Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Thought: Teen Characters That Are Unlikable

Click here to read the entire The Wall Street Journal article

I'm often in defense of "unlikable characters" in books. I think they are the most interesting especially if the author has done a great job at rounding out a bit about why this person has so many fatal character flaws while handing us a fictional mirror to hold up to ourselves--simply brilliant. 

I am especially drawn to the young adult book that is willing, and unafraid, to show those characters engaged in a realistic struggle of identity formation. 

As a school psychologist and mother of two, I love writing for and working with teens. I feel that part of that passion stems from the fact that I fully acknowledge they are in the middle of a sometimes volcanic developmental period that frequently manifests into some not very "likable" character traits. To deny this and not represent this struggle as reflected in some teen characters in literature is to pretend that they are only physically younger adults (albeit much, much cooler and better dressed adults) but still in possession of all the wisdom gained of a life already lived. How much more powerful is the YA book that makes the discovery of that character development with teen readers instead of assuming they already know they shouldn't respond to conflict by acting like jerks?

Friday, October 30, 2015

Are You a One Book Wonder?

So I recently received a question from a reader and they graciously gave me permission to answer it on my blog. If you missed it, you can go back and read the previous post here. Beyond their main question, there were actually several other thoughts that popped into my head and here I'm addressing the next one on my list.

Are you a one book wonder?

The reader shared with me that they had written one book and that they've been trying to find an agent for that book for the last two years without any response other than rejection.

Two years.

Now I realize that there are many stories out there about writers querying 90 agents, and they were about to give up, but then, gosh darn if it wasn't agent number 91 that said, "Yes!"

What an exciting, exhilarating, hopeful, writer's tale that is. It would be fantastic if could be every writer's experience...but it's not. I would love to see some data on this, but all I know are the hundreds of stories I've read and heard from writers willing to share their stories from the publishing trenches. As a collective they essentially boil down to this, most first books never go anywhere.

That's not to say that first books NEVER get picked up, because they certainly do.

But if it is highly unlikely, and you really want this plague of a writer's life, then you need to keep writing instead of waiting. Send that first book out, and send it out, and send it out, rinse, repeat, revise, rewrite, send it out. But don't get stuck there. Don't put all you writer hopes and dreams into that first book.

Move on to something else and move on quick because the publishing universe is a black hole in which you're going to mostly send out ships never to be heard or seen from again. If you're wasting your precious time hoping and praying for a signal from that void, you're not doing the one thing that will help get you closer to eventually hearing, "Yes, yes send me your book." You're not working at getting better at writing.

It's one thing to send a book out to agents for two years.

It's another thing entirely to put all your forward progression on hold while you stand frozen hoping that what you've already done will be enough.

Because it almost never is.
Keep writing.     

Thursday, October 29, 2015

In Case You Ever Need an Anthem

Writing is hard. Life too. In fact sometimes it's so hard you might require the assistance of an anthem to pick yourself back up--here you go. 

Write on my friends. Write on.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Writer Question: "Should I give up trying to traditionally publish?"

Rebecca at the Nagle Warren Mansion in Cheyenne Wyoming

Question in my email: Should I give up trying to traditionally publish?

Dear Rebecca,

I hope you don't mind me writing to you. If you can't respond I understand, but it seems to me like you've encountered a similar experience to mine and I was wondering if you would mind giving a little advice? I'm a writer with a completed manuscript, historical romance, and I've been trying to find an agent for over two years. As you can probably guess I've received nothing but rejections. I really want to publish my book, but I have completely lost hope that it will ever happen. I am now wondering if I should consider self-publishing but I know that it is a lot of work and it is unlikely my book will sell many copies without a big publisher marketing it for me. I would really appreciate any advice and/or thoughts you have about this.


On The Fence

Dear On The Fence,

Thank you for writing and giving permission for me to re-post your question here, anonymously of course. I hope all my readers know they can always shoot me an email--I do my best to always answer.

About your question, I have so many thoughts about so many things you've shared, I feel like I could probably write five blog posts addressing each one (I think I will do exactly that!). However, your main question was, "Should I give up trying to traditionally publish?"

When I read this, I got the same feeling I always get when I'm sitting in a meeting with a parent whose child has just been diagnosed with x, y, or z. Usually they have already worked through a course of action to take, but every now and again one will ask me, "Do you think I should medicate my child?"

These are, obviously, two very different scenarios but the emotion they elicit in me as the "advisor" is the same--extreme caution and the desire to choose my next words carefully.

Here is what I will say: It's a very personal choice and one you should not make lightly or on a whim. Weigh the pros and cons, because when it comes to self-publishing, there are many on either side. And I would further caution that you not only think about the extreme success stories that receive regular press coverage and earn half a million dollars a year (and surely you realize that I am not one of these stories) because, much like traditional publishing, the ocean is mostly filled with all the small fish with names you have never, ever, nor will you ever, hear of.

Basically, if you are hoping for a get rich, famous, and retire quick escape route, self-publishing is very unlikely to be it.

However, if you really love your book, and you have it on reliable authority that your book can probably find a audience out there that would appreciate and enjoy it, AND you are willing and able to learn about self-publishing, AND you end up, like me, quite enjoying all the many processes required to deliver a manuscript to a public audience in a tidy book format--then I would say you should definitely maybe consider self-publishing.


If in your heart of hearts, what you REALLY want is the gold star standard VALIDATION that you believe comes with being accepted by an agent and then a traditional publisher...well, in that case I would say you should honor that need and continue to try and find an agent OR, put this book away and start another book armed with all the lessons I'm certain that first book taught you.