Write What You NaNo Party

| Monday, October 24, 2011
I don't have a scheduled entry for today (oooobviously), but I wanted to send you all over to a great blog party at TL Conway's blog centered around NaNoWriMo! If you're participating in NaNo next month, you should check it out. Lots of great entries and advice are scheduled!



Links you may have missed.

| Friday, October 21, 2011
Today's Tune: I Know

Happy Friday! Another week has come and gone. And stuff.

It's a little late and I'm a little burned out, so let's go with a few links, shall we?

In case you missed it:

You should definitely read the Vanity Fair article where Lauren Myracle discusses the National Book Award fiasco and is a total class act.

You should also check out The Rejectionist's YA Op-Ed Mad Lib, for your convenience when writing editorials about how awful/dark/tragic/trashy/etc. today's fiction for youth is and how teens should be in the Girl Scouts of America selling cookies or something. Because it's wholesome and not HORRIBLE AND DAMAGING. Snerk.

The release date for YA darling Tahereh Mafi's debut novel is drawing ever closer. All signs point to this one being a VERY BIG DEAL.

Lastly, check out AARdvark's thoughts on the Amazon vs. Big Publishing headbutting match. Really, New York Times??

Have an awesome weekend, dudes. And stay tuned for next week. I may or may not have an announcement to make. We shall see. DUN DUN DUNNNNNNN.

Critique Tip: Don't Rewrite

| Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Today's Tune: Say Hey (I Love You)

I know there's a third Campaigner Challenge going around, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to swing it this time. I'm suddenly very swamped with... things. Things I can't talk about yet because I am a horrible tease the consummate professional. BUT I WILL SOON. Soon. Soon.

So for now, let's talk about a critique tip. Not for receiving them, but for giving them.

*** Upfront disclaimer, just in case: this post is not directed at anyone who has ever critiqued my work! You are all fabulous and awesome and I love you.

/disclaimer

There are many very important things to remember when critiquing someone else's work. Be honest, but courteous. Don't slam them or snark them (although occasional smartass remarks are okay if you both have a sarcastic sense of humor and it's welcome. I DON'T KNOW ANYONE WHO CRITIQUES LIKE THAT, DO YOU. COUGH COUGH.). Be timely. Ask them ahead of time how thorough they want you to get and/or if they have specific questions they'd like you to keep in mind.

And then there's one thing to remember that's at the top of the list: always remember that you are not the author. You're helping the author find holes in their work to patch up. You're not telling them how you would write their story.

This can be a difficult thing for some critiquers to master. It's easy to forget that sometimes other authors make intentional voice and narrative choices that you might not make. When critiquing, sometimes we want to change the prose or plot elements around to match what we ourselves would do. And that doesn't work.

Always, always, always remember that the work you are critiquing is not your story. It's not written in your voice, and the author's choices are not your own. As best as you can, try to slip into the author's mindset and try to understand where they're coming from.

This is one of the many reasons why it's important to match up with critique partners who jive well with what you happen to write. Sometimes you just aren't going to connect with someone's work. This is, after all, an incredibly subjective business. If you find that you aren't connecting and you're feeling the itch to change page after page to something YOU'D write, then you probably aren't the right partner for that author.

None of this is to say that you shouldn't point out when you feel confused or when something isn't working for you. That is what you're supposed to do. But keep your comments directed to the structure of the story, the pacing of the plot, dialogue that doesn't feel realistic, weak characterization, technical errors, etc. Things that are structurally keeping the story from being its best.

Do not try to change someone's style to match more closely to your own. And MOST OF ALL, please never, ever, EVER rewrite someone else's work. That's just rude.

To clarify, suggestions like this are cool: "This sentence reads awkwardly to me. You might try cutting some of the extra wordiness or reworking so the subject and verb agree better."

It's cool because you're critiquing the STRUCTURE of the sentence. You're not trying to rewrite it in your own voice.

Suggestions like this are where you start stepping on toes: "I'm not really feeling the line, 'She had drops of Jupiter in her hair.' It's too flowery and the metaphor seems weird. I'd say something like, 'The starlight shone on her hair and turned it silver' instead. It's more concrete."

Can you see how that example might not be very useful to the author? And, in fact, might upset them quite a bit?

Give your thoughts, but don't rewrite. It's okay to say a metaphor isn't working for you. It's okay to suggest changes you might like to see and let the author run with them. It's not okay to "show them a better way."

I hope that all makes sense. I'm a bit loopy for lack of solid sleep these last few nights. But anyway. What sort of critique tips do YOU have to share?

