Saving Face
September 11, 2009 8:12 AM   Subscribe

Dahlia Lithwick (previously) is trying to write a chick-lit novel in nineteen days.
posted by Iridic (63 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by hermitosis at 8:18 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not very good.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:22 AM on September 11, 2009


Just what we need, another Chick-lit dispenser.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 8:24 AM on September 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


^ (works better with PEZ)
posted by Burhanistan at 8:29 AM on September 11, 2009


I don't get it. This is longer that it usually takes?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:32 AM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hi I'm just like you I worry about getting fat and finding the right man to validate my pointless existence where all I do is worry about getting fat and finding the right man to validate my pointless existence but also the difference is that I invariably live in New York (or London if I must) where I am a struggling intern/PR lackey/copywriter/journalist and I live in a small apartment with either a cat or a hilarious gay man or a hilarious gay cat and it's ever so cosmopolitan and fun and just when I think I will always be dating a series of Mr. Wrongs for the rest of my life I meet BRAD/JULIO/LAWRENCE/SEPHIROTH depending on if I am from Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, or Final Fantasy fanfic and then after that we have some fun misunderstandings and then my bitch of a boss (because female bosses are always bitches) steals my man (never trust a woman in a position of power, you see, is the moral here) and I have to do some CRAZY THINGS to have my revenge and then I level up and I get the boss bitch's job and my man back all at once and THE END i high-five my gay cat and off we go to the sequel where we are sexy ore miners on a distant asteroid (but we still love shoes!!!!!)
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:32 AM on September 11, 2009 [86 favorites]


This has been done - The Dirty Girls Social Club was written in nine days in a Starbucks.
posted by mippy at 8:42 AM on September 11, 2009


It's not very good.

It's chick-lit. "Not very good" means she's succeeding.
posted by dersins at 8:43 AM on September 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


You forgot the fat friend and the margaritas.
posted by Madamina at 8:43 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is it about a quirky but endearing writer who is trying to write a chick lit novel in 19 days?
posted by lexicakes at 8:43 AM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


You know what, though, there are some very good chick-lit writers out there (I do like me some Lisa Jewell or Emily Barr) and a lot who think it's an easy way to make a quick buck. ~Now, there's always gonna be good and bad genre fiction, but what's galling is that a lot of this sub-par, thought-the-main-thing-about-Bridget-Jones-was-that-she-was-fat stuff is written by educated savvy women who think that cliched lowest-common-denominator stuff will sell. It's depressing.
posted by mippy at 8:46 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


And y'know, it sounds like this lady is doing much the same thing. Not writing a book because she wants to tell the story (though god knows we don't need more mom-lit in the world) but because she thinks it'll be Dead Easy. It'll read like a post-modern dissertation on literary conventions.
posted by mippy at 8:48 AM on September 11, 2009


does she have time to read my script?
posted by pyramid termite at 8:49 AM on September 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


Oh, just realised that the writer of the Citygirl 'exposing the banking world' column in a local freesheet is the author of this. Good example of the kind of thing I'm talking about..
posted by mippy at 8:53 AM on September 11, 2009


Well, I enjoyed the slideshow she referenced re: headless women on chick-lit covers.
posted by brain_drain at 8:54 AM on September 11, 2009


A chick-lit writer responds
posted by mippy at 8:55 AM on September 11, 2009


19 days? Doesn't she have access to the template that all other writers in this genre use?

Let me make it simple for her:

Girl living in Metro Area
Describe all that she's wearing, with brand names.
One good guy, one guy who's bad for her.
She longs for bad guy, doesn't notice good guy.
Finds out bad guy is bad, notices good guy is good.
More dropping of brand names.
Make sure the cover is a pastel color.

There. Now it should take her just a few hours.
posted by reenum at 9:02 AM on September 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


You think the concept's a bad novelty now, wait till the blog becomes a Meryl Streep movie.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:03 AM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


One other thing: I am hardly the first to observe that there is a bizarre trend toward decapitation in chick-lit cover art. The standard mommy-lit cover happens in silhouette, from behind, or, more and more in recent years, artfully lops off the protagonist's head. (Click at the bottom right for a slide show on the subject.) I don't have a clue why so much of women's literature features women without faces, but I did pick my working title, Saving Face, with a mind toward some kind of corrective.

