Tuesday, June 30, 2009

How to Determine Your Word Count

Quote of the Day:
Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.
~Mae West

One thing I’ve noticed a lot of writers asking is “How long should my book be?” I am usually of the opinion that a book is as long as it needs to be (can you imagine Harry Potter condensed to 150 pages because MG and YA books tend to be shorter? Ack! The horror!) However, there are general guidelines for different genres, so I dug around a bit to come up with a list that may help.

Also note that I did not list each and every genre. In fact, I only mentioned a few that go outside the norm, because for the most part, when we are talking novels, they fall into one of two categories – YA novels, and adult novels. Middle grade books would be classified more as novellas and picture books are in a realm of their own.

So, after much searching, here is what I came up with:

Age Categories:

Children’s – age range – 0-12 (avg word count is 200 - 20k)
Middle Grade (Juvenile) – age range – 8-12 (avg. word count is 20k – 40k)
Young Adult – age range – 12-18 (avg word count is 50k – 70k)
Adult – age range – 18+ (avg word count is 80k – 100k)

Word Counts – I scoured the internet, agent blogs, writer forums, and helpful websites…and just about everyone had a different answer on exact word counts. However, there were some general trends. So, while there are exceptions to every rule, you should be safe if you follow these guidelines:

Novella – anything under 45,000 words
Novel – 45,000 – 110,000 words
Epic or Saga – 110,000+

Most adult mainstream fiction will fall between 80,000 – 100,000 words. In other words, if you have written a novel in any genre other than the four listed below, this range is a good one to shoot for.

Category Romance and YA/NA tends to be a bit shorter, around 60,000 – 80,000 words.

SciFi/Fantasy – traditionally these seem to be longer, but that is not always the case. In general, keeping them around 100,000 words is a good bet. However, because of the world building necessary for these books, longer lengths are generally more acceptable.

Historical Fiction – like SF/F, these generally run longer (with the necessary world building in these genres, longer word lengths are to be expected. In fact, I read a few places where editors were hesitant about shorter length novels in these genres because it does take time to get that setting established) but are usually between 90,000 – 100,000 (though sometimes as high as 150,000).

Every book is going to be different, and a longer word length isn’t necessarily going to get you rejected (though it might). For an average novel, try to keep the word count between 70,000– 100,000. For YAs, 50,000 – 80,000.

Please, PLEASE do not read these word counts and decide you need to chop up your novel. These are only average lengths. Some novels need the added length and work well with the wordage and some get the story across just fine with shorter word counts. These are just general guidelines; you must do what is best for your particular story.

Monday, June 29, 2009

When Garbage Inspires

(see more awesome demotivators at despair.com)

Quote of the Day:
If you are going to learn from other writers don’t only read the great ones, because if you do that you’ll be so filled with despair and the fear that you’ll never be able to do anything near as well as they did that you’ll stop writing. I recommend that you read a lot of bad stuff, too. It’s very encouraging. “Hey, I can do so much better than this.” Read the greatest stuff but read the stuff that isn’t so great, too. Great stuff is very discouraging. If you read only Beckett and Chekhov, you’ll go away and only deliver telegrams at Western Union.
~Edward Albee

I came across this quote and immediately thought, “Oh that is so true.” I’ve read books where I’ve just sat and shook my head at the awesomeness of what I held in my hands. I was filled with the desire to produce such incredible prose while at the same time knowing that I never would. And each time this happens, I have that moment of supreme discouragement. That thought of “I’ll never be this good, why do I try?”

That thought invariably disappears the second a new idea pops in my head, or the moment I sit down to write. Because whether I am producing a great novel or the worst sort of drivel doesn’t matter to me so much when I am in the grip of whatever story is clawing its way out of my head. All I want to do is write, get the story out, quiet the raging voices in my crowded mind.

But those doubtful thoughts will of course return the next time I have an unbelievably awesome book in my hands.

On the flip side, as Mr. Albee says, if I am reading something that isn’t so great, it is very encouraging. I was actually inspired to write the WIP I just finished because I was reading a book that, while I enjoyed it, inspired the thought of “Okay, I can do better that this. Or at least something just as good.”

And it spurred me to write, to start a project that would be better, more popular, and more successful than the book I had read.

To be honest, I’ve never read anything truly dreadful. If it starts getting too bad, I just put it down and move on to something else. My time is too precious and my spare time too limited to waste it on something horrendous. But it’s those in between books that encourage me to put all my effort into a project. Those books that are okay but that have you thinking through the whole thing, “Ooo, I wouldn’t have done that there, I would have done this instead. And this would have been so much better if this whole section was cut and maybe replaced with this.”

So, next time you start getting really discouraged…find a book that is complete garbage and bask in the knowledge that you can do better than that. Honestly, thinking of any book as garbage sends a huge twinge of guilt through my system, because I know how difficult it is to complete a book, any book, and I don’t like to negate the efforts of anyone. But, let’s face it, we’ve all read books where we sit in complete stupefaction that something like that could have successfully made its way through the maze of agents, editors, and publishers that exist to filter out the trash. I suppose that saying is true of all things…one person’s trash is another person’s treasure :) I am quite sure that someday, someone will be using my book to encourage them, knowing they could do better. But maybe another person will hold my book, shaking their heads at my awesomeness ;-D I’m not holding my breath on that one though :D

In any case, every book serves a purpose. Turn manure into a flower and let it be your inspiration :)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Funnies

In honor of my wonderful little girl (who learned about gravity this week and is now sporting a pretty pink cast on her wrist)...I give you Parenting Funnies :D

Quote of the Day:
Someone once asked me whether I thought women artists should have children, and, since we were beyond discussing why this question is never asked of artists who are men, I gave my answer promptly. "Yes," I said, somewhat to my surprise. And, as if to amend my rashness, I added: "They should have children - assuming this is of interest to them - but only one." "Why only one?" this Someone wanted to know. "Because with one you can move," I said. "With more than one, you're a sitting duck."
~Alice Walker

(the same thing applies to children) ;-D

For those parents who have kidlets in school needing a little help (or who are in school themselves), check out my guidebooks :)

And coming Oct 2014:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Teaser Thursday

Okay, since this book is one chapter from being finished (with an interested agent :D), I thought I'd post a little teaser. :) This is a bit from chapter 16. My MC is a 17 yr old girl named Kesi Alexander. (thanks BJ!!) :D

The second Gerry rang the bell, we both started circling each other, crazy, anticipatory grins on our faces, hideously distorted as they were by our mouth guards. Gerry stood on one side of the ring, shouting encouragement, while Rachel’s coach did the same on the other side. Rachel’s mother had come and was watching with that slightly pained expression that mothers often get when their children are about to do something that is probably going to end badly. I was glad Netty wasn’t there.

