Monday, August 5, 2013

G is for Genre

Knowing the genre you're writing is important when you're crafting your novel. Genre is more than “a term for any category of literature or other forms of art or entertainment...” Genre is your novel's home.

Once you can accurately identify the genre you're writing in, all sorts of doorways and opportunities open up... and others close. A women's fiction novel, for instance, is not likely to include flesh-eating space aliens or a guild of ninjas. But a sci-fi novel would definitely have flesh-eating space aliens... and maybe even that ninja guild, too, if they are from the planet Zarkon on the edge of Galaxy 5. Giving yourself parameters to work within helps you better deduce which of the zillion options for your story are the most compatible and which are the most likely to make sense to your readers.

A lot of writers get cagey when asked to define the genre of their novel. It's like they don't want to commit... or they think that they can reach a wider audience if they use more than one genre in their query letter or manuscript description.

This is a big no-no, though. Agents and publishers will put aside a novel that claims to cater to more than one audience because it seems to signal a lack of vision. A targeted audience and a well-defined genre are a must for query letters. If your book is as amazing as you know it is, it will shine in chosen genre and then from there other types of readers will likely pick it up.

There are SOOOOooo many genres and sub-genres to choose from, too. There's no need to feel limited by having to choose one and run with it. So as you're writing, consider your characters, consider how and where your story fits in the marketplace (HINT: this is important for self-publishers as well).

So what genre are you writing in today?

Here are a few suggestions! Can you think of more? Action and Adventure, Chick Lit, Children’s, Contemporary, Crime, Erotica, Family Saga, Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Gay and Lesbian, General Fiction, Graphic Novels, Historical Fiction, Horror, Humour, Literary Fiction, Military and Espionage, Mystery, Picture Books, Religious and Inspirational, Romance, Science Fiction, Thrillers and Suspense, Western, Women’s Fiction, Young Adult.

Friday, August 2, 2013

F is for Feedback

Ok, so here's a step away from the elements of a novel. This one is more focused on the editorial process.


I'm talking about taking your precious work that you've been slaving over for months (years for some of us) and sharing it with people whose opinions you trust and who can give you honest, constructive criticism for how to improve upon the clarity, structure and style of your work.

I  know, it's a scary prospect. I have yet to show anyone more than the smallest taste of my own manuscript because I already know what the feedback will be.

Unfortunately, the main problem I see with manuscripts in the slush pile is lack of feedback. A manuscript that has been read and vetted by trusted critique partners and/or professionally edited has a lot better chance rising above the rest of the slush. A lot of authors would save themselves a giant helping of humble pie if they would only take the time to get feedback on their work and then put that feedback to work in a revision (or 10).

What's your process like? Do you have trusted critique partners that you go to?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

E is for Entry point

Entry point is where your story begins... When we crack the book open and read the first page, what is your character doing?

Do we begin at the beginning? “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole , filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort." In The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien begins by explaining Bilbo to the readers. It is our first encounter with a hobbit after all. Through the first chapter, as the action unfolds, Tolkien characterizes Bilbo so solidly that we end up with a vibrant picture and well-defined expectation of what Bilbo is like. And then he does something unexpected. The adventure is just about to begin... and what an adventure!

Are we in the middle of the action? “My husband’s mistress leveled the gun at me. Her perfect, blonde curls bounced as she took a firing stance in the doorway to the conference room. Our eyes met over the gun, and the alien clone holding me, hitched up my arm to use me as a shield. The clone adjusted the quiack knife against my neck to make sure I knew he meant it. My husband’s mistress, Trish, puffed her bangs out of the way and squeezed the trigger." This was the beginning of a novel written by my blogging friend, the amazing and talented Rena. I won't go into the reasons why she changed her entry point, but this, as one of her previous options, illustrates the idea of jumping RIGHT into the action. We learn a lot of details rather quickly about the characters and have immediate tension and excitement to draw us further into the story.

Does the narrative start in the past (to set the stage) and then jump to the present? The best example of this is still Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Chapter 1. Other examples frame this kind of entry point as a prologue. Example: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, “I remember being born. In fact I remember a time before that..." Depending on the amount of back story you need to set up your reader's understanding of the current action, this can be a good idea... or it can be a bad idea. If the information in a prologue needs so very much to be part of the story, you might want to consider ... making it part of the story!

Entry points can and do change over the course of drafting and revising. Sometimes skipping the set-up and heading straight for the action is the best thing you can do to jump-start a lagging narrative. Other times the set-up, artfully done, is required to help attach your reader to the main character. How does the current entry point of your WIP set the stage for your novel?