Wednesday, November 28, 2012

8 WOW Wednesday: Lydia Sharp on Writing the Book You Want to Read

Today's WOW guest, Lydia Sharp, is a novelist and short fiction author who grew up on the shores of Lake Erie. Then she got tired of finding sand in her clothes so she moved further inland, but she'll always call Ohio home. Laughing is her favorite pastime. Kissing is a close second.

For Lydia's published and upcoming fiction, click HERE.

She is also a regular contributor of wonderful articles for the Write It Sideways blog and the award-winning Writer Unboxed blog. Of course, you can also catch her on her blog or on Twitter as @Lydia_Sharp.
Write the Book You Want to Read and Maybe Someday It Will Be Published

by Lydia Sharp


During a writers' chat a few years ago, someone said, “In the end it's just you and your manuscript. You have to be okay with whatever has your name on it.” I can't remember who said it, but ever since I read that advice, thought about it, and agreed with it, my writing has become much more selfish. And at the same time, less selfish.

I started focusing more on writing stories that I want to read, rather than focusing on trying to please a market that is continually in a state of flux. For a while this gave me no career benefit, other than feeling satisfied with my own work. But then things changed, as they do. Things that were completely out of my control.

In late 2010 the “It Gets Better” videos went viral, and suddenly it was vogue to be outwardly LGBTQ-friendly. To be fair, I truly believe the majority of people who showed public support of this campaign, especially those in the publishing arena, were not doing so to jump on a trend.

Earlier that same year I had made a personal decision to start focusing on LGBTQ fiction, and usually, specifically, the B (although I do write the others, too). I made this choice knowing that it would possibly hinder my chances of getting any such stories published. But in the end it was just me and my manuscripts, and I had to be okay with whatever had my name on it.

I started looking for YA fiction with bisexual characters. Main characters, not side characters. And kept looking… and kept looking… and kept not finding much of it. Lesbian and gay characters were more prevalent, but still rare. There was (and I think, still is) a big hole that needed to be filled.

Why shouldn't I try to fill it?

Especially since LGBTQ-friendliness was gradually becoming more acceptable (although we still have a long, long way to go). I had a better chance of sharing these stories with the world through publication, which would hopefully get them to the people who needed them most--bisexual teenagers who wanted to read about characters similar to themselves.

This is the type of story I would have liked to read when I was teenager, but couldn't find them. This is also the type of story I like to read now.

When I wrote Twin Sense it was kind of my way of saying, “You all can take your common misconceptions about bisexuality and shove it.” The notion that a bisexual teenager is "just confused" isn't always true. It also affects the way people treat you, for instance, thinking they have to set you straight (or set you gay, as the case may be).

So what did I do?

I wrote a bi teen character who is… confused. heh. But it isn't her bisexuality that she is confused about. She is more indecisive, I would say, than confused. She is unsure of who she should be with, because both people vying for her affection seem wonderful. In fiction it's called a love triangle. In real life it's called a hot mess.

For this character, the love triangle just happens to be between a boy and a girl, but for the bisexual this can realistically happen between a boy and another boy, or a girl and another girl. And it's the same conflict. People just tend to view it differently when one of the options the character can choose is a same-sex romance.

Not all of my bi characters are indecisive like Layna in Twin Sense. But for this story I liked the idea of using a romantic comedy to show readers that it's okay to laugh at their own problems from time to time. This is the kind of story I want to read.

But was it publishable? That's something else entirely.

As I mentioned above, things in publishing were trending, and continue to trend, more towards LGBTQ acceptance. More recently, contemporary YA is also on the upswing. I actually had two e-publishers show great interest in Twin Sense, and soon realized that it wasn’t a question of “Is this going to be published?” It was more a question of “Where is this going to be published?”

A few years ago this would have played out much differently, both because of story content and because e-publishers were not as big then as they are now. So the point of all my ramblings is this:

Publishing trends mean nothing to the career writer. Write the story you want to read now. And believe that someone, someday, will want to read it as much as you do. They might even pay you for it.

Happy writing,

~Lydia

* * *

TWIN SENSE

by Lydia Sharp

two boys + two girls = one big mess 

As girlfriends of the Taylor twins, Layna and Sherri have only been friends by association. But when Sherri breaks up with Keith (for real this time), and Kevin gives Layna a promise ring (whoa, what?), Layna's whole world spins off balance. She avoids Kevin's unwelcome pressure to commit by spending more time with Sherri.

Without the twins around, Layna and Sherri are tempted to go beyond friendship status. Then Keith tries to win Sherri back, and Kevin apologizes for rushing Layna. Now she's stuck inside a double-trouble love quadrangle that has her reaching for the consolation cheesecake. The only way to sort out this mess is to make an impossible choice—between the one she wants and the other one she wants—or she might end up with no one.

Buy Twin Sense

8 comments:

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  2. Brilliant post, Lydia! We can't let NYC tell us what to write. We need to write what we are passionate about, because if we are passionate about it, then so is someone else. Many someone elses. And you never know, this might result in a new trend.

    Great premise!!!

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  3. Love your advice, Liz! Writing the story you want to write now has been the best course of action for me! Cheers and wishing you the best in all your publishing endeavors!

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