GENREALITY

Archive for June, 2011



Thursday, June 30th, 2011 by Candace Havens
Dragons Prefer Blondes

Hey Gang,

I’m at the RWA conference in NYC. Here is an excerpt from Dragons Prefer Blondes. Enjoy!

Prologue

Guardians protect Earth from other worlds. We are the first line of defense against those who want to harm humanity.

Add in the fact that we put our lives on the line every day and that the rest of the universe really doesn’t care for humans, and you have to figure only a crazy person would be a Guardian.

That’s definitely true. But I get to face down dragons, so it’s not all bad. These aren’t the dragons of myths and legends. The Ahi, which is their scientific name, come in all shapes and sizes. They are intelligent beings for the most part, but they have a warrior attitude that makes them hardheaded beasts.

It’s my job to make certain they behave—and take them out if they won’t. I’m not alone. My sisters are also Guardians who protect the rest of the world from creatures that would scare the pee right out of you.

We’re a tight-knit group, which comes in handy, since we’re in the middle of a big battle with evil trying to take over the universe. I’m talking darkness like we’ve never seen before. It hides in the most innocuous places and strikes at will. Scary stuff.

Don’t worry. We Caruthers sisters have a plan. Extinguish the evil and put its sad, sorry ass in a sling. Trust me, we can do this. Anyone who can run in four-inch Prada heels and kill a dragon can certainly save the world from the big bad.

Chapter One

“Alex, I’m getting married.” Aspen Randall screeched in my ear, her voice so high I could barely understand her. It didn’t help that I was holding the cell between my shoulder and ear as I pulled a dragon carcass out of the snow and into an industrial-strength trash bag. I was in front of a beautiful cathedral in Montreal, and thankfully, the streets were empty.

When Aspen called I thought it was one of my sisters, so I’d picked it up without looking. I mean who the hell calls in the wee hours of the morning if they aren’t family?

It dawned on me that I hadn’t responded to her comment. “What a happy surprise. Who’s the lucky guy?” I pretended to be excited. Aspen went through men as fast as she changed shoes, so I couldn’t be sure who had been either brave or stupid enough to chance going down that path with the woman.

“Silly girl, Lord Huffington, of course. That means a big ole royal wedding for me.” She squealed again, and I wondered if I might need a hearing aid after this conversation. “We’ve been dating for three months, and we just can’t wait to get married.”

I sighed—on the inside. From what I knew about him, Huff was a stuck-up aristocrat who probably wanted to marry Aspen for her money. Everyone knew that his family had been struggling for years. His father’s investments were rot, and Huff had seemed more intent on living the playboy life than saving his family fortune.

Then again, Aspen probably knew all that. She just wanted to be called Lady Huffington. I’d met her ten years ago at a birthday party for my sister, Gillian, and Aspen declared us instant pals. My mother insisted I be nice, so I went along with the charade, which turned out to be a huge mistake.

Aspen was as shallow as they came, but she was one of those poor little rich girls. At the ripe old age of fourteen, I’d figured out pretty quickly that her parents had given her everything except love. I felt sorry for her, so when she wanted to hang out, I always tried to be there for her. “Wow. That’s—wow. I don’t know what to say.”

“I know, right? Beyond cool. Daddy says we can have a wedding in the States and at the castle in England. I can have the fairy tale twice.”

Oh, my God. My heart went out to her wedding planner. “Well, that is wild.” I slid the dragon, which was still warm to the touch, into the garbage bag. Thankfully, he’d been in human form, except for the talons, or he wouldn’t have fit. I had caught him inside the cathedral stealing a gold cross from the altar.

Dragons, demons, fairies, and a variety of other creatures had been giving my sisters and me hell the last few months. They were after treasures on Earth, and it was a constant battle to keep them from stealing. None of us knew exactly why these creatures wanted the valuables, but we felt certain it had something to do with the darkness trying to take over the universe. We are all Guardian Keys, and while it’s our job to protect Earth from these jerks, lately it had turned into a full-time occupation.

I had the element of surprise on my side and was able to sneak up on him while he was busy stealing, but he went scaly fast. He managed a couple of good strikes against me before he died. With dragons it was almost always a fight to death. They never backed down.

The snow swirled around me, wet and cold. The damn dragon was slippery and almost too big for the bag. I had to shove it down with my boot.

