Why You Should Post a Story on Wattpad

20814-1Okay, if you have been following my Wattpad experience at all, you know I am still new to the site, but I have been chronicling my experience for anyone out there who is on Wattpad or is considering using the site.

Last time, I talked about how to build a readership on Wattpad.

Now, I am going to talk about why Wattpad is worth your time as a writer, and how you can hopefully get the most out of it.

But first, an update on my personal progress.

I have been posting twice a week for about 4 months now, and the momentum continues to build. If you’re a person who cares about stats (and Wattpaders tend to watch their stats pretty religiously), here are mine: my fantasy novel, THE SHADOW WATCH, has reached 8.3K reads and 1030 votes. The first couple months brought me to about 2.5K reads, the next month saw that many in one month, and now I am averaging about 100 reads per day (all-time high was 250 about a week ago, which was fun). I am also typically ranked in the top 200 in Wattpad Fantasy (high of #88 a couple weeks ago)

A few factors that [may or may not] have helped along with a steady increase in dedicated readers:

  1. THE SHADOW WATCH got added to a list on Wattpad’s Fantasy profile, which has led to a lot of users adding my story to their reading lists. I didn’t request the add, but apparently some HQ person discovered it and liked it.
  2. TSW also did well in several contests (I would highly recommend submitting your story to some contests! It is a great way to meet other writers, and to make your story more visible to more people. And it’s just fun!)
  3. I also got had a couple interview questionnaire thingies posted in preparation for the 2016 Watty Awards, which I did have to submit.

Possible factors that [may or may not] have detracted from further progress:

  1. I’ve had a busy summer and, while I have found time to keep at my writing every day (nearly), I have not been as active on forums and interacting with other users, outside of readers and a few writers I’ve connected with. In other words, I am not very actively networking and building online relationships right now.
  2. I’ve also not been reading as much on Wattpad, for the same busyness reason. How much that has affected things, I don’t know, but Wattpad is a social network and the more interaction, the better, I think.

So I want to get better about both of those.

So there you go, you can now discredit me as an amateur and move on to another blog, if you wish. If not, then read on, my friend.

As you’ve gathered, I am not a Wattpad star. Just another writer figuring out what writing looks like in the digital age. I think Wattpad is a fantastic tool for writers in that age. And I will tell you why…

But first of all, you should know that Wattpad is not a likely track toward publication.

What I mean is that you have probably read about the stars, and you’re right, it could happen to you. Your story could garner millions of reads and lead to an instant publication contract. But it probably won’t. In fact, some of the best writing on the site will not go viral, simply because it is not OneDirection fan fiction.

Most of the writers I have met on Wattpad (some of them being the top fantasy writers on the site) are going through the normal channels: write a book, query it, (hopefully) land an agent, and then follow the traditional publication path. In other words, the agents aren’t calling them at 2am, begging to represent it because they saw it went hot on Wattpad.

But that shouldn’t discourage you. Because Wattpad has lots of things to offer writers:

  1. Building readership — agents and publishers are asking about this more and more these days. Can you market yourself? Can you build a readership? If you write a good book and post it on Wattpad wisely, you can have thousands of people who are following you and care about your stories. That’s thousands more than the person who wrote a book in the closet and hasn’t even let their mom read it.
  2. Testing Grounds for your Book — Some people will tell you that Wattpad is not the spot to find beta readers. I would say that’s not true, but that you have to pay attention to who you listen to. There are lots of book clubs on Wattpad where writers will essentially trade feedback. Some of them are high-profile writers and Wattpad Ambassadors. Probably better than most beta readers I will find in my small town, and I can know who they are. On most beta sites, it is all anonymous, but on Wattpad, you can know who they are and determine how credible they are by reading their stuff and seeing the quality of their own writing. Normal readers will often leave reaction and feedback as they read, which can also be very useful. You can see things readers like and dislike about the plot. Was something too far-fetched? Too predictable? Was a scene confusing? They will often tell you.
  3. In-Line Comments — You can get real-time feedback from real readers of your genre. My novel, THE SHADOW WATCH, is teen fantasy. I am able to interact with teen readers, see what they like, what they hope will happen next, etc. I often have readers shipping (a term I learned from readers, which means they hope they end up together, in case your out of touch like me) different characters. This doesn’t change the plot, but may remind me not to forget about my romantic subplots, because readers like a little romance in fantasy. I also have readers who catch typos. I proofread quite a bit, but I still am human, and I miss things. Pretty helpful to have hundreds of eyes on your work.
  4. Connecting with other Writers — Writing can be a lonely endeavor. But the community of writers on Wattpad is typically very kind and sincere. I had several major Wattpad fantasy writers who welcomed me gladly as a newb to the site. Writers often trade feedback and encourage each other regularly. It’s not a narcissistic site. Obviously, we all want to succeed, but on Wattpad, writers are rooting for one another. They also often shout-out other writer’s works to their followers. Pay it forward, folks! Writers are also keen to help each other out with plotting and ideas. When I wrote a large scale battle scene (my first attempt at it), I asked some writers in the forums for time period information, battle strategies, and weaponry, and received wonderful tips and information. That scene turned out infinitely better the first time around as a result. Writers are also supportive of endeavors beyond Wattpad, and are keen to share their experiences with agents, self-publishing, querying, etc. It is great to have a network of writers who are so helpful and supportive. Go be part of it 🙂

 

All right, I know that’s not exhaustive, but it is all for now.

Are you a Wattpader? What do you love about the site? Why do YOU think it is a useful site?

LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS!

 

 

If you want to check out my story you can follow the image link below: 65367089-368-k310254

 

 

 

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Overthinking the Little Trouble Spots and Writer’s Block

I am a nerd, and I love world-building. I love coming up with all the little details and why the world is the way it is in my stories. But sometimes it can kill my writing.

inception_2I have been stuck on a scene in my latest WIP for a couple weeks now. The story is a sci-fi space adventure set 250 years in the future, and so there are a lot of details I have been considering as I am going along. I got to a point where I was trying to explain why something was a certain way, but I hadn’t figured it out yet. It didn’t fully make sense in the social structure I’d come up with so far.

I have run into trouble like this before, and I’ve found that getting stumped on world-building in the first draft is a little silly. On my own part. I am still figuring a lot of things out in this draft, like most first drafts I think.

I’ve decided to move forward and deal with those details later, once I’ve discovered more about the story and the novel-world through plot movement.

The thing is, we throw out a ton of stuff from the first draft anyway. Often the setting itself completely changes or evolves over time. Things tend to change significantly during subsequent drafts. Characters get dropped or combined, society gets made darker or less, or technology advances more, or a rural setting suddenly makes for sense than urban. Spend a lot of time aching over it, and it will probably get cut or changed.

Maybe not, you’re right.

writers-block-but-for-memes_o_1064153My point is: don’t waste your time and headaches on the first attack. You don’t need to get it all right and figured out just yet. Keep the plot moving (and the writing moving). The quicker you get the story down, the quicker you can figure out what needs dropped and what needs expanded.

Don’t be afraid to leave a plot hole there to deal with in the second draft, so you can just move forward.

I spent waaaay too much time editing and re-editing and pounding out details as I was writing my first novel. I changed nearly all of it in later drafts. Sure, the experience helped me figure out some things that stayed, but a lot of it was a waste of time. Or at least, poorly executed time. I don’t really think any writing time is a waste entirely.

But there is nothing wrong with learning to be more efficient, right?

Don’t sweat it too much the first go round. Just get that story on paper. A complete story will give you a lot better perspective for dealing with the trouble spots.

Happy writing!

Diversity and the White Writer (Intentionality, A Diverse Cast, and Writing What You Know)

I’ve been doing a fair amount of research on diversity for a large essay I am writing on Diversity in the Language Arts classroom. As I’ve been writing, I have been thinking a lot about how this relates to writing, my own fiction and the novels I read.

You don’t have to look too far or too deeply at literature to get a sense of the prevalence and, whether intentional or not, the preference for whiteness.

It is a problem, but I also don’t think it has originated lately as much from intent as it has from ignorance.

White Writing World

getty_eb_whiteAcademia (like much of the world) has been largely dominated by Europeans and European immigrants to the Americas for the past few centuries, and over those centuries the social structure was predominantly white above others in the dominating cultures of the Western world. What I mean by this is that it is not so surprising that the “classics” are essentially educated whites writing about white life. They were writing what they knew.

But, today, educated writers populate all races. And so things need to change, in the classroom and in the publishing spheres.

If you take a look at any bookshelf in any bookstore, you will continue to notice a dominance of white writing by white writers. We need more diverse writers, undoubtedly. And we need them to write great stories. I think especially in Kidlit.

I am talking about #WeNeedDiverseBooks.

White Writers Writing Diversity

We need more diverse writers. So if you are one, write more and more and get really good at it, and give the world some fantastic stories! Outside of encouraging people of color to write, I can’t add much more to the conversation in that arena.

If you are white like me, then what? How do you approach diversity tactfully?

The last thing we need is a bunch of white writers trying to write diversity because its in demand right now.  Maybe you are a white writer who is passionate about racial equality toward a specific minority… Whatever your reason for writing more diversity into your books, you must tread carefully and correctly…

Know What You Write!

If you are going to write a novel about an inner city African-American girl, and you are a Caucasian man from Montana, you had better do your research! You had better interview some African-American girls from the Bronx or Atlanta or wherever your novel takes place.

Otherwise your book will not ring true. You might get published, perhaps, since people are asking for diverse books. Who knows? Either way, though, it will be a crappy book.

And no one wants more crappy books out there. Let alone crappy books that deal with diversity.

I am that white guy from the American West, where we don’t often see a ton of diversity, sadly. I live in an energy boom town presently, and we have a little more diversity than is typical for the region, mostly Hispanic.

I’ve an idea for a “diverse” novel about a pair of Ugandan kids caught in the middle of LRA conflict. This is a topic which I am pretty passionate about. Human trafficking is awful and I think a story about kids caught in the middle of it could be very powerful. But I am not writing it right now. I don’t have the experience and haven’t talked to enough people for me to be able to write the story RIGHT. Regardless of the book, I really want to spend some time in Africa with displaced kids. But if I do end up writing that book, I want it to ring true. So for now, it is on the backburner.

b59297ddcd0415a252a398abe38c1ddfWhat made Kathryn Stockett’s The Help ring true, I think, stemmed from Stockett’s own experiences with racial issues in Jackson, Mississippi, not to mention her friendship with an African-American domestic worker.

If you don’t have much experience with racial tension and conflict, then maybe you aren’t the best person to write a racial issue novel centered around someone of a race you aren’t familiar enough with. I am just going to be honest.

HOWEVER, that does not excuse you from addressing the diversity issue.

A Diverse Cast

You do live in a world populated by diverse races and cultures. And so, the world of your novels ought to express that diversity as well in order to ring true.

But, being diverse in your writing does not mean making your presently-white protagonist Chinese or African-American just because… you know, diversity, and stuff…

Just as you had better not add a rape element to your novel just for tension’s sake (as rape is something which should alter your character’s entire world, and so the entire novel), you should not write race for diversity’s sake alone. Diversity is more than mentioning skin color, it changes how this character perceives the world. It changes their back story. This will vary depending on the novel and the character’s story.

When it comes to race, you have got to be more INTENTIONAL than that. We need more than diverse color in books. We need diverse culture represented.

Color Your World

rainbow-glasses1I think we tend to view things through our own racial “tinted glasses.” At least I know I do. Like I said, I am a white male from a predominantly white region. Until I am told otherwise, if I am honest, I do tend to read characters assuming they are white in novels. Not because I am racist. But because that is what I am most familiar with, I suppose. And also, probably because so many characters in novels, are in fact, white.

Reading is rather like jumping in another’s head, but we are tinged still by our own skewed perspectives.

I am working on a new middle grade sci-fi novel, and I realized early on that I was defaulting to white characters. I wasn’t even thinking about it consciously. My protagonist’s best friend, I initially viewed as blonde and white, essentially a softer-spoken Lyra Belacqua.

As I began the novel, I realized that, just as I tend to view characters as white initially in novels I read, I was doing the same in novels I write. I had to make a CONSCIOUS POINT to diversify and thereby expand and enrich the universe of the novel.

In the opening, a future Earth has frozen over, and life has been restricted to Terradomes. I hadn’t yet figured out where my novel was happening on Earth. But I knew I wanted some diversity, and I wanted it to enrich the world of the novel. Suddenly, I realized this best-friend character needed to be Hispanic. I didn’t know why, only that she should.

