The post that wasn’t–Q&A

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Hey all. I totally and completely forgot it was my day to post.  I’m in the middle of a first draft of one book and working on AAs for another,  and as I didn’t prepare a topic, now I’m completely drawing a blank. Which means I’m opening the floor up to you. What would you like to talk about? Have a writing question you’ve been wanting to ask but haven’t found the right time? Well, this is that time!

This is an open forum, so let’s get a conversation going.

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16 comments to The post that wasn’t–Q&A

  • Hepseba ALHH

    I’ll give a try.
    How do you tell if a secret you’re hinting at in a book is too obvious? Do you (or anyone else here) have any suggestions for keeping things interesting for people who figure out the secret early on or who are re-reading the story?

  • sagablessed

    OK, I’ll bite. I have three questions:
    1)How do you know when to stop revising a WIP? Cuz I am *never* satisfied with mone, and I would like to move to the next step.

    2)How does one find out if an agent is the right one to work with? Any pearls of wisdom on the subject? If you don’t have one, any thoughts on the matter?

    3)Who is/are your personal literary heros and why? Just because inquiring minds want to know.

    And I know you are busy, so feel free to pick and choose what you want to answer.

    Thank you!

  • Megan B.

    Hey, I love a good Q&A! Here is my question:

    Is the pseudo-medieval fantasy setting passe? I saw an agent recently comment on her blog about not liking ‘weak versions of Earth’s medieval period’ (paraphrased) and it made me nervous. My WIP is set in a medieval-ish world, and because I am focused on the characters and story, I have not tried to make a unique setting. This is not to say I have neglected world-building, but it’s certainly a variation on the classic medieval setting. Just curious to hear your opinion (and anyone else’s).

  • Hepseba, The very best way to know if you’re giving too much–or not enough– away is to pass it to your critique partners/beta readers. As writers, we are so close to a story that what we think is terribly obvious might be too subtle, or on the opposite side, what we think we’re craftily hiding is actually too obvious.
    As to keeping things interesting for a re-read, if readers are attached to your characters/world they are re-reading to re-vist. As long as you have well developed characters that the reader wants to hang out with, the fact the reader knows how it ends doesn’t diminish the fun of the journey. (Of course, that is just my opinion. What do you enjoy about books you re-read? Identifying what makes you return can be a great teaching point.)

  • Sagablessed,

    re: Q1 on when to stop revising. The truth of the matter is that you’ll never be fully satisfied. You are constantly growing and improving as a writer, and thus will always see places you could have done things better. (Trust me, I’m in the middle of AAs and I WISH I could edit). Get a clean draft that tells the story you want it to tell, polish it, and then get it out the door and move on. That might take you 3 passes or 10, but give yourself a time limit if you find you keep coming back because you will benefit more from using those growing skills on the next project rather than ending up in a never ending cycle on one manuscript.

    (Guys, I have to run out for a little while so I’ll get back to everyone on the rest of the questions when I return so check back in a couple hours! And keep the questions coming!)

  • Megan, I’m going to jump in on your question only because it came up recently in a panel. Kalayna, I hope that’s okay?

    Anyway, I don’t think a feudal European setting is an automatic deal-breaker, but I do know that the writing’s got to be pretty darned impressive to get past that setting. There are so many rich and exciting mythologies that fantasy hasn’t mined much, and I think editors are hoping to get more stories set in those non-European worlds. I wouldn’t go so far as to say a story set in an Asian or African or Polynesian setting is a guaranteed sale, of course. It’s just that those less commonly explored worlds will probably intrigue an editor and give the writer a slight edge.

    I still think feudal European settings are attractive to readers, so don’t despair. Just be sure your book’s as good as you can make it, and you’ll be okay. 😀

  • MaCrae

    Woo!

    Why ,whenever I write, the scene comes out garbled? It always takes a different direction and the characters follow and I end up with a “What the?!” scene. Then I tear my hair out.

    How do I make my story different and have them not take the path of least resistance? (I.E. plots and characters that have been done before or the most logical and easiest plot arcs like coming of age stories. Do you know what I mean? Sometimes my story seems too familiar to every story out there.)

    How do you know what to add to your character to make them original without being random? Basically, how do you de-Sueify them without being random in adding traits, habits, and attributes?

  • Even if it happened by accident, this is a great idea.

    So, my question is How do you know it’s time to stop polishing and send the book out? My WIP is complete and full length. I’ve revised it multiple times and I’m in the midst of final (I hope) revision in which I’m polishing the language – plot issues are worked out, character arcs are complete, etc. In a very real sense, it’s done. I think the book is as good as I can make it. At the same time, I’m feeling how I’m just not yet the writer I want to be and the book is therefore not the book I want it to be. So, do I send this sucker out and see if it flies, or do I hang on to it and keep polishing?

  • A. R. Gideon

    Ok, so my question is about worldbuilding. I’ve been working on the series i’m in the process of writing for years. I have full mythologies, histories of the races and countries, layouts of the economies of each nation, extensive cultures (a lot of which probably won’t make it into the books), and have even created a completely unique language. What I want to know is if this is a turn on or turn off for editors and publishers.

