Maestro, music please!

Listen to this WHILE you read my entry. You’ll understand my feelings better : ( This is one of my favorite pieces. I always tear up listening to it.

 

I’ve been a Whiny Writer of late. Two of my twitter/facebook updates reflected my feelings exactly:

Mr. Writing is my forbidden love, Mrs.University is my wicked stepmother, set on tearing us apart

I miss feeling alive. Writing a book brings me to life, makiing me observant and sensitive to the beauty of life, of nature. But right now the gentle wind and sunlight has been blocked out by stacks of dusty, scholarly books I must research. Oh, woe is me. 

I realized how much I missed writing yesterday as I walked around my university campus. After attending my European history lecture, the weather was just so lovely! While taking my stroll, I listened to Ludwig van Beethoven Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op.92, II. Allegretto. Listening to Beethoven, while surrounded by 19th century architecture, made me feel like I was in the story I have yet to write. I’ve recently become obsessed with this new idea I hope to base my next book on. In fact, I even dreamt of the first chapter, which was heart wrenchingly beautiful—and so I woke up and jot it down in my journal—only to wake up the next morning to realize I had written it down in my dream. I was devastated. And for the next half hour, lying in bed, I tried to remember it and am still trying to remember it. I wonder if I’ll turn out to be like the musician in Music & Silence who spends the rest of his life trying to recompose, to recapture, the vague but haunting melody he heard in his dream while travelling back home in a carriage—only to realize before his death that the melody belonged to one of Beethoven’s symphony.

One thing I’m worried about while working on my next book is that I’ll try to step out of my genre and try to write literature. What, you might be wondering, is the difference between genre fiction and literature? This is a question I ask myself time and time again. And my answer is debatable. For example, I do not consider my book The Runaway Courtesan to be literary. The best way I can put it is as a “meaningful romance” but it isn’t literary. Literature to me would be a book that can actually contribute something to a person’s life–not offer escape from it. Because that’s what romance novels are–they are one of the keys to escapism. 

I’m not at all ashamed to call myself a romance writer. I see no shame in writing about love—the world’s greatest mystery. And yet when I listen to pieces like Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, I want to leap out of the romance genre, and “try” writing a literary book. A historical “fiction” rather than a historical “romance” (yes, there is a difference), based not only on romance, but also on the clashing of politics, of battles, and something on the grand scale like that. But I tried this before and failed miserably. I end up getting a painful writer’s block. And when I try to spin up plots on such a grand scale, my dear critique partners know I’m trying to hard. For me, I’m the sort of writer where, if it does not come naturally, it isn’t the story my heart wants to tell. So I must remain content as a romance writer. I don’t belong in the literary sphere yet.

My mum says: Someday, when you’re older and wiser, you’ll probably move out of the romance genre. She might be right. And yet, at the same time, I think maybe I would be happy to write love stories all my life.

Ehm. I think I went on a rampage about literary and genre fiction because I just finished reading If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor twice within five weeks. I read it once because I need to write my English paper on it, then I read it again, because the story wouldn’t let me alone. I actually didn’t like it at first. I’m ashamed to say that one of my twitter update proclaimed Jon McGregor to be a Cormac McCarthy-wannabe. Yet the story haunted me throughout the day after I finished reading the last chapter. I cracked the book open again a week later and began rereading. It was on my second read that I realized that the reason why I hated this book was because even by the end of the story there was still so much things unresolved—but I realized that that was the beauty of the book. Its almost poetical mystery. It’s like life—there will always be questions unanswered. And it’s only after you consider events in retrospect that things make sense. So my second read was like a retrospect on all that occurred in the novel. Really stunning work of art. You guys should add it to your reading list.

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20 Comments

Filed under Book & Film, The Runaway Courtesan, Thoughts, Writing

20 responses to “Maestro, music please!

  1. I think Remarkable Things is my favourite book this semester. : )

    But I know exactly what you mean. It’s very easy to be content with the stories and characters that are so personal to us, and the smaller plotlines are such a joy to write – but when I personally feel like I need to ACHIEVE something, I always feel like what I’m writing has been frivolous. I actually went through this yesterday, ahaha.

    My only advice when dealing with this is let yourself grow. A big problem that I’ve personally been having is that I’ve been approaching concepts the way that I used to when I was in tenth or eleventh grade, but both my demeanor and my writing has matured beyond that approach. That’s resulted in a huge amount of stress and writer’s block.

    I’m just going to go out on a whim and suggest that maybe the same thing has happened to you for this book? You’ve obviously grown as a writer after having completed an entire novel, and now you can’t approach this one the same way – are you trying to tackle it all at once? To have the whole storyline formulate quickly? Because I find that when I go back to the beginning, I always forget that my old story didn’t start fulfilled. It started with a character or a setting, or, more often, just a simple feeling of something that I wanted to write about.

