Genre tips / writers / writing

#IWSG April–How are Things in a COVID-19 World?

This post is for Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers Support Group (click the link for details on what that means and how to join. You will also find a list of bloggers signed up to the challenge that are worth checking out. The first Wednesday of every month, we all post our thoughts, fears or words of encouragement for fellow writers.

This month’s question — how are things in your world?

I’m doing OK. I tend to be a loner so I don’t miss people yet. And I have a big yard to walk around in. I’m lucky but I worry about my kids. We can’t find a lot of meat in the stores. Dairy products are in short supply but seem to be coming back. And–let me whisper this–my roots are starting to show. But, I have a hat I’ll start wearing if things don’t sort themselves out! Come back and visit next week. I’ll have a nice article on “Tips for writing remotely”.

How are you doing?


This is also the first day of #AtoZ. The A to Z Challenge asks bloggers to post 26 articles on a themed topic. It’s supposed to be every day except Sundays during the month of April but last year, I found it way to busy and decided to post this year ‘about’ twice a month. Yes, it’ll take me a couple of years. Sigh. My topic, like the last two times I  participated, will be literary genres. a to z Today, I’m reposting all of my A genre posts but from here on, I’ll pick up where I am from my approach last year. I’m about up to O:

American Realism

Definition

Stories that depict contemporary social realities and the lives and everyday activities of ordinary people. 

Tips

  1. The setting should be early 20th Century America.
  2. The story should reflect city life and an American population that is more urban than rural.
  3. The plot should concern itself with the here and now.
  4. The redemption of the individual lays within the social world.
  5. It renders reality closely and in comprehensive detail, even at the expense of a well-made plot.
  6. The character is more important than action and plot.
  7. Complex ethical choices are often the subject.
  8. Class is important and American Realism has traditionally served the interests and aspirations of an insurgent middle class.
  9. The story avoids the sensational.
  10. Diction is natural vernacular, not heightened or poetic.

Popular Books

  1. A Modern Instance by William Howell
  2. The Ragged Dick by Horatio Alger
  3. Most novels by Mark Twain
  4. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  5. Summer by Edith Wharton
  6. Martin Eden by Jack London
  7. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

atoz-aAlternative History

Definition

Alternative history is a genre of fiction consisting of stories in which one or more historical events occur differently from reality

Tips

  1. As you write this epic drama, don’t forget the small, everyday details that bond readers to your character and story.
  2. Recognize that some historical developments are probably inevitable. Leave those alone.
  3. Remember to include historical factors that were important at the time, even if they aren’t important to your story.
  4. Pay attention to the one changed event, but also all the events that led up to it.
  5. Don’t mix urban legends with actual history.
  6. Let the story follow where the altered history will support it, not necessarily where you want it to go.
  7. Remember to tell a great story, not just how you altered history.
  8. Don’t overdo the detail on your alternate world, thinking it will fascinate the reader. Only provide what supports the story.
  9. Ask ‘What if?’ This is fundamental to alternative fiction.
  10. 90% of alternate history novels deal with ‘What if Hitler won?’  Avoid this if possible.

Popular Books

  • anything by Harry Turtledove
  • The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
  • The Alternation by Kingsley Amis
  • Farthing by Jo Walton
  • Transition by Iain M. Banks
  • Fatherland by Robert Harris
  • The Coming of the Quantum Cats by Frederik Pohl

atoz-a

Anthology

Definition

Anthology: a published collection of poems or other pieces of writing written by one writer or many.

Tips

  1. Tie all stories together with a theme.
  2. Make all the stories individually significant.
  3. Establish an overarching style for the grammar/spelling of all stories, especially if they are from multiple authors. Do you use British or American spelling? Do you spell out ‘million’? What rules for capitalization and hyphenation are followed?
  4. Set a word count for stories, say, 3000-5000. This helps with consistency for readers.
  5. Expect each contributing author to participate in the marketing efforts, to their friends and social media.
  6. Make the revenue expectations clear so authors don’t expect what is impossible.