“Soooo,” Aspen trilled. “Since you are the premiere party planner and one of my dearest friends, I want you to do it all. Everything down to the last detail.” She squealed again, and I dropped the phone into the bag with the dead dragon.

No, no, no. The last thing I needed right now was to plan a wedding for a woman who had to have at least six choices of outfits for each day. She had two full-time stylists who could barely keep up with her. Planning Aspen’s wedding—I’d rather fight a cadre of dragons with my bare hands.

I fished out the phone and wiped off the dragon goo. Pushing the speaker function so I didn’t have to hold it close to my face, I prepared to put her off. “Oh, Aspen, hon, really I’d love too, but—”

“I knew you would.” She cut me off. “Oh, the jet’s here. I have to run. I’ll e-mail you with the dates. Did I mention we want to do it before the end of the month? And my color choices. I’m in a strawberry mood right now, so think luscious red with lots of white, and maybe some pink. Oh, I don’t know, maybe more of a sapphire since it’ll be a winter wedding. I’ll think about it on my way to London to see the castle. Ta! Oh, listen to me, I sound like English royalty already.”

The line went dead.

I snorted. Aspen was in for a rude awakening when she saw that castle. The last time I’d been there was four years ago for a charity event. I’d stayed in the dusty, drafty hunk of stone for one night and swore never to do it again.

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011 by Bob Mayer
Part One: Dialogue with Randy Ingermanson

I had a Skype conversation with Randy Ingermanson. Randy earned a Ph.D. in physics at U.C. Berkeley and is the author of six award winning novels and one non-fiction book. He publishes the world largest electronic magazine on the craft of writing fiction and the FREE monthly Advance Fiction Writing E-zine. The interview is long, so I broke it up into sections. Here is the first portion of the interview.

A dialogue on publishing between Randy Ingermanson and Bob Mayer

Randy: Our subject for today is “New Directions in Publishing”. This is wide open, of course. Nobody has any clue what’s going on. Except the few people who do, and nobody knows who they are.

Bob: Reality is going in a new direction — I’m not sure publishers are. My take is it’s pretty much business as usual in NY.  But the retail end is changing, which means they have to change or die.

Randy: It looks like the wheels are coming off of the publishing industry. What’s the current status of the business, as you see it?

Bob: Confusion and fear.  Traditional publishers want to hold on to the hardcover and mass market paperback.  They say that eBook sales are 10%.  If true, that’s a 300% increase from the beginning of this year.  I think they’re ‘juking the stats’ because every author I talk to says their eBook sales as reported on royalty statements are 40-60% of total sales. The immediate effect is that publishers are dumping their midlist and going with the 10% of their authors who make 90% of the profit.

Randy: Which means that a lot of midlist authors are suddenly finding things a tough go. And they don’t have any idea what to do next.

Bob: To an extent.  If the author is established, they have more opportunities than ever before.

Randy: What I see are two groups of midlisters: Those who say, “Oh no, the sky is falling!” and …

Bob: And those who see opportunity! The Big 6 held a stranglehold on distribution.  That’s no longer true.

Randy: Talk to me more about the Big 6. What’s been their market share in past years? And how is that changing?

Bob: The Big 6 Publishers control 95% of print publishing. Starting in 1995, the print business began contracting. The decline of the book chains is the biggest problem for traditional publishers.  Borders will soon be gone.  I believe Barnes and Noble won’t be far behind.  This means the selling of print books will fall more and more to places like Target and Walmart (besides the growing digital market).  To me this means midlist authors are in an even worse bind than ever as far as print, because those places are only going to rack Brand Name authors.  We’re going to miss Barnes and Noble’s huge shelf spaces.  On the bright side, the eBook market is wide open. There are only 300 indie bookstores left and they’re dying off too.  10 years ago there were 4,000. 7 out of 10 books printed by the Big 6 lose money. 10% of their titles generate 90% of their revenue. Those two facts indicate a reality:  the focus for the Big 6 is going to be more and more on the Brand authors and less on midlist.  The problem is:  where are the next generation of Brand Name Authors going to come from?

Randy: Right. And my view is that they’re going to come out of the ranks of e-book authors who have an entrepreneurial spirit.

Bob: Right.  And the Big 6 will try to scoop up the successful ones.  Except their royalty rates for eBooks have to increase.  It’s a Catch-22.  If someone is succeeding on their own, why give up 70% royalty for 25% of 70%?

