My Novel got Rejected Again

After revising my query and trying again, I finally got an agent to request a partial. After she read it, here’s what I was told:

” I read it and found the plot interesting, but wasn’t as taken with the dialogue or writing, so I’m going to pass on the opportunity to represent this.”

I offered another novel that’s totally separate but that was declined as well (without being read).

So what does this mean? Ironically, I thought the writing and dialogue were good and the plot not so much, so this agent saw things completely opposite. However, as of this writing I’m over 17.5k reads in less than 3 months, and my story is consistently in the top 400 (as high as #49) out of at least 100,000 fantasy stories on Wattpad, so clearly there is interest in Bradan’s story. Per popular demand, I will post book 2 as I have no ability as of yet to market the novels themselves. I will continue to try to seek a traditional publisher but if no one wants the novel, I will self-publish the series rather than sit on them forever.

While I appreciate this agent’s time in reading the first 50 pages of ERA OF BRADAN, it’s disappointing that yet again, I cannot get interest in a novel that, as I note above, has a pretty solid following on Wattpad, especially given that it’s my only book and I only began posting it this calendar year. While the number may fluctuate, I gain about 1000 new reads every 4-5 days, which means close to 7,000 new fans a month or another 55,000 by the end of this year (this is just at current trends- typically as books get more reads, they attract even more people so I could end up averaging 1,000+ a day). Now that’s not a lot of reads on Wattpad, but it does suggest there’s interest in this story. Keep in mind this is a MG novel and isn’t even the right age for Wattpad’s readership. By the time I post the second novel, I should be able to easily get over 100,000 views (and no money for it). This doesn’t even count my kid beta readers, the few who’ve read the whole thing on PDF and have liked it, if not loved it.

I get that agents have a lot of submissions and it’s a totally subjective field. But I think they are looking for different things than what readers are looking for. And remember, we aren’t even up to the publishers yet. Oh well. In the meantime, back to selling card games.

 

What do you think about the traditional book publishing process ? Have you experienced rejection within the industry?

Is Star Wars Proof Readers Like the Same Old Story?

 

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Unless you live in a cave, or Afghanistan (which to be fair is sort-of one and the same thing), you know the seventh Star Wars movie is out.

This movie has already surpassed the half billion mark in box office receipts and the Star Wars Franchise, nearly 40 years old, is still going strong. New generations of fans are always being born, and there is literally no shortage to the possible number of video games, t-shirts, posters, fan art, etc., available. I still remember, as a kid, all the Star Wars games and books I used to have.

So what is it about Star Wars that makes it so popular? And how does it affect the type of stories we write? Is it true that, despite people saying they like ‘fresh and original’, they in fact, prefer the exact same story with some subtle changes?

I searched for the answer to my questions to the omniscient, onmipresent God Almighty, who is manifested on this Earth in the form of the search engine, delivered from Mount Silicon from His prophet Google.

Levi Throckmorton, Star Wars historian (did you know there was such a thing? How much does that pay?) says:

  • Star Wars is genre-defining. It was the first feature film of its kind and it opened the gate for space-based science fiction to occupy an unshakeable position in mainstream culture.
  • The story of the original trilogy of Star Wars is one of humanity’s favorite stories. David beats Goliath. The underdog good topples the powerhouse evil.
  • The universe is vast. Multiple planets are mentioned, visited and explored. All manner of sentient and non-sentient beings are on display, including the primary antagonist being a mixture of both. Entire books have been written just about the spaceships, land vehicles, and weapons that exist in Star Wars. And those are just the films…
  • The movies aren’t the end of the story. In fact, the seven Star Wars feature films that exist only comprise around 35 years of the history of the galaxy. There is so much more information to explore, whether via novels, comic books, video games, or the Star Wars Wiki (lovingly nicknamed Wookieepedia).
  • The stories are relevant to children as well as adults. A 40-year-old can watch these films or read these books and get just as much pleasure and satisfaction as a 10-year-old. The Star Wars universe isn’t something that just fades away as you grow older. If anything, rewatching the movies with an adult perspective on the politics and relationships featured in them has only enhanced my love for the universe.