That is pretty creepy if you think about the meaning.
posted by DU at 9:05 AM on September 11, 2009


I think the headless thing is an offshoot of the struck-out-eyes thing Chip Kidd loved and popularized.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:11 AM on September 11, 2009


Georges Simenon routinely finished novels in less than two weeks.

Can any female MeFi-ers speak to the issue of pink? I mean, do you genuinely like the color? Does it provide a pleasing sense of gender reinforcement - as a man might enjoy from carrying a pocket knife? When your eyes pass over a spot of pink on a bookstore shelf, do you have an increased sense that here is a book that might speak to your interests?
posted by Joe Beese at 9:12 AM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Oh, you'll find very few people who consciously realize they react that way — and fewer, I imagine, who'll own up to it. But it's the same way with all marketing. If it's hitting us at a conscious level, it's not doing its job.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:20 AM on September 11, 2009


I will not read your fucking chick-lit.
posted by orme at 9:23 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


To be honest, it makes reading chick-lit books really embarrassing. I don't want to read Joyce all the time, sometimes I want brain candy, but I don't want it with such a hideous cover that looks more like the cover of a magazine a six-year old would 'edit' in their bedroom.
posted by mippy at 9:24 AM on September 11, 2009


***Warning: I am not a chick. ***

I think the chick-lit stuff can be good (er) when it's got some genre action going on. Take MaryJanice Davidson and her character Betsy, The Vampire Queen. Kind of fun. Vampires and shoe obsessions. Lots of bitchy women complicating Betsy life, but, and here's the twist, in the end, Betsy kills them. Much more satisfying than just getting their job.

Also, her Royal series is chick-lit-ty, but also, Alternate history. What if Alaska was its own country?

It's not Proust, but its good for relaxing, and if you check the progression of the Betsy covers they seem to be getting progressively less awful...
posted by BeReasonable at 9:44 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't snark on my wife's chick-lit, and she doesn't snark on my fantasy books with improbably women with chainmail bikinis on the cover. Works for us both.

Hey, if you like your genre fiction, that's cool. It's entertainment.
posted by alasdair at 9:49 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


"improbably women" is more interesting-sounding than I meant...
posted by alasdair at 9:50 AM on September 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Does it provide a pleasing sense of gender reinforcement - as a man might enjoy from carrying a pocket knife?
You get a sense of gender reinforcement from carrying a pocket knife? What shape is this knife?
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:50 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


"***Warning: I am not a chick. ***

I think the chick-lit stuff can be good..."


Does not compute.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 9:54 AM on September 11, 2009


Does it provide a pleasing sense of gender reinforcement - as a man might enjoy from carrying a pocket knife?
You get a sense of gender reinforcement from carrying a pocket knife? What shape is this knife?


And how long is it?? Is that legal where you live?
posted by yiftach at 9:56 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


In answer to the question upthread about the pastel book covers:

To me, a pink book cover featuring a caricature of a slim, chic and unbearably cosmopolitan woman is like a billboard advertising high-fructose entertainment; "THIS IS A FASHION MAGAZINE SANS PHOTOSHOP DISASTERS! IT IS PINK. YOU COULD READ IT ON THE PLANE OR SOMETHING." Occasionally, I get a craving for that kind of fiction, the way I occasionally get a craving for short-cut home-made cobbler*. A little goes a long way, and one chick-lit book per year is usually enough.

* This is both terrible and delicious:

2 cans cherry pie filling
1 box white cake mix
1 stick of butter

Dump the cherry pie filling into an ungreased glass cake pan. Pour the unmixed cake mix on top to a depth of about 3/4 of an inch. Melt butter, drizzle butter on top of powdery cake-mix. Bake at 325 or whatever 'til golden brown. Eat. Immediately contact your physician: you are now diabetic.


posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 9:59 AM on September 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


