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.

Gyarrgh…

I feel so behind.

In actuality, I know I’m not. Sunday, I got a chapter of Resurrection and a chapter of Stronger edited, and I took Monday off. (Much to the workaholic Muse’s dismay.)

The medical shebang continues. I haven’t had any problems with any of the medical staff at the Cambridge Hospital, but in order to get there, I have to catch the train, take the subway from South Station to Central Square, and then take a bus to Inman Square, where I walk about two or three blocks to the hospital. The commute is just … draining.

On the bright side, I did get some plot notes written out for ValkyrieWIP. I figured out the major reason I was having trouble plotting. The original story was mainly about the Valkyrie Svava, but the expansion should be about the romance between Svav/a (who is transsexual) and George, a mortal man that zhe sacrifices hir immortality for.

It’s going to be interesting to write, because I want to cover after they’ve “gotten together.” The beginning of the relationship isn’t the end of the story, it’s only the beginning.

But I digress. The problem is that while I have Svav/a fairly well characterised, I don’t know as much about George. Not good, since he’s the romantic interest. So I figure I’ll do a character bio here and get into his head. 🙂

The other thing I’m concerned about is that it might end up longer than I want … sigh. I also have to do some more research because I want there to be a conflict with the immortals. (Shut up, Loki.)

Overall, I’m really excited about this. 😀

(Not so) brief update…

The past several days have been … very hectic, to say the least. 🙄

I haven’t managed to get quite as much done as I’d wanted, but it’s been a hellish week.

Morgan was feeling social on Wednesday, so we went out to see X3 with a friend of his. I liked the movie a lot, but I was very disappointed with how they handled Phoenix. I remember watching the animated X-Men series on TV when I was a kid, and there was a lot more conflict and exploration of Phoenix’s character in that then the movie. Which is sad in a way, cause you expect more of a teen/adult movie than from Saturday morning kiddie cartoons. Well worth seeing, despite that, though.

That was the fun bit. The not so fun bit:

I’ve had a sinus headache from hell all week. Literally. It was bad enough that I thought it was a migraine — because I mostly the same symptoms — but meds did pretty much nothing for it. The stuff I normally take for sinus problems didn’t help, either.

Yesterday, I had to go up to Boston to let the vampires collect their vials of blood. I’m seeing an endocrinologist for (extremely) elevated testosterone levels and have to go back again today, after taking an adrenal suppressant, and then again on the 6th for an ultrasound. Then back on the 8th for a follow-up with my doctor. Sometime this month, I also have to see a gyn. I’m on doctor overload here. On the bright side, I haven’t seen anyone who hasn’t been pleasant to deal with yet. (I’m a nurse’s daughter… I was trained from very young not to put up with doctorial bullshit. LOL.)

Boston + forecast of rain + sinus headache = da ebil.

It was bad enough I picked up a box of claritin yesterday — or rather, walgreen’s generic brand, because the price for the brand label is fucking ridiculous — thinking that if it was caused by an allergy of some sort (pollen?), it might help.

Heh. Heh. Heh.

It started my sinuses draining, which increased the headache by a good three times. So. Not. Fun. Add to that, the 85 degree heat (it felt like at least 90, but it was so damned muggy) really hit me hard. Unfortunately, since developing the fibromyalgia, I don’t have the heat tolerance I used to.

I got back to South Station and took the train back home. For once, the train was well air-conditioned, but the shock of going from 85+ heat to something in the high 60s = not good. I was extremely nauseated by that point. Morgan picked me up, we went back home, I got another shock from the heat to cold and lost my lunch.

I pretty much crashed in bed for several hours, and when I woke up, I still had the headache. >_< Then I remembered the bath salts I have that are frickin loaded with eucalyptus. Grabbed the bottle, opened it, took a big whiff, about fell over as the eucalyptus started burning out my sinuses. Okay, not really, but that's what it felt like. Got rid of the headache, though, and don't have one this morning, which is, like, YAY. Writing-wise, I've only managed to revise a couple chapters of Resurrection and write the synopsis. The syno was not as good as I’d want it, but with the headache, I didn’t have the time or concentration to get it the way I want. So I let the male look over it, gave everything a final pass myself, and sent it off right before the contest deadline. Whee!

