Metaphorically Speaking

“Metaphor lives a secret life all around us. We utter about six metaphors a minute. Metaphorical thinking is essential to how we understand ourselves and others, how we communicate and learn, discover and invent.” – James Geary

If you haven’t watched James Geary’s brilliant TED talk about metaphors, you should! Ten minutes might break open everything you think you know about this topic.

New Adult: A Genre is Born

“Mixing romance with the life-changing experiences of early adulthood – college life, first jobs, independence, self-discovery and finding love – theses authors are defining the new genre of New Adult. New Adult fiction blazed onto the scene a few years ago and rapidly captured the hearts and minds of readers. YA readers love the contemporary settings and frank discussions of sometimes taboo topics, while older romance fans love the raw emotions.” – Publisher’s Weekly Promo Email for this Webcast

I’m getting back to the original roots of this blog – when I shared notes from workshops and conferences – and will be sharing some notes today! The following are my scribblings from the Publishers Weekly Webcast on Sept 17th, 2014.

**Disclaimer: None of these notes are direct quotes from the authors. Please listen the Publisher’s weekly archive of this webcast to hear exactly what the authors said.**

New Adult Authors

MODERATOR, Rose Fox (Reviews editor for Publisher’s Weekly) started off the cast by asking each author to introduce themselves and their books.

Cora Carmack is the author of the Loosing It Series and the Rusk University Series. She writes lighthearted and funny books about real people struggling with realistic problems. Her 18-25 year-old characters ask: who am I, and what do I want to do with my life. She has eight New Adult titles under her belt, and her series are companion novels so you can read them out of order.

Molly McAdams has three New Adult titles and writes the Taking Chances and Forgiving Lies Series. She likes to focus on the serious side of New Adult, and doesn’t shy away from difficult topics. For example her new title Sharing You explores what it means to be “the other woman” and involved with a married man. She considers herself an emotional writer, and wants to look at the things that have been swept under the rug.

Nichole Chase writes the Royals Series, which she calls happy fluffy romances. She has three New Adult titles and her latest book is her first foray into darker subject matter. She also writes Young Adult.

J.Lynn is a prolific writer who has published young adult, new adult, and adult books. She also writes under the name Jennifer L. Armentrout. She writes about secrets, which are a common thread in her New Adult work, and likes exploring how keeping secrets can shape your future. She has four New Adult titles, as well as some paranormal New Adult coming out.

Sophie Jordan writes the Ivy Chronicles Series, which was inspired by a news article about college Key Clubs that she and her agent were joking about, only to discover it was the great premise for a series. She has three New Adult titles in her repertoire, but also writes Young Adult and Adult Historical Romance.

Jay Crownover writes about all the stuff that got her into trouble when she was a new adult. Her books focus on counter culture: tattoos, metal, rock n’ roll, etc. With nine New Adult titles, she loves exploring opposites attract stories, and writes the Marked Men Series.

MODERATOR: New Adult has only existed for a few years. Can we define what New Adult is and what it isn’t?

Wait for youJ. Lynn: New Adult is not a market. New Adult means the characters are between 18 and 25 years in age. Sometimes the love interests are outside of that age range. New Adult is all about firsts without a safety net. It’s first love, first lust, first home, first job, etc. It’s not having your parents to fall back on. Instead these characters are becoming independent for the first time. It’s not sexed up Young Adult. It goes far beyond that. It’s also not a marketing ploy to attract 18 to 25 year-old readers. Our readers range from 15 to 75!

“New Adult is all about firsts without a safety net.”

Sophie: YA is read by adults, but YA teen readers don’t jump from young adult to adult books. New Adult has pulled from both the YA and adult readership and created a bridge between the two. YA is the first kiss or first love. New Adult is the first time that really matters. These are relationships that could last the rest of the character’s lives. In YA these romantic relationships have less weight.

MODERATOR: How has self-publishing been a part of your path as a New Adult author?

All lined upCora: My first book was self-published and then picked up by a traditional publisher. And now, I’m about to return to self-publishing with a New Adult paranormal series. I’ve decided to go indy because I’m ready for new sub-genres in New Adult. However, publishers are nervous to see anything in New Adult that’s outside of the current contemporary setting. It’s a shelving issue. Booksellers and librarians don’t know what to do with New Adult. The genre is just staring to find a mainstream audience. Going for digital self-publishing with this new series allows me to experiment. I can play with pricing, release dates, re-branding, etc. It creates a lot of great flexibility, and I only have to be worried about myself, rather than a whole company.

