I use this page to discuss some more 'in-depth' aspects of writing. Though I doubt I will be bringing anything to the forefront that most of you do not already know. Nonetheless, I rather think of this as a place to just hang my hat, chat and let my hair down. Consider this page this way...
I come in the room with you, sigh and plop in a comfy chair. We both have a tall *pick your drink* in our hands and just start up a chat. Maybe it's been a bitch of a day, the novel hit a snag and neither of us are in a particularly great mood, but what the hell...we have each other's company.
Does that help? Good.
Now, let's chat and have some fun. I have had books published, maybe you a hell of a lot more than me, and maybe not. Whatever...I am not into score-keeping, but I am into sharing knowledge. So feel free to E-mail me and share yours but be forewarned...I may very well post it. 🙂
Dealing With Interviews (A top five list)
I suppose there are hundreds, if not thousands of folks out there that can give some bang-up advice on how to get an interview for your book, how to respond, how to answer, but here are some basics I would love to cover. First off, HOW to get an interview.
1- So, you've written a book
Congratulations! Okay, so let's assume you've managed to get the sucker published. That is no small feat in today's market. While the advent of the internet has opened a lot of doors, it has also streamlined the process and watered it down as well. Meaning that is doesn't take as much in the bucks department to make a book.
Back in the day, while there were thousands of writers, only a few were tasked to a contract. This meant a bunch of up-front money from the publishing house. They had to have faith (not much different now) that your book was going to sell and sell well. However, unlike the 'Golden Age', they did not have eBook, Kindle and Nook to rely on for electronic sales. All those puppies were hard and soft copies, baby.
So promotion was much heavier, pre-orders to get them in the stores and if you ever bitched about being on a book tour for a week, learn from your elders. Those guys and gals would be on the road as much as Aerosmith promoting a new album...we're talking months.
One of the most disheartening factors the newly published author feels nowadays, is just getting lost in the crack, so to speak. I have seen this thousands of times and feel their pain. At first, all excited to get a book published, telling every avenue available about it, gabbing about the book to anyone who is not in a coma (and even then...hell, one never knows), and then slowly deflating over time as we anxiously check our sales. Months of promoting...four books sold. I feel ya, dawg.
But this doesn't have to be. Promotion of our novels used to fall heavily on the shoulders of our publishers and agents. Wanna know why? Because they KNEW those authors were block-busters. Stephen King and J.R.R. Tolkien would not have the sales they do if not.
2- So, you think you're the next Stephen King or V.C. Andrews, eh?
One of my greatest enjoyments in my youth was simply reading a book. There was something almost magical about how it could take me away to far off lands, or distant places that I never visited and often never could, as they were set in the surreal world of the imagination. Even though I was not much into Science Fiction as a reader, I remember one of the best quotes ever said about the genre and it stuck. Author Cory Doctorow wrote, "A good Sci-Fi writer could predict the automobile...a great Sci-Fi writer predicted the traffic jam."
That taught me a valuable lesson, as an aspiring writer. I had to get up on my toes, hell....even climb the walls of imagination to see what the possibilities were. It was and never has been enough to just 'stand up'. Being lazy in a book is akin to murder of your story. Rushing the end, cutting corners to make certain ends come together; they all come to the same thing. You took a shortcut.
Unfortunately, and this is where my point comes in, there are so many ways to getting a book published now that as I stated above, the craft has been 'watered down' by severe mediocre or even bad books. This is the sludge-pile many critics and reviewers have to slog through to find a gem. You, my friend, may have written the next, Catcher In The Rye but if it's number one thousand on the pile on someone's desk...chances are, it will never get read. SO, oh great writer...
3- Getting Your Book Read And Reviewed
This is my first line of advice to getting that all-important review.
TREAT YOUR CONTACT LIKE YOU WOULD A PUBLISHER
Yup. I even put that in caps to drive the point home. Simply because you are published doesn't mean the world is going to fall at your royal feet now. Keep in mind some of those awesome and heart-wrenching figures I tossed to you upstairs. MOST books that are published, fade faster than the band, 'A Flock Of Seagulls'...so unless you're willing to get some horrible plastic surgery, chances are you will fade like the wind.
