September 27, 2011

Crossing Genres: Brilliant or Suicide?

At the moment, I'm writing a zombie-themed book. This is crazy, considering the book that I'm revising has a fairy tale them. Isn't it?

Not necessarily, at least I hope not. Because my fairy tales are spunky. They've got a fiesty spark to them that Hans Christian Andersen wishes he had. Ivy Thorn brings life to Roses and Mirrors that I can't fully describe.

I want that same spark, that same lifeblood to flow through all my books. Different characters, varying voice, but the same drive.

The real question is: if a reader picks up a zombie book because they love zombies, and they loved it, would they pick up a fairy tale book by the same author?

I've tossed this around in my little brain for some time. I'm not sure what the answer is. Could there be some cross over? Sure. Will most cross genres with me?

I don't know.

Hey, "And now for something completely different" worked for Monty Python.

What's your opinion? Which would you pick up, given the choice: a zombie book with a twist or a fairy tale with a twist? And if you loved it, would you pick up something completely different?

September 20, 2011

Everyone Has an Opinion on Self-Publishing, Right?

Self-publishing is hot right now. Everybody's talking about it and most writers (or at least it seems like it's most) are willing to give it a shot. I think writers see it as a nothing-to-lose situation. That's not really true--you stand to lose time, respect (if you try to sell an inferior product), and the money it takes to get a professional-looking book out on the market (cover design, formatting, editing, etc...)

That said, there are some distinct advantages: the writer gets to control pretty much all that goes on with their books, higher royalties, faster turn-around, and a closer relationship with readers. No middle man means more money for the writer, but it also means the writer can really get to know the reader. (I'm not saying you can't do this with traditional publishing, but with self-publishing, the writer gets all the information, all the contact.)

I think that's a really cool aspect. I adore my blog readers. You guys are awesome. Supportive, loyal, and did I mention attractive?

Seriously, though. I love hearing from you guys. I value your input. And I think I can cater better to my readers if I self-publish.

I've given this a lot of thought. Self-pubbing isn't for everyone. In fact, I think a writer would be foolish to jump into self-pubbing with less than 5 years of fiction-writing experience. (Some will tell you 10 years is better. I don't doubt it.) I'm sure there are exceptions to this, I'm just sayin'... I've learned a lot in the last 6 months I've been writing. I'm still learning. And I've thought about waiting. I've thought about it a lot.

Right now, I'm writing story ideas that I'm not sure will appeal to "mass markets", but I think they'll be well-received by many. These stories wouldn't get taken up by a traditional publisher because the pool of readers is too small and they wouldn't be able to profit from it. (And by small, I'd say the pool is right around 10,000-15,000 readers. I'm just guessing.)

But if I publish these books myself, I can write for my smaller, more modest group of readers, cater to them, write for them, and everyone's happy.

I may be nuts, but I think it's exciting. I'm going to give it a try.

September 13, 2011

Blog Changes? I need input!

I've been doing some thinking (and reading and praying) about this blog. I love this blog. It's a great outlet and you readers are so supportive. (And awesome. And did I mention attractive?) Right now I post every three days. That's my schedule and, for the most part, I stick to it. So right now, I'm asking you, my reader, to be honest and speak up. How often do you check this blog for updates? Would you feel like you were missing out if I posted, say, once a week, or once every two weeks?

September 10, 2011

Re-Post: Dialogue vs. Non-Dialogue

Writers know about basic dialogue punctuation. Right?

I was shocked to find that in my advanced fiction workshop, several students consistently failed to use proper punctuation and capitalization.

I almost cried.

I know everyone has to start somewhere, but I had higher expectations for an advanced writing class at a university.

So, I feel obligated to include this link from Fiction Factor. Aside from punctuation, definitions, tags, and simple dos and don'ts, it includes a few simple tips for avoiding repetitive tags and a few other things.

Once you have the basics down, I'd recommend this Fiction Factor's post, which has several pointers that I thought were helpful. One tip they mentioned (that I tend to forget) is:
Unspoken dialogue can, at times, be the most powerful dialogue of all. When a character says the opposite of what she means, or says nothing at all, just looks away. This too is effective dialogue.
There's also an invaluable list of body language cues, divided by emotion, that I have to include. It's too good not to.
  • Angry? Fisted hands. Narrowed eyes. Stiff posture. Clenched jaw. Slashed mouth. Jerky movements. Rough handling of objects.
  • Happy? Smile. Wink. Twinkle in eyes.
  • Relaxed? Sprawl. Loose-limbed.
  • Crowded? Back up. Create distance.
  • Interested? Lean forward, draw closer.
  • Questioning? Cock head. Widen eye. Elevate voice. Hands lifted, palm up. Hiked shoulders.
  • Nurturing? Clip a loose thread. Pat.
  • Tender? Stroke, touch, lips parted.
  • Nervous? Pace, scratch, rub your arms.
  • Stunned? Wide-eyed. Stone still. Hand to chest, fingers spread. Gaping jaw.
  • Sad? Tears. Listless. Hand curled to chest. Shoulders slumped. Fetal position.
  • Trusting? Palm open.
  • Lying? Avoid eye contact. Dipped chin.

