Important Reminder from Girls With Pens

Over the past few weeks, Lisa and I couldn’t help noticing that we’re still getting subscribers here. And that’s great! We’re happy to have you, but we wanted to remind everyone that we’ve moved. If you want to receive new content like what you’ve obviously enjoyed on GWP (otherwise you wouldn’t have subscribed), you need to do two simple things.

(1) Subscribe to Marcy Kennedy’s Blog

(2) Subscribe to Lisa Hall-Wilson’s Blog

See, told you it was simple 🙂

To help you catch up, here’s the great writing-related content you’ve missed…

What Do We Mean by Strong Female Characters?

How to Keep Strong Female Characters Likeable

What About Characters That Don’t Match Stereotypical Male and Female Qualities?

Do You Worry You Won’t Succeed As A Writer?

How to Make Your Novel Scratch and Sniff

Anger: 5 Shades of Seeing Red

Connotation: Writing Between the Lines

The Details Make the Story

Where’s the Line in the Sand?

4 Writing Tips on Getting Started for Young Authors

Reblogging Etiquette

ReBlogging EtiquetteLately I’ve seen a lot of bloggers wondering what the etiquette should be around reblogging (blogging something previously posted on another blog).

Before I get into the tips, let me say that I think re-blogging can be useful. If you’re being reblogged, it’s an honor that someone found your content worthy of sharing with their followers, and it can extend your reach and bring people back to your site without the effort of guest posting. If you’re the reblogger, it can sometimes be a lifesaver in terms of getting content up on your site when your week has fallen to pieces. Plus, you’re providing your readers a service through vetting material for them and bringing them the best.

If done incorrectly, though, reblogging flirts with the line of plagiarism. You don’t want to flirt with plagiarism. She carries some really nasty diseases.

So how can we reblog in a professional, mutually beneficial way?

Ask First

Unless you know that the blogger doesn’t mind others reblogging their content, always ask first.

With all the social media options available, it’s not that hard to reach a blogger anymore. If Lisa or I don’t respond to a comment on our blogs right away, you can usually catch us on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or through email. I know that we’ve entered an age of instant gratification, but patience is still a virtue.

You should do more than just ask permission though. Not all reblogging is created equal. Find out the format the original blogger prefers. Are they alright with you copying the entire post onto your site? Or would they prefer you copy only the first couple of paragraphs with a link back to the full article?

Why does the format of the reblogging matter?

Comments – While I can’t speak for every blogger, I like to try to reply to comments on my post. If my post is appearing in full someplace else, chances are good I won’t be able to monitor the comments there as well as on my own site. With a guest post, you’re able to plan in advance. With a reblog, unlike with a regular guest post, I haven’t planned the extra social media time into my day to be able to check and reply to comments on two (or more) sites where my content is appearing.

Site Stats – If you’re a writer who’s blogging as part of building a platform, your site stats matter. They can influence whether you get an agent, whether people take you seriously, and (if you choose) whether you can eventually sell ad space on your site. The click-through rate for a post reblogged in full is much lower than for a partial repost with a link.

Common Courtesy – A good blog posts takes me 1-3 hours to write, depending on the complexity of the topic and the amount of research necessary. While I’m happy to share and to help, I’ve made significant sacrifices to produce my content, and I believe that still gives me the right to decide when and how it’s used.

Credit the Original Source

If something goes viral and you find it four people down the chain, go back and reblog from the original site. It’s respectful to the owner of the material, and it’s kind to your reader who won’t want to go back through a chain of sites to find the original source to see if they have more excellent content to read.

What if you follow the chain to a dead end? Part of being a responsible writer is doing your research and exercising due diligence. Run a Google search, and see if you can locate the original poster on your own.

Add An Introduction/Conclusion

If you end up reblogging the content in full, add an original introduction or conclusion telling people not only where you found the content but also why you thought it was worthy of reblogging. What’s the point that resonated the most with you? What do you disagree with?

Have you tried reblogging? What other pieces of etiquette do you think should be observed? Do you think reblogging is a great new trend that can benefit everyone or no better than plagiarism?

Marcy

**Remember that next week will be our last full week of posts here at Girls With Pens, so be sure to sign up for our monthly newsletter (space is limited) and subscribe to Marcy’s blog and Lisa’s blog to continue receiving posts on writing, marketing, social media, and all the other goodies you’ve come to expect from us.**

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The Pinterest Problem

How many of you are on Pinterest? How many of you are thinking of joining the newest social media trend?

I joined only two weeks ago and fell instantly in love with the beauty of it. I’m a very visual, hands-on person. No other social media site lets you collect and share images in the same way. For writers, it provides an opportunity to create inspiration boards for our novels, promote each other’s books, and drive traffic to our blogs. It seemed to be the best of what social media has to offer in that it was both fun and functional.

Unfortunately, Pinterest’s terms of service have caused some concern across the web this week. According to the terms of service, if you upload your own work, you’re giving Cold Brew Labs complete and irrevocable rights to use, sell, or modify your work as they see fit. Without compensating you. Anytime someone wants all rights to my material, I get nervous. Especially if they’re not going to pay me for it.

But I don’t upload any of my own pictures or artwork, you say. This is an equally big problem.

Check out what you agreed to in Pinterest’s terms of service: “Neither the Member Content nor your posting, uploading, publication, submission or transmittal of the Member Content or Cold Brew Labs’ use of the Member Content (or any portion thereof) on, through or by means of the Site, Application and the Services will infringe, misappropriate or violate a third party’s patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret, moral rights or other proprietary or intellectual property rights, or rights of publicity or privacy, or result in the violation of any applicable law or regulation.”

What this means is that if you don’t have the express permission of the person who does own the copyright to the images you pin and they decide to sue Pinterest, you’re 100% responsible.

If you want to do a little more reading on this (and believe me, I will be) here are a couple helpful articles I’ve come across.

Why I Tearfully Deleted My Pinterest Inspiration Boards

Why Pinterest Is No Longer of Great Interest

Now, for a happier note, what have Lisa and I been up to this week…

Marcy’s asking Do You Believe in Second Chances? Tolkien did.

Lisa shares her recipe for Soldier Cookies, the ones she used to send to the troops in Afghanistan.

Marcy

Connect with Marcy on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. Connect with Lisa on Twitter, subscribe to her on Facebook, or join her circles on Google+.

And don’t forget to subscribe to Marcy’s new blog Life At Warp 10 and Lisa’s new blog Through the Fire.

6 Ways to Develop Your Voice

writing voiceA distinct voice seems to be the thing that everyone wants but no one can tell you how to get. And I have to admit this annoys me. I’m a very practical person. If you can clearly tell me how to do something, I’ll get it done for you. If it’s ooey gooey and you tell me “it just has to develop over time,” I’m going to be cheesed.

I’m also going to set out to figure out how to do whatever you’ve just told me can’t be taught and has to develop organically.

Developing your voice–like everything else in writing–takes time and discipline, but it can be done. So here are some ways you can actively work on developing your voice.

(1) Learn the Basics of Writing

Before you argue that this will only teach you to write like everyone else, hear me out.

Can an artist sculpt a lifelike statue without first learning about the features of different types of stone and without learning how to use a chisel and other tools? Can a pianist compose a sonata without first learning which notes sound good together?

One of the most important things a writer trying to develop their voice can do is to read craft books. Writing is just like any other skill, whether that be painting, woodworking, engineering, or neurosurgery. You have to be so solid on the basics that they come instinctively before you’re able to truly create something fresh and unique.

(2) Set Boundaries

In her excellent post on Ways to Develop Your Unique Writing Voice, social media maven and bestselling author Kristen Lamb pointed out how boundaries can actually free your creativity rather than limit you. She likened setting boundaries in writing to narrowing down what means of transportation want to use to take your vacation.

