Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fun Ideas and Tips #4: Act It Out

This exercise is a lot of fun, a bit embarrassing, and yet it also helps bring scenes alive. Try acting out a scene you're struggling with or having a hard time translating well for readers to visualize. Whether it be an action scene, an intense piece of dialogue, or some interaction you're not sure will work on the timing. If you can get family members, friends, or even people from your writing group to help you out it lessens the embarrassment and opens up the brain-pool.

Pick out a place and act out the scene as best you can. Play with gestures, time how events really coincide, try different inflections of tone in the voice to make sure your dialogue is spot on. Watch for places where there is awkward phrasing or too much cliche being used. Really visualize the scene, use what props you can find, and throw yourself completely into your characters' shoes.

Want to up the experience? Film it or voice record it. Then go through and listen or watch when you're back in editorial mode.

Have you tried this exercise before? Please share in the comments. If you like this idea and try it, please come back and let us know how it went.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Questions For You

Thanks again to those who follow, read, or have checked out this blog. I appreciate the time you decide to spend on me with all the other blog choices out there.

I was wondering if you all might help me out by answering a few survey questions. I'm compiling some information for a small research project, and I'll be sharing the results at a later date. This survey is one part of that project. I did throw in a couple of fun questions just because. Please put your responses into the comments section. You can answer all, some, or just one question. No strings attached. Thanks in advance!

1. Please share five blogs links you regularly go to for industry or writing information or posts.

2. Which two (published) authors' websites or blogs do you think are the most fun to read, interact with, or pull up at least once a week or more?

3. What is the one thing about trying to get an agent or publisher that frustrates you the most?

4. Do you ever feel alone even though you might participate a lot online?

5. What brings you the most joy when you write?

6. Are you a book hoarder? Meaning do you buy books before you've read them and build up huge to-be-read piles? Or do you wish you could afford to be but can't?

7. What was the first thing that you became disillusioned about when seeking publication or feedback on your manuscript from other writers?

8. If you could have a say as to what the next hot trend is, what would it be? (And you can't use your own manuscript here!)

9. If you could describe your genre as a color, what is the genre and what is the color?

10. What is your worst fear regarding publishing?

11. Why do you usually check out or follow a new blog? (Please pick only pick one--whichever is the main reason for most blogs you follow or look at.) a) It's holding a contest  b) They're interviewing someone you're interested in  c) It's a writing or industry resource  d) You've heard good things about it from others you trust  d) Everyone else is following it and you don't want to be left behind  e) You know the person who runs the blog

12. If you write SF/F what would you say is the hardest part about writing a query letter?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Is Your Novel Obese or Anorexic?

Take a deep, relaxing breath then chant: "Story first! Story first! Story first!" Until you've got it ingrained for the day.

I'm going to write mostly from the perspective of a reader. You know, one of those vital people you need to read your work and buy it. And if any of you other readers would like to chime in on this, please do. The comments are open.

I'm noticing a trend lately in both published and unpublished novels, a disturbing trend. Here are the two sides:

The obese novel (usually found among the unpublished, but some published novels too): In these cases the writer has put in too much information, went on too many tangents, or is too caught up in their world-building to worry about anything else. The manuscripts are fat, indulgent, and this is the most common trend.

The anorexic novel: These poor manuscripts (which I've usually found among the published) are too thin. Key scenes and points of growth are omitted. Transitions are skimmed over to get from Point A to B too quickly, and I come away feeling rushed and disappointed.

I read one bestselling novel that finished off a series and was ready for everything to be tied up and resolved. It felt like the author skimmed over everything but the big blow-up scenes. I came away from the series somewhat satisfied but not that "Oh that was a great book!" satisfied. A pity too because it was a series I'd really enjoyed. Another couple of novels I've recently read have kept in transitions at the expense of the payoff scenes or did little to develop characters or plot.

Word count gods aside, genre expectations aside, (may no editor or agent dive-bomb me on this one because this is Joyce the Reader speaking) it's the story that counts overall. The tricky part is striking a balance between too much and too little. A reader needs to be enticed in the beginning, needs to enjoy the journey during the middle, and needs to feel satisfaction over the outcome. Putting in irrelevant information, going on tangents, skipping key scenes or necessary transitions—all are red flags to me, as the reader, that the heart of the story was shoved aside for some other reason.

Readers don't enjoy something bloated or something with only skin and bones.

How do you make sure your manuscript is keeping the story as the prime objective?

