Monday, July 25, 2011

Judging a Book by its Cover

I didn’t major in English in college. I majored in French. And no, it wasn’t four years of conjugating irregular verbs. After learning to speak the language, we read its literature and poetry.

While my English major friends were reading Dickens and Shakespeare, I read Hugo, Flaubert, Balzac, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Zola, Stendahl, etc…

When I wasn’t reading for class, I read literary fiction. None of that genre stuff for me.

Fast forward twenty years and I admit I love genres. Give me a romance, a paranormal, or a steampunk.

Call me shallow, but I don’t want to read about angst-ridden dysfunctional families. Sorry John Irving, John Updike and Jonathan Franzen, but I want something to actually happen that culminates in a happy ending.

What I don’t want is a witness. Call it pretentious. Call it foolish. Call it what you want. The thought of being seen with Angelina’s Savage Secret (two points if you can name the movie that engendered that title) fills me with shame.

My Nook has solved that problem. For all anyone knows, I’m reading Until I Find You (which I really liked), Rabbit is Rich or The Corrections.

And, I’m not the only one. Romance has seen a marked increase in sales since the advent of e-readers (different websites give different percentages – I like 27%). I bet the same it true of paranormals. And, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only adult reading YA on my Nook.

I read A LOT and I skipped whole genres for decades based on lurid covers.

The next the publishing industry decides to saddle a well-written novel with a half-dressed woman clasped to a glistening chest, they might think about me. ‘Cause if it’s too lurid, I don’t even want it on my Nook.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

MG v. YA

It has been suggested by some very smart people that my YA (young adult) novel should be rewritten for middle graders (MG). After the general sense of nausea and desire to burst into tears wore off, I had to agree they had a point.

So, I've been trolling the internet looking for the difference between MG and YA.

I stumbled across this incredibly helpful article.

Eric over at Pimp My Novel also has an interesting post. Including this sage advice:

MG protagonists are usually in the age range of 8 - 12. YA protagonists are usually 12 or older.
• The word count for MG is around 20,000 - 40,000, whereas it's 50,000 - 75,000 for YA (as
Jessica Faust notes here, these numbers are a little fuzzy, so take this with a grain of salt).
• MG plots tend to center on the protagonist's internal world, whereas YA plots are more complex and are more concerned with the protagonist's effect on his or her external world.
• MG is chiefly read by late elementary/middle school students; YA is chiefly read by high school students and up.

Basically, the MG/YA question boils down to Ramona Quimby vs. Bella Swan (shudder). Which is your protagonist?

My apologies to any Twilight fans out there - but really, he's right. I knew I was doing something right as a mother when my teenage daughter put down New Moon and told me she couldn't read a book where a girl gets that depressed over a boy (vampire). Booya!

I loved this post over at YA Highway for its valuable information and hint of snark.

And finally, this engaging post over at Upstart Crow Literary details a variety of differences...

  • Middle grade novels tend to be shorter. (Though not always—the huge and intimidating Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is middle grade, while Angela Johnson’s brief-as-a-vivid-dream The First Part Last is quite clearly teen.)
  • Middle grade novels tend to have main characters who are the age of—or slightly older than—the target reader. (Though this, too, isn’t hard and fast: The girls in The Witch Family are younger than the reader who can fully appreciate the story, and even characters such as Mr. Putter or Frog and Toad are for all intents middle-aged.)
  • Middle grade novels tend to be more outwardly focused: Their plot of events, of things happening to the character, is more important over the course of the book than what happens within the character. (Though that matters very much to the climax of the book, when the outward events trigger an inner change.)
  • Middle grade novels tend to have a simpler vocabulary and a simpler sentence structure.
  • Middle grade novels tend to have a single inciting element—the thing that sets the comfortable, given world a-kilter.
Right now, the difference between MG and YA is hours upon hours of revising. Wish me luck.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dead Until Dark

In my spare moments, I've been re-reading Charlaine Harris' southern vampire mysteries.

