GENREALITY
December 7th, 2012 by Diana Peterfreund
In Which Diana Discusses Copyedits

So my copyedits for my fall ’13 novel, Across a Star-Swept Sea, came in yesterday. This will be my ninth novel, and the first time I’ve ever done “electronic” copyedits on a novel (I’ve done them on short stories and essays before). My last go around were done electronically by the copyeditor, but then were printed out and sent to me to review on paper. This time, I’m supposed to review them electronically.

That lasted about half an hour.

Turns out I really count on the different format at this stage in the game. I like to look at it on paper. So this is what I did:

Thank you, Staples.

So now here I sit, my desk cleared of distractions (I’m about to close my laptop down, even), with just the things i need to finish these copyedits: the copyedits themselves, a cup of tea, my space heater (I have such thin Floridian blood), and this nifty combo pen/highlighter/sticky note thing (shown) I found at Staples while waiting for the clerk to coil bind the manuscript.

She had to coil bind it in two, because this is a looooong book (almost 400 pages):

Fun stuff, huh?

December 5th, 2012 by J.A. Pitts
Winter is coming

We are all affected by our environment, especially the weather.  This is very obvious to me as an introvert.  Each season brings a whole host of positive and negative impacts to my personal well being.

Add a high intensity job — one that is very ON all the time, with a lot of brain juice and interpersonal interaction required to be successful.   This give you an emotional roller coaster that is sometimes exciting and sometimes overwhelming.  It frequently leaves me drained.  I need an hour or two in the evening just to start feeling human some nights.  I like to listen to music and read.  That’s the best balm for me.  I can cruise the internet, watch a movie, or just mindless scan Facebook, but these are only partially successful.  Some evenings I’ll just veg in front of the computer and never understand where the evening has slipped away to.

Many of my friends also suffer from SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder.  When the days start to run shorter with cold and rain, dreary days with watery light and long periods with no real external stimuli, they start to find themselves sleeping more, find difficulty in recovering from large gatherings, and basically cocooning  themselves into a hibernation state.  Depression is always hovering on the edge of things, or in some cases, smothering the energy out of them.  Winter is dark and depressing.  A time of long, dark days and little hope.

I have a different view.  Luckily my SAD symptoms are lighter than most.  I thrive in this time of year.  But I didn’t realize it until I moved west.

When I moved to Seattle in 1997, I thought I was in heaven.  First of all we don’t have the weather extremes of my home state, Kentucky.  And there is a dramatic reduction in humidity in the summer months.  But the overwhelming positive things I love about Seattle are that it’s always green here, even in the heart of winter, and the fact I’m not one of those people who want to be out in the sun.

Heck, being in the sun for any length of time gives me a headache.  I have to lather on the sunscreen and wear a hat, or I’m wiped out for the rest of the day after only a couple of hours out in the bright shiny day.  In those hot, muggy summer days, you can only take off so many clothes and the humidity sucks the life out of you.  Worse is the air conditioning which makes you feel like you’re turning to plastic.

To me, the sunshine is best observed from a nice shady spot where I have a tall glass of iced tea and a good book to read.  That’s the best.

But here, those bright, sunny days only last for six to eight weeks a year at most.  The rest of the year we get cloudy to rainy to windy and finally, on odd year, snowy.  Now, I can get snow more frequently if I drive thirty minutes east to the mountains and I can get more bluster and squalls if I go out to the coast.  But, like the sunshine, snow is best observed from a different place, not directly in the weather itself.

Even if it’s inside a dry tent listening to the rain and the wind rattle the fly, or inside a cabin listening to the weather rage against the rafters, I just plain prefer fall and winter.  Being from Kentucky, I never really became a water person.  I don’t have the desire to lay on a beach or even swim.  I never learned to sail or dive.

But sitting on the porch at the ocean, watching the winter weather gnash and rage across the rolling waves of the ocean, while I’m dry and warm with a good book, a cup of tea and a roaring fire.  That’s the balm I need for a crazy, busy world.

And the writing.  Oh, dude.  When I have that warm enough to be comfortable, but chilly enough to know it’s worse outside, with the waves crashing on the shore and giving a constant, grinding background rumble.  That’s when I can really write.  Some of my best writing has been done at the coast, in the winter, while the winter winds stirred the froth on the waves and the world was swallowed by the intensity of the sound.

Or, another favorite is being in the heart of the rainforest, in a cabin while snow falls all around, and the sun is setting over Lake Quinalt while I have my headphones on listening to my favorite music, from Black Sabbath to Rush to Bach or Mozart.  If I’m feeling particularly moody I’ll throw on the soundtrack from the Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter and let the words flow through me from the ether and onto the screen.

February 2012 I had my most amazing hour of writing productivity in that moment.  A perfect three thousand word hour.  I knew where I was going, knew what I had to do, and just cranked out the story like breathing.