Then Rachel threw a punch that connected to my chin and I narrowed my focus to her. She got in a few more good jabs, but I barely felt them. My blows glanced off her but seemed to be affecting her more. I smiled, grinding my mouth guard between my teeth. I had her; I knew it. I was going to knock her out before our first round was over.

We circled each other a few times, each fending off minor hits. Then my chance came. She dropped her hands, just a little, but it was enough. I aimed a low punch with my left hand and as she tucked to protect her ribs, I let my right fist fly.
My glove connected to her face. Her head whipped around with sickening crack. I saw her eyes for a split second. She looked...surprised. And then she went down. She didn’t move again.

Gerry went nuts. He jumped in the ring, picked me up, and swung me around. “I knew you could do it, I knew you could!”

But I just shook my head, murmuring, “No, no, no, no,” over and over. I couldn’t take my eyes off Rachel. She lay motionless in the ring, her coach frantically trying to revive her. Gerry saw what was going on and stopped celebrating. He put me down and rushed to her side.

Rachel’s coach looked up and stared at me, his eyes horrified and accusing. Her mother was shrieking into the cell phone on her ear. I couldn’t move, couldn’t even blink. I just stared at the girl on the ground while the sound of ambulance sirens filled my head. What had I done?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

WIP Wednesday

Quote of the Day:
I always figured that every word that managed to squeeze itself from my pen had to be immortal. Turns out they're all disposable. What a relief.
~Tom Howe

Well I had an awesome week this week. First up, my YA Urban Fantasy WiP - I have completed through chapter 18, so I only have 3 chapters left. Very exciting. I have been letting my mother and sister read it as I get the chapters done, and they have been harassing me by phone and email whenever I slow down. Great motivation for getting done, and very encouraging - I at least have 2 fans that don't think it sucks :D

And on to the big non-fiction news:

I am very pleased to report that I have signed with Krista Goering, who will represent my non-fiction book, From Papers to Poetry. I spoke with her the other day and she was just wonderful. She is interested in taking a look at my fiction projects also, so I may just win the jackpot and have one agent rep everything I do. But in either case, I am very excited to have her as my non-fiction agent :) Now I just have to get the manuscript finished LOL

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

How to Handle "The Call"

Quote of the Day:
Get an agent. Make no excuses for the failure to do so. Get an agent. Otherwise you are a babe among wolves.
~Brendan Francis

I actually had the incredible opportunity to experience this recently, so I thought I'd share how I handled it. Basically....not well :D Just kidding. The days building up to the call were a conglomeration of nerves, excitement, terror, anticipation, more nerves, and huge amounts of chocolate.

But as people have told me time and time again, agents are just people. And if you are on the phone call, it is because they are interested in you and your book. It's sort of hard to remember that though when that request comes through :)

So, to help me prepare, I spent more time researching the agent (some of my questions, such as was she a member of AAR were answered on her website), talked to all of my agented friends and got some advice on what types of things I should ask the agent, read as many articles on "The Call" as I could find, and drew up a list of questions to ask during the course of our conversation. I even typed them up and printed them out with room left in for me to write the answers. :D In the end, most of the questions were answered without me having to ask, but it is good to be prepared.

I compiled my list from my kind friends' suggestions, and from the articles on Agent Query and the Querytracker Blog. This is what I ended up with:

1. Do you issue a written agent-author agreement or contract? What is the duration of the contract? What happens in the event of your death or disability? Do you make provisions for my continued representation?

2. What is your commission rate?

3. What happens if my book doesn’t sell?

4. What are your policies if we should part company for any reason?

5. How do you handle submissions? How many publishers do you submit to? Do you submit to the smaller publishers? Do you have specific editors in mind to sub to? Will you consult with me on any offers?

6. How available are you for phone calls and emails? How often will you be in touch when I’m on submission? Do you prefer email contact or by phone? Generally what is your response time?

7. Based on the sample chapters you’ve seen, do you foresee the need for a lot of revisions? Do you do line edits or just overall comments? What did you think of them? What did you like or dislike?

8. Do you have similar books to mine on your list?

9. How many clients do you represent?

10. How involved are you in working with your clients in developing ideas?

11. When you receive money for me, how quickly do you pay out my share? Will you issue a 1099 tax form at the end of the year?

12. Are you interested in just this project or are you interested in working on future projects with me?

13. What questions and expectations do you have for me?

Stay tuned tomorrow for details on how the phone call went :)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Creative Short- Riding the Waves

Quote of the Day:
Truth is funnier than most things you can make up.
~Margo Kaufman

A couple months ago, some friends and I decided it would be fun to do an occasional creative writing prompt. Someone would chose a topic, and whoever was interested could post a little short story or creative post utilizing that topic. The fabulous Christine chose our creative writing prompt for the month, and the image she chose was WAVES.

Now, this is nowhere near as cool as Christine's or Kate's (who also played this month) but since I am also working on a few projects, and since I needed a funny little heroic couplet poem to go with a certain project, I decided to combine the two. So here is a heroic couplet poem that contains waves.


The surfer dude began to wax his board,
And to his leg he firmly strapped the cord.
The waves were awesome, pounding on the shore.
He felt each wave wash through his very core.
The water splashed against his hairy legs,
“Just give me one good wave,” the surfer begs.
He paddled out into the salty sea,
To feel at one with nature’s harmony.
When he found surfers waiting for the show,
The dude said, “Bra, I think that you should go.”
With pasty skin and matted hairy chests,
He knew the dudes were horrible at best.
Their lameness was soon proved when big waves rolled.
They lost their boards and shivered with the cold.
So to the shore they went without a fight,
And left the dude to surf away the night.
The surfer dude is awesome as you know,
From bleached blond hair, to sand encrusted toe.
And so, my friends, please heed the tale I tell,
Don’t mess with dudes who ride the biggest swell.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Funnies

Quote of the Day:
"Cats are dangerous companions for writers because cat watching is a near-perfect method of writing avoidance."
~Dan Greenburg

For today's post, I give you proof that owning a cat is detrimental to a writer's career:

Good thing they're cute! Happy Weekend everyone!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

WIP Wednesday Plus One

Quote of the Day:
The difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense.
~Tom Clancy

Okay, since yesterday was my turn for the Blog Chain, today you get my update, such as it is :) Actually, I'm not doing too bad.