It’s kinda weird, because, for all that I’ve been writing and submitting this many years, I’ve never submitted a novel before. It’s like … woah. This could really sell. (At least, I hope!)

It’s an … intimidating sort of feeling, in a way. It’s odd, because most unpubbed writers talk about how much they want to be published and how they fear rejection. I don’t fear rejection — never have, really. Even when I was fourteen and fifteen, I had a professional attitude; if it didn’t sell, then I’d just keep shopping it around till it did. (Nowadays, I’m not surprised that none of it did, because it sucked ass, but it was the best I could do at the time, and I was proud of it.)

It’s not rejection I fear. It’s success. I’m not entirely sure why that is, because it seems to be the antithesis of the rest of the writing community. Then again, maybe more people fear it, too, and use rejection as a foil — both from themselves and from the rest of the world.

I dunno. But I’ve got to run here … I’ll probably write more about that later, though. 😉

I may be losing my mind here…

Last night, I was browsing RD when I came across a link to Liquid Silver’s Satisfy Our Naughtier Side contest. (This is actually what prompted me to help Pet with her synopsis — I showed it to her because she’d been talking to me about an erotic romance novel she was going to sub to Ellora’s Cave.)

Of course, now I’m thinking: Hmm. I could submit Res …

The due-date? June 1st.

The first two chapters are polished. I just need to go over the third and write a — *gulp* — synopsis. (Gods, I hate those.)

And I need to come up with a better title — Resurrection was only a working title. But that’s not entirely necessary, I don’t think. At least not right now.

Well, that makes me feel better …

Agent Kristin Nelson posted about novel length trends the other day, sprurring an interesting discussion in the comments thread.

Some while ago, I heard — and for the life of me, I can’t remember who said it, but I’m pretty sure it was an industry professional or an author — that publishers were wanting shorter and shorter books, even in SF/F. I believe the stated “recommended” wordcount was between 80k – 100k, though the writer mentioned that shorter wasn’t out of bounds.

This concerned me, because I’m going to be adding a fair amount of material to Stronger than the Night, and I could easily see it hitting 120k.

So when I hit this comment from Jennifer Jackson, I was quite pleased. Consider she’s one of the major SFF agents out there … yeah. Not going to worry too much about the whole wordcount thing.

*major sigh of relief*

“You’re not a Real Writer …”

I have this little problem I like to call the Inner Infernal. Okay. Some days it’s not a “little” problem. Some days it’s a big one that stomps into my nook, knocks me out of my chair, breaks my keyboard in two, and proceeds to make a royal mess of the place.

After battling writer’s block for three years, I’ve developed one hell of an Inner Infernal. Or as Morgan calls it, an Inner Asshole. It’s kinda like picking up a pot-bellied slob who sits in front of the TV all day drinking cheap beer and eating potato chips — when he’s not practicing his favorite hobby of verbal abuse. Yeah. Now try having that in your head.

When I was at my former writer’s community, which was a double-edged sword in that it was good for me in some ways and toxic in others, I wrote on a regular basis. Not every day, but very close to that, and usually when I wrote, it was between 1k – 3k.

I don’t have progress records of the past three years like I do of Summer 2002, but I jumped between many projects before getting more than two or three chapters ino them, along with writing intermittant short stories. Daily writing? Hardly close. More like writing every other week or so. (Or prewriting, which, while important, doesn’t “count” for me.) And not any significant amount of words, either, at least not when compared to what I used to do.

