WWC 2014, day 2: Blending science fiction and fantasy

Panellists: Stacy Dooks, Nina Munteanu, Greg Bechtel, and Ian Alexander Martin

Nina MunteanugregbechtelIan Alexander MartinSD: Genres are breaking down. Clarke’s third law states: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

NM: Why do we have genres and should we still?

GB: Yes. It’s for the reader. How else will we know what to buy and read?

NM: Publishers and imprints have the genre printed right on the spine, though.

IAM: I say I don’t like categories and genres, but when I go to my publisher, I use them. I may not like it, but I have to use them.

SD: Genre is your navigational touchstone, your compass point. You can get tricked into reading a genre you weren’t expecting. Stephen King is known primarily for horror, but then he published the Dark Tower series.

IAM: Using categories to restrict authors or stories is bogus.

NM: Do we need to re-educate our readers, then?

GB: Word of mouth is how you find out about books. Now it’s moved online.

NM: It started with Amazon. People are finding their books in new ways now.

IAM: Chapters is its own competition. If you buy online you save 20% over the bookstore prices.

NM: Is it still germane to categorize books?

IAM: Categories in bookstores is an American invention. In the 50’s or 60’s it migrated to Canada. Before that, everything was alphabetical by author, regardless of genre or category.

NM: It’s a different way of looking for a book. When you look for a book, do you look for an author, or do you look for a genre?

Q: People who are already published can bend the rules. What about someone who’s writing?

SD: It’s important to establish the ground rules for your universe. Don’t get derailed. Take Star Wars, for instance. It’s the biggest blend of science fiction and fantasy out there. Don’t try to explain the fantasy elements, like midichlorians. Don’t let anything come out of left field.

GB: We all seem to be agreeing that blending science fiction and fantasy can be done and has been done successfully. What advice do we have for the writers in our audience?

NM: To me, it’s all about the reader. When you read my books, you know what you’re getting. It’s about consistency.

SD: You make a covenant with your reader.

NM: As soon as another writer takes over a franchise, the reader can tell.

GB: You can break your rules if you set it up. Foreshadow. (Mel’s note: Kelley Armstrong said much the same thing in her workshop on writing fantasy at CanWrite!)

IAM: You should trust your reader to “get it.”

NM: You can be subtle.

Q: Blending is one thing, but what is genre? Is it the trappings, or are there other criteria?

NM: I teach how to write science fiction at the University of Toronto. That’s one of the first things my students have to learn is how to define the genre. In science fiction, science is the premise, the ‘what if?’ Fantasy doesn’t have to have magic, but it’s based more on myth and folklore.

SD: In Star Wars, you have all the trappings of science fiction, but at its core the story is a mythic one.

NM: Even if there’s something inexplicable about it. Sometimes, it’s better not to explain.

Q: So is it the fantasy element that enables the story?

NM: Take a look at Diana Gabaldon. Her books defy categorization, but when Outlander was first published, it was stuffed in the romance section of bookstores, even though the author insisted on the more general ‘fiction’ category. Sometimes trying to pigeon-hole your novel can backfire. I wrote what I called a romantic science fiction story. An artificial intelligence ran society, but romance was the main thread. It was dark though. Both partners died. It bombed with romance readers. It was well-reviewed, but romance readers hated it (where was the happy ending?) and science fiction readers loved it.

GB: Margaret Atwood is another example. You don’t want to disappoint your readers’ expectations.

Q: Is genre mainly the concern of publishers and marketing departments? Do you need to focus on it when you’re writing?

NM: You need to understand genre and how that’s going to affect where your novel is placed. New writers who blend are not as marketable.

IAM: Not during the creative process, though. Afterward, yes.

Q: Before the 50’s fantasy had to be disguised as science fiction.

Q: As a new author, how should you present your blended novel?

IAM: I’d be more interested in your mix. Do your research. Approach those publishers that have a track record with blended fiction.

GB: Find a publisher that produces novels you like to read and approach them.

NM: Books used to be marketed by genre. Identify what your book is and sell it for what it actually is.

IAM: Online recommendations may not be accurate. Genre is important for retail, library, and the marketing department. It’s not so relevant to the end user/reader anymore. Social interaction is the key to discoverability.

Q: I didn’t understand that Star Wars was a blend. Now that I think of blending in this light, Final Fantasy nailed it. How much does the visual element contribute?

SD: Science fiction and fantasy is a marginalized genre.

IAM: The general reaction is, “You’re reading that? Read [the classics] instead (Asimov, Clark, etc.).”

NM: The visual element enables blending.

GB: Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a wonderful cross-pollination of horror and action-adventure wrapped in a coming-of-age story.

Q: Fantasy is magic-based. It doesn’t necessarily track for me. Can you make a science-based magic system?