Fiction - My still untitled YA Urban Fantasy now has 16 out of its 21 chapters finished and typed. I have two more chapters I need to write (and type) and 3 chapters that just need typing. And then I'm done!

Well, then the edits start. I've already got 1 new plot line to weave through the story and rewrites planned for the first chapter, but at least the main story will be done and intact :D

Haven't done anything else on the non-fiction, though I should have one more chapter on it finished in the next week or two. As soon as the YA is done, I'll concentrate on this for a bit.

I currently have two new WIPs knocking on the creative gates, plus a revamp of my first book - not sure what to work on first. But I am trying very hard not to think of them until this current one is done :D Gotta love that muse when she drops by and sets up camp!

How is everyone else doing?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Blog Chain: Research - Keeping Your Story Straight

Quote of the Day:
Fiction is the truth inside the lie.
~Stephen King
I love this quote - it is so true. Yes, fiction is make-believe...it is an author spinning a tale, sometimes based on real life, set in real settings, centered around real circumstances, but ultimately a story. But I think most writers try to put as much truth in their "lies" as possible. I make sure my stories are as accurate as possible. Yes, they may be about nagging ghosts or 5000 year old gods, but dangit, those supernatural beings are going to be as realistic and accurate as possible! If my character has to go to the bathroom, I make sure toilets were in use at the time, and if not I make sure I point out she's on a chamberpot.

Why do I do this? Because nothing pulls me out of a story faster than reading something I know to be historically inaccurate. Maybe it's because (before I switched and got my master's in English) I got a degree in history and I worked very hard for many years to get my historical facts straight, so it drives me nuts when something is blatantly WRONG.

Here's an example: I love the movie Braveheart...it's touching, incredible, epic...but so historically inaccurate that most of the time all I'm thinking about when watching it is "That princess was a baby when William Wallace was alive!" or "They didn't wear kilts back then" or "Whatever...that prince lived for YEARS and ruled with hardly a peep from his wife (who by all accounts got along with him just fine for a couple decades until he got nasty and she overthrew his butt)..." Sorry, I digress ;-D

In any case, the last thing I want is for this to happen when people are reading my books. So I do my best to make them as accurate as possible.

Which brings me to our Blog Chain topic for this round. Since today is my turn on the Blog Chain, our regularly scheduled WIP Wednesday will be moved to tomorrow…that gives me an extra day to get something done anyways :D

But for today, Kat picked our excellent topic, and Christine gave an excellent response before me. Elana is up next so be sure to head her way next!

Kat wants to know:

How do you do research for your settings, your story and your characters' quirks? What interesting tidbits about yourself and the world you live in have you learned along the way?

*sigh* I love this topic :D I love to research, most of the time. Even for me it can get tedious. But mostly, I really enjoy it. In fact, as I said before, I got my bachelor’s degree in history – which meant I spent a lot of time researching things. But even for a history major, I was on the unusual side.

Believe it or not, a lot of historians don’t like to research (according to one of my professors anyways). Oh, they like to discover new things and when it’s their specialized topic, of course they enjoy it. But when it comes to hanging out in the library for days and weeks and months at a time, that is the type of research that most people don’t like. And that I love :D It’s amazing the interesting stuff you can find when you are on the hunt for that perfect tidbit for you story.

How do I research?

Well, I always start the easy way, with Google and Ask.com and any other search engine I can find. I have two small children. There is no way I can spend all day at the library anymore. But there is a lot of information you can find online. There are even many books online that you can search through. Or, you can usually at least look through the index or table of contents (Amazon is very useful for this). Then, if I need to get a book, I can request it from my library.

Online groups are a great source of information also. I once needed info on a certain type of gun that was used in 1600s England, and I found a wonderful site run by pirate aficionados – they had pictures of real guns, replicas, and a wealth of information on how they were used. And these people are usually extremely friendly and very willing to share their knowledge on their chosen subject. So never hesitate to ask.

A few things I’ve researched in the past for my stories, settings, and characters:

If toilets were commonly used in 1850s England
  • If trains were a main form of transportation then
  • What kinds of flowers bloom in Jan in England (a very nice lady from a horticultural society sent me a whole spreadsheet on this!)
  • If a 100 year old body/skeleton would still have any hair
  • Different aspects of Egyptian gods and goddesses
  • Daily life in ancient Egypt (and all other things Egyptian, though I knew some of this anyways)
  • I always research at least a few of my character names…I like them to mean something
  • Junior boxing leagues
  • Weather patterns
  • A certain lake in NV that will remain nameless for the moment :D
And many, many other things…..

I don’t know if I’ve discovered anything about myself while researching. I always discover tons of interesting tidbits about the world as I’m looking up info (no, 100 yr old skeletons will generally not have hair still, and toilets where not yet commonly used in 1850s but there are a surprising number of beautiful flowers that bloom in winter in Jan) :) And I have actually discovered that I don’t always like research. Sometimes, especially if the info I’m after is really well hidden and hard to find, I get a bit impatient with it. I want to get back to my story instead of spending time hunting. But for the most part, I just enjoy discovering fun new things….and I usually pick up a few ideas for new stories along the way as well :D

Head over to Elana’s blog tomorrow for her response!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How to Back Away From the Ledge

Quote of the Day:
A writer's life is not designed to reassure your mother.
~Rita Mae Brown

When my writer buddies and I start feeling the inevitable stress/depression/feelings of inferiority...the down sections of this wonderful roller coaster we are all on...we like to joke that we are 'living on the edge.' Sometimes we set up camp, complete with hotdogs and marshmallow roasts, and I believe one friend once set up an amusement park on her ledge.

Yes, we really do get that elaborate :) It gives us the opportunity to blow off some steam, vent our angst to those who will appreciate it, and most of the time, our ledge time allows us to scream to the high heavens....and then we get back to work, a little less stressed, a little more refreshed.

Well, I have been on the ledge for a few days. I'm not exactly sure why. I am a mere 3 chapters from finishing my YA WiP. My non-fiction book is being queried and I even have a couple requests out. I have several new WIP ideas knocking on the gates, and I'm so excited about all of them that I can't decide which to work on next.

Things should be great. But, they're not.

Another wonderful friend told me today that when you are on that ledge, you have two choices...take a deep breath and back away, or leap off and enjoy the flight. :)

Usually, I take that deep breath, back away slowly, and continue on. But I think this time, I'm going to take that jump and enjoy the flight. Not permanently, of course. But for today - yep. I'm feeling the need to fly :)

So, I am shutting off my computer, and I'm going to spend the entire day getting my house together and playing with my kids. Tomorrow I'll get working again (and I'm sure I'll be back on the ledge soon). But heck, I've backed away often enough, maybe jumping will keep me from that ledge a little longer :)

But before I go, here are my top 3 tactics I usually employ to make that ledge a little less inviting.....

