You know, sometimes I wonder how I ever sorted out how to write genre fiction. I’ve been around for quite awhile – Baby Boomer, and not one of the latter ones – and while I began burning up the keys on my manual typewriter when I was in my twenties, although I’d been dabbling since 7th grade, it wasn’t until I’d rewritten my first novel three times – from scratch – and two others, that things began to click.
Back in those ancient days there were no genre fiction classes. It was frowned on by educators. The closest one could get was “creative writing” and, frankly, those classes taught me ‘nuffin’. They were more like critique meetings and not a soul, beyond the instructor, was published or writing anywhere close to the same type of story as others in the room. And the instructors never had novel length fiction picked up by a publisher, they’d had a couple short story sales. I doubt they could have answered my questions if I’d come up with any to ask back then. I was too shy and unsure of myself to do more than silently grumble about how useless the class was. Not surprisingly, I tended to drop out long before the end of the course.
If there HAD been classes, as there are today, that narrowed in on writing genre fiction, they would not have been slinging the types of “names” of things that we do today when writers get together to talk about their favorite topic – okay, maybe second favorite topic. Sometimes we like to talk about ourselves. I submit this blog entry as a good example.
But I digress from the topic I chose, so let’s get to the meat of things.
And that’s all these monikers that the different elements of writing fiction are given these days.
What brought this to mind is that in May I served as one of the “experts” for the BluePrint event here at Savvy Authors. I had 8 absolutely wonderful, excited, enthusiastic and responsive writers in my group. They were given specially formatted sheets to fill in on various things. I didn’t make them up. They were specifically chosen by the Savvy Authors staff. All I had to do is read and make suggestions and answer questions. Easy peasy.
Or it was until I had absolutely no idea what one of the things the folks in my group were working on. Well, the other groups, too, as there were more than one for this event. This “thing” was called…
…wait for it….
A BEAT SHEET.
I’d never heard of one. Okay, I’ll take that back. I had heard the term used, I just had no idea what in the heck it was. I had to look it up. Thank you, trusty Internet!
I’m not going to explain what it is. That’s not what my topic is. It’s how many things new writers get flung at them that are all rather new creations – at least in the naming of them.
- High Concept, which sounds damn scary. I looked that one up a few years ago and thought, “this makes much more sense if it doesn’t have a scary name.”
- Inciting Incident. Er, isn’t that just what starts the story really rolling? Did it really need to get lumbered with such a stilted moniker?
- Elevator Pitch. Actually, I’d be too nervous to talk to an editor in an elevator unless the box stopped working and we were trapped and had to fill the time with talking while unknown people worked to get it moving again. In which case, I would have spilled out a very uncoordinated bit of babbling about my manuscript – but only if they said the magic words, “so what do you write?” Personally, if I was an editor with a publishing house, I’d begin taking the stairs to avoid having my breathing room interrupted when at a conference. And, yes, I know you don’t have to be trapped in an elevator with someone to create or use one of these.
- Beta Reader. Say, what? They’re necessary? Ahh, I don’t think so. None of us who got our start in publishing back in the 1980s had anyone reading our stuff, except maybe our mothers or sisters, and I don’t have a sister and my mother lived 2,000 miles away from where I did after following a spouse west. Me following the spouse. Share chapters, yes. Share an entire manuscript? Only if I can’t figure out why it isn’t selling and then maybe. But this is ingrained in me because we didn’t have Beta Readers much less give them a name once upon a time. Just sayin’…
- Plot Holes. Not the same as pot holes in the road. And, frankly, the first time a reviewer said there was a plot hole in any of my stories, it was the first book in a series and of course everything didn’t get tied up in the first book – there’s a series arc! I have a friend who had a full manuscript written and asked me to read it. I did. It was funny. It was interesting. It was exciting. Then she took it to her critique group, and they said “plot holes” to her. I said, “what plot holes?” She’s now rewritten it so much, she’s killed it. And not in a good way.
- Deep POV. Oi! I can’t tell you how many pre-published writers bemoan that they can’t get the hang of this. Guess what. Not every story needs a “deep POV”. Frankly, that’s too much angst for me. I’d rather be chuckling when I read. If a story seems to require it, then do it. If not, don’t sweat it.
- Now this has been around for awhile, but I kept hearing people use it and was clueless about what they were talking about. It was a bit too BFF and LOL for me. I had to ask someone what those terms were, too. I don’t text. I write out full words. I’m a word person. “Current story” works for me, but then, POV falls into this category, too, and I tend to use it in my workshops. WIP, too, for that matter. Apparently, this old dog can learn new tricks, she’s just choosy about the ones she’ll adopt.
- Plotter, Pantser and now Plantser? I am a Pantser, so I liked that term, but I do a tiny bit of plotting, so I qualify as a Plantser but that title sounds more like I’m good in the garden and frankly, I have a black thumb. Am pretty sure I’ve been watering some very dead to the world plants in the yard. Pantser on the other hand seems to suit. But once upon a time there was no designation for the way one wrote. We just wrote.
The genres of stories began to get cut into more niches, too and gained designator names. Things like: dystopian, paranormal, urban fantasy, alternative history, speculative fiction, magical realism. Heck, I used to get rejected by publishers because they said I was mixing in too many different elements from other genres. Today, there’s no such thing as too many ingredients in the story stew. Or so it seems.
The audience got segmented, too.
There’s no longer pre-school and elementary age stories but MG and YA and even NA designators have turned up. Yeah, I read Nancy Drew and was ready to run away with Tom Swift Jr. (he was smart, cute, and rich) when in the 8th and 9th grade but then I was also reading things from the “adult” shelves at the library. Actually, that section was just called the fiction area. I remember asking the children’s librarian when I would be old enough to check out books from the big area and she said, “when you feel you want to.” I headed for those stacks and never went back in the kids’ room. FYI: the library didn’t carry Nancy or Tom – my allowance had to fill my bookshelves with their adventures.
It isn’t that long ago that anyone who published their own book was sneered at. That was “vanity” press. If you were serious about writing for a living (and that’s what I always wanted to do, though I only managed that for a single year before I had to get first a part-time job then a full time one again), there was only one route to go – what today we call “traditional” publishing.
Now there is not only Independent publishing, there are POD, e-books, audiobooks, graphic novels, and rapid release. Oddly enough, the way Dickens and many of the authors studied in literature classes released stories – in serialization that either appeared in story papers or in separate volumes – has resurfaced in the Indie community, so “serialization” is now a modern term since about the only stories that were serialized pretty much from their inception in more modern times were comic books, particularly the superhero ones.
Ah, the times they are a-changing, and at a rate that can leave you breathless, choking on the dust of their passing, or totally clueless.
For me, I’ll be picking and choosing what terms to adopt and what ones to shoo away. Just because I don’t call them by what seems a “fad” name, doesn’t mean I ignore using them, because I do use them – have always used them – in my own tales. It’s more a case of what I used to tell students in my English Composition classes at the college: you don’t have to know what something is called to use it correctly when writing.
Check out Beth’s classes and events!
- Honey, There is something Not Exactly Human at the Door with Beth Daniels – July 6th – August 2nd
- Remaking Magic with Beth Daniels – September 7th – October 4th
- Plot Math for Plotters, Pantsers and Plantsers by Beth Daniels – September 11th – September 13th
Otherworld evil is loose in the real world. Bram Farrell, Private Investigator, must track it down and destroy it before it destroys him.
Bram Farrell has starred in twenty bestselling novels by writer—and witch—Calista Amberson. Her fans love the tall, dark, and handsome PI who vanquishes supernatural bad guys using his magical powers. So, when Calista uses her magic to pull Bram from his fictional world into real-world, modern-day Detroit, she rocks both worlds.
Every supernatural being on Earth felt his arrival in this dimension. They don’t trust Calie’s intentions and Bram doesn’t either. When the supernatural community hands him the job of discovering who killed the beings in the real world that match those he killed in each volume of The Raven Tales, he takes on the task. It’s a job he’s done in twenty books—he’s up to the familiar challenge.
Bram’s investigation turns up a lot of suspicious characters grouchy bar-owning trolls, a thirsty vampire godfather, a couple of murderous x-cage fighters, a suspicious minister¬¬—and the Devil himself. Things are getting dicey: Bram could use some help with this job—but whom can he trust?
Fans of Jim Butcher will fall hard for Bram and Raven’s Moon.