge feather in my cap to have my ms accepted by one of the big 6. Or even just by an agent. But… in the current climate where traditional authors are pushed harder and harder to produce more and compete with the self-publishers, do I really want to sell my soul and contract my art in that way?

All this came about when I was speaking to my mother about how authors making a lot of money and producing best-seller after best seller… while they’re actually not writing the books with their names on it.  

Or people producing books to the exact same formula. Again. And again. And again.

I have to say that I don’t have a lot of respect for those authors. In fact, (and I’m sorry if any of you do this), I feel that those books don’t really deserve to take the space that could have gone to authors who spent hours perfecting the craft. Honing it to get to agents’ and publishers’ standards. Only to be told no because the quota has been filled.

But. As time has passed and I got more attuned to the comings and goings of the publishing market, I realize that a lot of this has to do with pressure. Those authors seem to be trying to produce enough books a year to stay fresh in the readers’ minds. And now, they need to produce even faster to compete with self-publishers who need a lot less time to get their books published.

Where am I going to draw the line with my writing? Am I willing to publish less than my standards in order to keep a publisher happy? Do I want the  added pressure that if my book does not compete, which it can’t because it’s at least three times as expensive as most self-published books, I’ll lose  the deal with the publisher?

How much of my soul am I willing to risk in order to get my stories trad-published?

How do you/did you decide your chosen publishing method?

Any advice?

Can writing a lot be a bad thing?

Today, I managed three thousand words, which both makes me want to write more and to stop and take a deep long breath.

There are advantages to both, I guess. If I continue on my 5k per writing session trend, I will be past a quarter of my rewrite by tomorrow. If I continue on my 3k per two hours trend… I will cross that threshold by the time I go to sleep.

Which for me is an absolutely blistering pace. 

But. And this is a big one: if I continue rushing at my current pace, will I be able to maintain it? 

Doubtful.

Will I actually be able to improve the quality of my story  if I rush as if I’m doing NaNo on steroids? 

Even more so. 

But I want to see where this is all going… 

Sigh.

Heaven knows that I haven’t have a burst of productivity like this in months. My record stands at 7000 words in an afternoon and a night. After that I crashed and took months to recover. It was incredibly frustrating. I couldn’t even blog properly.

Now I’ve more or less tripled that count in less than a week.

What does that mean?

Is it due to the fact that my life is now virtually stress free?
Is it because my mind finds it a lot easier to work with a story that has already been written?
Or did it just turn out that I happen to have a writing threshold of 5800 words a day?

These questions become very important when I consider the end goal: Publishing.

This book will take about four rounds of rewrites and edits before I will start publishing.

At the rate I’m going now, I will finish the second draft in about a month – well ahead of my April 30 target.

By April, I could actually see the end of my edits already.

I can query by May.

If I don’t kill myself by then. Of course, I’m not really talking about putting a gun to my head an pulling the trigger. I’m talking about looking into the barrel to see how a speeding bullet looks.

But I’m not complaining. I mean. After a month long dry spell, it is wonderful to actually be able to write as freely as breathing.

Still part of me is scared that some part is pushing me too hard.

Are my fears unfounded? Or can too much writing be a bad thing? What would you do if you got hit by a rush of words?

I await your advice. In the mean time, I’m going to get my bloggy fix before deciding what to do.

Aaah bliss…

I have to make an embarrassing confession today.

I had my first day of holiday, with the thought clattering in my mind that I should have posted something. Well….

I had no idea what to type. Go figure. Anyway…

Today I read To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time (yes… I know.) and moved on to a Jeffrey Deaver. I’m nothing if not a varied reader. I’m contemplating setting myself a huge daily writing goal a la NaNoWriMo, but with more words. If I’m going to have a snowball’s hope to finish Doorways by 31 December, I estimate that I’ll need to write about 3000 words per day. Factoring in my mom’s birthday, family visits, my birthday, socializing and Christmas, I’m going to have to aim for 4000+ words just to average it out…

But hell, that sounds steep. But the satisfaction beckoning me should I succeed is really tempting. But the disappointment should I fail… Sigh…

You know, in September, I thought I’m the kind of person that saw scary situations, took a deep breath and walked straight into the thick of them. Well… I did. I was warned about Economics, wasn’t I? And I saw all my options, feared boredom and picked the worst possible option for a person seeking a sure degree.

Stupid.

See… My mom and I actually talked about these things. She also tackles the most impossible projects ever. Sometimes she wins, sometimes she doesn’t. Either way, she did something that no-one else dared. I tend to do that too. Me? I either win huge or get spanked to within an inch of my life. So badly that I suspend making choices as to my next project until the sting goes away. Then, I guess because no one remembers the feeling of pain, I put myself through it again.

