Archive for January, 2011|Monthly archive page
I’ve been locked in my fortress of edit-tude, trying to finish before my trip this week, so I’m kind of saving all my brilliance for that. Heh.
But, in between scenes, I’ve been catching up on blogs from the week, and I ran across the below video blog from one of my absolute faves, made of awesome young adult author John Green.
In it, he discusses the evolution of his Printz-Award-winning debut novel, Looking for Alaska—and how many of the best-loved parts of the book came out in revisions. *After* being accepted by an editor. So interesting!! He also talks about all the ways a ton of people helped give him ideas for the book. Even the title (which is something I’ve been struggling with)!
Makes me feel like I’m on the right track with my own writing—and a little less intimidated as I finish my pre-query revisions.
Maybe I’ve got a Printz-winner on my hands after all!
Last night, the Write-Brained Network hosted its first live chat since moving back to Ning.
The topic was broad—query and agent-related support—but we kept a good convo going.
The gist . . .
One of the reasons we chose this particular topic for the chat was because of a question a Write-Brainiac had: How do you know know when to heed an agent’s advice in terms of making changes to your manuscript? This particular writer was talking about when one gets a personalized rejection—not when one gets an editorial letter or something, etc.
Some of the suggestions from the group:
- Always. An agent knows what sells and what will make your book more salable. That is why you are querying an agent in the first place.
- When the feedback resonates with you.
As we talked, I extended this idea of resonating to not just agent feedback, but for all feedback you receive—be it from betas, crit partners, your writing group, your mom, agents, or editors.
As I have been preparing to query myself (and, therefore, getting lots of feedback on my manuscript from multiple sources), I have thought much on this subject.
It seems like, at least for me, whenever I write something, I have certain insecurities with it—things that tug at my guts a little, and I’ll think, “If this scoots past X, Y, and Z betas, then it must be okay.” Many times, those are the things X, Y, and Z betas mention as items to change, cut, condense, or expand. So, when I get their feedback, it resonates—and I know it’s not just my writerly insecurities being all OCD. (Sometimes that is the case, however!)
On the topic of resonating . . .
Sometimes you’ll get feedback that you never would have considered or recognized yourself. (This is why you need to get feedback, people!) It’s a subjective business, and sometimes someone will come up with a killer idea or ask a question that spawns a twist you hadn’t anticipated—but that is a good problem to have. If it resonates, if you can see how incorporating the suggestion would make the book better, then, I say, do it!
More from the chat . . .
Another Write-Brainiac asked about nonfiction books and whether or not the writer should secure the rights to photographs prior to querying agents, or if that is the agent’s job.
This was a bit of a stumper. We discussed it as best we could—I gave some suggestions based on what I know of related situations, but none of us pretended to be experts in this area. If you *are*, please leave advice in the comments!
My immediate response to this was that, the closer a writer comes to having everything in place before he queries, the more professional and “together” the writer will appear to the agent. Less work for the agent = happier agent, etc.
However, I can also see where this might not be the case.
Related(ish) examples . . .
Children’s author Gail Langer Karwoski spoke at the Southeastern Writers Association conference last summer about something similar, regarding the writer/author relationship:
- Most picture books begin with the story, unless you have a legal relationship with the illustrator (it’s you, your relative, your spouse).
- If there’s no legal relationship and you’re trying to suggest an illustrator in your proposal, it’s like a siren screaming “AMATEUR” (=rejection).
- Many times, pub houses will pair a newer author with a more established illustrator to increase the book’s chances of selling.
- If you can do both (you don’t just “doodle”), you should; just make sure your proposal is professional.
- Many agents want author/illustrators (because it’s less people to pay and more of a cut of the money for them).
Also, I know that, when my Writer’s Digest Books editor, Chuck Sambuchino, wrote his Gnomes book—which is a nonfiction, humor book—he wasn’t expected to have the photos with it. The publisher, Ten Speed Press, chose photographers to take pictures, and Chuck and his agent were able to pick their favorite from there. (I also understand that the author having a say in that kind of thing isn’t common.)
