Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Time For...


That's the catch phrase lately and it's very catchy.

I've always been a big fan of change, especially when things aren't working. You'd think that would be a no-brainer, but's not.

So, this blog and my writing are going to be changing focus. I've been struggling for a while with my writing because of the incompatibility of my style (literary) and my themes (science). I've read a few things lately that have cleared up my misconception that literary science fiction would appeal to anyone but me.

First, I've been reading a bunch of the older science fiction short stories from the masters. I love the way they turn your view of reality and the world upside-down, the way they expand your mind and the possibilities of your life. It's what always draws me to science fiction. But, they are definitely all about the story, not about the writing. Don't get me wrong, I love this, I enjoy reading it--I just can't write it.

Then I read: The Career Novelist: A Literary Agent Offers Strategies for Success. (click on the link and you can download it for's seriously a must-read) and I finally got it. Donald Maas says when you try to cross genres, one plus one does not equal two. In my case, I would not gain the audience of those that love literary and those who love science fiction--instead I would have a novel that doesn't entirely satisfy either audience. The most I could hope to gain is the small overlap of people who go to the bookstore and spend time in both the science fiction and literary sections.

When I asked myself how many other people I really think do that, I felt very alone...and heard the proverbial crickets.

People are mostly category loyal. There are exceptions, I know, but if I'm going to be serious about writing as a career, I can't bank on appealing to the exceptions. No agent or publisher is going to take on a writer who appeals to such a small group, especially not in today's market.

My plan right now is to stretch my literary wings. I've been working on some non-science literary short stories and flash fiction and am going to work my tail off trying to build up some publishing credits. I'd like to be able to add science back into the equation at some point in my writing, but until I figure out how it is the literary road I will be walking, stumbling, and running down.

So, that's me. I hope you all are writing and hanging in there!


Shelli said...

I bought a workbook by Donald Maas, and I think he offers such excellent advice to writers. Unfortunately, it is so hard to get published these days, that we've got to listen to what these experts say. Whenever I hear people say that they want to stay true to themselves, I wish them luck. But sometimes a little research on the "how to" goes a long way.

Good luck! I signed up for NaNoWriMo because I've been in a major slump, and I want to turn off my inner critic. I doubt I'll finish the word count, especially since we're going out of town for a week over Thanksgiving, but I'm hoping this will just get me writing again.

Gary said...

For what it's worth, I liked your book, and I'm not big on SF.

Shannon said...

Good luck with that, Shelli- I'll be thinking of you while I'm...not writing a novel. LOL

Thanks, G- but you read it out of whatever, loyalty or a huge favor or guilt or fear of blackmail :-) No one else is going to take a chance on it unless it's something they would normally go for.
(It was immensely helpful to get your feedback, though, as someone who wouldn't normally read the genre)

Anonymous said...

I'm all for putting no brain in your writing, and I'm not joking. I know one day you "won't know" what I don't mean.

Just write yourself. Everything you love will seep/weep through.

Shannon said...

I can look at your writing and know what you mean, Karen and I am always grateful for your patience.

Tia Nevitt said...

You can always call a literary science fiction novel simply "science fiction". There are science fiction writers that are more literary than others, such as Kim Stanley Robinson. Elizabeth Moon writes SF in styles both literary (The Speed of Dark, Remnant Population) and space opera (the Heris Serrano series).

So just write the way you want to write, and call it by the broadest genre that fits. I wrote a Jane Austen inspired espionage fantasy, but when it comes time to query (in a week or two, I hope), I'm simply going to call it a fantasy.

Shannon said...

Thanks, Tia-that seems to be the path that's not working. :-)
Good luck with your query launch. I'll be crossing fingers and toes for you!

Shawn said...

Congrats on reaching this milestone. It's a great step ... and I'd love to read something you're talking about. So post it please. : )

Hope everything else is just as sunshiny down there. Miss you terribly!

Anonymous said...

Shannon~ Here's an analogy I found interesting:

When Matt Damon and Ben Affleck set out to write the original version of "Good Will Hunting," it was a hard sci-fi script that they couldn't get anyone to pay attention to. So they went back to their creative cave and reworked it into a format they weren't at all comfortable with, but that they felt would be more marketable. Several Academy Awards later, they're doing pretty darn well, I'd say.

Sometimes taking chances and working hard to reinvent yourself pays off in spades.

Good luck!

Shannon said...

Seriously, Christian??? A hard sci-fi script??? Wow. I'll have to look into that, that's actually very encouraging, thanks!

Shawn- if you mean you'd like to read something I'm working on (?) I'll have to email something to you. Unfortunately, most of the flash fiction mags consider it already published if you post it on your blog. :-( (Miss you, too-I need to get into facebook more)

Mary Ann said...

Your postings and the comments from your readers are always so fascinating. Today I especially like what Karen said about not putting your brain into your writing. Oh, and thanks for the Maas book.

Shannon said...

You're welcome, Mary Ann. :-)

Anonymous said...

Shannon~ wasn't hard sci-fi after all, but a thriller. here's the info:

An earlier draft of the script had Will Hunting being recruited by the government to become a cryptanalyst (based on his mathematical ability). Rob Reiner reportedly reviewed the script and advised Matt Damon and Ben Affleck to change the plot. However, there is a reference to it in the final script: the scene where Will meets with NSA agents and explains why he doesn't want to work for them.

Alice said...

Thanks for the post. I don't really know what to say. In theory, I'm with the 'write what is in your heart' camp. But you do have to give some thought to the market. Not much. But some. After I got my first novel turned down I did think hard about the next one. And that did get published. It wasn't very different but it did have a bit more obvious appeal. Anyway, it sounds like you've thought it through and you know where you're heading. With love, Alice