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Results 1 - 25 of 71
1. PubCrawl Podcast: Genres – Romance

This week JJ and Kelly conclude their series on genres in publishing with ROMANCES. Also, we reveal the depth of our Harry Potter nerdery and our deep fandom past. TRIGGER WARNING: We discuss rape and consent in Old School romances.

Subscribe to us on iTunesStitcherSoundcloud, or use this feed to subscribe through your podcast service of choice! If you like us, please, please, please leave a rating or review, as it helps other listeners find the podcast. We cherish each and every one of you who have taken the time to leave us feedback; you’re the stars in our sky!

Show Notes

  • Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (and their podcast!)
  • Romance is the largest market of publishing in terms of sheer number of books being published, units being sold, as well as cash flow.
  • We discussed the hallmarks of other genres, but romance really only has the one: your main couple must end up in a relationship by the end of the book (the so-called HEA, or Happily Ever After, or the HFN, or Happily For Now).
  • Romance is a staple of publishing, and is a large part of what we now consider the literary “canon” but the modern romance novel as we knew it first came into existence in the 1970s. According to the Smart Bitches, the “first” modern romance novel is The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss.
  • Romance novels are divided into Old School and New School romance: Old School are the books published pre-1990s.
  • Old School romances may be partially responsible for the “trashy” reputation around romance novels because there were forceful, rapist male romantic leads, but for other reasons, not the least because the stories were centered around female leads and female pleasure.
  • Old School romances were also about awakening the female lead, sexually, emotionally, etc. so some hangups about “virginity” (actual or metaphorical) linger.
  • Romance publishing is divided into two segments: category and single-title.
  • Category romances are specific lines from a publisher focusing on specific tropes and storylines. As a romance writer, it may be easier to break into publishing by starting to write for categories.
  • Single-title romances are focused more on the author’s name than the tropes, e.g. Nora Roberts. The stories and tropes are created wholesale by the author and is more similar to other trade publishing genres.
  • In terms of content, romances can literally contain anything. Anything! That’s the greatest thing about romance; it’s like Mad Libs: put in what you want and you’ll pretty much guaranteed to find a romance novel that fits that criteria. Romances span every genre: mystery, thriller, science-fiction, fantasy, contemporary, et al. What constitutes a ROMANCE as opposed to another genre is the centrality of the love story.
  • Romances can have series, either where friends or different family members get their own romances in separate books, or else it’s one central couple throughout multiple books.

Books Discussed/What We’re Reading

What We’re Working On

  • Kelly is continuing to work on her WIP, not by writing words, but by journaling and thinking and creating.
  • The project JJ couldn’t talk about last week was a companion novel to Wintersong! Cue the panic.

Off Menu Recommendations

That’s all for this week! We will be on hiatus for the next two weeks as both JJ and Kelly will be on vacation (not together, alas!). When we return, we will be starting a new series, wherein we break down stories to see what makes them successful or not. As always, sound off in the comments if you have any questions and we’ll see you in two weeks!

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2. Hit your Readers in the Heart…

In order for an author to be successful, he or she must have a successful author brand. Your brand is your name. It’s what people connect you with or think about when your name is mentioned. For example, Stephen King = horror, Rick Riordan = young adult myths and legends, JRR Tolkien = epic fantasy, Kelly Armstrong = paranormal romance, and Diana Gabaldon = time travel romance. I could go on, but you get the picture. Each name evokes a genre or a series, and each brand is high concept.

So how do you develop your author brand (name) into a household word that conjures creepy clowns or teen demigods or hobbits or sexy werewolves or time traveling standing stones and kilts? You need to hit your readers in the heart. Create a positive emotional experience so that they’ll become loyal readers and word of mouth heralds for each book you publish.

This strategy is the basis of social media. You connect with others because of what they say, pictures they post, or the experiences they share. Somehow, an emotional cord is struck, and you want to reach out to people and give them your support or a kind word or thank them for making you laugh your ass off for posting a cute dog or kitten video. Emotion connects us all, makes us human. And depending what you share or post, if people like what they read or see or hear, they begin to trust you. If you’re an author who writes books with animals as main characters, you can bet you’ll grab the interest of animal lovers all over the world.

One way to help figure out your ‘brand’ is to create a tagline for yourself, just as you would for a book. I did a lot of soul searching on this and decided that I wanted to conjure feelings of nostalgia with each book I write—give my books that ‘good old days’ spin. Who doesn’t like happy memories of their childhood? So I came up with: Escape to the past and have a blast. Simple and direct. I want my readers to escape from the mundane and be drawn into a familiar world where they’ll have a pleasurable and exciting experience. At least that’s my hope!    

When you find out what makes your audience tick, you’ve hit their sweet spot. You give them more of what they want. They need it. They crave it. Write it for them. Make them feel throughyour words. It’s what authors do. It’s what we crave.

So what about you? When it comes to reading, what hits your heart? What do you crave? Would love to hear your comments! Cheers and thank you for reading my blog!

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3. Return to Writing: Twelve Ways to Get Back on Track

The last few weeks have seen me getting back into writing full-time again, hence my long blog hiatus. And with writing comes, of course, editing and revising, and then revising again, and well, you know how it goes. An endless cycle of chop, change, doubt, re-organization, and finally having to say, "That's it! This book is FINISHED. No more edits until a copy editor tells me what to do." 

It wasn't easy to settle back into a writing routine. Most days I just wanted to go through my photos from Taiwan and play with watercolors. Fun ways to make the hours fly, but nothing that was going to get my WIP ready for a potential agent or publisher.

In order to instill some discipline into my writing life, I desperately needed to remind myself of all the things I've ever taught and encouraged my own writing students to do. (Sometimes you have to be your own teacher!) 