“When you self-publish as an individual you can front failure better than a publisher can.”

J.Lynn: My first New Adult book Wait for You was also self-published. Many of us on this panel actually self-published first. I am also working on a New Adult paranormal project that will be self-published. There’s a belief out there that paranormal is dead. But readers are still buying it. When you self-publish as an individual you can front failure better than a publisher can. Our readers are out there asking what’s next in New Adult. Is it paranormal, horror, New Adult without romance? But just because they’re asking for it doesn’t guarantee that they will buy it. Self-publishing allows us to experiment with lower risk.

RoyalNichole: My first New Adult book was paranormal and self-published. I think paranormal is something the market still wants to read. People who love the paranormal genre are still out there. They’re still reading it. I like paranormal because of the creativity it allows and how my imagination can run wild.

Jay: I always wanted to write what I wanted to read. I like exploring more grit, life hardships, and what it means to try to find your place. Not everyone’s journey is to the “sweeter places.” I like stories with a steel backbone.

MODERATOR: How has digital publishing and novellas influenced New Adult?

Molly: People like digital publishing and how they can get books quick. With a novella the publishing process is faster, and the product is cheaper for the reader. Novellas really are full-length novels that are branded as a novella. But they’re quick reads. My readers say they often read one book a day.

Taking ChancesJ.Lynn: New Adult is a digital phenomenon. The genre really took off in 2011 and 2012 with the explosion of e-readers. Books are priced at $3.99, which is considered the “impulse buy price.” And readers like the immediate download. The low price point allows readers to dip their toes in the water. There’s less risk that they’ve invested in something they won’t like. Often New Adult books are under 100,000 words, but I’ve seen them as high as 140,000 words.

“$3.99 is the juicy spot in e-book pricing.”

Cora: $3.99 is the juicy spot in e-book pricing. It means the reader will read it right after they buy it. Whereas a book purchased for $0.99 often languishes on their e-reader. A $3.99 purchase has more weight. It’s still under $5, but feels like enough of an investment to read the book. New Adult writers are really prolific, which has to do with the initial demand and boom of the genre. But there’s a lot of competition out there now, both from self-published books and trade publications. Pricing is a big deal where there’s so much content out there. I’ve heard some people say online that they won’t buy a book that’s over $2.99, and they’re waiting for my books to go on sale. But we’re constantly exploring what works.

Sophie: One of my favorite reviews said: “Great book. Don’t let the $2.99 price tag scare you.”

MODERATOR: Where should librarians shelve New Adult books? Some are afraid to put it with YA because of the sexy content, but others are afraid it will get lost in the adult section. Any advice?

jay cCora: Some libraries are doing New Adult displays. But they’re not committing to a whole section because they don’t know if there’s a readership for it. In bookstores you often see New Adult shelved in the romance section. It’s interesting, I went into Books-a-Million, which has a New Adult shelf, and noticed that a huge percentage of the books are bestsellers. There were more bestsellers in the New Adult section than any other part of the store. Libraries should give New Adult a chance, there is a readership!

J.Lynn: The label “New Adult” is also what can confuse readers. Anyone who isn’t on blogs or twitter may have never heard of this term. Books-a-Million relabeled their New Adult sections as “Summer Love” in the summer, and “Fall into Love” in the autumn. This is helping the mainstream readership learn what New Adult is.

MODERATOR: Is this a woman’s genre? Is there room for male reader and writers? What about diversity?

wildSophie: Right now the New Adult audience is a lot like the romance demographic. It is women of all ages. Some books are written in a guy’s POV, but most are in the female perspective. My Young Adult books have a higher percentage of male readers than my New Adult books do. But the YA books also explore other issues in them, where my New Adult is romance focused. It’s also about packaging and titles. A cover with a sexy guy kissing a girl is designed to only attract female readers.

Jay: I have more dude readers than most. I have a lot of college-age guys who email me and let me know they read my books. Fifty Shades has changed what is acceptable. Everyone bought Fifty Shades and read it on the bus or the subway.

“Reader purchasing habits speak for themselves. The power is really in the readers and librarians hands.”

J. Lynn: In terms of diversity, reader purchasing habits speak for themselves. The power is really in the readers and librarians hands. But yes, we do need awareness that these books exist. It’s taken a long time for diversity to make it into Young Adult books, I hope it doesn’t take as long to make its way to New Adult.

Molly: Readers do want mixed races in their New Adult books. I’ve had a lot of positive response to having an Asian character in one of my novellas.

