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Ask A Question Thursday

May 2, 2019
mandyevebarnett


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As we all know Shakespeare was adept at creating numerous words for his own works, which are even today in common usage (whether we known their origin or not!) So today’s question is: Do you make your own vocabulary words in your book or resort to the existing ones?

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Here is a list of Shakespeare’s unique words:  

Bandit Henry VI, Part 2. 1594

Critic Love’s Labour Lost. 1598.

Dauntless Henry VI, Part 3. 1616.

Dwindle Henry IV, Part 1. 1598.

Elbow (as a verb) King Lear. 1608.

Green-Eyed (to describe jealousy) The Merchant of Venice. 1600.

Lackluster As You Like It. 1616.

Lonely Coriolanus. 1616.

Skim-milk Henry IV, Part 1. 1598.

Swagger Midsummer Night’s Dream. 1600.

Shakespeare must have loved the prefix un- because he created or gave new meaning to more than 300 words that begin with it. Here are just a few:

Unaware Venus & Adonis. 1593.

Uncomfortable Romeo & Juliet. 1599

Undress Taming of the Shrew. 1616.

Unearthly A Winter’s Tale. 1616

Unreal Macbeth. 1623

When we look at these words it is fascinating to think until the Bard created them they did not exist!

Please post your comments below.

Last week’s question: Where is your perfect writing retreat?

Weather it’s sitting somewhere with a legal pad, or sitting at my desk in front of my desktop computer, I need complete silence when I write.

Although I began my novel, NOLA Gals with an extended metaphor of the ocean while on a cruise, poolside with a tropical drink, I wrote most of it alone at my sister’s cottage. I moved back and forth between deck and kitchen table, piling up research books & handwriting historical data in ringed notebooks. Eventually it all came together on my laptop.

Ask A Question Thursday

January 17, 2019
mandyevebarnett


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The initial question was: Should you pick the genre before beginning your story or figure out what genre it is after you have written it?

(Look at the bottom of this post for the continuing query – Are genre formulas a myth?)

Last week’s responses:

I always have a vague idea of what the genre is going to be before I start a piece but if the inspiration takes me somewhere else then I don’t try and steer back because the characters lead the story.

Kristen Lamb 

Genre is essential for those who want to write professionally, for an income and for a living. For those who are having fun simply writing? No, doesn’t matter. For those who are new and learning? Not as huge of a deal but starting to be important. Those who want to be experimental and maybe want to win awards? Meh.

Yet, for anyone who want to be PAID for their books (code for product), genre is our lighthouse to keep us from smashing on the rocks.

The entire point of genre is so the author can locate and cultivate fans who will BUY his/her books…which they (readers) will also be able to locate because they will know where the book is shelved or what genre it’s listed under.

If no one has any idea WTH a book is, where to shelve it, or how to describe it? That’s bad.

If the book gets into a bookstore, then where do they put it? “General Fiction.” Okay. Sucky but okay.

But, since most people discover and buy books online, what keywords would you attach? Genre will matter BIG.

What other product/service/ business would be so indeterminate and hope to have any commercial success?

“You know, I am going to open a restaurant and just cook what I feel like and the ingredients just tell me what to do.” Um, have fun storming the castle. Rock on!

But marketing and advertising will now be a total nightmare. Good luck finding those who will eat a place no one can accurately describe.

Same with books.

Not impossible but adds a TON of unnecessary work when authors already have a ton to do as is.

I think a MAJOR misconception is genre somehow locks us into formulaic writing, which is patently false.

First of all, yes there are formulaic genres. Write a category sweet romance and there is a strict formula because these publishers know their readers and what they want.

And, since romance brings in BILLIONS and makes up over 70% of all books sold? Probably a good idea to listen to the guidelines.

Beyond that, genres can be melded and we (as writers) can get creative much like musicians who create fusions of sound, juxtaposing different types of music for a wholly unique sound (I.e. old gospel hymns influencing heavy metal).

Yet, the musicians KNOW music before playing around and reinventing new sounds.

Similarly, we should know and understand genre expectations. They exist for a reason.

Genres help us identify who is most likely to buy our book (which in the new paradigm we need to know no matter which way we publish).

Secondly, genres have rules and we break the rules at our own peril.

Breaking rules is fine. I do it all the time. But I know the rules BEFORE I break them.

For instance, there used to be a rule that one couldn’t mix POVs. If you began in first you had to stay there. If you began in third, you stayed there.

But WHY did the rule exist? Namely to stave off confusion. YET, Jefferson Parker (genius he is) wanted the audience to gain a closer psychic distance with the antagonist to make them more attached and thus more conflicted about him being apprehended/stopped.

So he wrote the antagonist in close first and the MC protagonist in third to make the reader psychologically struggle at a whole new level. Jeff knew genre, the rules, the constraints, THEN he bent them to do something never done.

