Last year I wrote a feature-length lesbian screenplay which incorporates many subtextual themes much like you’d find in BBC Sherlock. It’s about a closeted college dropout finding her 15 seconds of internet fame after her small role in an independent film went viral and it follows her struggle to gain more work in the Hollywood film industry afterwards. Expected to fit Hollywood’s normal role for a woman, she’s careful not to out herself in the process, but selling her soul becomes exceptionally difficult after she’s hired to work alongside a beautiful bisexual choreographer. My screenplay “Set the Record Straight” includes a fresh perspective of compulsory heterosexuality and the blurred line between female romance and friendship.
No death, no rape, only pining and happy endings.
Would any of you read it if I published it to Amazon?
Image: Cover of
America #2, starring America Chavez, Marvel’s lesbian Latina superhero. (Marvel
NPR’s Glen Weldon is used to comics shop chatter that revolves around things
like which new books are worth checking out, what storylines have gone way too
long and which hero could kick which other hero’s butt. Generally speaking, the
word “demographics” doesn’t crop up a lot; but it did last week, after a Marvel
executive’s comments about diversity in comics unleashed an online firestorm.
What does it take to get published by a big company like you guys?
To be honest: A LOT of hard work and determination. There are many steps between an author finishing a first draft of a book and seeing it published on bookshelves. Here are a few of the general publishing guidelines/steps!
Step 1. Find an agent.
Literary agents are the first step once you’ve edited and revised your manuscript a few times. You should have a pretty polished book before you even send out queries. For more info on what a query should look like and tips for writing one, check out this link. Hopefully, this will then lead you to signing on with an agent!
Step 2. Your agents will shop your book around.
Your agent will then send out your manuscript to various editors, who will either express interest or pass it over. If many editors from various Publishing Houses or Imprints like your book, then they will offer bids, or even take your book to auction. In the end, someone will agree to publish you, and your agent will help you to decide who is the best fit for you and your book.
Step 3. You work with an Editor.
Once you find out where your book will be published, you work with an editor to help put those last touches on your book. This can often take a while, so even if your book is acquired in January, it might not be ready to be published for another two years or so! (Publishing is a SLOW business, y’all.)
Step 4. You get a release date!
This is when the marketing team will come in and start dreaming of all the fun exciting ways to let the world know about your book! Will there be a live chat? A goodreads giveaway? A tumblr post? Something more? Publicity builds buzz around either you or your book, or both, and hopefully readers are pumped up for your novel! All this happens in the build up to your release day.
Step 5. Your book is born.
Happy birthday! After a long process, your story is now out in the world! To help promote your book you might go on tour, or maybe you write guest blog posts or do a giveaway. Hopefully your book is beloved by fans and then you can sit back and relax… oh wait, I mean you can keep writing the sequel your publisher begged you to write!
Be warned, this is all best case scenarios, and every author has a unique journey through the world of publishing, often dependent on genre or publisher, or agent, or book. Many people have to face rejection after rejection after rejection before any of this happens. But hopefully this little guide is a helpful start as you start exploring this beautiful bookish world!
Image: Courtesy of The
Family of Judith Jones/Knopf
Judith Jones may not have been a household name, but without
her, some of the world’s most famous books may never have been published.
In 1950, Jones was working as an editorial assistant at
Doubleday Publishing when she stumbled upon a book in the discard pile that she
couldn’t put down. She was struck by the face on the cover: Anne Frank.
“I read all afternoon with the tears coming down my
face,” Jones told NPR in 1998. “When my boss got back, it was evening
by then. He said, ‘What are you doing still here?’ And I said, 'We have to have
this book!’ And he said, 'What? That book by that kid?’”
The book by that kid became The Diary of Anne Frank. It had already been released in German and
Dutch, but Jones convinced her bosses to publish it in the United States,
vastly expanding its readership. It went on to sell more than 30 million copies
worldwide in more than 60 languages.
Jones died Wednesday at her home in Vermont. She was 93.
This may be a weird question but do you think someone white would be taken more seriously when writing different races and ethnicities if they kept their identity anonymous? I've been writing a book for that is full of different races and ethnic groups. I gave it to an editor & the first thing he said was "way to really reach the diversity quota here, you'll get more readers with this." This hurt. I truly love my characters. I don't want them seen as just a ploy or a bating tactic.
White Privilege, Publishing, and Diversity Quotas
As in most cases, white privilege works in the white author’s favor. More likely to be published in the first place (with or without a diverse cast), more likely to be praised for being inclusive, as seen here, basically the things Writers of Color are accused of and struggle with happen less, if at all, to white authors.
Your editor seeing you as reaching a diversity quota is their flaw, not necessarily that of your writing. Thinking of diversity in terms of quotas is going about it wrong, in my opinion. It’s interesting that your editor does recognize that diversity sells and is seeing the dollar signs, thus “you’ll get more readers for this” but hey.
Do not write in a way that is a ploy or a bating tactic and you will be fine.
That is, don’t do any of the following:
Write PoC in solely to get more readers, money, pats on the back etc.
Under develop your Characters of Color and/or lazily rely on stereotypes
Consciously include “just enough PoC” to fit a mental or real diversity quota
Feature them at the beginning only to sideline, underplay, or kill them off later.
Fully develop your Characters of Color, be mindful of stereotypes and learn how to subvert and avoid them
Not concern yourself with quotas but instead just keep in mind your goals for an inclusive cast if it’s not something you do naturally (yet). No magical number required.
