The next chapter: June 2014 update

Hey all!

I must say that June was a blockbuster month for me.

It started with the publication of my science fiction short story “The Broken Places” being published in Bastion Science Fiction Magazine. Still so excited about that.

I attended June’s @M2the5th Twitter chat with Roz Morris, focusing on her Nail Your Novel series. I’m learning quite a bit from these, and though we cancelled July’s because, Independence Day, we’ll be getting back to our monthly schedule in August.

A comment on last month’s update had me a little concerned about what my readers might be taking away from these posts. It seems May’s update was taken as a warning about social media. If the warning was timely and helpful, great, but it’s not the message I hoped to convey.

I have now finished reading my ARC of K.M. Weiland’s forthcoming Jane Eyre: Writer’s Digest Annotated Classics. I’ll be posting a review later in the month, so stay tuned for that.

The adjustable desk is working out very well, and I’m now standing for longer between rests. At work, I read a post from a learning and development blogger in which he discussed his experience with his standing desk, which he described as continual fidgeting.

He uses a kitchen stool to take a periodic break from standing and has discovered that he can’t write while standing (!) Thankfully, that hasn’t been my experience.

CanWrite! 2014 was a great time, as usual. I’ve been blogging the panels, sessions, and workshops I’ve attended on a weekly basis.

Another piece of exciting writerly news arrived when I returned home from the conference: another speculative short story, “On the Ferry,” made it into the top ten in the When Words Collide writing contest.

This means I’ll appear in their chapbook anthology, In Places Between, though I’ll have to wait until the conference to find out if I’ve placed. Still. Squee-worthy.

Last month, I had a blogging disruption around the arrival of my desk and spent most of my non-blogging writing time working through Initiate of Stone, all of that work in long hand. Though I completed a lot of work on IoS, I wasn’t able to capture a word count from it.

In last month’s update, I mentioned I would be getting back to countable writing.

June's writing progress

June’s total word count: 18,471!!!!!

13,425 of those words were on my blog, but 5,046 were written in Gerod and the Lions. I set myself a goal of 5k for the month on that project, and I made it. The draft is now just over 10k words and I’ll have a workable draft by the end of the year 😀

I only just started working on Figments (my NaNo project from last year) as I had worked on IoS last month. In all fairness, I have a little more to do with Figments than I had to do on IoS.

First, I’m mapping it. This is something I picked up from reading Donald Maass’s The Breakout Novelist. For each chapter, I list the title, page count, word count, the first and last lines (both hooks, one to draw the reader into the chapter and the other to propel the reader onward), the purpose of the chapter, in story terms, the internal and external conflicts, and finally, what changes for the story, and for the POV character as a result of the chapter.

These are actually from several separate exercises in Maass’s workbook, but I’ve cobbled them together to create my map. These are like index cards and I can rearrange them as needed when I work on the structure of the story. I can see where I might have to divide longer chapters, and fairly easily pick out plot points, pinch points, reversals, etc.

Once I get the mapping done, I’ll fiddle with Figments’s structure and tighten things up, work through a beat sheet ala Roz Morris, and finally reverse engineer the plot with Victoria Mixon’s holographic structure.

June has taught me that I can’t draft one project and then work by hand on another project simultaneously. I’m going to try alternating and see how that goes.

And that is all the Writerly Goodness I have for you tonight.

How are your works-in-progress coming, my friends?

Coming up this month: An interview with author and editor Mat Del Papa on his new anthology Creepy Capreol, I take another shot at the writing process blog hop, the review of Katie’s book, more CanWrite! reportage, and a couple of poems with creation stories.

The Next Chapter

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CanWrite! 2014: Publisher Panel, June 20

Christie HarkinCraig PyetteHalli VillegasPanellists: Christie Harkin, Lorimer; Craig Pyette, Random House; Halli Villegas, Tightrope Books.

Moderator: Sue Reynolds

 

 

 

 

 

SR: What would make you shout “Eureka!” if it crossed your desk today?

CP: If we’re talking fiction, I’m not likely to shout right away, but something fresh, or new, would make me pay attention.

HV: The writing has to be excellent. The writer has to be willing to work hard in the editorial process. I like unique settings, LGBT, quirky, diverse books. In our best essays anthology, there was a piece about hospitals that was fascinating.

