Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Raising the Stakes

I think TWFT blogged about this, and a fellow follower, Elizabeth Prats, blogged about this, but I think it's my turn to blog about this because I didn't raise the stakes as much as I thought I had in Witch Tourniquet. But it's not a big deal for me because there are no major re-writes involved. I just have to drop a hint here and there, or just tweak some things or two.

Here was my dilemma: you guys have been reading teasers in Witch Tourniquet, and you may have read a teaser which mentioned a cross. If you have read this teaser, then you'll know it supposedly sent her demonic visions. But that's all my beta readers know. I reveal too late why exactly the cross is a danger, so I have to reveal it much earlier, which, again, isn't a big deal because I know of a perfect place to drop the info.

I have other stakes to raise as well, but those are no big deal either because I planned on re-writing two chapters of a certain character's POV where the stakes are going to have to be raised.

As a writer, it's hard to know where and when to raise the stakes in your novel, especially in YA where the pace is naturally faster. All I can say is that if your gut is telling you that there is too much information being revealed or too much information being revealed too late, sit down and think of all the major spoilers in your novel. Muse when you reveal them and in what abundance you reveal them. You don't want to reveal them too early, but you don't want to reveal them too late. I reveal the cross's true evils in chapter nine, which is about a hundred pages into the novel. Frankly, I was worried I revealed it too early. I was also worried I revealed later information too early, but after conversing with my beta reader, I realized that I think I revealed the information at just the perfect time.

It's complicated to know when you should raise the stakes (well, mostly for me because I've been stuck with Witch Tourniquet for years and this is the first time ever that it's actually getting some serious revisions). But I suppose if you stay away from your novel a bit and come back to it with fresh eyes, it will be easier to know to where to drop your 'raising the stakes' card.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Teaser Teusday Six

It's gone. So sad. So sad.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Two blogs two days in a row. I normally don't do this, but it's been rampant in the publishing world lately about Harlequin opening up a self-publishing sect in their company. Dismaying...

Rachelle Gardener sums it best:

And I agree with her 100%. People go around everyday claiming to be published when in fact they are self-publishing. The Augusta Chronicle, a major newspaper in my area, published a story about a girl who self-published, and it grated my nerves, because they kept lauding her as a teenage author when she in fact was not an author at all. Anyone can self-publish. Anyone can write a crappy book and go to lulu or some other vanity press and get published in no time. It doesn't take work, talent, or skill.

Calling oneself an author is a high title, in my opinion. Every published book right now had to go through a rigorous process to get on the shelves of your bookstores. Even if you think they're pure garbage, they had to go through the same exact process. Being an author will no longer be sacred if self-publishing takes over actual publishing.

I take pride in the fact that I worked hard to become a good writer. I take pride in that short story I published because it took me years to be able to write like that--plus, I never thought I'd be able to write literary fiction because of how complicated literature can be. Now some Joe Schmo who self-published a novel is going to overshadow me simply because he "published a novel."

I remembered when my professor first told the class I had a short story accepted at an e-zine. It was met with applause, and then my friend next to me told me some girl at her old high school published two novels already. I looked this girl up, and lo and behold she was not present on any internet database. Plus, if some teenager in Augusta had actually published, The Augusta Chronicle would have been all over it, or some teen member of the Xtreme (there were Xtreme paper writers at the school in which said published girl resided) would have wanted to interview this girl. Therefore, I concluded she was self-published, and the fact that she was receiving more praise rubbed by nerves raw.

Is publishing no longer sacred as it once was? What are your thoughts, bloggers?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Commercial Fiction Versus Literary Fiction

Let me first start by saying this isn't really an explanation on what commercial fiction is or what literary fiction is or which is better. In my Senior AP Lit class, we had to carry a thick book around for several weeks with different works of short stories and poems, and an explanation on what short stories and poems were. Because I am a writer, a reader, and a lover of words, I read the beginning of the book because it did provide some insights into how to write a good short story (and it worked, because if it didn't, I probably wouldn't have had a short story published). But I came across something that was pure literary snobbery, just made me angry.

This book stated that commercial fiction is often composed of flat or cliched characters, and that there isn't much depth in commercial fiction.

This is flat wrong. This may apply to some commercial books, but I've read a lot of commercial books with as much depth as a so-called literary novel.

