Menus, Venues, and Story Updates

Hi, there. This is a non-fancy post about the latest additions to this website and to a few of my stories.

Growth on SiM

Did you notice the faeries? The wide cavern in my previous header image needed an uplift. I got carried away and compiled an entirely new scene.

The top right menu below that contains several new pages. External Links is one of my favorites but badly named (for now). That page is a cheat sheet for writing reference sites.

I’ve been wanting to track information on Twitter better so created my own account under @writeramlynn. So far, the most active part of my new social media account is the lists of fiction-related accounts.

Baby sparrow in a hand
No guarantees that @writeramlynn will grow into anything beautiful.

Story Developments

Long fiction

Do7 is at 5,000 words of the estimated 40,000 I’m trying to complete by the end of February. Also, all seven of the dwarves now have names that are much better than [D1], [D7], etc.

I’ve given in the temptation to write a cold war between the merpeople and humans into the outline for OotS. My little sea-prince is more subversive than submissive. Although he will retain his naturally sweet nature in his silent battles.

Ocean sunset
“The sun rose above the waves, and his warm rays fell on the cold foam of the little mermaid”. (Andersen)

Short fiction

I completed one flash of science fiction and a longer short that’s maybe literary? (Genres outside of speculative fiction confuse me.) They will travel more of the world as soon as I can figure out who to test these stories against.

Aaaand, this last update I wasn’t sure how to announce. I’ve made my first sale to a professional magazine if you can believe that. One of my sci-fi pieces was accepted by Strange Horizons! The editor tweeted about the acceptance.

 

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Reimagining Fairy Tales

If you allow a writer one story, they ask for another.

I completed the outline for Dwarves of Seven (Do7) and immediately set to work on an outline for a story from my ideas folder. The plan is now to work on three novels or novellas inspired by fairy tales. I’ve layered my schedule for next year (shown below) with months blocked off to speed-draft each one. My stories for 2018, in order of priority:

  1. Do7, from the Grimms’ “Snow-White” with elements of “Snow-White and Rose-Red”
  2. RitN (an old project, revised) more loosely based on “Beauty and the Beast”
  3. A sea-prince story expanding on Hans Andersen’s “The Little Sea-Lady”

A boy in the waves

The newest outline is for the sea-prince novel. I’m learning more from working on this outline than I did for Do7.

  • I understand less about oceanography than medieval German folktales, so writing about dwarves in an alternative 12th-century Germany is easier than writing about sea-people.
  • Working from general expectations of a story, as I did for Dwarves, is easier than adapting a detailed short story.
  • Hans Christian Andersen was a more interesting person than I would’ve guessed.

I’ve started researching Andersen to understand what inspired him. My goal is write a story expressing the themes that matter to me but in a way that doesn’t contradict too much of the original author’s work.

These projects feel like new adventures to me! I want to throw myself into all of them simultaneously.

Let’s see how far enthusiasm can sail.

Summer of Science Fiction

It’s embarrassing; I write science fiction but feel like a stranger to sci-fi classics. (By the way, I know not everyone likes the term “sci-fi”. That’s too bad.)

Later this week, I’ll leave for an out-of-state visit to see family. I’m expecting down time. (Down time! Imagine!) And I realized: What could be a better opportunity than a vacation to start three months of literary exploration?

From now until the end of August, I will read for the first time (all the way through) the following nine, well-known books.

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Moving Mars by Greg Bear

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

Ringworld by Larry Niven

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

I’m not sure which I’ll start with…it will depend on how much room is in my suitcase and on the selection at my sister’s library. However, I’m eager to read them all.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

Are Non-Genre Authors Slow? Part II

Welcome to Part II of a comparison between genre and non-genre authors’ publishing frequency. Here, we’ll look at numbers for genre authors and consider the answer to the question posed in Part I.

The study includes six genre authors, for no reason other that’s how many qualifying authors I identified before my patience waned. The average for the non-genre authors was one new “pie” (or, story) every two years.