Popular Books

Click for complete list of these 26 genres

Click for a complete list of all genres I’ve written about


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Against All Odds, Winter 2020. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

117 thoughts on “#IWSG April–How are Things in a COVID-19 World?

  1. Thank you Jacqui for these detailed descriptions of three genres. For American Realism, I would like to add American Pastoral, Philip Roth, though it is not set in a city. Love Alternate history, to read, very hard to pull off successfully, to write though.
    Wishing you an inspiring month. Take care, stay safe. Road trip A to Z blog-hop.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: #IWSG May–Rituals to Prepare for Writing | WordDreams...

  3. I’m doing okay here during the crisis. I work from home as a matter of course, so no big change there. My daughter is home from college and finishing her sophomore year online. My son works for a grocery-type store and is still going in to work, so that’s a little scary for me. I also worry about my elderly parents, but so far, so good. Have fun with A to Z!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is really good to hear, Lori. I am so happy, and everyone still working. That worries me as much as the illness–what do all the out-of-workers do?

      Like

  4. Interesting, I didn’t know some of these subgenres, Thank you. We are locked down too, under military enforcement, and trying to cope. Revising a series for Camp NaNo (Volume 2 for camp NaNo) because I can’t write much new things.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Military enforcement–yikes. I know of two areas in the world that aren’t locked down–Sweden (I think) and Singapore. America is shelter-in-place but no enforcement. Yet.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m doing okay too, Jacqui. As an introvert and a writer, self-isolation isn’t as hard for me as it is for some. I worry about my daughter who’s five months pregnant, but she’s been working from home for nearly a month, and is being cautious. And yes, my white roots are about an inch long now. This could be the beginning of a whole new change in my appearance 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • These days, being an introvert is a cure. We-all don’t feel the shelter-in-place stuff like others. I’m glad your daughter is staying healthy and still able to work from home. Mine is a critical job so still driving to work, though much faster!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Like you, Jacqui, I like my life quiet so the “lockdown” isn’t that obstructive. Nevertheless, I do have to remind myself sometimes that this is only temporary. I guess I don’t like my options being tampered with. I stopped coloring my hair several years ago so I don’t have to worry about roots. However, I’m better off wearing my hair short because it’s baby-fine. It’s getting way too long!

    That book, “The Plot Against America” looks good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t mind quiet at all but I do find I hug my husband more often. Nice to have that personal touch!

      I may soon be with you–on hair coloring.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Your roots are showing. Haha. I wear my hair short and I’m afraid I’ll be able to pull it into a ponytail before I can get an appointment with my hairdresser:)
    Stay safe. Stay healthy. Keep editing;) Looking forward to another wonderful prehistoric read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I braided mine the other day. Yeah, pretty long. Hope all goes well for you. As writers, it’s probably not as bad for us as others since we’re used to be more alone. But maybe not.

      Like

  8. Hi Jacqui!

    I’m happy to read you’re doing OK under these circumstances. I think writers will probably be among the least affected for two reasons: they are used to being alone and working from home and, because people are home and reading more, their sales might go up. 🙂

    Who knew there were soooo many literary genres. “Alternative history” reminds me of “alternative facts”. It’s either history (or facts) or it isn’t, no? Interesting topic for the A-Z. I totally forgot all about that challenge. I agree with you – it’s super busy to stick to the daily postings. I joined one year and that was enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m giggling. I responded to Sandy’s comment (above yours) with the same sentiment you just posted! Yep, I fair better than my gregarious friends. I just lose myself in my prehistoric world!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m glad you’re holding up okay, I’m considering DH’s clippers for my hair soon! lol
    We’re holding up well though there is a two week wait list for grocery delivery and I’m worried about my grandson (he’s T1D) and my mom, who isn’t in the best of health anyway.
    I can’t seem to focus and it’s affecting my writing-that needs to change soon as I’m up against a deadline.
    On the upside, I’m getting some enjoyable reading done (started Survival of the Fittest-so good!) and it’s spring in our garden 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am really struggling with my writing, too. I keep re-reading sections, and changing stuff I’m sure I already edited. Love that you love my book!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Your post made me giggle, Jacqui. I read a meme that said in three weeks time we’ll know what colour everyone’s hair is. Luckily, I went to the hairdresser a few weeks before the lockdown so I don’t need to go again for another 10 weeks or so.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I would like to introduce myself… My name is Michelle, but I prefer Chelle. I am engaged to my fiance Austin. I live in the U.S., but he is still in Nigeria. We are hoping to marry this year, but the #Covid19 virus is keeping us apart much longer. Immigration is no joke. I was unable to post on the first Wednesday of this month, as I was not technically a part of the group until today. I look forward to getting a chance at that next month. I hope everyone is being careful and #stayinghome.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Nice to meet you, Chelle. Welcome to #IWSG. We are a fun, lively group of writers. I bop over to see what you’ve written.