IAM: Absolutely. You can do it if you do it well.

NM: Ultimately, fiction is story. Serve the story.

Next week: When words collide day two continues with Mark Leslie.

Advertisements

WWC 2014, Day 1: Evening keynotes

Here we are at the end of day 1 (for me–I know others partied into the wee hours). At other conferences and conventions, guest of honour keynotes are generally spread throughout the event, often at or after a meal.

The When Words Collide organizers chose to do something different.

Prior to the literary festival, there were several master classes offered by the keynote speakers, and the night before, they all delivered their presentations at a branch of the public library.

Between the extra days of leave I would have had to sacrifice, the cost of the master classes, and the expense of a longer stay, I had to opt out of the pre-conference program.

On the first night (formally speaking) of WWC, then, all of the keynote speakers were well into conference mode and had an opportunity to work out the bugs.

The keynotes were presented as a panel, with all of the speakers up on the stage, seated at tables.

Randy McCharles offered a few opening words, and then introduced the first of the speakers.

  1. Jacqueline Guest, author of 18 published novels, spoke about her adventures as aJacqueline Guest touring author. She has been all over the world, in the arctic, and had some very interesting tales to share. The old advice to writers is to write what you know. Travelling and experiencing all the world has to offer is a valuable way of gathering experience that can translate into your writing.
  2. Mark Leslie, of Kobo Writing Life, chose the subject of the mark-lesliehistory of story. From our earliest gatherings to share news around a fire, through the oral traditions of Greece and Rome, the invention of the printing press, and the advent of the novel, to today’s proliferation of traditionally published and independently published novels, novellas, short stories, anthologies, and all other manner of written storytelling, Mark spoke eloquently of the purpose and value of story in our lives. He ended his keynote with this: when words collide, magic happens.
  3. Dorothy (DJ) MacIntosh, author of the (in progress) Mesopotamian trilogy, spoke
    DJ McIntosh

    photo by Robert Rafton

    about passion and how to keep that precious flame burning. She related the experiences, hers and those of other renowned authors, with rejection, and various reactions to rejection letters. How can we keep our passion alive amidst the darkness that can assail us?

  4. Brandon Sanderson, author of—oh, I’ll just say it—a shit load of bestselling fantasy novels including the
    Photo by Nazrilof

    Photo by Nazrilof

    posthumous conclusion of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, addressed the problem of telling a compelling lie. He started with a grade school experience in which he realized that the story of Columbus and his discovery of the new world was all propaganda. In short, it was a lie, but it’s a lie that has been perpetuated over the years by quality storytelling. You could say that’s when the seed of his desire to become a professional liar was planted. He spoke of Sturgeon’s Law: that ninety percent of everything is crap. He wanted to test that hypothesis and started with Roger Ebert’s movie review site, which revealed between sixty and seventy percent good movies (two thumbs up). He then went to Rotten Tomatoes, a review site contributed to by the movie-going public. He found roughly the same results. There were exceptions, of course. He found one reviewer who didn’t like Return of the King, for example. Reviews are one of the most power tools in any author’s service. Word of mouth is what really translates into sales and a groundswell of support. The bad reviews can be damaging in all kinds of ways. We have to be able to distinguish between someone expressing a personal opinion, e.g. I didn’t like this book, and someone who’s going for the hurt, e.g. this is crap. They are two completely different judgements.

  5. Jack Whyte. I’d seen him last year at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference jack-whyteand knew the power of his presence, but, when Jack took the stage, I put my pen down and sat back. I knew I was about to be entertained. Jack basically extemporized (or, he made is sound like he was), drawing in elements of each of the previous speakers, adding colour with a touch of personal humour, and wrapping up the evening in style.

Next week: We enter day 2 with the Blending Science Fiction and Fantasy Panel.

WWC 2014, Day 1: Doctor your book with Randy McCharles

randymccharlesRandy McCharles is active in Calgary, Alberta’s writing community with a focus on speculative fiction, usually of the wickedly humorous variety, with short stories and novellas available from Edge SF&F Publishing, House of Anansi, and Reality Skimming Press. He is the recipient of several Aurora Awards (Canada’s most prestigious award for speculative fiction) and is short-listed in three categories for the upcoming 2014 Awards. In 2013, his short story Ghost-B-Gone Incorporated won the House of Anansi 7-day Ghost Story Contest. Randy’s first Tyche Books publication, Much Ado About Macbeth, will be available in August 2015.

In addition to writing, Randy chairs the award-winning When Words Collide Festival for Readers and Writers as well as organizing various reading and craft events for writers.


 

As writers, we love our literary children. We are also our own worst critics. We need to find a middle ground, an objective perspective. A peer review or critique groups can be of great value in this respect.

When we write, we see the story in our heads so clearly we may forget to put it all down on paper. We need to learn how to doctor our work.

