Tag Archives: genre

Important Resources For Researching Small Presses

I’m no authority on small publishers. Or big ones.

Oh, you aren’t either?

Awesome! Let’s learn together.

Let’s start from the beginning. What are the differences between big and small presses? What does it mean for you as a writer? You’ll have to do research on specific presses, but usually, a larger publisher will have a sizable staff with different departments that can see to the publication of your book from beginning to end, including marketing and advertising. Does this mean small presses don’t have these? Not necessarily. Many small presses have all of that as well, but some may not have as large of budgets to spend on marketing and advertising, for example. Some may not have the distribution that bigger publishers have. Each publisher is different, and you’ll need to research each you are interested in individually to see what they offer.

First, how can you determine if a publisher is a small or large press? An imprint? Check out this incredibly handy chart made just one year ago that shows the big publishers and their imprints: https://almossawi.com/big-five-publishers/.

Here’s an example of one section of the chart:

As you can see from just this branch, the chart is comprehensive, and is a good resource if you want to find an imprint of any of the top (and largest) publishers.

If you’ve established that the publisher you’re looking for isn’t an imprint, here’s a fantastic resource in Poets & Writers for almost every small press: https://www.pw.org/small_presses.

You’ll notice that each publisher has a brief description, their reading period dates, which genre(s) they publish, and any sub-genres. Most smaller publishers should be listed in this comprehensive database, and will include a link to their websites. Read every word of the publisher’s website. I mean it! Every. Single. Word. Take a day or seven to consider if the publisher would be a good fit for you and your work.

Compile a list of the small presses that you think would be the best fit.

Once you’ve considered a number of publishers, small and large and otherwise, what exactly should you be looking for? What questions should you be asking yourself, and what information should you be looking for?

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America website has an entire page dedicated to information about small presses, including warning signs one should know to look out for when considering a smaller press. While it’s a lot of information, it’s well worth the read and worth bookmarking for future reference: http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/small/. At the end of the article, SFWA lists a number of additional resources.

Which is the best publisher?

That, my friend, is up to your own evaluation of your writing, your career goals, and the publisher that can best help you achieve your goals. It’s all a matter of research and evaluation. Happy researching and evaluating!

 

Preparation to Write in a New Genre

You know when you’re knee deep in a project and then you get that shiny new idea? And you’re like, “But Brain, I don’t write Historical Fiction. You must have me confused with a better brain that likes to research things to death.” And yet, you love the idea so much, you decide, maybe one day, you’ll write that shiny idea into a book or short story, or *gulp* a series.

If that’s a thought you’ve had recently, then you and I are in the same boat, my friend. Grab and oar and let’s figure out what the heck we’re supposed to do now that we’re up Poop Creek with two paddles.

The best answer I’ve found in how to prepare to write in a new genre is extremely simple, and yet will take you a very long time.

Read.

Read read read read read.

Then read some more.

Read some articles. Then read some articles about those articles.

I can hear my inner critic already grumbling. “A little excessive, dear.” OR IS IT?

You’ll find a few different schools of thought on this. Some people try not to read so it doesn’t color how they write their book. Other people don’t think you can even start a book until you’ve read a library full. You and I, my friend, need to find a happy medium.

I decided I wanted to read more in the genre I would be attempting to write which happens to be Historical Fiction. I wanted to read classics in the genre, and also recently published books in the genre. I feel it’s important to read both because then I’d be able to establish a foundation in the genre with the classics, and then see what has been selling and successful in the genre currently.

Next, I took a few weeks to think about my story and what would be the best means to tell it. I decided a dual timeline would be best, but I had also had zero experience writing dual timelines.

Finally, I ordered all the books that appealed to me with those two intersecting points (dual timeline and historical fiction).

I’ve found that analyzing these books has been more difficult than I thought… because I’m loving them so much. I feel transported to another place and time, and fall in love with many of the characters. Which makes it a little difficult to dissect a piece of literature, you know?

In order to focus on the task at hand, I took note of the things I loved. For example:

  1. What do I love about the author’s style? Is the voice unique?
  2. If the book is in first person, what helped make the character so unique?
  3. What details about the setting made me feel like I was there?
  4. How does the author set up a scene to help me feel transported?
  5. How does the author go back and forth between the two (or multiple) timelines? Is it seamless? If so, then how? If it’s not seamless, what could’ve made it better for me?
  6. Do I see a pattern of how the authors move between timelines?
  7. What, if anything, did I not like about how the author approached writing the story? Why? How can I avoid doing the same?