Genre Authors

Dan Brown (Mystery/Thriller)

Digital Fortress (1998), Angels & Demons (2000), Deception Point (2001), The Da Vinci Code (2003), The Lost Symbol (2009)

Number of “pies”: 5 novels
Publishing period: 11 years
Publishing frequency: 0.45 new novels/year (or, a novel every two years)

Julie Garwood (Romance)

Gentle Warrior (1985), A Girl Named Summer (1986), Rebellious Desire (1986) , Honor’s Splendour (1987), The Lion’s Lady (1988), The Bride (1989), Guardian Angel (1990), The Gift (1991), The Prize (1991), The Secret (1992), Castles (1993), Saving Grace (1993), Prince Charming (1994), For The Roses (1995), The Wedding (1996), One Pink Rose (1997), One White Rose (1997), One Red Rose (1997), Come The Spring (1997), Ransom (1999), Heartbreaker (2000), Mercy (2001), Killjoy (2002), Murder List (2004), Slow Burn (2005), Shadow Dance (2006), Shadow Music (2007), Fire and Ice (2008), Sizzle (2009)

Number of “pies”: 29 novels
Publishing period: 24 years
Publishing frequency: 1.21 new novels/year

Charlaine Harris (Mystery/Horror)

Sweet and Deadly (Dead Dog in the UK; 1981), A Secret Rage (1984), Real Murders (1990), A Bone to Pick (1992), Three Bedrooms, One Corpse (1994), The Julius House (1995), Dead Over Heels (1996), Shakespeare’s Landlord (1996), “Deeply Dead” in Murder, They Wrote (1997), Shakespeare’s Champion (1997), Shakespeare’s Christmas (1998), A Fool And His Honey (1999), Shakespeare’s Trollop (2000), Shakespeare’s Counselor (2001), “Dead Giveaway” in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (2001), Dead Until Dark (2001), Last Scene Alive (2002), Living Dead in Dallas (2002), Poppy Done to Death (2003), Club Dead (2003), Dead to the World (2004), “Fairy Dust” in Powers of Detection (2004), “Dancers in the Dark” a novella in Night’s Edge (2004), “One Word Answer” in Bite (2005), Dead as a Doornail (2005), Grave Sight (2005), Definitely Dead (2006), “Tacky” in My Big, Fat Supernatural Wedding (2006), All Together Dead (2007), Grave Surprise (2006), “Dracula Night” in Many Bloody Returns (2007), An Ice Cold Grave (2007), From Dead to Worse (2008), “An Evening With Al Gore” in Blood Lite (2008), “Gift Wrap” in Wolfsbane and Mistletoe (2008), “Lucky” in Unusual Suspects (2008), Dead and Gone (2009), “Bacon” in Strange Brew (2009), “The Britlingens Go To Hell” in Must Love Hellhounds (2009), A Touch of Dead (2009), Grave Secret (2009)

Number of “pies”: 29.60
Publishing period: 28 years
Publishing frequency: 1.06 “pies”/year

Steven King (Horror/Suspense)

Whew. Everyone knows King is prolific, but he’s also varied. Chances are good that I missed one or more of his published stories. Note that I intentionally excluded poems, comics, and movies that weren’t based on one of King’s novels or short stories.

Do you think I should have included them?

King’s Novels and more novels* (55 from years 1974 to 2009)
King’s Short Stories (100 to year 2008), plus “The Glass Floor” (1967) and “The Tale of Gray Dick” (2003)

Number of “pies”: 60.10
Publishing period: 42 years
Publishing frequency: 1.43 “pies”/year

Note: *The Bachman Books is a reprint collection, so it was not counted.

James Patterson (Thriller)

2009 – 8 novels
2008 – 6 novels
2007 – 6 novels
2006 – 5 novels
2005 – 5 novels
2004 – 4 adult novels
2003 & prior – 26 novels

Number of “pies”: 60 novels
Publishing period: 33 years
Publishing frequency: 1.80 new novels/year

Note: The book pages on Patterson’s website weren’t functioning on January 13, 2010.

Nora Roberts a.k.a. J.D. Robb (Romance)

King and Patterson combined still don’t come close to Roberts’ quantity. Fortunately, all of her works are listed in one document.

Robert’s Complete Book List (pdf; 185 novels and 17 novellas from years 1981 to 2009)

Number of “pies”: 185.85
Publishing period: 28 years
Publishing frequency: 6.64 “pies”/year

Summary and Conclusion

With Nora Roberts in the group, the average number (or, arithmetic mean) of “pies” per year is 2.10– four times as often as the genre authors. Removing Roberts drops the number to 1.19 “pies” per year, twice as often as the genre authors.

The median with and without Roberts is 1.21 and 1.14, respectively. That makes me most comfortable with the once a year estimate.

So, do Literary authors publish less often than genre writers? Yes, they seem to publish new fiction half as often.

Closing Comments

If you enjoy double-checking other people’s math, then please let me know if you see any errors in my calculations.

For everyone: How do you think we could make a similar study better, more useful, or whatever?

