Youngblood Blog

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Genre-Bender or just Plain Naïve?

INSECURE WRITERS CORNER

NaNo keeps one at it, leaving little room for impromptu extras

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you
~ Ray Bradbury

It’s no surprise to anyone reading this blog — and coincidentally involved with Alex J Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers’ Group — that November is a heads-down month for writers, authors, part-time-bloggers and scribes of every description. This covers those aspiring authors who blog in the bath, motived teenagers desperate to show they can break away from their school curriculum, to seasoned veterans like the icon quoted above (which, after February’s launch of his second book, CassaFire, will include our host, Alex). Hope he doesn’t mind being called a veteran, but I’m sure he won’t mind being thrown in with Ray Bradbury, 90!

This means that I, newbie NaNo-er only three years in, will make this particular blog shorter than my usual efforts — more inkeeping with my prolific (and self-disciplined) blogging buddies who seem capable of blogging day and night seven days a week for 365 days at a stretch. My headscarf is doffed to them, but I am the first to admit I usually only write when the Muse directs and, under normal circumstances — unless I’m NaNo-ing — I tend to wait for her signal.

This is probably naïve of me. But I admit to being naïve. There’s no point in pretending — particularly when it comes to writing and allowing the word to flow through the mind, down the arms, via hands and fingertips on to the blank page.

I am first to admit I still find the process miraculous. Almost like subconsciously intending to bathe, and five minutes later finding oneself soaking deep in the luxurious warm waters, without any recollection of having undressed, lit candles, found towel, shampoo and soap and turned on the taps to fill the bath. But I digress.

The same goes for knowing how to describe what I write. Naïve. On Twitter — which, as you know, requires a brief description in fewer than 140 characters to describe oneself and one’s tweets — I say I write New Age fiction. But, as far as I know, that isn’t a genuine genre. This was brought succinctly home to me when preparing my new profile and studying the genres suggested in this year’s NaNo — which, as you probably know, has put together a whole new user-friendly novel-conducive webpage, just to get us all fired up to CREATE for the next 30 days.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the genres in question — which have to be mentioned in query letters, and are important concerns to agents and publishers, the serious dramatis personae of the Publishing Industry — are not exactly well-defined. You are supposed to know. And sometimes trial and error is not an option open to you. If you have been writing query letters for the last six years and you’ve been describing your work as Sci-Fi and somebody *in the know* says they like your ‘Fantasy’ work, you swallow hard and start all over — with the knowledge that you’ve probably wasted a lot of time that could have been salvaged if you’d done your homework. Problem is, however much homework you do, it is still difficult to know the difference between ‘magical realism’ and ‘paranormal romance’. Well, maybe some of you experienced authors do know the difference. But, as I said at the beginning, I’m naïve. And it takes time — and loads of errors — to get it right.

So what do you think?

The genres which NaNo lists as ‘standard’ in this year’s contest are:

Adventure, Chicklit, Erotic Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Horror & Supernatural, Literary Fiction, Mainstream Fiction, Mystery Thriller & Suspense, Religious Spiritual & New Age, Romance, Satire Humor & Parody, Sci-Fi, Young Adult & Youth, and Other.

No Magical Realism, you’ll note.

When I first started out submitting queries, I was paralyzed by my inability to decide which genre my MS fit into. Being a Brit, it was, for me, even more daunting to read young American beginner writers (on Facebook and elsewhere) bandying about their knowledge of genres with fluent ease — as if I ought to KNOW. It has taken me a decade or two to calm down and use a couple of standards when querying.

Mt.Shasta's presence is awesome, even from a distance of 80miles, photo ©2008MCYoungblood

This quandary is purely self-inflicted, because I wrote historical non-fiction for years, before finding my voice in novels. Since the switch I have written not only historical romance, (Phantom’s Child, pictured below right) but also am blessed that my supernatural novella, Cockatrice is to be published early in 2012 by NetBound Publishing; and my New Age tome, SHASTA: Critical Mass, (sidebar-2, right, and pictured above) has been picked up by AllThingsthatMatterPress, also for publication in 2012. Two of my recent NaNo novels in the Green Turtle Cay series fall under the banner of fantasy, although they are borderline Sci-Fi.

So, you can see my dilemma. It might seem I have not yet honed myself — as any sensible person might — to fit one genre. It certainly makes for intrigue and change of pace. And it keeps me on my toes. But the question remains. How does one decide on one label, when so many strands and possibilities exist within a single manuscript which might make it more suitable under another?

In order to maintain my sanity — and because NaNo calls, which means I shall have to wind this up 🙂 — I blame the system that insists on labels. Bureaucracy in the microcosm. I may not like having to live with it, but live with it I must, if I wish to continue to write and be published.

Your opinions and personal experiences in this thorny field, dear Reader, are most welcome because, at this stage, I suspect I am not alone in this duel with the Publishing Powers-that-Be. Thanks for listening. And thank you, Alex, for allowing me another shot at these insecure blues…
©2011 Marian Youngblood

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November 2, 2011 Posted by | authors, blogging, culture, novel, popular, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Deadline versus the Muse

A-musing, but not funny...

When my Muse is on vacation, any convenient distraction will do. But, as an ex-journalist, I find that doesn’t make filing by the deadline any easier, especially when one has committed to joining an inspiring writer and author like Alex J Cavanaugh and his ‘bloghop’ team of dedicated bloggers/authors/workaholics to write a monthly contribution.

To remind the aspiring writer who may be reading this and who might contemplate joining his awesome throng, Alex suggests we (*bloggers, or *authors-in-waiting) jot down a few thoughts every first Wednesday of the month and share our experiences, worries, troubles, elations and errors in the publishing world with upwards of 170 other bloggers/authors subscribed to his Insecure Writers Support Group [IWSG]. That isn’t counting the thousands of other bloghopper readers, not encumbered by a deadline, as well as possible wannabees who are casing the joint before making a commitment to join in themselves.