Increasing your blog's appeal

| Monday, October 17, 2011
Today's Tune: Troublemaker

For those who don't know, my "day job" is web content editing and internet marketing. I do a lot of work with social media, websites, and blogs. After doing so for the last few years, I've learned a lot about what draws users to blogs in particular.

It's difficult to gain and keep blog followers. It's much easier to attract followers for short media (Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook) because reading a short blurb is less of a commitment than an entire blog post. However, there are a number of ways to increase your blog's appeal and get people to come back for more.

First, the superficial fixes that make your blog look good and welcoming.

Make sure your blog is readable. Avoid busy backgrounds, text that is too bright or too light, text decorations, or funky fonts. They may seem quirky and fun, but they make your blog really difficult to read, and if people can't read, they won't bother following or coming back. Why would they?

Leave out all the extra bells and whistles. Appealing blogs have structure and look clean. Have you ever come across a blog that has 800 different widgets and awards and GIFs and doohickies in the sidebar? Don't do that. It's messy and distracts your readers from the important thing: your content. I know it's a lot of fun to post all the various cute blog awards you've won and widgets for all the groups you've joined over the years, but seriously, don't. It should be easy for visitors to find certain things in your sidebar, like your follow button, Twitter link, or contact info. Reserve the sidebar for the important stuff. If you absolutely must have those extras, put them beneath the important info.

Get rid of the automatic music player. We all love music. Believe me, I know. But not everyone likes YOUR music. There are few things more annoying than surfing to some blog on your lunch break at work and getting blasted with Ke$ha. Viewers will not approve. This is why I always post my "song of the day" as a link. If people would like to go listen, they can click and check it out. It's okay to have a music player on your blog if you really want it, but make sure you turn the auto-play off.

Simplify. Tying in to the "bells and whistles" point, it's best to keep your blog design simple and to the point. It should reflect your personality and your audience, but it should look clean and streamlined. Keep sidebar blurbs short. Make your links and contact information easy to find. Optimize images for the web so they don't take forever to load. Select an easy-to-read font in an easy-to-read color. Make sure things don't look too small or big or cramped or weird.

Now on to the other stuff.

Create consistent, interesting content. First, you need to find your niche. What is your blog about? Your writing journey? Book reviews? Advice? Humor? Make sure you know, and make sure your readers know. Readers come back when they have an idea of what they're going to get. Watch for which of your blog posts get the most hits and try to figure out why people are so interested in that topic.

Keep length consistent, as well. Most people don't want to read a giant wall of text. They want to spend a few minutes on your blog and then move on. Usually it's best to keep blog posts to 250-600 words. However, if you establish early and often that you tend to write a little longer, people will be aware of that. Just remain consistent.

Be sociable. I know I'm terrible at this when I get busy, but it's really important. Respond to people. Let them know you're listening and glad that they're reading. Visit their blogs when you can. Be a friend.

Keep a schedule. Whether that schedule is once a week, once a month, or every single day, make sure you keep up with it as best you can. People like knowing when to come back for more content. If you make them wait too long, they'll lost interest.

Share and link. If you have a blogger friend that you really like, link other people to their blog with a short explanation as to why you enjoy them. Ask people if they'd like to do guest spots. Link to articles, videos, and other content that you feel is relevant to your audience. Don't just talk about yourself all the time. Unless you are a super interesting person, it gets old pretty fast.

Have fun. It's really obvious when you come across a blogger who's blogging because they feel like they should, rather than actually enjoying it. If it's not fun for you, seriously, don't do it. There are better ways to spend your time. Blogging isn't for everyone, and that's okay.

City One by Alan Frackelton

| Friday, October 14, 2011
Today's Tune: White Knuckles

In the spirit of spreading the word about my fellow YA authors who are immensely talented by sadly underrated, I will direct you to the following short story by Alan Frackelton.

City One

Here's an excerpt:

“… But Cassie and Jo and Quiet One would not know until they woke the next morning that Thomas had dreamt of their darkness, even as they dreamt of his. Cassie crawling on hands and knees through smoke black as night blinding choking and everywhere seething heat and laughter, bones and screams; Jo sitting alone in a room filled with corpses, her beautiful dolls bleeding sawdust and stuffing from wounds too numerous to count, their fragile porcelain faces caved in or crushed by soldier’s boots; Quiet One floating in Light, surrounded by the music of Demons, trained by fists and leather and the glowing tips of cigars to never never never tell. Thomas saw it all, joined Cassie and Jo and Quiet One in the dark places where they only ever went in dreams.”

