Thursday, December 30, 2010
Keep Calm and (awkward pause)...okay, just Keep Calm.
You can DO it! I have complete and utter confidence in you. And we here at the Archives are right alongside you. Let's cheer everyone on and kick the crap out of this year!!
But first things first. CONTEST results!
Thank you all for entering...it means so much that you people are stopping by! I wish I had a million books to give away but alas, I'm still waiting for my own bajillion dollar book deal. so! Without further ado, congratulations to:
4. Susan Kaye Quinn
Hooray! Please email me your top three choices of prizes (kmcriddle (at) gmail (dot) com) and I will try to accommodate in the order the RNG picked you! You can review the list and post here: http://alliteratiarchives.blogspot.com/2010/12/week-of-awesome-continuesgiveaway.html. Yay books and whatnot!
Happy New Year to all! What are your writing goals for this year? I hope to get some good feedback from some houses about my manuscript out on submission and, inshallah, get some REALLY good news from one of them. If not, I've got sequels to draft, drafts to revise and shiny new ideas to indulge. What about you?
Good luck, keep calm and here's to another fabulous 365 days of this roller coaster we endearingly call life...
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Deciding What and When to Research
How though do you decide what you need to research? And when do you take care of this?
The second question is actually the easiest one to answer. When you research depends on the type of novelist you are: a panster or a plotter. Many plotters I know do all their research before they write a single word. Harry Harrison, author of Tunnel Through the Deeps, once said he spent 5 years doing part-time research before he wrote a single word of that story. Now, that might seem extreme to you but Harrison crafted a vibrant alternate universe extrapolating out all sorts of different aspects of the world of his story. By contrast, many pantsers will either make something up to fill the void until they research it, or type notes to themselves in the text that amount to ((Research 17th C. women's clothing)) or something similar.
What you research is a bit more detailed of an answer. Only a bit more though, because I can similarly sum up my point in one sentence -- research only those items necessary to your story. If your tale is set in France during the 1600s, then you might need to research the clothing, the language, and some of the society (in among a bunch of other things as well). This is also assuming you're not a PhD who's spent 20 years teaching the history of 17th Century France. If you do happen to be a PhD who's spent 20 years studying the topic that will make up the lion's share of background research on your novel, then congratulations! I can't help you.
If, however, you're like me and don't have a degree in Mechanical Engineering when you're writing a character who happens to have detailed knowledge of steam engines and the inner workings of mechanical apparatuses, well then you've put yourself in a bit of a pickle. But only a little bit, because I can almost guarantee your reader isn't going to want a detailed treatise on the inner workings of every mechanical marvel that exists in your novel. So while your character might know a 3/4-inch pickney flange from a 35mm socket head screwdriver, you don't need to write that little piece of information into your story unless it's integral to the plot.
That little emphasized phrase right there is what's important. If the piece of information is integral to the plot, then research the heck out of it. If, however, is a detail that you can cut and no one notices? Well then don't bother. Assume your story is set in the American Southwest during the latter decades of the 1800s. Now, you've gone into detail about setting, clothing, style of weapon being worn, etc ... all details that you need.
However, you happen to neglect mentioning any of the music that the people of your fictional world played in taverns, at parties, and so on -- and the reason you neglect this is because it's not germane to your story. This means that there's no reason for you to research an entire aspect of society in the American Southwest because it's not something you're going to need to know for your story.
That's my main point with your decision about what to research. If you knowing it gives your story a deeper subtext, or it's integral to the motion of your plot, or including the detail deepens some aspect of your story then by all means research to your heart's content. If, however, it's something that doesn't really do anything for your story then feel free to ignore it.
That's just my opinion though. What do you think?
NOTE: My Ten-Word Novel Contest ends tonight at midnight U.S. Eastern Time. Get those entries in, folks!
Monday, December 27, 2010
Hope you are all well, and a light post today since I know a lot of you are still gone
Happy-middle-of-the-Holidays, everyone! One down, one to go. I hope you are all well and safe and warm and cozy.
I've discovered that I seem to have an opposite problem from most writers. I hear a lot-- A LOT-- of writers lament about writing first drafts that are too long, and having to cut scenes and chapters that they love in order to squeeze into word count guidelines for their genre. Whereas I, alas, I, can't ever seem to write enough. My first drafts are short, yo. I usually allow for adding 10-20K in re-writes/ editing, but most of my drafts fall way under fiction guidelines at about 60K when I'm done.
Except for the last manuscript I completed, which clocked in at a resounding 43K, which was so depressing I decided instead of editing it and adding 30K words, I would just write a whole other book instead.
That MS is looking up, and appears to be right on track for around 70K to finish the first draft, plus another 10 or so with edits, so maybe I'm making up for the 43K one?
This has been puzzling me for a while. I feel like I'm a relatively thorough writer, but I just don't need that much space to tell my stories, I guess? Or maybe there are just avenues of the story I haven't explored? I'm not sure what the cause is, but I will say that while most of you are struggling to cut things, I'm often struggling to add them. I envy the writer that can draft their genre's average the first time and neither need to add nor cut several thousand words in edits.
Which "problem" do you have? Or are you that perfect word count achiever? Don't be afraid to speak up if you are, I will only envy you. :)
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Ow, my aching, plot-twisting back!
Sigh. Happy freegin' holidays. Ah well.
Nevertheless, spending the day flat in bed is somewhat of a vacation, too! While Grandma and Grandpa chased my kid around, I got to catch up on a bit of reading (finally some LEVIATHAN and BLUE BOY; both amazing so far!) and beat the stars out of a few Angry Birds, too. If not sledding, then perhaps this is the next best thing. Suck it, unexpected twist!!
Speaking of twists (I OWN YOU, SEGUE), in a read-through of one of my recent manuscripts, a sharp eyed crit partner noted that while the story moved along, it was slightly...well...BASIC. Storyline A wrapped up exactly where Storyline B began. Things were written well, but nothing really twisted. The plot was cause and effected to an almost frustrating degree, said he.
So revisions were made in earnest to "layer" the plot. And how does one go about doing that, besides writing the existing plot on ten thousand sticky notes and pasting them around the room a la crazy person? Darcy Pattison has an AMAZING eight part series on plotting, all found HERE. Part five specifically talks about sub-plots and plot layers with transition tips. Click it! Read it! Do it! I can't take your hand and drag you over there myself. Did I not mention my back??
In truth, the revision process on this layering is still going strong, so I don't have much to report on the success of my labors...yet. But rest assured, this back won't heal itself until something else is adequately twisted. Let's hope it's my plot. Not my ankles.
Merry impending Christmas, blessed Yule, Happy Holidays, Peace and Love and Cheer to all!
Side note: Were Calvin real, I have no doubt he'd grow up to be some sort of writer. I think this is just the type of crazy that hangs around in all of our heads.
P.S. Don't forget! There's still a few days left to enter both Matt Delman's awesome contest HERE or my grand book giveaway HERE! Doooo it. You know you want to.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
On Platform and Why It's Important
Anyway, that wondrous thing known as platform is the real topic of this here set of ramblings. Platform, as defined in this case is not the flat area you stand on while waiting for a train, but rather the position from which you market yourself. Ah yes, our old friend marketing -- now I know I've written about that before. And I also know that authors, almost as a rule, tend to dislike marketing. (Well, at least people who write novels do. Nonfiction writers tend to take marketing as a matter of course.)
However! A good platform can be an integral part of any writer's success story, even for those writing fiction. I can hear the question now -- "But I write novels, how does a marketing platform help me if I'm creating a made-up world? Shouldn't the book be able to sell itself?"
Au contraire, mes auteurs. A book cannot sell itself, no matter how brilliant it is, if no one knows that it exists. To drive the point home a little bit stronger, conventional wisdom states that very few people are willing to purchase a book by an author they don't know. Looking back, I think that saying "very few" is probably an overstatement -- try instead that it's much harder to convince a stranger to purchase your book than it is to convince someone who knows you to do so.
That comes back to a combination of things really: word of mouth and platform. We're talking about platform today though, so that's where I'm going with this.
Now, a common misconception is that your "platform" is that you're a writer. WRONG! Your platform is that you're a writer of mysteries, of Steampunk, of historical romances set in the Elizabethan Age, etc. Extrapolate this out and you realize that the topic you're knowledgeable about is not really writing. This is mostly becauss every writer writes about writing (sort of like how most filmmakers will inevitably make a film about making a film).
