The Publishing Journey: The Slush

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Oh yes, we are briefly discussing the writer’s worst nightmare: the slush pile. If you’re new to the writing world and haven’t heard about the slush pile, it’s essentially the place where unsolicited query letters/manuscripts go to be read by assistants-to-the-editor.

Many will say a writer doesn’t want to end up in the slush pile, and there’s more truth to that than fiction. Once in that pile, one will never actually know if their manuscript ever made it onto the editor’s desk. But maybe, just maybe, there’s a world out there where the slush pile could potentially become a good thing. For example, an open slush pile.

The idea of an open slush pile may scare some, but if used correctly it can begin your journey as the writer-turned-published-author. The traditional slush pile is private to the publisher or agent the manuscript has ended up with, but the open slush pile exposes work everywhere. The downfall is, the work won’t be private anymore; anyone can access it, read it, and comment on it. If this is not the road you, as the writer, want to travel down, here are a few ideas to entice people, editors, and agents to read your writing and make use of the open slush pile:

  1. Short stories.
    Posting short stories on open slush pile websites can expose your audience to your writing style: how you execute the plot, how you build characters in a short span of writing, etc.
  2. Excerpts from your main manuscript.
    Just like if you were reading an excerpt at the end of a book for the sequel or to another book the author is working on, use your favorite or strongest excerpt from your manuscript to see if it peaks an audience’s interest. If it’s in high demand, then maybe you’ll end up getting picked up by an agent rather than you searching for one.
  3. Spin-off stories of your mysterious manuscript.
    Does your main character in your novel have another quick little tale they want to share? Get your audience excited by reading a prequel story of your main squeeze. It might make the character the more lovable one.

So maybe sitting in the slush pile in the editor’s storage unit (come on, we know there’s a lot and you need a place to put them) isn’t the ideal place to be, but there are other ways to use the wonderful resource of the internet and to make the best of being in the slush pile.

Creative Writing In School

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A few articles have surfaced recently discussing the assessment process of creative writing and how to properly do that without having an opinion. My brain started to question, why in the world would you want to be opinion-less with something that NEEDS opinion?

In a school setting, creative writing projects ultimately need to be written for its intended audience (a.k.a your professor or English teacher). Sure, people recommend grading these assignments with the intention to purely assess for structural flaws or grammatical errors but we all know that often times the graders own personal preferences could also influence their grading process. With assignments which have deadlines, writing capabilities are challenged. It’s hard to adopt your own creative process when you have another person’s personal preferences and deadlines looming out in front of you.

Instead of making every short story project (or whatever story form you are practicing at the time) mandatory in a writing class or course, what if creative writing is used as a source of extra credit? Students are always looking for options for extra credit and teachers are always looking for ways to get their students more involved with their work- seems like a win-win for everyone. It would encourage writers to come forth and own their passion for putting their fingers to a keyboard. It also encourages writers to participate and challenge themselves if they choose to; there is no pressure of a week-long deadline or need to write a particular type of story. The best part is that grading isn’t an opinion here. If a student does the extra credit assignment, then BAM…check mark next to their name –  that’s it. Of course, if the grader chooses to give detailed feedback on how to improve sentence structure, character development, setting description, etc. they can.

A class also doesn’t have to have a creative writing focus to have this extra credit option. A teacher can still grant their students this freedom to challenge their writing skills when they please and not feel pressured on the grading system. It also puts more of a focus on themes within creative writing and/or creative writing altogether, which we all know we can use a little more of in our lives.

So, maybe we should see a transition of creative writing courses into groups, sessions, and after-school activities. It also doesn’t hurt to have a concentration in creative writing with that English degree though…

The Feminist Romance

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As an author of romance herself, Alisha Rai spoke in an interview about her experiences incorporating feminism into her writing. In her novels, her lead female is the one in power, such as being a billionaire with a huge company in the palm of her hands. Matter of fact, most of her female leads take on some form of dominant position (and no, I’m not talking about in the bedroom!) where she is “overpowering” her male counterpart. That’s the not the usual trope you see. From reading many of the romance novels on the market today, one would think that  women like to be controlled and compliant. But, authors like Rai are telling us that’s not always the case and why it shouldn’t always be that way.

In a way, romance novels can be feminist works even without Rai’s juicy switch. Romance is a special genre already. But, we can revolutionize the genre even more by adding in more feminist elements to the stories and characters. This is important if we want to keep the genre evolving and relatable. It will also keep the genre ‘special,’ for more than one reason. One writer points out why romance is special, in 7 ways:

  1. Just like Rai’s protagonists, other authors choose to include strong female protagonists.
  2. Romance is a genre filled with female/women’s voices.
  3. Women’s needs are placed first. Inside the bedroom and out.
  4. The genre allows women to explore their fantasies.
  5. Regardless of how she is in real life, a romance novel allows a woman to take control of her sexuality.
  6. Romance allows topics that have been outcast as “taboo” to be explored in depth.
  7. And finally, it is a genre which allows many voices to get their foot in the door.

Seeing women that have it all may be refreshing and encouraging to read, but if none of that appeals to you, there will always be authors writing about the classic romance between two individuals- which we definitely don’t want to lose either.