Seriously, I can't get over how much I loved this story. Also, you should check out Scape in general. They're looking to be a promising YA e-zine. The stories in the first issue are all impressive.

Enjoy the story and have an awesome Friday!

Flash Fiction Figment Feature

| Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Today's Tune: Under The Sea (cover)

That title's a new tongue twister in the making.

I got a very cool email from Figment Fiction over the weekend: my flash piece, Language Barriers, was selected to be a featured piece this week. Awesome! If you haven't read it, you should check it out. You should also join Figment because it's a super cool site.

Kim Culbertson, author of Instructions for a Broken Heart, had this to say about my story: "This has a fabulous first line and this writer really knows her genre. I laughed out loud when the main character tries to explain she's a 'virgin' and he takes her for a 'platonic' coffee. Wonderful, playful voice in this one."

Right on. It's always nice to hear that someone in the industry enjoyed your work :)

I'd also like to remind everyone that the Query Doctor is still open, so if you have a query you'd like to bring in for a check-up, please do! You should all have a look at Perna's rewrite of her query from last time.

I feel kind of cheesy every time I use the pseudo-medical jargon, but GUESS WHAT I DON'T CARE I AM A DORK DEAL WITH IT.

NANOWRIMO SEGUE

So, who's doing it this year? I think I'm going to give it another shot. I need to really buckle down on a new project to distract myself from the madness that is querying, and NaNoWriMo is definitely a fine distraction with the added bonus of whipping out a crappy fast draft. How about you?

In fact, how is your writing life going in general, writer pals? What news? Tell me I'M ALL EARS!



The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (book trailer)

| Monday, October 10, 2011
Today's Tune: A Man's Gotta Do

I have a kickass book trailer for you on this fine autumn morning. Enjoy.



Here's a direct link if the embed isn't working.

Have you come across an awesome book trailer lately? Share in comments!

Query Doctor: FIRE AND ICE by Perna

| Friday, October 7, 2011
It's Perna's turn under the knife of the Query Doctor today. Be sure to tell her thanks for subjecting her query to the Doc!

If you would like to submit your query to be Doctored, please see this post.

Here's the drill: first, I'll post the query in its original, unaltered form. Then I'll give my diagnosis. Then I'll do line-by-line comments. Then I'll open it up to the commenters!

***

Perna sent in a rewrite! This is version 2.0. To see the original query and commentary, scroll down.


Shelly’s biggest problem used to be fighting with her mom about her future, until she starts to spontaneously combust. Now all she wants is to be normal again (space) - no fire, no secrets, no fear.
 
Kale isn’t faring any better. He just found out he’s a member of the super hero club, AKA Circle of Elements, but there’s just one glitch (space) - his partner is MIA, and also happens to be the girl he ran into on the sidewalk, (Different punctuation here, like a semi-colon or dash. Might need to rework.) the girl he can’t get out of his head.
 
When Kale and Shelly finally join forces, it’s clear they make a kick-butt team, but this partnership can only take so much of the secrets and attraction growing between them. Kale is more than happy to get closer to Shelly, (I'd do two sentences here instead of a comma) if only she were up for the challenge. Fighting monsters out of this world (Don't know how I feel about this wording. "Otherworldly monsters," maybe?) is easier than confronting your own issues (comma goes here!) after all. Carrying a secret with the potential to destroy her new calling (can't really destroy her calling... destroy her position?) in the Circle, all Shelly seems to do is push Kale further away, testing his limits. One thing is clear, (colon instead of comma) either Shelly can finally start trusting Kale, or she can watch the Circle burn down in the flames caused by her ("she caused." I keep changing that bit because it's passive the way it's written, and you want it to be more active). Fire and Ice is a 118,000 word YA Urban Fantasy, with potential for a sequel. (This last bit is fine, but should be its own paragraph with your writing credits/background included. Don't forget to write the title in all caps!)

I like this query a bit better. It explains more of the plot so I don't feel quite so lost. You clarified the bits about the super hero and the Circle, which is excellent. You brought Kale more front and center, which made me feel like this is a shared story rather than all about Shelly. You kept your brevity and narrowed in on the central plot, although the bit about "Kale's partner" was still a little unclear to me. I gathered that you're talking about Shelly, but you don't come out and make that connection, so it's ambiguous. I'd solidify that thread a little more.

