Feminine Fiction

ByAbXFtIQAIGln0Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been to see Anne Donovan, Carys Bray, Kirsty Logan and Kirsty Wark read at events. As a bookaholic, it comes as no surprise to learn that I’m a bit of a book festival fanatic and travel all over Scotland to hear writers talk about their work. My 2014 festival jaunts included trips to Dundee, Linlithgow, Stirling, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Auchinleck.

Now that it’s November, I realise that I’ve no more festivals lined up and it made me wonder how many I’ve been to this year.

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A small selection of some of my favourite books by female writers.

The tally was interesting (to me anyway) because one fact that jumped out was that out of the 13 events, only 3 of them featured male writers. Of course, this isn’t a scientific study of data and it could simply be that more female writers appealed to me on this year’s festival programmes but it made me take a quick look at my bookshelves to see whether the female bias was reflected in my book choices.

Sure enough, my book event preferences did match a very obvious slant towards female writers, one that I’ve never been consciously aware of until now. Why do I favour female writers? Is it because the books they write contain subject matter which appeals to me more? I’m not a book snob and like to believe I have an open mind towards most fiction genres (except science fiction!) but I’m not a big reader of romances, chick lit or erotica which are often associated with women writers. My shelves aren’t full of candy pink book covers with images of stilettos and handbags. The types of books I tend to enjoy most are literary fiction  and memoir, and in particular, Scottish contemporary fiction, which explains why my favourite book events of the year were with Janice Galloway, Jackie Kay and Anne Donovan.

shes-a-writerAnd I then realised that most of the writers I follow on Twitter are female (I haven’t got the time or ability to collate the stats) and the blogs I read regularly are all written by females too! I’ve no idea why that is, maybe because generally speaking in social situations I enjoy the company of women more than men.

One of my favourite blogs is The Writes of Woman and Naomi Frisby explains the rationale behind her blog here. Naomi sums up far more eloquently than I ever could why the issues of supporting and promoting female writers need to addressed.

downloadI’m also hugely impressed by the work of the WoMentoring Project who offer mentors for female writers to highlight that, “In an industry where male writers are still reviewed and paid more than their female counterparts in the UK, we wanted to balance the playing field. Likewise, we want to give female voices that would otherwise find it hard to be heard, a greater opportunity of reaching their true potential.”

Do your reading habits reflect a gender imbalance? Are most of your favourite writers predominately male or female?

 

 

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Plotter or Pantser?

This week, I’ve worked on a draft outline of the overall plot of my WIP, leaving a bit of room for tweaking. I had to get this sorted as my initial idea needed a radical rethink to make the storyline more ambitious. The task of mapping out the plot made me consider whether I’m a plotter or a pantser (as in, fly by the seat of your pants when writing).

The Pantser

Plotter or pantser is a question often asked of writers at book events. I’ve sat in the audience many a time at book festivals and listened to pretentious writers tell readers that they’ve absolutely no idea what’s going to happen in their novel until they write it.

“I let my characters take me on a journey of discovery. I cut them loose and they tell me where the book needs to go, blah, blah,blah…”

Yeah right! At this point, my nostrils flare as I sniff the air for the smell of bullshit.

The Plotter

Of course, nothing is carved in stone when you’re in the mind of a character; you never know exactly what’s going to happen next and if you did, I think it would be a very dull process. But do you need to know the plot in advance? I’d say yes and no.

Every microscopic detail of the plot doesn’t need to be worked out but a writer surely needs to have a clear idea of the dramatic arc of the story. There needs to be a firm grasp of the protagonist’s goal, motivation and conflict for the plot to work. Otherwise the reader is left wandering without purpose.

Christopher Booker claims that there are only so many stories in the world and these can be narrowed down to seven basic plots. The seven basic plots are: overcoming the monster; the quest; voyage and return; comedy; tragedy; rags to riches; rebirth. His theory is simple, whether they represent the deep psychological structures of human experience or whether they are merely constructs of tradition, no matter what the story, you’ll find one or more of these basic plotlines within a novel. I’ve used this idea to examine my WIP and would class it as predominately a rebirth story and this has helped me work out the shape of the plot.

I see myself as a hybrid (I like that it sounds more exotic) as I need to know the character’s destination but I don’t need to have the exact road map of how he’ll get there. And I’m open to scenic detours along the way.

There are pros and cons to both methods. There’s no right way, just whatever works best for you. I’m a bit of a control freak so plotter is probably my default setting but I like to also remain open to new ideas whilst I’m writing. What are you, a plotter, pantser or like me, a bit of both?