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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Writing Wibbles

As always, let’s start by welcoming a new follower to the free-range insane asylum: Anne Michaud, a fellow #FridayFlash'er!

The writing progress has been a little slow this week, but better than last week. Then again, getting anything done would be an improvement over last week. I’ve finished adding beta comments to Chasing a Rainbow, including some solid critiques of the introductory scene (posted as Far From Home). So thanks to Rachel Silvers et al for helping me out there. Sometimes, you can do too good a job: I was trying to make the reader feel what Chelinn and LodrĂ¡n were feeling, but what they were feeling was sensory overload. Good reminder to think about those kind of things.

I’ve added a few hundred words to the Chasing sequel, and I think I figured out why I’m stuck on Pickups and Pestilence — I was focusing too much on the pestilence and not enough on the characters. I should be able to parallel them somehow; once I figure out how, I’m off to the races.

On Monday, a lot of my friends on Twitter were up in arms about an article in the Guardian (a UK news outlet): Ebook sales are being driven by downmarket genre fiction. I posted the link this time, because I don't think it qualifies as link-bait. Sure, it has more than a few choice words for genre fiction:

The ebook world is driven by so-called genre fiction… No cliche is left unturned, no adjective underplayed. … In digital, dross rises.

That’s the snippy little snip that got a lot of people angry. But a little farther down, the article also has this to say about litfic readers:

There is a literary snobbishness at play here, clearly. … Consider those boys who read ostentatious poetry to pull winsome girls; the girls who read Vanity Fair to let the poetical boys know that they are clever and minxy.

The reading public in private is lazy and smutty. … I'm happier reading [historical fiction] on an e-reader, and keeping shelf space for books that proclaim my cleverness.

In brief: while genre fiction might be “low-brow,” litfic snobs (including the author, by admission) read it to impress — and they read genre fiction too, when they think nobody’s watching. When seen in that light, the “problem” with eReaders is that they make it harder to impress others of the preferred sex because they can’t see you reading Pride and Prejudice or whatever the “right” book is this week. So yeah, the article might be link-bait after all. But instead of getting one group riled up, this article tries to get everyone mad. I don’t have a problem with that.

But personally, I’ve never read anything because I wanted to impress someone else. I’ve done it for a grade, I’ve done it because a friend or relative handed me a book and said “this is good,” and most of all I've read books because I figure I’ll enjoy them. Maybe that’s because I’ve never lived where public transit goes anywhere I need. I get my fiction fix on commutes, via Podcastle and Escape Pod. I might start reviewing some of the stories I hear on those podcasts on my Tumblr blog.

Figuring I need to drum up some advance publicity for my next two releases, it occurred to me that I should add White Pickups and Chasing a Rainbow to Goodreads. I could have sworn I remembered seeing a how-to in their FAQ when I first joined, but couldn’t find it again. I tweeted a plea for help, and Loni Flowers had the right answer. Not only that, John Wiswell offered to do it for me. I ended up doing it myself, simply because I have more to add in the near future and don’t want to go bugging people when it’s not that difficult:

  1. Click the magnifying glass in the search field.
  2. In the page that comes up, click “Add a new book” over to the right.
  3. Fill in the starred fields, add cover page art if you have it.

Yes, it’s that easy.

May your writing be so easy, and your reading as enlightening.


  1. It's partly a professional curiosity thing, but I do enjoy 'bookwatching'...

    I'm always curious to see what people are reading and set about trying to see the front cover in as inconspicuous a way as possible.

    I think they should have dual screen eReaders. Front and back. You could turn the page simply by flipping the device and it could display a cover on the back.

    Of course... the pretentious types could then display a litfic cover while actually reading some dirty genre fiction... ;)

    Of course, when we all have local ID clouds, we can always auto-add the book we're currently reading to our public profile... ;)

  2. I've never encountered a girl reading Vanity Fair who appeared the least bit minxy.

    There is ragebait in the linked article, but it's not as though there isn't a glut of dross in the ebook marketplace. "the boundless idiocy of the unobserved reading public" seems more offensive than suggesting there is a lot of badly written Genre fiction.

  3. I believe the content of the linked article is mostly true and yes, people do get angry about truthful things. As John points out, there is a “glut of dross in the ebook marketplace.” Much of this e-dross is being contributed by a glut of self-publishing authors attempting to emulate the ebook marketing success of writers like Amanda Hocking, whose works incidentally would fit the article‘s ‘genre fiction‘ profile. While the entry barrier to getting published may have fallen, the challenge of creating a mesmerizing story from 300+ carefully chosen words that grab and keep the attention of a reading public has not. Marketing aside, I think that’s true for most literary genres. Just as writing is a choice, so is reading. If genre fiction is now secretly in ebook vogue, and I had such worthy wares to sell, I’d be heading downmarket too.

    P.S. Thanks for the acknowledgment.

  4. Comment correction: please insert “pages of” after "300+" to read “300+ pages of carefully….” Sorry :(

  5. Hello all!

    John, those are interesting ideas! The dual-screen eReader sounds interesting — but I'd rather have a solar panel on the back so I could lay it in a sunny window to recharge. The "local ID cloud" problem could be solved by integrating eReaders with a service like FourSquare… "I'm reading [pretentious litfic drivel] at Charing Cross Station [url]." :-D

    John, it's true that there's plenty of dross out there, but it's not just self-pub, and not just genre fiction. Hm… unwashed idiot, or pretentious git? Maybe that's why people just throw their hands up and play "Every Word: Crossings" on their Kindles instead?

    Rachel, I largely agree with you, except I'm not sure people are trying to emulate Hocking's success so much as just trying to get their stories out there. Or maybe I'm just projecting my own thoughts, and those of several friends, onto the dross factory at large. No problem about the "300+ words" thing; I assumed you were talking about vocabulary size. :-) It makes me wonder how many different words I used in White Pickups; I'll have to dump a text file and check it out.


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