Oh and no, pink books immediately make me walk away, as you might have guessed from my username. But then I only read fantasy/sf and detective genre fiction (which are so intensely superior to all other species of genre fiction that - um, they're just cooler, is all.) In other words I hate chick lit unless it's taking place on another, quasi medieval planet and then I love it. Hello, Sharon Shinn! You are awesome! See, the problem with regular chick lit is that if it's supposed to be happening here in the consensus based reality of 21st century America, it's too unbelievable. However, if I can suspend disbelief in a planet that has two moons and is stuck in some kind of odd medieval meets enlightenment era technology and has gender equality (if it was written after 1990, otherwise, forget that part) yet the horses are precisely the same as Earth horses, as are the cats, then I can also believe that the heroine is going to encounter a perfect guy carrying around a perfect pair of shoes in a shopping bag who will make everything absolutely perfect ever, ever after.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:00 AM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


MeFi Project, anyone?
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 10:03 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wasn't there some Urban legend that the head of Creative Writing at Harvard or somesuch was taking a flight from New York to London and saw everyone reading romance novels and thought "Hell, I could do that!" and proceeded to write the first draft of, oh I dunno, Love Story or something, during the flight?

Cause there seems to be this idea that writing genre fiction is *easy* if you're a *serious* writer because they're so predictable with gotta-haves and prefunctory plot devices.

But they're not easy. Not by a long shot. I know cause I too thought "Oh I could toss off some 5 thousand word spy story, easy peasy." And then someone actually asked me to so I sat down with my Standard Cliche' Outline and thought of all the oh-so-creative trills and details I would add. I thought it'd take a week, tops.

It was not. It took me 7 months. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to write, and by the end I was so disgusted with it and myself that I pulled a straight "rocks fall, everyone dies" just so I didn't have to look at it anyone. Writing adventure is hard, and I had absolutely no experience in describing how things blow up or how to create tension or sustain it or to give good Gotcha Gadget! moments. I had to have a crash course in pulp writing and it still didn't make it easier. Whenever the plot demanded an explosion I found myself spending 3 paragraphs on the Wife's internal monologue and her daydream about having an affair, which would nicely set up her development later and reinforce the themes and motifs I was setting up, except we see her for all 4 pages, tops, and then I had to write the parts I had no idea how to write or had any real interest in. and it was driving me batty.

Turns out I'm not built for writing like that, and it was arrogance supreme to think I could just "whip something off". Of course it looks easy! That's what a good craftsman does! That's what artists do! The best stuff looks effortless. I somehow forgot that my prose stuff are super-short humor things and really I have no idea how to write things that aren't going to be turned into comics later.

I really grew to resent that assignment and started to really hate myself and the lukewarm crap I created. Of course it sold, someone dropped out at the last second and they needed something and I was the only one left with an actual finished and proofed story. And since I completely loathe it it'll probably end up being popular.

but that's ironic smugness there. It's really awful. Like ...like really, really awful. Failing as a GRIPPING ADVENTURE YARN *and* as whatever the hell kind of anti-libertarian/sci-fi hogwash I was trying to half-ass

I actually liked the premise but I kept trying to write it like a comic book, so it was just stumbling block after stumbling block. I may revive it in a year after the rights are up as a comic series, if I'm still working then and not fighting in the streets for a potato
posted by The Whelk at 10:04 AM on September 11, 2009 [9 favorites]


I wish Dahlia luck. It's a shame she can't wait until November to join the hordes of other novelists, though. Stupid work!
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:14 AM on September 11, 2009


I had the idea of writing a Romance Novel one summer. I'm pretty sure that's even more formulaic than a chick-lit novel. Anyway, I never got round to it, but I still might. After all I have the good sex-scene. All I need now is a bad one, a baddy, a dream sequence, some horses and a tyrannical step-father. Oh and a nom de plume.

Victoria Throbbingford, sounds good.
posted by ob at 10:17 AM on September 11, 2009



Can any female MeFi-ers speak to the issue of pink? I mean, do you genuinely like the color? Does it provide a pleasing sense of gender reinforcement - as a man might enjoy from carrying a pocket knife? When your eyes pass over a spot of pink on a bookstore shelf, do you have an increased sense that here is a book that might speak to your interests?


I don't particularly like the shade/hue of pink chosen for most chick lit covers (I'm not sure of the definitions of shade/hue, so I used both, pick whichever is best for you). But I do know that pink is usually the color of a chick-lit book. So if that's the kind of book I'm looking for, then I guess I do have an increased sense that this book might speak to my interests.