1. Stay true to your vision but also remember that the point of publishing is to share your vision with readers. They need to understand and enjoy that vision in order to want to read it.

There are usually too camps, one which says to write only for yourself and one which says to write to sell. Both are right and both are wrong. It's a balance. The writer must enjoy what they are writing but they also must keep in mind their target audience and their expectations. Writing only for yourself (and planning to publish) is selfish and indulgent. Writing only to sell is callous and the stories usually lack passion. Take your story and make sure that it is something you really want to write about and then know the ways to make that story appealing to readers. It doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your style or voice. It doesn't mean you have to create a made-to-order book. Maybe those elements you are clinging to (that aren't reader friendly) aren't true to your story anyway. In fact, they may be killing it.

2. Know what the heart of your story is. Strip all else away and take a moment to stare, wonder, and examine your story. Then keep that in front of your thoughts as you write.

Some people find it helpful to write their query letter first in order to do just this. Keeping focused on what the heart of the story is will help you avoid tangents and keep you on track when writing scenes. Every scene needs to move the story forward. Your details need to enhance the story, not merely exist for the sake of existing. Likewise, removing all necessary details and scenes or transitions kills the momentum and power of the story.

3. Readers want to go on a journey. It's one of the reasons we read. We don't want a writer to state the situation and characters then zoom right to the resolution. The middle of the story is the most powerful part—more powerful than the beginning or ending. Without a strong middle, the climax isn't so climactic and the promising beginning stumbles and falls.

4. Watch for obvious teasers. Teasers are used to drag out situations and create suspense. If done too much or if nothing new is learned or happens then these teasers become annoying to the reader. Especially if it's the same kind of teaser over and over for the sake of inflating a novel. In many cases, the writer is no longer thinking or planning on good transitions. They're too caught up in the beginning meets the ending without building a solid middle.

5. Watch your world-building. Writers must take the time to plan out and create their world, especially in the fantasy genres and sometimes the science-fiction ones. This kind of creativity is intoxicating and fun. We're playing God here and are the ones making up the rules. We're excited to share this new world with the rest of the real world. But sometimes we make the mistake of thinking the real world is going to want to embrace our world completely right off the bat. Other writers' worlds have fan sites and pages, games, movies, spin-off books, and such—why not ours? So the excited writer throws in the weight of their made-up world into their story. Entire chapters are devoted to it. What's wrong with this? There is no story, no development, and no reason for a reader to want to build a fan site.

Story first. The details of your world should be active not passive. And only those that are active and that move the story along should be included. The rest should be saved for when you have legions of fans that are now invested in your world and want more.

6. Word count balance beam. Yes, there are guidelines for word count for every genre. Yes, some agents and editors embrace these guidelines as rules and are usually the most visual and vocal in proclaiming them. Yes, you don't want to go overboard with your word count. Less is often more, after all.

But don't become so chained to your word count guidelines that you sacrifice the story. Some stories are larger and more epic than others and larger word counts are the only way to do them justice. Some stories would like to be epic and aren't, they're jiggling fat rather than muscle. In most cases, unpublished writers tend to inflate their novels. So I'd like to send a plea to the published authors. You're already through the door so please don't hack out important parts of your story for the sake of rigid word count. And if you have to hack something out because your publisher says the book's too big, work hard to keep the essential journey and key scenes, not all the other stuff. I'd rather read how a character transitions from one way of thinking to another than read about how their clothes looked, or read a dialogue banter that doesn't go anywhere.

The anorexic story trends worry me more than the obese ones. Most of us are aware of story obesity and are trying to cut out the fat. The anorexic stories aren't as widely discussed. Mention adding more to a novel in some circles will make some writers who don't need to do so. But I'd like to put out there, in this online world, that there are anorexic stories and that I'm one reader who dislikes them.

Know the heart of the story. Know the necessary steps to get from the beginning to the end and don’t skip them. Stories that build and offer a good payoff are the ones more readers will want to read and recommend to their friends and family. When in doubt whether something should stay or go, please always opt for the good of the story.

Thoughts, examples, other reader vents you’d like to get off your chest? Now’s your chance.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Posting/Critiquing Marathon Part 1: What I've Learned So Far

Each summer the Speculative Fiction Group on Agent Query Connect holds a posting/critiquing marathon. It's an intensive 12 weeks of feedback and opportunity. People post 1-2 chapters per week and everyone else reads and critiques them. In this way, submitters can get a good assessment of what works in their chapters and what doesn't from writers who read and write in their genres. It's also a private forum so work posted isn't open to the masses on the internet and doesn't stay on permanently. All in all, it's exhausting, fun, and a pretty positive environment.

