Googled Questions

One of the things I have to say I love about WordPress (the host for this blog, if you missed that in the URL) is that they give you a stats page about your blog. It might be a little more addicting than it should be (I really want someone from Russia to read this blog one of these days to get that country filled in on the “where your readers are” map) but it’s very handy when it comes to seeing how you’re reaching your readers, and what posts are the most popular.

What can be interesting about the stat page, though, is that it will sometimes show you search terms that brought people to your page. For example, if someone searched “Jessica Dall” and then clicked over here from Bing or Google or another search engine, it might show “Jessica Dall” as a search term on my stats page. Of course the page isn’t going to let me know who’s doing the searching (or even what country they’re in) since I’m sure that’s some sort of privacy violation, but it is interesting to see what people are trying to find out when they make it to this blog.

So, for anyone who’s Googled something and haven’t found the answer they wanted here, I’ll do my best at answering some of those questions. (Questions edited for spelling mistakes/coherency)

Q. Is 300,000 words a long book?
A. Yes, it is, but hardly the longest out there.
– Likely article(s) they were interested in: Why it’s harder to get longer books published , or tips on cutting down word count.

Q. When writing in third person, can you say what several characters are feeling?
A. It depends. There are two different ways of writing third person: Third Person Limited and Third Person Omniscient. In the first (currently more popular) narrative, you are telling a story through the point of view (POV) of a character, just describing them as he/she/it rather than I. In third Person Limited you should stay in the head of your POV character (thus you can only say what they feel/what they observe. If they don’t know Character B is upset because she had a little sister POV Character’s age, the narrative can’t explain that while still in POV Character’s head). In Third Person Omniscient, the story is being told by an all-knowing narrator. It is generally uncommon to find true Third Person Omniscient stories at the moment (the style seems to have been most popular in the 19th century) but if the story is being told by a narrator who knows everything it is possible for that narrator to say how all the characters a feeling (just make sure you aren’t writing in Third Person Limited and then decided you’re going to call it Third Person Omniscient randomly just so you can jump back and forth with how characters are feeling).
Likely article(s) they were interested in: Head Jumping

Q. Should you use contractions in query letter?
A. Sure. I’m not sure there is a set protocol for it (I never knew one when I worked in submissions) but I don’t believe there’s any reason to sound overly formal in a query letter and (at least to me) you sound more natural as a writer if you use contractions, which is a good thing in my humble opinion.
– Likely article(s) they were interested in: I don’t think there’s one directly related, but I do touch on why you should use contractions in creative writing here.

Q. How much narration do I need in a novel?
A. Depends on your novel. There are reasons to use narration some places and dialogue others. It’s about weighing the pros and cons to each. The big thing is not to worry too much about having a perfect ratio of narration to dialogue in your novel, it’s to make sure you’re telling the story the best way it can be told.
– Likely article(s) they were interested in: Pros and Cons to dialogue and narrative in Too Much Dialogue

Q. What’s the poison thing vampires have?
A. I don’t know, Googler, I don’t know… Apparently rather than turning someone into a vampire by feeding them your vampire blood (a la Anne Rice) in some books it’s “vampire poison” ( though I suppose it would be “vampire venom” if you’re going to be technical on the poison vs. venom thing) that turns a human into a vampire (the bite infects them or what not and if they don’t die the poison/venom changes them into vampires). Of course, it’s fantasy, so your guess is as good as mine.
– Likely article(s) they were interested in: One of the many where I talk about writing problems where Twilight just happens to pop up…

Q. Is it ok to use song lyrics for writing prompts?
A. Absolutely. I’ve used a couple of different songs as the original inspiration for characters, plots, or even entire stories that have now been published. What you don’t want to do, however, is quote the song lyrics in your story (you can get into a whole host of problems with copyright infringement then).
– Likely article(s) they were interested in: Writing Prompts

Q. What’s the shortest word count a publisher will accept?
A. It depends on the publisher (look at their submission guidelines as to what they accept before sending a query). It also will depend on if the publisher only publishes novels (generally considered to be over 50,000 words, but many publishers put novels in the 70,000+ words range) or if they also publish novellas and short stories. Of course, word counts are generally guidelines. One novel I have coming out this summer is around 51,000 words and the publisher generally doesn’t publish things that short, they just liked mine and made an exception. If nothing else, and you have an awkward word count, try searching for a publisher on a site like Duotrope which will let you search based one word counts accepted rather than just “novel/novella/short story”
– Likely article(s) they were interested in: Word Limits

Q. Why do people say “dahlin'”?
A. Regional accents (in this case Southern US more than likely). If I remember my history of language class, that exact morphing of “darling” come from the fact that a US “Southern” accent is actually closer to an old English accent than many other US accents (supposedly Shakespeare would have sounded sort of Southern to us?) and thus it shares the same ‘h’ sounding ‘r’ as a British accent today (“dahling”). As to spelling it like that in a novel, “dahlin'” might be one you can get away with for phonetic spelling of accents (people generally will know what the word is without struggling) but as always, I’d be wary of trying to go overboard with “fonetik” spellings.
– Likely article(s) they were interested in: Wy I Hayt Fonetik Axsents

Q. When are info dumps necessary?
A. Never. Ok, ok, probably not never, there’s always an exception to all writing advice and times you can do things that aren’t suggested amazingly, but as a general rule? Stay away from info dumps unless you’re parodying a Bond villain. There are almost always better ways to get information into a story than info dumping.
– Likely articles(s) they were interested in: Tips on how to get information in without info dumps in Info Dumps

Q. Is J. K. Rowling a bad writer/J. K. Rowling bad writing examples/examples of awful writing in Harry Potter/[and the list goes on]?
A. It’s interesting to see just how many different people are looking for examples of what makes J. K. Rowling a bad writer. Honestly, I enjoyed the Harry Potter series as some light reading as a teen, but no writer is faultless, so for those looking for some of J.K.’s weaknesses:
Over uses adverbs
– Clichéd plots/characters/etc
Flat Prose
Contrived Plot Points
And I’m sure there are more that people will point out (believe me, if you were a best seller, people would be picking apart every little problem you have in your novel too) but those are some major ones. Just remember, no author is infallible.
– Likely article(s) they were interested in: But They Did It… about why best sellers aren’t always the best role models.