I’m still reading a stack of books of dual timeline historical fiction. I’m still asking myself these questions. I’m a few months in, now, and I expect this will take a few more months to complete this stage of the research.

And then there’s the research for the time period in which my book takes place. But perhaps that’s another post down the line…

Have you written in a different genre than you’re used to? If so, what tricks did you learn that you’d like to share?

 

How to Start Your Story to Hook Your Readers

We all know that to hook readers a story’s beginning must have impact. But how do we do that? There are books on how to write a great first line, how to make those first scenes powerful, how to make the reader want to turn the page. Yet, despite all that information, sometimes it still doesn’t work. When writing the first draft, remember that your only task is to record the story in your head and not to give yourself writers block by trying to write or start it perfectly. Write it, then focus on specific elements. The starting point for your story may change, scenes either thrown out or rewritten. All that said, if you know where to start, you may have less work to do later.

Stories have patterns. These patterns are specific to genre. Every genre has conventions and consciously or subconsciously, readers expect them to be met. The first scenes signal genre and they tell the reader what kind of story to expect. Is it a romance? A thriller? A crime drama? Fantasy or science fiction? Or some combination? Even with a combination, genre expectations must be met in the story and more importantly, they must be signaled at the start. For example, in a science fiction crime drama, the crime genre has conventions which need to be met: a dead body, a sleuth (amateur or detective), a discovery of the body scene, an investigation with false clues, the sleuth confronting the murderer, and a resolution (justice, injustice or irony where the sleuth loses something in the process). Science fiction explores the consequences of scientific innovation in settings which can range from near future Earth, to outer space, other planets, all of which may have realistic or fantastic settings.

How does one do this? Here’s an excerpt from the opening of Robert J. Sawyer’s novel RED PLANET BLUES:
The door to my office slid open. “Hello,” I said, rising from my chair. “You must be my nine o’clock.” I said it as if I had a ten o’clock and an eleven o’clock, but I didn’t. The whole Martian economy was in a slump and even though I was the only private detective on Mars this was the first new case I’d had in weeks.
“Yes,” said a high feminine voice. “I’m Cassandra Wilkins.”
I let my eyes rove up and down her body. It was very good work; I wondered if she’d had quite so perfect a figure before transferring.

Immediately, we know we’re reading a detective story set in a science fiction world.

Opening scenes don’t always have to be about the plot itself. For example, thrillers establish the genre, characters and promises to the reader about the type of story it is by opening with action scenes unrelated to the core plot, but with action scenes showing the protagonist as a person of action and a hero of the situation. Think James Bond movies for this example. They start with action, not the quieter bits with him going to get his orders to save the world – those appear later. Thriller writers such as Clive Cussler, employ prologues filled with action adventure set in the past. Cussler’s prologues not only set the importance of the book’s quest for a relic or item, but the action sequences and the drama signal the type of story the reader can expect.

Writing to establish the genre helps avoid the dreaded ‘info dump’ wherein the world’s or protagonist’s backstory are explained to the reader. Readers don’t want a biography or a lesson in the geo-politico-socio-economic issues of the world. They don’t care about the why of the character or the world until they know what’s at stake for the protagonist. Only then does the why become part of the how will it be done? and what happens next?

It’s a strong confident opening readers want in which they trust that you will reveal information when it’s pertinent, that you as a writer trust them to help solve the puzzle you’ve created for your protagonist. The confident opening makes us ask questions – who is this person? What is he going to do? What happens next? Actions speak louder than words, so if the social cues say she’s a talented mage, for example, why is she shackled and drowning in a well? As long as every new scene raises questions they will remain engaged in the story.

But we’ve gone through so much work creating the world, in understanding our protagonist and antagonist. This information must be revealed! Yes, some of it must be revealed. When is the best time to do this? Only when the story can’t move forward without it otherwise, it’s an info dump. Until then, keep readers asking questions and avoid the info dump.

In the excerpt from RED PLANET BLUES, we are signaled that it’s a science fiction detective story. The words “the first new case I’d had in weeks” tell us that the protagonist has fallen on hard times, that he doesn’t have a dime in his pocket, and that he’s desperate for work. “Mars” and “quite so perfect a figure before transferring” tell us that it’s science fiction set in a future where mars is colonized and there are intriguing scientific advances. With no info dumping, Sawyer has given us the genre expectations, set the scene, created tension because he has us wondering what will happen next (Will the private detective get the job? But if he’s aching for cash, will he take the job even if it’s a dubious one?). We have other questions too: Why is the private detective on Mars? Who is the woman? What is a transfer? Why is the Mars economy in a slump?