Here’s a second take from Michael Wolfe:

This may in part explain the recycling of the same idea in our movies, books, TV shows, and video games: Regular joe discovers he’s (almost always a man, it seems) the ‘chosen one’ and must save the world from pure evil, which is evil because it is evil.
Some scripts like Game of Thrones defiantly bucks this trend with main-character-killing or no specific good vs. evil plot to overcome. But for sure, the good will triumph over evil plot is popular, chosen one stories are popular, especially when the hero is unaware of his special powers and doesn’t want to cause trouble in the beginning. It also helps in my view to be “first to market”, getting there before anyone else does. Once you do that, anyone who tries to compete with you will be derided as a “copycat” and will have to compete against your brand, which will occupy space with the divergence of media that is our internet world.
Having said that, is it a bad thing that the most popular story ever told is recycled 2-3 times a generation in a well-told story? or does the public love these stories because they do not believe we live in a just world?

As always, make sure to follow my blog for more fun analysis and talking points. Happy Holidays, whatever you celebrate, and Happy New Year.

Do you Enter Writing Contests? Do You Hear Back?

I had submitted a few short stories for some contests earlier this year. Now I did submit one which was rejected by Highlights for Children, but that was not a contest. I got a message from the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Award saying my story “Palace of the “King” was not going to win. Granted, it was not even close to my best work, but I didn’t win.

I also submitted a story for the Baen Fantasy Adventure Awards. That one I thought was a lot better- still not my best, but a solid fantasy adventure story. Well, I never heard back from them, even though I was promised an answer by July 1. I was finally read to send an e-mail asking if they were going to let me know if I was picked, when I decided to DuckDuckGo them (think Google, but with a different search engine). Well, I found out who the finalists were. And no, I was not picked.

While I was not surprised I was rejected, I am annoyed I didn’t at least get a generic rejection letter like I get from most agents or contests, if not the mailed letter Highlights send out. I noticed the winners were well-known names in the Fantasy/Sci-fi writer’s community. I get it, I’m a Millennial and a newbie whose writing is terrible and who isn’t a “superstar” writer. But would it have hurt Baen to sent form rejection letters to us losers? I had ordered a cheap cover design, but then canceled, in case I was a finalist.

The only benefit is, I can now offer this story as a giveaway or as a package deal with the other short story, so buy 1 get 1 free. I’ll publish it soon.

I really want to hear from you: Do you enter contests? Do you ever win? If not, do you hear back?

can you guess where this is? Bonus points if you do.

“Palace” of the “King”- part 3 of 6

Below is part 3 of my continuing fantasy/sci-fi short story. The total is 7 pages. I’m taking a bit of a summer vacation right now, but I hope you will enjoy the story. Big announcement when I get back. All you authors and readers, stay tuned!

TWO HOURS LATER Cutter leaned back against the wall, ripped his shirt off, and allowed Tonya Redding, the Chameleon’s nurse, a five-four woman with reddish-brown hair, sharp auburn eyes underneath brown eyebrows, and a lot of spirit, to treat his wounds. After giving him some Novocain gel she moved her gloved fingers towards the piece of wood stuck in his ribcage. He struggled to get away but Tonya held him down. She was not nearly as strong as him but she was able to make sure he didn’t break free and let the wood splinters dig further into his skin.

Not that it mattered to Cutter anyway. They didn’t know his genetic code was devouring his body. They didn’t know he had agreed to allow himself to be permanently mutilated in order to live just a little longer, to give his body just enough life to take a single chance to stop the “King” from bringing some terrible ruin to world. But, as he sat back and let Tonya do her work, he knew any one of these battles would be his last; either he would be killed by an enemy or by his own body. Either way, he had no hope to see a war-free world in his lifetime.

All he could do was allow Tonya to patch him up just well enough to let him complete the next step of the mission. He knew she wouldn’t be able to do much; her best medical equipment was at the Chameleon’s hidden base in eastern Montana, where Pyrotek was now. She had to make do in a rickety wooden shack somewhere at the foot of the mountains with only as many supplies as Pyrotek could have delivered by drone.