I think it's like how fantasy books have shiny/metallic lettering and a drawing that makes up the whole cover.
posted by bluefly at 10:21 AM on September 11, 2009


MetaFilter: I high-five my gay cat and off we go to the sequel
posted by jason's_planet at 10:26 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I can't do fantasy books at all - they just seem so serious, no, humourless to me. Sure, I'm prejudiced - but if a prospective partner reads only fantasy lit, it's as big a signal to me as a fedora is to others. And let us not speak about those people who read no fiction at all.
posted by mippy at 10:28 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Laura Lippman doesn't write chick-lit.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:42 AM on September 11, 2009


Recently I've been bouncing between Thomas Pynchon and pulp branded mindless WotC fantasy. It's like one clears the palate for the other.
posted by georg_cantor at 10:51 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


What does it matter if a book was written in nineteen days, nineteen weeks or nineteen years? I think anyone announcing the amount of time they're planning to take in order to write a book is doing so for the stunt value more than an attempt to write a decent work of fiction.

Events such as NaNoWriMo and 24-hour playwriting competitions are meant to spark creativity and break people out of their writing ruts, but aren't (in my opinion) meant at all to quantify those works based on how much time they took (well, perhaps in the 24-hour playwriting competitions).

If you want to write something, write it. If you have limited time, budget that time so you can write faster, or in shorter bursts, or on the weekends or during plane rides. Don't try to fool me into thinking you're writing something special just because you gave yourself a challenge to write in x amount of time.
posted by xingcat at 11:10 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'll admit to enjoying chick-lit every now and then, especially when life gets depressing or stressful - reading a chapter of literary fluff at the end of the day is like comfort food for an exhausted brain. (And now I'm dying to read Optimus Chyme's homosexual feline's space adventure.)

But here's my biggest beef with the chick-lit genre (and this goes for gothic horror and mystery novels and nearly all books with any romance, though I've never read an actual "romance" novel and maybe it's different there): nobody is having safe sex! It's all heaving bosoms and erect "members" foreplay foreplay, throw her on the floor and bam, it's in! Um, excuse me, but didn't you two just meet? I don't remember there being a when-were-you-last-tested conversation since this character came into the book. So, where's the frickin condom?!

As Ms. Lithwick's novel is "mommy lit" (a subgenre with which I am unfamiliar, but I'll venture a guess that there are more husbands and fewer handsome next-door-neighbor-cops/firefighters) I doubt it's an issue she'll have to tackle directly, but I would love to see it handled better by more authors. Not to mention screenwriters. Hey, if they can make sex look perfect and choreographed and simultaneously-orgasmic, surely they can work in an easily unwrapped and donned condom? This is not beyond the imaginative/cinematic powers of these artists, is it?
posted by philotes at 11:32 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


improbably women with chainmail bikinis

Is both an alternate-universe Cramps song and my favorite typo in quite some time.
posted by Diablevert at 12:00 PM on September 11, 2009


Stephen King could do it in a week with the letters 'w', 'p', 'm' and 'v' pried off his keyboard.
posted by digsrus at 12:07 PM on September 11, 2009


(And now I'm dying to read Optimus Chyme's homosexual feline's space adventure.)

The galleys arrived just yesterday.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:44 PM on September 11, 2009 [12 favorites]


The galleys arrived just yesterday.

*Opens checkbook* Let's get this thing off the ground.
posted by gc at 1:14 PM on September 11, 2009


I think the decapitated woman on the cover is so that you can picture the body with your own head on it, but that's creepy too.

I don't like most chick lit because the women in them are invariably improbably young-wildly attractive-hugely successful all at once, live in a fabulous apartment in an exciting city with the perfect job and a designer wardrobe--and yet make stupid choices, fall for the wrong guy or get into silly arguments with the right guy and then don't talk to him out of 'pride'. I get so irritated with how little I can relate to this kind of person.

What's even worse are the ones where the woman is improbably successful at like 21 in a male-dominated field and she looks like a model but all the men take her seriously because she's so tough and...well, I'm getting annoyed just writing this.
posted by misha at 2:02 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


The merits of chick lit aside, can I just say that I love Dahlia Lithwick's name, and if I ever write a piece of fiction I will probably use the moniker for an awesome character.
posted by Think_Long at 2:15 PM on September 11, 2009


Stephen King could do it in a week with the letters 'w', 'p', 'm' and 'v' pried off his keyboard.