For example, the most common genres in bestsellers lists were those represented here: Horror, Mystery, Thriller, and Romance. My genres of Fantasy and Science Fiction weren’t represented at all, because the authors I saw in the lists are deceased or residing outside of the U.S.A. I’d like to gather data for the publishing frequency of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Do you have any questions? Thoughts?

Are Non-Genre Authors Slow? Part I

In Dean Wesley Smith’s recent blog post, “Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: Can’t Make Money in Fiction“, he explained how a fiction writer can develop a portfolio–or create an inventory of “magic pies”–and use it over and over again to increase his or her salary. The core of Smith’s advice is to write well and often, and to take advantage of all available publishing rights.

Linda Cassidy Lewis pointed out on Shadows that non-genre authors might not publish as often as genre writers.

They’re at a marketing disadvantage if they don’t, because their inventory would be smaller. A smaller inventory means fewer paychecks.

So, the question for the curious: Do professional fiction writers whose works are marketed in Literature rather than in genres typically publish less often than professional genre writers?

This wasn’t an easy question to answer. I had to take shortcuts in compiling data so as not to take too much time.

For this study, I picked through recent New York Times Bestsellers lists, a recent Amazon.com list of bestselling books, and Barnes and Noble’s Bestsellers of 2009, then I used Amazon.com, Wikipedia, and authors’ websites to check that the authors met the study’s qualifications, to identify their primary marketing classifications, and to gather data.

Authors were excluded if they:

  • write primarily children’s (including YA) fiction or non-fiction,
  • have published fewer than three novels,
  • haven’t published in the last two years, or
  • aren’t American.

Screenplays and short fiction were tricky. Most or all of these authors’ screenplays were based on the authors’ novels, so these were considered reprints (not counted) of the novels. To deal with short fiction, I borrowed from Smith’s analogy by counting each published story as a certain-sized “pie”.

How “pies” were counted:

  • novel = 1 pie
  • short story = 0.05 pie

On assumptions: Many assumptions were made for the sake of convenience. One of these was that all published stories (novels and short stories) were sold or, at the least, the authors could sell them as reprints. Another was that profits for these novels are comparable.

~

Five non-genre authors were included in the study. Click on the author’s name to go to his or her official website or webpage. Below each author’s name is a list of all his or hers published fiction and the first year of publication, statistical totals, then any notes about other publications.

Non-Genre Authors

Pat Conroy

The Great Santini (1976), The Lords of Discipline (1980), The Prince of Tides (1986), Beach Music (1995), South of Broad (2009)

Number of “pies”: 5 novels
Publishing period: 33 years
Publishing frequency: 0.12 new novels/year (or, a novel every 8 years)

Note: Conroy also published three uncounted memoirs: The Water Is Wide (1972), The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life (1999), and My Losing Season (2002).

John Irving

Setting Free the Bears (1968), The Water-Method Man (1972), The 158-Pound Marriage (1974), The World According to Garp (1978); The Hotel New Hampshire (1981); The Cider House Rules (1985); A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989); A Son of the Circus (1994); Trying to Save Piggy Sneed collection (1996): “Interior Space”, “Brennbar’s Rant”, “The Pension Grillparzer”, “Other People’s Dreams”, “Weary Kingdom”, and “Almost in Iowa”; A Widow for One Year (1998); The Fourth Hand (2001); Until I Find You (2005); Last Night in Twisted River (2009)

Number of “pies”: 12.30
Publishing period: 41 years
Publishing frequency: 0.30 “pies”/years (or, a novel every 3 years)

Notes: Irving has written memoirs–including The Imaginary Girlfriend (1995) and My Movie Business (1999)–and a children’s book titled A Sound Like Someone Trying Not to Make a Sound (2004). In addition, he translated The Cider House Rules into a produced screenplay (1999).

Emma McLaughlin

The Nanny Diaries (2002), Unknown title in Big Night Out anthology (2002), Citizen Girl (2004), Unknown title in Girls’ Night Out anthology (2006), Dedication (2007), The Real Real (2009), The Nanny Returns (2009)

Number of “pies”: 5.10
Publishing period: 7 years
Publishing frequency: 0.73 “pies”/year (or, a story almost every year)

Note: Co-writes with Nicola Kraus. This may or may not mean McLaughlin’s totals should be halved.

