This week we are talking about writing as women so I decided to to showcase several random features of being a woman as they relate to a writing career. Bear with me; not all of these will apply to every female author, of course. But I’m willing to bet many female writers will see something they recognize here.
The Upside—It’s a scientifically proven thing that women are vastly superior to the Y-chromosome crowd when it comes to using cognitive and emotional abilities to function in interpersonal relationships*. Women are instinctively good at getting into people’s heads and that’s a huge benefit when it comes to creating fictional human beings. Score one for the chicks.
The Downside—Listen, we have enough going on trying to process our friendships, family relationships, work relationships, online relationships, geopolitical relationships, faith relationships, and the misguided relationship our BFF is having with some repugnant jackass she met on Tinder without having to stress out about all these fictional relationships too. But we do it, because managing the angst and drama of imaginary people is now our job.
The Upside—The fodder! Children are a rich source of material for your characters. If you have children, mine those little suckers for every funny, endearing, ridiculous thing they say and do, and then use it in a story.** They might hate you for it later but your readers will love it.
The Downside—One of the natural laws of the universe states that if you are a mother trying to meet a writing deadline, you will be interrupted 5000 times in the middle of the same scene by someone barfing. Does this happen to male writers too? I am sure in some household it does, but not in my particular one. In my house, viral vomiters only want their mom, most likely because they know their dad will not sacrifice himself to clean them up.
The Upside—There is no upside. This sucks.
The Downside—The publishing industry is held afloat by women, who do most of the world’s book buying and reading, so naturally females in the biz are rewarded with crappier pay and fewer reviews and sometimes—especially in the case of certain genres such as “women’s fiction” and romance—with outright derision. (On average, of course. But take J.K. Rowling out of it and we’re really in trouble.) One recent study indicated that Books by female authors are priced 45% lower than books by men. I could go on and on here but you get the gist.
However, I just thought of an upside to being female in these circumstances: we can write about it. We can write serious opinion pieces, full of facts and elegant, intellectual prose, designed to shed light on the issue and foster change. Or we can all do what I do and invent fictional characters who are the embodiment of every possible misogynist principle and then give those characters stupid names, malignant personalities, and teeny tiny penises. This might not right the industry’s wrongs but I recommend it anyway because it is oddly satisfying.
The Upside—female writers are a tribe. I don’t know how it is with male authors, but women tend to support each other. Just as we do in our non-literary friendships, we’ll inconvenience ourselves mightily to help our fellow writers: we’ll analyze someone’s problem manuscript, introduce a budding writer to our agent, ask a bookstore to carry a competitor author’s novel, drag ourselves out at the brink of exhaustion to attend someone’s reading. We promote the work of other authors on Twitter and Instagram, we blurb for them, we leave reviews of their beautiful books on Goodreads, and we band together online to share resources. Rarely does a day go by when I’m not interfacing with another woman author. In fact, my real-life writer’s group—four women from Charlotte, North Carolina—has faced every possible kind of crisis management: divorce, death, job losses, surgeries, illnesses, and, of course, a whole host of literary triumphs and tragedies. Through all of it, our group manages to celebrate together, mourn together, laugh together, and best of all, write together. You want solidarity? Find a female writer’s group.
As a testament to this, the four of us have been asked to lead a session at the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City this summer on the benefits of writing with a group. I hope you can come out and meet us there—especially if you’re a female writer 🙂
*According to some hastily conducted Wikipedia research I did right before typing this.
**If you read The Queen of Hearts, you totally know what I’m talking about here. I’ll just say this: the character of Delaney—who was loosely based on my own three-year-old—is the only one in the book who has received her own fan mail.
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