So, while I appreciate folks who are affected by SAD, or really prefer the sunshine, give me the heart of the winter.  I can always throw on another sweater, make more tea and crank some tunes.

I love the way the world feels in that moment.

It’s a kind of peace that is rare in my world, and fondly remembered.

December 4th, 2012 by Sasha White
Guest Blog: Kate Pearce.

Years ago, when I was a wee babe in the publishing industry…okay, so I’m not a giant, but I’m not a babe anymore either. *g* Anyway, years ago I met a woman named Kate. Little did I know at the time that she was lovably referred to as Queen Kate by some, but it didn’t take me long to hear it, and to figure out why. This lady is amazing. Not only is she talented, and prolific, but she’s fun and generous and helpful, and all those things you fear are lost traits in people nowdays.

Not only is she an awesome person, but she’s a kick-ass author too. Kate writes in several different romance sub-genres under different names. She’s a member of RWA and is published by Kensington Aphrodisia, Ellora’s Cave and Virgin Black Lace/Cheek.

Every now and then Kate publishes a very thought provoking post on a writers group I hang out at, and this time, I begged her to let me post it here. She said yes!

Please welcome Kate Pearce….

Let’s talk about “No.”…

So you sell your book.
There are rainbows and unicorns and confetti and those golden gates swing wide and you shade your eyes and look forward and there it is… your path to success. It’s shiny and goes straight up that hill to that golden trophy marked NYT Bestseller or USA Today Bestseller or #1 on Amazon kindle! (or billionaire-whatever your vision of ultimate success is).

You stride forward and it beckons to you, that golden prize so you keep after it. You write more books, you hone your craft you get your first fan letter and then something happens…

Someone says no.

Now this can occur in many ways. Here are a few (most of which I’ve experienced myself)

1. Your editor loses interest and enthusiasm in you.
-this can result in them taking a long time to look at your new submission.
-being slow to respond to your emails.
-sending you back your manuscript with either a revise and resubmit or a flat out No.

2. Your editor gets too busy.
-see above.

3. Your editor gets fired or leaves the publishing house.
-leaving you-where exactly?
Orphaned.
With the task of convincing a new editor to love your work, which quite often leads back to the above, -lack of enthusiasm or an overworked editor who doesn’t get you or need you.

4. Or worse. your publisher folds usually with debts and bad feelings.

5. Your particular line closes or your publisher merges it with another, or changes the criteria, or the word count or…

So that career path?
Not so straight and uphill after all.

What do you do?
If the publisher is still standing-
1. Send something new in.
2. Revise and resubmit the original piece.

And what happens when you still hear no? Or there’s no one to send anything to?
At this point you’ve usually lost time rewriting and waiting and your slot in the schedule has gone or been moved back, or disappeared meaning you’ve got a gap in productivity that your readers might notice.

Don’t panic.

I honestly believe that unless your name is Nora Roberts, almost every writer at some point in their career will have the above happen or be told a project is either being canceled or hasn’t lived up to expectations.
It doesn’t matter who you are, or what the reason is- it’s soul destroying.

Good writers pick themselves up, dust themselves down and Move On.

I’m not saying it’s easy but it’s what we do.
Ultimately you are the only person who knows your goals and cares about them. Publishers don’t. They really don’t. You might be the sweetest person in the world, the hardest worker, best promotor, and an unflagging supporter of the company principals. They look at the numbers and how much money you are making them. That’s ultimately it.

And still we feel like we are the failures, that our magic gift and career trajectory is all destroyed and that we are worthless hacks… (or maybe that was just me)

And then maybe you will get angry and think “I’ll show them” and come up with something new and sell it to someone else. (or maybe that is just me too. )

That’s the best revenge. Sell it to someone else or self-publish it and makes millions for yourself.

What I’m trying to say is that almost every published writer I’ve ever met has been rejected, struggled to find a publisher, had to change sub-genre, pen name, publisher editor etc etc and have done it because ultimately the writing is the thing they need to do. Always keep your eye on the business side of the job-without becoming a slave to it-be aware of what’s going on at your publishers, feel the vibes, trust your instincts and survive by diversifying and being ready with a back-up plan or three.

At the beginning of this year I had one contract ending and a terrible sensation that my Tudor Vampire series was not going to be picked up. (editor enthusiasm had disappeared) It was hard to accept that I’d failed at one of my dreams-getting in to mass market paperbacks. Well, to be honest, it was hard to accept I’d failed, period. But it taught me a lesson and reminded me that everyone has their ups and downs. It also inspired me to continue self-publishing and launch proposals for three new series. Okay, so they all got picked up and now I’m back in deadline hell again (which is why those of you who know me know why I’m writing this) But you have to be brave and put yourself out there-and that can be in any format you choose. You don’t even need to go with a traditional publisher anymore.