1. My friends - those that are in the writing and querying trenches with me and understand the mad emotions that go with this "hobby" of ours. There is nothing like engaging in a full out vent session with those who truly feel your pain.

2. My funnies - a laugh cures a thousand ills. I pull up that LOL sight, google jokes, or go watch a movie that I know will put a smile on my face. There is nothing like a full out belly laugh to put you in a good mood.

3. My reading - I have been reading for as long as I can remember. In fact, I think my earliest memory is of reading. I remember lying on the floor with a book and tape set and looking up and seeing my parents in the kitchen. My mom said I got those books and tapes for Christmas when I was 2. I still remember opening the box. I had never seen anything so beautiful :)

What do you guys do when the ledge starts beckoning? Do you back away slowly or take the leap? Or do you just set up camp and party for a while? (Hey, sometimes that can be a lot of fun, especially if a bunch of your writer buddies are current residents) :D

I will be back tomorrow, hopefully refreshed and ledge-free :D Happy Writing everyone!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mindless Mondays

First of all, a huge thank you to my incredible crit buddies who have begun the tedious work of shredding my poor and undeserving YA WIP. I couldn't do it without you, guys. You are seriously more awesome than this poor writer deserves :)

Quote for the Day:
Fine writers should split hairs together, and sit side by side, like friendly apes, to pick the fleas from each other's prose.
~Logan Pearsall Smith

Okay, how's this for a Monday....I forgot it was Monday and so totally blanked on posting something *hangs head in mortified shame* So Sorry!!!!

Since I completely flaked, I'll link you to a truly awesome post I read the other day - it was incredible and highly inspirational. If you haven't read it before, please do.

How Do You Know When to Quit by Toni McGee Causey on the Murderati Blog

Happy Monday!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Funnies

If writing is so solitary, why are there so many people to thank?
~Steve Martin

The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.
~John Steinbeck

I never think at all when I write. Nobody can do two things at the same time and do them both well.
~Don Marquis

There are many excuses not to write. Try using writing as an excuse not to do other things.
~J.C. Hewitt

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Real Life vs Writing - Who's Your Bet On?

Quote of the Day:
It is hard to master both life and work equally well. So if you are going to fake one of them, it had better be work.
~Joseph Brodsky

This question was originally asked by my fabulous Blog Chain buddy, Terri Rainer. Her question was:

Have you ever had anything cause you to step back from writing? If so, what was the cause and how long did it take you to get back into the swing of things? If not, do you have any advice for other writers about not letting life get in the way of writing?

My answer…..yep, yes, yeah, definitely, frequently, more often than I would like, totally, all the time, and FOR SURE!

Writing can be fun. I love it – it’s thrilling to create a world and characters and situations and to see how they all mesh into this wonderful conglomeration of ideas. But it is also work, hard work…it takes time and effort and energy….and sometimes I just don’t have any to spare.

How long it takes me to get back into it depends on what made me step back in the first place. Sometimes Real Life intervenes and I am just too busy with dentist appointments, parent/teacher conferences, sick kids, a neglected husband, and a dirty house to take the time to write. When that happens, I usually just step back for a few days, take care of what I need to take care of, and jump back in.

Now, all this applies to just the last couple years of my life. Before then, I didn’t consider myself a writer. I wanted to be a writer. But I didn’t think I was one yet. I had started more stories than I could count, for as long as I could remember. But I didn’t sit down to write a novel until just before I got married. So writing wasn’t something I really considered as a “must have” for my life. It was something fun I did when I had time. Now, I try much harder to schedule my writing time and I make sure it is a part of my life.

Once I got married, I moved, changed schools, jobs, states, and life got crazy. I didn’t pick it back up again until after my son was born.

Suddenly I was a stay at home mom in a tiny apartment that it didn’t take me too long to clean. So I started to work on my novel again while my son napped. Then my stepkids came to visit for Thanksgiving, I got out of the habit, I got pregnant with my daughter, she was born 2 months early…and before I knew it, two years had gone by. I thought about my novel every now and then. But I didn’t really miss writing.

Then I went back to school and started working on my masters on an accelerated program. I had a month break about halfway into the program, and I was so sick of schoolwork that I wanted to work on something just for fun. I brought out my trusty novel and finished it within the month. And then spent the next year editing…but that is a different story :D

What else will make me take a break for a bit? Sometimes, I get stuck on a scene or a plot twist. When this happens, it may only take me a day or even a few hours before something occurs to me. And sometimes it takes a month or two :D Depends on how bad I’m stuck :D

And then sometimes, I just get tired of it all. Maybe I had just received one too many rejections…maybe I’ve revised so many times I can’t stand to look at my manuscript one more time…or maybe it all just seems like too much effort and not enough reward. When this happens, I might stop writing for weeks. Just recently I went through this for a few months. I spent my spare time devouring every book I could find. I reread my favorite series, I watched movies, I listened to music and chatted with friends, and eventually, I got that itch again…the one that just makes my fingers ache to pound the keyboard. And I sat down one night and started writing again.

I still go days without writing sometimes, due to one thing or another, but I miss writing now…I think about it, I want to do it, and I try harder to make the time. I’m sure another slump will come along, but it too will pass.

Do you have any advice for other writers about not letting life get in the way of writing?

Honestly, no. Because let’s face it…sometimes life IS going to get in the way. There really isn’t anything you can do about it. If writing is important to you, you will come back to it. It might take a few weeks or even a few years before that happens. But if it is something you truly love, eventually you’ll find your way back.

I would advise not to berate yourself for time lost…don’t feel guilty about taking time out of your life to go back to writing, and don’t feel guilty for taking time from writing to deal with Real Life. You may not always be able to juggle Life and writing at the same time. But at some point, if writing is what you really want to do, you’ll ultimately find the time for both.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

WIP Wednesday

Quote of the Day:
And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.
~Sylvia Plath

Well, I discovered a little error as I was going through my notebooks yesterday. My poor pen #5, the one that hung in there so long...actually scribbled its last a while ago. Pen #6 was that outlasted the lot. So my apologies to Pen #6 :D

Wonderful progress again this week. Nothing new on the non-fiction front, though I have begun querying, and have received 2 requests for my proposal so far.