The best way I can describe commercial fiction is that it's genre fiction, bestsellers, as it were, or books that appeal to the masses. Literary fiction is the stuff you're forced to read in school, the stuff hardly anyone reads outside of school because no one has time to sit down and tear it apart to figure out just what the fuck it's saying (I love some literary novels, of course, don't get me wrong. I've actually read a few literary novels outside of class, but it's usually literature with clear plots, like Of Mice and Men.

We definitely should not snub literary books. They have a place in the market too, and they have people who want to buy them. But literary snobs drive me nuts. There are bad books in commercial fiction as there are bad books in literary fiction.

But to say that commercial fiction is filled with flat or cliche characters--to generalize--is pure snobbery. Most people prefer characters over plot (especially readers of young adult novels). If the characters are cliche or flat, they aren't going to care about the plot, or the book in general. People want to relate to the characters, because if we can relate, the journey, or the plot, or whatever is happening to the character is a lot more insightful than if we couldn't relate. Most commercial fiction I have read contains amazing characters.

One series I love to cite constantly is The Gemma Doyle trilogy. They are the most amazing books I have ever read (along with Carrie Ryan), and though they are commercial fiction, if you actually think about the books, you realize the plot is more than just Gemma and these problems with the realms. You realize the main plot is the struggle between men and women in general. My AP Lit textbook proposed that no such depth can be found in commercial fiction. Well, if this is true, then how come I found plenty of depth in The Gemma Doyle trilogy? Did I make it up? No. In an interview Libba Bray did in A Great and Terrible Beauty, she provides answers to questions that suggest there is a lot more depth. So commercial fiction can have just as much depth as a literary novel. It's just called commercial because it appeals to the masses and not just a small sect of people. I mean, really, do you want to sell to the masses, or to a small lot of people who aren't going to do much for your career?

As an author, this is how I work: my short stories are literary fiction because short stories aren't as marketable as novels, and I like to write around the concept of themes and pure analysis when writing short stories. I love writing literary with short stories because they are short and won't take as long to analyze as it would take a person to analyze a literary novel. With my novels, they are commercial, because they are genre stories, stories that I don't think I could ever put into short stories, and I want to take the masses on a journey, not just a few people. True, The Oddville Press is literary and it's first issue apparently got 2,000 downloads (if I read the statistics correctly), so that is a lot of people for a first issue, but it's an exception. Plus, it's easy to figure out the plots with the type of fiction they produce--and they are short stories and don't take as long to analyze as a novel would.

Commercial fiction does not mean bad fiction. This is a misconception. It is possible to write a well-written book that appeals to the masses.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Alice in Wonderland: Tim Burton Style

This is really just a rant for a blog post I read by someone who attempted to beta read Witch Tourniquet but found him/herself too busy with college.

This person ranted about how Tim Burton's destroying what Alice in Wonderland is supposed to be about. He claims it's really a depressing story because of the monotonous routine of The Mad Hatter, the fact that Alice sees herself as the only sane one, and that madness may not really be madness, or that we are really all are mad in our own way.

What this person failed to realize is that Alice in Wonderland is targeted at children, not young adults or adults, though we all really enjoyed it. A child would not be able to dissect those messages from the novel let alone understand what the messages are talking about. What did this person think Disney's cartoon version was? Disney's cartoon version created Alice in Wonderland in the way a child would see it, something colorful, innocent, and fun. This is exactly what Tim Burton is doing. Since Disney is also representing this new Alice in Wonderland, Tim Burton put himself in the viewpoint of the child and is creating it the way a child would see it. A child would not see all the underlying messages, themes, symbolisms, ect... So, if he claims Tim Burton is a hack director because of this, he needs to think again.

This isn't to say that Lewis Carroll did not create Alice in Wonderland with the intentions of conveying something bigger. This is what is so great about literature: we are allowed to see it in more than one way. But a child would not be able to see it at the depth this person proposes.

Also, knowing Tim Burton's dark sense of humor, I have a feeling the movie will try and correspond with the madness present in the book.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Some Thoughts on Cover Letters

I in no way am claiming to be a professional, as I am just a slush pile reader, but I just noticed that I really don't read cover letters that much. The Oddville Press appreciates those who send cover letters (and I send them with my short story submissions as well), but I was just curious whether or not they get read. I only read the cover letter of the writer if I liked the short story and would like for it to be included in the e-zine. Sometimes I do read cover letters before reading the story, but most of the time, I do not.

