The gender divide in fiction: sexism by the back door?
Let me tell you what I’m trying to do as an author, and why I think more authors should be doing it.
When I was a boy – about forty-five years ago now – boys and girls had very different likes. Boys liked Action Man, girls liked Barbie; boys liked toy tanks, girls liked toy ponies. But more than this, their reading matter was different: girls liked Judy and Bunty, boys liked Victor and Commando. Girls liked Enid Blyton’s The Twins at St Clare’s and Malory Towers, boys liked Alfred Hitchcock’s Three Investigators and Franklin W Dixon’s The Hardy Boys. But even in those days, boys didn’t read as much as girls.
The divide has widened since then. According to a 2009 OECD report, in almost every country in the world, girls read for enjoyment more than boys. On average, only about half of boys read for enjoyment; in Austria, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Liechtenstein, less than 40% do so. Girls read fiction and magazines more than boys, but boys are more likely to read newspapers and comic books.
I grew up in the 1960s. You only have to watch Mad Men to know how bad the situation was for women in those days. Nowadays, it’s pretty much taken for granted by most intelligent people that men and women are intellectually broadly similar.
Except in fiction, it seems, where it’s still chick-lit and romance for women, and guns-‘n muscles for men. Penny Vincenzi and Jill Mansell for women, Andy McNab and Frederick Forsyth for men. Here, a kind of self-imposed separation still holds sway.
Of course, there are gender-neutral genres: crime, for example, and fantasy. But we don’t know enough about these to know whether men and women approach them differently, expecting different things from them. There may be subtle sub-categories within these genres.
Imagine if authors, instead of trying to profit from the gender divide, tried to write romance not for women but for men and women, and espionage and war fiction not for men but for both genders equally.
Of course, the publishing world wouldn’t like this. Making a profit is about targeting your market. If the target’s too broad, maybe anyone can hit it.
Anyway, as a child of the ‘60s, it’s what I’m trying to do. After all, that’s one of the advantages of self-publication: you don’t have to worry about moulding your material to a pre-constructed, pliant market. You can write what you want.
In short, I want to make romance attractive to men, and guns-‘n-muscles attractive to women. And get us all talking to each other again. About books … and life.
It’s going to be a long hard struggle. Meanwhile, I’ve written to Penny Vincenzi and Andy McNab suggesting they collaborate on their next novel, make it a joint effort. Next week, I’m going to write to Jill Mansell and Frederick Forsyth suggesting the same thing.
You can help out. Name the two authors you’d like to see collaborate. Then write to them.
Or bang their heads together.
The gender divide in fiction: sexism by the back door?
- Buy a playpen– playpens have gone out of fashion, but they never did me any harm. A playpen nicely situated in a soundproof room will give you hours of time. Use baby monitors if you must but turn them to low so that only persistent and emergency howls will break your concentration.
- Use bedtime stories for character and plot development. What does your character want really badly? What is getting in his way? What flaw in the character will stop him enjoying the thing once he gets it? All these questions are perfect for developing kids stories.
- Encourage play dates. We all know that having other kids round keeps our own from moaning and complaining. “Dad, can you do this? Dad, can you do that? Dad, Tommy pulled my hair.” etc.
- Get a partner. If you don’t have one already then a partner is perfect for handing the kids to while you being the next opus. There are many online places to find a partner these days, and once you have one they can’t usually get away without a lengthy process. This will give you plenty of time to write, and if they do manage to get away then it’s normally simple to find another. (I just have to look in my in box for all the offers).
- Get a divorce. Have you noticed that divorced parents share the children. This means you can spend at least half your life writing while you ex takes care of the little darlings.
- Steal your kids ideas. We all know children have fertile imaginations and that they can creatively out-think adults. Utilise this skill where you can to find interesting plot twists and situation.
- Employ your kids computer skills for digital marketing. Kids come out of the womb able to work Twitter and Facebook. Get them maintaining your auto tweets and review responses so you don’t have to bother with all that online guff when you’d rather be writing. This has an added benefit that the kids always want screen time and now you can simply sit them in front of a computer for hours on end engaged in useful work.
- Drop them at their Grandparents without notice. Your parents always expected you would turn out irresponsible and reckless, so don’t disappoint them.
- Experiment with new emotions for your characters: Raising kids will drive you mental. Note how angry you get and use it for character development. Troublesome kids are best in this regard, and you will only ever be a few moments away from a unique perspective on life that you can use in your writing.