Enter the Inner Asshole. “You’re not a Real Writer,” he booms. “If you were a Real Writer, you’d care enough about the story to write it.” Nevermind that even just trying to write resulted in visceral pain. My fiance can attest to the sheer number of times he listened to me talk about my fears regarding writing.

No, because I wasn’t writing every day — or at least a good number of days — then I wasn’t a “Real Writer” anymore and I might as well just give up and quit.

Real nice critter, eh?

This was further enforced by wandering around the net and reading articles, interviews, or blog entries where published authors would say things like, “If you want to be a writer, the most important thing is to write every day.”

Now, I understand their point, and it’s a good one. If you write regularly, you’re more likely to stick with something rather than letting it fall by the wayside. Words flow more easily when you’re writing regularly — at least, that’s true for me.

At the same point, it served to fuel my own doubts and fears. If I can’t write, then how can I call myself a writer? What am I, then? A wannabe? A failure? What?

For me, writing isn’t just something I do. It’s something I am. It’s a calling, as much a vocation as a priest called to serve God. To turn away from it is to turn away from myself. The intrusive self-doubts and thoughts that I wasn’t a Real Writer and should just give up left me very near suicidal at a few points.

I think it’s important that a writer writes, yes … but I think it’s far more important that the goals are truly there and that the writer is working to achieve them. In my case, psychological issues (discussed here) affected my ability to write. Nutshell version for those who don’t want to read the long posts (I don’t blame you): I had a deep-seated need for “approval” and “permission” that I didn’t realise affected my writing as well as my personal life. Since realising its existence, I’ve been better able to combat it.

Some people argue that writer’s block is only an excuse blatted by lazy writers who procrastinate too much or otherwise don’t have the motivation to attach butt to chair and bang out the words. I don’t call that “writer’s block,” I call that “chronic laziness,” and I think it’s dangerous to confuse the two. Writer’s block is like depression — it’s not something that goes away on its own, and it’s not something that should be ignored/invalidated. Telling someone with a true case of writer’s block that they’re just making excuses is like telling someone who’s clinically depressed that they’re just doing it for the attention. Not a good idea.

When you get right down to it, while it’s certainly an important factor, I don’t think that irregular wordcounts invalidate somebody’s identity as a writer. If they’re writing, and they’re trying even if it seems to be an uphill battle … then they’re writers, enough said.

What do y’all think? What makes a “Real Writer” to you?

Anyone want to explain to me…

… what’s up with the sudden trend of flash “trailers” for books? I’ve been browsing around author sites and blogs, and keep seeing more of them.

I really don’t get it.

Almost all of the ones I’ve seen are corny, and I don’t get what’s the attraction. Speaking as a reader, I’m more likely to react to a good blurb or excerpt than I am a trailer. Honestly, most of the “trailers” I’ve seen just — totally turn me off, to the point that if I don’t know the author or have a recommendation for their books, I won’t pick it up. (Or maybe I’ve just seen some sucky ones.)

I don’t understand why you’d want to put the time and energy into developing a book trailer — or worse, paying someone a good chunk of money to do it for you. I mean, it’s not like you’re going to reach an untapped audience by posting a trailer on your website — the sort of people who react better to visual stimulae won’t be browsing an author site in the first place. They’ll be sitting on their asses in front of a video game or the telly.

For most authors, it’s too expensive to put a “book trailer” on TV, which is where you would reach a new audience. (The Harry Potter books are the only ones I can think of that get advertised nowadays, and gods know they certainly don’t need anymore of it.)

So … what’s the deal?

Effective Outlining: or How to Plot Without Driving Yourself Nuts

‘k, let’s get this straight here, I’m still on sleep dep and medication, so if this doesn’t make any sense… um, ask questions in comments and I’ll be more than happy to clarify when I’m sober awake whatever.

“I’d love to be able to know where the story’s going before I write it, but outlining destroys my creativity. I know so much about what happens, there’s no reason to write it anymore.”