Again, this isn’t me telling anyone how it is or that my experience is more valid, its just to make you all think about what you want from publishing, whether those goals have changed over the years (mine certainly have-I just want to write excellent books), whether you’ve had slips and twists and unexpected slip ups in your careers and whether you plan ahead, pay attention and diversify.

Thoughts?

Kate’s Latest Release:
Disowned and disinherited by his aristocratic family, Jack Llewelyn survives on his wits and his ability to nurse officers returning from the Napoleonic Wars. He is prepared to go to any lengths to clear his name, but fate, and the Duke of Diable Delamere, have different plans for Jack. Soon, he will be hunting a missing spy, discovering old family secrets, and risking his life pursuing a woman who has changed beyond recognition. Only then will he be able to face his lost love, ask her forgiveness and finally deserve his very happy ending.

READ AN EXCERPT

Visit Kate’s website and learn more about her and her books. www.katepearce.com

December 3rd, 2012 by Carrie Vaughn
A Couple of Thoughts from Last Week

Thought the First

Here’s a concrete example of how over time it’s good to review how you do things and make adjustments:

When I was first starting out — I mean, going to my first science fiction conventions as an author with only a couple of stories published — I realized how nice it would be to have business cards, to give people my e-mail address, and so on.  Since I was pretty short on funds and moving around a lot, I decided a good way to do this was to make them myself in small batches, printing them on do-it-yourself business card stock, rather than shelling out for a big stack of cards that might quickly become obsolete.  And this was a good way to do it, at the time.  When my first books were published, I added the covers to the cards, and this became a great way to hand out info about my books.

I ran out of business cards recently.  It’s been awhile since I did up a batch, a year or so maybe.  I have a new printer, and the thought of reformatting my templates to the new printer made me want to cry.  (This is part of why I ran out of cards in the first place.)  Then it occurred to me:  Why the hell am I still doing this myself?  Especially with so many great online printing services that will let me design something I really like and send me a package of nice cards for a reasonable price?  Great big lightbulb moment, let me tell you.

I’m kicking myself for waiting this long to go the professional printing route.  I should not be wasting the time doing them myself anymore.  My career is in a very different place than it was twelve years ago, I should not be doing things the same way.

Thought the Second

I think I’ve talked before about how much I hate the concept of “author branding.”  Mostly because on all the lists of “how to build an author brand,” I hardly ever see, Be an Awesome Writer.  And because I came to blows with my old publisher about what my own “brand” should mean.  Most of what people mean when they say “branding” is stuff aspiring authors are doing anyway:  writing work they care about, setting up a website, being professional about it all, and so on.  “Branding” just puts a fancy name on it and gives writers one more thing to stress out over.  One more unnecessary thing to stress over.

Well, The Onion just did an article that illustrates exactly how it comes across (to me, anyway) when an author is more focused on their “brand” than they are on their writing.  Oh, I can’t stop laughing.

December 1st, 2012 by Ken Scholes
A Writer’s Question on Economy of Words

Happy Saturday and Howdy Folks.  Today, I thought I’d field a question that came in from my friend, Mike, in Idaho.  He writes:

I was writing to ask if you had any suggestions for craft related exercises for short stories and novellas at all?

It seems to me, I’ve encountered two or three types of authors, those who think in story and words and approach a story or novel through language (like English majors) and those who seem to approach story like an Engineer.  Through format and layout and how a story looks and economy of words, rather than word pictures.

I’m not trying to generalize but that’s the way it seems to me.  I felt like I was in a writing class with Engineering types who were concerned with the look of a story and the structure on a “less words means more description” level and I still wanted to be flowery, rather than just saying what something was.  How does one balance that instinct and not kill it entirely?  Thereby just telling your audience what they’re seeing, rather than putting word pictures in their heads or enough clues to get them to picture it.  .

So how does one use a screenwriter’s need for economy in story with an English major’s love of words and still get a story people will enjoy and hopefully want to read more than once?

This is a great question, Mike.  First up, I’ll say that screenwriters are working under different constraints than a novelist.  In some ways, they’re more similar to short story writers in that they have a fixed and limited amount of space in which to tell their story.   Most movies have two hours to tell their story.  But they also have more available to help them tell the story — sights, sounds, special effects, even music.  But that said, I actually approach my novels as if they were screenplays in some regards.  I start with a fixed length.  I think cinematically about how I present the story, working in three act structure.  But I also tap the great strength of a novel — the opportunity to explore the inner landscape of my characters.

When it comes to that balance between the words we love and the need to keep a story lean and forward-moving, I think it’s something we learn by practice.  And it starts with recognizing that everything within a story only exists to serve that story.  That’s important enough to say twice:

Everything within a story only exists to serve that story.