- Daily chores. While children are young you will have to clean up after them. But within a few short years you will be able to put them to work cleaning and tidying. Don’t skimp. It is character building for the children and the time you save will allow you to put in another few hundred words a day.
A renowned forensic research establishment is troubled by impossible results and unprecedented interference from an influential drug company.
Hendrix ‘Aitch’ Harrison is a tech-phobic journalist who must link these events together.
In a chase of escalating dangers, Aitch must battle more than his fear of technology to expose the macabre fate of the drugged victims donated to scientific research.
I’m most passionate about my books. I get fired up when I design a cool cover.
I can’t comprehend cold-blooded people who are missing sensitivity chips and have no empathy for others.
When I was working as a web developer, I was carrying some papers and reading them. The men’s and women’s bathrooms were side by side. I pushed open the door, walked in, looked around and mumbled, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.” I spun and shoved open the door but a guy I knew saw me walking out of the men’s room.
I’m definitely a city slicker. I like my conveniences.
Well, I would hate to be J.K. Rowling, who is more like a movie star and had to even move from Great Britain to Scotland because she had become too famous. Most people, I think, perceive writers as ordinary people who just happen to have a bubble blower in their brains.
I’m doing the final two edits of Rise of the Black Rose, the final book of my Land of Enchantment trilogy that should be available around the end of March.
I have plans for a great urban fantasy series in which there is no continuing story like my trilogy. I’m hoping to come out with the first book this year. I, also, have an original idea for a soft science fiction series which I hope to write some day. I only write very unique novels. I don’t even want to mess with writing a book if the idea has been done well before.
I don’t think about why I’m here or if there is any reason for my life. I just consider myself extremely lucky that I was ever born at all. When a man and woman create another life, that egg has millions of options, but somehow I was chosen. I could only have been conceived in that one moment of time, by that one egg, and that one little fishy swimming up the woman’s canal to beat out the other million or so fish and fertilize that egg. It’s really awesome when you think about the odds of you ever having been given life at all.
Self-publishing is very exciting, and I love it. I have always had a very independent nature and like controlling my own career. I prefer designing my book covers myself. Anyway, unless you’re Stephen King, (who was lucky enough to break in during the Dark Ages instead of the Age of Enlightenment) the author has to do all the work, including the marketing. If I’m going to be working eleven hours a day, seven days a week, I’d rather be working for myself.
Yes. I live in a planned community and we regularly have dances and dinners, etc.
My friends are important to me but I don’t like to be smothered. I write most days and come up for air sometimes to hang out with my friends.
10 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer
- Read a lot. The more you read the more you’ll learn what you like and don’t like. You’ll also learn what works and doesn’t. That and reading is just good fun. If you don’t think you have enough time to read think about your day, are there places where you can catch a few minutes? Do you have a long commute? Unabridged audiobooks are awesome for long drives.
- Write a lot. The more you write the more you’ll develop your style and figure out what works for you. Again if you don’t think you have time think about places where you can make time. I write on my breaks and lunch at work. Can you cut down on the TV, Movies, Video Games or time you spend online?
- Write the whole first draft before you show anyone. The first draft should be written without showing anyone else so that any questions or feedback they have doesn’t get in the way of the story.
- Your first draft is allowed to be filled with errors and plot holes. You’re just trying to get the basic story down on the page. There are going to be things that need fixing, that’s what revision is for.
- Real Writers Revise. No one gets it perfect the first time. I went through a couple of complete rewrites of Cast in Blood from the time I started it until it was right. Don’t be afraid to cut things that you love or think are great. If they don’t serve the story, then let them go. The great thing about computers is that we can save these unneeded but loved scenes on our hard drives so they’re never really gone.
- Have fun. We get to make stuff up, invite readers into our world and share it with them. It’s great, have fun while you’re writing and it will show through in your work.
- Edit out all the adverbs you can. They are passive weak words that can, for the most part, be replaced with much more interesting descriptions. Stephen King said that ‘the road to Hell is paved with adverbs’ and I agree. I do make exceptions for dialogue though, since my stories are modern, adverbs are a part of normal speech these days.
- Find a good editor and take their advice. I know my editor, Kathy Lapeyre, caught issues that my weekly writing group missed because they’re used to my writing style. She also fixed my grammatical flaws which is invaluable. I took about 95% of her advice and listened to the rest with an open mind. Remember the editor is there to help make your piece better.
- Don’t be afraid to try something crazy. If it sounds good to you, try it. The worst that can happen is that you don’t pull it off and you can figure out why. The best is that it works and you have a new piece to share. My short story Hard-Luck Harry came about because I was doing voice over work on a noir podcast and I thought it would be fun to try and write a modern noir.