This week marks the halfway point for this year's session. I'd thought I'd take some time today (begging your indulgence) to look back through the feedback I've given and seen, and share some of what I've learned from critiquing this year.

The list of individual critiques from the past aside, after three years of the marathon I know my critiquing skills have grown sharper and less subjective. This year I've had a strong bent toward finding plot holes and points that need clarifying. Which is a good thing because a couple of my current manuscripts will need me to see from that standpoint when I look at them again in the autumn.

Most submitters have gotten through 6 chapters by now; the opening chunk of their novels. How are these openings standing up from a technical point of view? What things have I seen or watched out for when reading these openings?

The Watch List:
1. The first chapter or two of the novel introduces the reader to the protagonist and sometimes the antagonist of the novel. We need to connect with the protagonist quickly in order to care about them and the problems that are stacked up (or stacking up) against them. Physical descriptions don't spark sympathy. Super-angsty voices don't spark sympathy either, especially when there are no redeeming characteristics there to balance the character's inner pain. The reader needs to care about the protagonist or have a strong moment of sympathy with them to want to read the rest of the story.

2. I've seen two camps: openings that overdo voice and openings that have no voice at all. I think with all the online emphasis about voice some writers try too hard. And it's obvious. You don't have to pack a wallop in your first chapter or smack your reader between the eyes. It's kind of like those movies that rely too much on special effects and blowing things up in order to dazzle an audience.

On the flip side are the kind of openings you see from inexperienced or too-eager-to-be-read writers. I think there must be a natural tendency to fill up a rough draft's first chapters with backstory, description, and all those neat details that do better in an outline, summary, or story-building journals. Most of us start out that way. With all of these backstage props sitting out there's little room for voice or plot.

3. Places where all the time invested into building tension suddenly fall on their faces. It happens. The story starts out with engaging characters, intriguing stakes, and even mystery. It builds for the first two or three chapters and then there is the plop. All of a sudden we have a "calm" moment in the action where nothing new is learned, no inner journey is made to compensate for the break from the outer, and often details are rehashed. Breaks from the action are good; reader's need breathers, especially if a story is fast-paced and something of an adrenaline rush; but those breaks still need to move the story forward.

Picture the story as a river, we've just come through some rapids and maybe pitched over a waterfall and now we're in a deep, calm stretch. Don't steer your boat into a lazy eddy or whirlpool, continue to paddle forward. Don't stop at the bank to have a picnic or go exploring or some other tangent unnecessary to the journey. Keep the reader headed down that river.

4. Consistency. This is a big one. Be consistent in your details but also in your plotting. One thing leads to another. Action--reaction or consequence. They must make sense. Contrivances and convenient props are things you try to get away with at your peril. Readers aren't stupid and they'll see these things as lazy writing. I've already blogged here about this issue.

5. Research. The freedom that comes from writing speculative fiction; any subgenre of fantasy in particular; doesn't mean a writer is free from all research. To make a story creditable and the happenings believable we often must delve into the dusty realm of research along with everyone else.

Say someone gets hurt, what are the true consequences/dangers of this injury? How will it affect that character from performing until they are healed? If medical attention is required, who has the knowledge to help? What are the available resources? How do you use them?

Or say you're writing in a completely made-up world but there are cultural elements similar to that of the real world whether in the present day or in history, know how those elements really worked before playing around with them.

Using creatures common to your genre? Do you know how these creatures have been used before? With creatures it's good to know what has been done and how they've been reincarnated in various stories before developing your own interpretation.

Readers and fans will know when you fake it. Not all of them maybe, but why give any of them a chance to put your story down and say "Yeah, right!" or "This person doesn't know what they're writing about."

6. Too much of a good thing. Whether it be a detailed play-by-play of a fight scene; every look, gesture, or hidden meaning in the eyes of a pair of lovers or a stalker; how something scientifically works or is invented; all the methods and nuances of learning magic; the political fabric of your world; etc. Often, I've found, these are things that the writer really gets into and has a personal interest in. Good stuff. But too much becomes an info dump and bogs down the story. Stick to the essentials and those details that move the story along or have some personal impact on the characters.

