Bullet Wisdom

I am an Active Duty Officer in the US Army. I am a Husband, father, writer, hunter, gamer, and SOLDIER. This blog is a forum for my many hobbies as well as my random musings.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Guy Writing in a Gal's World

This month marked my one year anniversary as an aspiring writer. In the past year, I completed my first novel, started a second, successfully published a short story, and had a single manuscript request from one of nine queried agents. Not a bad start, right? But as I walked through the aisles of my local Barnes & Noble, I came to a stark realization: most successful Urban Fantasy authors these days are women.

Why would I even notice such a thing? I don't know, but it's as plain as the by-lines on the book covers. Not that there's a dearth of successful male writers. Jim Butcher, Rick Riordan, Mario Acevedo, and many others achieve high levels of success. But as I looked over the new releases, I couldn't help but feel the odds for success are stacked against me.

What's the difference between the male and female writers? Well, first, I think you have to look at the market. What appears to be selling right now is UF with a required strong romantic element (Thanks, Twilight). There are men writing romance (see Nicholas Sparks), but it's not a stretch to say that it's a genre traditionally dominated by the other gender. So, combine what's hot with tradition, and you get what I discovered at the UFYA new release stacks at B&N.

So, what does that mean for me? As a friend recently told me, do I need to find and channel my inner-chick? Not likely. Right now, what's wrong with my writing isn't unique to males or females, but rather the common problems afflicting most new writers. Voice, dialogue, story, style; the list goes on and on. I'm working on it, and thanks to my OWG friends at Kelley Armstrong's Forum, the results are tangible.

Surfing the net this week, I discovered that a few agents are actively searching for male UFYA writers. The caveat, if the story and writing isn't there, no amount of testosterone is going to get you through the door. What's out there is a talent-barrier; gender has nothing to do with it.

I'll leave you all with some office humor. A few of my Captain's decided to play a trick on the boss, and swapped my keyboard. Thing is, I never look at the keys. This sat on my desk all day before someone pointed it out. See you next week!


Danielle said...

You've got talent, drive, an eagerness to learn and an amazing support group. Don't let the estrogen scare you. :)

Selestial said...

Just like in romance, I'm pretty sure a number of men write UF with female pen-names. Don't let the female names scare you off. (and all the other stuff the Dan(n)i above said :P)


Falcata Times said...

Ah, to be honest there are quite a few male Urban fantasyist's out there. Depending on what you're writing (and where you're located) you might like Mike Carey (Felix Castor), Justin Gustainis (Quincy Morris), David Devereux, Simon R Green (Nightside and Hidden Histories).

I think that you go for what you want and see where it goes, I too am writing an Urban Fantasy at the moment but currently having to rework some of the prehistory in order to get the whole thing to flow better for me. Best of luck with it.

Angela Addams said...

Very interesting observation about the female writers of UF...I didn't notice before but I know what you mean...we do dominate at the moment.

In the end though, I don't think it matters what your gender is...like you said, it's the voice, characterization, plot, etc that will get you in.

Keep at it...it will pay off in the end.

Unknown said...

Holy smokes, that's a MUCH better response to your first novel than I ever came CLOSE to with mine. Ditto the short story. I never /did/ have a short story sell until the Dresden Files audience got bigger and folks invited me into anthologies.

Offhand, I'd say your first year of attempting to break in is extremely encouraging. You got more done during that year than I did in my first six years of trying.

The fact that you're getting advice from people and actually listening to it is encouraging, too. A startling percentage of aspiring writers I've met have been... well. Reluctant to take advice.

Getting into publishing is less about pure talent than it is about craftsmanship, determination, and a smidge of lucky timing. Write a good story that keeps the reader turning the pages. Always start your next project when you've finished your current one.

Publishers recognize the signs of a successful writer, and not all of them are on the printed page. The ability to work with people and, especially, sheer detrmination are both common traits in successful writers.

Keep writing. Get all the advice you want, keep whatever is useful to you, but above everything else:

Keep writing.

Jim Butcher

Ken said...

Jim, this journey started in the vacuum of Iraq when I read a book and said, 'Huh, I can do better.' That opinion didn't last long. When I returned to civilization in December and found time to do some serious research, I came to the realization there was no way I would achieve my goal of publishing without help. The Army's best leaders teach 'success-breeds-success.' It's a common practice: lean on others, learn what works, and embrace it as your own.

I appreciate you taking the time to provide the wise and insightful comments. Thanks.

Michelle said...

Frankly, as a reader and writer, I'm a bit worn thin on the hot and heavy romance stuff. A beta reader called me on the lack of romance in my most recent YA UF. I ignored it.

So, yeah, I'd certainly read a newbie guy author in the UF field.

So, bring it on! Seriously.

And congrats by the way. 1 published story and requests from 9 queries is excellent for someone who only started his quest a year ago.

Diane Girard said...

You are already doing well. Since I don't read urban fantasy, I had no idea the genre had so many women writers.

Persistence, luck and pluck are far more important than gender. If you are concerned that you might not get the same consideration as a woman would, you could choose a pen name. But I suspect that's not your style :)

Angela Magee said...

Woohoo! When I mention the overabundance of women in UF, I feel like people stare at my breasts and wonder if I've noticed them--unlikely, since most of this communication is online. But my first book (assuming that it's ever properly edited to become a first book) is about a man; most the agents and/or calls for submission are looking for female-driven, romance filled UF.

Since I'm not going to get anywhere by screaming "if you want UF, why are you asking for paranormal romance?!" I've decided that 'most' doesn't equal 'all'. We'll find homes for our novels if we stick with it.

David Devereux said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Devereux said...

As long as you tell the story you want to tell, rather than the story you think other people want you to tell, you'll be fine. Stuff fashion - the Paranormal Romance set is going to lose its appeal at some point and if trend is all you have going for you when that happens you'll be hosed. Trust your gut in terms of the tale, then let the skills move the tale onto the page.

The Army has taught you a bunch of very useful writer skills, by the way: you know how to take feedback like a grownup and can adapt what you see others do to your own ends. You know how to deal and work with people, which is vital, and you have no illusions that you are a special snowflake that deserves special treatment.

As long as you've got the tale, the rest is technique - you can learn that if you're prepared to work at it. Like Jim said: Keep Writing.

Kelly Metz said...

The keyboard thing is hilarious. We had a guy at work who typed in the hunt and peck style. I swapped the "m" and "n" on his keyboard to be inconspicious...wow, did the four letter words fly. :-)