WARNING: Much, much rambling and brain dump. Ignore!
Okay folks, I was being a little flippant about saying I'm going to trunk my SF novel.
Indulge me here. This is a rambly post going nowhere, I just feel like bloviating while I work on my next AQ reread post and book review. (Yes, I should do less bloviating, it just distracts me from writing more.)
I thought I wanted to be a writer when I was a child. Everyone said I had a talent for writing - even my mother! What better endorsement could you have? :P Then I grew up. Somehow, the writing never happened. I don't have a lot of regrets (well, I do, but not about my career path, unless of course I could have become a Big Name Famous Writer, and that's doubtful), but I do wish I'd started writing earlier. Or rather, not spent so many years thinking about how I'd like to write a book someday and actually written one. Like so many aspiring someday-writers, I started a book every now and then, and never finished more than a chapter.
The first book I ever finished was Alexandra Quick and the Thorn Circle.
I still don't know quite how that happened, that fan fiction turned me into a writer who could actually finish novels. I wasn't even into fan fiction before that. I had a friend in high school who wrote fan fiction (mostly Thundercats and AD&D fanfic, if I recall correctly) and I made fun of her for it.
Where my book belongs?
Anyway, so now I have finished this SF novel, and while I've told myself all along that I know being a (very slightly) popular fan fiction writer is nothing at all like trying to go pro, it's still playing on a whole different level when you start thinking that people should pay money for your writing.
So anyway, yes, I've gotten some good reviews of my manuscript. I've also seen a common theme running through some of the more critical ones, and even the ones coming from reviewers who I'm pretty sure are grinding an axe have a bit of a truthful ring to them. The most serious indictment seems to be that my characters are not emotional enough. Specifically, my teenagers (yes, the main characters are teenagers) are not emotional enough. Reading between the lines, I think what they're really saying is that my book (and my teenagers) are not emo enough. And looking around at the market, I think (1) they're right; (2) they're right that this is probably going to make it hard to sell; (3) I don't know what to do about it.
Part of the problem is that my book is YA except not really. It's a teens in space novel, which means today, it's a YA novel. I didn't actually write it as YA novel per se, and I certainly wasn't thinking of that all-important VOICE which every single agent and publisher says is the be-all and end-all of modern YA literature. What are they looking for in the next big YA novel? "Fabulous VOICE! A compelling VOICE! A unique VOICE!"
Now, there is no strict definition of VOICE — for a lot of the most popular books lauded for their "voice," it seems to mean: "snarky, sarcastic, and emo." But generally it means there should be something compelling and stylish about the prose.
Now, those of you who read my fan fiction and even those of you who like it will probably agree that "voice" isn't exactly a notable feature of my writing. My writing is there to tell the story, and that's my style. Now and then I experiment a bit with style and try to add a bit of humor or prosiness or, well, voice, and there is certainly room for improvement, but I write the way I write. I'm not sure I could change my style if I wanted to.
I've found that the most positive reviews I get of my SF novel are from people like me who are somewhat older veteran SF fans. I seem to write in that style.
There is a particular recently-published YA SF novel with a somewhat similar premise to mine that several people referred to in their reviews. I have started reading it and OMG, starting in chapter one the main character is SO FUCKING WHINY AND EMO I can't even
But I'm being hit over the head with the proposition that this is what YA readers want to read.
So yeah, I don't have a YA "voice" and I don't like emo teenagers (those of you about to make cracks about Alexandra's emo-ness: bite me :P) and so my book will never sell waah waah waah.
Okay, seriously, I am going to query the sucker and try to get it published. Don't worry.
Leverage the vertical integration of your core media platform like it's 1999!
It's surprising to me how many people today, when you say you've written a book, ask when you're going to upload it to Amazon. Like, the default assumption is becoming that most aspiring writers will self-publish.
Well, I'm not going to. I mean, never say never. I think if it becomes clear that my book is never, ever going to sell to a publisher, I might go ahead and self-publish it, and let at least a few people read it. And let's be honest, folks, when you self-publish, it's going to be a very few people who read it. I don't mock self-publishers quite as hard as I used to, because there are now authors who do serious business self-publishing and self-promoting their work, but the average self-published novel has sales in the single digits.
I'd rather work on a new novel, try to get that published, and then maybe someday when I have some credibility as a writer, go back and sell the trunk novel. Maybe after rewriting it because in a few years I'll look at this manuscript and say "WTF is this POS that I wrote?"
Of course, I'd rather get this one published now and prove to the annoying axe-grinding reviewer that she's wrong. >:D
More frustrating/disheartening aspects of getting published that make me ambivalent: everybody nowadays talks about a "platform." As in, serious writers must have a platform with an audience that agents can sell to publishers along with their book. And aspiring writers spend so much time building their blogs and doing their social networking thing, and I look at their efforts and they have very nicely designed web sites with names like "Mary-Lou Writes!" or "An Author's Journey" or "The Fantastic Worlds of Ima Writer" and they're all by unpublished writers who haven't even sold a damn thing!
I don't want to build a "platform." I don't want to social network to build a fanbase. I blog here on LJ, and yes, I like having an audience, and I like that some of you are actually reading my blog even though you are not fans of my fan fiction, but I really don't see this blog becoming my "official" blog in the event that I am published because, hey, fan fiction needs to stay separate from published work.
I mean, how do you build up fans before you're published? I'm not going to go to all the effort of creating a more general interest blog just to get more eyeballs and make myself more popular just so I can try to monetize my readers by selling them my book, when and if it's published. It all seems ass-backwards to me.
Some writers do fantastically well at the blogging/social media thing, but that's not me. I'm pretty private. I have now and then debated making this blog more general interest, where I'd actually talk about politics and atheism and stuff, instead of just rambling about fan fiction and writing and book reviews. No doubt this would alienate some readers and attract others, and that works fine for a guy like John Scalzi. But, ya know, like I said, I'm pretty private, and while I am not conflict-averse (hah!), I don't like drama and stupidity. I got enough headaches from a handful of incidents of failopotamus stenchbeasts screeching stupid at me, I can't even imagine what it would be like to be John Scalzi, who gets floods of drive-bys from basement-dwelling psychopaths like Vox Day and his followers. Ye gads, the time it would take to moderate threads like that. The aggravation of turning your back on lies and slander and absurd logical fallacies. I already know, from having to do that on a minute scale, that my head would explode if I got more serious about blogging.
It's no wonder the really big names like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling wisely follow a Do Not Engage policy, for the most part. But for less Olympian authors, you're supposed to engage. But don't alienate! Have a voice. But don't be too controversial!
Oh yeah, and authors should never, ever write book reviews, especially of authors who might become your peers. I mean, I've written some harsh reviews and on writing forums, some folks will tell you that if an agent Googles you and finds you posted a 2-star review on Goodreads for a book she represented, she might decide you're not someone she wants to work with. I have no doubt that, hypothetically, if I ever got published, some of the things I have written here about certain books and authors could make for awkward encounters at cons...
And Inverarity would not remain my Secret Identity forever. Nobody stays secret on the Internet forever, especially once you have trolls and haters. A handful of you already know my real name, and I have not gone to extraordinary lengths to hide it, I've just tried to avoid associating my real name with my fan fiction in Google searches. So I have to assume that someday (again, in this hypothetical future where I am a published author), "Inverarity's" real name will become public knowledge. I've even debated the idea of just making it public now, 'cause then y'all could friend me on Facebook and Goodreads and I could stop bothering to separate my online "personas," but there is still something to be said for managing what Google spits up about you.
Okay, back to working on AQATWA.
What? Point, what point? I told you this was all going to be rambling!