On the fiction front, I have started typing up my manuscript! I know there are a few scenes that still need to be written (including the very last scene of the book) but I was at a point where I needed to see everything as a whole so I knew exactly what was missing.

So, as of last night, I have almost 25,000 words of the manuscript typed and several chapters are already with my crit buddies. I am so excited to see this project nearing completion! I am hoping to type the words The End in the next week or so, and to that end have pretty much done nothing but type my little fingers off for the last several days.

Perhaps, if all goes well, I will be reporting the finished word count for my completed manuscript next week :D Then, I can dive into the non-fiction manuscript and get a few more chapters cranked out before starting on the new fiction project, which is already knocking at the gates ;-D

How is everyone else doing?

EDIT: Now that I've been going through my notebooks (I marked down where every pen ran out) :D I realize that pens 5 and 6 both ran dry...and it was #7 that hung in there till the end. LOL No wonder #5 seemed to last so long LOL

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

How to Define Romance Sub-genres

Here is the promised post on romance sub-genres. Last week we talked about fiction genres. Most of the time, you can choose your genre and sub genre from that huge list, (Fantasy Romance, Romantic Suspense, Paranormal Romance, etc), so I won’t go over those again. But when it comes to romance, there are a few sub genres that are unique to romance, more often used with romance, or have slightly different rules when applied to romance. And again, these by no means complete the list.

Category/Series – Category and series romances are books that are published for a particular line…think Harlequin Blaze, Harlequin Intrigue, Mills & Boon Medical, Silhouette Desire. These books tend to be shorter (60k or under) and are often numbered sequentially. Generally, a certain number of titles are released in a particular category each month. They are widely distributed, especially through the publisher’s book clubs. Many of the romance novels you see on the bookstands at the grocery stores (they usually have similar covers, titles, styles) are category romances.

Single Title – these are romances that do not belong to a particular category. They are longer (70k and up). They do not necessarily have to be “stand alone” books. Meaning, you can have a series, trilogy, etc that still qualify as single title. Unless your book is specifically written for and published by a company that puts out category romances, your book is single title.

Contemporary – for non-romance novels, this has a slightly different meaning. Usually contemporary refers to present day (or very recent past). But for romance, contemporary is anything after the World Wars (1945 to present). Some writers of this genre include Fern Michaels, Nora Roberts, Jude Deveraux, and Danielle Steele.

Erotic/Romantica™ - Romances can have erotic elements without being Erotica. For your book to qualify as Erotica, sex must be the defining element of the plot; meaning, if you take the sex out, the story falls apart. However, this does not mean that Erotica is just a book full of explicit sex scenes. Emotion is a huge part of Erotica stories and must be present in the plot.

Passionate Ink, a special chapter of Romance Writers of America, defines Erotica as:
stories written about the sexual journey of the characters and how this impacts them as individuals. Emotion and character growth are important facets of a true erotic story. However, erotica is NOT designed to show the development of a romantic relationship, although it’s not prohibited if the author chooses to explore romance. Happily Ever Afters are NOT an intrinsic part of erotica, though they can be included.

Examples include Shayla Black’s Decadent, Kate Douglas’s Wolf Tale series, and Beatrice Small’s Dangerous Pleasures.

Romantica™ is a sort of sub genre of Erotica. The term Romantica™ was coined by the folks at Ellora’s Cave, and is actually trademarked and so must be used with the trademark symbol. As defined on their website:
Within this genre, the main protagonists develop "in love" feelings for one another that culminate in a monogamous relationship...Ellora's Cave Romantica® must be both erotic and romantic...The sexual relationship must be integral to and an important element of the storyline and the character development. Sex scenes should contribute to furthering the plot or affecting the development of the romantic relationship or the growth of the characters…The story must meet the definition of a romance novel: the primary focus must be on the development of a romantic relationship, and there must be an emotionally satisfying committed ending for the main characters.

Gothic – these novels are usually set in the past, usually in an isolated location; a castle, distant manor houses, etc. They generally combine elements of romance, suspense, and mystery. Think of the stories where a young governess travels to tend the children of a handsome widower in his castle on the remote shores of England. They fall in love, someone tries to kill her or there is some other danger infused mystery to solve, and at the end, they marry and live happily ever after. Victoria Holt is one of the queens of Gothic romance.

Historical – as I mentioned in the genre post from last week, when it comes to romances, Historical refers to anything before the World Wars…and typically, historical romances take place even earlier, generally before 1910. These stories can take place anywhere in the world. The historical setting and details are an intricate part of the story. Western romances would fall under this category as they are typically set in the old American West. Some authors of this genre are Jane Feather, Johanna Lindsey, Kathleen Woodiwess, Elizabeth Boyle and Catherine Coulter.

Regency – A Regency is a very specific type of historical (and yes, it is specific enough that it has its own category). Regency novels are set in early 1800s England. The historical aspects of this time period are key elements in the story. Historical figures and circumstances are often woven into the story (even if they are background tidbits). The use of titles, proper name usage (you wouldn’t have a maid called Alexandra or a princess named Betsy), and examples of correct language and behavior for the time are a must. The focus on the setting and mannerisms of the characters are often much more pronounced than in a ‘regular’ historical. Some writers of this genre include Jo Beverley and Marion Chesney.

Traditional – these “old-fashioned” romances tend to focus on the emotional side of love with less of the physical stuff. Hand holding, tender glances, maybe a sweet kiss here and there. If there is a sex scene, it would be along the lines of “they kiss and then her husband blew the candle out,” type scene. A lot of the classics like Gone With The Wind and Pride and Prejudice would fall into this category.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Pain of Being My Characters - Take Two

Quote of the Day:
I would never write about a character who is not at the end of his rope.
~ Stanley Elkin

Okay dear readers, this week I am madly trying to get my almost-so-close-but-not-quite-WIP finished. Basically, it is done minus a couple transition scenes and the very end - and typing it of course :D I've got about 20k of it typed and the goal is to finish it this week. So, I hope you will forgive me, but I have delved into my archives and pulled out a couple favorite posts from my Blog Chain. As most of you joined me long after these were written, hopefully this is new stuff for you to read :)

Leah Clifford had picked this particular topic, and it is one I have been thinking about lately as my crit buddies have begun to sink their pens into my new book. Sometimes I have a hard time being mean to my characters - but this time around, I really tried to be the big, mean author :)

Leah asked: What do you do to amp up the conflict? What pins do you stick in the little voodoo dolls? How do you torture your characters???