If you want to develop your voice more quickly, pick a point of view (first person or third person – if you’re not sure what that means, check out our post on point of view) and a genre and stick to it until you’ve mastered it.

How will this help? Each genre comes with conventions that you need to follow to write in it. POV adds structure and establishes how you can tell your story. When some of these big decisions are settled, you’re free to focus on the actual writing. In other words, you’re free to allow your voice to come out. 

(3) Read and Analyze

Read a lot is one of the few pieces of advice novelists are given for developing their voice. But reading alone isn’t enough. You need to figure out what works in these books and what doesn’t. What do you love and hate about them? It could be something big picture (like the way they weave their theme throughout the book) or it could be something more subtle (like the cadence they use in their sentences).

For each book you read, try to identify and write down three things you loved and three things you didn’t. For the things that you didn’t enjoy about the book, ask yourself why you didn’t like them and how you would have done them differently.

(4) Make A List of Words that Describe Your Personality

In her post about Author Voice Vs. Character Voice, romance writer Roni Loren describes her author voice and then points out how it directly relates to who she is as a person and how she approaches life. Your voice is you.

Sit down and make a list of 15-20 words that describe you, then elaborate on each and how you see that trait expressed in a normal day.

For example, I’m quirky, sarcastic, thoughtful, structured, and equal parts dark and optimistic. So is my voice. By identifying who I am, I can look at my writing and see what parts are true to me and what parts aren’t.

(5) Stop Reading Novels

I know. I know. Up above, I told you to read and analyze. That was one step along the path. But eventually, you’re going to need to make sure that you’re starting to sound like you rather than subconsciously copying another writer. The only sure way to do that is to stop reading other people’s work.

Take 1-2 months and use your reading time to write instead (or exchange novels for books on craft).

This isn’t meant to be maintained long-term. You only need to stay in this stage until you start hearing yourself. I made the biggest jump in developing my own voice when I stopped reading temporarily.

(6) Read Your Work Out Loud

What flows off your tongue? What comes naturally? What doesn’t?

Reading your work out loud helps you smooth out the tongue twister passages and create more realistic dialogue, but it also helps with voice. What sounds right to your ear? Could you see telling the story this way out loud to your friends?

(7) Blog to Get Comfortable Being You in Public

In a post she wrote back in November, YA author Susan Bischoff said that one of the benefits she gained from blogging was that ” I learned how to be myself. In public. I don’t think that’s something that comes naturally to most people.”

The only way you can develop your unique voice is to be proud of who you are and how you sound. As soon as you start worrying about what other people will think or whether they’ll like your voice, you’re going to start trying to change it.

Blogging helps you learn to be comfortable with who you are and with sharing who you are with readers. Writing magazine articles is another way to help develop your voice in a public forum.

What other ways have you found to develop your voice? Do you agree with me that it can be developed or do you think it needs to develop organically? What author’s voice do you love the most?

Marcy

**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.

Connect with Marcy on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. Connect with Lisa on Twitter, subscribe to her on Facebook, or join her circles on Google+.

 

Crafting Your 90-Second Pitch

Pitching Your NovelWhether you’re pitching an agent at a conference or through a query letter, you need to create the perfect pitch, one that would take 60 to 90 seconds to say and would take up about half a written page to type (leaving you room for your credentials and some personalization for each agent).

(Self-published authors – you need this too. This is your cover copy and Amazon blurb!)

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending a workshop run by Chuck Sambuchino, author of the Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents, on how to write the perfect pitch. Thanks in large part to his workshop, Lisa and I had great success at the three-hour pitch slam in New York. Although not every agent asked us to send them something, every one of them complimented our pitch.

So what does it take to make the perfect pitch?

Don’t start off with your pitch.

I know. This is a post about writing the perfect pitch, but you don’t want to leap right into the body of the pitch. Imagine a meal where you didn’t get to smell or see the food first. Wouldn’t it be weird to take a blind bite?

Give the details of your book first—genre, title, word count, and whether it’s complete.