Along the lines of securing rights, if there are specific photos you want and *you* are taking them (and there’s a reason you are the only one who can take said photos), I believe you technically already own the rights to them, as soon as the picture is snapped. Same thing with writing. Yes, you can register something with the U.S. Copyright office, but you actually “own” something as soon as you write it.
However, the WBer with the question was actually asking about photos of a structure that no longer exists—so it’s not as though new photos can be taken of it. From what I know and what I’ve read*, my instincts lead me back to my initial answer—that the writer should have the rights secured before querying the agent.
Anything to add?
*Helpful copyright articles from the Guide to Literary Agents blog:
**Not a Write-Brainiac yet? Click here to get started.
No blogosphere post last week—my apologies.
I’ve got an article due yesterday, been working on my query, been reworking the beginning of my manuscript, I finished migrating the Write-Brained Network over to its spot on Ning, and I’ve been making plans for the WB workshop. I’m also preparing for a trip to Atlanta next week, so I’m trying to tie up a lot of loose ends with all the aforementioned before I go.
Don’t forget about the 100 Stories for Queensland anthology. If any of you are able to contribute a short piece to aid our friends in Australia, please do. The deadline is Jan. 28. Click here for more details.
Also, the Write-Brained Network is having a live chat tomorrow—Tuesday, Jan. 18 from 9-10 p.m. EST. Our topic is: Query & Agent-Related Support.
You must be a member of the WB in order to participate, but it’s easy to join. It would be great to see you!
Brisbane in Queensland, Australia, is not only one of the places in Australia that has been declared a disaster area due to the massive floods sweeping the country at the moment; it’s also home to a member of my online writers’ group, Write-Brainiac Marice Kraal.
I was stunned to learn, when going through my Google Reader today, that Brisbane is also home to two contributors to Write Anything, a blog I regularly link to in my “In the Blogosphere” round-up posts.
They are trying to get the word out about disaster relief, and the ladies of Write Anything are doing so via anthology.
Click here for more details on how to submit work to the anthology they will be selling to raise money to help the disaster effort.
Also, please keep Marice and her family, as well as all those dealing with the floods, in your thoughts and prayers.
So . . . I’m not great with titles. Not for fiction. I don’t know why.
I’m coming to the end of my editing spree of the WIP (at least I hope!), and I feel like I need a new title. I’ve got one now (no, it’s not Sheena Easton—that was just its nickname!), and it’s a really good one—but I don’t think it necessarily fits my MS.
I went through this same thing with my first MS, and I drove myself nuts, trying to decide on a query-worthy title. In the end, I came up with a decent one, but it still lacked the *perfect* factor.
Why is this so hard?? Oh, because it’s only my dream that I gave pretty much everything up for. No pressure or anything.
I know one-word titles are “hot” right now, but I don’t think that’s going to work for this MS. The title I have now gives off an edgier vibe than does my book. I don’t necessarily think that’s a *huge* problem—whatever gets the book read, and it’s not *just* about the title—and titles change—but I’d still like to get it as close to perfect as possible.
Anyone out there have any tips for me? How do you come up with your titles?
I’m all ears!
Last night at my writers’ group, one of our members (Andrew Franke) led a discussion on worldbuilding. He said your “world” is like the “canvas” on which the artist paints.
The gist of his talk was that:
1) worldbuilding is important
2) for all writers—of any genre
3) and that the author needs to understand his/her world fully, but the reader doesn’t necessarily need all the nitty-gritty spelled out on the page.
It occurred to me, a great example of this would be J.R.R. Tolkien. As a linguist, one of the first things he did when creating Middle-earth was write an entire language for it. He created timelines, family trees, the calendar, the alphabet, other languages used in their world, and one can find it all in the over 200 pages following The Return of the King, along with an overall index. Impressive! No wonder he’s so popular.
