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I should have posted this a while ago!
cap, captain miss america
So, at ldragoon's recommendation, I'm taking a novel writing class through the UCLA Online Extension Program!

I have to pick ONE piece to work on for this class. Mainly, I am hoping it will kick my ass into gear.

I have three WIPs that I can work on and I would like advice as to which I should choose.

1) Lilah Lillis & the Hypnotist's Gaol.
Some of you have read some if not all of it. It straddles the line between fantasy and science fiction, for adults, about a prison where the inmates are hypnotized so that they believe they're living out their deepest fantasies and a time-traveling silent movie starlet. It's been complete (around 400 pages) for quite a while but I pooped out on revisions.

2) Charming.
This is YA fantasy, retelling of Cinderella focusing on the Prince and the Royal Storyteller, that plays with fairy tale tropes and mainstream misrepresentations of gender identity and sexual orientation. I have probably about 100 pages written but probably only 30 that I'm happy with.

3) Book 5.
This is YA a fantasy novel about internet fandom, that revolves around what happens when the author of a popular YA fantasy series is killed off by one of his own characters. It draws on a lot of actual fandom events for inspiration. I have about 90 pages of this written and I'm fairly happy with what I've got so far.

I keep wanting to put up a couple other projects that are not as far along (or that are 200 pages in but I just completely gutted) but I'm trying to be good and not do that.

The class will be workshopping approximately 50 pages over the course of ten weeks.

You can choose your answer based on logical responses ("It makes sense to use the class to do X") or based on which one of these descriptions you like best, or whatever. Either way, I will be delighted with your assistance!

Poll #1669832 What Should Tea Work on for Creative Writing Class?

Out of these options, which should Tea work on for her creative writing class?

Hypnotist's Gaol
Book Five

<3 <3

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The first two sound more marketable to me than the third, and since the class is "workshopping" an approximate specific number of pages, I think doing the one that's not complete and in revision state might be more useful/practical.

Than again, what do I know?? ;)

1. Lilah: Pro: You haven't done revisions. Con: The book is about 400 pages long, and you're only going to be workshopping 50. So, I would say maybe keep it on the back burner unless you think this will kick you into gear to revise the remaining 350 pages.

2. Charming Pro: Easily accessible subject matter. You have 100 pages/only happy with 30, so you could get happy with up to 50 by the end of the workshop. Con: Not finished yet.

3. Book 5: Pro: This does sound awesome, my only question would be, how accessible will this be to people outside of fandom who may be reading it in the workshop? Con: You're fairly happy with what you have!

So I guess my decision would be Charming, since it sounds like you have the potential to do a lot of work on it and get happy with it.

I think my biggest decision I'm trying to make right now is probably between Lilah and Charming-- I feel like, should I try to kick my butt into gear to do revisions on the finished book, or should I try to kick my butt into gear to write more of Charming? The drawback for me with Charming is that I feel like, what if I do the fifty pages and then don't continue and just peter out when the class ends? Unsure!

Sounds like a good opportunity to revise the parts that you've written but don't like!

Yeah! I think that is true with both of the first two. I emailed the teacher to see what she thinks, too, as far as what might be more successful for the course.

I will admit I mostly want you to finish book 5 so I can read it, but I also think it's the most sellable. I don't really think the non-fandom aspect of the workshop would be a problem.

I chose the third because it is YA and sounds like something my son would enjoy reading. He loves to read but there aren't always a lot of choices of the kind he is interested in.

It is definitely not age-appropriate for your son!

OK--I voted for the Hypnotist's Gaol first (because it sounded interesting, might greatly benefit from a fresh set of eyes, and is soclose to being done, I thought getting it off the plate would be a good thing). I changed my vote to Book Five because that one seemed to the be the one toward which you were shooting the most energy (substantial work that you're already happy with).

They all sound interesting!

ETA: I think Book Five is also a good one to test the material against a potentially non-fandom audience (since someone upthread brought up the potential for access difficulty).

Edited at 2011-01-20 02:48 am (UTC)

I think Book Five is actually the one that I'm shooting the least energy at right now-- I wrote all of it over a two week period and then got to a point where I was just plain stuck and couldn't figure out where to go with it. The other ones are the ones I've been more actively working on. I mostly stuck it on here because Jess wants me to finish it, so I was kind of surprised that that's the one so many people are voting for.

Does that mean you are not completely shocked by my poll vote?