You did end up losing a little of your voice. I like that you kept the "no fire, no secrets, no lies" line. I think you can comb through this again and flavor up some of the blander elements with your voice. The info about the Circle and the monsters was intriguing, but a little by-the-book. Play with your wording a little. Have fun with it!

You're definitely moving in the right direction. Stick with it!
 
***


Someone should have dropped a grenade in Kale’s cereal bowl. He would have been less disrupted than finding out he’s a member of a magical society with superhuman powers. Being a superhero could be awesome, if Kale’s life wasn’t irrevocably tied to someone whose been missing for seventeen years.

Shelly’s biggest problem used to be fighting with the her mom about her future, that is until she starts to spontaneously combust. Now all she wants is to be normal again - no fire, no secrets, no fear.

When these two join forces, it’s not only clear they make a kick-butt team, but that the spark of attraction between them is growing stronger.

To top it all off, Shelly is receiving mysterious e-mails that threaten her life, and could destroy the new magical world she has entered. Even though Kale is there pulling her towards him, the shadows that shroud the Circle are only getting darker. And even though they can give Shelly the answers she wants, she’s not sure if it’s the worth the price.

One thing is clear, either Shelly can finally begin to trust in Kale, or she can watch the Circle burn down in the flames caused by her. Fire and Ice is a 118,000 YA urban fantasy romance, and the first book in a planned trilogy.

Author's Note: I know the word count is long, but I'm working on cutting it down some more. I'm hoping to get some feedback soon from someone taking a look at it right now, and I'm looking for more beta readers to help out.

***


Healthy Bits: You have some great flashes of voice in here. You should bring out some more of that! The writing is generally solid except for a few grammatical errors that I'll point out in line-by-line. There's an intriguing set-up and good framework. The brevity is there, and as we all know, brevity in a query is key.

Under the Weather: We're suffering from some Scatterbrain here. The query is tightly written, which is awesome, but you're trying to introduce too many things without getting a fix on the core plotline, antagonist, or stakes. That doesn't seem possible, does it? But you'd be surprised O_O

Who's the MC? I'll go into more detail below, but I'm not sure at this point whether Shelly is the protagonist or whether this is a dual-narrator story. Kale got kind of pushed into the background, which is fine if he's not a narrator, but isn't great if he is. The storyline itself threw me for a loop because I thought we were being set up for an undercover superhero story but then we ended up in another world. I got bogged down in the little details you threw in at the last minute, which I talk more about in line-by-line.

I didn't have a real sense of Shelly or Kale's ultimate goal, or who they were up against. Yes, there's the bit about the world burning, but I'm not sure why Shelly cares, if that makes sense. This is a new magical world, not hers. She just wants to be normal again. Why does it matter to her that this world might burn? Who is the antagonist? What do Shelly and Kale want? If you can suss out those elements, I think this query will feel more structured. Here's a good rule of thumb: if you don't have room to explain an element, don't include it. Make sure each element you include ties in to the last.

This is a great start! Keep building on it!

***

Line-By-Line Comments

Someone should have dropped a grenade in Kale’s cereal bowl. He would have been less disrupted than finding out he’s a member of a magical society with superhuman powers.

I'd rework these two sentences. I really like the image of the grenade in the cereal bowl -- it has personality! -- but these sentences don't quite read smoothly. You might even combine them into one tighter sentence, like, "A grenade dropped in his cereal bowl would have been less of a disruption for *age here* Kale than finding out he's secretly a superhero." Or something. You get the idea. Also, don't forget to include your character's age for YA. Most agents/editors want to know how old the protagonist is.

Being a superhero could be awesome, if Kale’s life wasn’t irrevocably tied to someone whose who's been missing for seventeen years.

You lost me a little here. Who's the person who has been missing? Why does being "irrevocably" tied to someone mean that being a superhero isn't awesome? I'm left scratching my head because I don't see how this connects to him finding out he has super powers. Also, watch out for your grammar. Whose indicates possession ("Whose coat is this?") and who's is a contraction (for "who is" or "who has").

Shelly’s biggest problem used to be fighting with the her mom about her future, that is until she starts to spontaneously combust. Now all she wants is to be normal again - no fire, no secrets, no fear.

Right off the bat, I'm getting the distinct impression that you have two narrators. If that's not the case, you should follow your protagonist only. If it IS the case, then I think you made this transition fairly well. A brief intro of Narrator 1, then a brief intro of Narrator 2. I like the little flash of voice here with the "no fire, no secrets, no fear" line.

When these two join forces, it’s not only clear they not only make a kick-butt team, but that the spark of attraction between them is growing stronger.

