Thursday, May 5, 2011

How Much “Blacker” Can I Be?

I recently put in an entry for a contest for Black Women’s Fiction because I thought I was a black woman, writing for women, including black women like me.

Lo and behold, when I got the score sheet back, one of the judges felt I was confusing Multicultural Women’s Fiction with Black Women’s Fiction. Now, I totally indentify with multicultural, but I also identify with Black Women’s Fiction because I am 100% black, at the risk of sounding condescending, though no harm is intended. I am not mixed with anything. I am just about as black as they come.

I feel like Obama now. Do I have to bring my Birth Certificate to show who my parents are? Though born in the UK, it does list my Nigerian parents, which makes me fully Nigerian. Or do I have to do a DNA to prove my origin or just how black I am? Do I have to go to my local government in Nigeria to prove I’m on some kind of list?

Now, if they really meant African American Women’s Fiction, why didn’t they just say so? Then we African women would know to step to the side. But I take offense with being told I do not belong in Black Women’s Fiction but rather in Multicultural Women's Fiction. So, I go better with Asians and Indians (which I totally have no problem with) than I do with those sisters that have my skin tone? Why can’t I belong in both genres?

Once again, I feel this distancing by African Americans from Africans. This is the exact reason why I am now part of an organization that is spreading the word about unity among African Americans and Africans. It is called Bridging the African Divide (BTAD), a non-profit. Our board consists of the most amazing group of African Americans and Africans I have seen in one place in a long time.

I am already aware that African American readers do not read much of books by Africans, generally speaking. Not the rule, of course. This was actually explained to me by a Nigerian book store owner who caters to the African American crowd but hardly stocks books by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie because the few copies he has have gotten old in his store. That has been his experience and I agree with him because generally, I have not seen enough support from the African American community either.

Is that warped or what? Is it just me, or is something wrong with that picture? Is this just another manifestation of the Black people nontogetherness? Like the Tyler Perry syndrome! And yes, I just made up that word because I can.

Will we ever be one?



Folake. :(

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Novel Writing: What Have I Learnt Lately?

And yes, I meant learnt and not learned. I choose not to write the American version today because I can. Lol.

Anyway, still working on my novel and I have finally joined critique groups. I wrote for a year, prior to which I have never written anything fiction, not even a short story. Then I entered 3 contests and of course, I realized shortly after submitting that I could never win. Why? I had some editorial No-nos and in the first chapter too.

Here are four important Editorial No-nos:

1) Do no start your novel with a dream sequence.

2) Do no start your novel with a telephone conversation.

3) Do not start your novel with your protagonist waking up from sleep or a nightmare, startled.

4) Do not have a flashback in the first chapter, or even the first thirty pages.

In addition I also decided this:

5) Never critique a first draft!

And although I never did number 5, when I finally joined a critique group recently, there was still so much to be done in those first 2 chapters that I have struggled with and changed several times over the course of the year that I knew if I had critiqued the first draft, it would have been so disastrous I might have given up. And I did let some facebook friends read what I thought was my first scene about a year ago. That's when I realized I had PLENTY of work to do and I started to buy books on writing/fiction writing. What I couldn't buy/afford, I borrowed from the library. Don't forget your local library is a great resource. I didn't even have a library card till about 6 months ago but now I wonder why not. Lol.

I have also joined a physical critique group where you have to read your work out loud. We'll see how that goes but if anyone says I have an accent or corrects how I pronounce certain words differently, I will have my frying pan with me!

As for numbers 1 through 4, that also includes having any of those near the beginning of your novel, even if it doesn't start off with it. I read in several books (by Noah Lukeman, James Scott Bell, Randy Ingermanson, etc), heard in several forums (including the ACFW loop!) and finally heard back from the judges of one of the contests about NOT doing some of those. It creates an impression that you are confused, an amateur, did not start the book in the right place or you're just bad at it, period. It will end you in the slush pile very fast, and nobody would have gotten to the good part yet.

For a list of books I have found helpful either from reading or from someone else teaching the principles from the book at a meeting or workshop, please visit my website. 

I am so glad I am finally letting other eyes look at my work and help me fine-tune it. I am grateful to the ladies of SheWrites who have hammered it into a pulp. I actually got my first comment on Authonomy and it's not from someone who wanted me to back their work or anything:

"The toilet paper made me laugh. Well written. will definitely get back to this one will try and make room on Wl in the near future Good luck."

