All About that Genre, that Genre, that Genre

image from open clipart.org by SteveLambert


When I queried agents over my novel Follow Me: Tatter Veils, I got one personal rejection.  The agent (and I apologize as I can’t find the email to name him) told me a major stumbling block I might encounter in pitching my novel is that I suggested it for multiple genres.

My mind makes connections.  If someone followed my thought process, it’s like one of those mind maps except almost everything connections to each other some way.  In all my work pulling together this massive 75,000 word work, I’d never thought opening it up as a genre crossover would limit my ability to market.

Since then, I describe Follow Me: Tattered Veils as an Urban Fantasy. It fits considering the book happens in present day world and introduces magical/mythic elements into an otherwise mundane setting.

Except, it also doesn’t fit.  Follow Me: Tattered Veils is at its heart a book about obsession and stalking.  The protagonist, Roxi, is living her daily life when Gerry, an ancient unpredictable fae being, deigns to take notice of her.  From there, it’s a cat-and-mouse game of near brushes and tense attempts from Gerry to lure Roxi into his world.  The novel culminates in a chase through faery land where Roxi must either save her friends and escape this dangerous world or surrender her autonomy to Gerry.   

Could be Magical Realism.  I use the concept of fae glamour to make these otherworldly beings hide in plain sight.  I suggest this idea of two realities, the one we know and this other layer waiting underneath that Gerry, Roxi, and others work with.  It isn’t the traditional secret society type deal, more like an alternative experience of reality.

But, I think Magical Realism has more magic integrated that’s just a shoulder shrug.  Everyone knows about it, accepts it, and moves on.  My magic systems imply they are real like Christianity and like Christianity, few people have or seek a genuine experience.

My colleague Lionel Green, suggested the back was “terrifying” and he read straight through that part “non stop”.  It makes me wonder, is my work horror?  There are both the real world and fantasy elements of the book that are horrifying.  

In my heart, the book is a lot more about how a woman experiences the male gaze.  In that way, I think Follow Me: Tattered Veils might be women’s fiction.  The men who have read the book suggest that they “enjoyed reading it.  Good on its own, but I’d never buy this book based on the description.”  Does this feedback mean I’m marketing the book badly for both genders or is the work intended for a female audience? 

This sort of bullshit was why I wanted an agent.  Don’t they help you find and speak to an audience?  What do they do?  Because I had the idea, wrote it, edited it, and submitted it. So I’m just wondering when someone else comes in to help or if publishing is a solo journey.    

Alas, I need to choose the genre too.  Is there any part of publishing that isn’t a struggle?

Does anyone else have trouble identifying their genre?  Do you think being in the right genre is core to success?  Have you written anything that someone has labeled a cross over?

What about summarizing long works or picking which elements are most paramount?  I am so invested in Follow Me: Tattered Veils, sometimes it’s hard for me to know what’s important.  Any tips or tricks?  Do I Google search what’s hot and sell it that way?

How Did you Become a Writer?

image from open clipart.org uploaded by j4p4n

 

No idea who first said it, but someone said: “If you write, you’re a writer.”  It wasn’t a conscious decision filled with tedium and angst.  I picked up a pencil, learned my alphabet, and have been part of the writer’s club since first grade.  My first stories all fall into the haunted house genre.  Ghosts, friends dying or disappearing, and an ever increasing series of rooms.  I told the story “Winchester” with the same stakes, except sometimes my characters didn’t survive.  So better and told by a child, I guess I was too ahead of my time to rake in all that Hollywood money.  At least I have creative satisfaction?

I’m mentioning this anecdote because a common writers’ blog question is “when did you decide you wanted to be a writer?”  Is telling stories a choice for some people?  Like is anyone in a room saying “I’m about to have an amazing idea for a story, but I need to get a jump on quantum mechanics so hard pass on inspiration.”  Or are these people like “my dream was to be a plumber, but damn the money and security of writing is so tempting, I quit my trade school despite all the people encouraging me to follow my passion.”

The other thing I love about “when did you take the plunge to become a writer?” is the implication that a person stopped being anything else as soon as they choose writing.  Yes Bob, I was a student, but Mrs.  Williams asked me to write a story and I enjoyed it so much that I decided screw it, I’m a writer now!  Or Wendy was a stay at home mom but then she started moonlighting as a blog content creator.  Now her kids are in the orphanage, aspiring to write a compelling enough version of their life that maybe their mother will acknowledge them creatively even if she had to abandon them for the work.

The framing implies everyone who writes should have the one goal: to make writing a full-time profession and excludes the reality of most writers.  It’s a passion we pursue around our lives, not a career we move towards single minded.  And props to the rare, lucky, privileged few who make writing a full-time gig.  I don’t mean to erase this group, I just think they’re a minority.