Randy: Exactly. An author would be crazy to do that. I have a theory that authors will e-publish themselves at 70% royalties and then hold onto the e-rights when they sign contracts for p-books with publishers.

Bob: Publishers won’t go for that.

Randy: Publishers will hate the idea. So there’s going to be a period of war before things settle out. But the authors actually hold more power than they imagine.

Bob: The overhead for the Big 6 operating out of the Big Apple is way too high.  Heck, even Who Dares Wins Publishing, which we started up this year and operates out of my office in WA and Jennifer Talty’s office in NY, has overhead.  We could never operate brick and mortar out of a NY office.  So that’s something that’s going to have to be addressed.  I see further major contractions occurring in NY and more out-sourcing of jobs to people digitally.  The acquiring editors will still be in NY with the agents, but a lot of the other parts are going to be out-sourced. We control content. Readers buy content. Everyone else needs to either help connect the two or they’ll fail.

Randy: Right, and with e-books, we can control our distribution to an extent. Do you think publishers are going to lower prices on retail copies of e-books?

Bob: They have to.  They can’t right now because their overhead is too high.  So they’re in a crunch.

Randy: Which is why they’re going to continue shedding people. An author can self-pub on Amazon and do fine at a $2.99 price point. Can a major publisher survive at that price point?

Bob: Actually, what Wylie tried to do, may be the future. Random House blacklisting him, told me how scared publishers are. Agents are going to start wondering why they need publishers too.  Since they are essentially the quality control for the Big 6.

Randy: That raises another issue — the future of agents. Some people think that agents are becoming superfluous. But I’m not so sure.

Bob: I think they could become more important if they change. I see agents sort of merging with smart publishers.

Randy: Agents have been reading the publishers’ slush pile for years. What else will they do in the future?

Bob: They’ll become publishers.  Screen the slush, pick the books they think can make it, then outsource all the editing, uploading, covers, etc.

Randy: An agent is intrinsically a much lighter and more nimble business than a publisher. So they can do that. And authors can be nimble too. But it could make traditional publishers obsolete. The big corporations with big buildings.

Bob: Yes.  We’ve changed our business model at Who Dares Wins six times in just this past year.  A large corporation can’t do that. Agents can.

This is a good place to break up the interview. In two weeks I’ll post part two.

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011 by Sasha White
Writing Hot Sex

Since it’s conference week for Romance Writes of America, I figured I’d make an effort to give more of “writing craft” post than normal. Still, I’m a big believer in people doing what works for them, and in not over-analyzing my own ways, so don’t expect too much no matter what I titled the post. ;)

One of the most common questions I get asked by new writers is how to write hot sex. I’ve written too many sex scenes to count. Sex in private, sex in public, menage, male/male, kink, masturbation… and in my mind the one thing they all have in common is emotion.

I can’t stress this enough. Emotion is what makes a sex scene hot. Now, the next really important thing I want everyone to pay attention to is that emotion does not always mean Love or romance. Plenty of times lust comes first, and sometimes before lust comes anger. Anger can feed lust. Sometimes there’s no anger, just the rowdy, raunchy joy of naked skin against naked skin or doing something taboo. It’s not always love and romance.

Next big thing is word use. I’m so not a fan of flowery purple prose, but I’m also not a fan of the overuse of explicit crude language. Don’t get me wrong I think the well placed use of words like c*nt or c*ck can be magical, but the key phrase there is “well placed”.

Variety of description is another big part of hot sex scenes, and that means having a plethora of words to chose from. Some words just scream sexy and erotic. Words you might not normally think of to use in a sex scene…like appetite, crave, demand, greed, hunger, longing, ravenous, relish, thirst, urge, voracious, yearning.

Alone, those words might not make you think sex, but simply because we’re talking about sex, the words feel different when you read them here and now. Get the idea?

Writing hot is about vivid description of the emotions and sensations the characters are experiencing so that the readers can feel the heat come off the pages.

Instead of saying “pleasure washed over her” describe what that pleasure feels like. “liquid heat flowed through her veins” or “calloused fingertips skimmed over my too sensitive skin and my muscles tightened in anticipation of a heavier touch.

Craft is important. Technical writing skill is always a good thing, but if you want to write hot sex scenes, you have to remember the magic that comes from using words to elicit emotion.

Erotica is all about emotion-the emotions the characters experience within the story, and the emotion the readers experience when reading it.