Treat your request for a critique or interview with as much love and attention as you would give a query letter. It should be professional, to the point, exciting and hook the potential reviewer while being humble...and I DO mean humble. One week after publishing my novel Farm House, I had seven interviews...SEVEN. I didn't accomplish this because Farm House blew them away...this happened because I was respectful, genuine and thanked all the contacts for their time. And there were over 250, kids. Especially for those that granted those interviews and critiques...Horror-Web.com, Amazon, GoodReads.com, the local paper, hell...the Writers Guild for even considering. This list also included friends, family...name them; they all got a personal thank you from me.
Believe me, if you want to go back to a job where you're required to ask, "You want fries with that?" piss off a popular reviewer...trust me on that one. These guys talk to each other.
4- Take The Good With The Bad
I am lucky, but have learned from others on what NOT to do on this one, which is responding negatively to a bad review. Hey...I wrote a horror fiction novel, a thriller, a suspense with fellow author Laura Ranger plus a campy horror novella. Not everyone is going to like them.
What would be great is to see a reviewer who does not like the genre simply pass it up or if they do read it, be objective on my style, prose and writing ability. However, if God gave frogs wings, they wouldn't bump their asses hopping...shrugs.
So, if your books get the crinkled-nose bad review or whatever, don't retaliate. I know our books are our babies, but if every time our kids came home with a bloody nose, you were to beat up the kid that did this to your little darling...we'll, see you on the next episode of COPS, right?
Be adult, be professional and remember above all else that EVERY review is exposure. They're not all going to be great. I understand if you are miffed if someone reviews your work as interesting as the ingredients on the back of a cereal box, but never go nuclear. Here is your chance to take the higher road...thank them for the candid review and move along. I will bold this next statement as it is that important. NEVER BURN BRIDGES
Editors are going to clink glasses with me on this subject, I believe.
When you send your book in for possible publication, one would assume you have scoured over it with a fine-tooth, meticulous comb for such simplistic mistakes as spelling errors and syntax. I am not even speaking of grammatical errors or prose. Mistakes are going to happen. God knows I have had books literally torn apart for such. You who have been published know where I'm coming from. I'm talking about a writer who sends a novel in for consideration that is such a mess, it is dismissed after two paragraphs even though it could be the most fantastic story ever written.
Bottom line, editors are there to assist in making your book shine like a new penny...not to rewrite your book for you. If you don't take the time, (and it takes time...I write a book for five months then spend another five months editing) to make it the smoothest read possible, you will not be taken seriously, but as incompetent.
You need to love your book. Spend time with it and polish it as lovingly as you would the most precious artifact you have ever owned. Why? Because you DO own it. That is your name on the cover, cupcake...not the editors. Respect the editor, as they will make your work look much better, but if the core of your story is lost because the manuscript is vague, even in the smallest way, then YOU failed, not them.
A top ten list of DO's and DON'TS when writing.
I wrote down what I felt keeps me sane and motivated to write. If there's anything useful for you in there, so much the better.
MY PERSONAL LIST OF DO'S AND DON'TS ON WRITING:
1- DO write everyday. You can go back and edit crappy work. You can't edit no work.
2. DO remember that if your writing is boring to you, it will probably be boring to the reader as well.
3. DO be honest when you critique your work. 'Good enough' is a good euphemism for 'this sucks.'
4. DO read. Read a lot. Read everything. Read every genre. If it's in English and you didn't write it, chances are you will learn something from it.
5. DO be involved with your stories and love your characters, even the hated ones. The moment you don't care about them or give them attention, neither will anyone else.
6. DO support your fellow authors. In all of history, not one successful person has 'made it on their own', but surrounded themselves with like-minded people.
7. DO be kind to your editors. They are not there to destroy your novel, but help you make it better.
8. DO your research! Even in a fiction novel, nothing will punch through the fabric of believability faster than being too lazy to learn about what you don't know about. Others will know it though, believe that.