I’ve heard this from so many different writers it’s not funny. Now, lemme get this straight. I don’t have any beefs against organic writing (or “pantsing”). I admire the folks who make it work for them. But there’s downsides to pantsing. If you don’t know where you’re going, you can end up with a book that meanders all over the place, changes direction abruptly, has plot holes that put a block of swiss cheese to shame, or suffers from worst-case-scenario-itis. (While throwing your character into hell is a good idea, randomly throwing out worst case scenarios when you get stuck … not such a good idea.)

Problem is, organic writing is also the default. It’s how the vast majority of writers start. I can’t tell you how many writers I’ve known who wanted to try outlining but were terrified. So let’s get one thing straight.

This is not supposed to be like outlining a high school or college paper. This is supposed to be fun.

Yeah. You heard me right. Fun. No, the sleep meds haven’t addled my brain. Outlining can be a royal pain in the ass, but I swear to gods, after you’ve been slamming your head against plot twists, turns, and craters for hours or days … once it finally all clicks and the ideas start flowing it’s a high better than sex.

Let’s start by writing down your basic idea. Go into as much or as little detail as you like. Your plot will go through a lot of changes over the course of outlining, so it’s good to have a “reminder” of the main plot thread. (Of course, if you decide later it doesn’t work, you can just scrap it. ;)) Set that aside.

Now, figure out about how long you want your book to be. Let’s say 80k, which is an acceptable length for most genre novels. Write that number down.

How long do you want your scenes to be? Don’t get intimidated. Easiest way to figure this is to look at scenes from older WIPs and see what you tend to average. If you normally write scenes around 1k, trying for 3k is probably a bad idea.

For purposes of example, let’s go with 2k.

Now, divide your novel total (80k) by your estimated scene length (2k). The result is the number of scenes you’ll need. (40)

“OMG 40 SCENES EEK.”

Yeah, that’s what I first thought when I learned this method. (Only in my case, it was 80.) It’s intimidating like gruff Great-Uncle Bob — not really, once you get beneath the surface.

Now that you’ve got your scene estimation, start jotting notes for scenes. It can be as vague or as detailed as you like. Personally, mine look something like this: “Kierhan approaches Alex, knowing him as the one remaining honorable man on the Dark Court. He beseeches Alex’s aid, and tries to convince him Cassandra isn’t a monster. Alex recognises him as his ex-lover and refuses.”

Seriously, how much of the scene does that tell you? It gives enough info for you to work from, but not so much that you know for a fact what’s going to happen. You can figure there will be angsting on Kierhan’s part when he makes the decision to go to Alex, and that there will be major tension between the two, and probably a good bit of arguing to top it off … but really, you won’t know for sure what happens till you write it.

Okay, so you’ve written all the scenes you can think of, but don’t have enough? There’s a couple things you can do.

You can not bother outlining the rest and running with what you’ve got, leaving the “blanks” as spaces for subplots or characters that develop in the writing. (Cause we’ve all had a character pop up out of nowhere and hijack the plot.) Some people might be more comfortable with this.

Or you can freewrite/brainstorm and try to come up with other subplots. In my experience, this is the most common reason for not enough scenes — focusing on the main plot and not so much on the subplots. Don’t have subplots? Get a brainstorm going with your writer’s group. Don’t have one? Do a freewrite, brainstorming on the page. You’d be surprised at what you can come up with. 🙂

You don’t have to hit your exact projection. A few scenes more or less won’t hurt anything — it is an estimate, after all. Don’t sweat it.

And btw … the amount of time this process takes varies from person to person and project to project. I’ve done an outline in as little as three days before, and as long as a month.

So you’ve got your scenes outlined … now what?

Write. 🙂

And keep in mind — the outline is there to help you. Not hinder you. If something turns up in the writing that negates a plot point or turns it in a different direction — take a break and figure out if that’s really the way you want to go. If it is, go for it. Don’t let a piece of paper hold you back.

But if you just chuck the outline once you start writing, doesn’t that mean you’ve wasted a whole lot of time?