The "spark of attraction" line is cute, but a little cliche, especially for a character who's directly linked to fire. You could probably play with it to make it a little more original.

To top it all off, Shelly is receiving mysterious e-mails that threaten her life, and could destroy the new magical world she has entered.

I'm not feeling the "To top it all off" phrasing, because you haven't given us much to go with yet besides the onset of Kale/Shelly's powers and their growing attraction. That's not a long list of stakes. What follows that line are the increasing stakes. You lose me a little bit again with the magical world part. What magical world? Also, the E-MAILS aren't threatening Shelly's life. Whoever's WRITING them is.

Even though Kale is there pulling her towards him, the shadows that shroud the Circle are only getting darker. And even though they can give Shelly the answers she wants, she’s not sure if it’s the worth the price.

One thing is clear: either Shelly can finally begin to trust in Kale, or she can watch the Circle burn down in the flames she caused caused by her.


And here's where I get totally lost. First I wonder if Shelly's the true MC since this phrasing indicates the story's centered around her. If she is, this query needs to be focused completely on her. If she's not, Kale's stakes and goals also need to be worked in somewhere. Then you mention the Circle, and I go "huh?" I have no clue what that is. Is it the magical world? A group of people? If you introduce new elements, you must clarify. Remember, the person reading this has no clue about your story or the world you've built. Also, are Shelly and Kale from different worlds? I was under the impression that they were both from the same one.

Why doesn't she trust Kale? There was no indication before that she didn't, especially given the romantic hints. What answers is she seeking? There's a little too much going on. The focus needs to be narrowed down a little. But this is an intriguing set-up, nonetheless! If you can work on this to make it mysterious rather than confusing, you'll be on the right path.

Fire and Ice is a 118,000 word YA urban fantasy romance, and the first book in a planned trilogy.

Okay, you mentioned that you know the word count is long in your email, so I don't have to go into it :) Make sure the title of your novel is in all caps (FIRE AND ICE). "Urban fantasy romance" isn't a genre, so you need to pick either UF or paranormal romance. You could theoretically say "urban fantasy with romantic elements," but that can get wordy and awkward. I think you'd be just fine with UF, personally, as they typically include a romantic element anyway.

I'm wary about you saying this is a "planned trilogy." It implies that this one may not be a complete story on its own, which may raise some eyebrows. That doesn't mean you can't write a book with sequels in mind, just that you shouldn't expect it to get picked up as a trilogy up front. First: make absolutely sure your first book can stand on its own. Next: say that it has "sequel potential" rather than calling it a planned trilogy. If you get a call, THEN you can talk to a perspective agent about a trilogy.

***

Whew! Perna, thank you so much for letting your query go under the knife. Despite all my commentary, this is a very good starter query. With some work and polish, it'll be completely awesome. Good luck!

What say you, commenters?

Odds & Ends: Favorite Posts

| Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Today's Tune: Marry Me

To start us off: I'm sorry I haven't been around to many other blogs lately! I got swept up in doing a billion things this past week. I'll try to make it up to you guys this weekend.

Next: You should all go check out Book Riot! My dear friend Dr. B will be blogging about her thoughts on YA from time to time, and she's got some pretty great thoughts. Being a literature professor who teaches YA in her classes and all. There's also a lot of great non-YA commentary, as well.

Last: Everyone should go bid a fond farewell and say thank you to the fabulous Margo Lerwill, who is shuttering the doors of her wonderful blog for personal and professional reasons. She's leaving the blog accessible to all who might want to learn from it, and you should definitely swing by if you haven't. There are some great lessons to be had.

Margo also bestowed a very nice award upon me in her last entry, so I thought I'd end with that today. I don't usually post many awards on my blog because I REALLY HATE having to choose recipients, although I'm always very flattered to receive them. Still, I liked the style of this one. So here it is.

Now I'm supposed to link to seven posts from my blog for various categories, so... here we go.

Most Beautiful: Oof, this is a tough question. I guess I could read this two ways. The post where I felt something especially beautiful happened to me - winning the YA runner-up spot for the Katherine Paterson Prize - and the post that I feel is one of my strongest pieces of flash - Language Barriers.

Most Helpful: Um. I write a lot of posts in which I attempt to be helpful, heh. But I suppose based on pure popularity, my Common Cliches series has been helpful. Or at least entertaining. Also, my Query Doctor post! Hint hint send me your querieeeessss.

Most Popular: The post in which I did a character study of Doctor Who, by far. TONS of traffic to that entry. GOSH I WONDER WHY (*cough David Tennant cough*).