      Like

  12. I’m an introvert by nature, so I am not finding the at home part difficult. It’s harder for the Barbarians – trying to switch to online learning, uncertainty for their schooling over all, all their after-school activities stopping. The Hub is still working, every second week from home, so he’s doing okay.

    My writing is suffering however. With the Barbarians home every day and needing support to manage the online learning (which I’m sure will ease as they adapt and the teachers shake out the wrinkles) my time has suffered. Ah well, all for a good cause and hopefully it will get better!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’d forgotten all about the A to Z. I’m doing two poetry challenges and a chapter a week for my book. I suppose maybe I should oughta do it, but I’m not sure I’ve enough brain cells left to rub together! Stay well.
    ~cie the ornery old lady~

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Our local stores ran out of a lot of things when the panic buying first started. Now it’s much better. I’m still not sure what the heck all those people are going to do with all the bottled water they bought back then.

    P.S. I don’t mind not sitting in an office at work at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We bought one batch of bottled water and stuck in in our emergency supplies. I have a pool that I’ll turn to if I get desperate! Take care, Ken.

      Like

  15. I’m constantly worried about the future of the world and I miss spending time with our sons and their families, especially our young grandchildren. I’m in fear about where this virus might go and I frankly don’t care about things like the color of my hair – except I had a box of dye and colored it myself. But I can’t cut it myself and it looks terrible, and so what. People are sick and dying. I’ve taken closer stock about what’s really essential in my life, and it’s not me, it’s my kids and grands. This view tends to blow the chaff out of my brain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope everyone comes out of this with a new perspective on life and my beloved America. That would be something good, wouldn’t it?

      Like

  16. Much to the dismay of my sister-in-law hairdresser, I let my color go last year. Stills mostly brunette, but a lot of silver around my face now. I could use a trim, though. She’s begging her clients to forego any self-services, i.e., drugstore box color! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, there’s something comforting about that. Luckily I have an amazing husband who feels the same way. We struggle through, loving life together.

      Like

  17. Well, my roots not showing is one bright spot in this crazy experience because a year ago this month I quit using my Nice ‘n Easy–color-free for a year. So at least, I don’t have to worry about that problem!! I know what you mean though. Keeping up with the coloring made me anxious. Now, no anxiety. But you have no idea how many times, I almost caved and colored. Glad you are not missing the social activity too much. That’s what is difficult for me. Be well.
    JQ Rose

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Always learning something new from you, dear Jacqui. Amazed by the genres… Thanks! We’re planning to hibernate for the duration… Plenty to see, to do, and to catch up on here at the farmstead. Phone calls and Facetime can really make my day these days. Today I attended yoga class on Facebook with my Soaring Seniors group. We are so blessed to have the internet here–there are so many out there who do not have that luxury. We’re all in this together… Thanks for your support! 🙂 xo

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think the online exercise is pretty cool. My daughter loves her Peloton and their app is pretty cool. One of these days, I will try it. Do you like that approach?