Q. Some real stories on why you shouldn’t use i cant believe it’s not butter?
A. All right, not really a question, and I don’t have an answer for it, but some how it linked someone to my blog. I really have no clue how. Still amuses me enough I felt the need to end with it. If someone has some sites with stories on why you shouldn’t use “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” (other than that meaningless “margarine’s a molecule away from being plastic” myth) please let me know, since obviously a search engine thinks I can help people with that.
– Likely article(s) they were interested in: …um…I really have no clue…

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Fanfic

While editing recently, I was reminded of a phenomenon I saw relatively often while working in acquisitions, the “original fiction” fanfic.

For those not familiar with the concept, fanfic (short for fan fiction) is a work of fiction (unsurprisingly) that a fan (shockingly) of a story writes using the characters and/or setting of another writer’s universe rather than their own original creations. For example, a fan of Harry Potter might write a story using Harry, Ron, and Hermione that either makes sense in the canonical universe, or as an alternate reality. Alternatively, they could use the setting (Hogwarts, etc.) and write a story with their own original characters in that world.

I have absolutely nothing against fanfics. They’re actually partially how I got into writing (my friend had me help with her Harry Potter Fanfic back in High School). What is a little annoying, however, is the “original fiction” that really is a thinly disguised fanfic.

As fanfics use other authors’ characters and/or worlds, people, for the most part, realize that fanfics are not going to be published anywhere other than the several fan sites out there that cater to them (silly things like copyrights get in the way of traditional publishing). This doesn’t stop people, however, from changing a couple of names and submitting “original” stories that readers aren’t supposed to notice are strangely similar to popular books already out there.

Like The Big Bang‘s Sheldon would say to margarine, “I have no difficulty believing you are not butter” us in acquisitions tend to have very little difficulty picking out which stories are thinly disguised fan fiction.

As I have said before (twice) it’s very rare to have completely original idea/plot. etc. in fiction of any kind. Tell someone the basics of your story and they’ll more than likely be able to name something else that has at least some sort of vague similarity. That isn’t what I’m talking about when I talk about I Can’t Believe It’s Not Fan Fiction. I’m talking about stories that seem to have taken characters and simply changed the names from the original story, or have even lifted what seem to be full scenes from other books/movies. Often times the authors realize that their stories come from these sources as fanfics of sorts (or at least admit to having been heavily inspired by X work) but still it seems many, many I Can’t Believe It’s Not Fanfics still find their way out into the publishing world – as true fanfics (hopefully) never would – and stumble across acquisitions desks all over (if they aren’t simply self published to start with).

Since Twilight became popular (or whatever the series name is, is it just Twilight? The Twilight Series?) I have seen more than my share of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Twilight stories. To be clear, I’m not counting the many, many Twilight parodies out there. Satire/parody is its own category. No, these submissions/editing projects are completely serious novels that seem to have lifted  barely veiled characters and scenes out of the series, and are calling it their own. Now, I admit I have never read Twilight (tried a page and just couldn’t bring myself to keep reading…) but it is popular enough that even I have been able to pick out which books are I Can’t Believe It’s Not Twilight. One went so far as to name the main character Annabella who went by, wait for it, Ella (I suppose they just barely managed to stop themselves before calling her Bella). Another (not with Ella/Bella) had a scene at the end where Main Human Female Character (MHFC) gets bitten by an evil vampire intent on killing her because of Main Masculine Vampire Character (MMVC)’s attachment to her, and MMVC is forced to suck the poison (vampires have poison?) out of her to keep her from becoming a vampire herself. Or to keep him from having to turn her into a vampire to keep her from dying. I forget which. Now, anyway, I’m only basing this on having seen the movie once, but isn’t that vampire poison thing pretty much exactly how Twilight ends? With sparkly vampire not letting pathologically co-dependent girl become a vampire from evil vampire’s poison? (For whatever reason, though it seems like a logical way to get Miss Pathologically Co-dependent to be a vampire with Mr. Sparkles without him having to bite her.)

Anyway, I don’t know about other acquisitions editors/lit agents, but if the story is already published, I see no reason to publish something that’s the same story with names changed, no matter how popular the original is. In fact, the original story being popular might actually be worse for I Can’t Believe It’s Not Fanfics. It means that I would be publishing something that people who have never even read the original would more than likely know is a rip off of another story. Not just a small fan base.

Do you want to write I Can’t Believe It’s Not Fanfics? Do it. Don’t take this as me saying you shouldn’t. In my opinion, anything that keeps you writing is a good thing. After all, the more you write, the better you get, and the more likely it is for you to keep writing. Just, if you’re writing I Can’t Believe It’s Not Fanfic, please be honest with yourself. I’ve done it, I completely admit I have, but I don’t expect anyone to read it and not see the similarities between it and the original. Something you’ve read or seen may have spoken to you, perhaps just one scene that you really like. Fine. Use it. Just admit it to yourself when you’re taking it, because more than likely, someone’s going to call you out when you do.