Most Controversial: I'm not excessively controversial, but I suppose my Rape is Not a Plot Point post sort of qualifies. Even though I'm not sure who would argue with me about it, but y'know. This is the internet. My On Rating Books post got slightly heated in comments, but that's about as much heated argument as my little blog's ever seen. THAT WAS NOT AN INVITATION FOR MORE. PLZ NO.

Most Successful: Not sure how to qualify this, but I'd probably have to say the Common Cliches series again, as well as my IT'S A TRAP! series.

Most Underrated: As far as an entry that I was especially pleased with but didn't seem to get a lot of attention, probably Becoming An Artist: Blundering vs. Style.

Most Prideworthy: Any of my flash fiction. I take pride in writing actual stories to (hopefully) entertain.

I know I'm supposed to pick recipients for this award, but... yeah, again with the hating to do that. So I'm going to cheat and say if you comment on this blog post, YOU ARE WORTHY OF THIS AWARD AND YOU SHOULD TAKE IT FOR BEING AWESOME :)

Oversaturation & Writing to Trends

| Monday, October 3, 2011
Today's Tune: Somebody To Love

If you've just recently gotten into the YA publishing sphere, you may be hearing a particular phrase quite a lot. That phrase is, "The market is oversaturated right now."

What, exactly, does that mean?

To understand this a little better, it's important to understand how (traditional) publishing works. Rule Numero Uno: it's slow. This is the commonly upheld truth of the industry. Finding an agent takes time, finding a publisher takes time, revisions take A LOT of time, approval for various steps takes time. Layout formatting, typesetting, developmental editing, copyediting, illustrating, cover art, printing, distributing... all these things take time. Therefore, the books you're seeing on shelves that just came out this week were, in actuality, originally purchased by the publisher anywhere from 1-4 years ago.

Which means if you're seeing a dozen new vampire novels or dystopians coming out, then there are already more in pre-publication and the interest in them is probably already waning.

This is what agents/editors mean when they tell you the market is oversaturated with a certain type/genre of book. It means they've already bought up bunches of it and have probably seen almost every virtual incarnation already, and that yours must be extremely original in some way if you want it to catch their eye.

Publishers are smart. When they see something becoming a breakout hit, they know there's a good chance that a high demand for more is on the horizon and they buy up similar titles. When Harry Potter took off, they looked for fantasy and magical schools. When Twilight started gaining traction, they looked for similar paranormal romance. When The Hunger Games garnered interest, they snatched up dystopias. They did it early and they did it often. Unfortunately for the general public, we probably didn't realize how popular something was until well after the initial buyouts happened.

After Twilight became the powerhouse it is today, aspiring authors jumped on it and started cranking out more and more paranormal romance. Probably because they'd read some and loved it, so they wanted to write it. Unfortunately, publishers were already well ahead of the game and getting pickier by the minute.


This is why you should never, ever, EVER specifically write to a trend. First, if you're writing something that you think will make you money instead of something you truly love, it will show in your writing. Second, once you hear about a popular genre, it's already too late. Your odds are already drastically lowered.

Here's what you SHOULD do: write the story that's in your heart. Don't worry about its genre. Write what you love. Figure out where it fits later.

Get a subscription to Publisher's Marketplace ($20 a month). Monitor the deals being made in your genre. This is how you can figure out what's being sold NOW, rather than what was sold three years ago. If you watch closely enough, you'll see a pattern in buying trends. Again, DO NOT WRITE TO TRENDS. However, this will help you see if the WIP you're currently working on has a place in the current market.

Focus on your craft. The best way to sell a book in any marketplace is to write a really, really good book. Here's the thing about all the big breakouts: they were original. They were something the market hadn't seen yet -- something the market didn't even know it wanted. Write the thing that people don't even know they want to read yet.

You can't scam this system. You can increase your odds in various ways, but there's no secret to becoming the next success story. It's one part talent, one part timing, one part hard work, one part luck, and a dozen parts of something else.

So, if the story in your heart happens to be a vampire romance or a tale about a boy wizard? That's okay. If it's what you honestly want to write, do it. At worst, it will be a learning experience. At best, someone will still buy it. I'm a firm believer that passion (along with hard work, talent, and a little luck) breeds success.

Basically, I'm telling you to work hard, write well, believe in your story, and forget everything you know about what's on the shelves of bookstores right now. At least until your first draft is done. THEN YOU SHOULD RESEARCH AND STUFF.

:)

 

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