Friday, November 05, 2010

We all need a little honesty

We've talked a little on Drunk writer talk about genre hopping and choosing the right genre. The challenge is, picking the genre, and ensuring we, as writers, have the skills to write in that area.

There are authors out there that can write sucessfully across different genres (Maureen can, and we should hate her for it) and right now, I'm trying to contain my jealousy towards those people, but for most of us mere mortals, we really can't switch from suspense driven to character driven.

That's why so many authors say don't chase trends, because that trend may not fit your voice. And it's why we need other writers, or readers, in our lives that can help us figure this stuff out. Or at least confirm if we've made the right decision.

I'm definitely pro critique group, because I honestly don't have the skills to look at my work and see the major failings, not the plot failings, but the tone, or voice failings, because plot I can usually figure out, but the rest is really difficult for me.

And every once in a while, if I try something new, I don't know if it's working until they look at it. I envy the authors that can work independantly and determine this for themselves, but I am not that person.
And when I read a book by an author who has been sucessful in one genre, trying a new genre and the book is falling flat, I wonder, did she had anyone in her life saying, this was not her best work.

And as a side note, and I'm really starting to get repetitive. The Vampire Diaries. Anyone watching? It's so good and it really has this amazing ability to change somewhat annoying characters into amazing characters over the course of a season. Every week it's a lesson in writing genre.

8 comments:

Stephanie Doyle said...

Sinead - I'm always amazed at the editor/author stage... when I see things go wrong.

I recently read a favorite author - her new book had such a GLARING flaw in the plot that I thought... how does this happen?

Maybe she works alone and didn't have a group to stop and say... you can't do this. But certainly the editor should have caught it. It was that bad.

Sometimes I wonder with deadlines and timing and getting all the things editors now need to do - if this part slips more than it used to.

I'm SOOO not blaming editors. All they have is too much work and too little time. But when I hear people say - you better submitt a perfect book - I do think there is now more onus on the author to get the details right.

Eileen said...

I work solo. I tried to work with a critique group, but at this point, my process doesn't really allow it.

My first time through a book tends to be very stream of consciousness. I often don't bother with transitions out of one scene and into another. I put questions marks in for names or phrases that I can come up with later which makes it confusing for other people to read. I also don't always write in a linear fashion. I'll jump around and just put in notes for what I'm going to put in some place.

By the time I'm going back through and putting in all the info, I'm too under the gun to get other people's impressions.

I wish it was otherwise, but I can't seem to change my process enough to fit into the way the rest of the group works.

Maureen McGowan said...

Aw, Sinead, thanks for saying I can write across genres, but the wider jury still does seem to be out on that one. ;)

I think that an honest critical eye is essential, too. But depending on where an author is in her career, that eye can come from an agent/editor, rather than fellow writers. (Like Steph and Eileen are doing.)

I was talking to a writer the other night who just signed a new contract. It's not her first contract, but she's changing genres (going from middle grade to YA) and settings (from magical fantasy to Victorian steampunk) and her now, new editor spent months going back an forth with her on her proposal, working on the tone and voice, before that editor took the proposal to the editorial board and then ultimately offered a contract.

But while that kind of thing is awesome, and worked out really well for this author, it is so rare... (and as people who know my history know... sometimes even after working with and pleasing an in-house editor, someone else at the house can say no...)

Just realized I don't need to be cryptic about who it is... It's Adrienne Kress and she's talked about it publicly here: Adrienne Kress

Maureen McGowan said...

Oh, and the Vampire Diaries was AWESOME last night. But I was sad when the new hot guy's head got knocked off before we even got to look at him, I mean know his character, better. ;)

But that's what's so great about this show. Every character is at risk of death. All the time. (And then sometimes, but not always, unexpectedly come back to life...)

Eileen said...

And there is a possible problem with critique groups for me. I actually do know what my editor is looking for at this point. We're on our 6th book together at this point, after all. Doesn't mean I don't some times screw up, but I still kind of know.

I had one critique group that wasn't made up of romance writers and they sometimes didn't get it when I tried to explain why I couldn't/wouldn't do something or change something a certain way. More recently, I had a critique group that was all romance writers which was great in keeping me on track that way, but felt constricting in others.

Sinead M said...

The critique group thing is really tricky. When it doesn't work, it can derail someone's writing.
I know I've been very lucky, and I'm a quivering mess of insecurities, so I have a hard time evaluating if what I'm doing is right or wrong.
They let me know if I'm on the write(heh!) track or not.
Sorry for the cheesy pun.

Maureen McGowan said...

That's a good point, Eileen. And also goes to Molly's famous question we were also discussing this week: "What are you shooting for?" "Who do you want to be like?"

We've used that question in our group to give context to new work that isn't contracted so that we at least know the author's intent... I mean, if you're shooting for Debbie Macomber and someone else thinks you're going for JR Ward...

Molly O'Keefe said...

Eileen - I absolutely understand where you're at - our critique group has been toghether so long I feel as though we've kind of grown up together. If I had to go out and get a NEW critique group...I don't think I would. I'm too freaking busy to learn everyone's quirks and confidence pitfalls.

I live for the honesty from the critique group and also from my editor Wanda - i was talking to another Harlequin writer who said she's been doing this so long she rarely gets feedback and I was slackjawed. Totally slackjawed. I wouldn't even want that. Make me better - somone, anyone, please!!!

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