      Liked by 1 person

    • Exercise is good for us–it’s one of those bare essentials! Our “Soaring Seniors” group is affiliated with Silver Sneakers (membership provided by many health insurance providers. As much as I love[d] going to our local Soaring Seniors sessions M-W-Fs, having access to the online videos is a a definite perk during hibernation. Stay safe and well, Jacqui! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t read that. Alternative history is often too dystopian for me. I like HEA sort of reads! Sigh. I might look it up on HBO, see if it sounds good.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. I’m sure I’ll be joining you in the roots department before too long. If only I looked good in hats…

    Glad to hear all is well in your world. Stay healthy. I hope your kids are okay.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think I particularly look good in hats but at this point, who cares! I liked your post on this question, also. Thoughtful.

      Like

  20. Hi, Jacqui! I’m glad you’re doing fine. My family and I are okay. I miss visiting my mom and siblings. We’re all staying home except for my brother and a few cousins who are in the medical field. I worry about them. I’m lucky to live on a golf course that looks like a park, and March and April are beautiful months in south Florida so I go for walks with my husband and doggie, Scribbles everyday. I do wear a hat and glasses when we go for our walks. 😉 Stay safe! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

      • It’s about time! He had ordered all non-essential businesses closed earlier, but he took too long to issue mandatory self-quarantine. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases and hospitalized COVID– 19 patients have been climbing fast here, but the number of deaths have been low compared to other states with lower number of infected. We have great hospitals and medical staff here. God bless them and keep them safe. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  21. I think it’s important that we continue to check up on and stay connected with the important people in our lives. I’d like to wake up and think, “Now that was one hell of an April Fool’s Joke!”

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m only doing 1- or so a week, about the same tempo I’ve been doing it for the last year. I actually enjoy the research.

      Here’s to the hat ladies!

      Like

  22. For American Realism I’d probably cheat a bit and do Little Women, and also Little House on the Prairie. I just repurchased The Long Winter, and I’ve been planning an epic one-day read of that one.

    And my roots are showing, too. : )

    Liked by 1 person

  23. The world has gone mad.
    I’ve decided to focus on what I can control… there’s enough doom and gloom out there.
    Stay safe, Jacqui!

    P.S. I hear you with regards to the hat… I’m only on day 6 of lock down, so we’ll see when the grey tufts peek through further down the line…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Here’s to us hat ladies! I also have some sort of a wrap I purchased decades ago and never wore. Who knew I’d now need it.

      Like

  24. We’re doing fine up here. I’ve been working from home since the 12th. Supplies have been hit and miss, and sometimes we’ve had to visit two different stores to get the fresh foods we wanted. Over all it could be worse.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I’m like you, Jacqui, in that I’m doing fine, but I worry about the kids. They’ll likely be fine, but since when do parents stop worrying about them? Great insights to the A genres. I’m amazed at the number of genres that you uncover. 🙂 Happy Writing and stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Glad your family and you are doing well. I color my own hair and was just thinking that I’d do that to cover the gray in the next day or two.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I’m wondering how many writers will put together a book about the virus during quarantine. The problem with that is, Dean Koontz wrote “The Eyes of Darkness” quite a while ago and he even mentioned Wuhan, China. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  28. The grocery store sells hair dye so I think I’ll be OK. MInd you now that summer is almost here, I’ll be wearing a hat too. Then again, who’s going to see us?? Hang in there. This too will pass. xo

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Good to know your okay. Maybe it’s time to let the hair go and do it’s own natural thing? (Gasp!) I’m going to enjoy reading about the different genres and learning about them. Including books will have me drooling… Stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. I’m pleased you’re doing okay, Jacqui. I hope you, and your family, stay that way. It’s not looking good over there at the moment. Being an introvert and having quite a bit of work to do at the moment means I’m happy at home (mostly) but I do miss seeing my family and am looking forward to spending time with them again. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Across the Sea from you, so too is my son. But very few illnesses. I think he said Okinawa had their first two.

      Stay safe over there, JM. South Korea is a bright light of hope for those of us here in America.

      Like

  31. Hi Jacqui – great that you’re continuing on with your Genres … take care and all the best to you and yours – things ok here … I have plenty to get sorted – my word til it’s done. Cheers HIlary

    Liked by 1 person

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