Breaking The Rules

For anybody not involved in the world of publishing, you might be surprised to know just how many rules there are when it comes to writing and publishing books.

There are rules about the length of a book:

  • Historical novels must contain around 100,000 words.
  • Fantasy novels must contain more words than the Bible.
  • A cozy mystery can be short, but a regular mystery must be long.

There are rules about plotlines:

  • Particular publishers don’t allow time machines to be used for time travel. Obviously standing stones are permitted.
  • Mysteries should not contain the supernatural – those are two different genres. Hmmm. Wouldn’t the X Files qualify as mystery and supernatural?
  • Romance novels absolutely, positively, without question, must have a HEA – or for those not in the business, a “Happily ever after.” Never mind that Casablanca and Gone With the Wind are classified as romance….

There are rules about what writers are allowed to write:

  • Romance writers can write in any subgenre—mystery, suspense, paranormal, historical, etc., but general fiction writers in any of those categories aren’t supposed to have a lot of romance.
  • Authors should not bounce between genres. I guess nobody ever told that to mega-bestselling author, James Patterson.
  • Children’s writers should write for children only, and adult writers should write for adults only. Again, James is breaking the rules.

There are even rules about the specifics of writing.

  • Fiction writing can contain phrases or even single words as whole sentences. Wow. Interesting. Got it? And fiction writers can begin sentences with conjunctions. And end them with adverbs, usually. Or with prepositions.
  • The POV (point of view) must be held by only one person at a time. You’re either reading the book from the POV of the antagonist, the protagonist, or the narrator. And switching between more than three POVs is a death knell. Sorry, Maeve Binchey – all those awards you’ve won should be taken away.
  • And never, ever, switch back and forth between POVs. Did you get that, Nora Roberts?

And the rules go on and on and on. In fact, there are so many rules that it’s nearly impossible for an author to keep track of them all. Some authors live by and insist on following all rules. Others bend the rules, and others, like the ones mentioned above, just throw the rules out the window. Which is fine with me. Just fine. Because I hate rules. I hate rules as much as I hate labels

When I sit down to write, I just write. My characters dictate the action, and the actions dictate the genre. I don’t want to follow rules. I just want to tell a story, and if that story doesn’t quite fit in with whatever the rules are, who cares? As long as the story is good, isn’t that all that matters?

Unfortunately, it’s not. Every time I publish a book, I must choose a specific genre, and for romance, a subgenre. In order to belong to many writing associations, a writer must declare that she write books only tailored to a particular audience. I recently spoke with a blogger who was shocked that men actually read my books. “Aren’t you a romance writer?” he asked. Ugh! Why the label? Why can’t I just be a writer? Why can’t I just write fiction? I get that readers have propensities toward certain types of books, but more and more I’m hearing from people who simply like to read good books, regardless of the genre.

So, I’m just going to say it. I’m going to admit something that will cause many of my colleagues to cringe. I am a writer. Period. I write the way I want to write. My stories unfold in the way they are meant to unfold. I don’t set out to write romance, or mystery, or suspense. I set out to entertain. I’ve spoken with other writers who balk at this notion. “You can’t bounce around like James Patterson unless you are James Patterson,” I’ve been told. To which I ask, why not? I’m often told that readers simply won’t continue to read my books if I don’t stick to one genre and follow all the rules. I beg to differ. Perhaps I’m wrong about that. Perhaps I am driving the nails in my own coffin, but I don’t think so. My readers seem happy with my books, no matter what genre I am forced into, so I don’t plan on changing my attitude or my style. I just wish it was easier to get my books out there without having to tow the line.

If you are a writer, I’d like to hear your thoughts. How do you feel about genres and labels?

If you are a reader, I’d love to know what you think as well. What draws you toward a particular book or author?

As for me, I must be going. I have work to do on my next novel. I’m not sure yet what the final genre will be or what rules I might break, and I really don’t care. I think I’m in pretty good company on that. James, Nora, don’t you agree?