A more apt question in my perspective: “Was there ever a time you weren’t a writer or didn’t want to write?”  Or even better “How big a part of your identity is writing and are there times where you feel it over grows its boundaries?”

None of the writers I know have a “and that’s when I realized I was a writer story” but most of them have “and that’s when I realized I’d gone too far,” or “now when I have time, there’s no writing,” anecdotes.

What about you?  Is “when did you become a writer?” a meaningful question?  Are there times you wish you weren’t a writer?  Is writing enough validation of your career/hobby or do you only thing published writers have a claim to the title?

Best of Kindle Unlimited: Amy A. Bartol “Secondborn Series”

    

Cover Art from Goodreads

Along my reading, I picked up Amy A. Bartol’s Secondborn.  Even as someone who thrives on the drama of a YA post apocalypse world, I didn’t expect to like this book.  I’d just been burned by the likes of Death Thieves and The Hundredth Queen.  All three YA books trying to take advantage of my love of The Hunger Games and all three of books have 4 star reviews in Amazon and Goodreads.  When will these writers get that what made Hunger Games amazing wasn’t just the kids fighting in the arena?  So, curious despite myself, I picked up Secondborn expecting it to either disappoint or be a guilty pleasure.

Instead  Secondborn and it’s sequel Traitor Born were a joy read and touch on larger conversations we need to have in today’s world. Bartol focuses on the heart of what’s great in post apocalypse YA: the transformation of the main character and their perception of the world around them.  First, I appreciated Roselle as a savvy character who avoids the “ignorant for the sake of exposition” trope.  From the beginning, Roselle shows she is a smart character aware of differing undercurrents even if she’s not sure of how deep those waters flow.  Her thoughts and feelings change as she has new experiences and uncovers more schemes in the world around her.

Through Roselle the reader learns to empathize with many perspectives.  By the time I finished the second book, Traitor Born, I was no longer sure there was a “good side” or “bad side”.  It’s a rare risk for a writer to twist the bad characters into ones we might understand and to muddy the water so we despite the good characters.  I read plenty ambiguous characters or where one “side” transforms into not the villain/not the hero, but leaving a reader with no character to trust or side with is bold and exciting.  Even as I can’t “support” or “root” for any one outcome, I empathize with them.  I want relief for these characters, but it’s not to accomplish their goals.

Amid this shifting terrain, Roselle sinks, struggling with PTSD, and a series of complicated interpersonal relationships.  Her flashbacks, the way she falls to pieces in key moments and rises in others, and how she struggles with drugs feels authentic and relevant.  I thought I’d decided about who I wanted with Roselle as allies or friends, who Roselle should work with and who she should keep at arm’s length, but Traitorborn makes me question the decisions I made.  There’re dangerous edges on everyone and redeeming qualities.  I resented my favorite ally from the last book, forgot how evil/distasteful another character was because he has these moments of genuine connection, and I thought someone who was once a snake in the grass might become a true ally.

And I haven’t even gotten to the science fiction.  Unlike The Giver or The Hunger Games, that keep technology vague and only available to isolated pockets of society, Secondborn distributes the technology to everyone.  The gadgets themselves aren’t innovative, chips in webbing or right hands to track and grant access, hover vehicles and airships, robots who are servants/guards/trackers/medics, and a weapon that seems a cross between a light sabre and a plasma gun.  All ideas I’ve seen before right?  Bartol re-images these ideas to give a fresh unique society.  The world and the devices of it feel lived in and true.  Beyond the existing tech, Bartol continues to introduce upgrades and improvements to her tech.  It starts in one spot with these flaws and then a patch comes out.  The upgrades make her world feel more real and provide new challenges for her characters to overcome.

I’m glad I read the first two books (even if both endings are cliffhangers) and am looking forward to the third installment.  If you like a future society where teens and young adults have to fight for their lives, you will enjoy this series.  While a simple premise, the layers of nuance make it enjoyable and thought provoking to many age groups.

Take Aways From Bartol’s Success:

1. Don’t be afraid to market an idea another book/work made famous just BRING VALUE, don’t expect other’s success to sell a sub par work

2. Have complicated dynamic characters and don’t limit quantity.  Readers can keep up with you as long at each character has a personality-and embrace the baggage being in traumatic situations leaves these characters.  Let them have flashbacks, PTSD, aggressive or tearful reactions to simple daily events.

3. Don’t shy away from near future tech in your science fiction.  Embrace the evolution of these systems to make them feel real and dynamic within your world.

4. Female leads can be emotional and strong/combat oriented.  Roselle is a great balance of action/battle training and intelligent emotional thinking.

5. Have a kick-ass looking personal website.  Just look at Bartol’s website, the graphics and layout make me want to read her work more than her covers!  She’s inviting her readers’ imagination to tackle fan fiction for her characters, and through their fannish excitement, spread her work to new audiences.