I don't understand.
posted by josher71 at 2:31 PM on September 11, 2009


What does it matter if a book was written in nineteen days, nineteen weeks or nineteen years?

Formalists, unite!

From the Laura Lippman response, a quote from James Cain:

"We don't say to ourselves that some lucky fellow did it a certain way, so we'll do it that way too, and cut in on the sugar. We have to do it our own way, each for himself, or there isn't any sugar."

Oh, c'mon. It happens all the time.

Stephen King could do it in a week with the letters 'w', 'p', 'm' and 'v' pried off his keyboard.

I don't understand.


Stephen King is a very prolific writer.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:02 PM on September 11, 2009


Oh, so, he needs something to slow him down?
posted by josher71 at 3:04 PM on September 11, 2009


When your eyes pass over a spot of pink on a bookstore shelf, do you have an increased sense that here is a book that might speak to your interests?
Quite the opposite. In fact at the sight of a pink cover featuring a woman playing with her pearls and kicking up her stiletto heels I rear back in horror as though shown a sperm-encrusted wack-off book. Because in their own way the chick lit books are wack-off books only it is all in the mind. The reader can fantacize that she, too, is impossibly tall and slender without exercise or dieting. That she can achieve tremendous success without too much work or sacrifice. The apartment, the clothes, the boyfriend, the best friend will all fall into her lap as just due for being smart and funny.

When I am in the mood for lighthearted books by women, I turn to this source.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:45 PM on September 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


You know, I'd love to see what an Oulipo writer would do with the chicklit genre.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:36 PM on September 11, 2009


You get a sense of gender reinforcement from carrying a pocket knife? What shape is this knife?

It's roughly the size & shape of a Lebanese cucumber. I normally carry it in my left-hand trouser pocket. I don't know why; the right-hand pocket just doesn't quite feel right.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:38 PM on September 11, 2009


A Rude Yet Cautionary Poem For Chick-Lit Afficionados

De Beers
Moët et Chandon
Roamer, Favre Leuba
Gucci Gucci
Thomas Pink, Helmut Lang
MountAdam, Givenchy
Mercedes-Benz
Lang & Heyne, Hysek
Celine, Chanel
Aquanautic, Aquascutum
Volvo, Vulcain
Le Bon Marché, Luxottica
Blancpain, Vianney Halter
Repossi
Salvatore Ferragamo
Swarovski
Scalfaro
Schauer
Sephora Sephora Sephora
Dom Perignon
Rolex



International Watch Co.
Bunz
posted by Sparx at 8:07 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I dreamt last night that I lost my (very expensive and useful) glasses, and that poem brought it back. THANKS FOR THE FLASHBACK.
posted by mippy at 12:03 AM on September 12, 2009


So, MeFi really hates girly girls, I guess?
posted by molybdenumblue at 6:05 AM on September 12, 2009



Stephen King could do it in a week with the letters 'w', 'p', 'm' and 'v' pried off his keyboard.

I don't understand.


It's a riff on the plot in "Misery" his novel that was turned into a movie with Kathy Bates and James Caan.
posted by davey_darling at 6:16 AM on September 12, 2009


When I am in the mood for Stephen King, I turn to On Writing.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:42 AM on September 12, 2009


So, MeFi really hates girly girls, I guess?

About as much as they/we/you/it hate/s:

__ vegetarians
__ fat people
__ skinny people
__ hipsters
__ bicyclists
__ drivers
__ other

Some people will get a hate on for anything, for unclear purposes. I haven't read any of the genre, so I can't comment much on the subject. Admittedly, I did like the movie "In Her Shoes" and I do like girly girls. But I like most people. I will give the online novel a read if I remember (if only b/c she shares a name with my daughter). I also like generative fiction; this almost fits.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:50 AM on September 12, 2009


__ your favourite band
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:15 PM on September 12, 2009


MetaFilter: I rear back in horror as though shown a sperm-encrusted wack-off book.
posted by jason's_planet at 11:19 AM on September 15, 2009


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