Sunday, May 14, 2017
After you write something, the real stuff (non-fiction) or fake (fiction), the first thing you seem to run into is...genre.
What is the genre of your work?
How do I know? I just wrote the thing. It's all made up.
It's all made up, you say? Well, it's not non-fiction, for sure.
I know Syfy. That's science fiction. I have no aliens or space travel. It's not syfy.
It takes place in this century, current day. It's not historical fiction.
There is no major love story. It's not a romance. Or chick lit.
There are no explicit sex scenes. It's not erotica. Or mommy porn.
It's not a graphic novel. I know what you're thinking, but you're wrong. That's just a comic book for grownups.
There are no detectives or spies. It's not espionage.
There are no lawyers or court rooms. It's not a legal thriller.
We know all of the characters and what they're doing. We just don't know if they'll succeed. It's not a mystery.
Its target audience is the adult reader. Therefore, it's not YA: young adult.
It has no pictures. It's not children's or youth.
It's not high-brow, esoteric fiction. IE: literary fiction.
So, what the hell have I written?
Wikipedia gives these genres:
If you continue reading their page, they list 25 more fiction genres from which one can choose.
I've read literary agency websites, writing blogs, author/agent/publisher websites until I'm cross-eyed. They all have slightly different definitions of genre parameters.
I want it to sell. I want it to appeal to a men and women. It has some suspense. It has a little deviant sex. It has sad, lost love. It has a psycho liar and a transvestite. A few laws are skirted. Others flat out broken. It ends in success for some. Death for others.
I think my novel is a commercial crime/thriller.
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Wednesday, May 3, 2017
When I wrote the first scene of my story, it was more to get my fantasy on paper. There had been a terrible, painful breakup in my marriage. While my pain had been overwhelming, the pain heaped on my children had been unforgivable. I composed my little fantasy, saved it away in a Word doc, and faced our new life.
Four years later, that new life brought a new love--genuine and mutual, transparent and honest. Something I'd only imagined before.
One day, while searching through miscellaneous files, I found the old fantasy. Dusty and obsolete. No longer necessary. It seemed he was living his own self-made hell.
Still, the writing had been fun. Fulfilling. It fed something inside me. Should I continue? Could I actually write a real book? I'd written in the past. A short story in high school had been published in my school's anthology. After the divorce, I'd written for a single parent magazine before it's demise. A short story had won in a small competition. But I'd never written a whole book.
I rewrote the story objectively, removed my fantasy. Fleshed out the characters, created a protagonist, antagonist, and plot. Their lives grew as I wrote. I gave them a history. Pain, joys, a purpose, and problems.
I emailed the first 30-pages to my husband. "Read this. Tell me if it stinks. Just say, 'Honey, I love you, but try something else,' if it's bad. I can take it. This is too much work to continue if I suck at it."
A few days later, he said, "It's good. I think you should continue. It may be more of a chick book, I think. I might not choose it for myself, but it has potential. You should continue."
So, on I wrote. But I didn't want to write a chick book. I don't read chick books. I didn't want gratuitous sex or unrequited love. I wanted something with diverse characters, an interesting story that taught me something. I gave the antagonist a glamorous job, but a psychopathic personality. I gave the main characters successful lives, but not without personal sadnesses. I created colorful supporting characters. Some of my characters were capable of wicked things. Others were daring, resourceful, and wealthy. By story's end, I liked my people and what they did.
It took five months to get their story down. I thought I was done.
Ohhh, no, no, no-o-o. That was only the beginning. Now, I must edit. It has been said we are not writers, but rewriters. I've spent five, ten times the effort on rewriting that I spent on the original draft.
I knew I needed help. I joined the workshop I mentioned in an earlier post. I attended a few sessions at other workshops. I met a lovely editor at one. I hired her to review the first 11 pages, then we met over coffee.
"Just tell me if it's worth the continued work and investment of time and money. This is not my first-born child. It's nothing more than a story I made up. If it stinks, just tell me. I can take it," I said.
"I'd never tell you it stinks. If I truly think something's bad, I might say, 'Why don't you take this back and rewrite it? These scenes are incomplete. This character is weak.' I'd never tell you it's bad. This does need work, but it's good enough to make me want to read more."
Thus began my long journey of editing. We worked through the manuscript three times, each with a different purpose. At first, we focused more on sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation. Did you know there was such a thing as an Oxford comma? I didn't. On the last read, we just read through it all as a reader might.
I asked again, "Is it worth continuing to work on?"
She said, "I couldn't have read it three times if it was bad. Your next step is to find a literary agent to promote your book to publishing houses. You must query agents about your work. And that will be hard. It's very competitive and the publishing world is constantly changing. It's a completely different business than what it was even a few years ago. But your story is good enough you should do this."
And she was right. Not the part about it being good enough. I don't know that for sure. I think so. I like the story. I like my characters. My husband likes it. My girlfriend likes it.
I need a hard-hearted literary agent to like it.
And...it is very hard to find an agent. I have nothing in my life that elevates me from the crowd. I'm not famous. I've not had anything extraordinary happen to me. No plane crashes. No inventions. No unrivaled genius. I've been a daughter, wife, and mom. A friend. With a story to sell.
I follow several literary blogs and sites to learn as much as I can about this business. One agent, apparently a quite successful agent, replied to a question on how difficult it is to find representation (my paraphrase), "To give you an example of how hard it is: In the course of a year, I may get 1000 queries from non-clients, of which I may ask for 200 full manuscripts to read. Last year? I took on two new clients."
I read on a literary agent's website that John Grisham's book, A TIME TO KILL, was shopped by his agent at 43 publishers before being accepted.
Yes, it is indeed hard. Today, I will continue to search for representation. What do I have to lose? If I quit now, I will know that I've chosen to lose. If I don't quit, I may win!
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