Okay, when I first read this topic, I thought, “Oooo, yeah, I torture my characters all the time! This will be easy!”

Upon thinking about it more, I don’t think I do this on purpose (most of the time). But it tends to be the drama, the conflict, that drives a story…and you just can’t get that if your characters get everything they want and are happy all the time.

So how do I amp up the conflict, torture my characters? Well, in Treasured Lies, my main character Minuette falls in love, thinks her love might be a horrible criminal, watches her love get shot and thinks he bleeds to death, suffers a miscarriage, is told her love didn’t really love her and because of what has happened, believes it and gets her heart broken, and then just when things start looking up, the crazy villain comes and kidnaps her, beats her, and tries to kill and rape her. Is that torture enough? :D

A wise friend of mine once told me that if I ever get stuck (writer’s block) to just shoot someone. I laughed. And then realized that shooting someone was the perfect answer to the problem I had created for myself. I had written myself into a corner. All conflicts had been resolved and I had nowhere to go and I still had half a book left to write. So someone got shot – instant conflict, instant torture for several characters – instant end to writer’s block.

Looking at the quote of the day by Stanley Elkin, it is such a great piece of advice…a person at the end of their rope has no where to go but up….but there is always the threat of crashing down…and that makes a great story. If your characters never go through any kind of conflict or “torture,” then you have a story in which nothing happens. A happy person who has everything they want, and continues to be happy with everything they want…Where is the story in that?

Ernest Hemingway said that a writer should…“find what gave you emotion; what the action was that gave you excitement.”

I LOVE that quote. And it made me think, “What is it that gave me emotion? What gave me excitement?” Sure, I am happy when a character gets the guy at the end, or finds the treasure, or gets to live in the big pretty castle and lives happily ever after. But that isn’t what keeps me reading the story. What keeps me reading, what gives me goosebumps and makes my heart pound, is when the heroine cradles her dying husband in her arms…when she is on the back of a thundering horse, shooting a gun over her shoulder at the villain chasing her….when she made some stupid mistake and screwed up the good thing she had going….THAT kind of stuff makes me want to turn the page.

Did the husband really die? Will she get away? (Or will the retort of the gun knock her on her butt?…because that is always fun) :D Will she be able to fix her mistake and get the good thing going again, or has she just completely screwed up her life?

So, that is what I do to my characters. I try to give the reader a reason to turn the page, by giving my characters a reason to keep going, giving them something to fix, to resolve, to get over and move past. Death, pain, despair, torture, emotion, threat, danger….these all get the blood pumping, the tears pouring…and make that happy ending all the happier for the mess they had to go through to get there.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Blog Chain - Isn't It Romantic?

This round it was Sandra's turn to pick the topic, and she chose one that, as someone who writes a lot of romance, should have been easy for me. For some reason, it wasn't :) Be sure to head to Sandra's blog if you want to start the chain from the beginning. Christine posted before me and Elana is up next! Here are my thoughts on Sandra's question:

Do you write romantic relationships in your books? If so, what do you do to show the attraction between your characters? What problems do your characters encounter? What qualities do you think make a romantic relationship work in fiction? If you wish, feel free to include examples of your favorite couples.

I'm going to break it down and take each question one at a time....

Do you write romantic relationships in your books?

Yep, can’t help myself. Honestly, I’ve never tried to write a book that didn’t have romance in it – everything I’ve done so far has been specifically written as a romance something (a couple historical romances, a YA paranormal romance, a YA Urban Fantasy with strong romance elements). But I have a feeling anything I will write is going to have some romance in there somewhere.

If so, what do you do to show the attraction between your characters?

I try to just show the things we all experience when we are attracted to someone. I write YAs, and Christine pointed out how teenagers have that sort of obsessive/intense sort of romance. I may be getting older :D but I can still remember what it felt like when I was 16 and in love for the first time. That pounding heart, the total head rush when your love interest smiles at you or touches your hand. Even simple things like that, especially when you are in the first rush of a new love, can cause sparks to fly. I try to show that between my characters.

What problems do your characters encounter?

Well, for the paranormals and fantasies, they get to experience more interesting problems than just the normal, everyday type thing – so it can get fun. My couples also tend to be the good girl/bad boy type – so there are always problems when you have that kind of thing going on. I also try to just show real life type of issues that everyone can relate to. Maybe their families don’t get along, or the friends don’t approve, they come from opposite sides of the track, or maybe one of them is already attached.

The odd misunderstanding is always handy, though I try not to do that too often, because, really, while this does happen a lot in real life, it drives me a little nuts sometimes if the “misunderstanding” is too obviously contrived or just…well…stupid. I’m all for something like seeing your significant other locking lips with their ex (anyone watch Ugly Betty? The scene with Betty and Henry on the season finale that Betty’s boyfriend Matt witnesses. For those of you that didn’t see it, Betty meets up with her old boyfriend, her first love – they still love each other and always will, but she is in love with Matt and is happy with him. So they say goodbye – and they do kiss, but they are saying goodbye to each other forever…that kind of thing. But Matt sees it…and Betty chooses not to tell him about it. So, he understandably feels betrayed and that he can’t trust her and he breaks up with her.) That is a great conflict starter, a good misunderstanding where you can see both sides of what happened.

What qualities do you think make a romantic relationship work in fiction?

I think the same types of qualities that make a romantic relationship work in real life. Genuine love, understanding, compromise, the willingness to work on your relationship, to give in when you need to or stay firm when necessary, the true desire to see your partner happy and healthy, attraction for each other, laughter, at least one common interest :) You can stretch things sometimes in fiction, but at the end of the day, if it isn’t believable, it’s not going to work, no matter how odd or strange your storyworld or characters are. Your readers have to be able to connect to your characters and their relationships on some level.

If you wish, feel free to include examples of your favorite couples.

Oooo, there are so, so many – here are a few of mine:

Jamie and Claire Fraser from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.

Jocelyn and Trent from one of my favorite historical romances, The Braeswood Tapestry by Robyn Carr

Alex and Raine from the Wild Swan series by Celeste de Blasis

Westley and Buttercup from The Princess Bride

How about you? How do you add romance to your books? Or do you? And who are your favorite couples?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday Funnies

First of all, congratulations to my stepson Matt!!!! He graduates from high school today! We are so proud of you Matt!

