Rest in Peace …

Jim Baen, a cornerstone for the science fiction / fantasy community, passed away this morning. He will be remembered, and sorely missed.

http://david-drake.com/baen.html

The Space Between Writing and Storytelling

Kristen Nelson has an excellent blog post at PubRants regarding how “strong writing” alone isn’t enough to sell a novel. It made a lot of sense to me, but I was surprised at how many of the commentors just did not get it — period.

I’ve seen this elsewhere around writing fora, loops, and journals/blogs. Many writers assume that writing “well” is the most important factor in selling a short story or novel. These are often the same people who ask “How are Terry Brooks / Robert Jordan / Dan Brown / etc. best-selling authors? They can’t write for crap! They break all the ‘rules!'”

(Trust me. I’ve heard it. I didn’t understand, either, several years ago.)

The key here is story. An author doesn’t hit the NYT if the story sucks rocks. It might not be to some people’s tastes, but that’s going to be true of about anything, because personal likes and dislikes are subjective. Bestsellers have some quality in the story that captivates readers, otherwise they wouldn’t read it. (Outside of the controversy factor, that is, but I doubt that controversy alone can make a bestseller.)

I’ve been in critique / writing groups for several years now, and I have seen a lot of stories and novels that are technically perfect. The writing shines. But the story itself is often standard, predictable … “safe.”

This attitude is often encouraged in various sorts of writer’s groups. I’ve received far too many critiques from multiple different sources where the critiquer focused on the writing but ignored the big picture. I know other people who have received the same. Romance writers have talked about receiving crits from contests that focus primarily on writing “perfection” without looking at the story. Perhaps the intention isn’t to encourage people to focus on the writing first, but it’s often the way it comes across.

This isn’t to say that good writing isn’t important. If your writing sucks like a cheap whore who can’t figure out which end to blow, an agent or editor likely won’t make it past your query letter, much less take you on. (And by this, I mean truly horrid prose. If you’ve ever critiqued a beginning writer’s first novel or short story, you know exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about.) Writing is important, too.

But. It’s a lot easier to fix a novel that has passable writing than it is to fix a story that’s at heart “ho-hum.” Line edits are a piece of cake. Rewriting the entire book because it’s competant but not good enough? Not easy. (I’m in the middle of it myself.)

Yes, it’s a delicate balance. But I don’t think it’s impossible. The Internet is an immensely useful tool for writers to commune and help each other along — but the “downside” to this is that there are more competant writers than there used to be. At one point, it was good enough to be “competant.” It isn’t anymore. You need to be good — and by that, I’m not talking about the technicalities of writing alone, but the quality of the story you’re telling. Though how to tell a story that’s unique and different while still being marketable is another matter entirely… 😉

Is it tougher for writers to get published nowadays than it used to be? I think so, though I couldn’t say for certain. I know there are some writers who get upset and worried about the competition, wondering whether or not they can “make it.” Me? I see it as a challenge. 🙂

What do you think? Are the expectations / standards for new writers unreasonable (as some people seem to think), or is it par for the course? Do you find it depressing — or just another obstacle to overcome?

Progress…

ArielleWIP
5524 / 30000 (18.41%)

I completed Ch. 2 in the novella this afternoon. Considering everything that’s been going on, I’m glad to be making any progress. 🙂

… and I need to come up with a better title for this. 🙄

Book in a Week!

June 24 – 30 is Book in a Week at Evolution. I know some of y’all who read my blog have been having difficulties attaching seat to chair… so maybe this will provide some incentive. 😉

The FAQs:

What is Book-In-A-Week?

It’s a 7 day challenge designed to let you write without worry about pesky rules, inner editors, or stuffy internal critics. Our book in a week challenges will run from Saturday to Friday, your time zone.

Do I have to write a whole book in the week?

No.

You can pick your own challenging goal. For example, if on a normal day you write three pages (750 words), you might want to declare a goal of five or six pages for each day.

Pages and word counts seem to be the preferred methods of keeping track. Feel free to pick another if it’s more logical to you.

Do I have to work on a book at all?

No.

Your goal can be on anything writing related. The only rule is that you must be writing new material. Maybe you want to set a goal of a short story a day, or an article a day. Term papers and essays for school can also count.

Can I edit a book during the week?

Not really.

The purpose of the challenge is to have fun and just write. Editing tends to invite those pesky inner demons: critic and editor. For this week we’d like you to set them aside.

Check out the Missions for some editing/revising specific challenges which will run in two month blocks throughout the year.

Interested? Click here.