Grabbing a new dry erase board and pen, I made myself a flow chart listing the top 12 ways to get me and my manuscript back into the writing zone. Here's what I came up with:
  1. Focus. Boy, did I need this one. After Taiwan, my mind was a mess: I wanted to work on my novel, only to then want to write poetry, or work on a screenplay, or hey, what about that Young Adult thing in my filing cabinet, or no, a picture book might be even better. . . .  After several false starts, I knew this had to stop. I had to narrow my vision, forget about the other projects (they're all lined up in boxes ready to be tackled one at a time), and concentrate solely on the most important manuscript, the one I was working on before I went on my trip. That's it. Just one manuscript at a time.
  2. Mindfulness. Because I so desperately wanted that manuscript finished, I started to slash words, sentences, and paragraphs without thinking about how much work had gone into creating them. It seemed easier to toss phrases and pages that were bothering me rather than try to improve or rewrite them. After several hours of draconian "ruthless revising" I went back and retrieved all those toss-outs, learning that it was far better to savor each unwanted word, sentence, and paragraph until I knew how I could either fix or use them elsewhere in the story to their advantage.
  3. Brevity. That said, sometimes my choices were right. Less is better in a manuscript. Focusing with mindfulness, I looked for all the ways I could say what I wanted to say without having to say it twice or with too much description.
  4. Let go. It was imperative that I let go of everything that was blocking my way forward or eating my time: unrealistic expectations that I could be finished in a few days (leading to speed-editing); unnecessary shopping trips; housework that was simply routine and not because the house was dirty; and especially social media sites, including, unfortunately, my blog. It was hard, but I got so much done. And I'm back now!
  5. Ritual. For some people it's lighting a candle before they start work, or choosing a favorite pen. My writing ritual, at least for this current book, was to make myself a cup of jasmine green tea, go out of my office and upstairs to my breakfast nook, and read a Chinese poem (translated into English!) from The White Pony before I began freewriting or editing. It was a great system, and one I intend to continue with my next project.
  6. Music. I've always loved the idea of writing to music, and have enjoyed doing so when I've been in workshops or seminars, but it's often something I forget to do on my own. Recently I bought a small portable radio that I can use in both my office and the breakfast nook (or anywhere else for that matter). I've found it very helpful to put on what I used to call "elevator" or "waiting for the dentist" music to calm me down and set the tone of my writing session. 
  7. Magazine or artwork prompts. Using cut-out images from magazines, old books, and catalogs has always been my go-to story starter. Whether the pictures are of fashion models or reproductions of famous artworks, I couldn't live without my image library. For my current WIP I thought I had more than enough pictures to keep the story flowing, but I also realized many of the images had become somewhat stale--I had looked at them so often I had stopped seeing them. Starting a new collection solely for the last stage of the book seemed to revive all my interest in the story again, and gave me a fresh perspective on the older pictures when I paired them up with the new ones.
  8. Meditation. I've never been a "good meditator" (whatever that means), having hopeless monkey mind and a tendency to squirm when I have to sit still without a book or a pen in my hand. That said, I have always appreciated the need to be quiet for a bit before I start my day or any creative work. The secret I've learned is to not set a time: "I will meditate for twenty minutes straight or else!" but just to give myself permission to stop and not be so busy-busy from the minute I get up or the second I sit down to write. Take a breath, take a minute, relax. Let go.
  9. Choose a path/theme/genre/medium. My usual working style when starting anything new is to just let it happen. More times than not, genre or theme is something I choose for my work after my first draft. This time, though, and following through with #1: Focus, I decided to study and develop my genre/theme before I did anything else. It was a good decision--I found myself taking less side trips and getting right to the heart of my story a whole lot faster than in the past.
  10. "How can I help?" It's nice to help other people, wonderful, in fact, but how often do we stop to help ourselves? I once read a quote that has always stayed with me about how the writer would never work for a boss as mean as she was to herself. Me neither--nothing but constant criticism, impossible deadlines, food and drink deprivation, and definitely no bathroom breaks allowed! When I'm writing, I can be horrible to myself. To break this tyranny, I wrote a "Letter to Me" asking what kind of help I needed to change the pattern. Some of my reply includes writing in 25-minute increments, followed by 15 minutes of anything non-writing related; rewarding myself with something special at the end of each day (can be as simple and inexpensive as a new library book); and making sure I put my writing, rather than the laundry, first.
  11. Find a problem, brainstorm a solution. Halfway through my manuscript I realized I was being far too darn nice to my characters. I hated it when anything bad happened to them, so I'd hurriedly make it all better so they wouldn't suffer. Bad idea. Characters crave suffering--it's what makes them whole in the end! My solution was to make lists of terrible things that could go wrong for each of them, and then brainstorm several dozen ways to prolong the trouble. The lists also gave me ways to solve the problems without relying on coincidence or magic wands.
  12. Write a gratitude or daily achievement list (especially after a rejection or a bad writing day). Not every writing day is a good day. In fact, a lot of them can be downright horrible, or at least they can seem to be until you really examine how the day went. Writing a gratitude list at the end of every day is an amazing practice. I like to go for a list of twelve. Even if the best I can do is write, "I have enough ink in my printer to send my manuscript out again." Or, "I got rid of four typos in Chapter 3," it's a win. (It's also positive proof that you're making progress, a good thing to remember and remind yourself when you don't even have ink in the printer.)
Tip of the Day: My absolute all-time favorite writing tip ever: Take a nap. Yes! Seriously! Napping can be a real creativity-saver, and it doesn't have to take up a lot of time. Whether it's in the middle of a hot Saturday afternoon, or as soon as you come home from work, don't fight the need to snooze--use it. To turn naps into real productivity, always have pen and paper right by your side so that as soon as you wake up, you can start writing. The results can be miraculous--new insights, new characters, new energy. I love it.

So what works for you? Drop a line in the comments section and let me know some of your favorite tips, too. Thanks for visiting!

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4. Genrefication Infographic Spring 2015

I recently sent out a survey about genrefication, and here are the results from over 600 respondents. The link for this is at: https://magic.piktochart.com/output/5927045-genre-survey-spring-2015

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5. New Adult Fiction - #writetip

There is a new genre emerging..."New Adult" fiction for older teens aka college-aged readers. You never stop growing up, but little in the market seems to address the coming-of-age that also happens between the ages of Nineteen to Twenty-six. Life changes drastically once high school is over, you have college, first jobs, first internships, first adult relationships…

Part of the appeal of NA is that the storylines are about characters who are taking on adult responsibilities for the first time without guidance from their parents. And the storylines generally have a heavy romance element. 

Keep this in mind as you revise your wonderful story, New Adult books are mostly about that specific time in every person's life—the time when the apron strings are cut from your parents, you no longer have a curfew, you're experiencing the world for the very first time, in most cases, with innocent eyes. New Adult is this section of your life where you discover who you want to be, what you want to be, and what type of person you will become. This time defines you. This is the time of firsts, the time where you can't blame your parents for your own bad choices. 

An NA character has to take responsibility for their own choices and live with the consequences. Most storylines are about twenty-something (18 to 26) characters living their own lives without any parents breathing down their necks, and learning to solve things on their own as they would in real life. New Adult fiction focuses on switching gears, from depending on our parents to becoming full-fledged, independent adults.

I am a firm believer that if you’re going to write a certain genre that you should read it, too. So I’m going to recommend that you start devouring NA novels to get a real sense and understanding of the genre before you write one.

Here are some great recommendations: https://www.goodreads.com/genres/new-adult-romance and http://www.goodreads.com/genres/new-adult and https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/new-adult-romance

Just as YA is fiction about teens discovering who they are as a person, New Adult (NA) is fiction about building your own life as an actual adult. As older teen readers discover the joy of the Young Adult genres, the New Adult—demand may increase. This, in turn, would give writers the chance to explore the freedom of a slightly older protagonist (over the age of 18 and out of high school, like the brilliant novel, "BEAUTIFUL DISASTER" by the amazing talents of author, Jamie McGuire) while addressing more adult issues that early 20-year-olds must face.

Older protagonists (basically, college students) are surprisingly rare; in a panel on YA literature at Harvard’s 2008 Vericon, City of Bones author talked about pitching her novel, then about twenty-somethings, as adult fiction. After several conversations, Clare realized she had to choose between adults and teens. She went with teens.

