February 15, 2012 | By: Tracy

Cliffhangers - Yay or Nay?

 (Note: these are my thoughts based on my opinion as a READER)

Cliffhangers, by definition, are when a story comes to an end where the main character(s) are, more often than not, figuratively hanging over the edge of a cliff. They (and WE) are left in a stressful situation where something is about to go down.

I think with all the competition out there to snag readers' attention and bring them back for more, some writers are turning to the Cliffhanger ending for help . . . and I think that could be a huge mistake.

What works in television doesn't always work in written fiction. TV is relatively mindless, whereas reading requires a certain level of imagination and time commitment. And, in general, readers need SOME closure at the end of a book as a payoff for that committment.

Now, I think the vast majority of readers are comfortable with what I call the Unfinished Business ending. Where you get to the end and realize that while some big questions/issues the MC faced have been answered/resolved, the result has brought forth more questions that need to be dealt with.  BUT, in the Unfinished Business ending, most (if not all) of the initial story arc has been dealt with or resolved...and while the characters still have more business they need to take care of, they (and more importantly the reader) are at a comfortable stopping point.

To use an example most have read: The Hunger Games --  When the book comes to an end, Katniss has survived the Hunger Games and gets to go home a victor. But, to those who've read the book you know there are a ton of things still left unresolved. Her relationship with Peeta being a big one...and what, if any, effects will her "breaking of the rules" bring down on them all.  But, for the time being, everyone is safe and on their way home to deal with the aftermath in their own private way.

The Unfinished Business ending gives readers something to think on. Gives them something to ponder while they wait for the next book to come out. And if you've given them characters they can fall in love with, they're going to want to come back for them alone.

But if you end the book on an actual Cliffhanger (I won't name any specific examples, but feel free to in the comments, if you'd life), where you leave the characters in some sort of imminent danger and/or throw a brand new danger that you don't plan to explain until the next book...you run the serious risk of making your readers feel like they're being jerked around, and having them avoid the very thing you want them to come back for. The sequel.

What do you all think: Do the obvious cliffhangers bother you? Do you actually like them? If you hear that a book has a cliffhanger ending are you less likely to buy it until you know the sequel is about to be released?  Tracy wants to know these things.
February 1, 2012 | By: Tracy

Would You Rather Wednesday

It's been forever and a day since the last "Would You Rather" question. I've missed treating you guys like my characters and putting you in uncomfortable situations and watching you squirm. ;o)

Now that I'm only posting on Wednesdays, I can't go back to doing one question a week...but I promise to work in at least one a month. So without further ado, on to February's question:

Our world has suddenly turned into an unfortunate dystopian society where our "Capitol" has decided the best way to keep us at bay is to eliminate one of our two major senses. As a favor for our cooperation each citizen gets to choose which sense they have stripped from them.

Note: if you try to revolt, they'll take both from you and every member of your family. (It's dystopian, dudes, it's totally meant to suck)

So, Would You Rather?? 

A) Surrender Your Vision


B) Surrender Your Hearing
January 25, 2012 | By: Tracy

The 5 Stages of Querying

Let me just be clear about something here, querying is an addiction. Much like grief (they go hand-in-hand more often than not) there is a process un-agented writers must pass through in order to come out on the other side of querying, stronger than when they went in.  Understanding the stages may help to soften the transition, so here goes:

Stage 1: Excitement
Oh, I can't wait! My manuscript is so freaking unique and my characters are the most lovable, quirky fictional people in the history of fictional people! Every last agent is going to love it! The hardest part will be figuring out which agency to sign with!

Stage 2: OCD/Paranoia
Okay. Queries have been sent, it should only be a matter of time until the requests come rolling in. In fact, there could be one coming in now. I should probably refresh my inbox/iPhone at least one more time before I sign off. Seriously?!? Why haven't they responded yet? What if it got lost in spam? *refresh* How will I know that they didn't get it and they're not just ignoring me? *refresh*

Stage 3: Crushing Despair
I can't believe my query/manuscript was rejected! What was I thinking? Of course it sucks...I suck. All this time I've been fooling myself into thinking I could do this. Clearly I don't have what it takes. I was an idiot for wasting so much time trying to chase a pipe dream. My dog has more talent as a writer than I do.

Stage 4: Anger/Vengeance
You know what? NO! You, Agent X, obviously do not have your finger on the pulse of publishing in 2012. You're going to regret passing on me some day. And when I'm a NYT bestseller don't even think about asking me to blurb one of your author's new books. Okay? Okay. In fact, you're officially unfollowed on Twitter and dis-liked on Facebook. So there!

Stage 5: Acceptance/Determination
Okay, so what if my manuscript wasn't the right fit for Agent X. It happens. I mean, it's not like I like every book that makes its way to the shelves. But, I've worked too hard to give in so easily. There are still approximately 9,000 more agents I could query. If I'm going down it's gonna be in a blaze of glory!

So there you have it, folks. The 5 Stages of Querying.  The trick is to recognize which stage you're currently dealing with, look ahead to what's coming next, and always, always remember ... this too shall pass.

Care to share what stage you're in?