Alex suggests that on the first Wednesday of the month we can let our hair down and spill.

This is okay because all the other hoppers out there have had similar experiences. We are among friends. It is all right to express our innermost fears, our weirdest conflict, our secretest doubt, our silliest blunder. Because he is right out front there expressing these things too. If you aren’t totally comfortable with verbalizing the negative (like stage superstition covered by the ‘break-a-leg’ greeting, i.e. don’t tempt fate), you may cheerfully add your good news, your recent success, your final breakthrough into authordom…

What is clever about the support provided by his hopping bloggers is that, not only do we get to share something we may never have admitted to ourselves before, but we suddenly have a built-in audience.

Many of us took on the blogosphere with trepidation a couple of years back, plunged in naïvely, hoping against hope that we were going about things the right way, blind leading the blind, ‘building our platform’, braving the unknown waters of HTML. We scanned site stats on a daily basis, counting our hits… grateful for traffic and every new comment.

The IWSG sorts all that out with one blow: built-in support group, others’ sharing what we had not dared say out loud, and the miraculous sudden ‘following’ of a dozen comments in the feedback section we never expected in our wildest dreams. Who can resist?

...nice to have one's ego stroked occasionally...

It’s a very nice means of having one’s ego stroked. But it’s way helpful, too.

Some of us secretly longed to become recognized in our lifetime for our — Muse-directed — passion: that we have a Voice that sounds like no other; that the novel we wrote on an Olivetti portable before you had to keep changing the ribbons might finally be unearthed and shared with millions. Others see rôle models in e-book epiphanous Amanda (Hocking) or OBE-Jo, (Rowling): imagining ourselves next to hit the New York Times Bestseller List. Still others find solace simply in reading, creating and looking fondly at the written word every day in life.

I am one of the latter. I have no option. I have always written. I doubt if I shall stop now.

This only partially explains why I write New Age fantasy and historical fiction, laced with a little Sci-Fi, for mainstream publication [i.e. hard copy]; while my blogs are hardcore non-fiction, laced with an occasional crop circle!

C’est la vie.

Alex writes this month of a guilty feeling he holds next to his heart: that he did not always want to be an author; that he writes as an outlet for his creativity and it morphed into publishing success. He should not feel guilty about this.

New Age guru and Abraham-channel, Esther Hicks, says in order for us to be successful at what we dream, it’s not the long hard struggle that counts, it’s the ability to allow effortless creation to emerge through joy in doing what we do best. It may sound like a tall order. In shorthand, Esther says if we catch the dream, encapsulate the feeling it gives us and follow through with expectation, all things will come; or, more Abraham-like:

“Once you align with your desire, the Energy that creates worlds will flow through you…which means enthusiasm and passion and triumph. That is your destiny.”
Abraham-Hicks

and

“The feeling is the manifestation.” Abraham

Part of the lifelong occupation of a writer is renewing oneself, finding fresh material that inspires, and sometimes doing little exercises in writing differently. After all, if you’ve been hitting the keys for a couple of decades, you worry about getting stale.

And, if your Muse is taking a break, there’s no harm in pounding the keyboard until she gets back.

Recently I have found myself contemplating suitably short sharp bursts of chatter on Twitter, where one may only submit a total of 140 characters or fewer — to fit in the tweet-box. It is certainly an exercise in brevity. It’s also excellent practice in self-editing. There is always the (future vision/) opportunity to tweet the publisher’s link to your book when launch date arrives!

Another technique practised by those of free-associative or poetic bent, is writing to a ‘spark’ word; or making an idea into a poem. There are Flash Fiction addicts — writing a blog or telling a story in no more than one thousand words, including all dialogue, build-up and plot. There is fun in writing a snappy caption for a random pic.

And then there is the Drabble.

Part way between the tweet and the flash, a Drabble is a story — a bullet, an idea, a character outline, a work of fiction — that is exactly 100 words long: no more, no less. I assure you it is more difficult than it sounds.

I was asked last fall to contribute to a really fun drabble-thon where each person’s 100-word story followed on from the writer before. Its theme was ‘Pay it Forward‘. The result was a flight of fancy into realms of superspace and back that no one could have foreseen. If you would like to read these brave drabblers, check out The Burrow.

I append another little Drabble which I wrote for last year’s December Drabble contest also at Burrowers, Books and Balderdash. This was a sort of picture caption and drabble combined. I am the first to admit drabbling is not for the faint-hearted. It takes a lot more editing and self-control than your average flash.

NOLA HOLA

She’d worked hard — her beads sparkled in December sunshine. Farmers market always busy on weekends, the tomato and squash guy in the next stall said, selling his pumpkins for pennies. Marking ’em down low was his recipe for getting home early.

Freezing, only her second time, she gotta stay to cover costs. Don’t come back without a Franklin, or I break your arm, he’d said.

That weirdo, watching from a doorway since lunchtime, came over, handed her a 1000 dollar bill.
‘Cleveland cover it?’ he asked, picking up the jewel case.
Passport outta Dodge, she thought.
‘Sure,’ she said. ‘Thanks.’

©2010 Marian Youngblood
photo ‘Colourful beads’ by Natasha Ramarathnam
December Drabble Theme at Burrowers, Books and Balderdash

So, sorry, Alex. I cheated this month. I’m not sharing an inner woe and I’m not admitting to a fear worse than death.

Unless it’s that my Muse has abandoned me forever…

Well, blame it on my Muse. She’s on vacation, and I’m having a hard time remembering when she’s due to get back!
©2011 Marian Youngblood

October 5, 2011 Posted by | authors, blogging, culture, fiction, Muse, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments