Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Writing and Publishing

It's been a while since I wrote a crafty blog and unfortunately, this isn't going to be one, either! I'm working on a contemporary mystery and need to get back to work on it, so this blog is sort of off the top of my head.

Now that I finally have a publication date for A Smuggled Rose, each day is a new day, and I'm not even in the big leagues yet. I'm being published by a small press publisher who does mainly e-books with some print books released a few months after the e-book. And is truly weird. All of a sudden, I'm invited into all these loops and groups for published writers. I've gotten congratulations from people I don't even know and have no idea how they found out I'm being published. I guess they're on one of the myriad loops which are now inviting me to participate. And you know, a few scant weeks ago, I got nothing.

Which goes to show you, people really like successful people. Even if you're only successful in a minor way.

Why do I mention that? Because just like "real people" in the "real world," if you want your readers to like your characters, your characters should be at least marginally successful. Or good at something, even if it's just shooting boogers across the room (and he scores another one!). One of the hardest creations is a character that the reader can bond with. I've talked about it on other blogs, but characters are sort of like diamonds--there are a lot of facets to creating one which is valuable and worthwhile. You need a lot of sides to the character, a lot of facets, to give them depth, and there needs to be at least one, successful, worthwhile thing about them. If the character doesn't start out successful, then the character's journey most likely should contain an element of growth and so the success is that the character grows in some way. Of course, in literary fiction, the character more often than not, ends up not growing and is spectacularly unsuccessful, which is why it is often so difficult for the reader to "get into" the characters.

We want success. We crave success. We want to be around successful people. Unless they are too successful, in which case, we delight in tearing them down and heaping blame upon them for everything, no matter what they do or don't do (e.g. Bill Gates). However, that is sort of drifting away from the point.

Right now, I'm toying with a heroine in my murder mystery who has uclers and way too much stress in her life. I'm trying not to make her whiney, but she really does have a lot to whine about, and I'm thinking about how far I can go with her before I've gone TOO FAR, because this heroine with the ulcers and the stress, is on the first vacation she's had in five years (trying to relax and let her ulcers go away) and I'd really like her to have the ultimate female insult--get her period. I mean, this has happened to ME so many times...I've saved up my annual leave and planned a big vacation (particularly a vacation at the beach) only to wind up with my period being early or late and sort of interferring with the whole thing. Not that you can't still have a good time and all, it's just not the best.

But I thought about it, and I can't really remember any heroine within my recent memory who has even had a period mentioned, which when you think about it, is fairly...odd. I mean, I've read books where the "action" takes place over a month, and the heroine is just f-i-n-e the entire time, including adventure stories where her airplane/car/whatever has crashed and she and the hero are struggling to the nearest town over a period of weeks, guess period. Which is good, since they often only have the clothes on their backs and nothing in the way of supplies. It does make me wonder, though. It seems to...unrealistic.

Okay, I know if you are under a lot of stress, this might happen, but isn't it a little weird that nobody in a book seems to have any kind of a monthly cycle, but they can sure pop those kids out in the epilogue. Amazing.

Guess those nasty little real life details just need to be glossed over, although it seems a little disengenuous considering how much detail is employed regarding condoms during love scenes in so many recent books. They want the reader to definitely know that all the characters are having safe sex, even if the woman apparently hasn't started to have her monthly cycle yet (even though she's in her mid-to-late twenties/early thirties).

Maybe it's these sorts of issues that make me completely uninterested in writing detailed love scenes or reading them. They seem so ridiculous--and weird combination of complete fantasy (everyone has at least one, if not multiple 'O's), yucky reality (is there anything more yucky than a used condom?), and complete disregard for biology. Or maybe I'm just behind the times and don't realize that young folks now-a-days have complete control over their biology and don't have nasty things happen to them at awkward times.

Then again, books are, by their very nature, fantasies, and none of us want to read about bloated, crabby women. We know the feeling, we don't like the feeling, and we don't want to be reminded.

So I guess I won't do that to my poor heroine, although it really would be just the icing on her vacation cake. I'll think of some other way to torture her.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the advise. My sister is writing a young adult sci-fi book and she's done with it. What is the best way to get published n- to get the word out to publishers even.

Amy said...

Unfortunately, getting published is not easy and it's not a short process. She can go to the library and look at the recent copies of The Writer's Market and get a list of the publishers who publish YA Science Fiction--there aren't very many, unfortunately. Then, she will need to write a query letter (no more than a page) with a brief blurb about her book. If it intrigues the publisher, they will ask for either a partial (the first three chapters) or the complete manuscript.
She may also wish to pursue getting an agent, although that can be just as challenging as finding a publisher. One word of warning--if she finds an agent who starts talking about needing payments to do things like edit the manuscript--then cut contact with that agent. No legitimate agent should ask for any money up front.
Sorry I don't have better advice, but it's not easy, however it is rewarding and I wish her the best of luck!