And then, with that idea in mind, I saw that it would make most sense for my Terradomes to be situated along the Equator, placing my protagonist and his best friend in South America, where people from both Americas all migrated as the world froze over.

By creating a diverse character, it also broadened my sense and scope of the universe I was creating.

Eventually, my protagonist is recruited for a space expedition in search of a portal to another universe, and suddenly these Equatorial Domes were giving me an opportunity to populate the ship with diversity too. People from several different domes around the world manning an exploratory ship.

Diversity isn’t the point of this sci-fi story, but it helped me expand the world in a really good and sensible way. Diversity is enriching, both in real life and fiction.

Let It Ring True

As you write diverse characters, let them enrich the worlds you are populating, let the story ring true.

If you are compelled to write a racial issue book or a novel set in another country from what you are familiar with, DO YOUR RESEARCH. If you are wanting to make a protagonist someone of color, make sure it is adding culture to the story as well, and not just a mention of skin color. Be INTENTIONAL as you approach diversity, be TRUE to the story.

Diversity in literature is important to the present and to the future.

Don’t color anything in your world lightly.

*I would love to hear your thoughts on this post, and your own thoughts on diversifying your novels*

*If you are interested in checking out the first chapter of my new sci-fi project Bode Marvellus, go here. I would love to hear what you think!*

Cheers!

S. Andrew

Saying No to a Book Offer Pt. 2 (Author Mills and Bad Publishers)

I wrote another piece a while back on an experience I had with a sketchy vanity publisher, while seeking publication for a novel I wrote. I received quite a few emails about it from other writers. Several of them asking if it had to do with another publisher we’d had mutual interaction with. So I thought perhaps I should share another story of when to say NO when seeking publication.

I won’t name names, because this is my personal opinion on them, and I have spoken to other writers who were happy with being published at this house, and I don’t think it’s very nice to blog-bash.

I was very excited at first to get a full request from this company. They had some very nice looking covers and were YA focused and, by all ways of telling through email, seemed very friendly. I eagerly sent off my manuscript with that incredible roller coaster feeling in my stomach of being excited and terrified simultaneously. They had commented that, though my manuscript was a little on the long side, they were excited to read it.

I waited and waited, for the entirety of three weeks before hearing back. The publisher was offering me a contract. I could hardly believe it. But perhaps this was for a reason.

Dun_dun_duuun_tshirt_design__by_Ticketless_Aplause

Now, to be fair, this was a genuine publisher. This wasn’t vanity. They did not want any money from me. They had some e-book sales high on Amazon. They were legit. They asked if I was still interested. I said yes I was, and they drew up a contract.

But there were warning signs.

Warning #1: Short and Vague

The offering letter was short. Now I am not against succinctness, but there was much left to be desired in this offer. Essentially, they said they wanted to publish it, along with two sequels. They did not say how perfectly my novel would fit on their list. They did not say how they couldn’t wait for the world to see it. They just wanted to publish it. It was all pretty vague.

Nevertheless, I said I was interested and asked to see a contract, thinking perhaps there would be more details then.

Warning #2: Shorter and More Vague

Nope! The contract was no better. It was very generic, which is not too strange. I find all contracts in any respect to be this way to an extent. But it was also very short. The last contract I’d been offered was probably fifteen pages. This was four. There were no details on their plan for my book. No marketing plan from their end, though they said they expected me to be a part of the marketing. They had no expectations for dates for the sequels. And they wanted an answer in three days.

Warning #3: No Personal Contact

Along with the ultra-succinct contract was zero offer to call me and discuss the details of it. They said I could contact them with questions. But there were answers I needed, and they seemed to be hoping I would just sign and perhaps then we’d talk later. After I’d given them the rights to my book for five years.

I could have called them, sure. But I just felt like if they wanted my book, they should also be personally offering to walk me through these steps. It was all pretty impersonal. This didn’t seem to bode well for how they would handle marketing and distribution.

So I dug deeper. You should investigate as much as you can about any potential publisher or agent.digging-hole

Digging:

  • I contacted a few of their authors
  • I asked other writers
  • I researched their books and sales on Amazon
  • I read about small-house publishing experiences

Results:

  • The authors had nice things to say. The publisher was nice. It had gotten their work out there. Mostly e-book stuff. The payout was higher than many houses. Some of the writers had moved on to self-publishing instead.
  • Other writers had submitted. Found out the publisher made quite a few offers. Many writers shared my concerns.
  • They had some sales that were decent. They also had a crap-ton of books out there and coming out soon, and they were a pretty new publisher.
  • This was not that normal for small publishers.

In the end, after three whopping days, I declined the offer.

Though there were many authors who seemed content with the publisher, I also felt like I could do nearly as much as the publisher by self-publishing.

They wanted me to help market (not abnormal for small publishers), but they also didn’t seem to distribute much off-line. And didn’t do much beyond arranging blog-reviews and things like this.

They had a crap-ton of books they were releasing, and I knew of several others who had gotten offers recently or were being considered.

Along with their short consideration time, and vagueness, and quick response to my full manuscript, I concluded….

That they were an author mill.

They made good-looking books and generated sales, without doing a lot of marketing outside what the authors were doing online and such (They did do some, however). They threw a lot of books out there, and got sales from them due to a lot of books generating semi-decent sales. They did some print, but it was largely e-book focused.

I concluded that, though they might help me reach an audience and sell some books, and get going. I could easily get lost in the slush of many new releases. I would have to put a lot of work into it. And if I am doing that, then why wouldn’t I just self-publish, and get more of the money?

Best of luck to you on your writing and publishing journey. Be discerning, and don’t rush!

Don’t be afraid to say no!

*I would love to hear from you if this was helpful to you, or if I can be of further help!*

*Please leave a comment about your own experiences!*

*If you’d like to check out the first few chapters of my novel, The Lingering Shadow, go here.*

Cheers!

S. Andrew

Keeping Things Plot Specific

Revision Reflections Part 2

 

In the early drafts of my novel, The Lingering Shadow, there were various elements to the story which I found very interesting, but as I was revising and redrafting, found that they slowed down my narrative significantly. Especially when I needed to trim things down. There is no better microscope for unneeded material than the need to trim down the manuscript.

Word count is a tricky thing. For established writers, I think, it is much less of a worry. Stephen King and J.K. can write for as long as they want, and sure they have editors, but they can pack a lot more into a story. For those of us still waiting to break out, word count is a constant worry. Our respective genres have expectations, and we, as newcomers, are a financial risk to publishers. My novel is YA sci-fi / fantasy. Most sources I’ve found give a general WC expectation of 80-100,000 words. Anything longer than that and agents and editors alike worry before they’ve read a word of the book. So, large as my plot is, I have striven to remain within that range. Here are some suggestions from my latest revision that have helped me keep things trimmed down.

Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

There is a main plot line for your story. There will be smaller secondary plot lines for various characters, and you need these, because, even in first person, the story does not only belong to your Main Character. Everyone needs to be in the story for a reason, not a body count. Each character needs to WANT something, and being striving to obtain it, just as your MC is doing. Some writers keep things too simple, and everything pertains to the MC, and the secondary characters become nothing more than extra bodies in a scene. Don’t do that. However, if a character, plot line, or event is not driving the larger story forward, it can probably be cut.

For example, in my story, Taylor, my MC, originally begins the story with a boyfriend. Early on they break up, providing tension later on in the story, and between her and her good friend, Darien, who is secretly in love with her. I considered cutting the ex altogether, but found that I needed him for some tension at key points in the story, even though he doesn’t play much of a part in the larger story. But he was needed. However, I did NOT need the relationship shown in the story. I was able to cut scenes of his and Taylor’s relationship, and make him the ex from the start. Those scenes, I found, were not missed at all. I needed the ex in the story, but I didn’t need the relationship, just knowledge of it. This simplified the story and got it going much quicker, while maintaining needed tension.

Keep the STORY Moving

You need tension dripping from every page. Things can’t go your MC’s way. That’s boring. The WANTS of your characters need to clash, causing conflict. However, tension for tension’s sake is not good either. The best tension arises from those conflicting wants of your characters. Other tension drags down the story.

In early drafts, Taylor was a recovering alcoholic, who turned to drinking after her mother and sister died, and her family system fell apart. Taylor’s alcoholism was very interesting to me. I loved writing from that perspective and seeing Taylor deal with that throughout the story. However, I found that it really didn’t add anything at all to the larger story. It added some great tension early on, and then, when the bigger story comes to the forefront, it actually hindered it. I would still love to investigate the struggles of a teen alcoholic, but this wasn’t the story to do it in. I had too many other things going on that were more important. I could either keep it, and have be insignificant later, which would be a low blow to teens (or anyone) who struggles with alcohol abuse. Or I could cut it. Which I did.

This cleared up scenes and helped me keep the main story moving and at the forefront of my narrative.

Raise the Stakes

My novel is filled with several significant events that bring certain characters together and introduce the larger story (yep, I said it again). In an early draft, Taylor is attacked by a pair of drunks and a mysterious stranger named Rogue comes to her rescue. Originally, the drunks were merely a device for her and Rogue to meet. It was interesting enough, but it didn’t have anything to do with the larger story outside the meeting of two characters. But what if those drunks weren’t drunks at all, but actors, or better yet, since I’m writing about a race of humans with supernatural abilities, what if the actors were also shape shifters trying to draw out (spoiler) Taylor’s not-so-dead mother? Now that is a lot more interesting, and kept the main story at the forefront, and introduced the antagonists from the get-go, while also introducing Taylor and Rogue when Taylor is in danger, significant to their relationship and a mind connection they share, which is revealed later.

I’ll say it again, keep the larger story, the main plot, always in view. We need those secondary story lines and characters, we need that tension throughout, but it will always be more interesting if it also has to do with the real plot. This also keeps things trimmed down, and helps with that dreaded word count.

The Opening (novel revision reflections – part 1)

Writing the opening of a novel might well be the most daunting part of the entire beast. It is the part I have re-written more than any other as I have drafted my YA fantasy novel THE LINGERING SHADOW . It is the sample you send out to agents when you begin the even-more-daunting querying process. As I have combed through my manuscript these past few weeks, preparing for my first round of querying, I have learned many things I will share. The first is on the use of backstory in the opening of a novel. This is my humble opinion, so take it as you will.

The question is always how much backstory to include right away. We want readers to know something, and probably they need to as well. But too often the first chapter becomes this wandering, convoluted heap either of day to day events that give us a feel of the MC’s life before conflict strikes, or a barrage of info-dump in between bits of action. Neither are very helpful, nor likely very attention-grabbing for readers (or agents for that matter).

In my latest revision, my only goal was to trim down the manuscript of anything I could bear to let go of (there was a lot of it, and I was trying to write succinctly already in that draft). One area I found a lot of dross was my opening chapter, filled with little snippets of information about Taylor (my MC) and her life. Much of it was already pretty plot-specific, and important (her mother and sister were killed mysteriously in a city where crime was largely eradicated). But much of it could go, or be saved for later.

If you’re not sure, kill it.

There is no right answer, but I decided, if there was a part of me that questioned whether a paragraph was important enough to keep, I would kill it anyway, even if it was a paragraph of prose I was quite fond of. This worked. When re-reading the chapters after those cuts, I never missed the things I cut, even when I wasn’t positive about them initially. Trust your instincts when editing. Kill your darlings, too. Those elegant descriptions are probably beautiful, but they are probably over-written anyway. Save the long descriptions for something really important (not the soothing effect of a day-to-day shower… oops!).

Keep the action moving.

The opening is when you are grabbing your readers attention for the first time. If the info is not pertinent to the initial action, probably it can go, or be saved for later, when we are already invested. In Taylor’s case, when a pair of shape shifters come after her in my opening, readers didn’t need to know every detail of what happened to Taylor’s mother and sister months before, or the political and social structure of her world, and they definitely didn’t need to know about her everyday life. Just enough to know strange things were happening in Taylor’s world. Trust your readers to build with the key pieces of information you give them off the bat. Sometimes a flashback or significant chunk of backstory is needed for the story as a whole. Those can wait. Pull us in with tension first.

Start at the beginning.

