Still Here, Still Working #amwriting #horror #scifi #fiction

Just a quick update and then I'm going to skedaddle.

Deathform has been out for a few months, and it's been great to see a number of kind reviews drop in on Amazon and Goodreads. It's always helpful to see those posted, so thank you to everyone who has taken the time to share your thoughts! If you've read the book and haven't posted a review yet, I would be immensely grateful if you did. Indie presses have low exposure already, as do indie authors, and The Great Algorithm that controls the internet requires your participation for others to find the book. You cannot simply opt out of The Great Algorithm. You must feed The Great Algorithm. You wouldn't want to anger The Great Algorithm, would you?

Though I would like to come back to the universe of Deathform eventually, my current novel-in-progress is an unrelated project. I can't say too much about it yet, but I'll be concentrating on it for the next few months, so expect few updates to this site. I may try to tackle a short story here and there, but when you're working on something as lengthy and demanding as a novel, I find it's best to focus on one thing at a time.

Alright. Back to work.

Countering Bad Advice for Beginning Writers: Yes, Genre Does Matter #fiction #writing

For whatever reason, this was on my mind this morning, so I thought I’d share. In a way, it’s a PSA for creative writing teachers, especially for anyone teaching fiction. It's also a heads up to beginning writers who plan to query an agent or publisher at some point.

All my life, I’ve been told not to worry about what genre I’m writing. A number of published authors who visited both writing programs I attended said this. A (smaller) number of my professors said this. “Just write the thing. Genre is a marketing term. Let the publisher figure out how to market the book.”

While it's true that genre is a marketing term, and you should just write the thing, the idea that you don't have to market your work is toxic bullshit. 100% pure manure, fresh in the field.

Right now, I’m working hard on what I hope will be my second published novel, and I think constantly about how I am going to market it, because when you complete a manuscript, it doesn’t magically end up in the hands of a publisher or agent, who then says, “Bingo! I know exactly how we’ll sell this thing!” In reality, the first step—arguably the most important step on the writer’s end—is that you, the author, have to get an agent or a publisher excited about the thing you’ve written. Like it or not, that is a form of marketing. And in order to do that effectively, you have to have a clear handle on what you wrote, who may want to read it, and how you can define it for that particular audience. Not only is this key to writing a good query letter, it is key to finding the right agent or publisher in the first place.

I’ve read numerous articles from literary agencies bemoaning authors who have mislabeled their work in their query letters. “Do your research,” they say. “Know what genre you’re working in. Know who represents that genre.” And these are the people who will be marketing the book to a publisher! We’re not even talking about marketing to readers yet!

I don’t think the authors and professors who’ve given this bad advice are dumb or malicious. I think some of them have forgotten what it’s like to query. Or maybe this advice was more sound in the past. I can't speak to what worked ten years ago, but today, the market is very small and extremely competitive, with more writers and less readers. Agents and publishers have less resources to dedicate to all aspects of their jobs. They're busy. Most--if not all--get paid on commission. They need books that will sell. If you send a query that says something like, “Here’s a novel I wrote. I’m not sure what it is, but I think it's great, and you will too,” it's going to end up in a little trash can on a webpage or desktop.

How does this translate to writers? Do you decide to write something you think will be marketable, and let that guide you? Do you write the book you want to write, then work hard at defining it? Do you find a niche genre, research its conventions, and then try your hand at it?

That’s up to you. But whatever you do, ignore anyone who tells you genre is not important. And do yourself a favor and research genres for yourself. If you’re not sure how to define your project, there’s a good chance you haven’t read widely enough.

And, finally, to anyone who has ever told a beginning writer that genre is not important: for the love of God, stop.


Note: this post is geared toward traditional publishing. If you're self-publishing, you'll handle every aspect of the novel from the top down, so knowing your genres will be even more important.

Popping In, Popping Out

Hi there. Quick update and some thoughts.

This post is mostly to say I'm still here, plugging away at my novel-in-progress, and it's a blast. The more I work with this manuscript, the more excited I am to get it into the world. I'm talking about Deathform, of course, which you can read about under "My Writing" on this site. My beta readers have given great feedback, so I'm finishing up a new round of edits. Hoping to begin querying agents and publishers in the next few weeks. Would love to have more news then.

Because this last semester was a nightmarish experiment in overworking myself at three universities, moving to a new apartment, getting more involved with my union, and various other adventures, I haven't had much time to think about this website, and unfortunately had little time to dedicate to writing. Now the heat is off, and I’m feeling a bit more sane, mostly because I have time to write again.

Piece of advice: Be kind to yourself when you need to focus on real life. I’ve known for a while that I’m miserable when I’m not writing. But, just sometimes, you need to prioritize financial stability. Money is a serious obstacle for aspiring writers. Nix that. It's an issue for all writers, aspiring or otherwise. All artists, in fact. For roughly three months, all I could do was slog through 60+ student essays a week, then let my brain recuperate while binging on Netflix. On top of that, as an adjunct, I wasn't getting paid very well, and two of the three universities I slaved for haven't asked me back in the spring. Well, one did, but it was about two days before the semester started, and I've already taken a part-time job I enjoy and that doesn't give me homework. Anyway. You can (and should) read more about the adjunct crisis elsewhere.

So, the past semester was a learning experience for me. After putting my writing on the back burner and having virtually nothing to show for it, I won't be doing it again. Without sounding too ranty, I'm done working for universities that hire you for one semester and dump you. It's not only disrespectful, insulting, or harmful, but it's downright fucked up (to use fancy ethical terminology), and I aim to do what I can to help others in that situation by continuing to speak out and work with my union.

In the meantime, I'll be hitting the gas on some new projects. Now that Deathform is getting close to the light at the end of the tunnel, I'd like to turn my attentions back to "Frankenstein Love" and its possible sequels. The first novella has been done for a while, but I aim to self-publish it (probably) and the sequel at the same time. No promises, though. Sometimes projects fall through the cracks because another rises up to take their place, and we're all better for it. Who knows. Self-publishing may not be the right route for that series, either.

Also on my radar: sci fi / horror stories. I'd like to get some shorter works done this year, but it's a form I've always struggled with. The first story I wrote in a college-level writing class turned into a 70 page novella about which my professor (now a colleague) said, "I think this has to be a novel to work the way you want it to."

So there's that.

Still, I'd like to flex my short story muscles a bit. If it doesn't work out, well. One of the first gifts my fiance ever gave me was a drawing of Cormac McCarthy along with the quote, "Even if what you're working on doesn't go anywhere, it will help with the next thing you're doing. Make yourself available for something to happen."

Sound advice, that.

One last thing: Expect less posts like this in the future. They're time consuming and a little distracting, and I tried the whole public journal thing when I was a moody teenager. It didn't work out. I'll drop in now and then if I have something to say; otherwise, feel free to follow me on Twitter for some inane non sequiturs, or follow me on Facebook for the occasional public post. If I go quiet, it's because I'm working. Please knock.