    And then, when I can’t even write the beginning to a fantasy novel (I always forget that I actually DID write one, and it just inspired me to start again…better), that’s when I start to get desperate about writing, and start to yearn to write something more meaningful – however, I don’t think I’m ready to. Instead, I’m going to work on those initial feelings, and find the level where my writing and my stories are at; sketches of writing, just like artists sketch concepts. Places, histories, people. I’m sure that you could do the same, if you think that it would help. It’s helping me.

    : ) Now. I’m trying to avoid going to class.
    So. That’s why this is so long.
    …my apologies, haha!

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    • Great points there. I feel the exact same way, but didn’t know how to put it. When I write what I do I always feel like I could make it more meaningful. So I strive and I strive to improve it–but, like yourself, I just might not be ready to reach the next step. So I need to be content with where I am now. I need to work on the level I am in presently, do the best that I can, but know that I still have to mature a lot as a writer before I write some best work.

      Ahhh Remarkable Things was soooo good. I can’t wait to here the prof’s lecture. It’s going to be this Friday right? Yuppeee!

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  2. “Mr. Writing is my forbidden love, Mrs.University is my wicked stepmother, set on tearing us apart.”

    June, this is so poetic and beautiful that it pulls at my heartstrings and at the same time it’s so funny and so true. I completely understand. When I went to college I was co-writing a contemporary romance with an older friend. My dad told me if my grades suffered, then I had to quit writing. Pfft, like that was ever going to happen! They did, tragically suffer, but I kept writing anyway. I mean, really, Bible History class? I was never going to be a whiz at that and science is interesting, but a little too techinical for me. Are you doing any classes this summer or will you have some free time then?

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    • Aww I’m glad you liked my analogy!! Seriously, university…grrrrr.

      Yah, romance writing is looked down on. Sometimes I just say I write historical fiction. I have this idea that if I say I’m a writer of historical “romance” people won’t consider it an art. And won’t take me seriously!

      I have no summer classes! Hurrah …..But I’ll be working full time at….at who-knows-where. I need to pay off my tuition fee. But I won’t be studying day and night.

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  3. Omg! That piece of music is one of my favorite pieces ever! It actually inspired a whole slew of scenes in ACOTAR! I cry when I listen to it…seriously. There’s a passage in Book 1 of ACOTAR (in Part 2, which I don’t believe you read) that is essentially just Feyre channeling the feelings/images I have when I listen to this piece of music!!!

    ❤ ❤ ❤

    I just had to say that before I read the rest of your blog post, lol. *goes back to reading*

    Like

    • Hmmmmmm I believe I did read Part 2 of book I. I did send you the review…I hope!!!! But I have yet to read part 2 and 3. I will though once exams are over! Maybe I should read it while listening to Beethoven’s symphony 7 hahahaha

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  4. M M Bennetts

    I believe there may not be as much of a difference between genre fiction and literary fiction in stories as we think…

    Romeo and Juliet is, if you take it apart, a pretty shallow story, boy meets girl, boy gets girl, families aren’t happy, then die. It could be quite silly. But the difference between it and so much else which was on the Elizabethan stage was what Shakespeare did with it. The language, the imagery–the glorious, glorious language–the cast which includes such extra-ordinary characters as Mercutio.

    And the other thing is–to Shakespeare’s audience–a play about two young lovers is always a comedy with a lot of bawdy jokes. Well, yes, Shakespeare gave us the jokes, but look how he turned the conventions on their head.

    Hamlet. A typical revenge tragedy. Very popular with the Elizabethans. And what does Shakespeare do? A play with a father who’s killed by his uncle and his son does…er, nothing. For a very long time. But it’s the language, and the turning upside down of conventions which makes it superlative and keeps us coming back to think about it.

    Literary fiction can be about love–what is Doctor Zhivago about after all? Love and, er, revolution…What is A Tale of Two Cities about? Revolution and love. But why do people keep reading? Well, for the love interest, of course. It’s not the story, it’s how you tell it…

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    • The line between genre fiction and literature is indeed very fine… But when one writes for a certain genre there forms a wide gap. Especially the romance market. I guess it wasn’t correct of me to say ‘love’ stories. There seems to be this vague difference between love stories and romances. I actually don’t know which story I’m writing.

      Your comment has left me all confused again. Because you’re write. There really isn’t a boundary between the two mediums. And yet the publishing market says that there is. The romance novels go in one section. The love story/literature goes into the mainstream book shelves. There are love stories like ‘The Notebook’ which my friends tell me read more like a romance to them. So what makes this general fiction and not a romance? The writing might be better. But I’m sure there are romance writers who write very well. is it the content then? is there some moral behind the story? a message?

      confused….very confused

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  5. Lua

    In a way I feel like we, as writers, are always trying to write ‘that book’ that we have dreamed about. And we never actually could- it never feels as good as it was in the dream and maybe that’s a good thing for we keep trying to write the next one closer to that dream…

    That genre issue has always confused me! Right now I have no idea to which genre my book would fall into- I just keep writing and when I’m done I’m hoping someone can tell me 🙂 But as a loyal reader of the “meaningful romance” genre I can say that they do contribute by giving us a way to escape (okay- this may be the lawyer in me talking but I really do believe this :)) So lets write whatever we’re comfortable writing about and hopefully just like your mother said, in time when our pen is ready, it won’t get blocked when we try and leap out of our genre.