Like I said, we don’t need those chapters of day-to-day life, introducing as many significant players as possible, or info-dump laying out the intricacies of the world, or the landscape, etc. If it’s needed, keep it brief. I cut whole chapters (and prologues) this way. Let the action later introduce us to the world and the people in it. Start your story where the action starts. Identify the inciting incident (the thing that happens to your MC that propels her into the action of the plot), make sure it happens in your first chapter. For Taylor this is when she meets a young man named Rogue, when the shape shifters come after her, and he rescues her. In my first draft this didn’t happen until chapter 5. Now it happens within 7 or 8 pages. You’ve got a lot of story, and not a lot of word count to spare. Save a few hundred, or a few thousand, words for later and start with the inciting incident.

 

Good luck with your own writing and editing!

Stephen Andrew

 

Read the opening to my novel (here), and let me know what you think.

Leave a comment about what you think makes a good opening.

The Gateway Drug (on ‘escapist fiction’ and the beginning of a writer’s blog)

fairy

“Fiction is a gateway drug to reading… Once you learn that [reading is pleasurable], you are on the road to reading everything” – Neil Gaiman

 

This is my first post on this particular site; as a writer you may guess that I’ve written elsewhere. And that quote is one of my favorites from one of my favorites, addressing critiques of ‘escapist’ stories for children.

Writers of fiction, particularly speculative fiction, and even more so, children’s fiction (I am guilty of all three), regularly seem to come under criticism from snobs and intellectuals, who I imagine read nothing but Stephen Hawking, history textbooks, etc., and perhaps for some light reading, breeze over Plato’s Five Dialogues. Who needs stories, when we have facts, right?

For snobs, if fiction is to be tolerated, it sure had better be literary, whatever that really means (when I hear literary, I immediately think of my college lit classes, and blaring sirens go off, “Boring, boring, boring!“). For writer’s like me, (YA fantasy, specifically) it seems that we are constantly forced to justify our work, because it is seen as lower, dumber, etc. than aforementioned literary literature that generally has to have over-the-top dialect, which makes for an excessively tiresome read, as well as very little action (tension) present throughout. In my college writing classes (where I began my now-completed fantasy) my imaginative work was often thought of  as “B-movie” material, a plot about a race of humans with super-human abilities set in a rebuilding, post-apocalyptic earth had little literary value in comparison with the memoirs and largely boring scenes of dialogue, dealing with unwanted pregnancies, etc.

Granted, my writing probably wasn’t great. Actually, I know it wasn’t, but I was only beginning, give me a break. It took me years of lots and lots of writing to get to where i am now: decent. But for me, my idea was original, and it was mine. I was creating a world from scratch, and I was loving it, and I was getting flack from the ones whining about their childhood all day in their writing.

But there is something to be said about the real world in speculative fiction, I think. If nothing more, it is pleasurable, as Gaiman says, and as I discovered as a child. It is not escapist fiction. We may not be the best writers on earth (we speculative children’s authors), but our kind is widely read and enjoyed world-wide. And the snobs are probably just jealous that that sort of dribble is what sells.

I’d rather be read by ordinary folk anyway, than by the literary folk. Perhaps, another day, I will expand on the College Literary scene, which I find detrimental to YA/ children’s writers like myself. But those classes also got me started. They helped me waste a lot of time, trying to refine my writing, and make it more “literary, etc.” when I should have been completing the story (story always comes first, and then the writing can be made better — but NOT literary, when that is not your intended audience!). But I digress.

I’ve been writing for many years now, and I now have a project called “The Lingering Shadow” that is completed, after multiple drafts. I am currently revising and trimming it, and then it will be beta-reader time, and then, it will be querying-an-agent time.

Until now, all I’ve done is learn from others how to write and get better, but as I move into a new realm (seeking publication), I thought I would begin sharing what I’ve learned, and continue to learn along the way.

Stephen King was once asked why he wrote horror (and he is a master at it). He replied that he didn’t see why it was assumed he had a choice in the matter.

That is often how I feel with what I write. It is a part of who I am. I loved children’s books, and continue to love them to this day, particularly those of a speculative fantasy nature. I find they have more to say about the world than many other ‘higher’ forms of literature. How could I write anything else, but what I enjoy?

If I could begin this blog with any advice to other writers, it is this: Write what you love, and ignore anyone who would try to belittle it.