Cora: Diversity is about getting the books into the readers hands, and then it comes down to buying power. We can say all day that New Adult has room for new subgenres (dystopian, sci-fi, etc.), and those books do exist. In fact, New Adult gets a lot of flak for being only romance. But those sub-genres are out there right now. But I can’t control what readers buy.

Moderator: I guess the genre really is what you make it! Thank you all for participating in this panel.

Learn more about this webcast, upcoming talks, and look through the archives here: Publisher’s Weekly Webcasts

4 Types of Prologues

Satellite View Of StarsThere’s an ongoing debate about prologues. Do you need them? Are they superfluous? Do they set up the story, or should you cut ‘em and get to chapter one already?

Plenty of opinions exist, and many opinions have to do with taste. So, before we jump on the “prologues never contribute to the story” bandwagon, I think the first step is to identify what kind of prologue one is writing and the objective of that prologue. We need to know what we’re writing and why, before we let  the opinions of what’s “in vogue” influence our writing decisions.

Let’s take a look at four different kinds of prologues.

1) Future Protagonist

This prologue is written in the same voice and style as the main story and from the POV of the same protagonist. When done really well, this kind of prologue changes everything the reader thought. As the reader continues with the story, there’s a point when he will come to understand why the prologue was included. When this reason becomes clear, the reader’s perspective of the story undergoes some kind of change. The reader has an “Ah-ha!” moment. An example of this type of prologue can be found in Unleaving by Joan Paton Walsh.

2) Past Protagonist

Something happened to the protagonist in the past that the reader has to know. Batman’s back story is an example of this. You have to know that his parents were murdered to understand the story and his motivations. This type of prologue usually includes a strong emotional event that starts off the story. Examples of this type of prologue: Pixar’s Up, The Scorpio Races, Smoke and Bone, and Batman.

3) Different Point of View

This prologue is not told from the POV of the protagonist. In this case, the writer has to justify this switch; the relevance MUST be made clear and the pay off has to be worth the disruption of the narrative voice. A successful example of this would be Boy in the Burning House by Tim Wynne-Jones.

4) Background Prologue

This is the kind of prologue that gives prologues a bad wrap. This  prologue somehow explains setting and back story. But It can also be a “bit of a trudge.” The writer has to be careful to make sure that the information shared in a background prologue is relevant to the story. It’s not an excuse to share exposition, which is often found in science fiction and fantasy novels that start with trudging prologues. This information has to be truly necessary.

A spin-off of this type of prologue is the background montage, which in effect, is a back story prologue in a film. You see these in movies and television shows like: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Hobbit, Amelie, Pushing Daises, and Maleficent. This technique is often more successful in film due to the short time frame. Where as, an author has more time and opportunity to share back story and exposition in a book. The film viewer tends to be more forgiving of a background montage than the reader is of a background prologue.

Looking for more resources on prologues? Try these:

Querying Your Opening Pages to an Agent? Get an Insider’s Feedback Before You Hit “Send”.

gI_75614_LitReactor logoGuest Post by Shannon M. Parker

Hello, loyal Ingrid’s Notes followers! Most of you know that Ingrid’s YA debut, ALL WE LEFT BEHIND will publish in 2015 from Simon Pulse. My own YA debut, CRUSHING, will publish under the same imprint in 2016. And, as if being this Ingrid-adjacent wasn’t awesome enough, she and I also have the same agent. That’s right. It’s my whole promotional strategy for my upcoming book: To scream to the writing world that I am an agent and imprint sister to Ingrid Sundberg. Because she’s that awesome. And because I admire her writing SO MUCH. I’m certain you agree. And I’m certain you know Ingrid’s route to publication. Now, she and I want to help you with your road to publication. How? Well, Ingrid invited me to chat about my upcoming online class at www.LitReactor.com that aims to polish polish polish your first ten pages—helping them stand out in an agent’s inbox.

Perfect 10

10 Ways Aspiring Authors Can Benefit from “The Perfect Ten” Workshop:

1. Indulge in a Literary Spa Day: Literacy agencies typically request opening pages as part of the query submission process. They want to know you can write more than a query letter. They want to experience the voice in your novel, get pulled in by the tension of your story. Immediately. Or they will move on to the next query—and there are always other queries to comb through.

“The Perfect Ten” will be like whitening your manuscript’s teeth for an interview, giving it that spankin’ new, professional haircut. You’ll work with the instructor (moi) and other students to make your pages pretty. Well, beautiful, really—beautifully effective.

