Traditional Publishing

Rebecca F Kuang rejects idea authors should not write about other races – Monday May 29, 2023

The author of Babel and The Poppy War, Rebecca F Kuang, has said she finds the idea that authors should only write about characters of their own race “deeply frustrating and pretty illogical”.

Speaking at the Hay festival, the author, who was born in China but moved to the US when she was four, said that there is a “really weird kind of identity politics going on in American publishing”. She is “sympathetic” to an extent, as it is coming from “decades of frustration of seeing the same racist, uncritical, under-researched, shallow stereotypes”.

The problem is, Kuang thinks, is that this has now “spiralled into this really strict and reductive understanding of race”. As a result, a movement that began as a call for more authentic stories about marginalised communities “gets flipped around and weaponised against the marginalised writers to pigeonhole them into telling only certain kinds of stories”.

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My Novel Was Rejected By 41 Literary Agents Before Becoming a Bestseller. Here are 8 Truths About Perseverance I Want Everyone With a Big Dream to Know – Sunday May 28, 2023

When I tell my story, it’s the ending that gets attention.

New York Times bestselling author! Both of my books are being turned into movies! I’m adapting my first novel for the screen! Five separate seven-figure deals!

It’d be easy to conclude that with all that incredible success, the path to get here must have been smooth and clear.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

As a young twentysomething, I spent years pursuing my Broadway dreams in New York, which ended with me and my embarrassingly thin resume buying a one-way ticket back home to Arizona. My mid-twenties were spent sleeping in the twin bed in my childhood bedroom at my parent’s house, trying to figure out what a person with a degree in musical theatre (who failed at working in musical theatre) was supposed to do with the rest of her life. For years, I wrote “figure out my life” on every to-do list I created. I meant it sincerely. It never got scratched off.

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I tried the AI novel-writing tool everyone hates, and it’s better than I expected – Wednesday May 24, 2023

Last week, generative fiction tool Sudowrite launched a system for writing whole novels. Called Story Engine, it’s another shot in the ongoing culture war between artists and AI developers — one side infuriated by what feels like a devaluation of their craft, the other insisting that it’s a tool for unlocking creativity and breaking writer’s block. Neither answered the question I was really curious about: does it work?

Well, I didn’t take on Sudowrite’s pitch of a full novel in a few days. But over the weekend, I generated a novella written entirely inside Story Engine — it’s called The Electric Sea at the AI’s suggestion, and you can read the whole thing on Tumblr.

I’m not sure how I feel about it.

I’m an enthusiastic, if strictly amateur, fiction writer. I wrote somewhere north of 150,000 words of unpublished fiction last year, so Sudowrite’s “break writer’s block” pitch isn’t that compelling to me. Writing, however, is not a task I hold inherently sacred. The field has a long and proud tradition of hastily written profit-driven trash, from Ed Wood’s churned-out erotica to the infamous pulp publisher Badger Books, known for handing authors a cover and asking them to write a book around it. I enjoy seeing where large language models’ strengths and weaknesses lie, and I’ve long been fascinated by challenges like NaNoGenMo, which asked writers to create an AI-generated novel in the days before modern generative AI. So on Saturday morning I paid for 90,000 words of Sudowrite text, booted it up, and “wrote” a roughly 22,500-word cyberpunk novella by Sunday afternoon.

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5 Tips on Finding a Literary Agent For the Book You've Written – Monday May 22, 2023

When I teach my Intro to Fiction Writing class at Closing Credits, I always start by telling students what to expect in the world of publishing. There’s not much point in writing a book if you don’t know what you’re going to do with it. Inevitably, we end up talking about agents, the gatekeepers of traditional publishing. Here are some tips I hand out.

Figure Out If You Really Need an Agent

I don’t mean “ go straight to the publishers.” They will throw your work in the trash. I mean, is your work better suited for self-release?

The example I always use is Chuck Tingle. There was always a market for weirdly-worded dinosaur erotica with badly-photoshopped covers and overt political commentary, but no agent was ever going to be able to sell that. The industry is focused on a handful of surefire moneymakers. It turns on a $100 bill, not a dime.

If your work is particularly weird or off the beaten path, you may be better off investing in yourself. Agents are for market-ready works.

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Even Without Book Bans, Publishing Has a YA Issue – Sunday May 21, 2023

Young Adult (YA) literature has found itself under attack from an increase in book banning and censorship. Right-wing groups like Moms for Liberty have set their sights on YA literature, and have succeeded in removing countless titles from school districts and local libraries. Some of the most common targets are books that address topics like abuse, racism, and LGBTQIA issues. Right-wing groups raise outrage by wrongfully classifying YA books as “pornography” to make them inaccessible to readers of all ages. However, book banning is only part of the genre’s continued fight for survival.