Thirdly, genre is primarily for readers. It helps them find what they are looking for. When we don’t want to put a genre on our work because it ‘limits the muse’ or whatever, it is like asking our audience to go grocery shopping and buy canned goods with no labels and just trust it will be yummy.

Genres help readers have SOME idea of what they are getting. If we mislabel, there can be consequences.

Years ago, I had a client who believed she had a romance (but obviously hadn’t studied genre rules/expectations).

She self-published and got SLAYED in reviews, and panicked and sobbing, hired me to help. I took one look and knew the problem.

Yes, her writing was good and so was the story, but in her book…guy and gal didn’t end up together in the end.

In romance, (back then) you needed an HEA (Happily Ever After) which has loosened up to an HFN (Happily For Now) but the couple still has to end up together.

Without that? NOT a romance. She had a Women’s Fiction. She got a new cover, relaunched, slated in the correct genre and BOOM. Sales and great reviews.

In this instance, we had a case of completely different audience with different expectations.

When we slot a book in the wrong genre it’s like serving someone Tofurkey and trying to tell them it’s actually turkey. They are going to HATE it because the basis for comparison is TURKEY not vegan meat substitutes.

It’s like a bad bait-and-switch that ticks off readers.

Then, genre is going to give guideposts to word count. How LONG is the book roughly supposed to be?

Audiences in certain genres have preferences. Epic high fantasy readers give no figs about reading a 180,000 word book. Someone who likes cozy mysteries? No. Like 65K. Sure, feel free to write a 180,000 word cozy mystery but no one who loves that genre is likely to buy.

As far as considering genre ahead of time? I don’t understand how an author can’t do this, at least loosely. Stories are for the audience, not us. Unless we only want to sell a book to ourselves.

And this isn’t me saying “write for the market’ because that sort of “writing for the market” is when you, say, love writing Jane Austen historical romances and decide, instead, to write a techno-thriller because the genre is hot at the moment…and yet you can’t use your printer without tech support and are so bored by military fiction you want to kill yourself…but you write it because it is HOT.

Just no.

But beyond that, looking at genre is a FANTASTIC resource to understand our readers, who they are, what they want and not only give them what they want…but also slip in something they never knew they wanted until they read your book!

***This is why agents need to know genre. They have to have ammo to SELL our manuscript for the most BANK. If they can’t articulate what it IS, who is going to buy it? No one. Bye, Felicia.

Back to process. To me, failing to even roughly determine genre ahead of time is madness. I’ve done it (when I was a n00b) and it sucks and I have the scars to prove how dumb this was (for me).

My time is valuable. Without determining some broad strokes regarding genre, that is a formula for revision HELL. To be retro-fitting the Space Station for a hot tub.

It will make SEO and keywords a BEAST. Ultimately, it’s just a recipe for heavy drinking and ugly crying.

Just because we choose a genre in the beginning doesn’t mean we can’t get creative and blend or even veer at an angle toward a kissing-cousin genre (I.e. suspense can become a thriller).

In the end, writers can do whatever works for them and sells a lot of books. Yet—after fifteen years in this business professionally—I’ve found that, more often than not, writers who eschew genre rarely finish the book.

Or, if they do, revisions are like a trip to the fifth circle of hell which is why it takes FOREVER for them to ‘finish.’ Often, they can’t get traditionally published and so they self-pub and the books don’t sell (and there are reasons for that).

Look at authors making bank, traditionally and nontraditionally published. They KNOW their genre and audience and they WRITE FOR THEM…even the literary folks (*nod to Fredrik Backman*).

Anyway, long response but there ya go. My two cents…okay twenty bucks. Best of luck to everyone.

I’d say knowing at least a basic genre before you start writing is important. Maybe you know you want to write a romance, but figure out as you’re going along it’ll be an erotic romance. Okay, fine. But you can’t just start spewing words without knowing your characters, the plot, what genre, etc. You can’t sit down and just start typing without knowing some form of topic of what you’re writing. It’ll just turn into a mess that way.

over to you

So let’s look at this from a slightly different angle.

If you are writing in a particular genre do you ‘conform’ to the preconceived format of that genre? If romance – fall in love, difficulties arise, opposing feeling, loss of love, surprise event, and falling back into deep everlasting love? OR Sci-fi – the hero has to fight an enemy, the struggle is real and looks overwhelming, battles and fights, a glimpse of hope and the final defeat?

Do you want to conform to formula writing? Would you rather break the mold? Is it a myth that genres have formulas?

With a specific genre there is a better chance your book will be put into the genre bookshelf as opposed to a general fiction slot as Kristen mentioned.

Is this good marketing?

Does it restrict your creativity?

