January 2nd, 2009


My Yuletide Experience

As mentioned here this was my first year doing Yuletide. I enjoyed the process and am really happy with the story I wrote. Now that the reveal is over, I'd like to say a little more about the process.
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I calmed down when I got my assignment. I did, indeed, have only one match: Sarah Waters's lesbian historical novel set in Victorian England, Fingersmith. I think she's a wonderful writer and this is my favorite of her books. I like historical fiction when the reader feels completely immersed in the milieu, plunged into a different time and place, and that's what Waters accomplishes expertly in this lovely book. I'd read it some years back and was happy to reimmerse myself.

I wanted to write a story I could be proud of in general but more specifically, I wanted to give a gift my recipient would enjoy. I don't know her at all and she has a friends only journal, so I could not glean much knowledge of her tastes and preferences from it. The specific request she made (not required, but I wanted to oblige, if I could) was "Maud/Sue" (the two main characters) and "moar femmeslash." Femmeslash, like slash, can mean a number of things, but I took this in the context of the book (which has only one - very discreetly written - sex scene) to mean that she wanted a story in which those two characters have sex. I felt I could oblige.

Preparing to Write
The first thing I did was reread the book. I feel that with fanfic of a novel, I'd want to match the author's style and the tone of the book. Also, it has a very complex plot with a lot of unexpected twists. I remembered the general sweep of the plot, but not the specifics and, of course, didn't want to get anything wrong. So I read it again all the way through, not taking notes or planning the fic, just experiencing it at first. Then, after doing that, I did a second pass, taking some notes on characters, situations, and language and bookmarking places that I might use in writing my yuletide gift.

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I found this a very challenging assignment, very different from my usual writing. I enjoyed writing in someone else's style, but I certainly didn't find it easy to do that. I found the sex scene particularly challenging, since it's so different from what I usually write. It has a much more romantic tone than most of my sexually oriented writing. And, of course, the big difference was that I usually write about men and this is about two women.

There's a kind of emotional distance for me in writing m/m slash. I like feeling a bit at a remove from the subject matter. Yes, it's explicit sex, but it's nothing about me. As someone who views sex as a very private activity, writing what is so clearly about somebody else feels easy and comfortable.

I had to go outside my comfort level to write a lesbian sex scene that's realistic, romantic, and (I hope) hot. Of course, it's still not about me - it's about women in another place and time - but it feels more personal and more connected in some ways. It's also interesting to me to see what is similar to other sex scenes I've written. It makes me think about what I find essential or important in writing sex. I think in that way it has been a good learning exercise and will inform my future writing.

I'm pleased with the end result, which I think does sound like it could be an additional chapter in the book. It's behind the cut:

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The story can also be read on the Yuletide website at http://yuletidetreasure.org/archive/63/fingersmitha.html.

What I Got

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And, ultimately, I was well pleased with my first yuletide experience. I haven't read many of the stories yet, but intend to read a bunch over the weekend.

R.I.P. Donald Westlake

He was a favorite novelist of mine and he died, apparently of a heart attack, en route to a New Year's Eve party. Ironically, I was finishing reading one of his novels, Money for Nothing, as he died.

Westlake wrote in a few genres, but primarily comic crime novels. Intricately plotted and very, very funny, his books are populated by quirky crooks, inadvertent spies, and assorted ne'er-do-wells. Mostly without a conscience, the Westlake hero sometimes manages to not only make us laugh but also make us like him.
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My days of finding new Westlakes are numbered. The last of his books will be out in April of this year. Rest in Peace, Donald Westlake. You gave a lot of people a lot of entertainment, myself included.