25 August 2011

Crazy Little Thing Called Genre

Image: tungphoto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Throughout the process of writing the MS I'm currently querying I have struggled with which genre it fits into. It started out with a romantic idea at its heart. Then the MC's character development (and key events influencing it) began to play a large part in the story, so I researched genres.

I concluded I should call it women's fiction with strong romantic elements. I liked the idea of it being Women's Fiction. It was a convenient way to avoid being known as a “romance author”. The stereotype is of bodice rippers, wooden characters and covers you want to hide. But what am I thinking? Heck, I’d be thrilled to be known as an [anything] author!

The query I wrote as a result  of this decision was well... bland. I see that now. So it was back to the drawing board, and back to my initial inspiration. It’s really about the romance, even though the MC has to learn a lot about other things along the way. So I’ve re-written my query, which has taken weeks, not days*, with the romance at the core. I'd be thrilled to own the title "Contemporary Romance Author". Let’s see how this baby flies.

* Time’s been scarce lately as I’ve been away visiting family and then sick as a dog this week


One of my wise critique partners has pointed out that by definition a 'romance' has the POV of both the hero and the heroine. I did not know this, although I can see it in effect with many (though not all) of the contemporaries I've read. My hero isn't a POV character. So maybe it's back to Women's Fiction after all! Regardless, for now I'm excited to see what happens with query 2.0.

16 August 2011

It's Snowmageddon!

Here in New Zealand we are in the middle of what they're calling a "polar blast"... the front's isobars are literally stretching up to our little country directly from Antarctica. The up-shot is snow, and lots of it... and much of it in places that just don't see snow. Like here in Auckland! The last time it snowed here was 1939, so this is a once in a lifetime event. Yesterday when the flakes started floating through the air, we all rushed out of the office and onto the footpath, and then promptly sheltered under the eves as the icy flakes hit our faces. It wasn't snow in the classic sense - more like floating hail - but the magic in the air was palpable. Most of the North Island is covered in white, much of it down to sea level, including our capital city Wellington. Of course the South Island has been smothered.

Here's a lovely photo of a scene in Taranaki, which doesn't see snow in a normal winter...

Image from S. Velvin of Stratford, Taranaki, courtesy of Newstalk ZB
Some of my most cherished childhood memories took place at our mountain, Ruapehu. As a small child I would toboggan down the slope on a rubbish sack, and learning to ski proved I am surprisingly not uncoordinated at all sports (just most of them). There's nothing like the thrill of being in the mountains, with fresh clean air rushing into your lungs.

Do you remember the first time you saw snow? Built a snowman? OR do you grow to hate snow in the winter?

09 August 2011

(Scary) Shiny New Idea

Image: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
My brain is making the transition from pushing for publication of my complete WIP, to the creative thirst for writing something new. Little ideas are dropping into my consciousness, and I can feel my drafting muscle stretching, ready for a marathon.

At the moment I probably have about thirty bits and pieces floating around in my (digital) writing folder. Some are dialogue snippets, or character descriptions. Most are premises, a paragraph or more, and the tone is mainly commercial/women's fiction. I also have a 20,000 word expanded outline for a historical romance, 500 words of a book that could be YA, and 5,000 on the follow up book to the book I'm currently querying. I even have 1,000 words of story that could only be described as fantasy.

There is one new story that is shouting louder than the most. It grew in my imagination last week, after spring-boarding off another, more commercial and easy idea. I can't stop thinking about it, and I'm sure I'm going to have to make time soon to start actually writing it. The problem is it's not women's fiction... it might not even be commercial. I can't say for sure whether there'll be a happy ending or even a proper romance. The premise is slightly shocking. I suppose you could even call it "high concept". It explores morality and how good people can do bad things. It will probably told in alternating points of view, with many secrets revealed and twists along the way. I know how it starts, and a few hints of later events, and I've thought a bit about the characters - how they may have found themselves in this position, and why it's destroyed their worlds. Apart from that I don't have a plot. And my typical pantser instinct is just dying to jump in and start exploring this situation to see where it goes.

It will require a ton of research, and a heck of a lot of outlining and planning once I get going (I have to figure out how those secrets and twists should intersect and when), and it will probably be emotionally taxing. I don't know how I'd start the research or if I'd ever get the time. I'm going to be treading in areas of human experience I have not encountered in real life, and I might interpret these things incorrectly. I could really stuff this up and just give up half way through.

It would be a lot easier to just keep going with one of my 'brighter' ideas... to sail through on romance and commercial scenarios. But like I said, this idea just won't leave me alone. It's demanding enough head space to bloom into a real story. So I'm thinking I need to set aside a couple of hours this weekend to give it some air time in my frazzled mind. And who knows, maybe it will fizzle away once the initial creative burst is done. Or maybe it will completely hijack my life for the next year and I'll be in query hell again come August 2012.

Have you ever had a story hijack your brain... something completely different to what you thought you'd write? Have you had an idea really stretch you and work out as you planned?

08 August 2011

02 August 2011

Does Personality Trump Skill?

Image: tungphoto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
In our lives we'll make many professional relationships. We tend to favour those we like personally - it's a natural tendency. You may not care about your accountant, but you might have a close bond with your hairdresser. If you don't like your boss's personality, you'll be in for a rocky ride no matter how qualified or experienced they are.

Obviously in any professional relationship, the person’s ability to do the job is the most important thing. If we only hired people we liked, we’d just work with our friends and never get anything done. But personality is important. I've had to hire quite a few people. I have said no to perfectly qualified people based purely on cultural fit. I knew they wouldn’t fit into the team, that they’d be unhappy, and that ultimately I might have to recruit someone else in a few months. Getting on with people, or just being able to relate, is important.

I wonder how vital personality is when you're selecting an agent (most of us would be estatic if any agent selected us, but in a dream world you'd have multiple offers). The most important quality for an agent is obviously their ability to sell your work. But depending on an agent’s style, the relationship is incredibly important. They are a coach, a mentor, they work alongside you to develop creative ideas and they deliver news, good and bad. If you’re not on the same wavelength, you can’t expect to be very productive. At best, you may have limited contact. At worst, it could disrupt your career.

How important is personality to you in selecting an agent? If you only had one offer, would you dare say no because they rubbed you up the wrong way?

Now this is completely unrelated, but the word "personality" always makes me think of this song: