Thoughts on Some News: Tor VS Libraries, and the Fantasy/Sci-Fi Relationship

Hey there, readers. I hope you’re having a good weekend! Mine is looking up. I’ve got some writing to do today (when do I not, right?), but before I dove into it, I really wanted to get a quick post up on some recent news items that have hit recently.

The first one is Tor’s (sorta stealthy) announcement that they will no longer be allowing Libraries to purchase ebook copies of their books following the first four months after release. You can read one of the first breaks about this happening here, but the gist of it is that Tor is no longer allowing libraries to purchase ebook copies of their lexicon for the first four month of a books release, their stated reasoning being that these library copies are cutting into Tor’s profits, and so they’re seeking to mitigate this. According to some, this it Tor ‘thinking about the authors’ and acting in their best interest.

Bull. This is Tor being, well, Tor. As some of you might know, I haven’t bought a Tor book in years. I actually boycotted them after the last book I purchased from them, an ebook titled Silentium, tried a different underhanded scheme, this one being cutting the last chapter of the book from the ebook copy and making it a “physical copy only bonus chapter.” If you wanted to read the end of the book, you had to either buy the hardcover or wait for the paperback!

This move? It’s that kind of thing again. Someone over at Tor seems to have a serious dislike of ebooks and those that read them, with this latest marketing tactic being their newest move to drive people away from them.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s going to happen the way they think it is.

But let’s step back for a moment. I mean, could Tor’s assertion have any real weight? Personally, I don’t really think so. It sounds more like an excuse to try and scrabble for cast than any sort of decision with real weight behind it.

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Being a Better Writer: The Convenient Romantic Subplot

Welcome back, readers! It’s Monday, and you know what that means! Time for Being a Better Writer!

But first, a slight aside. Dave Freer (you may have read something of his) wrote this little blurb that caught my eye from my morning feed on the Mad Genius Club (their name, not mine) about large books. More accurately, on books that dive past the “normal” length of 40,000 to 100,000 words. I found it interesting, both because well, the “normal” length for me is hovering around 325K per story, and because Freer is writing this as someone who doesn’t write such long books and is putting forth his thoughts on both why he doesn’t and where they may fit with readers and the industry.

I found it interesting, especially as it does point out how much of an outlier I am with the breadth and scope of what I do. Those of you who are fans of my work, take a look at his thoughts and see what you think. If you’re so inclined, if you think he nailed something or was way off, leave a comment!

Okay, news aside. Let’s talk writing stuff. Now, today’s topic isn’t a requested one. In fact, it’s not even on my Topic List. No, this is one that came to mind as I was sitting reading through another book last night (a short story collection, in this case, but I hit the library recently, so I’ve been mowing through a literal stack of books). I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately—more than the norm—and naturally, I was noticing a lot of trends as I read through. One of the most common, which I’m sure many of you readers, movie-watchers, and the like also notice, is the sometimes dreaded romantic subplot.

Naturally, I started thinking about it. Why we use it. Why it’s become so blasted common and cliche, and yet still sticks around despite that. Why so many feel the need to stick a romantic subplot into an otherwise good story (this, by the way, is often called a romantic plot tumor when it doesn’t belong). Why so many dislike it, and yet it constantly shows up, again and again. Personally, I felt it was worth talking about. Because I guarantee you, a number of readers of this site have sat down to write out their story, and almost immediately thrown a romance subplot in without even knowing why.

Now, I do want to make a caveat here: I am not talking about the romance genre. I’m talking about romantic subplots. You know, a side plot to the main story. Not a story where the romance is the story, but a story where the romance is something happening alongside the main story, but not the crux of the plot. The protagonist has a journey, a foe to face, a mountain to climb, an alien planet to explore .. whatever. And along the way they fall for someone.

All right, with that catch explained, let’s talk about romantic subplots.

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Being a Better Writer: Sex Appeal, Attractiveness, and Character Description

Could someone please get a fire extinguisher and have it standing by, please? Because this is one of those topics that, thrown before the wrong crowd, can have torches lit before the title has even finished appearing on screen.

Which, obviously, is not the goal of Being a Better Writer … but torch-lighting is the goal of others online, so there’s still a chance. Hopefully the comments on this one don’t devolve—or worse, dive—into a flame war.