Monday, June 27th, 2011 by Carrie Vaughn
Evolution of an Ongoing Series Part 2: Lessons Learned

Last week in Part 1, I talked specifically about the Kitty books, and how they evolved from the first book that I pessimistically assumed would be the only one, to the nine-volume series, with several more on deck, that it is today.  (The ninth book, Kitty’s Big Trouble, is out tomorrow!)

This week, I’m talking about general lessons I’ve learned over the course of writing the series.  Keep in mind, I’m specifically addressing ongoing, open-ended series here, which is different than a series that tells a story over multiple volumes.

I think the most important thing to remember about writing an ongoing series:  the guidelines for how to write a good book don’t change.  Each novel needs to be a novel, with a plot, characters who grow and change, interesting writing, and a cohesive narrative.  You don’t get a free pass just because you’ve written about these characters eight or ten previous times.  You can’t assume your readers will be sympathetic and let you get away with sloppy writing, plotting, characterization, etc., just because they love you and your characters.  Some of them might.  But the chances are too good that this eighth or tenth book will be someone’s first introduction to your world — to your writing, period.  What then?  Do what we all should be striving to do, all the time:  write a good book.

I consistently get two questions about writing series, and both of those I think are critical issues to consider:  how to make sure each book has a stand-alone story, and how to deliver backstory.  As I mentioned, I’m working on the 11th Kitty novel.  How do I bring new readers up to speed, or remind old readers of what came before? (Since not everyone can do what the really obsessive fans do, which is reread every book when the new one comes out.)  And how do I make each book interesting in its own right?

First Issue:  Making sure each book stands alone.

This one’s very important to me, because I’m sensitive to the plight of the person who habitually picks up a series in the middle.  Because I’m one of them.  Plus, I really want readers to feel like each book is a satisfying experience.  How to do this:  I pull in stories from outside the characters or ongoing storylines.  I’m always, always looking for new ideas to bring in.  I can’t keep going over the same internal and relationship plots over and over again.  It’s one of the things that drives me crazy with other series, and I try not to do things that drive me crazy.  Love triangles, endless on-again off-again relationships — I get bored.  I get to a point where I just want the characters to get over themselves.  This doesn’t mean neglecting the characters’ personal stories and arcs entirely.  I have to stay true to the characters, no matter what happens.  But I can explore the personal stories through a variety of external conflicts.

You might have noticed, this is how TV drama and thrillers do it.  American TV series episodes often have an A plot and a B plot.  The A plot is the Enterprise meeting an all-powerful alien who Picard has to convince that humanity is worth saving, the B plot is Data learning how to paint.  On Castle, the A plot is the murder mystery, the B plot is Alexis’ secret admirer at school.  Sometimes the plots relate to each other, or the solution to one offers the solution to the other.  But having two tracks gives me a chance to tell different stories in the same book.  The relationships are always going to be there.  But I can better illustrate the relationships by having the characters respond to outside stories and conflicts, rather than focusing on them and inventing false-sounding conflicts.

I also follow The X-Files model to an extent:  some episodes are mythology episodes, some are monster of the week.  House of Horrors and Goes to War are essentially monster-of-the-week episodes — self contained stories that don’t really advance the over-arcing series plot, but were still fun, interesting, and advanced Kitty’s personal story.  Big Trouble and Steals the Show are more mythology episodes — I give away a lot of information about the big baddy and focus more on the series arc.  (I think The X-Files was brilliant for its first four seasons.  Definitely a model to follow on how to write a series.  But it lost its way about halfway through — it lost track of its own mythology, its own endpoint.  I stopped believing there was an ongoing story.  This is what I’m trying to avoid.)

Second Issue:  Backstory

In May I went to a writers workshop/retreat, and we held an informal lunchtime symposium on writing series (a good portion of the writing excerpts brought in for critique were chapters of second and third novels in series).  I want to share something participating author Paul Witcover said during this discussion:  Even first novels, or stand alone novels, have a backstory.  It’s just that we don’t worry about including it all.

I think this is incredibly important to remember:  When you’re writing subsequent books in a series, you don’t have to tell a new reader everything that came before.  You only need to tell them what they need to know to understand what’s happening right now, and you can do it in a sentence or two.  Don’t explain everything that happened in every previous book.  Don’t spend paragraphs explaining anything.  Remember — the same guidelines for writing a book, any book, apply here.  Keep the story moving, don’t get hung up on irrelevant details.  You may think the reader needs to know every detail of the back-and-forth in the epic love triangle.  But really, the reader doesn’t.  They’ll be able to figure it out.

Example:  Cormac is one of the most important secondary characters in my own series, and he and Kitty have a huge, complicated backstory.  But I try to limit his introduction in each book to a couple of sentences.  Here’s his introduction in Kitty Takes a Holiday, the third book:

A job.  With Cormac, that meant something nasty.  He hunted werewolves — only ones who caused trouble, he’d assured me — and bagged a few vampires on the side.  Just because he could.

Here’s his intro in Kitty Goes to War, the eighth book, after a lot more history has happened:

Cormac had saved our lives and ended up in prison for it. He’d had to put his life on hold; we hadn’t. Cormac and I had had a thing, once upon a time. Then he’d brought Ben, his cousin and victim of a recent werewolf attack, to me. I’d taken care of him, Cormac went to jail, and Ben and I got married.

My goal with these short bits of backstory is to get as much information into as short a space as possible.  This reminds long-time readers what’s happened.  But new readers get only the basics:  Cormac has spent time in prison, he and Kitty have unresolved issues, these three characters have a complicated history.  That gives a new reader a basis for understanding what happens moving forward.  They don’t need a complete summary, just the foundation.  They’ll be able to see the details in how the characters behave with each other.  There it is again, show don’t tell.

A corollary to this:  make sure you’re starting the book in the right place.  I’ve read a couple of first-in-series urban fantasy novels recently that started late.  The first chapter showed me what the heroine’s life looked like after her traumatic introduction to the supernatural, and related that traumatic introduction in a paragraph or two long infodump.  This made me furious — that traumatic introduction should have been the first chapter, told in visceral terrifying immediate detail.  The mundane reality after should have been the second chapter.

Third Issue: Continuity

Keep a series bible.  I didn’t, because as I said I didn’t think this was going to be a series.  Since then, I’ve been slowly building one up.  I have files for the in-world chronology of the series so I can keep track of what happened when, I have a file listing everyone in Kitty’s pack, I have files to keep track of descriptions of people.  It’s the little things like that I have trouble remembering.  Continuity’s a bitch.   ;)

Conclusion:

I know that “write a good book” is a terrible piece of advice.  Of course we all want to write good books, that’s the point, isn’t it?  But if there’s one thing writing ten books in a series has taught me, it’s that this is the guiding principle I go back to time and again:  what makes a good book?  How can I make this book that I’m working on right now a good book?  Do that, and the series will take care of itself.

Sunday, June 26th, 2011 by Sasha White
July News

NEW RELEASES

Rosemary Clement-Moore has a new release out on July 12! (Look at the Fab cover!)

Texas Gothic — a YA supernatural mystery

Leave The Light On…

The column of light burned blue as a gas flame, and in the incandescent center was a hazy outline of a man… A formless arm lifted slowly, as if pulling against the weight of death to reach for me, and the shade of a mouth worked in soundless desperation as the hollow eyes fixed on my face.

“This engaging mystery has plenty of both paranormal and romance, spiced with loving families and satisfyingly packed with self-sufficient, competent girls.”Kirkus, starred review

* * * * *

APPEARANCES
Ken Scholes will be presenting at the Cascade Writers Workshop in Moclips, WA, July 21-23. http://cascadewriters.com/

Saturday, June 25th, 2011 by Ken Scholes
So You Wanna Write Your First Novel, Part 4: Pre-Revision

Happy Saturday Folks!

I suspect I”m somewhere between Salt Lake City and Boise as you read this on my Impromptu Little Sister Road-trip Book Tour.  Hopefully, those of you in the area have come out to meet me.

Over the last several weeks we’ve been talking about writing that first novel.  I’ve broken the process up into the stages that make sense based on what I learned when I wrote my own first novel and the ones I’ve written since.  And again, what works for me may not work for you.  I think the most important thing about this (apart from pushing yourself to finish that novel and put it out to market) is that you try different things and figure out what works for you.

So last week, we wrapped up that post-draft rest break, talked a bit about getting some Story into you and being ready for that bit of post-drafting depression that many of us encounter.   And you finished cleansing your writing palate with a short story.

I closed by saying you had some decisions to make.  And you do.

