Nancy: On Book Clubs, Best-Selling Fiction, and Career Advice You Might Need to Ignore

Over the past 10 or so years, I’ve tried to get on the book club train three different times. Each time, I left the group after only one meeting. That choice wasn’t because I took issue with the people (they are readers, and therefore inherently lovely­čśŐ), their passion for the books, or even the wine. It was because I, as a writer, read so differently than non-writers that I was looking for things in a book discussion that the other members wouldn’t find interesting. Ergo, I had nothing to bring to the book club party (other than the wine, which is important! but not really the point).

The real problem I and many other writers have in joining book clubs is that we’re not looking for book discussions at all. We’re looking for book dissections. Writing craft deep-dives. Story geek deconstructions.

That’s why I’m so glad I agreed to join an online book club with one of my writing tribes. We are all long-time writers, with multiple years and manuscripts-worth of experience. Most of us either are or are in training to become book coaches who work with other writers on a regular and ongoing basis. That training has given us a common language and shared tools we use to evaluate writing. Last week, we had a one-hour online video chat to discuss our first group book, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Our discussion was wonky and geeky and made my little writer heart sing with joy.

Interestingly, though, when I found myself thinking about the book and our discussion in the days that followed, it was usually in the context of current writing career advice and “truths”, how Delia Owens ignored (intentionally or otherwise) much of it, and how none of it is applicable if it isn’t relevant to you and your process. Continue reading

Nancy: Some Love for Women’s Fiction

This past Saturday was Women’s Fiction Day! Don’t worry if you didn’t know and missed it. The celebration doesn’t have to be limited to one day. And if you’re wondering what, exactly, makes fiction women’s fiction and why does it need its own celebration, that’s okay, too. So let’s talk a bit about this often misunderstood and sometimes undervalued segment of the fiction market.

Most visitors to our blog are romance readers. Makes sense, as we 8LW ladies are romance writers. While a few of our followers are die-hard, romance-only readers (and we love you!), many read across a wide swath of fiction. Bonus points if the other-genre fiction has strong female characters with fully-developed inner lives and emotional journeys. If the female characters’ emotional journeys are the central storyline, what you have in front of you is women’s fiction.

Women’s fiction can be written, read, and enjoyed by people of any gender. (Yes, even straight, cis-gendered men can write women’s fiction). The stories can include mystery, suspense, adventure, intrigue, and romance! Some stories include a lot of those elements, and that’s fine. It’s still women’s fiction, as long as the very core story is about a woman’s emotional journey.

If you’re thinking, that’s an awfully big tent, you’re right. Continue reading

Nancy: The Power of Women’s Stories

A few weeks ago, I had one of those strange juxtapositions that sometimes happens in life. While many in the US and across the world were riveted to the broadcast of US Senate testimony, I was immersed in a deep-dive workshop with writing mentor Jennie Nash. While I was submersed in discussions about the value of women’s narratives, pundits were debating whether one woman’s narrative should have any impact on a lifetime appointment to the US Supreme Court. And while my friends and I were celebrating the many opportunities for women to publish their stories in this day and age, one woman was painstakingly recounting her own personal story in the public square. A story that was ultimately whitewashed and dismissed by an all-male panel of senators.

For many of us, it was one hell of an emotional week. Continue reading

Nancy: It’s My Birthday Too, Yeah

A fun thing is happening today for the first time in the five years we’ve been doing the 8LW blog: my birthday is falling on my blog posting day! And just to double the fun, this is also the birthday of another of the Eight Ladies (hint: her first name is Michaeline!). She’s celebrating a super-special birthday year, but I’ll let her tell you about that if she’s so inclined. Let’s just say that number is so last year for me.

To kick off my celebration, I thought I’d share a few of my current favorite multi-media things with you. I’ve been enjoying a long birthday weekend that has included indulging in all of these, some possibly more than once. Spoiler alert: some of them involve story.

Netflix and Awww: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Have you heard about this teen rom-com on Netflix originals? It’s based on a YA book by Jenny Han. I don’t read much YA, so I hadn’t read this book or its two sequels before watching the movie – something that’s almost unheard of for me. But I’d heard good things about the movie and really wanted to settle in with some popcorn on Saturday night and watch a light-hearted romance. This movie gave me all the feels. And I loved the way it toed the line of some of the age-old tropes, but then didn’t go there. That kept it fresh, witty, and really respectful of teenage girls. When’s the last time you saw all that in a movie? Continue reading

Nancy: Help a Pitcher Out

Over the past several months, you’ve been hearing a lot about my Victorian Romance series. On occasion, you’ve also heard about my Women’s Fiction story (or Commercial Mainstream Fiction, if you don’t like the WF label). Today, I’d like to focus the spotlight on that WF story, because at the end of the week, I’ll be pitching it to a panel of agents.

It’s always tough to send a manuscript out into the world. Scary. Nerve-wracking. Heart-wrenching. It’s even more difficult when you have to pare it down to a brief, bare-essence presentation as I’ll be doing this week. I’m participating in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) annual pitch session, and the rules are very strict. The only information you can include is book title, length, WF subgenre if applicable, then a 50-word pitch followed by the first 250 words of the story.

In manuscript terms, that 250 words is less than a page. Yep, the goal is to sell the agents on the main character, premise, and voice of a 300+-page book in less than one measly page. And as if that weren’t mission impossible enough, by 50-word pitch, they mean 50-word summary of the whole. damn. book.

And the gods wept.

But I will not be thwarted! This past week, I pitched my pitch and one-page submission to my book coach, and made a few tweaks based on her feedback. Now I need some fresh eyes on this sucker, because mine are bloodshot and bleary. Want to help me out? If so, post your thoughts, comments, take-aways, or recommendations in the comments. Most important is that the pitch give you a sense of what the book is, and the first page intrigue you enough to request more pages.

TITLE: Take the Money and Run

LENGTH: 95k words

SUBGENRE(S): WF with Romantic Elements; Commercial WF

PITCH: Continue reading

Nancy: Story at the Speed of Light

We live in the age of speed. Everything needs to be fast, from the cup of coffee we get from the drive-through window, to the loading of our favorite websites, to our response time to every email, text message, and social media ping. As technology accelerates, it drags the microprocessors inside our skulls with it, conditioning us to think faster is always better. It’s no wonder we’ve come to expect our stories to move fast as well.

Don’t want to sit on pins and needles through commercials to find out what will happen next on your favorite show? Record it and fast-forward right through those suckers.┬áDon’t want to wait week after week for a TV series to reach its conclusion? Watch something else while you wait for all the episodes to become available (or are dropped at once on streaming services) and binge-watch to your heart’s content. Our brains adapt very quickly to the rewards of story NOW, as services like Amazon and Netflix well know. It’s no accident that the next episode in a series starts playing on your TV within seconds of the end of the installment you just watched.

Which brings us to the favorite story delivery system of many of us on this blog: books. Continue reading