Quote from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press: We are actively looking for great, new, cutting edge fiction with protagonists who are slightly older than YA and can appeal to an adult audience. Since twenty-somethings are devouring YA, St. Martin’s Press is seeking fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an “older YA” or “new adult.” In this category, they are looking for spunky but not stupid, serious but not dull, cutting-edge, supernatural stories.

Quote from Georgia McBride, author (Praefatio) and founder of #YALitChat and publisher at Month9Books: "New Adult is a fabulous idea in theory, and authors seem to be excited about it. But in a world where bookstores shelf by category, to them, it is either  Adult or Young Adult. Some booksellers even call their YA section “teen.” And when you have a character who is over a certain age (19 seems to be the age most consider the start of New Adult), it is received as Adult. In some cases, the designation by publishers causes more confusion than not.
Let’s face it, YA is associated with teens, and at 19, most no longer consider themselves teens. So, it would support the theory of placing these “New Adult” titles in the Adult section. However, with the prevalence of eBook content, it would seem that the powers that be could easily create a New Adult category if they really wanted to...."

There’s also a list on goodreads of New Adult book titles. These books focus on college age characters, late teens to early twenties, transitioning into the adult world.

Some popular authors of the NA category include:
  • Jamie McGuire
  • Jessica Park
  • Tammara Webber
  • Steph Campbell
  • Liz Reinhardt
  • Abbi Glines
  • Colleen Hoover 
  • Sherry Soule

Would you buy New Adult books? 

Does the genre appeal to you? 

Does it sound better than YA (teen novels)? 
Or are you happy with YA as it stands?

Do you consider YA to include characters that are over the age of eighteen? 
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6. Thrillers v. Suspense

You would think that after 20+ years in this business I would have all the answers. Well there are days when I definitely still feel like I have more questions than answers. One of those questions is how do you define the difference between thrillers and suspense. I tend to think that I like suspense more than I like thrillers and I think I know what the difference is, but when asked by writers to define them I'm not sure I know exactly how to do that. I guess I'm not sure the answer is always cut and dry.

So today I'm asking you. How do you define the two?


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7. Open mic and the classroom

perkins open mic1 Open mic and the classroomI confess that I have been known to say that many, many books are my absolute favorites, to the extent that sometimes people roll their eyes and avert their attention. And I think that as a reader, this is true — I fall in love a little with story after story. But it is not true that as a teacher, I fall in love with every book that passes by. I read with different eyes for my classroom, and given limited time and resources, I get to choose fewer books on that front.

So recently Mitali Perkins released an edited volume called Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices, a collection of pieces about being bicultural, and I fell in love twice. As a multiethnic person who loves thinking about these issues, I was on board immediately with the poignant, wry, and funny accounts about being in-between. Those are feelings I know well.

But I didn’t just fall in love with Open Mic as a reader — I feel in love with it as a teacher. The Common Core Standards (if your state is into those) push us to teach across genres more, to use multiple texts to work on synthesis skills, and to expand our text repertoires in ways I think could be important and useful. But in practice, I have found that my repertoire of texts is going to need some shoring up if I am going to shift my teaching that way.

In addition to having an exciting theme that I absolutely love for my classroom, the texts in Open Mic vary in genre. There is a poem, a personal account, a graphic opinion piece, and so on.  Those different genres give me a whole new window into how we can build the skills to synthesize and analyze, because crossing genres necessitates that work. I can see the great usefulness of a collection like this, and I hope lots of other cross-genre collections around themes are on my near horizon. I can hardly wait to get started.

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8. Plot Genres

In my last two posts I covered a variety of alternative plots that deviate from traditional arch plot. In this post I want to address what is known as a plot genre.

You’ve probably stumbled across craft books that told you there are x-number of plot types and the story you are writing probably falls into one of these catagories.  For example Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat offers the following list:

  1. save-the-catMonster in the House
  2. Golden Fleece
  3. Out of the Bottle
  4. Dude with a Problem
  5. Rites of Passage
  6. Buddy Love
  7. Whydunit
  8. The Fool Triumphant
  9. Institutionalized
  10. Superhero

Or maybe you’ve stumbled across Ronald Tobias’ 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them, which offers these as plot variations:

  1. 20 Master PlotsComing of Age Plot
  2. Atonement Plot
  3. Love Plot
  4. Forbidden Love Plot
  5. Revenge Plot
  6. Mystery Plot
  7. Adventure Plot
  8. Rescue Plot
  9. Escape Plot
  10. Temptation Plot
  11. You get the picture…

So, why aren’t these alternative plots? Why didn’t I include them in my alternative plot list?

Great question.

This is the difference between what I call a plot type and a plot genre. The list above is a category: romance, mystery, superhero, buddy flick, etc. They all come with conventions and audience expectations. And yes, they sometime even come with what one might call “obligatory scenes” (i.e. a scene you would expect from that genre of story). In my book, however, these are all still variations of the hero’s journey/goal-oriented plot. They don’t push the envelope of plot in a new way. Instead they use the conventions of arch plot to tell this variation of the goal-oriented story. Instead of a quest, it’s the goal to “get the girl” or “seek revenge” or “solve the mystery.” The reason we often hear that there is only “one type of story” is because we often lump everything (including all these genre variations) under the umbrella of a goal-oriented story.

Of course you can take any one of these genres and decide to use an alternative plot! Of course you can! And I’d love to see you do that.

But let’s not get confused. A plot-type is defined by the type of action and it’s cause-and-effect relationships. Whereas a plot-genre is defined by the category of the story-type and the expectations and conventions of that category.


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9. Plot Genres

In my last two posts I covered a variety of alternative plots that deviate from traditional arch plot. In this post I want to address what is known as a plot genre.

You’ve probably stumbled across craft books that told you there are x-number of plot types and the story you are writing probably falls into one of these catagories.  For example Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat offers the following list:

  1. save-the-catMonster in the House
  2. Golden Fleece
  3. Out of the Bottle
  4. Dude with a Problem
  5. Rites of Passage
  6. Buddy Love
  7. Whydunit
  8. The Fool Triumphant
  9. Institutionalized
  10. Superhero

Or maybe you’ve stumbled across Ronald Tobias’ 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them, which offers these as plot variations:

  1. 20 Master PlotsComing of Age Plot
  2. Atonement Plot
  3. Love Plot
  4. Forbidden Love Plot
  5. Revenge Plot
  6. Mystery Plot
  7. Adventure Plot
  8. Rescue Plot
  9. Escape Plot
  10. Temptation Plot
  11. You get the picture…

So, why aren’t these alternative plots? Why didn’t I include them in my alternative plot list?

Great question.

This is the difference between what I call a plot type and a plot genre. The list above is a category: romance, mystery, superhero, buddy flick, etc. They all come with conventions and audience expectations. And yes, they sometime even come with what one might call “obligatory scenes” (i.e. a scene you would expect from that genre of story). In my book, however, these are all still variations of the hero’s journey/goal-oriented plot. They don’t push the envelope of plot in a new way. Instead they use the conventions of arch plot to tell this variation of the goal-oriented story. Instead of a quest, it’s the goal to “get the girl” or “seek revenge” or “solve the mystery.” The reason we often hear that there is only “one type of story” is because we often lump everything (including all these genre variations) under the umbrella of a goal-oriented story.