Tonya gave Cutter some antiseptic to kill harmful bacteria on his skin and some ibuprofen for his pain. She ordered him to rest, but he couldn’t relax-the buzz of adrenaline hadn’t worn off yet. Everyday pharmaceutical drugs had all but disappeared under the new economy; these drugs were rationed in favor of producing more antidepressants, barbiturates, and steroids to keep the mercenaries fit and able to battle without feeling the negative emotions of the pain they were causing to themselves and others.

“How do you feel?” she asked. Cutter sat up.

“I’m fine,” he said. He groaned: the pain inside was really starting to hurt- and it wasn’t the pain of having some splinters in his body. “I need to smoke.”

“No you don’t. Smoking kills, you know.”

What do I care at this point? He thought as Tonya finished applying bandage gauze to the spots on his skin where the wood had penetrated. I don’t know long I’ve got but it ain’t much.

Cutter cleared his throat loudly and turned his head so he could cough out mucus into a bucket filled with ice chips next to his bed.

Grooosss!” Tonya exclaimed, smacking him with one of her gloves. “Cutter! That’s the ice I was going to use on your joints! Well, now you can feel your phlegm on your knees!”

“Yea, about that,” Cutter said indifferently. He looked around for a box of cigarettes but couldn’t find any. “Where’s my Parliaments?”

“No smoking!” Tonya exclaimed. Cutter was prepared to move but he soon felt the Novocain’s effect begin to sink into his skin. He groaned again and sat with his back upright against the wall.

Four hours later Cutter finally had his cigarette. Tonya relented and let him smoke one– and then promptly whisked the carton away before he could tempt himself into taking a few more.

The remaining Chameleons were gathered around a single night table in the center of the room when Cutter joined them. A six-two African American man from Chicago with a 1980s-style Mohawk and a bulky muscular body covered by a Kevlar suit removed a small lamp from the table and tossed it aside. The Chameleons called him Kevlar. No one knew what his real name was.

“This is it, then,” he said in a deep Chicago accent. He made sure to face the rest of the room so he could let them feel his presence. “We all that’s left.”

Cutter moved his eyes from left to right: Cherise Wright was the only woman in the crew, also African-American but five-six, lean, and with a scowl on her face she had so often Cutter assumed it was a permanent fix; she was also the only surviving Chameleon who went by her real name (or at least what she told everyone was her real name- in this brave new world, verifying personal information was almost impossible, let alone pointless). Then there was M.K., a slender six-foot-tall Algerian national who moved to America three years before the wars broke out. A defected former mercenary, he snuck away from a bloody mission in the ruins of downtown Denver and found Cutter, who was there trying to shut down a New Age Global Armor Tech production factory; Spezzna, who had washed some blood out of his hair and looked otherwise uninjured; and Rigatoni, a short Italian-American from New Jersey with big biceps and calves but who was sometimes referred to derogatorily as “noodle”, and that wasn’t for squishy muscles.

Kevlar removed a smartphone from his suit and placed it on the table while everyone else gathered around. This device was able to be tracked only by the satellite Pyrotek had put into orbit a year earlier- a structure disguised as a piece of space garbage from the not-quite-completed International Space Station. All other signals to the device were jammed.

“Can you see me?” Pyrotek’s voice said. The screen was black at first but a moment later they all saw their genius engineer’s unshaven face and blue eyes covered by thick glasses. “Okay, great.”

“What’s the plan?” Cherise said. “At this rate we’ll be dead before we crash the Labyrinth.”

“I sent KeyKey out a few hours ago into the mountains to get a head start on the next phase,” Pyrotek said. “There’s a path which must’ve been built some time ago, a dirt path through the mountains which so far as I can tell…” he moved away from the screen for a moment and then returned. “Is at least nine miles long. Five human guards on the path but they’re just patrolling, private military company I think but KeyKey couldn’t get a good read on them. They’re spaced out a mile and a quarter mile apart so you can take them out without alerting the others. Once you get to the other side you walk about…one mile to The Palace, and it looks to be about…three miles from end to end.”