My co-writer and I have a completed 100,000 word historical fantasy called The Amazon Heir.

(Note: According to Sambuchino, books are titled, people are entitled.)

You might want to argue that the details are boring and you need to immediately catch the agent’s interest, but when you give the details first, it shows the agent that you’re pitching something they represent. When you’re able to name your genre and give a word count that’s appropriate, it also shows you know where your book fits in the market. Finally, it gives the agent a framework into which to place your book so there’s less confusion.

Follow with the logline.

A logline is a one-sentence summary of your book. Sambuchino likened this to the cover on a published book. When you pick up a book, you get an instant impression of the book from the cover. Since you don’t have a cover to show the agent, give them something vivid to hold on to.

(In the workshop, someone asked if they should bring a cover mock-up with them to a pitch, and the resounding answer was NO. You need a written logline, you shouldn’t be handing an agent anything in a one-on-one pitch, and you definitely shouldn’t be including extras with any submission.)

Loglines come in different varieties.

You can compare your book to others that are out there. A comparison logline won’t work for every book, but when it does, instant picture.

Our logline ended up being Xena warrior princess meets Game of Thrones.

We have a fast-paced, action-packed story featuring a sexy Amazon princess (like Xena) that’s also full of rich details, political intrigue surrounding an heir, and a power struggle over two thrones (Game of Thrones-style).

For advice on writing a more traditional logline (character + conflict + stakes), check out this post I did a few months back on crafting a 25-word pitch (a.k.a. your logline).

Introduce your main character(s).

Now you start the meaty part of your pitch. From this point on, you need to summarize your book in 3-10 sentences.

Introduce your main character by telling what they want or by saying something interesting about them (or both).

Zerynthia is an Amazon princess with more man-kills than any other. Tradition says that to take her mother’s throne she needs a female heir from a prince of the nation that’s known as the boogeyman of the Greek world.

Don’t name any characters other than your main character(s). The fewer names you include, the better. You can usually refer to any other characters that need to be mentioned by their relationship to your main character (e.g. her brother, his childhood friend).

Give the inciting incident.

What propels the story into motion and moves everything forward? What is it that disrupts your character’s normal life and forces them to act?

Tell what happens next.

Just tell us what your story is about in an exciting, genre-appropriate way. What do your characters do in reaction to the inciting incident? What are the stakes if they fail?

Don’t include subplots.

If the agent doesn’t need to know it to understand your plot, leave it out. The example Sambuchino gave was “The main character is an elven princess who bids on an alien planet.” You don’t need to give the name of the planet or the race of elves she belongs to for the agent to understand the basis of your plot.

Only name your theme if it’s really, super unique. (Most themes aren’t, and that’s okay.)

Add in complications.

What other bad stuff happens?

When Kaduis’ brother devises a plot to cast doubt on the paternity of their child, their nations are brought to the brink of war.

Avoid generalities like “life gets turned upside down.” You want to paint specific pictures to help the agent get an idea of your voice and to keep their attention.

Don’t give away the ending.

In a synopsis, you always tell the ending. In a pitch, you’re only covering about the first half of your story and leaving them hanging.

Should you pitch a series?

Just pitch one book. If you have to say something, say, “This book could easily be a standalone project, but it could also be the start of a trilogy.” That lets the agent know you’re flexible.

What’s the point of your pitch?

In his book How to Write A Great Query Letter, agent Noah Lukeman writes, “Many writers hope to, in this one page letter, convey all the nuances of their plot, their characters, to convey everything about who they are, and to, by its end, have an agent commit to represent them. Herein lies the problem. Most writers expect too much of a query letter . . . The goal of a query letter is, simply, to get an agent to want to read more” (16).

That’s honestly the point of every step along the way from query letter to published book—get them to want to read more.

Does this make you want to re-work your pitch (the way it did for us)? Or does it give you confidence that your pitch is ready to go?

Marcy

**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.

3 Reasons Kathryn Stockett’s The Help Became A Bestseller

bestselling novel The HelpTime to get honest. We all want our book to become a runaway bestseller and get turned into a movie.