Self-publishing is another reason. Learning to edit your work can help save costs.

The less work an editor has to do, the better. Also, cheaper. (Mel’s note: even if you think that your work is well-edited, a professional editor will always be able to identify further corrections, whether substantive, copy, or line editing. Also, many freelance editors charge by page or words, so you won’t necessarily save any money if you have 75k well-edited words, or 75k poorly edited ones. With an editor who charges by hour, you might do better.)

Theme will help you keep on track.

Then ensued much discussion regarding the relative merits of David Brin’s The Postman and Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, both books and movies.

Many inexperienced writers choose the wrong place to start the story. Too soon and unimportant events won’t capture your reader’s attention. Too late and the reader won’t be engaged by your character, or you’ll find yourself explaining—telling—events that have just happened. That’s a tell-tale sign you’ve started too late.

Aim for in media res, but don’t misunderstand the technique. Too much action can confuse the reader. Give the reader a reason to care.

Try not to be “married to the line,” that is, if you think you have to start in a particular place because you’ve come up with the “perfect” line, that line may be one of the darlings you have to kill. You have to be willing to set it aside to find the true beginning of your novel.

Other issues are genre-specific. In fantasy or science fiction, you may spend too much time on worldbuilding or on backstory. Sometimes chapter one is just a distraction and your real story starts in chapter two or even three.

Some opening scenes are missing the hook, that story question that will propel the reader through the novel. New York Times Bestselling Authors (NYTBSAs) can get away with this, but not the first time author.

You may also be missing scenes. This comes from writing “in your head” too much.

Unnecessary scenes may be a sign of too much thinking on the page, on the other hand.

We talk about wearing your writer’s hat and your editor’s hat, but what’s missing from the equation is the reader’s hat.

WWC2014 Day 1: The Perfect Pitch Package with Jacqueline Guest

Before we begin, some context

Jacqueline publishes, and always has published, in the Canadian market. As such, she doesn’t have, nor does she need, an agent. Jacqueline pitches her publisher directly. This is a little different that pitching an agent, or querying an agent.

It’s more like a book proposal. Many of Jacqueline’s tips can be amended slightly for agent queries.


First, you have to make sure your manuscript is perfect. Edit it. Print it out. Read it aloud. Don’t edit on the computer screen. You’ll miss too much on the screen.

There’s an editor’s checklist for writers in the package. This document covers the basics that every editor looks for.

Mel’s note: Jacqueline’s package included a sample query letter, tips on submitting to a publisher, the editor’s checklist for writer’s, a tip sheet from Frank L. Visco called “How to Write Good,” and a page of resources about free and purchased writing software, and recommended writing craft books.

Know your audience.

Do you need an agent? In the American market, yes, but not in the Canadian one. You can pitch directly to a Canadian publisher. Best to make sure that the publisher has American distribution, however.

Contracts are tricky. Check out the Writers’ Union of Canada (WUC) site for assistance.

Everything is electronically generated these days.

Start with the Writer’s Market. It’s published in print annually, but there is also a web site that you can access that is continually updated.

Do your homework. Identify the publishers that publish the kinds of novels you write.

If you use the print version of the Writer’s Market, go to the publisher’s web site to make sure there have been no changes to the editors since the publication date. I’d recommend that you call the publisher to confirm.

What goes in your package:

  • Your query letter.
  • A 1-2 page synopsis.
  • 3 chapters, or the number of chapters/pages/words the publisher specifies.

Format:

  • Double spaced
  • Single sided
  • 1” margins
  • Header: On the left, type the title of the novel and beneath it, your name. On the right insert the page number.
  • Use clips for synopsis and sample pages. Use an elastic when sending a whole manuscript.

There are lots of “How-To” books out there on how to write a query or proposal. Get them from your public library and read them.

I use what I call the two-sentence sell.

In the first sentence, you identify your audience, the word count of your novel, and the story line (Mel’s note: Think tag line).

In the second sentence, identify your novel’s unique qualities, and any marketing points (Mel’s note: For example, if you write middle grade fiction, mention if you’ve prepared teaching guides, or activity guides for librarians. If your book is for adults, you may consider mentioning, or suggesting, book club notes.)

These two sentences must be succinct and on target.

Jacqueline then set us the assignment of writing our 2 sentence pitch.

If you need to include a chapter outline, write no more than 1 or 2 sentences on each chapter.

Everything needs to work together. Print it out and read it aloud. You’ll find more errors and awkward phrasing that way.

If you want to write and learn to write better, you must read.

Jacqueline brought out several resource books that she recommends, including Strunk & White’s Elements of Style.


Jacqueline GuestAbout Jacqueline:

Jacqueline is a Metis writer who lives in a log cabin nestled in the pinewoods of the Rocky Mountain foothills of Alberta.