Of course you can take any one of these genres and decide to use an alternative plot! Of course you can! And I’d love to see you do that.

But let’s not get confused. A plot-type is defined by the type of action and it’s cause-and-effect relationships. Whereas a plot-genre is defined by the category of the story-type and the expectations and conventions of that category.


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10. The Importance of Background

When I first started taking art classes and learning how to draw and paint, I made a mistake common to most new artists: I painted everything in the middle of my paper and without any kind of background. Everything I drew just kind of hung in mid-air without a context to keep it anchored within the (nonexistent) setting. Over and over I'd have to go back into my pictures and add my backgrounds, if I could be bothered to do so at all, and that wasn't always an easy thing to do.

It was the same with my writing: I'd freewrite an exciting conflict scene out of the blue, add some troubled characters, and then have to figure out where they all came from. I'd have to travel back in fictional time and ask my characters questions straight out of a Henry James or Edith Wharton novel: "You want to marry whom? Where's he from? What's his background? Not one of those dreadful Van der Leeden Hoopsie-Kopecky boys is he??"

A quick and easy fix to both these problems has been to tackle my backgrounds first. The benefits of this have been practically endless, not the least being "No More Blank Paper Staring Me in the Face," and "No More Wondering What to Write or Paint."

This is especially helpful when I find myself with a limited amount of time to work on a project, for instance a spare half hour or two when I know I could do something creative, but I'm not sure where to start. Working on the background for a future painting or story is the perfect solution. For some well-spent art time, I try:
  • Gessoing art journal pages or full-size paper or canvases. (Admittedly not the most exciting item on my list, but getting it done ahead of time is a huge step forward.)
  • Adding some color to the gesso--or simply using color on its own, perhaps mixed with a clear acrylic medium for texture and durability--is a great way to step up the excitement factor.
  • As is experimenting with brushstrokes: swirls, linear patterned grids, stippled dots.
  • Or doodling into wet gesso with a stick or the end of a paintbrush. A dry sponge or any other kind of imprint-making object is effective too.
  • Abstract collage: old newspapers, junk mail, decorative art papers--tear them up, paste them down, paint over with either a thin coat of gesso or a clear acrylic medium.
  • Sprinkle sand or seeds, confetti or even dirt into the damp medium for a super textural effect.
  • If you want to go beyond an abstract design, try drawing or painting a background of a more structured surface such as stone, brick, or wood. Or practice painting or drawing drapery of different kinds of fabric: seersucker, silk, cotton, terry cloth.
While I'm working on these visual backgrounds, I find it's helpful to not think about what I might place in the foreground. My job at this stage is to build up a good collection of styles, colors, and textures that I can easily turn to when I've got the time and inspiration for a longer painting session.

The same is true for writing. Having a collection of pre-written back stories on hand guarantees that I'll always have something and someone to write about in the future. You can do this too:
  • Without referring to any physical references such as a photograph or actual person, start by choosing a name at random, any name: Bunny McPherson; Lucky Holmes; Wendell Marlow. This is your new character. Now write about his or her early life: where have they come from?
  • The ancestors--who are they? What's their story?
  • Write about your character's childhood through the POV of a best friend--or a worst enemy.
  • Write about the various settings in which you could place this person: e.g., home, work, vacation/travel spot.
  • Write about a severe emotional trauma this person experienced as a child.
  • What's this person's biggest secret?
  • Place this character in a setting: restaurant, bus, city sidewalk, farmyard. Now envision the other people in the background: what are they doing? Who are they? How does your character interact with this background? Could any of them become secondary characters in a longer work?
I promise if you do this often enough and on a regular basis, a short story or novel will emerge without you even trying. Goal, conflict, and motivation--the big three essentials to plot and page-turning--are all in that background somewhere, just waiting to be uncovered.

The best part of having all my backgrounds--written and visual--in place before I start any new work is that often the finished background will determine what my next piece will be. Two weekends ago I took out a large piece of paper I had pre-painted in various shades of yellow and green. It turned into a scene I titled "Sunday Lunch." The green leafiness of the background brushstrokes lent itself to framing a shady outdoor terrace set for a lunch party. And because I always think art and writing are but two sides of the one story-telling coin, I was next inspired to write about the people who were going to eat their lunch there--more background grist for the writing wheel!

Tip of the Day: Shake it up: writers, try some painting! Artists--get our your pens and journals! Everybody: practice some backgrounds--ideally it would be fun to put both disciplines together into one lovely piece. How about writing a story or poem onto a painted background?

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11. Friday Speak Out!: Why Cooking is Like Writing, Only Better!, Guest Post by Karen Guccione-Englert

With my recent down time, I’ve been doing some thinking since I am not doing too much else. I’m thinking writing is a lot like cooking. Now for those of you who know me well, this may seem like a strange comparison considering that I dislike cooking and am rather fond of writing. Allow me to explain.

My husband and I have a blended family of six. Our mixture of his and hers children creates a unique schedule for many meal times. Some nights it’s just the two of us and other nights, we are feeding six. Over the years, meal time caused a certain level of angst for me. Trying to make sure I created meals that were healthy, that pleased everyone, and that were within budget were a challenge. I have never enjoyed cooking but trying to tackle this task made it more daunting. I fretted over meal planning, shopping, preparation, all of it.

As time as passed, I have started to worry less about covering all these bases. I began to focus on creating meals that were a little more fun and different and thought less about trying to please the masses.

And this is why I think cooking is like writing. So often, we are encouraged to write in a genre or style that we are not passionate about or simply have no interest in. As writers, we are sometimes pushed to try a new category because it is what’s “new” and “popular” but when it comes down to it, we may not care a bit about it.

I love writing children’s stories and short stories. I am also working on my memoir about my battle with heart disease. My focus is narrow and I am okay with that. I could try to write paranormal or horror but I promise, it would not worth anyone’s time. I think it is better to stick with what makes you happy. In my case, I write because I enjoy it rather than it being my job. Since I have that luxury, I can be picky. And as for the cooking, I fortunately married a fantastic chef!

* * * * *
Karen Guccione-Englert fell in love with words at an early age and now shares her love of reading with students at Orchard Farm Elementary. Outside of the classroom, she primarily writes children’s stories and short stories. Karen enjoys entering a variety of writing competitions to practice and refine her craft. In addition, she is an active member of Go Red for Women with the St. Louis chapter of the American Heart Association. Karen resides in St. Peters, Missouri with her husband, four children, and loveable pug.

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

5 Comments on Friday Speak Out!: Why Cooking is Like Writing, Only Better!, Guest Post by Karen Guccione-Englert, last added: 3/9/2013
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12. Friday Speak Out!: Defying Stereotypes, Guest Post by Beth Cato

When people find out I'm a writer, sometimes they ask straight out: "What do you write?" Other times, I get a response that makes me fight the urge to snarl and froth at the mouth.

"Oh, you write children's books?"