 

ASK A QUESTION THURSDAY

January 10, 2019
mandyevebarnett


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Continuing the discussion for this month’s topic. See 3rd January for main post.

Should you pick the genre before beginning your story or figure out what genre it is after you have written it?

Last week’s responses were:

Konn Lavery 

Genre tends to come second for my process. The genre of choice comes up naturally as the plot, characters and conflict unfold. Sometimes I’m not sure what the genre is, but did get a handy booklet called Genre A Short Reference Guide and Dictionary by R. L. Bennett that has descriptions for each genre.
Once the first draft is done I look up in the booklet, then research about the genre and revise the manuscript.

Karen Probert

I never consider genre at all. I’m not even sure there is a genre name for my style of writing – maybe ‘realism’ would fit as my characters act and speak as normal people and there are no situations in my stories that could not happen to real people or be a part of normal day-to-day living in our society.

Gerri Bowen

Many of my stories tend to be paranormal, but I go where the characters take me.

Lisa de Nikolas

My genre preference is noir suspense thriller murder mystery! But my writing is more literary than genre and that makes it problematic when it comes to sales and marketing because promotion departments and bookstores like to have a simple, clear-cut definition.

I’m often asked for current, similar examples in bookstores of my books, and that’s very hard to do! I’d love to reply: “I set out to write good story, something readers can sink their teeth into, it’s fiction, that’s what it is!” But booksellers want something less complicated. I’ve described my work as Little House on the Prairie meets Pulp Fiction and what genre would that be?.

I didn’t set out to write this way, in fact, I’ve tried really hard to write formulaic genre mystery but it’s just not my style. Sometimes you’ve got to go with what you’ve been given! Thanks Mandy!

Kathie Sutherland

Life writing is my genre. The forms vary: journal writing, personal essays, poems, short stories,and autobiographical narratives. These forms end up in collections. I want the pieces to be realistic. I find fiction difficult to write. I have a novel in first draft and autobiographical fiction pieces and even they are life writing. The writing comes first, and then the genre follows.

Mary Cooney-Glazer 

I write second chance love stories with the primary characters age 45 and over. I chose the main genre because I wanted to portray mid-life women as resilient, attractive, productive people still fully engaged in life and capable of enjoying romantic adventures. Their men treat them well and respect their talents. I do like to include a little goofiness on both sides when it comes to figuring out relationships. Although the main genre is romance, there are elements of women’s fiction and rom-com. So, I guess I do choose the overall genre first, but the blending elements appear as the characters and plot develops.

Mike Deregowski

I generally have some sort of idea of what genre I am writing in, I don’t pick it though, it all depends on what will fit the story that wants to be told. Same goes for style I use. I believe there are no bad writing ideas, just not the right format or style.

Mandy Eve-Barnett

I have always written free flow so never think what the genre might be as I write the narrative. That comes later once the story has completed the first draft and I read it through, making revisions and getting to know the theme of the narrative. Sometimes the characters define the genre and other times it is the story structure and theme.

 

over to you
So is this the general consensus regarding genre? Do you agree or disagree?
If we are writing without a clear genre in mind does this make the process easier or more difficult?
There are certain well known ‘formats’ for certain genre’s, complete with cheat sheets. Are these a great writer’s tool or apt to make one a ‘lazy’ writer?
Let’s see where this topic takes us shall we? Over to you and your thoughts. Please leave your comments in the section below.

ASK A QUESTION THURSDAY

January 3, 2019
mandyevebarnett


Hello,

Here is the first question for my new monthly blog topic for writers and authors. Please join in the discussion.

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Should you pick the genre before beginning your story or figure out what genre it is after you have written it?

We can ask, answer and give our opinions in the comments on this post or subsequent Thursdays in January. Let’s make it as interactive as possible.

What is your genre preference?

How do you decide on the genre?

Would picking the genre first make it more difficult to write the story or not?

Do you merge genres to match your story?

Now-a-days there are many merged genres so it is easy to combined a couple (or more) to make your narrative ‘fit’ but is that okay or not?

More discussion on Thursday 10th, 17th, 24th and 31st January. We may go off topic slightly, reveal writing styles, publishing house experiences, agent advice or …

Let each other know about you!

Experience

My experience:

I have always written free flow so never think what the genre might be as I write the narrative. That comes later once the story has completed the first draft and I read it through, making revisions and getting to know the theme of the narrative. Sometimes the characters define the genre and other times it is the story structure and theme.

I have children’s books, YA novellas and several adult novels, so am a multi-genre author. I am led by the story initially, which can be sparked from an overheard conversation, a life event, a prompt/photo or an experience on a road trip.

What about you?

 

 

Author Interview – Alison Neuman

November 23, 2018
mandyevebarnett


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  1. Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Writing is one activity which energizes me. The process of creating characters and the stories in which they interact is an exercise for my imagination.