“What’s in there?” M.K. asked.

“Ummm…” Pyrotek turned his head again. “I can’t tell. It appears to be open-air but some type of fog keeps blocking my view of the actual inside. All I can see is the outline of this so-called Palace. Cutter, you and the others need to be careful. If I can’t get a reading on what this place looks like I can’t help you. If this fog doesn’t clear out, then KeyKey’s solar-powered battery may not be able to recharge in there and he can’t help you.”

“Got it,” Cutter said. “Thanks, Pyrotek. Stand by.”

“My pleasure.” Pyrotek kept his line of communication open but moved to and from the screen.

Cutter started to cough hard. He tried to control himself but his coughs grew so violent he fell to the ground, using one arm to prop himself up as he kept coughing.

Cutter!” Kevlar yelled.

Cutter staggered to his feet and felt his insides ready to heave. He moved as fast as his decrepit body could go towards the edge of the cabin and vomited in the corner. No one approached him as he bent over and panted.

“This isn’t good,” Cherise said as she bit her lip. “Cutter, if you can’t move, then you should stay behind and let us go.”

“No,” Cutter said. He coughed again but now he felt a little better- but if he could get a cigarette he would feel a lot better. “I’m going. We need to do this. We need-“ he coughed again and stumbled as he made his way back to the table.

“Kevlar, give Cutter his shot,” Pyrotek said through the phone.

“Give me-“ images of needles penetrating his skin entered his mind.

“You got it, Tekkie,” Kevlar said. He kicked Cutter’s right knee, causing him to yell and fall to the ground, clutching it. Before Cutter could stand up, Rigatoni and Spezzna held him down while Kevlar took a syringe filled with green liquid out of his suit.

“Hold him real still,” Kevlar said.

“STOP!” Cutter ordered.

Hold him!” Kevlar shouted over Cutter’s voice. There would be no cleaning wipe, no disinfectant. Kevlar jammed the needle into Cutter’s bicep and he gasped as his eyes closed and saw only black.

He blinked a few times and noticed the hut looked darker than usual. He blinked again and thought he saw some light from the corner of his right eye. He turned his head and saw Kevlar and Cherise surrounding the table and talking to it in low voices. He figured they were talking to Pyrotek.

He lifted his body up one hand, then one arm, then one foot at a time. Outside he saw darkness and inside he saw Rigatoni, Spezzna, and M.K. asleep on the ground. He cleared his throat and Kevlar and Cherise turned to face him.

“You’re ill,” Kevlar said somberly. “That’s the third one of these I had to use on you in the last two days.”

Hunnnhhh.” Cutter moved to the table and sat next to it. He felt his insides vibrate like guitar strings.

“How are you feeling, Cutter?” Pyrotek asked.

“Fine,” Cutter said untruthfully, and somehow he had the feeling Pyrotek knew it too because he cleared his throat very obviously and said, “I think you should tell them.”

“Tell us what?” Cherise asked. “Cutter, are you alright or not? If we’re going we gotta go. Now.”

“I’m…” he was prepared to tell them, well Kevlar and Cherise. But he did not want to let them down. “I’m fine for this mission.”

“If somethin’s up you gotta say it now,” Kevlar said. “Pyrotek, what’s the deal with Cutter?”

“He’s…” Cutter braced himself for Pyrotek to blab. “Very ill.”

“We know that,” Kevlar said.

“He’s dying very quickly,” Pyrotek said with a hint of sadness.

Pyrotek!” Cutter shouted. For a brief moment he felt well and strong, but as soon as he stopped talking the pain returned and he laid down on the ground.

“Dying?” Cherise asked. The worry in her voice was unmistakable. “Cutter, how long has this been going on? And why didn’t you tell us before?”

“I didn’t want to,” Cutter said. He felt around his suit for his cigarettes but couldn’t find them. “We need to keep focused on the mission, not my problems.”

“Your problems are our problems,” Kevlar said. “You’re the Chameleons, Cutter. All this stuff about shutting down the global war economy, about stopping this so-called King from building a new monstrosity on the graves of the dead, this is all you. We joined because of you. We fight and risk our lives because we believe in what you believe in too. Without you, man, there ain’t nobody ready to lead.”