    As for the ‘If nobody speaks of the remarkable things’- you got me really intrigued, it’s already on the list!

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    • I can’t wait until you read INSORT–it’s such a long title I’ll go by the first letters haha.

      But yes, you’re right, we writers always strive to write better. What we have written is never good enough–and so we continue to revise and revise. And that is probably why the authors I’ve asked in the past answered that they never reread their published works. They’ll flip to any page and find things they want to change….

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  6. Oh my, what an absolutely gorgeous piece of music to listen to while reading your post. I kept getting lost in the piece and re-reading sentenses over and over. You’re right; it is haunting. What a fabulous idea too to have that for people to listen to while reading your blog. I may just have to pinch that idea, Miss B, for some of my posts (but will do a courtesy link to yours for giving me the idea – would you mind?)

    What a nightmare your dream has turned out to be – thinking you wrote it down but it was in the dream. I have done that before and it’s incredibly frustrating. I hope it comes back to you soon!

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  7. Dear Book Whisperer,of course you may pinch the idea! And thanks for pointing out that that idea was–a fabulous idea! I’ll be using it more often now 🙂 merci!

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  8. Pretty much everything I would’ve said has been covered. But here is what I’ll add…

    Write what makes you happy.

    Don’t worry whether or not people take you seriously. I’ve written a fantasy, historical fiction, and my latest chick-lit (which completely has my heart). You want to talk about not being taken seriously, tell someone you write chick-lit and watch them roll their eyes. But I really don’t care. I love those silly little stories. They make me happy. And if kmy work can put a smile on someone else’s face…well to me that’s the icing on the cake.

    xoxo

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  9. It is such a fine line between genre and literary…and blurred further by “commercial” and “women’s” and the other labels we’ve contrived to try to define our reading. It’s kind of funny, in a way, that I bet centuries ago writers weren’t writing with the thought “This shall be shelved in the literary department” and today there are writers quite deliberately writing to a particulary market and confusing themselves in the process.

    Oh, I can hear you on dreaming a scene! I dreamt one scene that made it into Linden Hall–kind of an odd accident, really, that answered a question I was struggling with at the time perfectly. But your dream reminds me of CS Lewis’s Dawn Treader and the story that Lucy reads in the magician’s book, that she can’t ever quite remember afterward but anything that reminds her of it she considers a good story. There is some value in refreshment for its own sake–perhaps consider it a gift and don’t stress about trying to capture it. It sounds like you could use some escape and refreshment right now!

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    • Yes, I won’t stress myself, and will go for a little refreshment! I’m ok now. I won’t turn into that haunted musician.

      You are spot on. Women fiction. Seriously? Wouldn’t a romance be under that catagory as well? I know it’s not. But one could make a fine argument that it is. What is up with the publishing market!!!!!!!!!! Writing has become more of a business than an art. Sheesh.

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  10. “I miss feeling alive. Writing a book brings me to life, makiing me observant and sensitive to the beauty of life, of nature.”

    Why is that? It’s as if we don’t write feverishly, we’ll wilt or die off. Like something will explode in us if we don’t get it out all on paper. I struggle sometimes when my writing doesn’t seem practical at the time and yet it always feels right. What a pain to have to move through the tediousness of everyday life, and postpone the only thing that gives us joy.

    Thank you for the wonderful post! 🙂

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    • It seems that writing equating with feeling alive is something that applies universally to writers haha. It’s when I don’t get the feeling that I’ll explode if I don’t write that really kills me [excuse my melodrama]!!!

      “What a pain to have to move through the tediousness of everyday life, and postpone the only thing that gives us joy.” That’s why I dream of becoming a freeland writer. What a joy it would be to make a living off what you love doing.

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  11. drtombibey

    Nice. I’m working on some classical mandolin pieces lately. Kid, I don’t think you’ll ever stop writing. You might have some temporary breaks when you write less; school, marriage, children, etc., but I don’t see you ever quitting.

    When I was your age it was all guitars and girls; you think deep for a young’un, so keep at it. If people three times your age can learn from you, then you are doing something right.

    Dr. B

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    • Aw, thank you, doctor : ) I hope I’ll never stop writing. And the phases in life, like school, marriage, children, as you put it, will only give me more things to write about!

      Well, I still go ga-ga over boys, but then that’s why I love writing. I channel my ga-ga-ness into writing 🙂

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