Lessons from My Reading

M. K. Theodoratus, Fantasy Writer, blogs about the books she reads--mostly fantasy and mystery authors whose books catch her eye and keep her interest. Nothing so formal as a book review, just chats about what she liked. Theodoratus also mutters about her own writing progress or ... lack of it.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

To Market to Market -- All to Sell a Fine Book

I commented on a recent blog about always running out of social media time to actively participate at Goodreads. 

Then, on LinkedIn I ran into a The Business of Books blog on How to Use Your Goodreads account to build your author platform.
 -- Nothing like rubbing my nose in my marketing failings. The blog had me thinking I should make a bigger effort to include the site in my routine. 
-- Which I find amusing since I've been cutting back on my Twitter time.
-- Does anyone have any great suggestions? I'll retweet them if you do and give me your Twitter link.

Of course, to get a review to sell your book you need to get someone to buy your book, hopefully in great numbers. Found this blog by Brian Feinblum at BookMarketingBuzzBlog on what triggers book sales. He makes some good points that almost reduced me to despair. I'm almost immune to sales pitches, ie: I don't have any easy triggers ... other than maybe a host of favorite authors.

Feinblum's blog also sneaks in one very crucial ingredient to the marketing blend -- the importance of a log line. If you can't state your book/story's purpose in one or two succinct, intriguing sentences, you're going to have problems with selling your book. This applies to both agents and readers. -- Now you see where the despair might come in ... if I really cared ... though selling a bunch of "books" would be nice on several levels.

Then, there's the bain of my existence ... marketing.  Ugh. Aaargh. Cuss words. Now that my temper tantrum's over, I found a very interesting link to a list of the "Ten Money Saving Resources for Every Author" posted by Self-publishing Resources, I think. I immediately jumped to the link on publicizing your website. Found my not collecting email addresses was a greater sin than I thought. -- Whatever, there's some good points here even if you don't use the services listed. Like a timeline of when you should use the various techniques.

The above commented upon, I need to make a pitch for LinkedIn. I find I'm spending a lot more time there ... reading primary postings. There's some wonderful information lurking in their forums if you don't get caught up in the chattiness of it all ... which I don't because I'm not necessarily wanting a gajillion likes-followers-connections-etc.

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Then, there's my writing ... where I all too often hang my head in shame as people talking about their 1000+ word goals. I feel good when I get 250 new words added in a day ... though I really try for 500 words a day. ... Sometimes, I even make it.

Did suffer one set back.

My Hag Stone Magic MG story was going well ... until my  critique group savaged me. [Not really, but we're a tough group with long red pencils. Definitely not for the faint hearted.] Anyway my story line was mostly telling and had all sorts of verb problems. Good points all ... but it was a rough draft in the attempt to get a novel off the ground.

Even I could see the back story was overwhelming the story flow without them telling me. Solution: Write a prequel type book. Am doing that now and the world building is much easier and not so overwhelming for the reader, I hope. Result: I have seven chapters written of the middle book in a trilogy.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thinking Good Writing's a Blending of Craft Skills

Lot's of people who talk to me think revising is the number #1 writing tip. I don't think so. That's a little like having a donkey push the cart. Yeah, writers need to finish writing something first to revise, but that isn't all. Writing is a blend of craft skills that takes practice and more practice. Yeah, I think writers are jugglers ... that's why we drop so many balls when we first start creating.

Oh, I think revising is the linch-pin of getting your writing published. You gotta get the words in some semblance of order, but once you have the story line down, you need to create images in your reader's mind and a hundred other different things.

That's where revising comes in. Writer's Digest, that helpful trade journal, posted a guest blog by Brian Kelms on tightening the screws on your readers in the first 50 pages of your work. This is important, because agents seldom read more than 50 pages in their first reaction to your query. More important, the excerpts given online aren't that long either. You've got to hook your reader early ... and show your competence.

Another thing. You have to carve out the time out of your life to write and revise. I struggle with this as much as most other writers. Then, I came across a tweet on how you only need to blog once a week on Twitter. Music to mine ears. Mohana Rajakumor's blog on Pro-blogger is a must read if you want to make a big splash in the blogging sphere. For most of us, writing and worrying about writing one blog a week gives us more time to work on our current manuscript.

Me? I think I was looking at the once a week excuse, but I think blogging too much can rob your creative juices unless you are mainly reporting on happenings.

So, how are my writing craft skills going? I'm having a hard time hitting my target of adding to Hag Stone Magic [500 words] this morning. If you also have a similar problem of meeting your priorities, check out Kristen Lamb's blog on Setting Priorities. It's about how social media overwhelms you. 

Hey it's only the 31st of January and I think I have my first blog for February almost done. *smiles*.

Haitus

Yeah ... It's the middle of February ... Ash Wednesday to be exact, if you follow such stuff. Still, it's a good time to reflect on how insignificant we are in the scheme of things. 

Still, the above advice is still pertinent, and I'd like to add another tip of my own. If you read this blog even semi-regularly, you've read me complaining that I'm a slooooow writer. Was it the dreaded writer's block. No. My mind was building a growing chapter outline. [very loosely structured]. But after a running start of over 500 words a day ... word production slowed down more and more as new questions rose about Mac's world.

Why? I kept have to explain things plus adding the notations in the "bible". Yeah, the dreaded clumps of back story kept clogging up  the flow of the story line. The solution didn't pop into my mind until I explained why magic existed in my post-apocalyptic world to my critique group. I was trying to write book two first. So, Hag Stone Magic has been relegated to a file of it's own. I'm still world-building but it's from the boonies-point-of-view rather than an administrative center. -- Did I just steal that from Suzanne Collins?

My tip? If you're suffering from "writer's block", maybe you aren't starting your story in the right place.

Oh, Dean K. Miller, a fellow Northern Colorado Writer, did a blog featuring my author website. Why don't you click the link and see what he has to say.
Author Kay Theodoratus

And, it's Valentine's Day.
I should proof read this again, but you're getting this typos and all.
It's been festering in my computer too long.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Romancing the Supernatural ... or How to Lure a Non-Romance Reader to Your Romance

Okay. I don't have a romantic bone in my body. This doesn't mean my characters don't sometimes get the hots for each other ... or that I haven't written what I consider a tender love scene. I just don't get all gushy and panting about other peoples' doings.

So, imagine my surprise when I realized I've read several Harlequin romances in the last six weeks or so, all of them written by Heather Graham -- The Presence, Phantom Evil, The Uninvited, and The Unholy

Read them without looking at the publisher. Graham almost added insult to my ego by being published by Harlequin. You know ... the publisher who prints tons of books with the plot density of a Barbara Cartland romance that used book stores are reluctant to trade. 

[Yes, I know many romance readers still love Cartland's novels, and she was one of the most prolific writers in history ... etc. But remember. I'm not a romance reader ... and have less interest in adolescent sighings. When I was a teen, I thought the girls who went all gushy were silly.]

I love that Graham hit the stereotype out the field. Even Harlequin doesn't follow the formula of simply girl/boy meets boy/girl ... girl/boy loses boy/girl ... girl/boy gets boy/girl ... any more. [Yeah, I know it can be boy meets boy and girl meets girl, now days ... but romance is romance even with a daub of erotica.] 

At the same time, the meets-loses-secures formula follows the basic three-act screenplay, book, and movie story-telling paradigm. What makes your story different is how you embellish the structure. That what makes a story stick in people's minds. The characters, the scenery, the twists, the action, the tension, and a host of other details make or break a book.

I'll even to give you the secret as to why I read the 'romances' up front. Graham mixes her genres up by using a romance as the linchpin holding a paranormal thriller/mystery together. A whole lot of authors do this. Kay Hooper, with her Bishop novels, adds a dose of supernatural with such a liberal hand you can't miss it. Sharyn McCrumb's mysteries take a subtler approach by adding the supernatural with her Nora Bonesteel character as a go between. 

I'm sure you can come up with hundreds of examples with this prompt ... so I don't have to go plowing through the mess on my bookshelves to find examples.

So how does Graham do it besides writing a good mystery with enough twists to keep a reader reading?  Sometimes the supernatural is front and center as the evil impetus to murder. Other books, the supernatural elements are auxiliary help in solving the mystery. In all cases:
  1. The Leading men ... is attractive, but more important, is knowledgeable with information that can help the MC master her new psychic/supernatural skills ... plus being good in bed.
  2. The villains possess just enough supernatural mojo, however acquired, to keep the good guys hopping as they process the clues to solve the who-dun-it.  
  3. Her Main Characters, female, usually have one psychic power which they acknowledge or makes them uneasy when it's pointed out to them. Coping with the "skill" [?] and learning how to use it is one of the subplots which adds depth to the characters.
  4. The secondary characters stand out as individuals 
It's embarrassing. But yes I have to admit I'll probably be buying and reading more Heather Graham books. She gets the right mix of supernatural and mystery to tickle my fancy.

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Need a chuckle? Must share a link I discovered on Twitter on the Behler Blog: When Ms. Inner Editor Goes to Sleep, So Must You. Behler Publications seems to publish writer's books [I didn't spend much time there after I read the blog.] and they're writing about non-fiction. If you send them fiction, the beagle will eat it.

Maybe the beagle ate the submissions I have pending to agents and publishers. Not that it bothers me that much. I rather write. [Yes, the world of Hag Stone Magic is developing quite nicely. Now I have to exhibit the craft skills to make MacKenzie come alive in the mind of the reader ... though I'll probably wait until the revisions to worry about that. First the characters have to do something.]