Yeah, sure Mum, you can read it. Just let me take out anything not PG-13.

August 11, 2009 at 10:58 AM | Posted in Uncategorized, Writing | 7 Comments

As a teenager, there is an undeniable link between what we write and our families. Most of us, unless we have the luxury of college dorm rooms or boarding schools, are undeniably affected by having them constantly right there (which is awesome when it comes to a home cooked meal and unchanging support and pride, but proximity does not always help ones writing). I’m sure all of you have had times when you haven’t said something when you disagree with your parents in favour of trying to keep the peace.  Whether we know it or not, this compromise trickles through to our writing.  While some of these links are good for providing encouragement and new ideas, there are times when families must be separate from the writing process.

If I was going to break this down psychologically—hell, I might as well, didn’t spend all that money on psych courses for nothing—I would say that people (read: us) portray a different persona to different groups of acquaintances. This is the exact reason why sometimes having a friend from school and having a friend from work over for a sleep-over or to go out clubbing (for those of us blissfully legal) doesn’t always mesh well. And before you all deny that, know that it’s a subconscious thing you do. And, erm, it’s in my psych book… and the guy who wrote my psych book seems pretty smart sooo… :D

But what does this mean for our writing? Well, basically, our author voices are just another construct.  Would my “daughter” persona be able to write a sex scene or abuse or violence scene? Probably not. According to my mother’s view of her daughter (one which, for simplicity’s sake, I don’t try and break too often), I still think babies are delivered by a stork and have the street smarts of a eight year old in the big city. Okay, that’s a slight over-exaggeration, but the point is that had my mum been reading my writing especially in its early WIP form, I would have unknowingly turned on my auto filter, and pretty soon I would be writing about rainbows and lollypops rather then have to face the questions and embarrassment that comes with the “Wait, how do you know this stuff?”

Now some of you probably have great relationships with your parents.  They understand, or at least try to understand, that sex, drugs and rock and roll are part of being a teenager today, and they respect that. But whether we like it or not, we are going to see their frown of disapproval at our casual mention of the f-word in our story as a reflection on us. Some of you may be strong enough to see this as a reaction of a different time, a different generation, but for me, each frown of disapproval is a direct stab in the heart.

What did this mean for my writing? Well, put it this way: I had over 100,000 words of various manuscripts before I got up the nerve to actually write a sex scene. And this sex scene was quite discreet. (Basically a lot of imagery over specifics.) But it was a sex scene never the less. Has my mum read it? Nope, she doesn’t even know it exists. Could I write a sex scene now, or rape, or extreme violence, sure. Would my mum be reading it before I had signed the dotted line for it to be published? Never.

Now, I don’t want you guys to see this as a blatant attack on parents. They are not ruining our lives, and no, you should not rebel against the cause (of course you can if you want, go crazy, it’s a free country). My parents are soo supportive of my writing, and generally I think I hit it pretty lucky in the parent lottery, but the fact remains that sometimes what our parents see and who we truly are branch off at certain places. It’s life, it promotes us to leave home, be independent, make new choices. It’s a good thing.

Basically, my point is this: if you think you might change your initial voice in any way to suit what your parents or your friends think of you, I highly suggest you don’t let them read it until they pick up their first copy at the bookstore. Maybe you don’t need to go that extreme. But in my opinion the first draft should be all you. Let the politics and the self censoring come in later. An editor will tell you what can and cannot be included. Do not let what your family thinks change your writing style. It is your book, not theirs.

As always, comments are welcome: When do you let your parents read your work?  Have you ever caught yourself censoring your work for the sake of them?

~ Alyce

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7 Comments »

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  1. I completely agree. For the longest time, I didn’t even tell my parents that I was writing a book, because I didn’t want to hear what they would say. Even though they are quite supportive, they haven’t seen what I’m working on. I’m just not ready.

    I’d give any piece to my sister rather than my parents any day, and I don’t think I could even show a sex/drugs/violence portion to her. That part I would probably cover with post-its.

  2. My mom actually asked me when I’m going to let her read my stories. Answer? Never. If she ever wants to read something I write, she’d have to get it in a bookstore. To me, her reading something I write is somewhat like her reading my diary. My stories are a part of me and that’s a part I want to keep separate.

  3. My parents knew I wanted to be a writer, but I never let them read my stories and they never asked to. When I got older and self-published my first two, because I wrote them,not because they were interested in reading them. And I was fine with that. I mean,why read something you’re not interested in?

  4. I was so nervous when my mom asked me if she could read my book. I gave it to her, and there were more than a few curse words and inappropriate scenes to begin with, so I was literally peeing my pants. But she’s reading through it and I asked her if she found the profanity used too shocking or disturbing. She told me it was fine, just as long as I don’t do the things or speak like that. My mom is also very supportive; she loves what I write, but at the same time, when she finds some parts boring she tells me. SO basically, I’m okay with sharing my writing with my parents.

  5. The only books I’ve shown to my mom have been the PG-13 ones. No swearing, no sex, no drugs – well, okay, there was mention of cocaine, but in a very “Ewww, drugs, badbadbad!!!” sort of way.

    I remember the first time I wrote a scene with swearing in it (I think I was only 10 or 11) I wrote the swear words reeeeeeally teeny-tiny so if anyone happened to see it they wouldn’t know what it said. XD (This was when I still used a pen and notebook. Once I graduated to the computer I just put passwords on the Word documents. =P)

  6. My parents will never.
    Ever.
    Read my writing. :D
    Even if I get published. I’ll figure it out. Seriously. LOL

  7. Great post! I let my mum read my work once I’ve finished the full first draft – that way I don’t change my voice thinking that she’ll read it. My dad’s never reasd any of my work – and, actually, I don’t think he would even if it gets published. He’s interested in the fact that I write, but not interested in what I actually write. But then my dad reading sex scenes in a book I’ve written? Not sure I want that anyway!

    Becky


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