The Magic in Your Writing
How often have you stopped to look at your story only to realize it jumped genres somewhere between the inciting incident and the midpoint?
Fiction genres are transforming as fast as technology. In fact, computers in a story once indicated the tale was science fiction. Today, it's realistic fiction. Unless, of course, that computer talks or exhibits human features... Oh, wait, also possible!
For me, when my story talks, I listen. If it says flying horses are necessary to move the plot forward because the MC is actually a Flying Horse Whisperer, then I won't argue.
Most of my stories have elements of magic. They aren't high fantasy but stories set in the real world that either skip into a fantastical landscape, include characters with magical powers, or have creatures from other worlds.
The more I write and explore this genre, the more I understand how to work with it. But this has taken me time. I never read a lot of fantasy as a child. My interests rested in mysteries and sad stories with animals (Old Yeller, Sounder...). When I eventually landed on story ideas, they were realistic. Then one day, my daughter was reading one of my manuscripts and said, "What if..."
And I was bit by the magic bug!
So, which genre is right for your story? You won't know if you don't read. A LOT.
Some books are poster children for genres:
The Chronicles of Narnia-talking animals, flying animals, wardrobes that open to other worlds (Fantasy)
Carrie-blood, creepy events, fear of turning the page (Horror)
The Lunar Chronicles-androids, outer space beings (Science Fiction)
Some books leave us wondering where they'd be shelved:
Breakfast of Champions-referred to as metafiction since the author's alter-ego dances across the pages. Plain weird. Plain awesome.
The Bone Clocks-funny, dramatic, grounding, dark.
This is where new genres emerge. Like magical realism and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Magical realism is very much like folklore or mythology. The story might begin in this present world but all of a sudden you find yourself with strange characters and stranger events. Magical realism is lyrical and lovely--exactly what writing should be.
Take a look at your story. Determine its main genre and delve deeper. Are there elements of mystery, romance, dark fantasy, or other genres? When you're ready to query, be sure you've asked beta readers or critique partners what they think. You might be surprised.
Remember, your book is more than a label, but you need to market it to agents and editors, so they know which audience might be the best fit.
In the end, you are a storyteller. Tell your story in its truest and best form.
That's my story, what's yours?
Defining a Good Critique Partner
What makes a good critique partner? More importantly, why do you need one? I mean, you read your words, your mom read them, and your dog, too. Everyone thinks you’re a genius. So why ask for more opinions?
Remember when you wore that new shirt, and your mom said it looked awesome? Then you saw a photo and decided to never seek her opinion again. Mom and your pet believe in you and think the world of you. Your critique partner simply wants your story to be its best. Critique partners--good honest ones--rarely lie to make you feel better.
First, a few terms:
Beta reader: a reader who reads a story before it is published and helps find errors or makes suggestions for improvement; works for free; can be a friend or stranger
Critique partner: a writer who provides feedback on your story; usually, you critique each other’s work; works for free; not a friend (yet!) or relative
Mom: a person who raised you, loves you, and will say your writing is flawless so as not to hurt your feelings (on the contrary, some parents will only find your flaws--boo!) works for love; not reliable
A critique partner (CP) can provide:
1. Objectivity: your CP is not invested in your story as is. They are trying to understand it, locate plot holes, and tell you what needs fixing.
2. Expertise: your CP is a writer, too. That means they know what to look for in a story. They are familiar with story arcs, character development, genres, etc.
3. Suggestions: your CP has written, edited, and revised stories. They have their own bag of tricks for how to handle story problems. They may have resources you have not heard of.
A good critique partner is someone who:
1. Writes in a similar genre as you
2. Has a flexible schedule or one that works with yours (so you can meet IRL or online)
3. Gets your writing
4. Is near your level of writing and can provide feedback that will help you improve
5. You get along with
How to find a critique partner:
1. Twitter often has ‘events’ for writers to tweet and connect
2. Check out your local library or community center’s ‘boards’
3. Children’s writers can join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) where they have a CritConnect to find other writers
My mother always said, “Safety in numbers.” What she really meant was it’s more fun to work with others. Find your people, grow, and learn.
If you enjoyed this blog post, find me on Twitter, and let’s connect!