Thursday, June 20, 2013

Made-up movies/actors/TV shows for books?

When I sit down to read a book set in contemporary times, whether it be an actual contemporary novel or a paranormal/light fantasy set within our real world, I expect to get the real world.
Maybe I'm alone in this, but whenever I get reading and then the story brings in actors or entertainment which I know doesn't exist, I get pulled out of the reading. Like, yanked. Because suddenly it's not my world anymore. It's something else and I don't know where it is. It doesn't feel genuine.
But characters watch stuff and like actors and read books. So what to do?
These are the things I've found I've liked:

  • If the actor/actress/famous person is an integral part of the story (like Airhead by Meg Cabot or The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale) then I don't get as knotted up about it, because clearly they can't use real people.
  • The Fault in Our Stars has a book (An Imperial Affliction) and a band (The Hectic Glow) that John Green made up. But while reading it, they seemed to be obscure, and not huge and part of general pop culture. You can't know every book and band in existence, so I read it as if they existed, and in fact looked them up to see if they were real while I was reading. Obscurity in the novel grounds it into the real world.
  • Using old TV shows/movies/bands. If an MC's favorite movie is The Wizard of Oz or The Sound of Music, or her father is watching re-runs of Seinfeld then that is something readers will forever know. I know there's pressure to not "date" a book, and these classics will make it not dated.
  • Using things that are modern, but will be around for a long time. I read The Outsiders, which was written in the 60s, and it mentions the Beatles and Elvis Presley. Update that to today, and you might mention Coldplay, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, people who won't be one-hit wonders and specifically date your book (like The Jonas Brothers would). These artists will mark a decade or so with their music. And honestly, with the speed of technology, books set in the real world will be dated a few years after their release anyway. It's okay to mark a book as one written in the 2010s like The Outsiders did with the 60s. If your book makes it that far, people will love it anyway. The key is to not have The Jonas Brothers roll in for a concert, so that people in 2013 would say, "Wow, this is so from 2008!" Specific--bad. General--good. 
How do you feel about made-up titles and people in books? How do you get around the debacle of making your book dated with pop culture?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

My two weeks as an intern at a publishing company

For the past two weeks I've been interning at Cedar Fort Publishing, and it's been really cool to see what goes on with the people who bring us books to read. My job so far has mostly consisted of reading through the slush pile and writing rejection letters (that part's oftentimes a pretty big bummer, but it has to be done).

Here are some things I've learned so far:

  • I really want to like what I read. I get these big fat manuscripts, and I know the author has put a lot of time and effort into it, so I really want to like it.
  • However, I more often than not don't.
  • Some reasons why the manuscript doesn't work for me: it's poorly written, there wouldn't be a market for it, it's not right for our company, or it just doesn't interest me.
  • I usually know by page 30 (at most) whether or not I'll send it up to the editor to look through.
  • I've started working on the slush from December. It can take a long time for someone to even look at your manuscript! Patience is key.
So, really, this is everything agents and publishers have said and I now can say from personal experience I agree with. Seriously--know as much as you can about the market, the agency/publisher you're submitting to, hone your craft, and be patient!