K, on to the funnies for the day :)

Quote of the Day:
The profession of book-writing makes horse racing
seem like a solid, stable business.
~John Steinbeck

A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor.
~Ring Lardner

A dramatist is a congenital eavesdropper with the
instincts of a Peeping Tom.
~Kenneth Tynan

If anyone needs any genre help, be sure to head over to The Literary Lab. They spent the entire week posting some truly awesome break downs of some difficult genres and I am a guest blogger today with my genre list from this week. Go check it out!!! It's a wonderful site with tons of helpful info.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Write What You Know

I posted this on another blog a few months ago, but this is a phrase that I've been running across again lately, so I thought I'd re-post it :)

“Write what you know” is one of the most often heard phrases in the writing world. When I began seriously writing, my first reaction to this bit of advice was, “Oh heck no. No one is going to tell me what to write!” I didn’t want to write what I knew. That would be boring. I wanted to explore new worlds and dive into old ones.

It didn’t make any sense to me because I was hearing it very literally. I kept thinking, “Well, if writers only wrote what they knew, we’d have no fantasy or scifi or historical novels.” I mean, unless people were out there falling in love with vampires or having their home planets overrun by meat-eating aliens, it just wasn’t possible to always write what you know.

What I finally realized was that the best writers really do write what they know. Now, does that mean Stephenie Meyer has recently run into a family of vegetarian, sparkling vampires? Or that J.K. Rowling once stumbled upon a whole community of magical kids running around undetected by all the muggles somewhere in Britain? Of course not! (Well, not that I’m aware of in any case).

So how do writers write what they know? They infuse their stories with all of the emotions, knowledge, and life that they’ve experienced and use all of it to build their characters and storyworlds into incredible books that suck their readers into a new reality. I’m willing to bet that Ms. Meyer has, at some point in her life, experienced fear and loss and that total exhilaration of first love. J.K. Rowling was certainly never a magical teenage boy fighting a weird, snake-looking wizard…but she probably knows what it feels like to be terrified, excited, helpless, alone…to find friends who love you, fight for something you want, and maybe have things turn out great in the end.

To write what you know, you need to write about something you care about, something that touches you. That connection you have to your subject will come through in your work.

Novelist Kurt Vonnegut sums it up perfectly in our Quote for the Day:

Find a subject you care about and which in your heart you feel others should care about. It is the genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.

Agent Rachelle Gardner had a great post about writing what you know last year. In her opinion:

Write what you know means write with authenticity about thoughts, feelings, experiences of life. Be honest. Write from a deep place. Don't write from the surface. Whether you're writing about parenthood or cancer or anything else... be real.

Don't reflect what you know from other people or the media... write what you know from your own inner life.

There is a more literal approach to the “write what you know” statement as well. It really is necessary to be familiar with your genre and the world of which you are writing. There are little quirks and “rules” to every genre – what works for a romance might not always work for a thriller.

Agent Scott Eagan posted about this in his blog a few months ago. He stated:

It is crucial for you to write in the niche that you know the best. By doing so, you understand the twists and turns to that genre that others might not get. More importantly, you understand the voice that is commonly associated with that genre.

This can also be an area when a little research can come in handy. If you are writing a book set in Ancient Greece, it is necessary for you to do enough research that you really know what you are talking about. Otherwise, you will never be able to truly transport your readers into the world you are trying to describe. Mary wrote a wonderful post about how familiarity breeds authenticity. You may not be able to personally experience the day Vesuvius erupted and buried Pompeii, or what it is like to live beneath the ocean, but you can familiarize yourself enough with the pertinent details that you can convince your readers that your characters are living through those experiences.

This applies to the worlds you create yourself as well. Fantasy and science fiction writers create their own worlds, true. But there are certain rules even within the realms of fictional worlds. Maybe in your world, women have supernatural powers and men don’t. Or maybe blondes can see the future and brunettes can fly. You can make whatever rules you’d like for your universe, but you have to stick to them. And you have to have enough knowledge of that world to convince your reader that the experiences and emotions of your characters are authentic and appropriate for the world in which they live.

When you write a book, you want to suck your reader into your world – whether that world is set in the past, the present, the future, or on some other planet or reality…you need to know enough about that world, your characters, and the things they will feel and experience to draw your readers in. Using your own emotions and experiences, and your own specialized knowledge about the world you are creating, will help you craft an amazing story.

In other words, my dear writers…write what you know ;-)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

WIP Wednesday and a Book List Update

Ah, this week was a good week! Though it didn't seem like it. But once I started adding up numbers and chapters, it really was productive :D That's always fun to report.

Non-fiction - 2.5 chapters written for a total of 4.5/25 = 18% done

I also started querying, very slowly. Just sent out a few queries, but have received one request so far, so doing well there.

Fiction - did awesome today! In fact, probably 90% of my wordage this week came from today's haul. It helps when the hubby takes the kids out of the house for a couple hours :D So, the stats are:

Notebook pages = 162 front and back, 1 front only

Pens drained = still only 5!!!

I'm telling you, #6 is hanging on for dear life. But I took it apart tonight just to see how much I've got left, and it really shouldn't be too much longer. I think they may have put more ink in this pen than in the others...it's the only explanation I can think of.....

Approximate total wordage = 48,750/60,000 = 81% done!!

I think I might actually start typing up the manuscript in a few days also. I might write one more scene in my notebooks, but I've sort of gotten to where most of the scenes are written except for the very end and a few in betweens - only I've jumped around so much I'm not sure where the holes are that need to be filled. So, I'm going to write one more scene that I'm sure needs to be in there, and then type the whole thing up. Then I will see what my actual word count is and I can start filling out some scenes where necessary and patch the holes :) I am very excited I am so close!

And for the Reading List Update (yep, I actually managed to read a book this week!)

#20 So Still the Night by Kim Lenox - this is book 2 in her Shadow Guards series and I enjoyed it every bit as much as book 1. I highly recommend them!

How is everyone doing on their WIPs? Getting any reading or writing done?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

How to Define a Genre

Quote of the Day:
Respect the genre you're writing in. In an effort to put your own stamp on it, don't ignore the established conventions of that genre - or you'll alienate your core audience of loyal buyers. ~Kathleen Krull

I wrote this for another blog but I spent a lot of time researching and didn't want to lose the info, so here it is for anyone who is having trouble defining those pesky genres :)

Genre – basic definition – a literary term used to describe a group of works with similar characteristics such as characters, themes, and setting.

There are more genres than you can shake a stick at – really. So this list nowhere near completes the possibilities, but these are the most common.

Action/Adventure: Often, though not always, aimed at a male audience. Contains elements of physical action, violence, danger (physical, global, etc), hazards, travel to exotic locations (jungles, deserts, tropical islands). Storylines often contain use of weapons, technology, martial arts. Can and often do contain elements of humor. Examples include the James Bond films, Indiana Jones, the Die Hard movies, the Rush Hour movies, The Mummy movies.