  1. What is your writing Kryptonite?

Editing is my Kryptonite because as much as I want to start reviewing the characters motivations and the grammar, giving in to the urge in the early stages of my writing process stifles the creativity and overall potential of the final product.

  1. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

Yes I have considered writing under a pseudonym but as I write in the YA and nonfiction genres,  I didn’t feel a need to have distance or different identity, or anonymity associated between myself and my work.

Ice Rose Cover

  1. Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

As I experience a disability, it was important that my books always have a character experiencing a disability in them. The disabled characters can be secondary characters but must not represent incorrect disability beliefs and stereotypes.

  1. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

The best money I have spent as a writer has been for any books or classes in which have helped me to build my writer’s skill toolkit. There are so many facets to the success of creating and marketing as a writer, that any money spent learning is returned with each completed project.

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  1. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I currently have one book in which I’m finish the third draft, two which are finished the first draft, one children’s picture book and one YA sequel which are waiting to be written.

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  1. What does literary success look like to you?

Literary success for myself is when I receive reader feedback about how my books have affected them. While it would be wonderful to be on bestseller lists and be financially sustained from writing only, realistically if I have enough success to continue to write and publish books which find audiences, that is success to me.

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  1. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Research is a part of the writing process which I complete at the beginning, during and also when my manuscript is completed. In order to build realistic characters and circumstances in which they negotiate, it is important for me to construct a realistic world. That said, I am working on a science fiction book right now and so while the characters are moving around in the real world, human anatomy, ethics, energy and time are areas which need exploring. As much of the one character comes from the future and the mission needed to be completed to save humanity from their own extinction, as much as I can base the fictitious elements from reality should help build legitimacy for my readers.

  1. How many hours a day/week do you write?

The time I spend greatly varies but I am for an hour and a half a week editing and three hours writing or working on activities to grow the manuscript content.

  1. How do you select the names of your characters?

Sometimes I will hear a name that I really like but usually I look on baby name websites for the names and origins to see if they fit with my characters.

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  1. Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?

The genres in which I write are Young Adult, Memoir, and Plays. Usually my writing projects become the one in which draws me to write. I chose YA because I wanted to write the books I was searching for when I was the age of the audience. Memoir was because I had read several and found I had something I wanted to share that was the truth as I remember it. Plays are because I love theatre and found limited opportunities for persons experiencing a disability to act or have a voice in the theatre community. When in the creation process, the genre in which the story can best be told balances which area I write and work in. As for balance, the project which I am most eager and energized to write is the one I select.

  1. How long have you been writing?

I started writing poetry, lyrics and screen plays when I was in my teens. Writing manuscripts with the intention of publishing has been only in the past few years. I still consider myself as an emerging writer as I fell there is so much for me learning to be a lifelong experience.

  1. What inspires you?

Life is my inspiration. Sounds weird but being in the world and interacting with people provides me sparks of interest which act as a jumping board for creation of my stories and characters.

  1. How do you find or make time to write?
    Just like with most activities, I have to schedule in the time to write to ensure that there is a  space and time where I’m able to do so.

 

  1. What projects are you working on at the present?

In the draft stages of my sci-fi book.

  1. What do your plans for future projects include?

My future plans include brainstorming and writing the next children’s picture book in my friends and family series.

  1. Share a link to your author website.

www.alisonneuman.ca

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/alisonneuman.ca/

Twitter

https://twitter.com/crossingts

Bio

Alison Neuman lives in Alberta, Canada, where she works as a freelance writer. Her debut novel Ice Rose: A Young Adult Spy Novel, a YA book integrating her love of gadgetry with the broad imaginative license afforded by the secret agent genre, features a female protagonist in a wheelchair and was published in 2010 by Fireside Publications.

Alison’s work has appeared in MacEwan Today, Westword, and the Edmonton Journal, and on three tracks of the CD release, Outside the Window.

Alison was honoured in 2011 for her human rights work in advocating for the rights of persons experiencing disabilities and in 2013 she won the Glenrose Courage Award. One of her greatest achievements was the founding of Camp Mission Access, an integrative camp for children from all walks of life—both with and without disabilities. Her memoir, Searching for Normal, was released in 2013, and a musical of the same debuted in the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival in 2014. Don’t Eat Family and Help From Friends, in her children’s Friends and Family series were published through Dream Write Publications.

Her play, The Sunset Syndrome was selected for Walterdale Theatre’s 2016 “From Cradle to Stage New Works Festival” and produced in the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival in 2017. Don’t Eat Family and Help From Friends, in her children’s Friends and Family series were published through Dream Write Publishing.

Alison is currently working towards her Master of Arts in Integrated Studies through Athabasca University.

 

 

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