I like Charming best. It reminds me of a vague story I have up my sleeve if an LJI prompt ever calls, though. xD

I'm sorry I don't have any advice on which story to choose - as a rule, I think writers should write what calls them, because you tend to love that most and give the most of yourself to it (at least in my personal experience as a writer). I could give you an opinion (from working in publishing) about what I suspect would be most commercially successful if you want? But I'm not sure if that's a good way to decide either.

However, a few of the stories reminded me of books I've read in the past year, and I wanted to pass on the titles. Some people like seeing what other writers have written in that space; some people don't. So feel free to ignore if you fall in the latter category!

Here they are:

INCARCERON by Catherine Fisher (the Lilah idea)
ASH by Malinda Lo (the Cinderella idea)

Oh, that's great! I've been trying to read a lot of of YA fantasy to keep up on the genre, but I haven't heard of either of those.

Neither of them really sound anything like what I'm working on, which is satisfying, also. I love reading stuff similar to my work, but not so similar that it feels like "oh no! Someone else got there first."


My biggest problem-- and one I mentioned to Leigh-- is that I don't have that "what calls to me" thing. I don't really get it when people talk about it. I don't really feel an emotional attachment to my writing and don't feel like I'm putting myself into it. It's more like a puzzle that I'm solving in my head and then putting onto paper. Like, "can I take these plot elements and this concept and make it into something coherent?"

I talked to the teacher and made a decision as far as what I'm going to work on. Other advice would be awesome.

I can understand that approach to writing. I mean, I wouldn't say that I am putting myself INTO most of my writing (certain types excepted, like essays or fiction in which I pull from my own experience), but I am way more likely to commit to something and give more of my time/energy/mental bandwidth (aka give more of "me") to figure it out when it's something I really love. And when I get into something, I do love that element of the puzzle -- there's something that drives me especially to figure out how it all comes together. I can usually tell I need to stick with something because it simmers in the back of my mind when I'm not working on it, and pieces come together while it's on the back burner. (Following that thrill of discovery is why I tend to avoid outlines, which ruin all the fun!)

Oh, I'm the opposite, I make very detailed outlines scene by scene and plot out exactly what is going to happen before I write.

I do sometimes write by the seat of my pants (Book 5 is a "write by the seat of my pants" experiment) and there are thing about that I like, too, in that I learn things about characters I would never have expected to learn. But mostly I'm a list-and-chart-and-go type.

I think part of my approach and feelings about writing come from the fact that the vast majority of my writing comes from my taking a dream I had and attempting to turn it into a coherent plot.

Out of curiosity, which of the stories would you think would be most marketable? My inclination is probably that it would be Charming, but Charming is also the one that might draw the most critics considering that there is a lesbian coming-of-age story as a very large chunk of the plot. Hypnotist's Gaol has a lot of queer characters but their sexual orientation isn't front and center, and they're all adults.

Definitely different! :) It's interesting that what is (sounds like) the same drive results in such different processes...

To answer your question, I'll draw a distinction between marketable and commercially successful -- I think any very good, strong writing is highly marketable, as most agents/editors are interested in representing/editing exceptional writers.

But on the commercial front, I think you're right that CHARMING is probably the most appealing. ASH (which is also a lesbian coming-of-age story against the Cinderella backdrop) was published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (the only children's division of Hachette Book Group, one of the big five publishers). Fairy tale retellings are hot right now.

Just from the descriptions you gave, I'd say the commercial ranking I would give is CHARMING, then HYPNOTIST'S GAOL, then BOOK 5.

(Have you read any Samuel Delany, by the way? I feel like you probably have... I am a huge fan!)

I've heard of him, but haven't read-- his books always looked too hard-sci-fi for my liking, and I have a really difficult time getting into sci-fi worlds. I can't really explain why, but it's incredibly rare that I'll get more than ten pages into a "sciencey" science fiction book, even when it's science fiction by an author whose other work I've read and enjoyed, so I tend to avoid it as a genre. Like, if it takes place in outer space, I'm completely thrown. If there's a lot of technology, completely thrown. Which might sound weird coming from someone who spends all day writing code. If he has any books that you think are less sci-fi-y, I would love recs.

It is definitely nice to know that there's more of an opening for queer-friendly stuff than there used to be.

Delany is one of the premier scifi queer writers, which I guess is why I assumed so! I haven't read any of his stuff that is hard scifi (yet), actually -- I must have missed those.

I'd recommend DHALGREN, which is set in an alternate NY (more magical realism to me than anything), and is really really amazing. I had a friend who couldn't get past the beginning, which I could understand as being a bit intimidating/confusing (it's a literary device that does it though, not the science fiction elements), but if you make it through that it's great.

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