“You’ll do well enough, Kevlar,” Cutter said. He put his hands on the ground. There had to be cigarettes somewhere. “You’re ready to take over when my time is up.”

Kevlar sat down next to Cutter and Cherise sat in front of him. “We’re all mortal,” Kevlar said. “You, me, all of us. We all goin’ to the same place and we don’t know when or how soon it’ll be. But as long as we’re here we might as well make the most of it. Even you, you sick old man.”

Cutter forced a smile. A few tears came down from Kevlar’s eyes, but he wiped them and managed to hold himself together. Cherise, normally tough and worry-free, turned her head and moved her hands to her face. Cutter heard sniffling even from the phone, but when he got up to look, Pyrotek had stopped, clearing his throat to speak.

“Well you’re here now,” he said. “Cutter, KeyKey’s finished mapping the pathway to The Palace. You have to go now, before dawn. It’s the only way you’ll get the jump on the guards patrolling the path in front of you.

“And how long until dawn?” Cutter asked.

“Six hours, and you have to go twelve miles to make it to The Palace. The later you wait, the more enemies you can expect to encounter.”

“Then let’s go,” Cutter said. He tried to stand up but needed Kevlar’s help. “Wake the others up. We need to go, while I can still move.”

The Sad Puppies win! And the Right-Wing Balance to the Hugo Awards

If you have no idea what the Hugo Awards, are, they’re, like, the biggest deal in science fiction and fantasy writing. For anyone who writes in these two genres, winning one is like winning the Grammys or an Oscar.

Unfortunately, literary fiction has not been immune to personal politics. And we aren’t talking about the “did you hear what she said about so and so?” kind. We mean liberal vs. conservative.

Disclosure: I’m no long-time follower of the Hugos, so I’m commenting by what I see as I learn more.

Essentially the issue boils down to what conservatives, libertarians, and other “non-conformist” ideologies feel is a politicizing of science fiction literature by the left-wing of the group, led by former Sci-Fi Writer’s Guild President Jon Scalzi and Patrick and Teresa Nielsen-Hayden of Tor Books. The right-wing/no-wing side believe left-of-center types have used the Hugos and other sci-fi/fantasy awards to promote works by other lefties or “diversity”, aka giving awards to women/people of color/different sexual orientations BECAUSE they are non- straight white guys, as oppose to being great writers worthy of nomination. So about two years ago, some openly conservative/libertarian authors started the “sad puppies” group, named to be sarcastic about bleeding-heart liberals who always profess to do something to help “the  children” or “sad puppies.” AKA, the name is supposed to mean “vote for our nominations or you’re killing sad puppies”, something to that effect.

The counter-argument from the left was that for most of the history of book publishing, straight white guys have dominated and their reaction now is due to feeling threatened by women/POC/DSO taking awards from them so they’re lashing out. They NEED the diversity in the awards, they argue, since this is the only way individuals in under-represented groups (count the number of big-time Hispanic male authors, and get back to me) can have a shot at winning.

Well, it appears the Sad Puppies won. The 2015 Hugo Awards nominees are (apparently) mostly individuals who were being pushed by Vox Day and some other right-of-center sci-fi authors for the nominations. This has caused a huge firestorm of protest from those considered to be “social justice warriors”, i.e. who were (allegedly) punishing non-conformists by denying them the opportunities to get books/short stories published or nominated for awards, and those who think, after finally being included in the normally “straight white guy” world of sci-fi/fantasy literature, are being pushed back by those who (allegedly) want the 1950s back.

I’ve heard of the Hugo Awards before, and I knew they were prestigious. I had no idea the political ideology fights were so intense. It kind of stinks, in my opinion, because this means any and all nominations will be subject to what side of the aisle you’re on- and if people happen to read any of my Watchdog.org op-eds, like here and here and here, I’ll lose any possible chance i have of being “politically-neutral” and this eligible to offend no one if some magical unicorn came to me and .convinced its flying sea-monkey friends to nominate me for a Hugo. That’s about the only chance I will ever have to win one, and if I’m ever nominated, let alone win one, I’ll have to come up with something gross or crazy like jump out of a moving car or publish a sex tape or something.

