Monday, June 25, 2012

The Lost Importance of Bad Books

This is going to be a weird blog. At least some people will think so. If you've read the free workshop on my website, HOW TO ANALYZE THE BOOKS YOU READ, you know that I love bad books.


Heck yeah.

First off, what's bad to one person might not be bad to another. Taste is subjective. (To say the least.)

Second, before the days of indie publishing, even the worst book had been bought by an editor and that meant there was a reason she'd bought that book. I always believed if I could figure out the reason the editor bought the book, I'd also be figuring out one of the things she was "looking for" for her publisher or line.

For instance, decades ago, I read a book I considered dreadful. Though it was a romance, the hero and heroine were barely together. I thought, "Why the heck did this editor buy this book...or maybe why'd he or she publish it as a romance when it was barely a romance."

It was a real stumper until I went to a conference, back in the day when conferences were "the" place to get information, and an editor from this publisher said, "We are looking for angel books. Send us anything you have that has an angel in it." I thought...Bingo. The book I didn't believe was romancy enough had an angel. And apparently angels were selling.

Though it sounds unorthodox, if you're really trying to crack the code of what a publisher is looking for, take a look at the worst reviewed books for that publisher or line. Recognize that a review is just one person's taste. :) But then look for common denominators among those poorly reviewed books. Are they all baby stories? Funny books? Vampires? Dark. Family-oriented. Populated with secondary characters. Or maybe populated only by the hero and heroine?

Whatever the connection THAT'S what that publisher is looking for. Maybe because they see it as the next big thing? Maybe because that's what's selling for them now? Maybe because that was a specific editor's taste? Who knows? LOL Whatever the reason that's what they're buying.

I'm still a firm believer that a writer should never totally diss a bad book. Especially if it's been traditionally published. First, as I said, it may be a great book that you simply don't like -- in which case you can certainly learn from it. But, second, that book may hold the key to the "likes" or "must haves" or "want to sees" for that publisher or line.

Unless you're going indie, we're all trying to please an editor. Any crack in the code is a good one.

Happy Monday!


Monday, June 18, 2012

Knowing your story

So far this year I've taught four workshops. Two on conflict. One on revising. And now we're doing Journey Steps (a no-frills guide to plotting).

Doing these four back-to-back, I noticed that I consistently tell people to write a one-sentence or one-paragraph story summary.

Why do I torture people that way?

Because you need a guide. You might not need to know details but you need at least an idea of what kind of story you're writing, the external conflicts, the big picture, so that you start your story in the right place and the right way.

If you want to get a little more can then move onto a storyboard. I love storyboards because they help me to "see" my story.

That's actually what I did all last week. I plotted out my next book on a storyboard so I could see it at a glance. Of course, first I went to Staples and bought poster board and lots of colored markers...there's no reason a storyboard can't be fun. And in the end you have a very clear picture of your story. In living color if you choose!

Little tools like these seem to take up so much time that we think it's easier to just jump into the book and start writing...esp if you have a good idea for your first chapter.

But, trust me, having a one-line explnation of your story and  a storyboard can actually save you more time than you ever expend creating them.

Plus, playing with colored markers and post-it notes is fun. :)

No matter where you are in your story right now, consider doing a storyboard. Write out your journey steps (the purpose for each scene) on a post it and slap those babies on a piece of poster board by chapter. You'll be surprised how easy it will be to write from that point on...and how easily you'll see mistakes. :( We don't like mistakes, but once we find them, we fix them and then move on.

And, really, isn't that better than struggling! (Or rereading your entire manuscript every time you forget what came before.)

Happy Monday


Monday, June 11, 2012

Getting Back in the Groove

I spent last week in Virginia Beach with my family...three sisters and their families and a Whitman Sampler selection of in-laws. Not to mention, me, my husband and our son--who almost drowned, but that's another blog post.

I took an entire briefcase of work with the best of intentions of getting up before everyone and working. As it turned out, I wasn't the earliest riser and it was ... well, nice to have people to talk to over toast and coffee. (It can be very lonely to live with two adult males who believe grunting is morning conversation.)

After chatting every morning, I took a walk on the beach. I'd come back sweaty and since I was already in my suit, I'd swim. Then read, then play yatzee...well, you get the picture. Writing just didn't factor in. Except on Thursday when I had to write 2 pages or my head would have exploded.

So, here it is Monday. I'm not behind because I'd sent a proposal in the Friday before I left (LOL...sneaky, huh?). But I could have "written ahead" last week so now I'll be starting where I should have been last Monday. So I have a "behind the eight-ball" feeling.

So the first self-talk I did this morning was to remind myself of Rule #1...don't panic. So you took a off week or (or a day or even 2 weeks or a month)? This is life and sometimes life interferes. Frankly, I seriously needed a vacation. It probably did my writing mojo more good to get a break than to write when I was mentally exhausted. The same may be true for you. Sometimes you need to take a break. And sometimes life just plain won't give you time to write. Don't beat yourself up. Do not panic. Be grateful when the moment comes and you can sit down to write! Be grateful! Not grumpy. Or scared. Or panicky. Give yourself a break.

But...Rule #2...eventually you have to get back to it. And that might mean getting out a wet noodle and whipping yourself. You may indeed have to force yourself to sit in the chair and open a Word document. You may need to bribe yourself...Hey, I'll buy you an ice cream cone if you write five pages today.

But...Rule #3...don't lie to yourself. Do not give yourself the ice cream until AFTER you've written the five pages. But, also, don't tell yourself that "reading" somebody's book is writing. Email's not writing either. Neither is twitter or facebook.

Writing is writing. I count synopses. I count storyboards. I count outlines. I count real pages. I even count lists of twenty. Because they are all work that goes toward creating a story.

I do not count my ezine or even my writing workshops. They are writing of a sort but they are not work that gets me into a new fiction project/book.

Rule #4...just think how good you'll feel after you've accomplished a new outline, five pages, a synopsis. Seriously, when you sit at your computer, close your eyes, pretend you're, don't pretend. Actually imagine what it will feel like when you are done. Feel the rush. Feel the relief. Feel the pride. Then think of what it would be like if you'd written ten pages or twenty...Let yourself experience the rush of happiness, confidence, success...then open your eyes and start typing! LOL

I'm about to get going myself. So maybe if I say one-two-three start, we can all begin this glorious Monday morning together?

Happy Monday!


Monday, June 4, 2012

Was ... Little Word Big Problem

I know. I know. We all use was. I use was. But lately it's been jumping out at me when I'm reading. Especially when I'm reading descriptions. Was might as well be wearing bells and flashing red lights that's how much it stands out when I'm reading.

Same deal with felt.

Same deal with thought.

I'm driving myself nuts in my own writing trying to keep them out because they screw up deep point of view. And I love deep point of view. I love writing with deep point of view if only because, let's face it, it takes fewer words to say, "Heat shimmied through her" than "She felt heat shimmy through her." But when reading, deep point of view literally makes you the characters.

And as a reader I just love that.

I don't think anybody should be shot for using was or felt or thought or decided...because then I'd have to be shot because I'm sure they still sneak into my work. And there are times when was is the only word you can use! There are times when thought or felt or decided also are necessary.

But those of you who began writing after Deep Point of View became popular are lucky.

Anyway, that's it for today.

Just a little something to think about.