Please visit my review of the first novel at My Vamp Fiction.

Just by-the-by, writing a decent book review ain't easy. It is hard to describe a plot without spoilers. It's difficult to describe how a character develops without giving away the ending. Although, I assume the whole world is watching True Blood and knows what happens in the first novel. If you haven't tuned in, do.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Not My Nightmare

I know it's a cliche - the dream where the assignment or report is due and the dreamer hasn't started it. For the record, I've never had that dream. My nightmares tend towards black storm clouds and watching the twisting finger of a tornado descend from the sky. Somehow I'm always standing in the middle of a wheat field with no shelter in sight.

At any rate - back to the missing assignment.

I got an e-mail yesterday from a magazine editor asking if my article would be ready by Friday. What? What article? Not one I pitched, one they'd been kind enough to assign to me. Only problem - I never got the assignment.

So, the novel's word count will suffer for another few days while I pen an article. At least with the article, I'm getting paid to write.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Is it cheating?

I have a new idea perking. It keeps me awake at night.

And yet, I feel like I'm stepping out on my other projects. I know they won't actually be jealous. But still - I owe it to Tinsley to get her on the Aquitania on her way to Paris in the 20s. And then there's the YA book that needs to be rewritten as MG - Betsi needs an attitiude adjustment.

Tinsley, Betsi and Eden (the YA witch) looked over my shoulder today as I tried to outline a first few chapters of something new. "Who is this Estella character?" they asked. "She does what?" Betsi demanded.

"June is over," I assured them. "In July, I'll  find time for all of you."

"And Estella too?" They sure sounded jealous.

"Well... I'll make time for Estella's outline." After all, I am trying to plot not pants.

"I need a rewrite," says Eden.

"Me too," says Betsi.

"Ha!" Tinsley snorts. "At least she finished you, I've been at a party in Sands Point since May."

Tonight, I'll go to sleep thinking about Estella. Tomorrow, Betsi, Eden and Tinsley take over.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Plotter or Pantser?

I have read that there are two kinds of writers.

There are those who carefully plan their novels. They are plotters (not to be mistake with plodders). They outline plots, sub-plots, character development, arcs and exactly what will happen in each chapter.

Then, there are pantsers (think fly by the seat of your pants - which is pretty ironic - writers describing themselves with a cliche and all). Pantsers have a general idea where they want to go but they make up the details along the way.

Guess which one I am. Not just in my writing but in my life.

I have an idea for a novel. I think it's a pretty good idea. It's an idea that needs to sit on the back-burner for a few months while the word count for a Roaring Scandal grows and Prairie Gothic moves from YA to MG. While it simmers, I just might write an outline.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead

I'm from Kansas City. That means several things. It means I look to the west for weather. It means I've spent my life explaining that KANSAS City is actually in Missouri (apologies to my friends from KCK). And, it means The Wizard of Oz was required viewing (yes, I've read it too).

Today I feel a bit like the Munchkins. Ding Dong June is dead. That too long month is dead. Wake-up Sleepy Head. Rub your eyes, Get out of bed. NOT that I spent much time in bed. June was a marathon of kids activities, volunteer commitments, driving here, there and everywhere and the paying job.

July slows down. July takes its time.

July will add to the word count.

July is a gift - a breather - before I need to get kids ready to go back to school.

July is hot. I hate hot. I don't care. I love July.

Look for the word count to rise!

And maybe, somewhere over the rainbow, the book will be finished. After all, that's where dreams come true.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Life. Liberty. Happiness.

Life - seems pretty self-evident. We get due process; no one can haul us off to the gallows or guilliotine because we disagree with their politics.

Liberty - Free speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion - your basic bill of rights.

And finally, the pursuit of Happiness. That pursuit is one of the things that makes our country unique. Unlike Hobbes, we don't buy into the idea that life is, "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." Instead, we believe happiness is possible and, what's more, we have an unalienable right to catch it.

This weekend, I send my thanks to the men of vision who founded our country and to the men and women who fight to keep it strong.