Because, if I’m honest, this is a topic that I think needs to be discussed more among writers, if only to keep them from falling into what is, quite frankly, a bit of a trap-like pit that can drag multiple aspects of their story down if tackled poorly. And … let’s be fair here, a lot of works handle this poorly. Which is why I chose to write on this topic in the first place.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, here. So let’s back up and start where these things ought to start—the beginning—and get some context out of the way. Such as “What do I mean when I say this post is about sex appeal and character description?”

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Classic Being a Better Writer: Romance and Gender

It. Is. Time …

For another Classic Being a Better Writer post! If you’re new to the site, or found this page through a search, well, here’s how it works, just to get you up to speed before you click away: Unusual Things is home to Being a Better Writer, a weekly article designed to help new, young, or even experienced writers with their craft. This has been ongoing now for … almost four years, actually. Which means that sands and storms there’s quite the backlog by now. Around 50 articles a year for four years is a pretty impressive pile of writing guides!

Now, each post is tagged, and there’s the archives and the search function to make do with, but sometimes it’s simply easier to give those seekers of knowledge an even easier collection to find. Hence, classic reposts!

Well, not reposts. Each of these posts links to the original articles. So, are you ready? Because today’s classic posts are three on writing Romance and Gender. from the archive of Unusual Things! Get cracking!

Starting Romance—
Romance—real romance—is a topic that humanity has written, studied, and explored for thousands of years, and yet many of us are still very much in the dark. I don’t think it hurts that it’s a little different for everyone, but the end result is that we’re probably still going to be writing about romance thousands of years from now. Or watching movies about it. Or whatever form of entertainment the future happens to hold (new rom-com collection—dozens of media memories from the greatest love stories in history beamed right into your brain!). Romance will always remain a topic that inspires and infuriates our species equally.

Romance—
If that sounds both hard and complicated, then you’re thinking along the right lines. Real romance is hard. Writing out a romantic relationship between two characters is a complicated, difficult dance of keeping track of both their lines of thought, emotions, reactions, and flaws. Mistakes are make. Apologies are given. Both parties learn. Where a “romance” book is more concerned about getting both characters in the same room (and then the same bed, in lurid detail), a romance is a story or subplot wherein two characters are discovering and building a love between them, one that’s far more than just a bedroom.

Writing the Opposite Gender—
Don’t go into it with the idea that men and women are two alien, almost irreconcilable creatures. Clear your mind of the pop-culture junk that’s infected television, facebook, and twitter, because 99% of what’s out there is, taken straight, junk. Take all that pile of “men do this, women do this, etc” and toss it out for the moment. Gone. Clear your head.

Then write a character. Someone fully 3D. Wants, desires, wishes, flaws.

You know why? I’ll give you the same answer I gave at LTUE: Because ordinary people don’t consciously flavor everything they do with their gender. Most men don’t wake up and think to themselves “Right, waking up … like a MAN! Using the bathroom … like a MAN! Eating breakfast … like a MAN!” Neither do women thing “Driving to work … like a WOMAN. Taking the elevator to my office … like a WOMAN! Saying ‘hi’ to my boss … like a WOMAN!”

 

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Being a Better Writer: Romance

Don’t forget, Unusual Events is out!

Well, this should be a short one. That, or today we’ll be learning from the mentality of “Those who don’t, teach.”

Okay, I kid. But this is a bit of an off topic for me. It comes by way of request, and that makes it more interesting because when it comes to writing, there’s several ways to interpret “romance.”

The most modern interpretation, as evidence by a vast swath of the book market (last I heard it was somewhere between 70 and 80 percent of the total book market, but I have not Googled that, so I may be off, suffice to say it’s a large, large portion), is the “romance” genre.

Yes, I just put that in quotes. And most of you probably know why. But if not, you’ll know why in a moment. It’s the modern romance market. Technically, I should write it without quotes, but it needed something to make a distinguishing mark between it and other types of romance.

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Being a Better Writer: Starting Romance

As you might have noticed if you’re one of those who waits on the morning of, today’s post is a little late. My apologies. I wasn’t quite as quick to arise this morning because I was catching up on sleep. And I was doing that because the injury I gave myself on Saturday didn’t let me sleep that well that same night. Turns out, cracked ribs can be quite the pain. Who knew, aside from those with cracked ribs.

On the plus side, I now have more injury experience I can use for my writing. Which I’ll probably be able to do even more of, since a cracked rib kind of kills some of my summer activity plans. Not all of them, but the last thing I want to do right now is go face-first down a water-slide.

Right, so enough prattle. Onto today’s topic of choice: Romance.

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