2. Find Community: LitReactor is an online resource for published and aspiring authors. This course will give you a chance to connect with writers who are at the same stage of the process as you, while enjoying access to articles from industry greats. Where else can you find:

  • Suzy Vitello, Goddess of Prose
  • Mandy Hubbard, Agent & Author Extraordinaire
  • Chuck Palahniuk, Industry God
  • You
  • People Like You

3. Get Validation: It’s HARD to send your pages off to an agent. So hard. You crave acceptance, but the industry is filled with rejection. And the nerves and the waiting and the nerves are enough to make anyone batty. This course will help you engage with classmates to see what’s working in your pages, what already has the reader clambering for more…

And what’s not working for the reader and why.

4. Gain Critiquing Skills: This class will help you with those opening pages, but it will also provide you with tools to help you edit deeper into your work-in-progress, as well as future manuscripts.

5. End the Loneliness: Writing can be a lonely business. No one thinks it’s healthy to be stuck behind your desk all alone. So, take an online workshop and be stuck behind your desk with other lonely writers who cling to their characters for social interactions.

6. Find a Crit Partner: While there is no guarantee this will happen, it happens all. the. time. Makes sense, really. After all, you’ll be connecting with other writers embarking on the same journey.

7. Make your Pages Sing: Tighten tension; invite us to love your characters instantly; build a believable world; perfect pacing.

8. Learn From Peers: Critiquing another’s work is a great exercise for helping you determine the strengths and weakness of your own work. LitReactor provides a safe, supportive community where we all upload our thoughts, fears, dreams and writerly hopes (as well as our pages) onto a shared Discussion Board. The Board allows you to pop on when it’s convenient for you, and it allows you access to see all of your classmates’ works and the feedback they receive from the instructor and each other. There’s always strength in numbers!

9. Indulge in One Week: It’s easy to say we’re too busy and prioritize other things over our writing. But one week? This intensive will allow you to do all that other pesky stuff (like parenting, working, breathing) AFTER the course if over

10. You wanna: I know you wanna join us. I just know it…

Ingrid discusses where to start with your query process in her blog post from September 1stQuerying 101. If you know who you want to query and want your pages spit-shined, join us at LitReactor for The Perfect Ten workshop. I can’t wait to see you there! For lots of details on the class, including a daily syllabus, head over to:

LitReactor Perfect 10 Workshop Info

Thanks for taking the time to read my guest blog today.

You can find me blogging at www.shannonmparker.com

And tweeting @shannonmparker

Come. Be. Perfect. (Don’t forget to bring your imperfections!)

Shannon_HeadshotShannon M. Parker is the author of the YA novel Crushing, due out in Spring, 2016 from Simon Pulse, a division of Simon & Schuster. Her short stories have been published and won awards, but she’s happiest when writing novels. She is a proud member of SCBWI, and a passionate administrator for The Sweet Sixteens, a group of remarkable children’s authors debuting in 2016.

Shannon is an educator who has earned degrees from Saint Michael’s College in Vermont, University of Massachusetts at Boston and University of Southern Maine. For nearly twenty years, Shannon has been dedicated to eradicating adult illiteracy and believes we should all have equal access to participatory citizenry.

 

 

Should You Take the Job?

freelance2Today’s post isn’t about writing per-say, but it is about the business of writing.

If you want to make a living as a writer at some point you’re probably going to do a little freelance work. That work may be writing an article, accepting a work-for-hire gig, or even ghostwriting. And as these opportunities present themselves you’re going to have to decide if you want the job or not. Because trust me, you aren’t going to want (or have time for) every one.

So how do you decide which jobs to accept?

I’ve been a freelance illustrator and writer for over eight years. I’ve slugged through pitfalls, failures, and soul-sucking jobs, wondering if it’s all really worth it. But one simple tool has made all the difference. Before accepting any job, I now ask myself these three questions:

1) Is the job good money? Will the client pay me what I’ve asked them to pay me?

2) Will I be working with good people?

3) Will I be creatively challenged and inspired? 

If the answer to all three of these questions is YES, then it’s a great job. I should take it!

If the answer to two of these questions is YES, then it’s a good job. It’s definitely worth considering. But, I need to decide how important the question that came up as a NO is to my current situation.

If I came up with one (or fewer) YES responses, then this isn’t a job I should take. Move on to better things!

I know it may seem odd to pass up a work opportunity. But if you take too many jobs that only fulfill one of the criteria I’ve mentioned, you’re going to burn out really quickly. The last thing you want to do is give up on something that was once your passion. Be sure to ask yourself these three questions. It will help to ensure that you always love writing.