Feel free to share your thoughts about the Hugo award nominating process or this year’s choices. Who do you think will win?

photos are not mine and are republished as ‘fair-use’ under U.S. Copyright laws.

Love Fantasy? Two Short Story Contents worth Entering

March 31 is the deadline for two fantasy/sci-fi short story contents, if that’s your thing. Some people will say contests are a waste of time because they distract you from working on novels and short stories for publication for your audience, but some contents can give you prestige. Who wouldn’t want to mention an award-winning piece of work on their website?

There’s the Writer’s of the Future contest from one very famous Sci-fi writer, L Ron Hubbard. This is for people who have never professionally published a novel or short novel, or more than one novelette, or more than three short stories, in any medium. Professional publication is deemed to be payment of at least six cents per word, and at least 5,000 copies, or 5,000 hits.

This is a great award to try to go for if you’re a newbie like I am. I finished a piece in the 11,000-12,000 word range, which has both sci-fi and fantasy elements to it. After I enter I’ll post the first 1,000 words on this blog.

The Second Annual Baen fantasy contest. Enter before it gets hot! You get paid the professional short story rate and some other goodies, including Baen books. Also, they have a deadline  to get back to you, so you know when to get your yes/no answer. The contest is capped at 8,000 words. I’m about done with my draft so I have 3 weeks to do some editing and revisions before I send ’em off to the fantasy gods and goddesses.

Either way, neither you nor I are likely to win these contests or even get an honorary mention. I have a feeling my style of writing is not well-liked by contest judges (think the opposite of flowery prose language). Oh well- at least Writer’s of the Future gives you a chance if you’ve not yet self-published (or gotten trad pubbed, if that’s more your thing). But if you do, let me know!

Coming up next: An interview with my fangirls!

Coming up soon: The language barrier obstacle

Your Thoughts: Are Novellas the “New” Novels?

What do you think? Given the advent of e-books and free-books and the cost associated for an indie author to pay for editing and other services, plus the sheer number of content available for download and purchase, will the novella form see a revival? or will novellas, which are like “long short stories”, become a fad because people decide they want longer stories (but not too long!) with more substance? From io9:

“Tor.com is moving aggressively into publishing novellas (or short novels) in e-book format, and they just announced their first list of titles. But why is Tor.com (and everybody else) so convinced that shorter is better for e-books? Editorial assistant Carl Engle-Laird explains.

“When asked why Tor.com is focusing on publishing shorter works as e-books, Engle-Laird tells io9:

When the book wars sweep across the galaxy, and the blood of publishers runs down the gutters of every interstellar metropolis, the resource we fight for will not be paper, or ink, or even money. It will be time. For our readers, time is the precious commodity they invest in every book they decide to purchase and read. But time is being ground down into smaller and smaller units, long nights of reflection replaced with fragmentary bursts of free time. It’s just harder to make time for that thousand-page novel than it used to be, and there are more and more thousand-page novels to suffer from that temporal fragmentation.

Enter the novella, an old form with a new lease on life. We expect that the reader who has to fit their reading into their daily commute will appreciate a novella they can finish in a week, rather than a year. We’ll be releasing books that can be begun and completed on just one of those rare evenings of uninterrupted reading pleasure. And we think this will resonate especially with those readers who have so much reading to do that they’ve compressed their habit into a portable device.

Of course, Tor.com won’t just be a science fiction publisher. Our fantasy sensibilities insist on reminding you that novellas aren’t just the future of genre, they’re also our past. Science fiction and fantasy were born in penny dreadfuls, came of age in magazines, and novellas have been essential to their development, from The War of the Worlds to The Shadow Over Innsmouth to Empire Star. Tor.com wants to carry that fantastical history into a future that is beginning to outgrow its magazine predicates, but has no need to outpace its love of excellent stories at the length in which they were meant to be told.”