Looking for more to read? Check out the next in this series: T. A. White’s “Dragon Ridden Series” 

Wondering why Kindle Unlimited? Here’s 7 reasons I read this way.

Looking for more conversation on reviews? Try “Would you Rather…” or “Does Being Critical in Reviews Hurt me as a Writer?

Top 12 DragonCon Writing Tips

Toni Weiskopf, Jody Lynn Nye, Larry Niven, Lisa Manifort, and Declan Finn

I spent last weekend enjoying DragonCon 2018 in Atlanta. I attended as many of the writing panels as I could manage, including two 15 minute one-on-one mentoring sessions with Jody Lynn Nye and Robert J. Sawyer, which were great. 

Here, in no particular order, are the 12 best pieces of writing advice I collected. It was going to be 10, but I thought of a couple more. Check out Twitter (@NAWG and my personal Twitter @CMPalmer) for any new ones I think of.

  1. Small presses and online only markets are great for building confidence and getting your name out there, but you should make a habit of submitting to the highest paying, most prestigious markets first and working your way downward. You’ll probably garner more rejections, but when you do get a hit, the reward will be worth it.

  2. Telling your whole story to someone can sap your will to actually write it. You may want to consider just sharing your “elevator pitch” with others until the story is finished. Build anticipation from others as well as yourself.

  3. Similarly, some writers avoid writing the last scene or last chapter of a work until they’ve finished revising the rest. Write up to the end, go back and revise, and when you’re happy with the whole thing, go ahead and write the last scene/chapter. Once you’ve written the ending, your brain says “You’re done!” and saps your energy for revision.

  4. Don’t over-read or over-edit. Finish a story, but it aside for a week or two and work on something else, then come back to it with fresh eyes. If you obsessively read through a story, you’ll either not see the errors or (in my case) start overthinking it and hating it.

  5. When revising and editing, know the difference between “better” and “just different.” Any edits will make your story different, but do they make it better? When you’ve removed and reinserted the same comma five times, it’s time to submit it somewhere and move on.

  6. When writing novels, remember that most publishers are accepting works that won’t be published for a couple of years. Chasing the current hot trends isn’t always a good idea because that trend may be dead by the time a potential book would be published.

  7. If you’re not writing what you want to write and the kinds of things you like to read, you’re probably not going to be successful. Writing what you think is “hot” even if you don’t like the style or genre is a bad idea.

  8. If all you have is non-pro sales, only include them in your cover letter to pro-markets to inform the editors that you can be worked with. Too many people can’t handle editorial input and a pro-editor isn’t going to invest the time to mark up your work if you’re going to be obstinate about making any edits to your precious baby.

  9. In writing science fiction in particular, if the idea is old enough, you can use it as a standard trope, but it shouldn’t be the focus of your story. In other words, you shouldn’t write a book about discovering a ringworld and exploring it, but your space opera universe might include ringworlds. Science fiction is always “standing on the shoulders of giants” and expanding the vocabulary. You shouldn’t steal, but you can borrow.

  10. The main difference between writing a short story and a novel is the complexity of the plot. Short stories have one, maybe two, plot points. Novels have to have many more. 

  11. John W. Campbell used to read slush pile manuscripts with a red pen, but usually his only mark was a red line under the point where he stopped reading. Ask your writer’s group and beta readers to put a red line where they would have given up if they weren’t committed to reading through your story. This is pretty hard advice, but I’d love to know. I know I give up on stories even in magazines and “best of” anthologies sometimes.

  12. With a short story, you’ve got a first line and maybe one or two paragraphs to hook a reader (and an editor is just a reader with way too many stories to read). For a novel, you might stretch that to a few pages. One editor last year said, “Nobody wants to read your story. Particularly the slush pile editor. It’s your job to make it impossible for them not to read your story once they’ve read the first paragraph.”

Bells and Whistles: Fancy Tools to Encourage Writing

 Image from open clipart.org by Lyo

 

Looking at the path from spoken story, to recorded story, to printing press, and now to online and print formats, I can see that technology historically is huge for the aspiring writer.  It seems that as technology and communication improve, the different ways it can help writers also exponentially increases.  I’m awed and overwhelmed with the different tools at our disposal.  To help sort the varying tools, I’m creating a series that explores different services mean to help an aspiring writer.  This week we have tools meant to increase daily word count or to encourage a daily writing practice.  

750 Words is my favorite of these sites.  The purpose is to write 750 words or three pages every day.  Once you’ve created an account, it will provide a space to enter text and you just type.  When complete, send in your work and 750 will analyze the writing to see whether you were happy or relaxed based on keywords.  The site will break down when you paused and when you were in a hot streak. For those who like to compete, you get points and a score board if you keep to the daily 750 word assignment.  Best of all, all your writing is private.  First thirty days are free and it’s only $5/mo afterward.  