And we all know exactly what it takes to get there–a great book and word of mouth. That hasn’t changed and won’t change no matter what technological advancements come along. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Social media maven Kristen Lamb pointed out that one of the best ways for novelists to create a great book is to examine successful books to figure out what worked for them. Once we recognize what helped make them great, we can incorporate those things into our own books.

So today I wanted to look at three reasons Kathryn Stockett’s The Help became a bestseller.

Unique Character Voices

The Help uses three first-person narrators to tell the story. (It’s not as easy as Stockett makes it look.)  Even if you weren’t told each time you hit a switch, you could identify which character was speaking because Stockett gave them each a unique voice.

How? Well, she kept in mind their background, education, and personalities.

Abileen’s voice is lyrical but filled with grammatical mistakes. She uses “they” when she should use “their,” and “a” when she should use “of.” You can hear the accent of black women in the South 60 years ago when she says, “First day I walk in the door, there she be, red-hot and hollering with the colic” (pg. 1).

This is Abileen’s voice, and only Abileen can say it just this way because of who she is. She dropped out of school young to work, but always had a knack for writing, and she’s been writing her prayers ever since so she doesn’t lose the ability. She’s older than the other POV characters, and it shows in her accent and attitudes, and in the slightly slower way she moves about things.

Minny’s is sarcastic, cynical, jaded. Her speech is sprinkled with profanity and criticisms of the foolishness she sees around her. Her metaphors tend to center around food.

What makes Minny so different from Abileen? She’s younger and has more education so she lacks the accent and grammatical mistakes, she’s extremely practical, but it’s more than that. Minny looks at the world the way she does in large part because her alcoholic husband beats her. And her food metaphors spring out of her love for cooking. She never burns the fried chicken.

Whether you have one POV character or ten, each of them needs to sounds like an individual.

A Theme People Connect With

You might think the theme of The Help is civil rights and equality for blacks and women. While those issues play a huge role in the book (after all, Skeeter is writing a book that tells the real story of black maids in the South), if that was the theme, it wouldn’t connect with people on an emotional level the way this book did. Civil rights is a political issue you vote on, not something that reaches in, grabs your heart, and squeezes it until it aches.

Stockett weaves a much more subtle and poignant theme throughout each POV character’s story–the struggle to feel worthy, worthwhile, loved, and valuable.

Skeeter feels like an embarrassment to her mother. She’s unmarried and dresses in ways that give her mother heart palpitations. Her hair is completely unmanageable. When she finally gets a boyfriend, she’s forced to choose between being herself and being who he wants her to be.

Minny works for Celia Foote. Celia comes from Sugar Ditch (basically the wrong side of the tracks). She desperately wants to make friends, but her heart of gold is overlooked because she’s tacky and trashy and married to the ex-boyfriend of Hilly, who has all the other white women under her thumb.

Abileen works for a woman who’s ashamed of her daughter. Elisabeth barely picks her toddler up because Mae Mobley is fat with a bald spot on the back of her head. Abileen spends the book trying to teach Mae Mobley that she is kind, she is smart, and she is important.

Each story connects to the theme in a different way, but it’s there under them all. And it’s something we can all relate to in one way or another.

Fresh Descriptions and Metaphors

George Orwell advised, “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.” His point was that if you’ve seen it in other books before, it’s no longer fresh. It might even be verging on cliched. Worse, it makes your book forgettable.

The best metaphors stick in people’s minds because they don’t remember ever hearing them before. They also stick because they give people something tangible to hang on to.

The dread in my stomach is flat and hard and hot, like a brick in the sun (pg. 178). When I read this, I understood dread in a new way. My gut reaction was “Yes, that’s exactly how it feels. She just put into words something I’ve known all along but haven’t been able to articulate.” That makes for a memorable metaphor.