Her award-winning books are unique in that many of the main characters come from different ethnic backgrounds including First Nations, Inuit or Metis. Her well-drawn characters face issues common to every child such as bullying, blended families and physical challenges and are strong role models for today’s youth. Jacqueline’s historical novels for young readers’ present Canada ’s vibrant past as an exciting read every child will enjoy. Her young adult mysteries address teenage problems in a sensitive way while still providing a great page-turner.

Jacqueline’s interactive curriculum-based History & Literacy Presentations appeal to students in all grade levels and are of interest as they incorporate her own background as she shows how the Metis people are a strong part of the fabric of Canada ’s past. Her Easy Key Writing Workshops provides the EasyKey Method to facing a language arts exam and passing! She also teaches writing how-to’s and encourages children to follow their own literary dreams.

Jacqueline has participated in Mamawenig, the Saskatchewan Aboriginal Literacy Gathering, where she helped shape the direction of Native literacy in Saskatchewan . She has performed pro-bono workshops at the Edmonton Young Offenders Centre, presented for the Cultural Diversity Institute, University of Calgary , Batoche Historical Site and participated in Back to Batoche Days, and Fort Calgary ‘s Metis Cultural Festival. Jacqueline has also presented at the Manitoba Association of Teachers of English, the Alberta Association of Library Technicians as well as numerous Writers’ Conferences.

She is the current Writer-In-Residence for the Marigold Library System and a member of Calgary Arts Partners in Education Society.

Jacqueline has been nominated for a National Aboriginal Achievement Award and the prestigious Esquao Award for outstanding achievement by an Aboriginal woman. She has travelled extensively and as far away as Nunavut to spread the good word on literacy.

A strong advocate of reading, Jacqueline believes the key to the future is through better literacy today.

WWC2014 Day 1: Successful self-publishing with Jodi MacIsaac

Jodi MacIsaacAbout Jodi MacIsaac:

She grew up in New Brunswick, Canada. After stints as a short-track speed skater, a speechwriter, and fundraising and marketing executive in the non-profit sector, she started a boutique copywriting agency and began writing novels in the wee hours of the morning. She currently lives with her husband and two feisty daughters in Calgary, Alberta.

Find out about her books.


 

 

The current state of the publishing industry is both fascinating and depressing.

The first thing you should do is research. Victoria Strauss’s Writer Beware is a great resource. You’ll be kept aware of all the scams and less-than-reputable publishing services.

The debate about traditional publishing vs. self-publishing is polarized and getting more so every day. The big self-publishing success stories are flukes and outriders, but it is possible to make a living publishing your novels independently.

Indie or self-published books make up:

  • 31% of daily ebook sales;
  • 40% of ebook royalties (greater than Big 5 authors’ ebook royalties);
  • 30% of ebook revenue.

Most self-published books sell fewer than 200 copies.

You have to be professional, patient, and treat your self-publishing as a business—because it is.

Regarding patience, Hugh Howey’s Wool was his eighth book.

Backlist sales are important, but in order to have backlist sales, you have to have a backlist.

You have to be talented, hard working, and obsessive.

If that’s you, self-publishing may be for you.

The pros:

  • 70% royalties;
  • Complete control; and
  • Greater speed to market.

The cons:

  • Little/no bookstore presence;
  • No advance;
  • Up front costs; and
  • No support.

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do you enjoy learning?
  2. Are you proactive?
  3. Can you multi-task?
  4. Are you entrepreneurial?
  5. Are you willing to develop a business and marketing plan?
  6. Can you organize and work with a team?
  7. Are you willing to work HARD?

Writing is an art. Publishing is a business.

Roles of the self-publisher:

  • Author;
  • Editor;
  • Copyeditor;
  • Proofreader;
  • Cover designer;
  • Layout and formatting;
  • Scheduling;
  • Marketing;
  • Public relations;
  • Webmaster;
  • Distribution; and
  • Bookkeeper.

These roles can be farmed out, but you have to be able to afford to pay other people to fill them. If you don’t have a lot of money, this may be a problem.

If nothing else, you need to pay for the “big three.”

  1. Editing—substantive, copyediting, and line editing. Yes, you may have to pay three people, or one person three times.
  2. Cover design.
  3. Formatting.

Costs:

  • Substantive edit               $2,000 to $10,000
  • Copyediting                      $1,000 to $5,000
  • Proofreading                    $500 to $1,000
  • Cover design                    $150 to $3,500
  • Formatting                        $100 to $500
  • ISBN                                 Free in Canada/$125 in the US
  • Net Galley                         $399
  • Audiobook narrator           $1200 (or royalty share)
  • Marketing                          $100 to $5,000 (or ??? more)
  • Website                            $100 (hosting and domain registration)

Where to sell

Digital

  • Amazon
  • KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing, Amazon’s exclusive ebook service.)
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Kobo
  • iBookstore
  • Smashwords (distribution to everyone but Amazon until you reach $5,000 in sales)
  • Draft 2 Digital, Bookbaby, etc.