I know some magazines want cover letters to pitch the story in one sentence, as a faux query letter I suppose. And I know they're necessary for agents who have requested partials or fulls. But, to me, they don't seem that relevant to magazines. The cover letter really just pitches the author's bio, and frankly, I'm only interested in an author's bio if I like the story. The credentials of the author don't matter to me either, especially if the story isn't up to par with the credentials they tout.

I'm not saying they're a waste, especially since a lot of magazines take on-line submissions now and you don't have to worry about wasting that one extra piece of paper, but I was jut curious over their relevancy. I know I don't read them that much. I have no clue about the rest of the staff though.

Thoughts anyone?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Better Decision

For the past couple of days I've been musing over whether or not to re-write the prequel to Witch Tourniquet. I had written a rough draft of it back in my junior year of high school (I didn't finish it, but I almost was done with it), and I think that in terms of marketing it would be better to go along with re-writing the prequel now instead of re-writing Kairos Angel.

Actually, I will hesitantly call it a prequel, as it really depends on what gets accepted by an agent first. For the prequel, you do not have to read Witch Tourniquet to read it, and you do not have to read it to read Witch Tourniquet. The prequel, which I will call Croix Infernal for now, just really establishes exactly how everything happened in Witch Tourniquet. It establishes the origins of the cross, Purgatory's origins, and pretty much every Shadowman's origins. It also helps establish Dervla's origins and just exactly how she got mixed up in Purgatory's mess.

In my opinion, it's still compelling just like Witch Tourniquet, but it'll be less confusing to write for me and hopefully if there are confusions, they will be easier to straighten out. Right now, I know Witch Tourniquet is going to confuse some readers (and those confusions will be fixed), and I want to see what gets done first. With Witch Tourniquet, I have three beta readers, and with Croix Infernal, I'm going to give the entire thing to one beta reader, as it will be less confusing to re-write.

I really want to establish the Witch Tourniquet trilogy in the publishing world before I establish anything else (I'll re-write Kairos Angel after I'm done with Croix Infernal, I promise).

It shouldn't take me too long to re-write Croix Infernal because the rough draft is a lot better than the rough draft of Kairos Angel. I just have to research nunneries now, because in Croix Infernal, I just made them up.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Is Success an Indicator of Skill?

I don't go on Gaia's Writing Forums much anymore because it's filled with arrogant, cynical elitists who bash Stephenie Meyer (I'm not fond of her either, but their bashing is pure snobbery, as they believe it's fact that Stephenie Meyer is pure trash)and who do everything they can to argue their points, to put the opinions of others down, and to add brutal snark in response to what someone says. Occasionally I go on here just to see if there is a topic worth commenting on, and I stumbled upon this one: refer to title.

Rather than telling my answer, I'm going to show it. Marketing plays a part in the success of books, but from what I recall, I never saw Harry Potter marketed anywhere. I simply heard it by word of mouth, which I suppose is in itself a form of marketing. However, there must be some reason that it's getting spread through word of mouth. Some person out there must have loved the story so much to recommend it. And so it spreads from there. Same with Twilight. I only knew about the book because one of my friends was reading it--that, and its catchy cover, but people really only recommend a book if they like it. I never saw Twilight marketed anywhere. Never saw huge banners advertising its next book or any book commercials or anything. After seeing it in the hands of my friend, I began to see questions about Twilight popping up on YahooAnswers. I began to see more topics about it and more recommendations. It eventually gained that commercial success to where I did see banners, and posters, and other means of advertising. But commercial success is a different kind of success. Twilight was still a success before it was mass marketed simply because Meyer was able to have just one person fall in love with the book enough to recommend it to a friend who then recommend it to another, and then a web of recommendations expanded. She did something right. What she did was craft a story that most consumers loves. Now, I'm going to admit I feel that Twilight's lacking in its story and writing, but I can argue that all I want. It doesn't change the fact that most consumers of this novel love her storytelling. Even if they're conscious of her flawed writing, they forgive it because they can't help but to enjoy her story.

But of course, the snobs of the Gaia community believed it was marketing that indicated Meyer's success. Marketing helps, but if I see a poster advertising a flashy book, buy that book, and throw it in the trash because it was so bad, I'm not going to open my mouth to gush about it to a friend. In fact, I might sell it to a used bookstore instead of throwing it away. I do want my money back for a book that wastes my time. I do not believe sales indicate success on the author's part either. I believe that the positive emotions Meyer's series has elicited is an indication of how successful she is.

So, yes, success is an indicator of skill.

So, bloggers, what do you think?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Teaser Teusday Five


Wednesday, November 4, 2009