It smells like meat, like hamburger defrosting on the counter (pg. 232). Even now, months later, this metaphor still turns my stomach. This is how she described the smell of a miscarried baby. I’ve never seen a miscarried baby, never smelled what that sort of death smells like, but with this description, I knew. Stockett associated something unfamiliar to most of us to something familiar to most of us, allowing us to play an intimate part in a foreign experience. That also makes for a memorable metaphor.

Have you read The Help? What did you love about it? What else do you think made it a bestseller?

Marcy

**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.

Making This Year Better Than The Last

And it’s been a long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass.
–Counting Crows, “A Long December”

Goals and AmbitionsDid you make a New Year’s resolution yesterday? Did you know that you have a 78% chance of breaking it?

A few years ago, I gave up on making New Year’s resolutions because I always broke them and ended up feeling like a failure. This past year, though, I noticed another more serious problem.

My life has become triage.

Instead of acting, I spent most of my time reacting. Fires kept cropping up, and I survived by dealing with the biggest and badest first. Everything else tanked. I gained 20 pounds. My husband began to complain that he didn’t get any time with me anymore because I’m always working. I don’t remember what a day off looks like. Lisa and I are scrambling to prepare for the conference we’re headed to in New York this month.

I want this year to be better than the last.

Part of my problem goes back to my failed New Year’s resolutions, and why I was consistently breaking them. To make this year better than the last, I need to care for myself as well as I care for my characters. You see, I give them goals, but I mostly only had ambitions for myself.

If you remember the post I wrote about Creating Three-Dimensional Characters, I explained the difference between an ambition and a goal.

An ambition is an abstract, high-level concept. For example, “I want a well-behaved dog” or “I want a happy marriage.” Two people can have the same ambition, but the way it plays out in their lives can be diametrically opposed based on how they define that ambition. Goals are how you reach your ambition. Without them, you can float around for years never certain if you’re making any progress toward your ambition.

If all you have is ambitions, you’re bound for disappointment and failure because you don’t have any direct control over whether an ambition is reached or not.

For example, “I want an agent this year” or “I want to lose 20 pounds.” Those are ambitions because nothing you do will guarantee they happen. You might change your eating habits and hit the gym, and only lose 10 pounds because you gained muscle as well. Or because that’s the healthy weight your body wants to be at.  

Goals, however, are in your control.

I do a lot of work for non-profit clients writing grant proposals. One of the things that separates successful grants from unsuccessful ones is that the successful ones set goals (they call them objectives) that are SMART.

S – specific

M – measurable

A – attainable

R – realistic

T – time-bound

So if your ambition is to land an agent this year (it’s one of the ambitions on my new list), set SMART goals to reach it.

For example, “I will query one new agent every week in 2012 except for the weeks of Christmas and Thanksgiving.” (Noah Lukeman suggests querying 50 agents before you give up on that particular project.)

Specific – You’ve given the number of agents (one) and what you’re going to do (query). You also specified what you’re not going to do.

Measurable – You either did or you didn’t send out a query each week.

Attainable– You can query an agent a week. That’s within the realm of what’s allowable when it comes to agents. You couldn’t talk to an agent on the phone every week any more than you can probably call up Suzanne Collins or Daniel Craig and expect to have a chat.

Realistic – This really depends on you. Maybe that isn’t realistic for you depending on what you know your personal limitations are. Maybe what you can do is query one new agent every two weeks. But you get the point. Don’t set an unrealistic goal like “I’m going to query 50 agents every week.”

Time-Bound – You have from Monday to Sunday each week to complete this goal. You have from January 1 to December 31 of 2012 to complete this goal.

If you reach your goal, you’re that much more likely to also fulfill your ambition.

I’m not just working on my goals and ambitions for my career, but also for the rest of my life. As writers, it can be easy to become a slave to our work, but some sacrifices are too great.

You see, I don’t just want to be remembered as a great writer at the end of my life. I also want to be remembered as a great wife. As a great friend. As a great daughter, and sister, and cousin, and niece. Perhaps one day as a great mother and grandmother and aunt.