- Back up your work, in more than one place. There’s no worse feeling than having a hard drive failure and knowing that something you wrote is lost. It’s happened to me, don’t let it happen to you. Genre - Paranormal Urban FantasyRating – PG-13Website http://paperbackvamp.tumblr.com/
Eight Tips to Make Your Next Writers Conference Awesome!
I love going to writers conferences, and it’s really awesome when I’m speaking there as well. But as wonderful as the networking is, if you don’t show up with a plan or a set of action items for the conference, you can get sucked up into the vibe of the event without being very productive. Here are some tips to help you maximize your event!
Goals: Before you go to a writers conference, be clear on your goals. If it’s just networking that’s great, but if you want to get more than networking out of the event, make sure you establish your specific objectives in advance.
Start networking before the event starts: Now that you’ve gone through the conference website, it’s time to identify the folks you’d like to get to know better and start your networking early. Send them an email and tell them you are looking forward to seeing them at the event, or hearing them speak. Follow them on Twitter and begin to network with them there. Early networking is a great way to get in front of agents and publishers you might not otherwise have access to.
Make appointments early: The conference website should be your new best friend. Comb through it to find names of publishers and agents who are going to be there. Most conferences will offer you publisher or agent appointments so you can present your work, but if you want to coordinate a meeting with someone for any other reason check the website to find out who will be there and see if you can get on their calendar. I have showed up at conferences hoping to make appointments there and found that they’re not only difficult to schedule, but often confusing as well. Once you hit the conference floor the momentum of the event takes over, and any appointments that haven’t been confirmed prior to the event generally won’t happen.
Take business cards: Make sure you bring a lot of business cards, running out at an event is never good.
Stay organized: I will generally bring some letter-sized envelopes with me to the event and then file cards by session or event so I can keep track of where I collected them. For example, let’s say I went to a big awards dinner and did some networking. If I file all of these in the “Awards dinner” envelope, I can add a personal element to the follow-up email like, “It was nice to meet you at the awards dinner, wasn’t Marci’s acceptance speech great?”
Easy follow-up: Ok, so you’ve had a great meeting with a publisher and they want to see a chapter of your book. Great! Now what? Take their card, flip it over and jot down a few important notes on the back such as: follow-up steps, short meeting details (“met for lunch”), and anything else you can fit onto the card such as any personal details they shared – like having a daughter who went to the same school as your kids or something like that.
Never eat alone: There’s a great networking book by the same name (Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, Crown Books) and the statement is true. At a writers conference be sure to grab a table packed with people and even better, don’t sit with the same folks over and over again. Mix it up and meet new people!
Action items: At the end of each conference day, I find it helpful to gather my notes and go through and highlight the important items from the day. I have often waited until I’m on the plane back home, or worse, the Monday following the conference and I generally can’t make heads or tails out of who I am supposed to follow up with at that point. Lesson: do it early while the information is still fresh.
And finally, our bonus tip:
Plan B: If you can’t afford to attend the writers conference that’s in your town here’s an idea for you. When a big conference rolls into town, an author friend of mine will sometimes hang out in the downstairs coffee shop or restaurant at the hotel where the event is being held and network with people there. You never know who you might meet…
Conference follow-up: This is a biggie. Make sure you always follow up with everyone you connected with, especially if you committed to them that you would send them more information, sample chapters, whatever.
Keep the networking going: Relationships take time. Don’t expect miracles when you land at a writers conference. Sometimes great stuff will happen right away, and other times it’s a process. Don’t let the networking end when the function is over. You’re now networking with them online via Twitter and Facebook, and perhaps you have some follow-up to do. Keep on their radar screen and then be on the lookout for future events you can attend!
Writers conferences are a great way to get out there and network, meet your peers and meet agents, publishers, and marketing professionals who can help you publish or market your book.
Coming of age is an expected result of time and circumstance. It happens to all who live so long, but to each within the dictates of their own lives. The process is on-going and ever dynamic. Every person is a precious product resulting from the effects of nature and nurture. One’s ancestry, culture, and environment collude in myriad ways to make us; all as different as each life’s story, and as singular as snowflakes. This theme is played out over-and-over throughout the world and throughout history, in millions of places like Holderby’s Landing; as similar and as different as each human is to the other. Holderby’s Landing is a single glimpse in time at the coming of age of a land, a community, and a few determined souls thrown together in love, strife and chance. What they make of the time, the opportunities and themselves is the story told and the living breath of this book.