It’s time to revise your novel and as with everything in the process, you have to figure out your process for revising a novel.   You can make some of these decisions in pre-draft if you’re the sort who really likes to know your path before you start walking it.  I often do that.

So you’ve just spent 50 to 100 days on this book.  All along the way, you’ve been telling yourself “It doesn’t have to be good; it just has to be done.”  And you’ve been telling your internal editor “You’ll get your chance later” in an effort to stay on task with the drafting.

Well, it’s nearly time.

Your first decision is at hand.  Do you want to take a pass at revision yourself before it goes out to your readers?  A lot of writers do, especially if their first drafts are pretty rough.  And by rough, I mean large bits of the story out of order or looking more like stream-of-conciousness free-written material.   

Everyone’s draft quality is different.   Finding the balance between giving those readers a readable draft and using your time as efficiently as possible is sometimes tricky but again:  we learn by trying.

In my case, I have really solid first drafts.  And I have a life that’s stacked utterly full between my toddling twin daughters, my relationship with Jen, my dayjob and all of the other things that go along with being a writer.  So I actually do something that makes some writers’ heads spin and fall off.  I (are you hanging on?) send out my book to beta readers chapter by chapter as I draft it.  Some of them read as I write it, others store up chapters and read in chunks.  The cheerleading helps me stay on course and we have a rule:  Big fixes get identified if they impact where the stories going, but everything else waits until the draft is done.  Still, that wouldn’t work for anyone.  Most of my writing pals cringe at this approach.

So that’s your first decision.  If you do take a pass at it, I recommend trying to teach yourself (if you don’t know already) how to revise using Microsoft’s track changes feature (or whatever equivalent tool your word processing program offers).  And I recommend that you ask your readers to do the same.  It will make your life much easier.  Of course, if they can’t or won’t, you do what you need to do in order to get their feedback.

If you’re making that first pass without anyone else’s comments try to move at a quick pace.  Figure out how many words you can revise in an hour (on average).  I think I revise about 5,ooo words per hour (about one of my chapters) but it varies based on the quality of the draft.  And in my case, I do one pass.  I get all of my readers’ input along with my own thoughts and go through the document once.

The goal (as always) is to push through quickly and yet efficiently, then turn the book over to other eyes.  In my case, I read through Lamentation with a paper copy of the manuscript.  Some of my readers used track changes, others used manuscript.  I got good feedback.  The price I paid was a bit slower process because I was moving between paper and electronic documents.

And you have another pretty large decision (also, again, one that you can make in the pre-drafting stage).  Who is going to read it for you?

Well, my first and biggest suggestion is this:  Do not pay someone to read it and revise it.  There are people out there who will gladly take your money.  But it’s far better (IMHO) to learn how to do this yourself.  And to gain the experience of helping someone else with their book in exchange for their help on yours.

So find another writer or two to read your book.  But keep in mind, when you do, that writers often read differently than people who do not write.  For instance, if you were a dancer and you went to the ballet, your enjoyment of the show would not be the same as someone who simply loved dance but didn’t dance themselves.  When you do it  yourself, you bring a more critical eye to the performance because you understand everything that is happening up on stage.  And if you’re like a lot of people, you know just how you would do it differently.

This can be tricky.

So I recommend having a few writers on your reading team.  But I also recommend having a few people who just read the sort of books that you write.  I have an amazing team of first readers and in that crew, I have one writer who’s eye I trust completely, a reader who devours two or three genre books in a good week and then my editor (who decides if the story is ready for prime time and pushes the buttons that send checks) and my agent (who’s job is to help me sell said book if it’s not under contract already but she also brings a keen eye for story to the table and her comments are always useful.)

Of course, in those early days just after finishing Lamentation, I didn’t have an editor or agent.  But I was well-served by my other readers.

The writers who read your book will give you good perspective as writers.  The readers will approach it as a story that they’re reading.  Both bits of input are important so try to put together a balanced team.  And when looking for writers to read your book, try to find writers who write in your genre who are ahead of you on the curve.  You can often meet writers either through local workshop groups or by hanging out at the writing panels at your local SF/F conventions or by talking to the SF/F folks at your local bookstore.  You also may have local writing groups that hold events of some kind — those might be great places for making friends who eventually become part of your reading team.

Also, try to find experts to help with areas that fall outside of your own experience.  If your protagonist is a cop, you really should consider finding a cop to read your book with an eye toward his or her line of work.  Most people will gladly help you out and will be tickled by the notion of their name in the acknowledgements. 