CH: I have a spreadsheet with tic boxes. I have to check off all the boxes to consider the piece. It has to fit into one of our current series, have an urban setting, preferably in the downtown core, it must be edgy, realistic, modern, and not elitist. If I receive something that meets the criteria, I’d shout “Eureka!”

SR: How many books do you consider from your respective slush piles? How do you prefer to be approached?

CP: If you want to submit to a larger house, get an agent. Most of what we produce comes to us through agencies. With regard to your first question, it would be close to none. I can think of one book we accepted from the slush pile. It was non-fiction about the intersection of gun culture/manufacture and hip hop/urban culture.

HV: Every season, there’s at least one book I find in the slush pile. We’re a small press and periodically closed to submissions. Sometimes we put out a call for an anthology. Our most recent was for mystery stories. We also accept projects though grants, like the OAC’s Writers Reserve. If I like the work, I’ll get in touch.

CH: I’ve been with Lorimer for eight months and before that, I was with Fitzhenry & Whiteside. At Lorimer, there is no slush pile. When the list is specific, the submissions are low. We ask for specifics. Read the submission guidelines.

SR: How do you make a business case for a book? In other words, what happens after “Eureka?” How do you sell a book?

CP: The business case is part of the eureka moment. We have to see that there is a robust audience for the book. We talk a lot about comps.

HV: Comps are the first thing sales asks for. Tightrope has built its own market. Readers say, “I trust their aesthetic.” We have our annual poetry and essay anthologies, we’ve published material on plus-sized women. We’re not necessarily focused on the market in general, but on our audience. We published a book titled, How to get a Girl Pregnant, about a gay couple trying to have a baby. The author needs to be part of the process.

CH: We also want proactive authors. They have to be willing to attend conference, Word on the Street, commit to local promotion. The biggest market for kids books is in schools and libraries. Take a look at the curriculum and write book club-like content for teachers so they can teach the novel in class. There was a book about Jacques Plante, but it was too focused and a lot of the kids it was aimed at wouldn’t be able to relate. This morphed into a book about hockey safety in general and how players have contributed to innovation over the years. The revised book had a more universal appeal.

SR: Publishing is a business. You know what you’re looking for. What about international rights and contracts?

CH: If you don’t have an agent, you don’t have any negotiating power. You probably don’t have the knowledge, or the connections. Think seriously before you sign a contract.

HV: We had a South African author who wanted to publish in both countries. I have a North American and European distributor. I don’t like being limited to Canadian rights only. It’s a smaller market. The first print run is 600-1000 books. We’ve just added ebook rights as well. We don’t do commercial fiction, however.

CH: You want your publisher to contract for US rights. More books will sell in the States than in Canada. Lorimer insists on US rights, in fact. If the author wants to retain them, that would be a deal-breaker.

CP: You don’t want your rights squandered. Ask what the publisher wants to do. Random House has a great foreign rights department, but half of our authors aren’t Canadian. We’re a Canadian-oriented publisher, though. With an agent, the world is their oyster.

HV: Big publishers will have a legal department. I don’t. If things get too complicated, I send the writer to an agent or a lawyer.

CH: Yes, an intellectual property (IP) lawyer.

SR: Let’s open the floor to questions.

Q: What’s your risk tolerance?

CP: Keep in mind that the greater the risk, the higher the potential payoff. Last fall was unusual. We published books on Bobby Orr and Chris Hadfield. Colossal risks, but the payoff was huge, too. Sometimes you blow it, but if you’re passionate, you take the risk.

HV: We don’t have a big budget, so we don’t take big risks in the traditional sense. I like to build the ladder rather than climb it.

CH: At Fitzhenry & Whiteside, I had a lot of latitude. My risks paid off. I’ve been lucky. Lorimer is less of a risk-taker, but we will still weigh the pros and cons before making a decision.

Q: What is the process of getting on the bestseller lists?

CP: If we knew that, we’d all be millionaires. That’s putting the cart before the horse. In 2006 Booknet started tracking sales at the cash register for 90% of the retailers in Canada. The Globe & Mail Bestseller list is based on Booknet numbers.

Q: Does politics play a role?

CP: It’s hard sales numbers.

HV: Do you mean, “it’s who you know”?

CP: Maybe there’s the odd favour.

CH: Maybe we can get the book into a reviewer’s hands.

HV: It’s a chicken and egg thing. Some authors will automatically be on the bestsellers lists. Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaajte.

Publisher's Panel


 

And that’s all we had time for.

Next week: Writing Fantasy with Kelly Armstrong!