Which means, as someone else put it, murdering your darlings now and again.  Those bits of beautiful words that you love love love but do not serve the story.  Off they go!  And by staying brutally true to writing only what serves the story, you then have to make sure all the other words you’re using are the right ones.  I suspect that my time in short story writing honed this skill for me, though I don’t pretend for a second I’ve figured it out.

And I think the only real exercise is to write and practice and try new things and be aware of what you’re trying as you do.  But not as exercises…write stories, write novels, make the path by walking the path.

I think my guest post over at 52 Book Reviews may also help some with your question, so check it out!

And if you are out there with a writing question you’d like to ask, please shoot it over to me at Ken (at) KenScholes.com.  You might just end up in a blog post!

Trailer Boy out!

 

 

 

November 30th, 2012 by Diana Peterfreund
Rounding Out Your Characters

Read a great blog post from author Kate Elliot the other day about why Cat, the warrior heroine in her “second world” fantasy series is a seamstress. Great post. Go read it.

There’s so much good stuff in that post — stuff about the importance of worldbuilding being more than capital-letter naming a few castes and drawing a map, the importance of not eschewing feminine-coded qualities for your female characters in a misguided attempt to make them “strong, and (the one I’m interested in talking about now), the importance of making sure that your characters actually are real people. That they aren’t, as one commenter called them, “hobo murderers.” What are these people when they aren’t on the job. What hidden talent or skill or interest do they possess? What makes them more than an archetype moving around on the board? Even if the character is larger than life, he or she is still alive.

I’m not a huge fan of those “character worksheets” where you, a priori, fill out the character’s favorite pop song or ice cream flavor. Usually, I think to myself, “if my character eats ice cream, I’ll know which flavor is her favorite.” But once I know the character, I find it very easy to figure out those things if I have a reason to. And just because it doesn’t make it into the book doesn’t mean I don’t, on some level, know the answers. Often, after a book comes out and I’m doing guest blog posts, I’ll be asked questions like, “What is Elliot’s favorite color?” and I’ll find that I already know that answer, without ever having consciously considered it before. I’ll find that, over and over, I’m dressing Amy in yellow, without necessarily realizing it’s her signature color. And I think the readers pick up on it, even subconsciously.

Who are the characters beyond the roles you’ve given them in the story? The most fascinating characters, whether hero or villain, is the most complete. Just as we like villains better if, on some level, we can root for their quest, we also like heroes better if we know there’s something else going on behind the do-gooding, or badassery, or both. Look at The Avengers; that movie was like 90% heroes and their stuff, and 10% fighting aliens. And it’s chock full of characters who have all kinds of things going on on top (or underneath, or driving, or preventing) their heroism.

But you know what most people remember, what was so poignant that Samuel L. Jackson’s character was able to use it to finally motivate the squabbling heroes to save the day? The fact that the highly capable “suit” — Agent Colson — had collected Captain America memorabilia since he was a boy. Not just a G-man, not just there to get involved in the periphery of a whole host of superhero movies… Agent Colson had a hobby. It informed his character, explained why he has the job he does, and made us all cry over his death.

Does your character have a secret, unexpected quality? A hobby you don’t expect? An interest that not only makes them who they are, but makes them bigger than the role they play in the story. Do they sleep with a teddy bear? Do they teach TOEFL classes? Are they a crack baker? Are they training for a marathon, do they always have a weakness for sushi, or tea, or bourbon? (All three, right here.) Do they have pets? Do they call their mothers on the weekend? Do they always have to wear thick socks or they get blisters?

Who are they?

 

November 29th, 2012 by HelenKay Dimon
Start Of An Idea

People ask all the time where book ideas come from. The real answer, of course, is everywhere. Ideas are easy. You can think them through, turn them around, revise them, add to them and twist them into something new and different. Ideas come from the bits and pieces we read, see, and know. Ideas are the fun part.

I’m one of those people who gets bombarded by new ideas all the time. I also have the unfortunate problem of not being able to remember things unless I write them down. I’ve learned to adjust and not panic. I now get an idea and take the five minutes to write down enough notes to be able to come back later and actually know what I was thinking when I wrote the note.

Even though I’ve grown accustomed to the whole idea/memory/write it down now! stuff, I still can be surprised at what touches off an idea. One of my recent “wait, this could be something…” inspirations came from a photo. Specifically, this photo:

I bet if I asked every author here to look at the photo and come up with a three-line idea, we’d see a huge range. I’d actually be interested in seeing that – put up a photo and have us each write a first paragraph or pitch, just whatever popped into our heads. I love many things about the writing profession but the creative process that allows each of us take the same piece of information and run with it in a different direction is truly amazing. And so is this cabin. How am I using it? Well, the book will be out in June, 2013.