What wire is loose in my head that I would actually put myself through all this nonsense? Adrenaline addiction? Masochism? Too much optimism?

Bahahaha! No.

In fact, my Gran often comments that she’s glad she doesn’t have to move through life with my bleak world view. Actually, I’m not bleak, but that’s another story.

No. Rather, the common trait shared between my mother and me would be the Jack Russel syndrome.

Ever noticed that Jack Russels will fight dogs twenty times their size for dominance? Sometimes they beat Rottweilers and Great Danes to become top dogs. Sometimes they get eaten, give the big dogs indigestion and get spat out again.

That’s us all over. We have NO sense of size. There’s something wrong with the part of the brain that says: “Girl, you’re picking the wrong fight. Tuck tail, turn around. Run.” Nope.

I used to think that studying Actuarial Science would be a technicality before I got to earn my way to retirement.

I believed right up to four hours before my economics exam that I had my studies under control.

The former very nearly destroyed me. (A tip for parents: Unless your child likes being punished, loves not having contact with humans and has a sense of self preservation, DO NOT let them consider that career. EVER.) 

I refuse to let the latter hurt me as much. But I’m licking my wounds before taking on the next big dog in my way. 

Which is why I’m waiting until Monday to decide. I really don’t want to set myself up so soon. The scrapes I got still burn and itch. 

Any advice for me? How are you doing? Anyone else with scope issues? How do you deal with it?  

Violence in Books…

The topic alone makes me feel violent. With the release of Mockingjay, a debate seems to be raging about whether there should be a line drawn about the level of violence in YA books. This is my opinion about it, but I would love to hear what you have to say…

To me, the line is drawn at gratuitous violence. I’ve lived in a area where gratuitous violence was rife for seventeen years. I can safely say that I’ve had enough of it.

The problem is that people seem to have this idea that their darling little angels should be shielded from violence at all costs…

No problem… Just don’t buy their angel the damn book.  Actually I think that whether or not their kids read responsibly represented violence would make very little difference to whether or not the child is violent.

If the child is already torturing little animals, reading the violent book won’t be what triggers him to do greater and more evil things.

Parents should take responsibility for their children’s development. They should be there to guide them and to help them build a frame of reference about what is right or wrong. That way when children are exposed to things, they have a chance of coming to the right decision. Violence in books, if well used, can be such a tool. Read the book with the child. Put the tricky bits into context. Explain to them that although violence is OK in books, it’s rarely the best option. If the main character is torn up about hurting or killing someone, even better to explain, no?

Yes, I know that parents these days are very busy providing for the young ones. I know that some parents think that teachers are responsible for raising and educating their children. Parents feel overwhelmed and that they absolutely cannot spend the amount of time I’m thinking of with their children. That’s OK. I am not here to judge parenting skills. After all, I’m commenting from the view of a child that has been raised in the way I described above. If I say so myself, I turned out quite nicely, despite having read Kathy Reichs novels and Jeffrey Deaver and various violent children’s stories since I was thirteen.

Point is… If children act out violently, for the love of all that is holy STOP BLAMING MEDIA VIOLENCE!

The problem as I see it lies in the fact that children and Young Adult readers don’t have solid moral and ethical foundations. We as writers – although I doubt that most think of this – work under the assumption that the readers have a concept of what is or isn’t acceptable in reality. Therefore, who is wrong here? The writer that assumed that children know the difference between right and wrong? Or the parents that didn’t teach them the difference in the first place?

Shielding children from things don’t work. How many children find ways to experience exactly what you are shielding them from?

The second general complaint is that the use of  violence is market driven. That violence sells…

I don’t know about any other writers out there, but I include violence into my book because that’s what moves my story along. But why does it have to be what moves the story along? Because I write about war. I write about repression and revolution. And… given the way my characters work, a revolt a la Gandhi isn’t going to cut it. Excuse the pun. Market demand didn’t come into my thoughts at any stage of the formation of my story. I think it is the same for most other writers. They write the story that takes over and rules their mind… If it sells in the market, great. If it doesn’t? That I can’t say, since I am yet to come to the selling stage.

But once again… that market is a free one. No one is forcing them to buy that book. But that also implies that people selling that book should be allowed to sell anything they want.

This brings me to my last point. Call me an idealist but writers function as chroniclers of our times. It’s or job to call attention to the things that society would rather turn a blind eye to. Violence is one of those things. I believe that censorship is another. In South Africa, people are reacting in horror to what amounts to a governmental gag order on what journalists may or may not publish. Doesn’t people insisting that writers only include certain things to their writing amount to the same thing? 

 Please comment, I really want to see whether I’m off base…