  • You never *really* know when enough is enough, IMO, but there is a point where you have to trust the work, where you’ve done so much that you begin to feel you’re just nitpicking, where you have to just let your child go out on its own and have faith in what you’ve done. I put my first WIP through a dozen or more betas, I think I did easily 20+ passes on it myself beyond that, and I’m sure there’s still more that could be fixed, there always is, but in the end, you’ll never know if you never stop fixing it and take that chance. We know about crutches in the prose, but I feel like there’s also crutches that can keep us from actually taking that final step, and one of them is “just one more revision.” Eventually, you just have to dive and trust in your ability.

  • And I’m back, so on to the questions!

    re Q2 by Segablessed on finding an agent. Yes, I do have an agent (in fact, the amazing Lucienne Diver who is a fellow contributor here on on MW is my agent). The two basic ways one acquires an agent starts with a query letter or an in-person pitch at a conference, but it sounds like you’re asking more about how you find the right one, not how you contact them. It has been a while since I queried for an agent, but I know there are several websites, like querytracker.net that will help you find people who represent what you write. From there I’d suggest visiting the agent’s website and checking out their client list and their recent sales (as well as double checking what their query guidelines are.) You can get an idea of what an agent’s tastes are from their client list. If you decide to query and get “the call” you’ll get a chance to talk to the agent (if you can think above your excitement) and feel each other out.
    (A more old fashion way of searching for an agent it to pull your favorite [in genre] books off your shelf and check the acknowledgements. Many authors thank their agents.)

    Re Q3, literary heroes: Oh that’s a hard one to narrow down. I have a lot and for many different reasons. Right now every writer who has ongoing series and has powered on and overcome the fear of failing is my hero. You’d think the more books you write the easier it would get, but honestly, each book seems harder at the moment. ^_^

    Re Megan’s question on Medieval fantasy settings: Misty had a great answer and I’d second what she said. (Misty thanks for jumping in–the more the merrier!) I think voice and character are what really pull today’s readers in to the story–though unique worldbuilding is definitely a plus. Right now high fantasy (which tend to be set in pseudo-medieval times) is a harder sell because of the market, but markets change quickly so don’t change it just because of that. Tell your story your way, and like Misty said, make it the best book you can and you should be fine.

  • Re MaCae’s question about why scenes take strange directions–I call that phenomenon the intervention of the inner writer. Sometimes the inner writer is a genius, setting brilliant story paths in motion that you don’t even see until later. Other times I’m pretty sure the inner writer is insane. My advice is simply to never throw anything away, even if it looks like a jumbled mess of brain spew. Keep a scrap file and tuck it away.

    Re making a story different: No one can tell your story the same way you can. If I gave all the Magical Worders (even the lurkers) the assignment to write a story involving a vampire, set in Feudal Japan, and to incorporate a rose and the color blue in it somehow, every single story would be different. Yes, you want your novel to be unique and stand out from other books in the slush/on the shelf, but don’t stress yourself out trying to make sure no one has ever done anything like it before.

    Re original characters: Great question with an easy answer that might be less than easy to do. LOL. Your characters are a product of their world/society and the life they’ve lived before the start of the book. Traits shouldn’t be random but should fit someone who has experienced what your character has experienced. ( you know, all that backstory you have to know even though most of it won’t ever be on the page.) As long as your characters are true to themselves, the world, and the story, you won’t have to worry about them being random or sue-ish. Make sense?

  • Sarah, it sounds like it’s time to get that book out there. Daniel’s comment is right on point when he said that sometimes you have to dive in and trust your ability. Could another pass make it better? Maybe. But it is also possible to OVER edit and edit out all the voice and spontaneity in a story. You’ll never be completely satisfied (trust me, I could fill books I’ve already released with red ink) because you’re always growing as a writer. So get that polished book out there and start writing your next book.

    A. R. Gideon, what you have is what most writers would call a world or series bible. When you are querying agents, you wouldn’t mention that you have all this off the page information because all they are interested in is what is ON the page. The time and energy you put into building your world will show through in the story and the consistency and richness of your world. That said, your manuscript will be a better book for it, so no, it won’t scare off agents or editors (unless you suggest publishing it as a companion guide–then it might).

    Daniel, I couldn’t agree more!

  • MaCrae

    My inner writer is definitely insane, but I’ll keep the stuff even though it hurts my brain to look at.:D

    Not stress? You speak of something harder to cure than the common cold, but yes, I’ll stuff my internal editor in a hole somewhere and just go with the flow.

    Ah, “back in the summer of ’83” type stuff right? No one really cares but it adds to your character right?

    Thanks for the advice!

  • Megan B.

    Thanks, Misty and Kalayna. I find new things every day to be paranoid about, when it comes to my WIP! And now I kind of want to write about a Japanese vampire, haha.

  • sagablessed

    May I say question #2 was answered perfectly. And thank you for all three answers. I am so glad a friend directed me here. All of you here, facilitators and querents alike have been wonderful.