It's not that I have anything against children's books. I love them to pieces and have hundreds on shelves throughout my house. As I grew up, Stan and Jan Berenstain, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and C. W. Anderson were demi-gods of literature. The thing that drives me bonkers is the assumption that because, 1) I'm a woman, and 2) I'm a mother, therefore I must write children's books.

There were several years there, when I first started writing, and I was afraid to tell anyone. If asked about my job, I said I was a stay-at-home mom. I always felt like a liar when I said that, though, because I wasn't happy with that role alone. Now, I'm honest.

I love being a mom, I love my kid, but I'm also more than that.

I may be home all day, but my brain is not confined to these walls. I'm on Wikipedia, looking up poisons and how to resuscitate people who fall into icy ponds. My mind travels to steampunk fantasy worlds, flits across the universe faster-than-light, and reads paranormal western novels before bed. I'm googling how to set up trip wire bombs and make meth labs, and probably flagged on more than one FBI watch list. I write dark stories about grandmothers who morph into cockroaches, or light tales about toilet gnomes who use magic to keep plumbing in good order; I also write feel-good Chicken Soup stories about beloved cats, or raising my autistic son.

I'm complicated, and proud of it.

When people assume I write for children, I politely correct them. "Oh, no. I write science fiction and fantasy, mostly, but I've also had stories in a number of Chicken Soup anthologies."

I get a lot of funny looks when I mention I write fantasy and science fiction. It confuses them. That's okay. I confuse myself sometimes.

Even if they shift awkwardly and change the subject after that, I know I have broken their concept of me, and broken the assumption they established for all writers who are also mothers. And most importantly, I've been honest with them and with myself.

Maybe, just maybe, I will write children's books someday, but I won't be confined by any genre or age group. I'm a mother and a writer, and my imagination is too big for any cage.

Beth Cato is an active member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, with stories in Flash Fiction Online, Daily Science Fiction, Stupefying Stories, and many other publications. She's originally from Hanford, California, but now resides in Buckeye, Arizona, with her husband and son. Despite how often her husband's co-workers beg, she will not quit writing to bake cookies all day long. Information regarding current projects can always be found at http://www.bethcato.com. Sometimes those projects do include cookies.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

13 Comments on Friday Speak Out!: Defying Stereotypes, Guest Post by Beth Cato, last added: 2/11/2013
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13. pen names and genre rodeos

Publishers seem to prefer to keep their authors focused on a particular genre after they've achieved at least some initial success.  No doubt there are business and marketing principles at work, and there are undoubtedly payoffs for both parties, but it might also be like fitting the author with a pair of horse blinders (remember those side flap goggles worn by the horse pulling the junkman's cart, to keep the horse's attention on the road ahead?).

The publisher may feel it has money invested in the author's name--the brand--and has hopes of building a faithful, ever larger consumer base for the brand.  Our author meanwhile may be pleased by the past commercial success, but he's an artist for god's sake and may want to give free rein to new creative energies.  So what if a venture into the new genre doesn't sell as well?  Well, life is hard, money is tight, shareholders have expectations, and authors might be a little crazy.  Still, if an author has a day job to meet subsistence needs, riding a new bull at the rodeo might be exhilarating.

Famous authors are more likely to get a nod from their publishers when submitting cross-genre work.  Some whom I have read with good crossover adult, young adult, and middle grade novels within their individual collections include Louise Erdrich, Carl Hiaasen, and Neil Gaiman, to name just a few.  So it can be, and is, done.  It's just less of a financial risk for the publisher, or career risk for the author, if the author already has a following.

Of course it's also less of a risk if the author is still inhabiting the same moral and physical universe of his other genres.  Neil Gaiman might not reverberate in romance genre as well as in his more typical fantasy genre.  It could be interesting to see what happens though.

Another way to potentially upset your hardworking publisher is to run your next piece of work past him with a pseudonym on it.  "Some famous authors publish under pseudonyms so that they can get a fresh reading of their work," says an article in the NY Times (2/23/2012).  "In 1987 Joyce Carol Oates released a book under the name Rosamond Smith but apologized and swore off pseudonyms when her publisher discovered what she had done."  Apparently they didn't think it was a very good decision in her case, but authors might resort to using pseudonyms for various reasons.  In earlier times women authors sometimes adopted men's names in hopes of being taken more seriously as writers.  Joanne Kathleen Rowling took the neutral gender J. K. Rowling in hopes of better attracting more boy readers.

The same Times article discusses an author, Patricia O'Brien, who had published several books including a novel, but whose most recent novel had been submitted to 13 publishers by her agent without finding a home.  An Internet check on BookScan showed it had sold only 4000 copies, which was considered a flop.  However, her agent, who had a lot of confidence in the book, said "I realized that the book was not being judged on its merits.  It was being judged on how many books she has sold.  I needed somebody who couldn't look on BookScan."  When the book reached another publisher under Ms. O'Brien's new pseudonym, Kate Alcott, there were no adverse digital footprints found on Internet searches, and it received an enthusiastic reading, and was accepted.  In time Ms. O'Brien came clean with the publisher, everyone remained friends, and the same publisher later bought another novel from Ms. O'Brien.  A fortuitous outcome in this case.

14. Book Genres and Blog Stats

I had fun collecting stats on my sidebar polls last week. Thanks to all 1,453 of you who answered the questions!

Turns out:

→ 93% of you are writers
→ 85% of you are writing fiction
→ 73% of you are not yet published
→ 77% of you are writing for the general (not Christian) market

By far the most interesting info I gathered was the genres my blog readers are writing (or at least those who chose to vote). Here's how it stacked up:

26%  Fantasy or sci-fi
21%  General/other (non-genre fiction)
12%  Women’s fiction
12%  Mystery/suspense
10%  Supernatural or paranormal
9%    Romance
7%    Historical (romance or not)

I was particularly interested in the fact that the largest percentage was fantasy and sci-fi. I don't typically rep fantasy or sci-fi, so I really appreciate all of you reading my blog!

When the numbers first started coming in, I immediately noticed the large percentage who checked fantasy/sci-fi, and I wondered whether there might be a disproportionate number of writers in that genre vs. readers (hence the difficulty many of you are having getting published). I set out to try and run the numbers, but it's ridiculously hard to find accurate data on book sales by genre. So I went about it a different way. I decided to look at recent book deals as listed on Publishers Marketplace.

I chose two months: April, 2011, and October, 2010, and looked at all the fiction deals reported. There were 309 total deals. Here is how they stacked up by genre:

38%  General/other (non-genre fiction)
30%  Women’s/Romance
11%  Thriller
10%  Mystery/Crime
6%    Sci-fi/Fantasy
5%    Paranormal
<1%  Horror

I realize this isn't scientific, it's strictly anecdotal. But the anecdotal evidence supports the initial instinct I had when I saw the numbers. While 26% of those voting report writing fantasy or sci-fi, sampling from two recent months suggests only 6% of book deals were done in those genres. That's not a minor discrepancy...it's a significant difference.

What do you make of this?

What other conclusions might you draw from these two lists of (unscientific) statistics?

© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

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15. What’s In Our Full Manuscript Queue

STATUS: This is a first for me. CBS films has a dedicated FB page for LEGEND the Movie. And you get first peek at the just released cover. Sweet.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? MISSIONARY MAN by Eurythmics

This is actually a good question. A quick look shows that we have 8 full manuscripts in the queue to be read. And here’s where they fall:

6 titles are Young Adult (breakdown by genre, 3 fantasies, 2 paranormals, 1 contemporary)

1 title is adult literary fiction

1 title is adult women’s fiction

We just sent responses to an adult fantasy that we passed on as well as a middle grade title that had several agents interested but ended up not being quite right for us.

Of the 3 clients Sara just signed: adult SF novel, adult Historical Romance, and Paranormal YA.

And as a bonus, here is Kristin as a talking head yet again. This time I’m reading a short excerpt from the Philip K Dick nominee SF novel SONG OF SCARABAEUS for the awards ceremony last Friday. The sound is not the best so you’ll probably have to turn up your volume all the way up to remotely hear me. Warning, this scene will probably hook you in!

The author Sara Creasy thought I looked quite spiffy!

17 Comments on What’s In Our Full Manuscript Queue, last added: 5/1/2011
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16. Random Questions

I've been going through, not kidding, years of blog questions submitted by readers. I go through them regularly and pick and choose those I want to answer. Some I store away because I don't know how to answer, others wait because the answer is more complicated, and so many wait because I feel I've touched on the subject before. That being said, there are a lot of questions in there that are important, but don't get enough of an answer for a full blog post. The answers are short and sweet. Here are some of those.

I have a quick question, if that's all right. So many different agencies state that they are not excepting "science fiction", but fantasy is often classified with Science Fiction. If I've written a fantasy novel and I'm looking for an agent, should I assume that the agent won't accept my genre simply because they don't accept science fiction, or vise versa?

Fantasy and Science Fiction, while often shelved in the same place in bookstores, are two different genres. Therefore, an agent could easily represent one and not the other.

My novel just happens to be christian fantasy, but is that considered a cross-over genre? Because there are those out there who want fantasy but not christian, or christian but not fantasy . . . or who will except either but not if the two are combined. It gets really confusing.

It can get confusing, but don't overthink it. Submit to both Christian and Fantasy agents, especially those who do both. Some might feel it's too Christian, others too Fantasy, but you won't know, and won't find the right agent, until you try.

Are published authors required to make public appearances and give interviews or is that optional or does it vary per publisher?

It is typically in the publisher's contract that the author will be available when needed. If there's a specific reason you can't or won't, that should be negotiated up front.

A lot of agents prefer to receive email queries (definitely easier). I've
noticed that some agents will tell you to mail in your query, synopsis and
first 3 chapters with SASE. Then they will tell you that if you prefer to
e-query to just send the query. My question is which is better? Do I want
to package and mail out the hard copy (they are asking for more that way) or
is it better to just do the e-query and let that be all they see?

I guess what's better depends on the agent. I think that anytime you can get your work in front of an agent, your actual writing, that's better. That being said, sending a query via email is definitely cheaper, and if the agent isn't interested in your genre you haven't wasted the postage.


15 Comments on Random Questions, last added: 7/19/2011
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Steampunk is Not for Me

by Jo Barney

Graffiti Grandma is out to three agents. Wednesday Club, the script, is entered in a contest and is sent to two producers, and Solarium just got its twentieth rejection, one more to go. I don't know where Mom, my hockey novel, is. Its cards have escaped my card file. Marshall, the miniature horse, has not made it into the card file yet. He's romping around in SASE land. I've thrown all of my literary children to the winds. Likely, they'll never return. "Just not right for me," their epitaphs will read somewhere out there in the ether.

The only thing for me to do now is write something new. Margaret is shuffling in the wings of this computer. She's seventy-six, straight bodied, aching in only several non-essential parts, and she doesn't know what she's in for. This old lady is going to be manipulated, mulled, cut into pieces, disdained, wept over, and then, if she's like the rest of my literary offspring, laid to rest in my Zip for someone to find when I myself lie in the same sort of quiet place.

I sometimes think how angry I will be if my human children, posthumously for me, discover my Zip storage system, send out its quiet occupants, and make a million dollars in movie rights, and at just the right time for their retirements. I'll really be pissed. If one can be in that condition sans bodily components.

My timing has always been off. I wrote of sad divorces in the early 80's, a few years after most of the debris from the free love decade infiltrated stolid 50's marriages. Then Umarried Woman and Jill Clayburgh took all the wind out of my muse's sails.

I described of the travails of being single with children just after Jane Smileys Ordinary Love came out and said it all for me. Elizabeth Berg covered the drives of singleness: sex, loneliness, missteps in choosing while very needy, even as I was being driven all over the map and not writing.
One of my novels dealt with foundering young sons when my own sons headed out into the world. Research into the genre revealed that not only Salinger but Brad Easton Ellis and Jay McInerney, even if I disliked their books, got into a young mans psyche a lot better than a mother could.
Remarriage, oh god, with children, led to six unpublished articles, right about the time Joanne Trollope Viking wrote Other Peoples Children and dissected a stepmother role as precisely as it can be done.

I can write as well as a few of these authors. I just need to find my niche before someone else does. What will sell three years from now? What will be at the front edge of the next wave? I don't do vampires and I get too depressed with dystopic scenes. Who wants to eat a friend's finger? Or sacrifice a person you've just had sex with?

Wait! I can imagine that, sort of. Perhaps I can create a new genre, a hybrid combination of romance, mystery, fantasy, dystopia, and chick lit.

I Googled "genres" and found one that might be work, slightly adjusted: Bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story. The modus operandi seems to be the use of a normal story to simply explain difficult and/or dark parts of human life.

I will call my new genre Geriatric Bildungsroman. Coming-of-old-age stories. I know its been done, but not by me yet, not the way I'm thinking about Margaret.

* * *
Jo Barney is a retired educator who is delighted to have time to write even when it means rejections every once in a while, or more often. S

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18. Creating Genres

When I host #askagent sessions on Twitter I get a lot of questions about genre. People ask about the use of the genre term "new adult" or "romantic adventure," for example. I've also been in discussions with authors about the term "romantic thriller." Now, some agents might disagree with me, but I think using all of these is fine.

The point of genre is to find the reader. In other words, readers who read mystery want to know that a book is a mystery. That's the genre they read, so knowing ahead of time will help them place the book before seeing if it's something they'd like to buy. In addition to finding a place in the bookstore, the genre is also, more important, a description. When I say mystery you all know exactly what I'm talking about. The same holds true for romance, fantasy, paranormal romance, memoir, business book, etc. Now, technically romantic thriller isn't a genre, but I guess you could say that there's no romantic suspense section in the bookstore either. That's okay. When I hear "romantic thriller" I know exactly what you're talking about. The description works. If you tell me, however, that your book is a mystery, romance, and fantasy, I have no idea what you're talking about. Where would that go in the bookstore? It's a little of everything, which probably leads to a lot of nothing.

