In 1997 my heart broke and I decided to give up writing.
Sure, you can read that again.
Look, I’d been at it for 12 years. And I mean seriously, even though sometimes we couldn’t send novels out because we lacked the $8 for postage. But still, by that time I had written 10 novels (8 in the same universe) and come in second in two contests.
My first short story got a personal rejection, but after that I was stuck in bad-photocopy-land. I used to fill a big plastic bin of rejections every March because I was circulating 60 stories on average.
And then our writers’ group decided to send out submissions to a writers’ contest (I think in NM) and I sent out two novels (both finished) that I’d worked on and polished. They were both rejected in the elimination round. Meanwhile my friend who had dashed off a proposal (and never finished that novel) won the contest. She’d been writing seriously for … three years.
It wasn’t that I envied my friend. I just decided that I was doing something wrong, that something about me was intrinsically non-saleable. (I wasn’t even wrong, as such. Friend’s proposal was far more accessible.)
I’d always wanted to be a writer, and now it was impossible. So I gave up writing.
It might have been harder, honestly, but Dan was traveling five days a week and I don’t sleep when he’s not home. So I was stumbling drunk with sleep.
But even though I’d realized that I’d never be what NY wanted (and boy, was I right!) I also wanted to be around writers, to write, to learn, to spend sometime with adults, even virtually.
I looked around for fanfic I could write. This was a little problem, since I don’t watch TV. And while it’s theoretically possible to write fanfic in a show you never watched, it would probably get weird. (It got weird, anyway.)
I tried to find Three Musketeers Fanfic and ran away. It was ALL slash and also let’s say “only fandom that runs to foursomes.” But the worst part — which tells you a lot about me, alas — is what offended me: they were all about the Disney movie. The idea that Porthos used to be a pirate, or that D’Artagnan had an affair with the queen (for heaven’s sake) was woven all through. THAT I couldn’t take.
So I found Jane Austen fanfic, which is always mostly Pride and Prejudice fanfic. For those of you who only know it through the execrable movie with Keyra Knightly she of the flat chest and stupid expressions, or from the movie set in 19th century TX, you’re doing the work the same disservice as if you only knew Starship Troopers through the movie.
Honestly,if I read one more fanfic that makes a comment about being fools in love, I’m going to reach through the screen and…. uh… nevah mind. “Break fingers” is probably indicated.
Jane Austen wasn’t writing about being “fools in love.” In fact, she was not a very romantic writer. Or I should say her romance was more realistic in that people marry for all sorts of reasons, sometimes zany. What she was mostly was someone with a sharp eye for folly, but one who still loved humanity nonetheless.
The book might be mostly inaccessible unless you’ve made a study of the era and/or are willing to work harder. Even I find myself going “Wait a minute, why is saying that wrong? It’s the logical thing!” Let’s say their manners and morals are sometimes bewildering.
I think well of the A & E miniseries which is fairly accessible and fairly respectful of the book. I watch that when I have a cold or can’t function.
So I drifted into a fanfic group, and eventually got thrown out of it by implying that Mr. Crawford (whom I gang pressed to marry Kitty) might have a taste for being whipped. No, it wasn’t even that blatant. When they met I had established that he was excited, mostly by danger, which is why he had previously run away with a married woman. And Kitty has gone bonkers and is threatening him with a gun which makes him fall in love with her.
I simply had a scene in which a married Kitty is coming into the house (secretively) with a whip and tells Lizzy that it’s to subdue unruly pillows. (Honestly, I wasn’t visualizing S & M, just the threat.)
Apparently this was too hot for that site, the story was expunged and my log in terminated. Which meant I bounced into another site and posted the same story. (In retrospect, you can tell how not-sleeping I was. Printed it out recently, and it’s borderline incoherent on the word level.) No one cared about how risque I was.
I stayed with that site ten years, and I honestly learned more there not about writing per se, but about the tastes in story of normal human beings, than anywhere else, ever.
On the site I was “adopted” by a family of five women who’d taken on Bennet girls personalities. Because they were all taken, I had to be Mrs. Bennet.
Honestly, they offered me the chance to be sensible. Charlotte. Sensible, me?
I became Mrs. Bennet because she’s sort of a grown up Lydia.
Today I was meditating on the book and the personalities of the women and I thought “Good Lord, I AM Lydia.”
Think about it, I open my mouth when I should stay quiet. I have a weird sense of humor. I don’t bow to the dictates of my society. And I am running away with indie, which is probably as bad as running away with Mr. Whickam. If not worse. I understand ALL the proper society is VERY properly scandalized at me and after 18 years and 34 books I ADMIT TO including a for-hire book which made someone else’s career, a Prometheus, a Dragon, two collaborations with bestsellers, my first book being a finalist for the Mythopoeic, I’m not a real writer, and not qualified to be at panels at cons.
Isn’t it amazing that the people who fancy themselves anti-establishment are the most hide bound of mannered ladies, just in a different way. “No, no, deary. You must challenge convention like everyone else.”
All the PROPER LADIES will look down on me. Why, I have no reputation left! (Snort, giggle.)
Oh, yeah, the rest of the story: eventually I decided to try my toes in the publishing water again (seriously, if I had the ability to send my younger self a letter. Never mind.)
I wrote Darkship Thieves, which was rejected sometimes with furious letters, and I had NO IDEA what they objected to was the Libertarianism. Eh. I iz dense and don’t get these social signals well.
Eventually I went to a workshop met an editor and sold the Shakespeare trilogy and since then we’ve been trundling along in this hell-bound basket.
I’m bringing some of my Austen stuff under Alyx Silver. Only one out right now.
The whole point of this post, though, is that while most women of an intellectual bend identify with Mary Bennet, I am apparently and forever much closer to the scandalous and imprudent Lydia.
Well, you know, if you can’t fix it you must embrace it. I’ll snort giggle in the face of the proper ladies of science fiction and go on in my socially-unapproved way.
Because sometimes, it’s the best you can do.