Once you’ve identified your team, go asking for their help.  When you ask, make sure you are giving them an out and that they know it’s okay to pass.   People are busy and reading and commenting on an entire novel is a tremendous labor of love.  And not everyone likes the kind of novel you wrote so be sensitive to that.  Give them a timeframe — a month is probably long enough — with a date in mind for when you’re going to take everyone’s comments and start revising.

Ask them if they can make that deadline and then tell them you’ll check in at the two week and one week mark to see how they’re doing.  And be prepared to extend the deadline but…set a limit with yourself as to how long you’ll wait.  And then, when it’s time, take what you have and move on.  Try as much as possible to not look back.  If someone gets their comments to you after you’ve finished revising the book, set them aside if you can.  If you open the file and look at the comments, you run the risk of falling into the second guessing game and taking another pass at revisions. 

Again, I know people who’ve been revising the same book for years and years and years.  If they go on to win the Pulitzer prize for it that’s all well and good.  But they may have a short bibliography at the end of their career.  Which is fine, certainly, if that’s what they want.  But a lot of us get sidetracked out of our own lack of confidence.

I digress a bit.

Send your manuscript out to the readers and then, if you already took a pass before sending it along, go write more short stories.  Or go outline your second novel.  If you didn’t take a pass at it, sit down with your manuscript and read it.  Make notes as you go and if you make changes, make them with track changes so you can see them in the document.  That will become important later when you merge the documents your readers send back.

I’ll talk more about revision in Part 5 next week.  Until then, Trailer Boy signing out.

 

Friday, June 24th, 2011 by Rosemary
Be Excellent at a Conference

In honor of the RWA’s National Convention next week, I’m revisiting a previous post about making the most of your opportunity, should you find yourself with a chance to talk to an agent or editor about your work, in a social or formal setting.

I’ve noticed this thing happens when some writers anticipate being around agents, especially if they have a finished book to pitch.  Their eyes glaze over with a sort of panicked fervor.  I hear them in the halls, muttering their 30 second “elevator pitches” over and over, like a mantra.  They get all wound up with a sort of desperate and dateless the day before the prom energy that goes beyond nerves.

The key to making the most of an agent-attended conference is to present yourself as a professional. Here are some things to keep in mind, whether you’re pitching your work, or just networking preparatory to querying and submitting later.

Be friendly, but not too familiar. A formal pitch session is a combo job-interview/ speed-date. You want to be personable (smile, sit up straight, don’t chew gum, ask how her day is going), but you don’t want to come like that skeevy car salesman who uses your first name way too often. And even if you’re Twitter friends, don’t assume you’ll be besties when you meet in person.

Be restrained. A social setting is a great place to let them meet the real you, as long as the real you isn’t a loudmouthed bigot or a sloppy drunk. Don’t be that guy. Watch how much you drink.

Be passionate about your project but not desperate. Do I need to explain what I mean by desperate? Yes, we love our books, but we don’t want to turn into a pack of rabid hyenas. Trust me. “What do you write?” is the “What’s your major?” of writer’s conferences.  You don’t have to push.

Be confident, but not arrogant. Your book may well be the next Harry Potter, Catcher in the Rye, or Lord of the Rings.  But let modesty prevail. Pitch your book, and let them discover its brilliance for themselves.

Be prepared. Familiarize yourself with the books in your genre, know what’s out there that your book is akin to, and also what makes your book different from all those others.  Have an idea where it would go in the bookstore, or who the audience will be.

Be professional about rejection. A great project may not be a love match.  Que sera sera.  It doesn’t mean she’s stabbed your metaphorical baby. Nor is she a stupid shrew. And even if she is….

Be discreet. Never, ever bad mouth other agents, editors, authors published or unpublished, either in your pitch session, in the bar, in the hall, or even when you THINK you’re alone in the bathroom. You never know who is in the other stall. Publishing professionals all know each other, and they all talk to each other.

Be well-rounded. Don’t forget the rest of the conference! Networking with other writers, attending breakout sessions and just absorbing the energy of a bunch of creative people in one place, is just as important–or more!–than blurting out your “Dungeons and Dragons meets Steel Magnolias” logline.

Anything to add in the comments?  If you want to dish on horror stories, keep them anonymous, okay?  Remember ‘don’t badmouth people’ applies online doubly.