The term "new adult" keeps popping up over and over. I hear it from writers a lot. Oddly I haven't heard it from any of the editors I've been talking to. That being said, it is a term that's being tossed around so you're unlikely to shoot yourself in the foot by using it. Unless of course it becomes a trendy term like "chick lit" and one day it's in, the next is out and you've missed the day it left.

So when thinking genre think description, just make sure it's a description that makes sense and, with anything, if you doubt the term you're using, then don't use it.


20 Comments on Creating Genres, last added: 7/29/2011
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19. What I’m Looking For

Though I’ve only been with BookEnds since April, I’ve already made some shifts in what kinds of projects I’m looking to represent. Some of this has to do with changes in market trends, but a lot really has to do with my personal reading preferences. I want to be enthusiastic about each and every book I work on, and if I’m just not getting excited about submissions in a particular genre, I think it’s better for everyone if I concentrate my energies elsewhere. With that said, my focus is absolutely still on a wide variety of full-length, adult romance and women’s fiction. I’m not actively looking for YA, novellas, or nonfiction.

To help give you a better idea of what I’m looking for, maybe I should tell you about some of the clients I’ve taken on. I have a bit of a spread. So far, I have clients who write historical romance, historical erotica, paranormal erotica, category romance, romantic suspense, women’s fiction, and African literary fiction.

That last one may have surprised you, right? It’s actually not quite as outside of my stated interests as you might think. While I am looking to focus on commercial fiction, I absolutely love women’s fiction set in exotic locations, and would love to receive more projects set abroad. I have a special interest in books set in Iran, India, and Southeast Asia, but would also welcome more submissions set in African or European countries, or set in the US but with a focus on immigrant communities.

I’m looking for a wide variety of contemporary romance, but I’d particularly like to see more small-town books in which the town and community are richly developed. Southern settings and New England settings work particularly well for me. Overall, I tend to gravitate toward darker voices and storylines, but quirky, comedic stories can be great, too.

With historicals, I have a strong preference for very sexy Regencies and Victorians. Also, it’s probably worth noting that I tend not to enjoy historical fiction as much as I do historical romance. As with contemporaries, I tend to like darker voices in historicals, and I like books with seemingly insurmountable obstacles to the protagonists’ relationship—like a story about a duke and a fishmonger’s widow.

While I still am looking for paranormal romances, I’m no longer looking for urban fantasy. I love kick-ass heroines, but I prefer to see them falling in love. What I really want in paranormal is something so different and original that I’m incapable of even coming close to now imagining what that might be. I enjoy a good vampire or werewolf tale, but the market (and my in-box) has been so saturated with them that it’s difficult for me to find something I get excited about.

For erotica, I’m mostly looking for books in which the central storyline is m/f. These can be contemporary, historical, and/or suspenseful or paranormal, but I’m probably not the right agent for anything futuristic or sci-fi. A few things that are absolutely necessary to me in erotica are emotional depth, rich characterization, and an actual plot. I may live to regret saying this, but it’s pretty darn hard to shock me with erotica. Graphic, kinky novels are welcome.

The above doesn’t encompass everything I’m looking to represent, but I hope it gives you more insight into my preferences. As always, I look forward to reading your queries!

Jessica A

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20. Nelson Literary Agency Has No Prob With LGBTQ

STATUS: I'm feeling a tad riled up.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? MY HEART BELONGS TO ME by Barbara Streisand

Holy cow! Can't believe I missed this article yesterday. I'm so glad an agent friend forwarded to me. Take a moment to read it and tweet it on but in short, it's an appeal to support literature with gay and lesbian characters and the fact that there are some appalling agents and editors out there who are making requests that the writers make a gay character straight.

Seriously? What year are we in?

I cannot tell you how delighted I was to see a link to a list of YA literature that features gay/lesbian characters and my author Sarah Rees Brennan's THE DEMON'S LEXICON series was on it.

This author of mine is brilliant. It's a wonderful series and her new trilogy that I just sold to Random House also has an absolute kick-a** gay/lesbian main character. The first book UNSPOKEN publishes in fall 2012.

Not to mention, I have a Monica Trasandes' debut adult literary novel coming out in spring 2012 from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press. It's called BROKEN LIKE THIS and features three main protagonists: a bisexual character, a gay/lesbian character and a straight male character (had to throw that last one in there-LOL).

A multicultural author to boot. I'll tell you right now it was a tough sell but I loved the novel and I sold it.

So add these to your wish lists if you want to show support via your buying dollars. If I had cover art or anything yet for these two titles, I'd post it here but we are in the middle of the cover design and the buy links aren't available online yet.

And let's not forget the incredibly brilliant, witty, impeccably dressed and extremely powerful Lord Akeldama from Gail Carriger's The Parasol Protectorate series.

I must admit it never occurred to me to add to my agency's submission page that we are open to accepting material with LGBTQ characters because I kind of thought it went without saying but I'm rethinking it now.

Feel free to link to this blog post that it's a-okay with us and I have NEVER asked an author to change a character's ethnic background or orientation.

And because we are talking about multicultural too, check out my author Kimberly Reid's debut YA novel MY OWN WORST FRENEMY. It's an African-American urban Nancy Drew series. I mean, just how cool is that?

Note: LGBTQ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning.

21. Classifying Your Novel

My novel is about a collage age student on a journey of self discovery. There are paranormal events, some sci fi components, romance, but ultimately it is about the main character finding herself and accepting all that she is. So here's my question, where would my story fit? I have tried representing it in different ways, but some agents suggest different catagories. I even had it classified as New Adult, but is that the best place? Any resources or help would be greatly appriciated. :-)My goal is to reach a larger audience, but if I classify my novel as New Adult, would these other components be okay as cross genres?

It's really hard for me to tell you where your story will fit without reading it. My question to you would be who will read your book? What else are they reading? Personally, I'm not a fan of the term "new adult." I think it's silly and, yes, I could easily be proven wrong and it could become a new genre, but in my mind it's a trendy term that's going to be gone tomorrow. Besides that, at what point do people go to the bookstore or log into their ereaders and ask for the "new adult" section. There's YA, there's mystery, there's SF (not Sci Fi, by the way), there's romance, etc., but I've never seen new adult. When all else fails, label it fiction, but it sounds like you're writing a genre that needs a genre home. You need to find which home.

One thought, the one authors hate most to hear, is maybe it doesn't fit anywhere. Maybe you've tried to make your book into something it can't be and you need to go back in and strengthen certain areas of your book so that it is something.

Now, before someone named "anonymous" jumps in to tell me that this is the problem with publishing and all of us who work in it, that we have no imagination and need everything to be the same, let me point out that in the advent of ereaders we're seeing a real strength in proper categorization. Generally labeled books are not doing as well as genre labeled books. People are finding it easier to go into a section in their ereader bookstore to buy a book than they are sifting through a fiction section where some books might fit their interests while a lot do not. That does not mean that you slap any label on a book. Your label needs to fit the expectations of the readers.


