According to the amending version of the editing schedule, I’ve finished October’s target for editing! Which means I’ve done a full read through, patched up the holes and filled out the text. I’ve dealt with all the big continuity issues and a few of the small ones, made the whole thing flow a lot better and generally done the bulk of the editing I wanted to get done this year.
One of the things I’ve been doing the last couple of months is adding a bit more subplot and tension. The new version is still short – 65,000 words approximately – and given last night’s Booker Prize announcement, hardly seems to qualify as a novel at all, but I’m pleased with it. And for now at least, I think it’s where it needs to be.
December will be for a final read-through for some specific text-based issues, but hopefully no big picture ones. Then next year I’m going to send it out into the world – to Beta readers first, and then on a submission mission.
In my endeavours to write better, I’ve recently been reading this book on Dialogue by Gloria Kempton.
As I’m only part-way through, I’m in no position yet to review the book, but it’s opened up a can of worms I’ve long avoided. Kempton states that there are different types of dialogue for different types of novel – cryptic for the literary novel, magical for romance and sci fi, descriptive for literary or historical, etc. For now, I’ll ignore the questionable legitimacy of this assertion in favour of the question it raised for me. It’s a question I hate being asked: What’s your genre?
Everyone who knows anything about publishing says you have to know your genre before you try to get published. It affects which agents / publishers you approach, how you approach them and what happens after you do. Not to mention who your target audience is and therefore how you write in the first place.
And in many cases it’s obvious – without hesitation I could identify the genre of 80% of the books on my bookshelf. The problem is, most of what I write falls into the 20% I can’t identify: books by the likes of Jodi Picoult and Lionel Shriver. “Mainstream fiction” is the closest I’ve heard to an identification, but it’s a tough category to nail down and feels like a bit of a catch-all.
And then there’s the secret romantic in me. Of the stories I make up and don’t write down, the vast majority have at least one foot planted in the Romance genre. Not Mills and Boon / Harlequin romance, not even light Summer Read chicklit, but definitely a healthy dose of boy meets girl. Why don’t I write them down? Lots of reasons, and probably some you’d need a psychoanalyst to dig out. Whatever the reason, I don’t. The stories I write are grittier, often have male protagonists and rarely involve romantic love. People who’ve read a lot of what I write claim I always kill someone off and tackle the darker side of life.
But Kempton says we should look where our dialogue falls, and identify the genres we are strong in, then try them out. So maybe I should have a bash at typing up a romance sometime. It would certainly makes that question at the top easier to answer, and it might even be my lucky break!
This week I thought I’d share with you a contest I’m strongly considering entering this year, if I can get Booker’s Seven up to scratch in time. The Scott Prize is awarded to a debut collection of short fiction and is a prestigious prize in the otherwise quiet short-fiction scene.
The requirements are for a book-length collection of short stories, between 30,000 and 75,000 in total. The prize is £1,000 plus a publishing contract and the entry fee just £20.
Submission window is open now, and closes on 31 October.
This is a pretty small fee and prize fund for such a body of work, which probably will put some people off, but there’s a definite opportunity for more money and also for a real published copy of your short stories to be on the shelves in bookstores. In my experience, that’s quite a coup in itself, especially at a time when short stories are still struggling to get the respect they arguably deserve. So if you’ve got a collection of short stories you’ve been wondering what to do with, I’d definitely recommend you take a look.