So much for that market…

Anna Genoese posted a long rant/essay regarding GBLT fiction (very good read, btw); one of the things she mentioned is that gay/lesbian romance is not marketable in the traditional print romance field. (Which I tend to agree with; the market exists, but it’s a minority.) I commented, asking if this also affected Tor Paranormals’s guidelines — which currently state that they accept non-traditional romances, including GBLT. Anna herself didn’t reply, but one of her authors did — confirming my suspicion.

*sigh*

I guess that settles that. I’d hoped to submit Stronger there when the revision is completed, but even though I don’t believe the hero’s bisexuality would be an issue, Stronger is the beginning of a stand-alone series. The heroine of the second book is a lesbian. (Or realises she is over the course of the story.)

I feel like I’m the only person who has this “problem.” Yes, the romantic plot is paramount enough to count as romance, but I need to consider the series arc, not just the first book. Which is, to be truthful, annoying — but I suppose it’s a good thing, because it definitely shows I’m not just a one-book author.

In regards to the series arc … well, I suppose it could fly as dark urban fantasy, even though the romantic plots are very integral to the external. Maybe I’m worrying too much.

I have to say, though, I’m somewhat disappointed to hear this about Tor Paranormals. Not just for myself, but because I was looking forward to being able to find non-traditional romances outside of ebooks or trade size print books put out by epublishers. (Which, honestly, I can’t buy on impulse due to the cost.) While I understand and respect their reasons for choosing not to pursue this — as they’re certainly valid — speaking as a reader, I’m disappointed.

Will be away…

Some of y’all may have already seen this on LiveJournal or Romance Divas. I’m flying out to Washington this afternoon because my “mama cat,” Owl, has advanced cancer and they don’t expect her to make it two weeks. She’s fourteen years old and just about raised me during some rough times in my life, so I want to see her before she passes on.

I will have internet access, but I won’t be around reliably. If anybody needs to contact me, I can be reached at [email protected]

Regarding the novellas…

I mentioned awhile back I was working on developing a couple of novellas potentially for FB. I’ve been working the most on the Valkyrie idea, but I’ve been beating my head into a brick wall on it the past week or so. I think … it needs more simmering time. There’s something “off” and I’m not quite sure what.

However, the main problem I had with the second one — a follow-up of sorts to Waking the Shadows — just clicked the other night. I wanted to write when Arielle and Jackson first met and continue later, but I wasn’t sure how to do it… but I figured out an external plot that I think will mesh nicely with it.

So, I talked to Faith about it. For some reason, I don’t think outlining is the best way to go with this. I’m going to write the novella — which I think should end up around 30kish — and then submit it. 🙂

I think it’ll also be easier to switch between this WIP and Stronger, as they’re both in the same setting. Anyway, I finished the first chapter at 2510. A short snippet:

Reynolds nodded curtly, then his face softened. “You’re the best we’ve got, Ari. We’re stuffed to the gills with psychics and hearthwitches, but you’re the only one with enough power to take down a vampire.”

Yeah. A vampire. One shouldn’t be a problem, even if it’s a sanguine. But if it’s a whole coven, I’m going to be screwed like a sorority girl doped up on Rophynol. With the entire football team. Yeah. So not looking forward to this.

Catching up…

It’s been a … very stressful couple of weeks. I’d rather not go into detail, but suffice it to say I’ve only started trying to get back into the “routine” the last three or four days. It’s been somewhat difficult, because I’m trying to work on Stronger, revising Resurrection, and work on another piece all at the same time. I’ve — never actually managed to do this before. Every other time I tried, I ended up working on one piece more than the other — or giving up on all three.

However, I really have to figure out to make it work, because it’s the most effective use of my time.

Oh! Somebody pointed out to me last evening that they were having trouble leaving comments because it said you needed to be registered. Apparently there was a check-box somewhere that I didn’t see requiring registration. I went ahead and disabled that, so y’all should be able to comment with no problems. 🙂

Also, regarding the website, I decided to modify an earlier design and use that instead of taking forever to muck with CSS. Spent most of today adding content. There’s still some stuff I want to add — resource links, more stuff about the fiction, etc — but you can check it out here. Let me know what you think. 😀

Paranormal Worldbuilding Q&A at RD

One of the writing communities I’m a member of, Romance Divas, is hosting a paranormal (somewhat equivalent to dark urban fantasy) worldbuilding Q&A this weekend. Their “official” announcement:

Want to know how to create realistic vampire, alien, werewolf worlds? All you have to do is ask. Romance Divas is hosting a 3 day Q & A with some of the hottest names in the Paranormal Genre on the 9th, 10, and 11th in the Diva Forum classroom.

Authors attending:

Kelley Armstrong
PC Cast
Karen Chance
CJ Barry
Deidre Knight
Robin Owens
Shanna Swendson
Gena Showalter
Lynn Viehl
JR Ward

You’ll need to register, but that takes all of a couple minutes, and it’s well worth dropping by. 🙂