Thursday, August 28, 2014

Reading Smut

Mission impossible: Reading Smut

So, I haven't been happy about the response to my novel three years ago and have been working on expanding my horizons. The YA world was smothered with paranormal romances involving vampires, werewolves, shifters, angels, fairies, and so on. Next, distopian literature took over with apocalyptic worlds, survival of the fittest motifs, and struggling to keep one's humanity. I was riding this one out. I mean, I can be dark, but not that dark. During all this, fantasy has always stayed strong so I dabbled in that. This manuscript needs work, but I feel I was able to write fantasy almost as well as paranormal romance. In fact, the only major differences in my series are including magic and another world. At 33, I fully know myself, but how am I still lost as to what my niche is, my calling? I must write; it's never been a choice but a kind of affliction, yet I still cannot find what really calls to me. Fantasy, realistic drama, coming of age stories, paranormal romance, horror, adaptations, suspense, romantic comedies-- the list of what I've tipped my pen to goes on. All I've done, I consider decent but nothing stands alone as the opus of my life. So I started many different projects this last year and abandoned them, which is unlike me. I want to write something publishable which had taken the fun and art of writing out of it for me. So I read instead.

Then I stumbled across New Adult fiction. Now this intrigued me. Having characters only a couple years older than my previous ones could allow many more, rated R actions granted, things to happen to them. And then I accidentally read smut. I'm not a goody-goody scared off by a little sex in a novel, but by no means am I your avid Fifty Shades of Grey fan. When younger, we used to read these books aloud at the pool I was lifeguarding at in order to laugh at the terrible and cheesy wording: "he slayed her with his flesh sword" and "he pierced her with his engorged member," for example. So the genre was only bait for mockery to me.

How do you accidentally read smut? I downloaded a free novel that was labeled as YA and clearly was meant to be labeled differently. It was hard core sexuality, graffically told, and the only thing that kept me reading was trying to see the plot out, which was a cliffhanger and not a good one at that. I did not want to continue the series, nor did I find any quality to the writing besides seeing it out. Grammar issues, awkward metaphors and bad analogies, no character development, and a terrible POV made it weak. I mean, don't write in first person if you reveal other characters' thoughts, unless they're literally mind readers. Of course, being an aspiring writer, I deplore those that ruin the self published venue. Not everyone is meant to be an author (maybe myself included), but this novel did something to me. It made me realize that even the most widely published and purchased genre still had room to grow. Maybe I should "sell out" and write a romance novel. Only now I'm thinking it's not selling out, but instead opening my repertoire, my portfolio to include this genre. I tell myself it needs to be done to improve myself as a writer, but really I'm thinking that I need to try to find my niche. I'm scared that if I never try writing everything, I won't find what best suits me and then I will never be successful. It is the blessing and curse of being the renaissance woman--well rounded and knowledgeable in many things but never the best at anything.

Now to make a real attempt at writing a good romance novel, I must do my research. After reading a varying amount of free novels, mostly terrible but what do you expect when they're free? Problems that arose were flat characters or well rounded unlikeable characters, skewed or inconsistent point of views, extremely predictable plots or plots that made absolutely no sense that were just a bunch of sex scenes strung together that got really boring after a while. By far the most annoying aspect was a lack of vocabulary or variation in word choices. This made every romantic scene play out exactly the same. On the other side of the spectrum was the horrific use of cheesey innuendos; I really had never heard of some of these quips authors used for the male genitalia before. In between these spectrums of awkward books were some good ones; sadly some of these just lacked in plot--too realistic and most of us can get realism at home. Romance is intended to allow the reader to escape into a fantasy. One thing I dislike about it is that most fall into a formulaic helpless heroine must be saved by strapping hero, a plot that is supposed to kindle our primitive Neanderthal roles (see above photo). I read one where a sex slave, although he never used her that way, stayed a helpless sex slave and was reprimanded for attempting to escape. That was all. She didn't grow as a person or become free; he didn't learn anything either or set her free. The feminist blood boiled in my veins. Surely he should realize it's wrong, she that she can overcome adversity. This was one of the worst, since I got absolutely nothing out of it--meaning, entertainment, or an inkling of any use of my brain. 

Totally turned off romance novels, I borrowed a Nora Roberts novel, Charmed. After all, she's a best selling author, rich as sin now, and sells books before the ink dries. Surely this had to be good. All I can say is, it wasn't bad. It entertained me, engaged my attention, and was a quick read. I enjoyed her much more than a Nicholas Sparks novel I put myself through--too sappy, I was quagmired--because it wasn't over killed with cheesey unrealistic dialogue. The writing was good, never did weird innuendo appear or tacky euphemisms assault me and remove me from the moment. In fact, she's a very poetical at times. She even interweaves fantastical elements of witchcraft into a realistic love story. However, I was awaiting a twist or turn in the plot that never occurred. I knew exactly what would happen throughout the novel on page 20. Considering it was over 250 pages, it was a bit frustrating that everything I thought would happen did. Second, the characters were well-developed in that their stories were fleshed out, pasts explained, families included, etc. But something was lacking. I didn't feel connected to then, sympathize with their situations, or care much about them at the end. I almost wanted to just get the extremely predictable book over with. I found it distracting that she changed points of view between the characters constantly without much warning--an extra space (but this was probably publisher's doing). Also, I find it difficult to believe a male's perspective written by a woman ;and vice versa); attempting to do it myself, it's very difficult. Roberts's attempt was the best I've seen but expressions like, "I'm a guy, what can I say," after a description of her breasts seems weird to me. Not being a guy, I wouldn't know, but I doubt men prescribe themselves as being males when having lewd thoughts, much like us girls don't really cry at a sappy movie thinking, "oh, I'm such a girl."

Clearly, I'm not a Roberts fan, who is one if the best out there. So does that mean I shouldn't read or write romance novels? I mean, I don't like what apparently so many millions of women adore. Yes, I hated The Notebook movie (predictable, poor acting in places, and full of melodrama); I loved the old people's story and Gosling's physique but that's about it. So yes, I'm weird when it comes to what I think is actually romantic. What I've learned from researching smut is that even though there are tons of these books from the good to bad, flops to successes, it is one of the biggest industries that seems to have room to grow.

In summation, I think I will attempt either a romance novel or New Adult romance over the next year. I'll see where this road takes me. Perhaps I'll learn a bit more about writing at the least or sell a book at the best. You never know where each decision you make will take you...maybe to your niche in life.


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