Publish on demand (POD)

  • Lightning Source
  • CreateSpace
  • Lulu
  • Trafford
  • iUniverse
  • Xlibris
  • Author Solutions

Check Writer Beware and Editors & Preditors before you commit. I’ve listed all services here for thoroughness.

Pricing

  • $2.99-$9.99         author receives 70% of every unit sold.
  • Under $2.99        author receives 35% of every unit sold.
  • Over $9.99          author receives 35% of every unit sold.

The best way to sell backlist is to write more books.

Aim for 80% writing/20% business.

Q: What is metadata?

Metadata is data about data. Keywords, categories, etc. You have to be strategic.

Q: What are your best marketing and communications strategies?

Reviews are the number one way to generate sales and word of mouth.

FaceBook ads, in my experience, don’t translate to sales.

Giveaways on Goodreads are a good tactic, especially if you ask for an honest review.

Blog tours are not worth it. It’s a lot of work to generate content for all the blogs, and there’s no evidence that anyone will be encouraged to buy.


Next week: Jacqueline Guest on Preparing the Perfect Pitch Package.

The Next Chapter: August 2014 update

This has been a weird month, writing-wise.

I started out well enough, continued working on Gerod and the Lions, and started revising one of my longer short stories for submission.

Then I went to When Worlds Collide.

It was a great conference, but the pace was killer. They really need to work in proper breaks for lunch and dinner. It’s bad enough that they have eight sessions running at all times, but if you want to eat, you have to grab and go.

Yes, Surrey had more concurrent sessions than WWC, but there were a number that I didn’t regret missing. They kind of organized sessions into streams so that sessions on similar topics wouldn’t conflict with each other.

Maybe it was that I was a little more eclectic in my choices of what to attend at WWC. Maybe it was the extra day where I hiked approximately twelve kilometres in the mountains and canyons of Alberta. Maybe it was the time change and the red-eye flight back to Ontario with only a day off to recover before I returned to work.

I don’t know. Whatever it was, I was exhausted upon my return.

I finished the work on my story and got it submitted. As I mentioned previously, it’s a longer short story, nearly 10,000 words and the magazine to which I’ve submitted it is one of the big markets. I still don’t want to talk about it too much right now because I could come off as cocky. I could just end up jinxing the whole business. Regardless of the outcome, I’ll let you know once it’s transpired.

I just couldn’t get back into GatL, though.

On Collapse

Then I received an email from SARK. She was giving a free conference call on the topic of creative collapse.

It was interesting.

One of her points is that all creative people collapse, whether they admit to it or not, and many of us will need to collapse every once in a while.

Now collapse isn’t a negative thing. It’s more of a phase where we’re not actively writing new words, but maybe working through ideas, researching, editing, and the like. So I’ve been in this place, off and on, for a while now. It’s part of a creative cycle and it seems to me, a natural part.

We have to recognize our need to collapse, give ourselves permission to do so, and remain creatively open throughout our collapse period so that we can return to our work renewed and ready to give ‘er 😀

So aside from blogging, I’ve given myself permission not to write. It’s felt strange. I still have that urge to write, that need, and if I can’t or don’t work on my fiction, I feel very odd. Outside my own skin. Alien.

But I think it’s been a good thing for me, what with everything that’s been going on in my life otherwise.

So tomorrow will be a planning day. I’m going to relax and think about my re-entry into daily writing practice. Perhaps I’ll sign up for a workshop or two that I want to attend in the fall, and think about whether I can tackle NaNoWriMo this year without having time off from work.

I’m going to figure out how I can fit back into my skin and reconcile the two sides of my life.

What I’ve been doing

I’ve been researching a new story idea. I had a dream back in the spring and it stuck around, started making a fuss, so I figured I should pay attention.

I’ve also been letting Katie Weiland’s Character Arcs posts help me sort out a few things that I want to do with Initiate of Stone and Apprentice of Wind.

And, with Phil, I’ve been working my way through Bleach. I’ll get around to talking more about that when I get to my Mel’s Movie Madness and Series Discoveries posts in September.

SFCanada

I can’t tell you how happy I am that I joined SF Canada in the spring. The discussions that happen on the listserv are awesome. The experiences shared are heartening. I’m learning so much just being attentive.