I have also joined a critique group on Authonomy. I've sent a request anyway. We'll see how my first reading goes at the physical critique group, an AWC group (Atlanta Writers Club) in my area. I am trying to join their online critique group as well. I can't figure out how Absolute Write Water Cooler works so I am not active in a critique group on there yet, though a member.

Why several critique groups? There's always something new to offer in each group. Also, it will take years to get your work critiqued in my estimation if you belong to only one group. And I've read articles by seasoned authors saying they belong to several groups as well. We'll see how it pans out. And I'll keep you updated.

Enough yapping for now. I'm just excited.



My WIP! And that's my other name you didn't know about. Cover courtesy of my brother Temi, AKA Antigravity.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Italics: To be or not to be?

This seems to be a big question or bone of contention in writing circles recently, to use italics in deep POV or not.

Personally, I have no problem with the use of italics. I have great eyesight and I don’t find it distracting or annoying. But since my writing will be for other people and not for myself, I have done a lot of online research on the issue of the use of italics in writing.

My published work to date is non-fiction and I didn’t know many rules then so that doesn’t count! In that regard that is. However, my present WIP is women’s fiction and I will know all the rules by the time I’m done. Believe me.

Here’s my resolve about italics. I also was of the opinion that one had to write deep POV in italics but recent research has caused me to change my mind. It appears to me that the emerging convention is that it is not necessary to do that and the readers are smart enough to know when you are in the character’s head. I have decided not to use it in that way for these two reasons:

1) Some readers and critics are very annoyed by italics and find it distracting

2) Nobody has ever complained about a paucity of italics in any writing

That tells me I can do without it. I have written my novel in 1st person POV past tense. I found out that I can either just write the deep thought as is or add a qualifier such as “I thought” or so as opposed to writing it in italics. It seems to me that it is the way the italics is interspersed between normal fonts that some find highly annoying and distracting.

Here are some cases where I however still use italics, simply because it flows better and is more continuous:

1) In a dream sequence. In this case I also switch to 1st person POV present and not the past, to really draw the reader in.

2) When I am writing something that is written in the story such as a note, a letter, an article or a journal entry.

In both of these examples, the italics runs for a few lines or more and then switches back. It is a paragraph and not one sentence or three words in a sea of regular font. I believe it appears different.

Now, I am not an authority on anything and I cannot even remember the sites I have visited to arrive at this current convention of mine. Neither do I have an MFA in creative writing or any such qualifications. I just love the Google search tool on my laptop. But I do know that in books where I have seen these done such as Wendy Wax’s Magnolia Wednesdays, it looked neat. Wendy Wax’s main character was a journalist so each time she wrote an article, we read it in italics.

However, the jury is still out even on these scenarios in my novel and I might just end up scraping all of those in italics as well. At the end of the day, my protagonist’s journal entries start with “note to self” so you know what it is. In the case of the dream, the reader will also realize soon enough that it is a dream and thankfully, they’re not long and I only have two dreams in the book, one in which the protagonist wakes up momentarily in the middle and then goes back to sleep and continues the nightmare with weird variations that don’t make sense! I really don’t know that I want my book to start with italics though and it does start with a short dream. But it may be a good idea to leave it that way because the dream is in Victorian times and the novel is not so it may be good for the reader to immediately know it’s a dream.

I have read a host of novels with almost no italics at all except for the occasional emphasis, the name of a magazine or name of a book. I simply have not missed the use of it. That makes me feel like the less of it, the better. Probably.

Just as I thought I was done with this post, I did come across an old blog post by Brandilyn Collins that says everything I have come to believe about writing dreams in italics or not in which she also talks about the exceptions. I wasn’t crazy after all. And I still love Google.

I hope this helps someone. Your comments are welcome.


Folake Taylor.

I have since scrapped any chunks of italics from my manuscript.

The only italics I have left are words being emphasize or the occasional phrase being emphasized as well. I used other fonts for journal entries and the same font (Times Roman) for any dream sequence, while just easing in and out of the dream much the same way as a flash back. My internal thoughts are just written in present tense without any attributions such as "I thought" and when warranted, the phrase gets its own line.

It's clear enough to the reader. I think it works and I know the haters of italics will not be offended.

Everybody wins!!!