To do that, I need to make this year better than the last.

What’s one ambition you have for this year, and one of the goals that you’re setting to try to meet it?

Marcy

Connect with Marcy on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. Connect with Lisa on Twitter, subscribe to her on Facebook, or join her circles on Google+.

And don’t forget to subscribe to Marcy’s blog Life At Warp 10 and Lisa’s blog Through the Fire.

Romance Sub-Genres

romance sub-genresAs we hit the very last day of our week-long sub-genre blitz, our final spot is for romance. Romance is both one of the most straightforward to categorize and one of the most complicated. To identify your romance sub-genre, you first need to classify your novel in terms of heat level.

Heat level in romance refers to how intense and explicit the intimate scenes are. Romance novelist Starla Kaye gives an excellent overview of heat levels in romance at her website, including what publisher lines print them and the classifications given to the various levels by different publishers.

Once you know your heat level, you can pick one of the following . . .

Contemporary Romance – As the name suggests, contemporary romances take place post 1960. This is kind of a catch-all category for romance that doesn’t fit in any of the others.

Historical Romance – The line dividing a historical romance from a contemporary romance is, frankly, a little fuzzy. If your book is set pre-1960, you’re probably safe calling it a historical romance, but my suggestion for this one is to find out what your ideal publisher defines as historical and go with their dividing line.

Western Romance – Set in the American frontier, or in a contemporary “western” setting such as the Canadian prairies or Australian outback, western romance readers expect to experience horses, cowboys, and a simpler way of life (though not a simpler plot line).

Gothic Romance – Gothic romance combines romance and horror and often involves a mystery. The darkness and terror should compliment the sexual tension between your main characters.

Regency Romance – Set in regency-era (circa 1790-1820) Great Britian, it takes more than just a location and time period to make a successful regency romance. Readers expect wit and fast-paced dialogue like that found in Jane Austin’s novels. This sub-genre is less likely to include explicit sex scenes (or even open discussions of sex) than the other sub-genres. Marriages of convenience, false engagements, mistaken identities, and large differences in social class are popular elements.

Romantic Suspense – Romantic suspense is the most plot driven of all romance and usually involves a strong heroine who finds herself in a dangerous situation. The key to a successful romantic suspense is to blend both elements so that neither overwhelms the other.

Paranormal Romance – Paranormal romances usually involve a romantic relationship between a human and a ghost, vampire, shapeshifter, werewolf, or some other non-human or quasi-human being. They can also focus around psychic abilities. Unlike with fantasies, the romance rather than the otherworldly elements is central.

Inspirational Romance – Inspirational romances will always fall to the most conservative end of the heat spectrum. If you want to sell an inspirational romance, don’t try to push the envelop. The envelop isn’t going to budge, and you’re just going to end up with a lot of very painful paper cuts. Inspirational romances always end either in marriage or the very strong potential of marriage, and the characters’ faith journeys need to be central to the plot and their relationship.

Inspirational romance can serve as an umbrella category for the other sub-genres as well. For example, you could be writing a romantic suspense that’s also an inspirational romance because of the faith element to it.

If you missed Lisa’s overview post that started off our series, or my earlier posts on fantasy sub-genres, science fiction sub-genre, thrilled sub-genres, or mystery sub-genres, now’s a great time to go back and read them 🙂

Where does your book fit? What do you love about romance novels? What do you hate?

Marcy

**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.

Mystery Sub-Genres

types of mysteriesWe’ve gone through fantasy, science fiction, and thrillers. Today we’ll be covering mysteries before finishing our series on genres and sub-genres with romance tomorrow.

Cozy Mystery – Cozies are the softest version of mysteries. They don’t have explicit sex or violence, and are often set in small towns rather than big cities. The protagonist is a female layperson (think Murder She Wrote) with a knack for getting into trouble and solving puzzles. She’s not a member of the police or other law enforcement. In fact, the police in the story probably view her as a pest.