Here’s where I think we get into trouble about where to start our story. Too often info dumps, whether it is about the character or the setting, are about the disorganizing event, the thing that sets the world into chaos and that happens before the story begins. For example, Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliette doesn’t start with whatever set off the feud between the families. The feud is a given and the story starts in the drama of the situation. Dystopian stories don’t start with how the world as we know it ended. They start with the established socio-politico norms. RED PLANET BLUES doesn’t start out by telling us about how and why people colonized Mars, or the disorganizing event that put the Mars economy into a slump, or why the protagonist is on Mars. Those reveals come much later when the information is needed to move the investigation and the story forward.

Besides utilizing genre expectations to hook your reader, there is one more thing to be aware of: the opening of a story is a set up for the inciting incident (the central conflict) and its complications – the situation your hero is going to try to get out of for the rest of the book.

Captivating stories have an inciting incident that sets the story in motion, something that signals the central conflict, the problem our protagonist must solve in order to go from chaos to order. Once the problem is established with the inciting incident, a complication arises which raises the stakes. These stories (as all do) start with chaos and work to establishing order from that chaos although that doesn’t mean that it’s always successful and if it is, that the ending is happy.

Understanding the conventions of the genre you’re writing in will help avoid the dreaded info dump and it has the added benefit of informing the timing of the inciting incident and the pacing of arising complications and information reveals. More importantly, it’ll help you hook readers so that they’ll keep turning the pages to experience the wonderful and wild world you’ve created!

 

Finding Strength in Weakness

A Guest Post by Darke Conteur

I love to write. I love putting words together to form beautiful scenes, or insightful articles on interesting topics. I’m enjoying myself right now as I write out this post, and it’s because of this love that I set certain goals for myself when I started writing full time.

Back then, I had just an inkling of what it was like to be a writer. Sure, I’d written a few stories, nothing published. I thought, if I’m going to do this, I might as well discover all that writing had to offer. That meant exploring as many aspects of writing as possible. Everyone writes novels, but how many write short stories as well? Or flash fiction? What about writing a script? These idea’s tantalized me with possibilities. Whether or not they would prove to be fruitful was anyone’s guess, but I didn’t want to limit myself for anything.

I explored the world of flash fiction and became a content editor for a small online eZine and I wrote, and had published, the only flash piece I ever wrote. I wrote novels, and was on the editorial board for my local newspaper, and yes, I even wrote a couple scripts.

My jaunt into the genres was just as rewarding. Paranormal and scifi short stories were accepted, and my only erotic short story published with the first place I submitted it too (and for money. Sex sells! ;D ). The goals I put before me were falling like flies, and there was only one more attempt I needed to cross off my list to round off my goals; write something in the every-popular category of Young Adult.

Alas, my luck ran out.

It was a time-travel scifi novella involving two teenage boys. The plot was good, but there was something inside me that didn’t spark with this story. I tried again, re-working it into something a little tighter, but again, it fell short of my expectation. Was it the genre? No, I’d written other scifi stories and they were published. Was the story too short? Again, no. I wrote a paranormal novella and that was fine. The only thing I could conclude was that it was the YA category. As I looked over my other stories, I noticed the characters were all adults. Even my WIPs had adult characters. Many of them over the age of thirty. Whatever connected me to my previous stories couldn’t connect me to this story because the characters were too young.

I failed. I couldn’t write Young Adult.

I considered this a disappointment, but it was also a revelation. It showed me that I have limitations. Limitations that allow me to focus on the projects I know I can write. Not every writer can write everything. We all have that one genre or format that we can’t or won’t write. I don’t see that as a failure, I see it as a strength. It means we understand our craft as it pertains to us. We understand our writing style, our voice. In the end, I realized setting up these goals showed me not only where I failed, but where I could create.

 


Darke Conteur is a writer at the mercy of her Muse. The author of stories in several genres, she prefers to create within the realms of the three ‘S’; Science Fiction, the Supernatural, and Steampunk. A gamer at heart, she also enjoys knitting, gardening, cooking and good music. When not busy writing, she attends to one husband, one wannabe rock star, two cats, and one ghost dog.

http://darkeconteur.weebly.com/contact.html