9. DO finish what you start. As people, we become habitual by repetition. Quitting once can easily turn into quitting most of the time and never finishing a manuscript. Finishing it, even if it sucks eggs and will never see the light of day, teaches us we CAN do it...and will get better at it.
10. DO be patient and steadfast.
1. DON'T ignore critique. Both the good and the bad are equal gifts that tell you someone took the time to let you know their thoughts.
2. DON'T write from your mind all the time, as no one else knows what you are thinking and can make for a confusing story. Write from your heart as well.
3. DON'T 'over-explain' every scene, person, situation and backdrop. Let the reader use their imagination as well. As artists we paint with words, so best to keep it abstract at times so the reader is also a participant.
4. DON'T rush words to get to a conclusion...ever. Writing is mechanical; learn how to slow the reader down when needed and speed them up when the story calls for it. It is not a matter of word-count, but word-usage.
5. DON'T send your work to a potential publisher or agent until you have shined up your manuscript to a mirror gloss. Remember this: If you don't by now hate the f****** thing, you probably haven't re-read and edited it enough.
6. DON'T be unrealistic about being successful. If every writer turned into a zombie overnight, we would be quite a formidable force to be reckoned with. Finishing a manuscript and even selling it is the first of many, many more steps.
7. DON'T compromise your work on the basis of a word count. Stories should tell themselves; you are along for the ride recording what you see. When it ends, it ends.
8. DON'T share an unfinished manuscript to anyone except very close friends or family. Eighty percent of the time, you will change many things as you edit and will confuse people with preemie work.
9. DON'T be argumentative with your editor. With a good rapport they may actually give in on some of their mad ideas.
10. DON'T let anyone tell you that you are not good enough. No one is until they get better.
Writing The Synopsis vs. The Teaser
I've explained the difference of this before to aspiring authors, and usually get a surprised look and scratching of the head.
"There is a difference?"
Here it is in the most raw form:
Synopsis - A brief summery of your novel that touches on the key elements, characters, situation, and culminates with a logical conclusion of the story.
Teaser - Written descriptive created to entice the potential reader, by eliciting emotional contact with the subject matter within a few paragraphs, without over-explaining or remaining too abstract.
When a potential Publishing House or agent asks you for a synopsis along with their other requirements, (first three pages, first couple of chapters, so on) they are asking first for the descriptor. It's important to note the difference. While the synopsis shouldn't, by any means, be stale or bullet-pointed, it also shouldn't be as potentially flowery or vague as the teaser. These guys want the nuts and bolts of the story. You will be asked to write the teaser later when it's accepted.
Look at it this way... The synopsis of a Big Mac could be written like this: Two 1/8 pound all-beef patties with our signature sauce, served on a lightly seasoned bun of sesame with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles. The hold time for this product is ten minutes.
The teaser is what you hear on the commercial, or basically: "Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun."
Yum, right? (but we all see the squashed mess we get when purchasing one...lol)
The publisher and/or agent needs the synopsis to be descriptive. This is what they will use to help judge if your book is marketable for their needs. I know it's sometimes hard to think all your hard work and passion has been reduced to such a technical position, but that's just the facts, my friend. Don't get me wrong, it shouldn't be cold...but it DOES need to be laid out plainly for the potential marketer, THEN sprinkled with fairy dust and moon beams for the back-flap teaser.
Both the synopsis and teaser are equally a bitch for most writers to write. Condensing fifty, eighty or a hundred thousand-plus words into three or five paragraphs ain't easy. As I mentioned to another writer, "It feels like you're trying to open a gift from the inside out and not rip the paper."
But you can do it. Many before you have!
Top Ten List Of The Most HUMOROUS/WORST/RIDICULOUS Advice I Have Been Given On Writing
One thing is for sure. Once you tell someone you're writing a book, boy oh boy do they come out of the woodwork to offer you sage advice.