The fraternal twin of the cozy mystery is the hobby mystery. Basically this is a cozy where the main character is involved in a niche hobby and the crime is intimately involved with that hobby. For example, your protagonist collects rare books and a rare book is stolen from the used bookstore in town.

Police Procedural – The focus of a police procedural isn’t so much on the reader figuring out who the criminal is but rather on how to catch him and prove he was the one who committed the crime. In fact, the bad guy is often known in the beginning of the book. Readers of police procedurals expect detailed descriptions of the investigative techniques used by the police. For a TV example, look no farther than CSI.

General Mystery –  The protagonist in a general mystery is normally a private detective rather than a police officer (police prodecural) or a layperson (cozy mystery). Oftentimes, however, the PI will have a non-PI friend/employee/client who plays a key role in the plot as well. The emphasis in these stories is the puzzle, figuring out whodunit. Examples include The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith and A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton.

Historical Mystery – These stories revolve around a historically significant crime (real or fictionalized). Anne Perry and Steven Saylor are well-known writers in this sub-genre.

Noir/Hardboiled Mystery – On the opposite end of the mystery spectrum from the cozy is the noir or hard-boiled sub-genre. With its realistic, gritty portrays of sex and violence and dark tone, this sub-genre got its name from its tough voice and unsentimental take on life. Protagonists are so deeply flawed, self-destructive, or damaged as to almost be anti-heroes. These mysteries aren’t for the faint of heart.

Don’t forget to check out Lisa’s post on genres and sub-genres that began our series.

Do you prefer to know the criminal in a mystery or do you like to try to figure it out as the book goes along?

Marcy

**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.

Thriller Sub-Genres

suspense genreSo far this week we’ve looked at fantasy and science fiction sub-genres, but since not everyone loves speculative fiction as much as I do, I’m going to take you through thriller sub-genres today and mystery sub-genres tomorrow.

Espionage – Also called spy fiction, espionage is the land of the CIA, assassins, secret agents, and James Bond. If you’re writing something like Robert Ludlum’s Bourne books or you want to be the next John La Carre or Alan Furst, you’re probably working on an espionage novel. They’re often set during World War II or the Cold War, but that focus may now be shifting to more modern settings as well.

Medical Thriller – Your POV character in a medical thriller is going to be employed in the medical field (e.g. a doctor, a medical examiner) or be closely tied to a hospital setting. This type of thriller is a race to uncover or fix a deadly medical situation–organ black markets, an out-of-control virus, patients falling in mysterious comas, etc.

Psychological Thriller – These are battles of the mind and the wits. They’re often dark and focus more on emotional trauma to the characters than physical trauma. Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris and Along Came a Spider by James Patterson would both be categorized as psychological thrillers.

Legal Thriller – Similar to medical thrillers, the POV character in a legal thriller is an attorney. The story centers around a legal dilemma or courtroom drama. John Grisham’s name is almost synonymous with legal thrillers.

Historical Thriller – If you set your thriller prior to around 1960, you’re likely going to fall into the historical thriller sub-genre. Readers of this sub-genre expect historical accuracy and engaging details as well as a fast-paced read. Good historical thrillers can be especially challenging to write due to the need to evoke a rich historical atmosphere without slowing down the story.

Techno Thriller – The most powerful technology of today has fallen into the wrong hands, and it’s up to your main character to get it back or destroy it. Ever read a Tom Clancy book? Then you’ve read a techno thriller.

Military Thriller – Military thrillers have a lot in common with techno thrillers, but instead of focusing on technology, they focus on military objectives. Your main character in a military thriller is likely to be a member of the military (no shock there). Both techno thrillers and military thrillers are often global in their scope.

Supernatural Thriller – Supernatural thrillers blend the expected fast-moving suspense plot with some paranormal or other worldly element. Your main character might be a psychic or see ghosts.

Don’t forget to check out Lisa’s overview post on genres and sub-genres that started it all.

Thrillers are my second love (after speculative fiction). What’s your favorite genre? Do you ever read outside of it?

Marcy

**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.