Write or Die is an software that puts pressure on the writer to produce text in a set amount of time or…consequences.  The most disturbing thing the software does: it deletes words if you pause for more than a few seconds.  Write or Die will either help you up your word count or obliterate every letter on the page. It costs $20 and I’ve often toyed with whether it might be worth the price tag to place my feet to the iron.  I’m afraid I don’t have the stomach for the software.

Word Counter does a lot more than count your words!  If you create a free account, you can create goals to work towards and the site will track progress for you.  The site is linked to Grammarly, so spelling and grammar can be altered through them. Beyond that, Word Counter offers stats similar to those available on Hemingway App.  It provides a reading level, how long it would take to read or speak, and it also offers a “word density” that may suggest whether you need to crack open a thesaurus.  For strict editing, I prefer ProWritingAid, but if I was looking for a hybrid motivational tool and editor, Word Count seems like a capable option.  It’s free to use.

Rescue Time, the wonderful Christopher Palmer mentioned this site to me, and I think it’s great for the aspiring writer.  The light version lets you set goals and tracks how much time you spend on the web and where.  It let’s you know how much time in front of the screen you’re wasting not writing!

What do you think?  Do you use any of these softwares?  Do you know of any other sites or apps that encourage word count or daily writing? What do you use to track your writing metrics?

 

September Call For Submissions Round Up

image from optnclipart.org by Firkin

 

We’re really getting into crunch time for horror, fantasy, and science fiction writers.  Calls for submissions are coming in by the dozens.  Hope you have game face on for these next two months.

 

September 14th

Thug Itch: 1,000-5,000 words horror, scifi, or speculative fiction centered around one of the listed scientific concepts (they will read five stories from each concept and choose one to be in the final anthology) pay is $5 for under 2,000 words and $10 for about 2,000 words

 

September 15th 

Corpus Press: 2,500-4,500 words Non-themed horror stories pays $.03 a word

18th Wall: 4,000-20,000 word on finding/interacting/discovering a lost book or lost books.  There is a TON of prompts, suggestions, extra information in the post go there for more.  It seems like such a cool idea to me  The pay structure is strange.

Dead Man Tome: 5,000-7,000 words theme is Bikers vs the undead pays a $10 token and 60% net earnings

Scifi Monkeys Seasons She’s an Elf: 2,000-7,000 words must have a female elf be the lead character all genres EXCEPT horror welcome there’s a % scale for pay

Zimmel House November Falls: 4,000-25,000 want a story that takes place in the fictional town called November Falls and they want the place to feel like a community, this is a romance publication but nowhere in the request does it demand a romance story no pay

Arsenika: under 1,000 words flash fiction or poetry all genres pays $30 for poems and $60 for flash

Gehenna &Hinnom: 250-3000 word or 3001-5000 looking for weird and cosmic fiction if fantasy must be dark.  $30 for short story $55 per longer story

September 19th 

Do Not Go Quietly Into The Night from Apex Publishing: up to 7,500 words stories about resistance and revolution set in scifi/fantasy setting pays $.06/word minimum $60

 

September 20th

Enchanted Conversations: Under the Hunter’s Moon: 700-2,000 words 1,500 words is ideal theme is spook, spellbinding, or creepy in a fairy tale, folktale, or mythic settings “Absolutely none of the following: Sci-fi, dystopian, erotica, high fantasy, excessive world building, time-travel, futuristic or space travel.”   pays $10

September 21st

Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores: 1,000 words and up but short fiction is preferred.  Science fiction in all forms pays $.06/word

September 30th

Bumble off Plumb Anthology: 1,000-5,000 words on “something not quite right” all genres looking for weird, strange, stories with lots of twists. pays $.03/word

Not Just a Pretty Face bar Dead Light Publishing: 2,000-5,000 *female authors only* words about a female character who’s more than just a pretty face seems to be looking for a scheming or violent character flat rate $25

Grim Grit & Gasoline: put to 7,500 words it’s complicated but it appears like they are looking for fantasy/scifi/steampunk fiction that takes place in WWI with fairy tale elements interspersed sounds very cool pays $.01/word

Excession Press: 30,000-60,000 words  horror, science fiction, weird western, or dark fantasy they response time is 3-6 months pay $300 advance with 40% royalties afterward

Consequence:up to 5,000 words no genre and while they state they pay writers, I didn’t see prices listed for short stories, perhaps prose? $10?

Nashville Review: up to 8,000 words welcomes poems, fiction, and novel excerpts of all kinds pay is $25 per poem and $100 for everything else

 

October 1st

Red Room Press: 3,500-5,500 words the theme is American Psycho Serial Killers so looking for dark horror fiction about killers response time is 4-8 weeks and the pay is $100

Cherry Tree: didn’t see a word count?  Looking for literary fiction pay is $20