Those who oppose YA literature are definitely part of the problem, but those who support it may also be unintentionally harming it. So many adults are reading, publicly reviewing, and commenting on YA literature that YA books are now tailored to adults instead of teens. There’s also the issue of adult books mislabeled as YA literature, and vice versa. The problem isn’t that kids can’t read or handle any content deemed “adult.” It’s that adults and young readers are two completely separate markets, and the needs and interests of each ought to be evaluated separately. Additionally, price hikes in books make YA literature inaccessible to their target audience.

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The 'publishing less' conundrum – Thursday May 18, 2023

Yes, publishers are overstretched — but fewer books won’t really help.

Do we need to care for authors better, rethink staff workloads and pay more attention to each book? Yes. But the short answer to "can we publish less, but better?" is: not necessarily.

Most would agree we don’t want lists reduced, teams shrunk and only safe titles published. This wouldn’t be serving readers, writers, the industry or society. So what we need is a situation where authors are better communicated with, books are given more attention, and the changed nature of publishing roles is recognised.

As someone who has tried to do exactly that, from the luxury of a fresh start with a new company, it’s worth highlighting our aims and our realisations. 

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How to get published in a literary magazine: ‘Whatever excites you will excite us’ – Sunday May 14, 2023

Gemma Tipton offers a beginner’s guide to taking up a new cultural pursuit

If there was an Olympics for philosophical musings, Ireland’s Chat Team would surely win gold. Some get their deep thoughts down on paper, but how do you take the next step and get it in print? Lisa McInerney is editor of the Stinging Fly.

Aren’t literary magazines for people who write stuff that’s hard to read?

Absolutely not. Danielle McLaughlin says she credits the Stinging Fly with enabling her to be a writer today, “something that would once have seemed as remote a possibility as becoming an astronaut”, while Anne Enright says, when people ask her how to break into publishing, she tells them “try there first”.

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How to Use ChatGPT for Creative Writing: 6 Ways – Thursday May 11, 2023

ChatGPT has far-reaching uses for many writing tasks, including informative and academic essays, copywriting, social media posts, and much more. It’s also an excellent resource for playing with poetry, short stories, and even personal essays and memoirs. Here’s how to use ChatGPT as a tool to help energize your creative writing and even overcome writer's block.

1. Work With Poetic Forms

When you're studying poetry, it's easy to get a bit overwhelmed by the variety of different poetic forms. Because ChatGPT can generate a poem in just about any form, however, it’s a fun way to play around with common poetic types, and you can endlessly tweak the prompts to create different responses.

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What Teaching Shakespeare Taught Me About Writing Horror – Monday May 8, 2023

Titus Andronicus May Be Bloody, but the Scottish Play and Othello Are Psychological Horror Perfection

A desolate moor, haunted by incomprehensible supernatural beings. Chains rattling in a dark castle, ghosts prowling the ramparts. A grisly corpse, hands chopped off and tongue sliced out. For any horror-lovers, whether the Gothic classics or the contemporary greats, these tropes will ring familiar.

They come, of course, from Shakespeare.

In fact, after more than a decade of teaching his work, I’ve come to see Shakespeare—at least when he’s writing tragedies—as primarily a horror writer. He might perhaps be the most significant influence in the entire English language to the Gothic, and consequently the modern, horror tradition.

On the surface, no play epitomizes this more than his first tragedy, the grisly Titus Andronicus. It is the Saw franchise of Elizabethan theatre, filled with as much shock and gore as Shakespeare could possibly have packed into a single play. As well as a full complement of stabbings, hangings, and beheadings, the audience is treated to Aaron being buried up to his neck until he starves to death, seeing Lavinia’s hands removed and tongue cut out, watching on as Alarbus’s arms and legs are cut off and he is thrown into a fire, and finally, Shakespeare delivers the coup-de-grace as Chiron and Demetrius are baked into a pie and then fed to their mother. Let it not be said that gore is a new thing in popular entertainment.

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Asked to Delete References to Racism From Her Book, an Author Refused – Monday May 8, 2023

The case, involving Scholastic, led to an outcry among authors and became an example of how the culture wars behind a surge in book banning in schools has reached publishers.

It was the most personal story that Maggie Tokuda-Hall had ever written: the tale of how her grandparents met and fell in love at an incarceration camp in Idaho that held Japanese Americans during World War II.

The book, called “Love in the Library,” is aimed at six- to nine-year-olds. Published last year by a small children’s publisher, Candlewick Press, it drew glowing reviews, but sales were modest. So Tokuda-Hall was thrilled when Scholastic, a publishing giant that distributes books and resources in 90 percent of schools, said last month it wanted to license her book for use in classrooms.

When Tokuda-Hall read the details of the offer, she felt deflated — then outraged. Scholastic wanted her to delete references to racism in America from her author’s note, in which she addresses readers directly. The decision was wrenching, Tokuda-Hall said, but she turned Scholastic down and went public, describing her predicament in a blog post and a Twitter post that drew more than five million views.

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