Wednesday, December 22, 2010

HELP! What Genre?

I can pick up any number of books from my bookshelf and instantly categorize the genre, but there are some that span several. I get to wondering, how did these authors pitch their work to agents? Under which genre did they categorize their work?

How the heck do I categorize MY work?

Can a novel be YA, Romance, Paranormal and Urban Fantasy at the same time? Sure. But you wouldn't want to turn off a potential agent by simply listing all. When you have to pick ONE genre, how do you pick?

I took this little quiz here (link to Timothy fish . net)

Uh. Unhelpful.

The Genre Wizard said my novel is 'Middle Grade Fantasy'.

My novel is standing at 100K words (but currently being edited ruthlessly). My protag is a twenty year old college student. There are issues of mental illness. Narcotics are discussed, there are (non-steamy) emotional love scenes... While perhaps a tween would enjoy, my guess is not.

So, back to the start. Can you help me?

Here is my (ever changing) extended logline slash synopsis:

Plagued by a lifetime of Déjà vu, hallucinations and fantastic dreams, twenty year old Lilly Young is determined to prove she’s not mentally ill. Eager to unlock the secrets in her mind and the identity of Lewis Hunter whose hauntingly familiar voice lives only inside her head and her heart, Lilly insists on undergoing hypnotherapy and discovers she does indeed have a mysterious past – several, in fact. Lilly learns she has been reincarnated – over and over – and in every instance, she dies on her twenty-first birthday.

Lilly has two choices: she must either come to terms with the endless cycle or find a way to break it – a feat that seems impossible, given the history and the fact that Lewis has been trying endlessly to do just that. But now Lilly faces another immortal – a vampire – whose specific mission could finally end the cycle for Lilly, but at what cost?

As her birthday is upon her once again, Lilly must decide if she will die and be reborn again, or if she will draw on the power of her past, her will to keep living and her desperate yearning for long lost love to overcome another ‘Reset’ and risk losing Lewis forever.

What the heck genre is my novel?
If you can help me, let me know!

Some links that may help: The Genre Hurdle and the Genre Table by Linda Rohrbough

Monday, December 13, 2010

'Showing' the Way to Reduce Word Count

Show Don't Tell all the instruction books on writing tell us. But how to weave the all important character development or that 'the-entire-book-depends-on-this' backstory into action?

Naive beginner writer that I am, I thought I WAS showing, mostly. Especially in my first scene. I thought I had nailed it! Landed the reader right into the important stuff. It wasn't until I got my first, honest critique that I saw how far off I was.

So here I am, revising again...And enjoying it! I need to cut 10-15K words (at least), and now I am really seeing how easy this will be!

Excerpt from previous RESET draft (a mid-story excerpt, so as not to give anything away!):

I wasn’t sure why it was taking me so long to make a decision, but I stood for what seemed a ridiculously long time staring down into the top drawer of my dresser. Archie would arrive, hungry at the river anItalicy minute and since it was my turn to bring snacks, I should hurry up and choose what I was going to wear already.

Archie was always starving. I was never quite sure where he put it all and wondered if his voracious appetite would slow down once he finished growing up and all the puberty stuff was over and done with. Maybe, as his high speed metabolism slowed down, he would get fat when he was older. I hoped the sad little tuna sandwiches I had made would fill the hole in his stomach somewhat, because there was no hope of pilfering anything better from the kitchen; I didn’t want to have to explain to my mother or tell her where I was going. She didn’t approve ...

BLAH BLAH BLAH for 1000 more words or so...

YAWN. *Puts book down never to pick it up again*

So, obviously this needed to be cut ruthlessly.

Here's what it became:

"Nice swimsuit." Archie smirked at the frilly pink thing I had, for some reason, chosen over my regular swim attire of cutoffs and a boy's undershirt. "Did you bring the sandwiches?"

I thought about the tired looking tuna fish sandwiches I'd packed. "I didn't have time to get much," I lied. "I had to finish my homework." The truth was, I didn't want any questions from my mother. If I had taken anything else, she would have noticed, asked where was I going, with whom and that sort of thing.

Archie grabbed my bag, peering in. "That's it? If I had known you were going to be so stingy, I would have had my mom pack the lunch,” he complained.

Guilt heated my face as I remembered what Mrs. Baldwin had packed last time - thick ham sandwiches and giant oatmeal cookies. I was ashamed at my own lack of effort. I was the rich girl, after all. That last lunch Archie brought probably emptied the Baldwin’s pantry.

There's still some telling, but I think these paragraphs are better balanced now. It still may be cut completely...Nothing is safe! *laughs evilly* But this is the idea behind my current editing craze!

Happy writing (and editing)!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Does This Dress Make Me Look Fat? (Or, Will You Critique My Story?)


Riding the roller coaster of emotions: the OMG, my story is awesome! and the Another rejection? My story sucks! does something to one's objectivity towards their own work.

So, employ the objectivity of someone else.

A Beta reader could be a friend or family member. But remember, they love you.

"Does this dress make me look fat?" Even if you seek an honest answer to the question, would they tell you? Remember, they won't want to hurt your feelings. Best find someone else, perhaps a member of one of the writer's forums you are a member of? Maybe someone with a cool screen name and avatar...

And since critiquing will only help you grow as a writer, how about swapping stories?

Okay, you've got the first 50 pages of your new crit partner's manuscript in your inbox. Eager to dive in and hopefully enjoy a good story whilst making suggestions for an awkward sentence here and there, you expect to be finished and have it sent back within the hour.

Uh oh. The dress really DOES make that person look fat. Do you say so? Or do you add a silk scarf, some bling, to draw the eye upwards?

What if the manuscript you are critiquing reads so much like a first draft from NaNo that you are on comment number 245 and it's only page 31?

"Sorry. The dress is really not right."

I opted to tell the writer where I, as a reader, was left feeling frustrated, confused and bored. I broke the critiquing golden rule of sandwiching a criticism in between two compliments (although I did comment positively in the parts I did enjoy), and although I tried to make my criticism constructive, I'm pretty sure I fell short. I do feel bad about that.

But should I feel guilty? Depends. If the writer was only looking for compliments on her dress, then I might. If she is truly looking to be published someday (aren't we all?) then I hope she'll accept my critique for what it is.


I don't pretend to know all about writing, but everyone who reads knows when a story doesn't "work".

I wished I'd got back an honest "Yes, the dress does make you look fat" from my partner. I hope she wasn't just being nice when she said how much she enjoyed the story and wanted to keep reading. How will I know?

Crit Links:

How to Critique a Bad Manuscript

How to Take a Critiquing and Keep on Ticking

Where to find Beta Reader:

Forward Motion Writers Community Forums (free membership required) Forums (Free membership required)