Six opening issues to reflect the six week mark. I'm guilty of some of these too. Come autumn, I will be able to examine my writing with a sharper eye and apply the proverbial red pencil where problems are. I'm looking forward to learning more during the second half of the marathon. I don't write much, if at all, during the summer because of the marathon, but you can be sure I'm learning heaps more than if I'd taken a class or worked alone those months. I sincerely admire and in some cases have a sense of awe at the writers who are submitting this year. Massive talent, even though every submission has had strengths and weaknesses.

*Submitters can jump in at any given week. So if you have a completed and ready to be shopped manuscript and would like to run it by a group of great beta readers, pop on over to Agent Query Connect and join the Speculative Fiction Group. (Speculative fiction writers only. Fantasy, science-fiction, horror, paranormal, etc.)

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Fellow blogger and friend DC Rich from The Write Time has tagged me and a handful of others in a fun game of Q & A. So here we go:

If you could go back in time and relive one moment, what would it be?
To answer this question honestly would be revealing something very special and personal to me. We’ll just say I’d wish to be fourteen again and relive a certain morning over and over and over because the memory anchors me.

If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?
8th grade history class. Wiser-spirited me would have reversed the choice I made that day. I’d still probably lose a friend but this time it would be the jealous one that caused the problem. Someday I hope to be able to track down a certain guy and tell him how sorry I’ve felt for years.

What movie/tv character do you most resemble in personality?
Rapunzel from Tangled. Right after she gets out of the tower, that whole segment, I kept slinking further down in my seat and my husband’s chuckles got louder and louder. It was so me. Plus the homebody, learning a lot of different skills part fit too. My hair’s not quite as long and there’s no way I’d let anybody use it at a ladder. But yes, I’d probably use a frying pan as a weapon.

If you could push one person off a cliff and get away with it, who would it be?
Murphy. He’s had too much fun with my family.

Name one habit you want to change in yourself.
I’d love to kill how easy it is to fall into self-doubt. It puts a damper on many things.

Describe yourself in one word.

Describe the person who named you in this meme in one word.

Why do you blog? Answer in one sentence.
After years of research, I figure this is my way to give back to the writing community and to help others get a jump-start with their research.

Who am I tagging?
See the list below.

Are you hot?
It’s summer, so um, yes.

Upload a picture or wall paper you are using at the moment.
Last year for my birthday my family spent some time at one of my favorite gardens and I took tons of pictures to use as wallpaper and icons. This is the one on my monitor for the month of July.

When was the last time you ate chicken meat?
A week ago. Fried.

What song(s) have you listened to recently?
Guilty pleasure and something both the kids and I can agree on when riding in the car: (These are just two samples.)
When writing I have a huge playlist that covers everything from classical music to new age to rock to pop and on. No alternative or country. I also like to avoid soundtracks when writing, though they're great for road trips.
What were you thinking as you were doing this?
Some of these questions are weird.

Do you have nicknames?
Lots and lots. Clipper is my favorite but I also like Epitome and Crazy-Girl. My other two favorites I reserve the right to remain silent about.