Just be careful not to Over Describe. (Thanks Bookshelf Muse!)

September 7, 2011

Becoming the Writer I Want to Be

The other day, I wrote that I was having trouble juggling more than one project at a time. I said it wasn't going as smoothly as I had hoped. Writing is an art, and for me it requires a lot of mental energy. Writing is especially draining if I write by hand. 500 words in and I'm ready for a nap or at least just sit and stare at something on Netflix for a while. So it seems like working on a second project is impossible.

But I was telling my friend Ryan that this is something I want to be good at. I'm still going to try and work on more than one project at a time. This may take some experimentation, but I will make it work. So I've tried alternating days on my projects (which works, I'm just not always excited about starting work on the project that's not going as well) and I've tried planning zombie book first, then writing Ivy long hand. (I don't get as many words done on Ivy, but I do get work done.)

The reason I'm so stubborn about this is because of the vision I have for my future as a writer. I picture myself with a space of my own (not having to retreat to the bedroom with a notebook and pen, or sitting on the couch with my laptop, but a real desk where things don't move when I put them down). My future writer-self is professional and can always handle a deadline with finesse. And if the muse wants to try something other than what I'm on contract for, I want to be able to write it.

The thing is, I want to be professional, but still be able to say to my future agent, "I have this project I've been working on. Tell me what you think."

I haven't told many people this, but I have a sci-fi short story swimming around in my head. I don't write sci-fi and it would be difficult to market it alongside my other work. But I treasure the freedom I have that allows me to write it (should I so choose).

So, for all you writers out there, what does freedom mean to you? What would you hate to lose, once you sold to a publisher?

September 4, 2011

Write Better Dialogue

I've had stories come to me (via Musefire-like inspiration) in two ways.

1) A really cool situation and/or plot twist comes to mind
2) A really cool character comes to mind

If the character comes first, usually it'll be in dialogue form. Lines of dialogue form in my brain like I'm having a thought about what I want to eat for lunch.

But if I start with a premise, it's harder to develop characters that are real. And dialogue is part of that.

So of course, I did some digging.

10 Creative Techniques for Creating Character-Specific Dialogue come from Emlyn Chand and compiles a list of ways to personalize a character's dialogue, from specific vocabulary choices to catch phrases.

Have you ever read over your work and said something like My Dialogue Sucks? The Creative Penn comes to the rescue by reminding us of the Functions of Dialogue and showing us how to keep the reader from getting bored or distracted.

How to Write Effective Dialogue in Your Novel talks about the ever-important beats: small units that have an action and a reaction. I personally found it was easier to craft good beats while writing longhand. But that's another post.

September 1, 2011

Query FAIL

Okay, this is really embarrassing, but I think I have to share so others won't make the same mistake. I finished my novel Roses and Mirrors a while ago. It started out as a short YA, but I rewrote it to be a short middle grade.

The thing was, it was still REALLY short. 28,000 words. I wanted the book to be closer to 35k or even 45k, but I had heard that the range for middle grade started around 25k.

I think I heard wrong. I read the words of a few agents that said they *might* consider something in the mid-30,000s, but they'd prefer it to be longer.

What? You must mean mid-20,000s....


Unfortunately by this time, I had sent out all my queries. I knew I was supposed to stagger them and I did. I sent out 3-5 at a time for a while. In the first two weeks I got a partial and a full request, so I figured I'd done a good job on something. So I patted myself on the back and sent out a few more queries. And a few more.

And then the form rejections started rolling in. At first, I thought this was no big deal. I expected form rejections. Then I read about the more appropriate word count range and I started to worry. What if I was getting these form rejections because of my word count? I mean, it makes sense. I got better feedback on Shadow Bound and, according to my critique group (and family), Roses and Mirrors is way better.

I'm still deciding what to do about this. Do I requery in a few months? Do I shelve it? 

Whatever I choose, I'm going back and making this book right. Some great subplots have come to mind and I've toyed with my main plot to see if I can make it twistier and more gut wrenching ('cause I'm evil like that). But I've already done some serious damage. Please. Don't make the same mistakes I did. Query slow. And double triple-check your facts. I wasn't familiar enough with middle grade before I started querying. Genre-hopping isn't as easy as they make it look. :)
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