Allow Characters of Color to live to see happiness. In a world where the “Black person dies first”, it’s rule-breaking to see PoC live sometimes.
There’s always going to be people who see inclusive writing as an attempt to reach a quota, whether that’s viewed negatively or positively. There is no quota! And no need to have to defend your choices as if white people are the only ones who should exist in stories unless it’s some book about a certain group or “the struggle.” As if a cast of all white people is ever scrutinized so closely.
I’m a big fan of taking all ‘writing rules’ with a grain of salt. But when are they truly worth listening to, and when will they only slow you down?
Four key things to consider when judging writing advice:
(1)Every reader enjoys something different. There is no perfect way to write, because all readers favors different types of characters, different story lines, different forms of prose, different genres, different books. If you have a story, there is someone out there who will enjoy it, no matter how many ‘writing rules’ it breaks.
(2) Rules on how to write prose are not quite the same as rules on how to write a story. Prose varies greatly between writers, and it changes based on genre and era. Read advice on how to write prose, but pick and choose whatever fits your personal style. Story has many theories and standards. Read advice on how to build a story and then evaluate it based on how well it fit with the stories you personally find enjoyable.
(3) Your genre has its own rules. If you want to publish your work, then write however you wish. But if you are interested in publishing someday, know what writing advice is generally seen by most publishers as a rule within your genre, and differentiate that from what is merely personal preference between individual writers.
(4) Books impact their readers. Just because there is an audience for everything does not necessarily mean that all stories need to be written. Always consider the effect something might have on any readers who happen to pick up your book. If a piece of writing advice tells you to be conscientious of how you portray something that’s potentially problematic, then be conscientious.
So, do take all writing advice with a grain of salt, but dismiss things only once you’re certain they don’t align with your writing goals.
hey! how are you? story time, lol - I have spent about 5 years on this whole series that I plan to publish. all the characters are set, I know what I want them to go through, and how both the individual novels and the whole series should go. my problem is that, even though I write scenes here and there, I can't seem to be able to write at least the first book, to connect the scenes together. most I've done was redo my outline hundreds of times and write first drafts of 2 chaps. help/advice?
I’m doing quite well because of a super-productive meeting, thanks for asking!
Part of that reason I stress it for you in particular, is because you haven’t really written much and yet you have this elaborate plan. When you get around to actually writing things, that plan isn’t going to cooperate was well as you want it to. You’ll get new ideas in the middle of scenes and you’ll need to be able to decide what to do about them. Some may change a small detail, some may overhaul your ending. You also may find that your plan has holes or your characters have inconsistencies that aren’t noticeable until you see them in scene form, and you need to be flexible enough to work with the issues you find without giving up. Writing isn’t easy.
I’m in a wordy mood today so I also feel the need tell you about publishing, since you mentioned that’s a goal. If you’re self-publishing, you can ignore the rest of this paragraph, though it may be an interesting read anyway. Publishers, unless you’re already well-known and popular, do not usually accept series. You need to write your first book to work as a standalone novel with a complete plot, but loose ends are okay and can work as a ‘teaser’ to see if readers really want to stick with your work. The reason for this is publishers want things to sell, and a first book is like a test. If it sells well, they can grant your wish for the rest of the series, but if they can’t market or make money off your product then they wont extend the offer. It’s a common business practice for more than just books, and there’s no such thing as a 100% guarantee in business.
For your issue about being unable to write, here’s a few potential problems and how to fix them:
- You’re probably focusing too hard on your outline. Writing is one of those things where being too rigid can actually hurt your progress, as mentioned in my first earlier link, because that outline isn’t going to create any of the emotions that a story can need. An outline can have lots of detail, but it’s always missing the personal element that makes a scene come to life, which is often what creates that enjoyment of writing/reading.
- If you really have an outline that detailed, then you should already have scene connections. Look at the logic of your plot. You have to get your characters from point A to point B somehow, and sometimes that just means throwing in a time skip. I just read a book that had 5 chapters that took place in a single day and then 1 that spanned the course of a week. If nothing important is happening, don’t focus on it.
- Related to that, your scenes should have a sense of flow. There should be a logical structure (often cause-effect) that connects each scene to make up a full story. There’s also a lot of things that connect between scenes, like emotions, reactions, etc. If two characters get in a fight in scene 1 over a choice, whichever choice prevails is going to affect both of them in scene 2.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. You’re better off alluding to a small event (like a character dropping off a letter in the mail, even if it’s super plot significant!) than showing it. Showing too many little things can really drag a story down, though it’s possible to integrate them into bigger scenes with some skill and practice. Have you seen this ask where I explain the multi-purpose scene? This is one example of how to integrate tiny things that matter into the more important scenes.
- Drafts of two chapters is a start! Now figure out why that’s all you’ve written. There’s a reason you aren’t getting things done and you need to figure out what it is. Is it insecurity about your writing? No examples to follow? No time? The wrong mood? There are so many things that affect writing and unless you figure out the exact cause, I can only help so much. I seriously recommenced reading more, since your question is something that you can see so many examples of in published fiction, and examples are a great way to learn.
I’m sorry I couldn’t give specific advice, but the issue of “my writing isn’t working” isn’t really specific either. I covered what I thought might help, but I’m serious about you needing to figure out what the roadblock is. I can help much more once you know, and it’s good practice to be able to problem-solve with your own writing like that.