Tag eight Blogger friends.
Slight problem with this one. Most people I know and have the guts to tag have already been tagged. So for fun I'm just going to list a bunch of my writing associates and say nice things about them. If you haven't been tagged already, then consider yourself tagged if you want to participate.
  1. Diana Robicheaux. Writer, artist, blogger. We beta read for each other. She has a great sense of humor, is queen of the chapter ending cliffhanger, and is so far the only writer who can make me enjoy reading about vampires.
  2. Angie Sandro. Writer, query guru, and a fellow mom. Angie has a great imagination, is warm and kind, helpful, and I’ve enjoyed reading her work. (And oh yes, Angie, I am still reading through that full you sent me. Marathon makes it a bit slow, as you know.)
  3. Darke Conteur. Writer, blogger, intrepid soul out to conquer all different kinds of writing horizons. Gutsy and supportive. I think it would be a blast to meet you in real life.
  4. Brenda Carre. Writer, blogger, world explorer. Gives fantastic crits and advice. A mother figure for writers though I fondly refer to her as Sarge.
  5. Mindy McGinnis. BBC as we at AQC love to call her. Writer, blogger, librarian. Formidable force to be reckoned with. I admire her a lot.
  6. Riley Redgate. YA to the extreme. She plays the piano and likes the series Avatar: The Last Airbender as do I, so therefore she’s totally cool. She also has a fantastic blog featuring her unique and sage YA POV.
  7. Stephanie Poscente. Writer and blogger. She found me first and now I take pleasure in following her. Thank you for being so supportive of my blog and for the record, I like the fact that you work so hard to be different on yours.
  8. Cherie. Everyone knows her, everyone loves her, and for good reason. I’ve had the privilege of seeing some of her work too. And I can’t begin to count the ways she’s been so supportive and encouraging to me. She’s like that.
  9. Marewolf. Writer, blogger, and another person who found me first. I’m so glad you did. You’re fun to follow back.
  10. Eli Ashpence. Writer, blogger, and a no-nonsense kind of person. I’m in awe of her.
  11. Moonshade. Writer, blogger. Now, I haven’t known you for very long but I’m liking the way the interaction is going. It’s great to be able to read what you write and to see your special perspective of things. You’ve got quite the imagination and are a great critic.
  12. Dawn G. Sparrow. Writer, blogger, fisherwoman. So fun to chat with and so darn nice! If I still lived in your neck of the woods, I would so look you up.
  13. RC Lewis. Writer, blogger, teacher. She works with deaf kids, how cool is that? It also gives her an edge with the YA crowd when it comes to writing. She’s smart, and another person I admire.
  14. Peter Burton. Writer, blogger, and what a personality! The online room is never dull or lackluster with Peter around. Oh, and he has great hair too. It’s been fun reading your work as well.
  15. Dean C. Rich. Writer, blogger, sage. I know, I know, you tagged me for this but I couldn’t leave my regards with one simple word, now could I? I love reading your blog posts and it’s been great having someone like you in the marathon this year. Perseverant is another word that fits you.
  16. Michelle Simkins. The Greenwoman, writer and blogger mama. Big smile, lots of warmth and humor. She’s so much fun to follow and chat with. Plus a fellow gardner.
  17. Stephanie Diaz. Writer, blogger. She’s put up with my critiques and kept coming back for more. She strikes me as a sweet soul with fierce determination. Proud of you, Steph.
  18. Tracy Jorgensen. Writer, artist, blogger, vlogger. Versatile in her creativity, multi-talented, and someone I often wish I could give a hug to. Can’t explain the protectiveness on my part. I’m rooting hard for you to succeed.
  19. A.M. Supinger. Writer, blogger. Another great person I’m just getting to know and have had the privilege of seeing a glimpse of her work. I know I like her a lot because she understands villains in writing.
  20. Calista Taylor. Writer, blogger, and another sage. She’s also multi-talented, has been supportive and encouraging. I wish I knew her better and I’m looking forward to seeing some of her projects come to print.
  21. Matt Sinclair. Writer, blogger, guinea pig. Matt’s let me pump him for research information. He’s a down-to-earth, laid-back kind of guy, and I can still remember what month his twins were born.
  22. RSMellette. Writer, blogger, movie-guy. From what I’ve been able to see, he’s got a very engaging and fun writing style and a finger on the pulse of the movie world.
  23. Michelle4Laughs. Writer, blogger. I love her writing style and she puts up with all the tough love I dish out. A total trooper and a fantastic critic. Oh, and a marathon camper too!
  24. Cat Woods. Writer, blogger. Another I wish I knew better but have had a pleasant association with so far. I know she's smart, extremely knowledgeable when it comes to juvenile fiction, and has a wonderful smile.
This list is only partial but I'm running short on time. So many others I'd like to include but will have to spotlilght later on. Thank you to everyone who reads my blog, has befriended me on Twitter or AQC, and who has had a positive influence on me.

And now you all know a little bit more about me. I think I need to replay that Tangled clip again and avoid the internet for awhile.

Saturday Link Special #11

Here are this week's blog gleanings:

Writer's Digest offers One Simple Way to Sharpen Your Pitch. Elevator pitch, that is, not singing.

Tracy Jorgensen's vlog about Breaking Bottles is method writing at its best. Have a scene where someone smashes up a bottle for a weapon? Be sure to check this out.

Jessica at BookEnds has some simple but great advice: Forget Everyone Else.

Jami Gold asks: How Vulnerable Is Your Writing?

Agent Donald Maass has some great tips to add Fireworks to your writing.

Agent Mary Kole's post on Objective Correlative is a must read. We don't have to always spell out what our characters are feeling to show it. Here's a great way to show and conserve word real estate.

Patricia Wrede clarifies what kind of conflict is needed in a story and how this important element is often misinterpreted by writers in her post on Obstacles.

Riley Redgate's Picture This post is a thought provoker. No spoilers on my part. Just click through and see what I mean.

Agent Vickie Motter offers some guidance on fantasy genres with her post on Magic Realism. Heard the term New Adult but don't exactly know what it means? She's got a post on that too.