Recently the topic came up of making the leap to full-time writer, something that’s been on my mind a lot recently. Serendipity at work 😉

I’m going to preface this next bit by explaining to my followers in other parts of the world that being a full-time writer, and a full-time genre writer at that, in Canada, is tricky. Our market is a lot smaller (our population is a lot smaller), and even if we aim for an agent or publisher in the States, we throw our hats into the ring with millions of other writers who are vying for the same kind of success.

It can be daunting.

I know a number of authors who manage to make it work, but each path to independence and story is unique.

Some writers have made the leap after having had another career. Some have supportive spouses who have enabled them to devote time to their craft. Some have “taken turns” with their spouses, alternately supporting each other through career transitions. Some have damned the torpedoes and just gone for it. For this last group, the going hasn’t always been easy, but they’ve managed.

As you know, I’m not in a place where I can do that yet.

In conjunction with this discussion was another strand about paying your dues, fine-tuning your craft, your 10,000 hours or your million words, and about newer writers who feel that they can dispense with revision and editing, and that volume alone is the key to success. Quantity vs. quality was a theme that came up a lot.

So did the idea that just because you can, doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

There was discussion about the dreaded “trunk” novel, the novel a writer uses to learn and practice on and speculation as to whether these novels should ever see the light of day.

The whole has been very informative, and, I must say, inspirational. It’s made me want to get back into my work and start mucking around in the words again.

We’ll see where all this takes me.

August's writing progress

The stats

My total output for the month has been 11,600 words.

A scant 57 words went into the short story, but were then more than edited out again.

1,113 went into GatL.

And, as ever, the bulk of my words went into this blog. 10,430 to be exact.

I’m still waiting for beta reports. I haven’t finished the mapping of Figments yet, let alone moved on to AoW. Despite the limited progress this month, I’m still on track to finish GatL by the end of the year. So everything is on the cusp of its next evolution. I’m full of optimism.

As I watch my writerly friends publish their second novels, I get a twinge of envy, but I’m trying to convert that into motivation, because, in the end, my writing career is up to me.

It’s time to get back to work.

Farewell until next month, my friends. Wonderful words to you all. Break a pencil*!

*I’ve mentioned in the past that this is the superstitious writer’s “good luck,” but more recently, I’ve realized it might be a, shall we say, Canadian, way of saying Chuck Wendig’s “Art harder, motherfucker!” Yup. Break those keyboards, make those pens bleed ink, crush those pencil leads. I want y’all to art that hard. If you will, I will, too. Deal? 🙂

The Next Chapter

WWC Day 1: Anthology Jam

Panelists: Ron S. Friedman, Randy McCharles, Charles V. Prepolec

RonFriedmanrandymccharlescharlesprepolec

 

 

 

 

Q: As a writer, how do you approach an anthology? How to you get in?

RM: There are two kinds of anthologies, open and closed. Open anthologies are exactly that. There will be an open submission period. Closed anthologies tend to be by invitation only and some are dedicated to a particular franchise or theme.

CP: Open anthologies are the only chance for newer writers to get published. They tend to be niche and specific. Pitching an anthology to a publisher is difficult these days. People aren’t reading them as much. You can check out the possibilities on ralan.com. Ralan’s good because it will list the rates as well as the contact information. Professional rates are like six cents a word or something like that. I think Innsmouth Free Press has an open call out for She Walks in Shadows, for Lovecraftian stories featuring a female protagonist or deity. Also check out Kickstarter (Mel’s note: I just did a quick search for anthologies and sorted by newest). It’s a way of guaging the market as well as raising funds. Some of them have open reading periods, for example, ChiZine Publications’ Fearful Symetries, which Ellen Datlow edited. Duotrope is another good place to go. It’s reasonable at $50 a year.

RM: Really, you have three options: magazine, open anthology, and collection. There’s no other way to get your short stories published.

Q: Do you write to a particular Anthology’s theme?

RM: Yes. I wrote to theme for Tesseracts: Parnassus Unbound.

CP: You can write to the market.

RF: If you write for a particular anthology and your story doesn’t make it, you can always submit it elsewhere.

RM: You write stories. Keep a “story drawer” and repurpose as required. I had five short stories that I cobbled together for Tesseracts 16. It was published in the anthology, the year’s best, and nominated for an Aurora. Sometimes it’s an issue of money vs. passion.

RF: You can also publish short fiction on Amazon. Kindle Singles.

Q: What rights go to the anthology?

CP: Usually for an anthology it’s first time print rights for about a year.

RM: Short fiction is a one time sale. There aren’t any royalties like for a novel.

RF: Rights are usually considered from date of publication, not date of sale.

RM: Anthologies love reprints because they feed back to sales for the originating anthology.

CP: Gaslight Grimoire had two stories picked up for other publications. You don’t want to be competing with yourself though. If you want to find out more about the market, you can check out The Market List, Writeaholics.net, Towse’s links to online submission guidelines.

RF: Check out the SFWA site as well.

