Friday, March 20, 2015

The End: Full Disclosure or Open to Interpretation?

Hi, Karlie with you today!
Today I want to talk about endings. There’s a lot of hype attached to the beginning of novels – that first sentence, that first page, that first chapter. It’s been preached many times. You have to hook the attention of your reader (and that elusive agent!) from the get-go. And don't get me wrong -this is completely true. However, by the time we get close to the end, we’ve forgotten the beginning. Our attention is fully wrapped up in the characters and plot. If you’re like me, the ending is only satisfactory about half the time. Why? Either it wrapped up too soon, leaving me wondering and with a sour taste in my mouth, or it went in a direction I didn't want it to.

I rarely prefer an open ending. I want everything wrapped up nicely. Now, this doesn’t mean I always have to have a happy ending. I actually like the bittersweet ones better – they seem more true-to-life somehow. But I do want some closure.

On the other hand, some people like to envision their own ending for the characters they’ve grown close to. I've talked to a few avid readers who say they only remember the books that left a few loose ends lying around - on the contrary, those drive me crazy. I need everything in a neat package. 

What about you guys? Share your experiences with endings, and let us know what type you prefer!

Dan: Endings are tough. Often I have something in mind as I'm in the midst of writing a story or book, and I rarely deviate from that. I personally like a twist ending that the readers don't see coming. For books, though, I tend to think in more epic terms, so I'm all about closing one door and opening another. The character makes it home safe but learns that there's a new journey in store.

Lisa: I love writing open endings but every time I end up changing it because my writer friends...well, they always want something more finite. So, I give in, and I have to admit my story is usually the better for it. One day I'm going to write a story where it's right to leave the ending opening to interpretation. The funny thing is, I don't like reading a book that has an open ending. Now, that has me thinking--if I don't like reading them, then maybe it's not such a great idea to write them.

Caitlin: I like to have a few things open. Certainly, the character arc needs to be complete, but I don’t think every minute detail needs to be wrapped up with a bow. Then again, my agent asked me to add an ending chapter to HEARTSICK and my editor asked me to add an ending one to RED BLOODED. And, even after adding that “wrap up” chapter to HEARTSICK, several reviewers have commented that they wanted even more closure, heh.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Value of Twitter Pitch Parties

Caitlin, here. Back when I was querying, I remember getting super excited about Twitter pitch contests!!! Here’s a rough re-enactment of a twitter pitch day:

Me: “I want lots of agents and editors to favorite my pitch!” *bounces like a bunny around the apartment*

Husband: “What happens when they favorite your pitch?” *holds out hands as if calming a wild bunny*

Me: “I get to query them!!” *excited jazzy hands!!*

Husband: “But couldn’t you query them anyway? Aren’t you already querying agents?” *raises eyebrow*

Me:  “Huh? What did you say?” *stares at screen and refreshes twitter notifications*

But, um, my husband had a point. Aside from the occasional agent who’s closed to submissions but partakes in twitter pitch contests, getting a “favorite” doesn’t move the ball forward much. So, does that mean you shouldn’t do it? NO! But I do think writers should realize the real benefit of Twitter pitch parties.


Yeah, I know. Today especially, right after #Pitmad,  your feed is probably filled with tweets saying it’s okay you didn’t get any favorites because it’s all about the connections! And you’re thinking that’s a load of crap. That’s just something people say to losers who didn’t get the coveted gold stars. :(

But, it’s not crap. It really is (or should be) about the connections! 

Pitch parties can help you find writers who can

  • give you advice
  • celebrate with you
  • commiserate with you
  • swap work with you
  • answer your questions about their agent or publisher
  • meet up with you at conferences so you aren't sitting by yourself 
  • etc. etc. etc.

General pitch contests supply these opportunities, and there are also more specific twitter parties based on a genre or age category than can really help you find the right writers out there to chat with depending on what you write. (Shout out for #SFFpit, created by our very own Dan Koboldt!) 

What do you think? Have you made any great connections through a pitch party? Are there other benefits outside of just getting a “favorite”?

Dan: I love this topic, and think Caitlin nailed it on the head about the true benefit of pitch parties. We organizers sell them as an event for matching up authors to agents/editors, and that does happen -- at least 3 authors found rep after the last #SFFpit. From the numbers I've seen, however, about 85% of authors who participate in these events won't get a favorite from a literary agent.

Nevertheless, they draw hundreds of other authors who, like you, are chasing that dream of publication. Who understand the endless waiting and constant rejections of the query trenches. You should make friends at this stage, with these kinds of peers, because you'll need them. Pitching events also are useful for getting an idea of what other people are writing, and for seeing what kind of pitches catch the attention of agents. Finally, they force you to write a concise pitch for your book, which is a useful exercise in itself.

Lisa: I've only done one Twitter Pitch Party and that was one from WriteonCon. It was a good experience, though at first I thought it was a waste of my time. Like Caitlin and Dan said, you make many connections that way. However, I've found that my lasting connections come from spending more time with people with such things as NaNoWriMo or WriteonCon, or the year-long writing community called Valorpen. Maybe one day I'll make a more lasting connection with Twitter Pitch contests - I certainly plan on continuing with them simply because they're fun. They're also great feelers for what stories people are desirous of, or what stories have already been written and yet to be published.

Karlie: While I have stalked a few of these events, I have to admit I haven't participated in one yet. They sound amazing and I agree about the potential connections one can make. I'm definitely looking forward to participating soon! And Lisa, I agree with you about places like Valorpen and NaNoWriMo - I still think it's awesome we met during a word war in November!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Details, details....

Here's a detail that's important: This is Lisa's prompt.
You like that? No? All right, I'll get to the point.

Some details are fun to read, some are enlightening to read, but some are a burden to remember. How can we as authors tell the difference?
When you're reading a mystery or suspense, you're trying to pay attention to little details, little clues, so you won't be in the dark when the bad guy is finally revealed, the mystery solved, the truth uncovered. So when details are given, readers are paying attention, trying to remember. That's when writers need to pick and choose their details so as not to overburden readers or mislead them by seemingly putting undue weight on irrelevant specifics.

Caitlin: I think some of the best advice I ever got was from an agent who rejected me (see, rejections can be helpful!). He said that every line, every word, had to be essential to the story. Look at each word and know that the story would be less if that one word wasn't there. It sounds like too much, but if you think about it, that IS how stories should be told. Now, keep in mind, that the reader might "need" to know that your character has lime green keds in order to understand something about that character, and therefore understand something about the story. But if the reader doesn't need to know that -- CUT!

Karlie:  LOL Lisa I guess I inspired this one. Yes, it's a major problem I have - how much detail is too much detail? I always loved stories like The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, where detail basically drives the plot. Susanna Kearsley is another wizard when it comes to that. But I started trying too hard and thus wound up with a lot of annoying purple prose. Lately I've decided it's time to bring out the scalpel - the detail is weighing me down instead of lifting me up. Caitlin, you made a really good point, too!

Dan: I have less experience with reading mysteries, but in sci-fi and fantasy, it's all about the details. You get some aspect of interstellar space travel wrong, and the readers will be all over you. With fantasy, it's a balancing act. You want to provide enough details to make the world compelling and convincing, but not so many that the readers start skipping ahead. But I'm with Caitlin when it comes to details in editing: if it's not critical to the plot or setting or character, it has to go.