Writer Cherie posts on Research: It Can Be Fun If You Know Where To Look. Some great links in this one.

A.M. Supinger has a great guest post plug for the Agent Query Connect writing community over at Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire. Yes, I'm biased towards it too.

Have a fun weekend everyone!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Fun Ideas and Tips #3: POV Reversal

Writers block? Have a scene or chapter that falls short compared to all the others? Not sure what to do with a particular chapter or scene but you need the events or discussion in it to happen in order to further the plot?

Try a point-of-view reversal. Keep your original draft. Open up a new file and rewrite the scene/chapter from a different character’s POV. I don’t care if you’ve been writing in first person or close third person. You may need to look at this part of your story through new eyes. Throw yourself into a different character and write out the same action and discussion.

Why? Isn’t it a waste of time? This person doesn’t have a featured POV in the entire story!

Try it anyway.

The process alone will help strip away the barriers that were bothering you before. Then you can go back to your original and add the oomph or emphasis you lacked. It’s fun jumping into different character’s heads. This is just another draft and the change isn’t chiseled in stone. The point of this exercise is to try a new perspective, walk in someone else’s shoes, and figure out what’s been blocking your creativity.

And effectively changing POVs may not be to the first character you think of. Sometimes even a bit player’s POV can be quite illuminating. If feeling really stumped, try more than one POV for the scene/chapter and see what that does. Imagine yourself the director of a movie trying out different shots or the editor of a film picking out which reactions and emotions to show for emphasis. Play with your story a bit and have fun with it. That lackluster scene/chapter may turn out to be your favorite by the time you finish with it.

Have you tried this before? Share your experiences in the comments and tell me what you learned from the exercise.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Does Your Story Have Mass-Market Appeal?

When working alone on a novel it's easy to become engrossed with the story, the characters, and the world. But once you put that story into the hands of beta readers the question nags at the back of your mind sometimes: Does my story have mass-market appeal?

We'd like to think our stories cover most of the bases when it comes to readers.

Recently I took a walk around the track at a park with my three-year-old. Walking with a child slows one down and in setting a gentler pace I had the opportunity to survey my surroundings with an eye more observant than normal. What struck me most was the variety of trees growing in the park. I saw tall evergreens, flowering trees, trees so bursting with life that they sprouted new branches all over the trunks, and one interesting tree with few branches but each covered with leaves over the bark like feathers on a bird.

Each tree was different. Even if they were the same species or variety they held different shapes, heights, and sizes. They each had different functions and they each held a unique beauty. Not unlike the stories we writers come up with. We may write in the same genre as someone else but our stories are different.

What does this have to do with mass-market appeal? I noted during my walk that despite all the differences, these trees also had the same function. They provided beauty, shade, homes for small animals, and they helped hold back the fury of the wind. They had several common denominators.

It's the same for stories. A story may be too unique to be a tree like the rest of the mass-market appeal stories. Your story may be a flowering bush or evergreen shrub instead. There's nothing wrong with this type of uniqueness, as long as the expectations of the writer fit. I see some writers blind to the fact that they've written a bush and have high hopes of it hitting the public like a towering redwood.

Mass-market appeal books try to reach as many audiences as they can: they often have characters of different ages and backgrounds, and do a fine job balancing the story elements so as to touch the interest of not only one or two demographic groups, but several. Mixed genres or genre elements are usually found in mass-market books.

This post isn't to say let's all go out and only write mass-market appeal novels. It's to help distinguish what mass-market means. Maybe you've been beating yourself up because you don't have droves of beta readers drooling over your story like other writers. If you recognize your story might not be mass-market material and that's okay with you, then stop the personal abuse. Love your story for what it is and don't set your ambitions in the wrong arena. If you're aiming for mass-market appeal but realize from beta readers' responses that you've missed the target, then it's time to sit down, analyze your story and make a decision. Do you want to rip it apart and work harder to make it more appealing, or would this destroy the main essence of the novel?

There's so much pressure to sell, sell, sell and with all the new marketing-hype forced on writers, we come up with a lot of unrealistic expectations for ourselves. The pressure's intense. It's easy to become overwrought, to feel lost, and even depressed. There are a plethora of voices out there telling us every little step we must take to mass-market our stories. Sometimes we're not even sure what kind of tree we've written, let alone how to approach marketing it.

Figuring out what kind of story we've written first and making it the best we can should be the top priority. The rest will sort out once you've gotten that done.