Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Competition is a good thing

Got a fascinating question lately: Aren't you worried that you're creating more competition for yourself by doing the Author at Once workshops?

It was one of the prep questions for an interview I just did, and though it wasn't asked, I did start thinking about how to answer it.

Short answer: No.

Long answer: I think helping writers get their work out there is good for everyone. More books, more choices for readers.

We've run Author at Once four times, and met about 70 writers -- and they're all into different things. Some want to write fantasy, scifi, humor, textbooks, some aren't even writers and more of illustrators and cover artists.

And even if there are a few who want to go into writing Contemporary New Adult Chick Lit Romance in English (like me), I don't think we're going to run out of characters, settings, plots and ideas.

Readers tend to read more than one author and buy more than one book in their lifetimes. And readers who fancy a genre will try other authors within the genre, which means fans of my "competition" (let's say contemporaries instead?) are more likely to read my books.

It's good for everyone. Go publish already. :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

L.I.T.E.R.A.L. #4: What will make you truly feel that you’ve made it as a writer?


L.I.T.E.R.A.L. is a weekly blog meme for authors hosted at Indie Books. We created it to serve as a support group for participants of the Author at Once workshops, but we welcome all writers (from anywhere in the world) who’d like to weigh in on the topics! 
Here’s our L.I.T.E.R.A.L. topic for the week of 19-25 November 2012:
“What will make you truly feel that you’ve made it as a writer? Seeing your byline? Holding the book in your hands? Seeing it climb up the charts? Your first book launch? What will finally get you to tell people that yes, you are a writer?”

There was this moment, in June 2009, when I first saw my book on an actual bookstore shelf.

But soon that wasn't enough, still didn't call myself a writer, or felt like one. I felt that I needed another moment to arrive, maybe that would make it seem more real. So the next "moment" was when I saw the first review for my book. And then it was my first fan email. And then it was the release of my second book. And so on. It was like I was expecting a change, but it was taking a while.

What I learned since then is that I shouldn't wait until that thing happens before calling myself a "writer." Writers write, so yes, I was doing that, and I guess that's what I always was.

(I just retconned my life there! You can do it too.)


Saturday, November 17, 2012

An ebook is still a book (rinse and repeat)

So this is my stand now: If you read it, then it's a book. Maybe it has hard covers and a dust jacket, or it's 6 x 9 with cream colored paper, or it's tiny and fits in my bag, or it's large font on my e-ink reader, or it's reflowable on my iPad... if I read it, then it's a book.

(Arguable: if I listen to it in the car, is it a book? But that's another discussion.)

As a reader, I get to decide which format and edition works best for me. I used to prefer trade paperbacks, but now that I've got an active toddler at home, I never have two hands free to read them. I recently received the hardcover of The Scorpio Races from the people at the Filipino Readercon, but my reading progress was so slow because I can only really read it at home, and when my daughter's asleep.

And then one day I just said, why am I dragging my feet on this? I like the story, I'm really enjoying it, and want to read as much of it as I can. Why wait? So I got the ebook version, and now I'm reading it on my iPad outside, after work, as I grab a bite before heading home, on the cab line, and even at home, when my daughter's fast asleep and the lights are out. No delays.

Last night, while the iPad was charging up, I read twenty-five pages using the hardcover edition.

I understand why some readers feel that there are sides and they have to choose one, because they're being asked to pay twice, and usually the costs are competitively similar. But I hope they eventually realize that there are no sides, and that maybe in the future, purchasing one edition (maybe with a premium) allows a buyer access to all formats.

I was asked my opinion on this topic recently on the Facebook group of the Freelance Writers Guild of the Philippines, and I said something like: Writers very rarely get a say in how their book looks and feels. So loving the physical book, its pages, its cover, the font, the smell -- that is a bond made with the printer and publisher, rather than the writer.

As a reader, you choose the format that allows you to best enjoy the book.

As a publisher, you make sure that your books are available in all formats the readers want, and at the cost they're willing to pay.

As a writer, you appreciate and reward the people who enjoy your work and follow your career in whatever format your work appears in.

So anyway. I just wanted to say that an ebook is a book is a book. And if you'll excuse me, I'd like to go back to reading The Scorpio Races (on hardcover) while my daughter's still asleep.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cover Reveal: Fairy Tale Fail, the Summit Books edition

Soon, at a bookstore near you (if you live in the Philippines):

Fairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra
Ellie thought she knew what she wanted in a guy: someone dependable, and someone she could bring home to her parents. In other words, a good guy to complete her happily-ever-after fairy tale. But when her good guy boyfriend all of a sudden dumps her in the place she least expected -- saying that she is "a failure at relationships" -- Ellie feels she has to fight harder to make her fairy tale come true.

But when Lucas, whom Ellie secretly calls Rock Star, enters her life and starts challenging everything she believes in, she has to face the truth about her goals and dreams. Will Ellie find the fairy tale she's always dreamed of? And more importantly, who will fill the swashbuckling shoes of Prince Charming to give her story the happy ending she so deserves?

(This is a cool rewrite of the book description, by the way. Kudos to you, you know who you are!)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fiction recipes

A few days ago I shared some quick thoughts about plotting on Twitter, in case anyone doing NaNoWriMo would find it helpful. I've been following some WriMo posts about plot, and that just happens to be one of the more enjoyable parts of the writing process to me.

So this is how I worked on the plot of some of my books:
My Imaginary Ex is patterned after a heist, using flashbacks as a device to keep the narrative moving along. Knowing it was a heist (and Zack is what they were trying to steal) made this one of the easiest stories to write -- finished it in a month, and everything fell into place when I was writing the outline.
Love Your Frenemies is a take on the "one last job" trope, which of course means that the main character is doomed to fail at something. It worked for the story, which takes place in a short period and also uses flashbacks to explain things.
Fairy Tale Fail is a more deliberate attempt at using the fairy tale template, in this case Vladimir Propp's Morphology of the Folk Tale. Each chapter actually corresponds to one step in that stereotypical hero's journey, and those were supposed to have been my chapter headings, but I removed them at the last minute. Using this template made it easier to finish the story, after two false starts.
Interim Goddess of Love was written with the episode structure of TV show The Good Wife as inspiration. That show does a good job of drawing you in with a standalone case, but keeps you with the serial stories that stretch out over several episodes. When I get stuck on a scene, I think of how it would appear on The Good Wife. Weird but it helps.

I guess this is more of a discussion on how the story is told, rather than what it is. The common thread of all of the stories I've written has so far been romance, but how the story is told can be slightly different, or can grab from other genres. Put it all together and hopefully everyone has fun with it.