However, even though Tolkien shares all this information by way of appendices, none of it is essential for the reader to know in order to understand or enjoy his series.
Since worldbuilding is most commonly talked about in the science fiction/fantasy realm, Andrew pointed to SFF authors Orson Scott Card, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Kate Elliott as examples of excellent worldbuilders. He also mentioned Tom Clancy for a non-SFF author as well Neil Gaiman who writes, well, everything.
ASKED AND ANSWERED
Q: How much does the reader need to know?
A: This depends on your genre and the story itself. And, unfortunately, the author is usually the worst judge of this. That’s where beta readers and critique partners come in!
Q: How much must I know?
Q: Can I start writing before knowing these things?
A: Sure. Everyone’s process is different. Some like to build everything before writing Word One; others craft their worlds as they go along. The key is to make sure everything about your plot is believable within the world you’ve created.
So, what is this “everything” you need to know?
Andrew drew questions every writer needs to ask himself when creating a world (from author Holly Lisle’s “How Much of My World Do I Build”):
- In what way does my universe differ from the mundane norm? (e.g., use of magic, presence of fantastic creatures, imagined institutions, historical people or races, etc.)
- What is the nature of the difference? How exactly will these special features manifest?
- What are the rules by which my world operates? (e.g., special physics, natural laws, social laws, etc.)
- What effects will these rules have on the culture and the story?
- What are the laws of my special physics?
- What is the nature of the people who will use these laws? How do they differ from regular people?
Having attended one of Orson Scott Card’s writing workshops, Andrew also told us about OSC’s “1000 Ideas in 20 Minutes” worldbuilding exercise wherein he has his classes answer:
- Why did this change happen, and what brought it about?
- Who enjoys/benefits from/favors this change?
- Who dislikes/suffers from/disapproves of this change?
- What are at least three ways the average person’s daily life is different?
- What are at least three ways that “official” public life is different?
- What are at least three ways that people’s behavior has changed as a result?
He recommends OSC’s How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy to writers of any genre, saying that although there are chapters which deal specifically with SFF writing, the crux of the book is about how to write good fiction.
HELPFUL WORLDBUILDING LINKS
Here, you can find a ton fantasy worldbuilding resources.
This gives you a very thorough worldbuilding worksheet. It has a section on magic, but the contemporary writer can easily omit those sections and successfully set their realistic stage.
Here, you’ll find Stephanie Cottrell Bryant‘s “30 Days of Worldbuilding,” which is a tutorial of 15-minute exercises to help you create your world. It’s called the “Magical Worldbuilder,” but it’s easily adaptable to writers of all genres.
The end of 2011 marked a busy time for me and the WB. We’d been having issues with our network host this fall, so we decided to move off Grou.ps and back onto Ning—where we started, I know! But this time, it’s for keeps. (I hope!)
Several Write-Brainiac “elves” assisted me in the moving process during the month of December (thanks, guys–you’re the best!), and I unveiled the new network Jan. 1. Here it is, if you’d like to check us out (and I hope you will!): http://writebrainednetwork.ning.com/
For all current WB members, please make your way over to the new community and start using it exclusively. I will allow a few weeks of transition time, in case you want to move any of your discussions, photos, blog posts from the Grou.ps site to Ning, but I will be deleting the Grou.ps WB site come Jan. 16. So be sure to pack your bags and get over to the new WB asap!
Also beginning this month, the WB has a brand new Web site and logo—I couldn’t be more excited!
The Web site will serve as a landing place for anyone trying to find out info about us and will be updated with all our latest news. Here is that URL: http://writebrainednetwork.com.
Please update your Favorites and Bookmarks accordingly.
In terms of our new logo, see above. Inky Fresh Press’s Bridgid Gallagher made my decision very difficult by creating so many awesome logo choices!
We’ve got a lot in store for the WB in 2011, and I’d love to have you be a part of it!