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For a writer just starting out- do you think it’s better to write small pieces to shop around to magazines and such or do you think it’s better to just get something written and find an agent? Do you have any tips on finding writing groups or critique partners?Crystal
The common wisdom used to be that you had to publish some short stories. I am not sure how it is now, but back when we started, publishing three short stories in a pro level SF/F magazine, such as the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction or Amazing Stories, made you eligible for the membership ion SFWA. You were considered a pro writer at that point.
We truly sucked at selling short stories. We only managed to sell one to a semi-pro market before Anne Sowards at Ace bought MAGIC BITES. You can read the whole story here: https://ilona-andrews.com/about/. Twelve years later we still have a career, while I know of several people who have gotten those three stories published, got their membership in SFWA, and never did anything else.
My advice is write what you are good at. If the novels are easier for you, write novels. I do highly recommend querying an agent. Very few publications now take unsolicited admissions and those who do – Tor, cough, cough – are sometimes difficult. For example, Tor sat on MAGIC BITES for a year. They didn’t say yer or no. They just sat on it until our agent withdrew it.
As far as the writing groups, I typically recommend OWW. I don’t know how it is now, but for us it was very useful a decade ago.
My question is, where do you get your inspiration for your books? I really want to learn how to write a novel but I have a hard time maintaining an interest in my plot so I end up with a bunch of started stories. I tend to get my ideas from dreams I have, because I am prone to having unusual and somewhat unnerving ones but then life gets hectic or I get lost in the details and cannot get back on track. So I guess the second part of my question is, how do you keep momentum in the story/main plot and not get lost in the details of the story?Jaclyn
For us, dreams are not the best source of inspiration. They are usually too chaotic and tangled to be of any use and a lot of times for me personally it’s my brain trying to process my life, which means that my dreams are often derivative or stress- driven. When Kid 1 was really sick, I dreamed that my upper teeth had turned into drill bits and when i closed my mouth, they drilled into my lower jaw breaking my teeth and filling my mouth with blood. I was trying to spit all my teeth shards out and it was very difficult because they were sharp and kept cutting my tongue and my mouth with still half shut because of the drill bits.
Most of our inspiration is actually visual now, with the majority of it coming from observation, people interaction, and right now a great deal of Chinese and Korean Dramas. 😀 Just finished the legend of Fuyao. The Chinese idea of the HEA is not at all like our idea of the HEA. The Story of Ming Lan still reigns supreme as the best drama ever made.
We read very widely, we have a lot of reference material, and we try to feed our brains as much as we can, because if nothing goes in, nothing comes out.
If you are losing interest in the story, it might mean that the challenge you gave your protagonist isn’t difficult or emotionally powerful enough. Try to think of the narrative as a series of tests for the protagonist. If they succeed, they get their HEA. To propel them through these tests, you need something terrible to happen to the protagonist so you can launch him through the narrative like a pebble with a slingshot.
For example, let’s say we have a young woman who after a lot of hard work finally gets into a college on a scholarship. Then suddenly she is accused of plagiarism, the campus police thinks she has stolen important research, her parents are murdered, and her dog is missing. It’s fundamentally unfair – she is a kind girl, she never had done anything to deserve this nightmare, so why is this happening to her. You want to get yourself and the reader sufficiently riled up, so both of you will be indignant enough to want justice.