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What I was writing about one year ago this week: Finding Joy in the Most Unlikely Places.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy followed up her success with, Island of Miracles, which has outsold all of her other books worldwide and ranked as high 600 on Amazon. Her next children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available. Amy’s novel, Summer’s Squall, is on pre-sale and will be released on December 1, 2017.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschislerand at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017)

The Voices in My Head

They’re back. The voices in my head that won’t leave me alone. They won’t let me sleep at night, won’t stop nagging me all day, won’t be quiet when I try to pray or concentrate on anything other than them. They are demanding, ruthless in their quest to break free, to be born into this world, to exist somewhere outside of my mind. And there are dozens of them. Men, women, children, young, old, of various ethnicities and backgrounds. They all want to be given a voice, a home, a story.

No, I’m not suffering from any kind of mental illness. At least, I don’t think I am. Unless this is how it begins. There were others, after all–Salinger, Poe, Kerouac, Hemingway, Plath, Joyce, and even Dickens. Some are even said to have gone mad while writing. But I’m pretty sure I’m still sane (though Ken and our girls may disagree at times).

The voices in my head are the characters that seem to multiply on, at least, a weekly basis. There are so many that I can’t decide which ones belong in which stories, which ones are main or supporting characters, and which ones are simply intruders with no business being in my mind or my stories. Those voices quickly die among the herd. But there are others waiting to take their place.

It’s a shame, actually, to have so many people and stories in my mind because, right now, I haven’t got the time to bring all of these characters to life and tell their tales. But the time is coming. Our youngest daughter, Morgan, is a junior in high school. I imagine that in less than two years, I will have a much quieter, slower life, and that is when the fun will begin. That is when the multitude can be unleashed, when story after story can be written. And truth be told, it’s a little daunting. All my life, I’ve told stories, imagined worlds and people, contrived conversations, created events, and now I’m really just beginning to give them life. And I never want it to end.

Cover-001Which is good because the stories go on and on and on. So many stories. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and unable to write the first word because I don’t know which one to choose. Which voice is the loudest? Which is the most demanding? Which will be the most well-loved? And it seems I’m not alone. According to the Washington Post, James Patterson has “a three-inch-thick folder labeled ‘Ideas,’ one sheet listing 21 separate projects boiled down to their titles.” I have online folders, Apple notes, and a white board that boast a combined 16 stories at various stages of creation, including two that will be released in the coming months, the first being another children’s book. I’m not quite the next James Patterson, but I’d love to give it a try!

 

So, here’s to all of you who read my books and my blog. No matter how many voices are in my head or how many stories are on my docket, they would be worthless without you. With that in mind, I will raise a glass to you, my readers, the next time I open a bottle of wine. In fact, I’d love to have you join me in raising a glass. You’re all invited to my next book launch! It is being planned for the first weekend of December. Be on the lookout for more details. And who knows, yours might just become one of those voices in my head.

What I was writing about one year ago this week: “Without any doubting or quiddit”.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschislerand at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017)

My Legacy

030This morning I attended the Baccalaureate Mass for our school’s Class of 2015.  Our Pastor asked each student to think ahead 60 years and imagine looking back on their lives.  “What will your legacy be?” he asked them.  He implored them to do more with their lives than just make money.  He told them that their legacy is important and that they should make it matter.  Each one of us will leave behind a legacy, something that we pass down to future generations, whether we are the President of the United States, a businessman, a teacher, a doctor, or a parent.  Each one of us will do or say something that will not be forgotten, good or bad.

If we are lucky, we will be remembered for more than one thing.  I hope to be remembered by the whole world as a writer, but I want to remembered by those who knew me best as a faithful wife, mother, friend, and Christian.  It doesn’t matter to me if I ever become rich, but I hope that the words I write will someday inspire a generation.  I don’t care if I’m ever recognized for the volunteer work I do, but I hope I’ve made a difference in somebody’s life.  It won’t mean a thing if I don’t have countless friends, but I hope that the ones I do have know they can always depend on me.  I don’t worry about how far I will climb, but I pray that my children will always look up to me.

A few years ago my oldest daughter told me that she believed I had wasted my education (I have a Masters of Library and Information Science) by deciding to stay home and spend more time with my children.  Now, of course, I’m a published author with another book on the way, and she sees how hard I worked to get here in spite of concentrating on my family and not my career.  Yesterday she told me that she never appreciated me enough and thanked me for being the mother I am.  I’d say that’s a pretty good legacy to leave behind even if I never do anything else for the next 60 years.

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com

Sex in Literature

Sarah Publishing
Over the last couple of weeks, I have heard and been a part of many conversations about sex in literature.  These conversations have taken place at conferences, in public, and within chats among friends.  I find it interesting to hear how others view this topic, what they find appropriate or inappropriate, or whether or not they enjoy reading this type of work or are simply made uncomfortable by it.  I still stick to the belief I have held for all of my adult life, and as this is my blog, I’m going to share that with you now.

While many would argue that sex has been a part of literature for as long as there has been the written word, I would disagree to an extent.  Has it been “present” in literature since the beginning? Sure it has.  But has it been the graphic and explicit portrayal we are seeing so often today?  I would argue it has not.  While The Flame and The Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss (1972) was the first work of fiction to portray physical intimacy, romance fiction has “flowered” quite a bit itself.  Ever since Woodiwiss introduced the world to the sexual exploits of Heather and Brandon, romances have tried to capture the fervor caused by this first of its kind publication.  It wasn’t until the recent release of Fifty Shades of Grey that such a book has so completely captivated readers (and now movie goers alike).

But I have to ask this question: outside of a class on Romance Genre Literature (yes, those classes do exist), where else is sexually explicit work considered literature?  Did Jane Eyre have wild, explicitly detailed sex with Mr. Rochester?  Elizabeth with Mr. Darcy?  Rebecca with Maxim?  Even Hermione with Ron, for Pete’s sake?  And how much more satisfied were you as a reader when you finished reading those works of literature?  I firmly believe that there is something to be said for the imagination!  I know, most children and young adults these days don’t even know what it is to “imagine” something.  The world is already painted for them, and most will never pick up the brush needed to add in their own details.  So what do writers do today?  They hold the readers’ hands.  They paint every facet of the picture with their own take on what the hero or heroine would do and how they would do it (every minuscule detail).  They lead the reader through the author’s own personal fantasy without allowing the reader to decide on her own what is happening.  The reader is no longer a reader, she is a voyeur, a virtual peeping Tom.

On the red carpet this past Sunday, Melanie Griffith said she never wants to see daughter, Dakota, as Anastasia, toy and later wife of Christian Grey (I will not call her his “love interest”).  I don’t blame her.  Would all of the women who read the book feel differently about it if they had to picture their own daughter being graphically defiled by Mr. Grey?  My bet is, they most certainly would. Do we really want to create a whole genre that we wouldn’t want our own daughters to read?  I can firmly say, I would not.

Is there romance in my books?  Yes, there is.  However, I will continue to rely more on my ability to tell a story than on the need to use sex as a plot device.  If I ever get to the point where my characters find time to have a wild and explicit romp in the hay while hiding from a mad man and trying to stop a killer from taking other innocent lives by running from one clue or murder scene to another without the chance to shower or even brush their teeth (I’m already gasping for breath), will someone please put me out of my misery?  I once had a publisher tell me that my writing and plot were wonderful, but they weren’t interested unless I added in some steamy sex.  No, thank you.  The storyline just doesn’t work that way, and neither do I.  Oh did I mention that I was later signed by a publisher and that the same book that was once turned down is now selling very well nationwide?  I guess some people are still okay with using their imaginations.

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

https://amyschislerauthor.com/amyschislerauthor.com/Books.html You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com