Chick-Lit: geared toward women, often urban settings, includes elements of romance, humor, professional struggles, relationships. Examples include Bridget Jones’s Diary and Sex and the City.

Contemporary: Mostly used to denote the setting. If you have a mystery that is set in present time, on this planet, etc, you could call it a Contemporary Mystery.

Experimental: Usually edgy in style or content. Pulp Fiction would be a good example.

Fantasy: Fantasy stories are set on other worlds or in other realities. You can have vampires or werewolves or fairies, but in general, fantasy creatures tend to be more…fantastic, mythological – dragons, gryphons, three-headed dog beasts. Magic is a huge element of fantasy stories. Here is a little test: if you can take away the “weird” in the story (i.e. the beasts, the magic) and the world you are left with is still not the normal, everyday world you know, it’s a fantasy story. Lord of the Rings is a fantasy.

--Urban Fantasy – this genre is actually closer to a paranormal than a fantasy. These stories deal with magical or paranormal elements in a real world, contemporary (or urban) setting. Many paranormal books could also be classified as Urban Fantasy, including Twilight, Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake and Merry Gentry series, and The Dresden Files.

General: This is kind of a blanket genre for anything that doesn’t fit in any of the other categories. On Golden Pond is an example of general fiction.

Historical: Portrays fictionalized accounts of real life historical events or people. In non-fiction and fiction, a story set in the 1940s or 1950s could be considered historical, and definitely anything set early than that. Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Sister and Anchee Min’s The Last Emperor are examples of historical fiction. This does not apply to Historical Romance. For Romance, anything after 1910 is still contemporary (for now…this may change the farther into the 2000s we get).

Horror: The plot usually contains threats to the main characters that include things like death, mutilation and torture. Horror stories try to create a sense of horror, terror, and revulsion in its readers and have a tendency to be gory. The hero doesn’t always make it out alive in a horror story. Stephen King's The Shining is a great example. Well, any of Stephen King’s books.

Humor/Comedy: The purpose of this genre, as you can probably guess, is to make the reader laugh. Often combined with other elements such as romance and action/adventure. Fletch, Men In Black and Get Smart are examples of humor.

Inspirational: Mostly Christian-based storylines, though points of view of other religions are becoming more popular. Stories contain elements of faith and religion; working through life problems with a focus on a character’s beliefs and religion. An example of inspirational fiction is Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softly series.

Literary: This one can be hard to define. Nathan Bransford has an excellent post about this. Literary fiction tends to be more geared to the characters, the inner workings of their minds and hearts. It does need to have a plot, but as Nathan states, the plot is often beneath the surface, whereas in commercial fiction, the plot is on the surface. Examples would be Out of Africa and Gilead.

Middle Grade: Geared toward preteens. Often have a moral message or lesson; the character learn about self-esteem, confidence, friendship, etc. Charlotte’s Web and Nim’s Island are examples.

Mystery: The plot is geared toward the solving of a problem, often, but not always, murder. Subplots are fine (many have a romantic element), but the “problem” (i.e. the mystery) presented at the beginning must be resolved. The Sherlock Holmes stories are an example.

Niche: This type of book will only appeal to a certain niche of reader. For example, if I wrote a fiction book about frogs that lived in Texas, and that was all the book was about, it would only appeal to those that liked frogs or the state of Texas. So, I would query my hypothetical book Frogs of Texas as Niche Fiction.

Paranormal: Paranormal stories are set in the real world, the world as we know it…with a little extra thrown in. Vampires, shapeshifters, fairies, elves, witches, demons, gargoyles, ghosts, psychics, mediums, telepaths, time travelers…these all belong in the paranormal world. Use the same test as we used for the fantasy worlds…if you can take away the “weird” factors and you are left with our everyday world = paranormal. For example, if you take away the sparkling, gorgeous vampire, or vengeful ghost, or the time portal the main characters travel through, and you are left with everyday Earth – your story is paranormal fiction. Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files and Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse vampire books are examples of paranormal fiction.

Romance: The plot of a romance centers around a couple that fall in love and have a “happily ever after” ending. This is a must; there are no exceptions. If your couple is not happily in love and together at the end of your book, it’s not a romance. It might be a love story (in which case, it would go under women’s fiction) but a romance has to have a HEA. You can have subplots, but the main plotline must be about the couple’s romance. Now, there are so many subgenres to the Romance genre (many totally unique to romance) that I will do a separate post on these next week, so stay tuned.

Science-Fiction: This one is actually pretty self-explanatory. It’s fiction about science. The plot usually has something to do with science or technology and has to be within the realm of possibility. Stories are often set in the future or on other planets. Star Wars, Stargate and Star Trek fall in this category, as do I, Robot, Starship Troopers, Dune, Ender’s Game, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, A Wrinkle in Time, and Jurassic Park.

Suspense: While often lumped together, suspense novels are generally not as intense as thrillers. The threat is often directed at the main character. Can include many elements but often includes mystery, murder, a little romance, danger, action.

Thriller: More intense than suspense; the threat is often against a larger group than just the main character (threats against the community, a city, a country, the world). Usually about life and death situations where ordinary heroes are up against mastermind villains. Generally lots of action and plot twists. The Da Vinci Code, The Hunt for Red October and Enemy of the State are examples.

Western: These are generally set in the Western United States before 1900. There are also contemporary westerns. An example of a Western is The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.

Women's: There are several different sub-genres, but in general this genre is geared toward women; a woman is the main character and her development, life, experiences, etc, are the backbone of the story. Think Fried Green Tomatoes or The First Wives Club.

Young Adult: These books can include any genre but the main character should be the same age as the readers the story is geared toward (teens, 13-18). There can be romance but this element is usually on the tame side. Examples are the Harry Potter books, Twilight, Vampire Academy, and Wicked Lovely.

Once you have your genre down, you can pick your subgenres if necessary. However, do not list your book with more than three genres. If at all possible, keep it to two. You have to be able to narrow your book down. What shelf should it be on in a bookstore? You might have six different elements in your book, but stick to the main two.

Really the only two instances three genres might be necessary is for historicals and Young Adults. One because it tells the time period and the other because it tells the age the book is geared toward. My current book is YA Urban Fantasy. This isn’t overboard, but querying your book as a Mystery Thriller Urban Women’s fiction with romantic and science fiction elements is a bit much. Your book may contain all of those but you don’t need to give it all away.