Am I saying you shouldn't write about your struggles with your latest chapter? Or about plotting and characterization and the like? No, of course not. Everyone has their own style and everyone has something to offer to everyone else. But what I am saying is that the real thing you have to offer is your skill in the research you've done to write your book.
Take Gary Corby for an example (I know I use him a lot for my examples, but there's a reason for that). His platform is that he's a writer of mysteries set in Classical Athens. Well wouldn't you know it, but Gary build his blog "A dead man fell from the sky ..." around that very topic area -- Classical Greece. So we then say that Gary's platform is that knowledge of Classical Greece, and Athens in particular. One would find his material online, realize they like his voice, and say "Oh look his debut novel came out. I like Gary's style, so I'll go purchase The Pericles Commission."
Granted, this is a much truncated example, but you get my point. If Gary hadn't built his platform at his blog, he still might have gotten represented by Janet Reid and then sold his novel to Minotaur, but a lot fewer people would've known about it. And there are a few people (myself included) who might not have bought Gary's book if they didn't know him prior to it being released. Full disclosure: I'm not that big a fan of mysteries, but since I know Gary I know I want to buy his book.
Dear lord that was a rambling bit of randomness, wasn't it? Anyway, final point: Building a platform can establish you as a writer that someone wants to read. Since I started Free the Princess back in July 2009, I've built my platform to the point where I have a network of contacts that spans 4 continents. I might not be able to count on every one of those contacts as a sale for if and when I have a novel coming out, but my chances are significantly increased because of that platform. This also means that there's a network of hundreds of people who know my name and know my work, and may even pass that word along.
Now do you see the benefit of building a platform?
Monday, December 20, 2010
Happy Monday everyone! Oh, and, some contest results or something?
So it's Monday, which means I'm usually supposed to write something here at the Archives. Except I can't remember what I was supposed to write today. There was something important, something that a lot of people were waiting for...
*Goes and checks last week's post*
Oh, right, the contest! I bet you all want to know who won, don't you? I know I would, had I been able to enter. Which would have been cheating, you know, it's not fair for the person running the contest to enter, and I wouldn't have wanted to anyway, seeing how I already own copies of all of the awesome books I'm giving--
Get on with it!
Okay, okay. Well, without further ado, I present to you, the winner of my Week of Awesomeness Awesome Giveaway prize pack:
That's right, lucky number 16!!
Oh, wait, you guys probably need a name. Well, after adding in all the extra blogs/ tweets, that's--
Congratulations Autum! E-mail me your address to wickedmoon921 at gmail and I will get your prizes mailed (although probably not until after Christmas as I rather like not losing my temper in post office lines).
Thanks to everyone else who entered, and don't forget to click on the bar up top to see the other two contests still going on here at the Archives!
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Week of Awesome Continues...Giveaway Extravaganza!
Happy Holidays, all! The giveaway continues here at the archives with your host...er...me! In a few weeks, I've got a great interview and giveaway lined up with the amazing Pam Bachorz (CANDOR, DROUGHT) but in the meeeeeeeantime...
2010 was a GREAT year for books! I've got a total of EIGHT ARCs of books that came out this year, some that you may have heard of, some that may be new and wonderful to you. I'm giving away TWO sets of four ARCs each:
THE DEAD TOSSED WAVES by Carrie Ryan
TIPS ON HAVING A GAY EX-BOYFRIEND by Carrie Jones
THE LAST SUMMER OF THE DEATH WARRIORS by Fransisco X. Stork
TO COME AND GO LIKE MAGIC by Katie Pickard Fawcett
THE SPACE BETWEEN TREES by Katie Williams
HOLD ME CLOSER, NECROMANCER by Lish McBride
RUSH by Jonathan Friesen
THE GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO GETTING KIDNAPPED by Yxta Maya Murray
In addition, I'm throwing in one of favorite books this year (even though it didn't come out this year...although I've read some John Green before, I'm late to the Nerdfighter's party. DFTBA, guys!): PAPER TOWNS by John Green!
And if that's not enough, I'm offering up a personalized drawing, subject of your choice! Could be someone from your manuscript or someone else's. Examples of my work are here: kristimariecriddle.blogspot.com...to give you an idea of what might possibly suit your fancy.
SO! Four prizes! The first winner I pick gets first choice, second second and so on as you might imagine things like this would go.
How to win? Easy Peasy Mac & Cheesey.
1. Leave a comment on this here post! That's it!
2. If you'd like to tweet or blog about the contest, send me a link (or post in the comments) and I'll add you in the pool again.
3. Do my Christmas shopping for me. It's easy, really.
You have until WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 29th to get your name in! The prizes won't come in time for Christmas, but who doesn't love to start the New Year off with some free books?
Good luck! We always appreciate you coming over to the Archives, we really do. Happy holidays!
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
The Ten-Word Novel Contest
So here's the contest description once again:
Many years ago, Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write a novel in six words. The famous line? "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."
Since six words seems kind of short to me, I figured I'd add a few on gratis. The challenge to you then, dear readers, is to compose a novel that consists of ten words. It can be quirky, dramatic, funny, introspective, or any other adjective that I can't think of right now.
And the rules:
- Multiple entries are allowed.
- All entries must be received by midnight U.S. Eastern Time on Wednesday, December 29, 2010.
- It must be ten words or less.
- Put your entry in the comments section of this post.
Option #1: A review of the effectiveness of your Internet and Social Media presence by yours truly. I run a whole mess of websites, and am very good at building a recognizable brand. I'll leverage those skills for the winner who chooses this prize pack.
Option #2: Rewriting a short story of yours to include Steampunk elements; sort of an alternate history of your fiction.
Option #3: A detailed developmental edit of the first 100 pages of your manuscript. Among my various jobs is a freelance editing business, where I charge $0.02 a word for developmental edits (line-by-line grammar, characterization, plot comments, setting comments, etc included). This third option is that entire package (which can easily be nearly $1,000 for a full-on developmental edit) for absolutely zero cost.
So them's your prize options. I know option 3 sounds a bit like a sales letter, but there really wasn't any other way I could phrase it. The winner of the contest will get their pick from the three options.
Monday, December 13, 2010
WOO HOO! The Week of Awesomeness is here!
This week is the Week of Awesomeness here at the Archives, and I'm kicking it off today with a giveaway.
Here's the deal:
Today, Wednesday, and Thursday, each of us here at the Archives are taking turns hosting a contest. Each contest may be different and have different prizes-- so check back for each day's specifics!
For my giveaway today, I have some of my favorite reads of 2010:
Well, okay, so some of them didn't come out in 2010. But I read them this year, so that's what counts!
Just in case you can't see the picture clearly enough, they include:
-SOULLESS by Gail Carriger
-HUSH, HUSH by Becca Fitzpatrick
-THE PERICLES COMMISSION by Gary Corby
-THE DUFF by Kody Keplinger
-SILVER PHOENIX by Cindy Pon
I am also giving away a PERICLES COMMISSION bookmark and this adorable set of magnetic kitten book page clips:
So here's how this works: to enter to win the prize pack, please leave a comment here on this post. It's that simple!
However, since this is a contest to celebrate getting 100 followers and we are currently at 99, you can also earn extra points by doing the following:
-Tweet the contest on Twitter and include me (@LTHost).
-Blog about the contest and leave a link in your comment.
Each of these things will earn you another entry when I use a random number generator to pick the winner!
So how long do you have to do this? That's a great question, thank you for asking it as you read along!
Contest will close on Sunday, December 19, 2010, at midnight Pacific Time (3 A.M. Eastern).
And next Monday, I'll have an interview with Gary Corby, the author of the Pericles Commission, along with the results of the contest!
Note: While it breaks my heart because I know we have some very good friends overseas, due to the shipping weight of this prize pack and my current state of unemployment, I cannot accept international entries on this one. Sorry guys!
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Finding Your (Time Traveling Hot Angelic) Peeps
Stopping by a tiny used bookstore the other day, I wandered into the romance section, wherein this handy-dandy key was posted:
Personally, I hadn't read enough romance to know that there was a demand for romance that featured time travel, much less Time Travel with Angels (gold circle with a STAR!)...moreover, a demand large enough to warrant its own place on a homemade Dewey Decimal system! So awesome.
So naturally, this made me start thinking about my own writing: sure, I can maybe say a certain manuscript is YA fantasy, but it has some steampunk elements to it (cogs, cogs, cogs!) as well as a bit of historical romanticalness (it is steamy, just not THAT type of steamy). What do I get with that? A blue dot with a green square with a star? A brass colored lipstick imprint on the spine?
How important is it to find your particular "sticker-on-the-spine" niche when writing? Do you read extensively in the genre you write? It's important to know what's been done before, but do you ever fear getting too inundated with the tropes and subconsciously copying entire books? Urp. Maybe that's just me.
NEXT UP: Once your book is on the correct genre's shelf...is it hurting other people's feelings?
Play nice with the other books, No Country For Old Men.
(Remember to stay tuned next week for the WEEK OF AWESOME GIVEAWAYS! Your mind will asplode.)
Special Contest Stuff
With that out of the way, I have a bit of a conundrum on my hands. I know the contest I'm going to run -- the Ten Word Novel Contest that I did last year -- but I wonder what I should offer as a prize. You'll recall that this is exactly the same dilemma I had the last time I ran this contest. This appears to be something of a theme with this particular contest.
Anywho, what do you want as a prize for this shindig? Anything fancy?
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
ANNOUNCING: The Week of Awesomeness!
I know, right??!?! We're so excited we can hardly contain ourselves!
Okay, okay. You are probably wondering why 95 is so exciting. The answer is that, well, we love each and every one of you, and we couldn't help but notice that 95 is awful close to 100. So, we're doing what any self-respecting, slightly-round-numbers-obsessed bloggers would do and having a contest to push this blog over 100 followers. Firmly.
So here's the deal:
Next week, that is, the week starting December 13th, 2010, has been declared THE WEEK OF AWESOMENESS. Each Alliteratus (Myself, Matt, and Marie), will give away an awesome! amazing! a-surprising! prize pack on our respective posting days (Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday).
Each contest will have different rules and different prizes, and you can enter one or two or all three or none, though we sincerely hope you WILL enter, because we really, really want people to give free stuff to. Really, really, really. Really, really. Really.
So stay tuned for Monday morning when I kick this thing off with a shebang and prepare for THE AWESOMEST WEEK EVER.
Well, okay, the AWESOMEST WEEK EVER round these parts, at least.
Monday, December 6, 2010
I don't know what I don't know
By rules, I mean: proofread before you put your work out. Don't put material online that you eventually hope to publish through a traditional house. Punctuation makes a story easier to read. Things like that.
I think the internet has turned out a generation of very well-prepared authors who have all done their research and know how to put a sentence together, along with the ins and outs of querying agents, etc., but this particular run-in got me thinking about when I was new and fresh to writing. Sort of.
In December of 2008, I was lamenting to my now-husband (then-boyfriend) about a book that I'd started writing about six years prior on my waaaaaay old dinosaur of a computer. The thing had Windows 98 and I lacked the experience to get it running and get the files off the computer, but I really, really wanted that information. It had been a long time since I'd written anything, but I tried to write my first novel when I was nine. I'd been reading since I can remember. Writing was in my blood.
Anyway, he kindly and patiently took my old hard drive out and extracted the files and there it was-- the first fifty pages of WIND FURY, the first novel I would complete. When I re-read those pages for the first time in six years, I got really excited. This isn't bad, I told myself. In fact I think it's pretty good. (Of course I did).
Then I was trying to pick a class to take for the spring semester at my college and discovered that Novel Writing was a course they offered. Hey, why not take that so I would have motivation to keep going?
So I did. Most of the class was share-and-critique, and the first few people to read their work were the people who had been taking the class for a while already, some of them for years. And I cringed. They critiqued a guy a couple weeks before it was my turn, and I saw a lot of the things they nailed him for in my own work.
I went home and re-wrote the first fifty pages and had them in to the teacher to distribute before my class-wide critique.
Embarrassing? Sure. A little. Important? Absolutely. This was probably the biggest learning curve for me in writing, though I would say my level of learning has stayed roughly the same since then. I did my research, and I started following agents online, and eventually I arrived where I am today: still learning, still finding things to teach myself.
My little run-in with the "new" writer this weekend got me thinking, though, about all the things I used to not know about writing. All the things I still don't know, which scare me more, because as the title says, I don't know what I don't know. But I look at those early mistakes with fondness, and resolve to keep moving forward as a writer. Keep working on what I don't know and learning wherever I can.
Do you have any stories to share about things you used to not know?
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Loss, Rejection and Keeping your Head Up, Dangit.
JUST KIDDING I WON'T I HAVE THE PATIENCE OF A FLEA.
As writers, we wait. We wait for inspiration to strike us right, we wait for the baby to go down so we can write, we wait for feedback from friends and crit partners, we wait for agents to give us the Roman emporic thumbs up or thumbs down, we wait on submission with baited breath, we wait, we wait, we wait.
If we don't have the patience to do so, we will learn it quickly or we will perish.
When I first called my mom to tell her the news that an amazing agent had called me just to TALK about my work (two and a half years ago), the message got tangled up by my scatterbrained intercepting aunt. When Mom called back to congratulate me, she said, "Jean tells me that your book got published! Is it at Target yet?"
We wait patiently for the market to turn in our direction, to nod to our clever/romantic/boy-friendly/girl-friendly/action-packed/fairy-tale-retelling/steam-cyber-gas-wood-native-faery-punked manuscript. We wait patiently. We sob quietly into our pillows and not so quietly into our blogs; but it doesn't erase the fact that we still must wait.
In the meantime, we continue to write and hone our craft, read those who do it so much better and those who are still learning like us. What else? What else to do to prepare us for the windfall and blessed call that must come/will come/has surely got to come soon?
No really, I'm asking you. The waiting is getting to me. Like I said, patience of a flea and all that.
What do you do to calm the wandering brain and brave the pain of patience? Read, write, garden, punch things, patch things? As a new/seasoned/repped/published/dabbling/obsessive author, how do you keep going in the downtimes?
Me? I like to use up all the ////s in my post so there aren't any left over for the rest of the blogs that day. Other than that, I'm totally open to suggestions.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
What Kind of Fiction Do You Like?
Moorcock wrote an essay in the Steampunk-focused issue of Locus Magazine where he said the following (quoted text via AncestralStars.com):
I said recently, in a review, that steampunk seemed so full of lords and ladies these days that it ought fairly to be called Steam Opera. To be honest I found most of the sub-genre boring almost as soon as it began to appear, just as I find most non-confrontational fiction boring.That Moorcock dislikes fiction intended to entertain without having a deep underlying message doesn't really surprise me all that much. His Bastable stories have a pretty darn clear message underneath them -- paternalism is a bad thing to have in the world, and those stories are how he shows the horrors that can result from it. His personal dislike of "escapist" fiction doesn't really bother me; after all, the man's entitled to his opinion. What more concerns me is that he says there's no worth in stories whose only goal is to be entertaining for the 10 or so hours we spend with them.
I hadn’t anticipated that so many readers would become enthusiasts for the romantic imagery of giant airships and so on and rather miss the point of the story which was, I hope, using science fiction to do what it does best and help us examine ourselves and our world in fresh ways. To see this method becoming again no more than another exercise in nostalgic escapism (my criticism of so much SF of the 1940s on) is a bit depressing and might help explain why I’m always trying to come up with new methods—with forms which will carry my ideas without the burden of nostalgia or escapism, allowing instrospection without being mere dreaming of some lost ‘golden age.’
I've seen this same criticism come up a lot though, from all corners of the literary sphere. When Lord of the Rings was voted one of the most influential stories of the 20th Century, I recall reading that literary critics the world over actually cringed in pain. According to many people in the literary world, literature that doesn't have a big old message isn't worthwhile.
Well guess what? I don't always want to have a message in the novels I read. Escapism has its value, particularly when you've had a horrid day and just want to ignore the world for a few hours. At that point, I don't want to read a novel that fictionalizes the struggle against communist apartheid in third world Eastern Europe; I just want one where the good guy beats the bad guy and gets the girl at the end.
That's my view at least, and of course you're all entitled to your own. Which of course leads me to wonder: Which fiction do read more of? Escapism or Message?