Not really. If something changes in the writing, take a look at your plot and see how drastically your changes affect the whole. Sometimes you won’t need to change much more than a detail here or there. Other times require more intensive replotting. It’s all part of the game. 🙂

Outlines are mutable. They aren’t set in stone. A lot of people treat them like they are, and this attitude is one of the most harmful for a writer. Writing isn’t supposed to be static; it’s supposed to change and grow. Holding yourself to the outline — is holding yourself back.

The outline is like the staff you lean on while traversing the wilds… not the manacles that hold you chained to a cold dank prison.

Happy outlining — and have fun!

Tentative plan…

So I’ve been thinking about Wings of Steel recently. I’d originally intended to do the necessary prewriting to expand it into a novel while teaching A&B. Between Stronger, Resurrection, teaching the course, adminning Evo, etc, that hasn’t happened.

I love the story and the characters and want to get back to it. But it’s going to take a lot of work to make it into a novel. So I got to thinking … what’s stopping me from writing it as both a novelette and a novel?

Nothing, really. Except I need to figure out what direction I’d take it as a novelette.

The tentative plan at this point:

Finish Resurrection
Pick up where I left off on Wings of Steel
Finish it
Attempt to sell it as a short novelette to an epublisher

Then, later, expand it into a novel and see if I can sell it. More likely than not, the novelisation would fall more towards the fantasy side, whereas the novelette would mostly focus on the romance.

At least, that’s the tentative plan as of now. Who knows, it might change again. 🙄

Writer’s Growth Cycles

Somebody linked to “Growth Cycle of a Writer” by Jenn Reese on one of the various writing lists I’m on. It’s an interesting essay, well worth reading, and I think it aptly describes a vast majority of writers.

However, reading through … while some applies to me, not all of it does. (Ms. Reese makes an outright disclaimer that it’s not applicable to all writers, but now I feel all introspective. ;))

Stage 1

I never experienced what she describes as “Stage 1.” Or if I did, it was for a very short time, so far back that I can’t remember it. When I was eight, I decided I wanted to be a published, professional author. I wrote short fiction and printed it up on the family computer. Now, being a kid, I formatted like juvenile books I’d read (or at least as much as I could manage on a deskjet with xerox paper!), including a page on the back with lists of other stories and “Heidi Smith books are the best!” (Though, to be honest, that was more a childish attempt at marketing than true belief — I knew damn well my work needed improvement. Even then. :P)

What frustrated me the most was that I couldn’t get any critique from people other than “That’s nice, dear,” or “I really liked it,” sometimes with specifics as to what was good about the piece. I’d respond impatiently, “Yeah, but what’s wrong with it?”

And get no response. This was outright depressing. I’ve always been confident in my work, even when it sucked. If it was horrible, I wanted to know about it, so I could fix the problem. There’s no point in doing anything if you don’t learn and improve. No one succeeds in a vacuum.

Stage 2

I started researching submission procedures (minds out of the gutter, folks) when I was thirteen, after I’d completed the rough of a 20k juvenile novel. I was serious about submitting, and I’d asked my father (who is also a writer, and I really wish he would get off his arse and finish something) for a thorough critique. He agreed, so while I waited for him to crit it, I got a copy of Writer’s Market (I believe with my allowance) and started reading up on queries, synopses, and markets. I also scoured the internet for resources, and found Speculations and the Rumor Mill. Both of which were very helpful.

My father never got around to critting the novel, but after a few months, I realised myself that it needed a lot of work, so set to rewriting it.

By the time I actually submitted anything — my first submission was a story to CatFancy’s short story contest when I was fourteen, and then I started submitting other work the following year — I knew proper submissions format and procedure inside and out. I didn’t make the idiotic mistakes a lot of n00b writers do.