My first-ever writer’s conference

As approach Thanksgiving I though I’d share a few thoughts on the 2014 Baltimore Writer’s conference I recently attended. This was my first-ever writer’s conference and looking back at it it was an interesting time. Sadly, no photos 😦

The highlights:

  • Took place at the campus of Towson University.
  • -about 125 people, mostly under 30. Mostly White but there was some diversity (more than the publishing industry, I’d guess)
  • -Four session times offered. I first went to the session called “Publish your own lit journal” The takeaways were: don’t quit your day job, set specific times to allow for author submissions, get a great cover designer, figure out the costs for physical copies if you’re selling, and make sure you have a phenomenal editor team in place to read submissions. One magazine assigns one editor per genre, another passes it around to 5-6 editors and has a “two votes and you’re out” policy. Despite the challenges facing print publishing the publishers featured were enthusiastic about what they publish, seeing it as more of a hobby or life-long fulfillment than as a way to make millions.
  • -The second session I went to a session called “how to craft a better query letter” which turned out to be about how to pitch story ideas to a local Baltimore feature magazine. The session was not that interesting to me since I have no desire to become a reporter for any local featurettes, so I went to the “creating dialogue for fiction” session, which had about half the total conference participants in it. Although I missed the beginning I got these tips:
  • -don’t use dialog in low-contect situations. Skip hellos, goodbyes, self-appraisals, and statements of feelings (can use in high-contect situations like family feuds and spousal arguments)
  • Characters only ask, say, answer, and reply. They never chortle!
  • Strike out words like “Oh, yes, well, so, um, etc.
  • Avoid dialect in dialog.
  • Avoid over-telling
  • Have characters do stuff while they talk. People don’t always sit around doing nothing.
  • 3 lines of dialogue per one character speech. Save longer monologues for specific situations.

Do you agree/disagree with any of these?

After a lunch of penne paste and grilled chicken I had a critique section! Jessica Blau, who wrote a best-seller, critiqued my work. She liked my chapter but we disagreed on some of the dialogue structure. She did catch a few errors but it would have been nicer to show her an entire book and not just one short chapter. A good experience; I’d never had work critique by anyone before. My mom doesn’t count. I was surprised only 30 of the conference attendees came to this session. Maybe they didn’t have anything they were ready to have critiqued.

There last session was by a woman named Bonnie Friedman who talked about “Envy fear, distractions, and other dilemmas in the writer’s life”. This was a forum attended by younger people who had to suffer anxiety, frustration, and a lack of support from friends or family in regards to their writing career. I know this: tell people you write and most folks are either unimpressed or they don’t think I’m spending my time wisely. I hope they’re wrong! One girl started crying and she said she suffered from anxiety issues related to her work. Later on the elevator on the way down she told me she had a mental health issue. I won’t divulge her name but let’s just say it isn’t the way you want to introduce yourself to people. Even if she was telling the truth, there’s a time and place to talk about those things and a writer’s conference with strangers isn’t one of them.

Overall I had a great time. I met a few people I hopefully will talk to in the future and  who knows: Maybe somewhere in that conference call is a person who will write a best-seller or a Hollywood blockbuster.

I’ll have a post on Tuesday, my last before Thanksgiving, providing a few fun (and little-known) Thanksgiving facts. Until then, !hasta luego!

Lack of ethnic diversity in writing and in movies?

I came across this graph at the blog fuckyeahscifiwomenofcolour.tumblr.com/. The original website it comes from is from Lee and Low’s blogsite Read it and think about it:

medievalpoc: leeandlow submitted to medievalpoc: The Diversity Gap in the highest grossing science fiction and fantasy films. Sad, right? You can see the full study here. I highly recommend reading the entire article. from the infographic: Among the top 100 domestic grossing films:• only 8% of films star a protagonist of color• of the 8 protagonists of color, all are men; 6 are played by Will Smith and 1 is a cartoon character (Aladdin)• 0% of protagonists are women of color• 0% of protagonists are LGBTQ• 1% of protagonists are people with a disability

and this from the Lee and Low website:

If you are a minority/person of color and you have aspired to becoming a writer (yours truly speaks in the first person on this one) you may look at this and become convinced that the odds of becoming a bestselling author are slim, or if you are writing a book with a lot of minority characters (includes LGBTQ) in it your novel will not sell. While I am not sure what Lee and Low think the primary cause of the dearth of non-heretosexual Caucasian authors and characters are, I can offer my best guesses for a few of these items (warning: my opinions on most matters are well-informed and based on my expertise and/or knowledge of a subject. If facts bother you, this is not the blogsite for you!):

First off I am surprised only 14% of movies have a female protagonist. They may be referring to movies like Lucy or The Hunger Games where the primary protagonist is female. The lack of villains of color (assuming Darth Vader doesn’t count) is likely due to the fact that Caucasians dominate Hollywood and there is fear that if they make the “bad guy/girl” a minority they will be charged with racism, so it’s safer just to make the villain Caucasian.

As for the books, the first truth is well-read and well-educated people tend to become authors. Well, the sad reality is that many Black and Hispanic children are behind White and Asian peers when it comes to reading and writing. In some states, like Delaware where I live, the difference can be as much as two full grade levels difference (i.e. White child in 6th grade reads like a 6th grader should, Black or Hispanic child are at 4th grade level). Children who don’t grow up around books and who can read them are less likely to want to write them someday.

The other truth is income-based; Many low-income children grow up in a single-parent household, and often that single parent does not read to the children on a regular basis the way parents with higher incomes or education read to their kids. Since reading has long been seen as something predominately solid middle, upper-middle, and upper-classes do, and most Americans in those categories are White, then it’s logical most authors will come from households where reading was encouraged over home where it is not.

It’s also therefore logical that the vast majority of those whose jobs depends on writing of some kind, including agents, publishers, editors, book reviewers, screenwriters, movie producers, directors, etc., come from the same backgrounds. Don’t believe me? Go look for an agent or publisher and tell me what seems to stand out. If indeed the facts mentioned above are in any way related to the types of books published and movies made, then you cannot expect movies and books which are “different” to become blockbusters without a major change in the movie making and literature world.

The most logical reason then for the lack of POC in books/movies has more to do with who writes and who publishes vs. inherent racism and discrimination against authors of color, but it would be wrong to say there is no prejudice whatsoever anywhere in Hollywood and in literature.  Accept that if you are of Hispanic descent (yours truly) or some other non-White background you will feel as though the already-challenging odds of getting published are even harder, especially if you happen to write about a theme which is “different” than what usually fills the bestseller lists or makes blockbuster franchises. It may seem unfair but it is the cold, hard truth.

There is, however, hope for you.

The best advice I can give is never to quit writing or producing movie content. If you do then you simply create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Write the book or movie script YOU want, not what someone tells you is “acceptable” for publication or production. What should matter is the quality of the story and not whether some major publisher or distributor deems it among the “chosen ones” based on pre-determined criteria and/or whether YOU THE AUTHOR are among the “approved ones” based on your age or what you look like.

One suggestion is to examine your own personal life or the life of someone close to you and look for something unusual or which stands out from the experiences you would expect the average American has.

For example, if you were ever involved in gang activity, but now you are out of it, that’s a good story right there. You can write a story about gangs better than someone who was never in a gang or who didn’t know gang-members personally. If you were in the military in any country, write a fictional story based on your experience, whether or not it is a military novel. In my case I infused elements of my Boy Scout camping days in the novel I am currently editing. If you were born poor or homeless or on a tribal reservation, create a story based on how you lived and how you felt. There’s an old saying “people write what they known” and it’s true. Use your unique life experiences to your advantage in your writing! 

COMING UP NEXT: novels for male audiences. Do guys even read books anymore? Or is the future of fiction going to belong to the “chick-lit” genre which basically means romance novels (paranormal or normal doesn’t matter) or dystopian thrillers with female heroines? Stay tuned.

COMING UP SOON: will also post some vlogs on some topics I care about and repost them here. For this upcoming episode I have a couple things to say about “The Fault in Our Stars” and its author John Green. Some flattering, some less so. Stay tuned.