Tuesday, November 22, 2011
When You're Down on Your Writing
I had this problem with Sacred Fire. It wasn’t as bad, though, because I always believed Sacred Fire would be my debut novel. I was in two large critique groups in college, and I got overwhelming negative criticism. Mostly we haggled over historical accuracy.
“Surely the Romans didn’t care that much about their gods,” they would say, or “The gods were so flawed, the Romans couldn’t have respected them.” (This comment was in reference to Greek religion.)
And, of course, “The Romans were immoral. Their culture was based on sex, violence, and corruption. This book doesn’t depict them as they actually were.” I wanted to say, What’s the source of your research? Gladiator? HBO?
One comment stands out to me as the most hurtful and frustrating of all:
In the first draft, Tuccia (my main character) was bitter and rebellious. In the end she made peace with her doubt in the gods and became faithful and dedicated. Readers hated this. Everyone wanted her to be rebellious to the end. Click here to see why that’s a terrible idea.
A girl spoke up and said, “I can see how this could work. The story could be a tragedy that ends with her being brainwashed.”
My jaw dropped. Could no one relate to a Roman who cared about her religion?
My greatest driving force was the purpose of the book. I’ve mentioned before that when you start a novel, it’s helpful to write a few pages on why you want to write it. I wanted to be the first person in literature to stand up for the Romans. Their culture had a lot of good in it and they deserve to be represented the way I feel they were. Billions of human beings have had their memory soiled, and it isn’t fair to them.
I would actually visualize myself going to heaven and being applauded by the Romans. It’s silly, I know, but it kept me going. I tried to write a book a Roman would like and I can’t help hoping some of them are up there reading it.
The purpose of my Amazon book is to write a commentary on the gender wars we experience today. The legend of the Amazons is more or less an analogy. I have three main characters; one demonstrates the consequences of male hostility, another demonstrates the consequences of female hostility, and the other represents the benefits of the two genders getting along.
Another thing that kept me going while I worked on Sacred Fire was the book itself. When I felt down, I would look at what I’d already written. I loved reading it, and I believed if I loved it so much, someone else would too.
What should I do now that I’m done with the rough draft of Fierce?
I could start researching for my next historical novel – the voodoo one, or Joan of Arc? I guess while I’m doing research, I can work on revising one of my Nano books – the ghost story, or the Amazon book? I just don’t know.
There’s not enough time in the day.