Q: I’d recommend submission grinder.

CP: If you’re heading into this world for the first time, I’d also check things out on preditors and editors.

RM: Your goal isn’t just to sell, but you want to sell to a market that people read. Ask yourself, is this a market that people are reading? Send to the highest paying markets first. They usually have a larger readership.

RF: Bundoran Press will have an open submission period for Second Contact, September 15, 2014 to January 15, 2015.

CP: Small presses are more open to anthologies and collections. Prime Books – Sean Wallace. Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing – Brian Hades.

Q: How much material do editors request? Do you ever oversubscribe?

RM: Content or contributors may be assigned. Choose between five or six of these authors. The editor may choose. There is going to be a total word limit you have to stay within.

CP: We oversubscribe by about 30%. There will always be people who drop out or don’t follow through.

Q: Can a writer pitch an anthology?

CP: No. Editors, maybe. You could pitch a collection of your own stories, but not an anthology.


 

Tomorrow: The Next Chapter: August 2014 update.

WWC Day 1: On dialogue, building accents, and dialect

Disclaimer: These are my notes. I am human. As such, I fully acknowledge that my notes are imperfect. Feel free to correct me if you see any glaring errors or misrepresentations.

Panelists: Axel Howerton, Sandra Fitzpatrick, Nola Sarina, Minister Faust

axel_photoSandraFitzpatrickNolaSarinaMinisterFaust

 

 

 

 

 

NS: You have to be consistent. Don’t shock your readers by changing things up part way through your novel. Don’t write phonetic dialect or idiom. It’s too much.

MF: There is no right and no wrong. Everything is a matter of taste. Chaucer would have probably hated Shakespeare. Does that make either of them wrong, or one better than the other?

SF: Make sure your dialogue is pronounceable. There are problems with other languages, like Gaelic, in which nothing can be sounded out, or Japanese, in which everything is contextual.

NS: Write out the dialogue from movies whose characters reflect your protagonist. Reflect the evolution of your character.

Q: What if all your characters are from the same small town? How do you make them distinct?

MF: Look at your friends. You can identify each of them by specific catch phrases or tics. Go someplace in your town or city where you don’t normally go. Listen. Learn to love how people talk.

NS: Bond two characters through dialogue similarities. Have a third party interpret for your reader.

Q: Any tips of how to keep consistency in your characters? In one novel, I had to tone down the protagonist’s swearing, but it was a part of his character. In the end, I only had him swear when he was upset, but that could come off as jarring.

NS: Edit for voice by character. Make a pass for each.

Q: What about using other languages?

NS: Intersperse them in the text. Try not to have long passages in other languages. Use another character as interpreter.

Q: How do you avoid caricatures or stereotypes? For example, I have a character much like Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid.

MF: Avoid stereotypes if you can. If you can’t, make sure there’s a reason for it. With regard to Miyagi, if someone watches the Karate Kid and comes away thinking that Miyagi is uneducated or backward, they’ve missed the point of the character. He was betrayed by his country, lost his wife in tragic circumstances, and has a disorder as a result. He’s chosen isolation as protection. He’s rejected the society that betrayed him.

Q: Is there a way to ease off dialect over the course of the novel?

NS: We’re back to consistency again. If it’s too much at the beginning, it’s too much, period.

MF: If you want to write a character with thick dialect, then do it. Don’t tease. Write the book you want to write.

Q: What about multiple different languages?

SF: It depends. In a science fiction setting, you could have something like a universal translator, but you have to make it plausible. Otherwise, think about syntax, word order. What are the differences between the languages we speak on this planet?

Q: I’m writing a YA historical. It’s historically accurate for the protagonist to call his parents mother and father, but writing it that way felt awkward.

MF: If it feels awkward to you, chances are it will feel awkward to your audience, too. If you want to address it, do so head on. Show it. Hang a lantern on it. Reveal it’s relevance by contrast. Do people of other classes refer to their parents in the same way?


 

I hope you enjoyed this opening salvo of When Words Collide (WWC). I’ll be continuing the transcription of my notes, one session each weekend, until I run out of notes.

WWC set a military pace. Most sessions were one hour and though intended to end at about 50 minutes, initially, most session ran overtime. There were no breaks for meals with sessions running from 10 am through to 9 or 10 pm. Special events often ran later.

In many cases, I had to arrive late or leave early to catch the next session with enough time to hit the bathroom, or grab a quick snack at the commissary.

Next week: The Anthology Jam. All about how to get published in an anthology.

Caturday Quickie: Calgary, I am in you

I’ve been waiting to say that for a long time. I’m such a nerd.

To be brief:

Thursday afternoon, Phil and I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy. I may have to post a Mel’s Movie Madness about it. For the future. I enjoyed it thoroughly, however.