I'm not talking about fellow writers now...I am talking about everyone from your bartender to Aunt Molly. Everyone becomes an expert faster than Neo learned Kung Fu in 'The Matrix'. Here are some of my favorites that I avoided for obvious reasons:
10 - You should write about your life
I've heard that a lot. Curiously, from people who have known me for a large part of my life. I think it would have been kinder to say, "Here's a knife...now go repeatedly stab everyone with boredom." My personal life has been about as interesting (with a few exceptions) as watching water come to a boil. So that would be a no.
9 - You should write about what happened to the characters in (insert a popular book title here)
Aaaaannnd, for my first trick, I will be plagiarizing another author! Thank you! Thank you!
8 - Make sure to let me see it first so I can tell you what I think
Okay, I don't mind sharing bits and pieces or ideas of a manuscript to very close loved ones or friends, but I only show un-published, completed work to a very, very select few for feedback. 99% of those are fellow authors and editors. I write horror and thrillers, Aunt Molly...your bookshelf is full of Danielle Steel and Nora Roberts. I doubt you will like it much...
7 - Write about vampires! Everyone loves a book about vampires! Or zombies!
Okay...one, I suck at writing about vampires and zombies. Beyond that self-revelation, everyone loves pizza too. Not withstanding the fact that my home-made pizza sucks worse than my ability to write about the undead eating brains (and they probably taste the same), there is such a thing as an over-saturated market.
6 - I can get you in touch with a friend of a friend who knows this guy who is a lawyer of a friend who is a lawyer who can give you advice on selling your book
Thanks, but lawyers don't sell books, authors sell books. It's a long process that starts with even being noticed by a publishing house. They usually have lawyers too, and I'm willing to bet any snot-nosed, unheard of writer who tosses the word, 'lawyer' in their direction will have their query letter not only pitched, but probably burned outside as well.
5 - You need to make sure they give you 5,000,000 copies of your book for book-signing tours and promotion! (Along with my first check for a cool million, I suppose)
Unbeknownst to many, we authors don't get unlimited free copies. We're lucky to pull one out of our publisher. They can be tighter than Madonna's face-lift. Even digital copies are set at a limit of how many we can just give away. (Believe me, I read the contract I signed in blood.) More often than not we get a nice discount on our books.
4 - Let me read your contract over
This was asked of me from a friend who was an assistant manager for Denny's. I am not sure of that particular restaurants training policy, but if it includes navigating the legal points of a 5-year contractual agreement in-between learning how to cook a pancake and count the change drawer down from a hundred bucks, I should apply there.
3 - If your book is too long, no one will read it
That's pretty much telling me that if my book sucks eggs, it will be more palatable in a smaller dose; perhaps likened to caster oil medication verses a cold pop-tart laced with Tylenol, or a tetanus shot as opposed to a round of rabies injections...
2 - If your book is too short, no one will take you seriously
Now just wait a damn moment... (looks at advice #3)
1 - Don't take less than ten thousand dollars for your book
If they knew what we have to go through to even have a publisher or agent even LOOK at our book, they might change that to, "Don't offer your first-born right away...you might look desperate."
Some advice for any who want to take on POV writing:
There are four kinds. Yea, I said it...four. Not three. There is first person, story-telling first person, second person which hovers close to first-person story-telling and third person.
Here is an example of first person:
"I stood in the corridor, unsure of myself, looking confused."
It works...now the story-telling first person. I am inclined to go with this, as it reflects the character relating the story:
"I was standing in the corridor, unsure of myself as confusion took control."
The reason I prefer this is, often when in first POV I feel the 'writer' was standing in the corridor and looking confused, if that makes sense. I love it when the 'character' tells the story...not the writer.
Second is POV from another character's view:
"He watched her as she stood in the corridor. The look on her face was one of confusion."
This is character interaction. Very, very useful when you want to draw your readers into their emotional contact.
Third person is almost narration. Every book (novel) should have this to explain scenery, situation and backdrop. As in:
"They stood together in the corridor; he watching her as her confusion grew."
It's tricky, but you guys are smart. 😉