16 Comments on Classifying Your Novel, last added: 10/25/2011
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22. Understanding Women's Fiction

I've been trying to wrap the basic marketing language around the book I'm close to finishing, and am having a tough time classifying it. My main character is a tough, no-nonsense, middle-aged woman who kidnaps her granddaughter, and the story takes place in large part on the road in rural Alaska. It's edgy and stark, a little frightening in places, though it isn't horror/crime/mystery, and while the heart-warming moments are few and far between, it DOES revolve around this woman's relationship with her son and daughter-in-law and the tough choices we make as parents.

As I get ready to query, would calling this women's fiction, since the primary market would most likely be women, throw an agent off since it seems to depart from the loose definitions of women's fiction I'm seeing? Is there a better way to wrap it?

As I often say, it's all about the voice. Women's fiction is not simply a book whose target audience is women. It's also a book about a woman's personal growth and change and it tends to be strongly emotional. It sounds like your book is women's fiction, but without reading it I have a hard time judging.


6 Comments on Understanding Women's Fiction, last added: 11/18/2011
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23. Now Write! Mysteries and My Blog Giveaway

It's here!  My big blog giveaway where 3 lucky followers will be chosen tonight at 7.00 PM Mountain Time through a random drawing to receive a variety of prizes, including the brand new Now Write! Mysteries; Suspense, Crime, Thriller, and Other Mystery Fiction Exercises from Today's Best Writers and Teachers published on December 29, 2011. 

And (drum roll, please...) I am so thrilled and honored to tell you that I have been included in this collection.  My article "Deep Motivation: Characters Have Feelings, Too" starts on Page 267.

Edited by Sherry Ellis and Laurie Lamson, Now Write! Mysteries is the fourth volume in a series that includes Now Write! Fiction and Now Write! ScreenwritingRight now I'm totally enthralled with this book (and not just because I'm in it...) and I'm happy to report I'm also doing each and every one of the exercises as per my recent post on staying creative every day.  I'm up to page 20 and, people, I am inspired.  This is an amazing book full of great advice.  I think it's going to keep me happy and writing for the rest of the year and beyond.

If you'd like a free copy, there's still some time to follow my blog today and be included in the random drawing tonight via Random.org.  Note:  Anyone who has signed up to follow my blog through my page at JacketFlap.com is considered a "follower" too and will be included in the drawing.

Prizes in the drawing will include:

1st Prize: The Essential Guide for New Writers
Now Write! Mysteries
Unleashed, of Poltergeists and Murder
Better Than Perfect
The Great Scarab Scam
Tote Bag
And a Surprise Gift!

2nd Place:  The Essential Guide for New Writers
Now Write! Mysteries
2 Comments on Now Write! Mysteries and My Blog Giveaway, last added: 2/2/2012
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24. The Book/Author I Wish I Had Discovered

This post is actually inspired by a series of tweets agent Deidre Knight (@DeidreKnight) did a while back.

What book or author do we wish we had discovered?

When I first read her tweet there was one person who immediately popped into my mind and that's Sarah Addison Allen. I've read all of her books and I can say I have loved almost all of them, the other one I just liked. I love the way she weaves mysticism into women's fiction, creating almost a genre of her own. This is someone I would love to have found in a slush pile somewhere.
—Jessica Faust

Just one? Of course, I wish I had discovered J. K. Rowling and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Other dream books are Megan Hart's Dirty and Mary Roach's Stiff. Three very different books, but three I never get tired of rereading.
—Jessica Alvarez

R. L. Stine. I know that sounds weird, since I don't represent horror for any age group, but I admire Stine (and his 350 million books sold) because he's been writing for decades, has churned out one fun, cool title after another, created a middle-grade series (Goosebumps) that became a television series and selection of movies, and most intriguing and valuable to me, he writes in several age groups from middle-grade to adult—and he shifts with changes in publishing. Aside from all that, I still read his books . . . and I'm still scared. If R. L. Stine suddenly queried me, I'd represent horror.

While it may seem like too obvious or easy an answer, I have to say Suzanne Collins. Honestly, even though I first read The Hunger Games as a book and not a submission—and even though millions of readers had already found her before me—when I was turning those pages I felt like I had made an amazing discovery. That trilogy—especially the first book—really is the whole package: characters we care about, edge-of-the-seat suspense, and an always-keep-us-guessing romantic triangle. When I finished it, I really felt like I'd just ridden a roller coaster and experienced a true classic at the same time.

7 Comments on The Book/Author I Wish I Had Discovered, last added: 2/5/2012
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25. Choosing a Genre

I have written a novel where the main POV character is around 18 years old. There’s also a secondary POV character who’s 45 years old. This secondary character takes up almost as much page space as the younger character. It’s maybe a 60-40 split. There’s a mystery involved, and while the younger character gets involved in the mystery, his story is really a coming of age. The secondary protagonist’s job is to solve the mystery.

My beta readers all say I have written a young adult novel.

Based on the younger protagonist’s POV then yes, I can see what they’re saying. Also, my writing style fits YA quite well. However, almost half the book is from an older woman’s point-of-view.

I might add that the book was not written as YA. It’s just that the protagonist was young.

If I take the basic rules of query writing – stick with the character you start the story with and follow their arc – then when I query it’s going to be about the kid. Sample pages will be from the kid’s point-of-view, because the first couple of chapters are his.

Does it matter if I say it’s a young adult novel and then have a major secondary character who is a lot older?

If I say it’s an adult novel – or rather, don’t say it’s YA – how will an agent feel when they read the query and the sample pages? This author has no idea of her own market?

Do I need to explain about the two different protagonists in the query?

Does the very thought of a combination like this make you, as an agent, throw up your hands in horror?

This is one of those situations where I would have to read the book to know which genre it fits into. Honestly, based on your plot description, it doesn't necessarily sound like a young adult though. It sounds like for one character you have a coming of age, but the book overall is a mystery.

Ever since YA became "the thing" there's this assumption that just because you've written a great young adult character in a book the book has to be characterized as young adult. Not true. There are many fabulous works of fiction that have included well-written young adults, but would not be classified as young adult. One that pops into my head at the moment, or an author that pops into my head, is Jodi Picoult. Jodi regularly includes a character arc for a young adult character and often that character arc plays as strong of a role as the adult's arc, but never (to the best of my knowledge) have her books been classified as young adult. Part of that is that she doesn't have a young adult voice.

I think what matters is knowing who your audience truly is. Is this a book that would fit in today's young adult market, that would sell on those shelves to those readers? if so, it's definitely young adult. Or would you say this is a book that would appeal more to mystery readers because the mystery is truly the element that's the strongest? What about fiction, is this maybe a piece that's better classified as women's fiction or literary fiction? Who do your readers otherwise commonly read? Where is that author placed on the shelves? Maybe that will help you have a better understanding of where you should classify it.

I don't think you need to explain the two different protagonists per se, but I do think it's important that you explain the story as a whole. If the older woman plays as strong of a role in the book as the younger character, are you misrepresenting the book by only talking about the story arc of the one character? In other words, is it the story of "two very different people..." instead of focusing on individual characters?

A lot to think about, I know, but without reading your query and knowing your book I'm afraid I don't have any specific answers.


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