Yesterday (Friday), I got up at the ungodly hour of 4 am so I could get out to the airport by 5-ish and catch my 5:55 am flight.

All went well, caught my connection, watched the second Hunger Games en route, and arrived at 10:18 am, on the dot, in Calgary.

My friend, Sharon, offered to pick me up and we went out to lunch before I checked in at the Carriage House Inn and started my marathon of sessions.

I attended 5 of those yesterday, plus the keynote speakers in the evening. I also met, in person, several people I’d only known to this point virtually: Angela Ackerman, Diane Walton, Tim Reynolds, and I reconnected with some fellow writers and publishers: Mark Leslie, Ron Hore, Swati Chavda, and Avery Olive.

I had dinner and lovely conversation with Nina Munteanu, and met a few other writers and editors hanging around outside the hotel. I also saw the wonderful Jack Whyte again, and met Brandon Sanderson in the flesh. Brandon was my fangirl moment of When Words Collide so far.

I’ll be in sessions from 10 am to 6 pm today, and then there is the mass autograph session this evening.

It has been a jam-packed conference so far, but I’m having a blast. Prepare for much bloggage coming out of this 🙂

Also got to see the 2014 In Places Between anthology chapbook. The readings and judging take place tomorrow morning. Will let you know (of course) how “On the Ferry” fares.

I think this may be my only post this weekend, just because WWC is proving to be a very fast-paced event.

In the meantime, I shall wish much you all much Writerly Goodness.

Caturday Quickies

The next chapter: July 2014 update

July was much the same as June for me.

I worked primarily on Gerod and the Lions, am still slowly mapping out Figments, and though I did some work on a short story (it’s almost 10K, so not really short, per se) it was revising, and the word count was negative.

July's progress

Total for the month: 17,516 (not quite as high as last month, but still a w00t! in my book)

Total on GatL: 4,821 (again, a little less than last month, but I’m still on track to finish the first draft by year’s end)

Total on blog: 12,695

Thought it might be time for a review of the year to date:

Month Total Blog Initiate of Stone Apprentice of Wind Figments Gerod and the Lions Short Stories
January 11,532 7,114 0 2,781 207 821 609
February 9,789 6,303 0 47 308 1,296 1,835
March 10,781 8,193 0 333 1,488 312 455
April 11,612 10,930 0 0 381 0 301
May 7,503 7,503 0 0 0 0 0
June 18,471 13,425 0 0 0 5,046 0
July 17,516 12,695 0 0 0 4,821 0
YTD Total 87,204 66,163 0 3,161 2,384 12,296 3,200

I must say, I’ve impressed myself. This ain’t bad for a writer with a day job.

It’s a comfort to know that I could convert some or all of those words spent on the blog into other writing projects, even while continuing in my day job. That could be two books a year, and that’s awesome.

Why don’t you do that now, you ask (and well you might). Right now, I’m happy to blog away for the benefit of my readers and writerly friends. Though a platform isn’t required for a publishing deal, it doesn’t hurt. Plus, sharing my struggles, progress, and process, curating and conference/convention reportage is gratifying to me. It seems that I’m sharing material that benefits my network.

It warms my wee heart when people like, comment, reblog, or otherwise share my posts.

The fact that I’m making progress also makes me happy. I don’t want to rush into querying or publication and regret it later.

I have to work the day job at least until Phil and I have our remaining debts paid off. There’s a lot of uncertainty in our lives right now (of which I’ll write tomorrow). Call me a chicken, but I can’t take the risk of quitting at the moment.

If I’m fortunate enough to get a deal of some description before we’re debtless, I’ll also have a choice. I could potentially devote all my time to writing, and produce three or four novels in a year. That could translate into a replacement income . . . eventually.

Due to the uncertainty in our lives and in the rapidly-shifting publishing industry at the moment, I’m not prepared to take that chance now, but I know I can do it if I have to.

I write because I enjoy it and I want to keep it that way.

What’s on for this month?

I’m going to continue to plug away at GatL and Figments, and that 10k story I mentioned, I’m going to submit it after revision. I don’t want to talk too much about it, because a story of this length is a huge risk. I’ve also submitted it to other anthologies and magazines in the past to a resounding “no.” Let’s see if I can’t do better this time.

This coming Friday, I’m off to When Words Collide in Calgary, and I’ll learn on Sunday morning whether my top ten story “On the Ferry” was considered a winner in the In Places Between contest. Though I’m really excited about the possibility, I’m just pleased as punch to be in the chapbook anthology.

So, of course, there will be more conference reportage coming your way 🙂

And that’s about it.

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting my CanWrite! Conference wrap and writing about the unsettled nature of things, not necessarily in that order.

Have a happy Civic Holiday long weekend, my Canadian friends 🙂

The Next Chapter