Stage 3

Never been there. Rejection’s never been anything but part of the game to me. My folks, my dad in specific, was convinced that rejections would damage my confidence. Hah. Yeah right. I’m a stubborn bitch (it runs in the family), and that’s come in damn handy. Especially considering the 150+ rejections I have at this point. 🙂

Stage 4

When I was sixteen, I asked permission to find an online critique group. Dad discouraged the idea. “People can be harsh with critiques, and hearing too many bad things can destroy your creativity.”

“If I can’t handle negative opinions, then I’m in the wrong business,” I replied.

So I joined Critters. I’d been banging my head against the wall that was The Diary of Owl Katerina, aka Sacred Daughter — that first finished novel, which had gone through multiple drafts by that point. I sent it through. Some people liked the concepts, but thought that it was too juvenile to be an adult novel and too adult to be a juvenile. (As it originally started as a juvenile and then the conflicts grew to the point where they didn’t fit J/YA, not surprising.) So I threw another WIP into the critique machine, Jaguarundi’s Rise, a truly horrid S&S novel. Again, mixed reviews.

I put both aside for awhile to mull over what I’d learned.

Stage 5

At first glance, I didn’t think this applied, but having thought it over, it does. I joined Critters in Summer 2001, but entered college that fall via Washington State’s Running Start program. First quarter, I dedicated almost totally to school, even though I was taking only one class. (I was homeschooled all my life, see, and had to learn how to write school papers and such from scratch.) I attempted NaNo, but got less than 3k in before giving up.

Over winter break, I started lurking Forward Motion, read class transcripts and writing articles. In February, I started posting. At first, I thought it was only going to be one post, in response to a thread on S&S, but, well, I stuck around. Started working on Jaguarundi’s Rise again in March, put a couple chapters through Critters, decided to leave Critters because it wasn’t helping all that much, signed up for a challenge at FM, entered chat (aka The Addiction) for the first time … and stuck around and got back into the game.

Finished the rough draft of Jaguarundi’s Rise, renamed Sanctuary, by the end of April. The 27th, I believe.

After that point … well. The only other place it might apply is the writer’s block (at least in regards to novel-length fiction) I had from mid-2003 through 2005. But that was brought about by a combination of real-life stress (read: abusive relationship and recovery) and sub/unconscious issues I didn’t recognise. I knew part of it related to the destruction of the writer’s community I’d called home for a year and a half. (The community still exists, but it changed so drastically in atmosphere it’s no longer the place I loved.)

But it wasn’t the only issue. Once I realised what they were (clicky if interested), I broke through the block. I’m still trying to get back into the swing of things, as it were.

However, I don’t think I would categorise writer’s block due to unconscious psychological issues in with self-censorship due to writing rule overdose.

Stage 6

I’d say I started at a cross between Stage 4 and 6. Even when I sucked, I wanted to learn — and I applied what I learned. Not always well, but that’s true of everything. I can look back at stuff and see improvement along the way. I’d say this is definitely where I was when I joined FM in March 2002.

Stage 7

In regards to “being good,” I’d say I’d reached here by Summer 2002. I’ve sold fiction I wrote back then. Not everything was good — some of it needs definite work — but it’s competant.

And it’s probably still where I am now. I’ve sold fiction to pro markets, but I won’t consider myself a “professional” till I’ve sold a novel to a NY publisher. Yes, I know it’s fucked up, because you can count as a professional by SFWA once you’ve sold three short stories to qualifying pro-paying markets, or (presumably) if you’re selling enough through epubs.

(Just to qualify — I don’t consider people who are pro-pubbed story authors or epub authors “non/semi-pros.” IMO, if you count through SFWA or the appropriate writer’s association for your genre, or you’re established in legit, reputable epubs like Ellora’s Cave or Double Dragon … then you’re professional. For me, though, I don’t think it would feel the same, though it certainly would be an accomplishment to be proud of. :))

So, for those of you who managed to slog through this overly long, introspective post:

How does this represention of a writer’s growth cycle apply to you?