Nicholas Sparks

The Notebook (1996), Message in a Bottle (1998), A Walk to Remember (1999), The Rescue (2000), A Bend in the Road (2001), Nights in Rodanthe (2002), The Guardian (2003), The Wedding (2003), True Believer (2005), At First Sight (2005), Dear John (2006), The Choice (2007), The Lucky One (2008), The Last Song (2009)

Number of “pies”: 14 novels
Publishing period: 13 years
Publishing frequency: 1.08 new novels/year

Elizabeth Strout

Amy and Isabelle (1998), Abide with Me (2006), Olive Kitteridge (a.k.a. On the Coast of Maine; 2008), “A Different Road” in The Best American Mystery Stories 2008 anthology (counted because its highest rank on Amazon.com was under the Literature category)

Number of “pies”: 3.05
Publishing period: 11 years
Publishing frequency: 0.28 “pies”/year (or, a story every 3.5 years)

Note: Published a short memoir in The Friend Who Got Away (2005) and another titled “English Lesson” in the Washington Post Magazine (2009).

The Exciting Part

See Part II for the genre authors and a comparison summary of the two types.

The Elusive Definition of a Young-Adult Novel

What’s the difference between a young-adult (YA) novel and an adult novel?

One of my friends, who is a professional author, said that the main factor of YA fiction is the age of the main characters.

For now, let’s assume she’s right. Are there other factors?

From what I’ve seen, teenagers who buy or borrow books for themselves usually go for adult novels. Therefore, novels marketed specifically for teens need to appease parents as much as teens. Many parents believe that exposure to darker topics encourages negative behavior in their children, so my first thought is that the presence of darker topics–perhaps drug abuse, profane language, sex, and violence–push novels into the adult category.

Is that true, though? Here’s what I learned after a bit of research.

Drug Abuse

Drug abuse isn’t as uncommon in YA fiction as I’d assumed. A search on the book-cataloging website LibraryThing produces a long list of YA fiction with drugs as a theme.

Profane Language

Like the rest of the subject matter here, profanity is touchy. However, its use in young-adult fiction isn’t restricted any more than it is in adult fiction. Some YA novelists use none while others go for realism with crude characters.

For writers: Mike Klaassen, who writes for teen readers, shares in a Helium article how he decides when and how to use profanity in YA fiction.

Cover of Judy Blume's novel, _Forever_Sex

Sex doesn’t disqualify a novel from the YA market. Sexual references and activities can be nonexistent or the main theme of a YA novel.

Tanya Lee Stone, author of over 80 books for young readers, wrote an excellent article on this topic for the Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA). The article is called “Now and Forever: The Power of Sex in Young Adult Literature [link updated on 6/20/2010; click to view].

Violence

This also isn’t a disqualifier. High praise goes to some of the more violent YA novels, such as Margo Lanagan’s Tender Morsels (involving beatings and rape). But it was on The Book Smugglers website I actually realized how many YA novels center around violence. Take a look sometime. It’s shocking.

In summary, while heavy use of the factors above might deter a publisher from purchasing a work about young adults, none of the factors disqualify a novel from the YA label.

What about novel length?

The novels I read over a decade ago that were marketed for teens were shorter than adult novels. So, I figured the length of a novel might determine whether it is marketed as YA or adult.

A glance at the YA section of a bookstore proves that isn’t the case.  Most of the new novels I’ve seen are 300 to 500 pages. Some of more; Aidan Chambers’ This Is All (published in 2005) passes the 800-page mark.

That takes us back to age.

What’s tricky about the age criteria is that not everyone agrees on the exact range. Wikipedia says young-adult fiction is “written for, published for, or marketed to adolescents, roughly between the ages of 13 and 20” but doesn’t cite the source. The Young Adult Library Services Association [link updated on 3/26/2012] seems to define the range as 12 to 18 years old. In addition, I’m told publishing houses each use a different range.

What’s left when the main characters’ ages don’t fall in the middle of these ranges. How does an author know where to query?

My friend gave another bit of advice: “If you think you’re writing a young-adult novel, you probably are.”

Every Word a Correction

A picture is worth a thousand words.

You’ve heard this before, right? Well, how about the statement below?

A thousand words is worth at least a thousand pictures. Ah, here’s today’s focus.

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, several publications printed an essay by Samuel R. Delany titled “About Five Thousand One Hundred and Seventy Five Words”. In this essay, which is in my copy of SF: The Other Side of Realism, Delany explains how the meaning of each word in a novel relates to every preceding word. The first word, he contends, forms an image. The image may be vague and unseen in your subconscious, but it’s there. The next word modifies the image, or at least, the emotion tied to the image. Continue reading “Every Word a Correction”