Monday, October 23, 2017

Why Deadlines Matter

For new authors, having deadlines is simply not an issue. You write your story when you want to and when the mood inspires you. Sure, you set for yourself smaller goals, but if you don't make it, there is no harm. However, if you are someone wishing to write professionally, or you have made that leap, then deadlines CANNOT be taken lightly. Those dates are there for a reason.

I fully understand that some authors think missing that deadline by a week is not that major of an issue. You know your book is not to be out for another 6 months so why worry? The issue here, is that those authors are only thinking about their own lives. They are not realizing that there are other people involved.

Let's start with some basics.

Although your book might not come out for a year, it has to be put into a release schedule along with all of the other authors that publisher works with. This also means that your editor is not just working with you, but also working with a lot of other authors. Your editor has to read, edit, and write up all of those revision notes for you so that you can get things done. Remember there is only so much time in the day to get this work done.

Now, we add to the fact that your work also has to get to copy editors, the art department, the business department and potentially other editors for review. This now impacts a lot of other individuals.

Your editor is blocking out their calendar to work on your work. If you miss that deadline they cannot simply go to work on another author's work, unless that author is ahead of schedule. Sure, they might like to get to that work, but that is not always the case.

Those publishers are working hard to position your book for the best release time. This might be having books coming out in a series of consecutive months, or even situations such as Christmas releases for those themed books. Miss that deadline, you will be looking at a release date that might be 2 years away now.

I just want you to really think about the people around you. Miss that deadline, you are putting pressure on others. Miss that deadline, you are hurting your own career in an already competitive industry.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Write What You Know, Not What Is Hot

I think a lot of writers really get hung up on trying to write in genres that are the current hot trend out there. The problem with this approach is that, due to a lack of real understanding of that new genre, the writing often ends up failing, the author has wasted valuable time, and, worse yet, the writer now feels discouraged.

I do understand there is a value in trying different genres. For new authors, this is also a great time to discover his or her true calling. However, when an author does find that niche, the author needs to stick with it and learn to grow into the genre. Jumping around after the first failure, or when the author hears of a new genre is not going to work.

In a lot of ways, I see this much like many of today's parents approach getting their kids involved with activities. A new chance shows up and the parents pull the kids from one activity to get them exposed to something new. Although the intent is good, the kids just do not get a chance to get good to really succeed.

For some of you out there, your real talent might be in a genre you really didn't want to write, or maybe you didn't like when you first started. You might have had other plans. At this point, you really have two options. The first is to write in the genre you are supposed to be writing in. Learn it well. Dissect other authors in that genre and really succeed. This is the faster option.

The second option is to jump into the new genre. Understand that you are now starting at ground zero. It will be similar to you as a 100% novice writer trying to learn the craft. Expect that you will hit a lot of failures along the way. Expect that you will be looking at, most likely, double the amount of time before you are ready to make the move.

It is a tough decision, but one I think many authors really need to think about.

Monday, October 16, 2017

What it means to "Raise The Stakes" for your characters

The concept of raising the stakes relates to the idea of conflict in the story. It is a relatively easy concept to understand, but when writing, adding this element can often be difficult.

When we think of the conflict in the story between your hero and heroine, we are talking about the thing that is keeping the two of them apart from that wonderful happily every after (yes, I am talking about romance writing here in case you didn't figure that one out). As an agent, this is something I really look for in the story.

It is important to understand that the conflict cannot simply be a miscommunication issue. This would be considered a complication. If you think of most sit-coms on TV, the problem in that 30 minute episode is generally considered a complication. This would be when one character overhears a part of a conversation and assumes they know the full story. In this case, it is a complication because the solution comes down to simply getting the full story. A conflict, however, needs to have something more than a quick conversation to solve.

Now, we get to the tough part - how to "raise the stakes."

What we are talking about here is what the characters stand to lose. If the two characters are meant to be together and there is nothing really big getting in the way, then the stakes are too low. Let's use a Regency romance for example. Let's say that a son of a lord is expected to find a good girl and get married. He finds someone he likes but she is not of the same social class. If this is the only issue, then the stakes are pretty low. Now, let's add to this. The girl comes from a family that may have once had power in the Ton, but due to an indiscretion from her father or uncle, they have been made outcasts. Now, someone dating her would also be drawn into that scandal. The stakes have just been raised. Add to this more that the son's dad is determine to make a statement of this and will disinherit him unless he marries someone the dad chooses. Now the stakes are up there!

If he decides to proceed with the relationship with the girl, he could lose family, name and money.

Does this make sense?

It is important to remember that we don't want to add a ton of extra back story and plot twists to the story. That will simply overly complicate things. Stick to what you have in the skeleton of the story and you build with that.

It is also important to remember to not make the situation impossible to fix, or something that only an act of God can fix. Keep it to something that the characters can resolve with a little critical thinking skills.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Reviewers May Hate Your Book - Suck It Up!

Look, I will begin by simply saying that a bad review sucks! You worked your butt off on that story and darn it, someone tanked the story on a review. But here is the thing. That is going to happen.

We are in a subjective business. Publishing is a world of people liking things and hating things simply on gut instinct. And you cannot say this is something that should change. Everyone does this. Do you, as a reader, like EVERY book you read and only give it favorable reviews? Do you even have some of your favorite authors who have written books that have left you questioning their ability? Sure!

Maybe this expectation of amazing reviews comes from our present society that rewards everyone for everything they do. Schools make sure EVERY kid gets an award. Even some sports have eliminated the concept of 1st, 2nd and 3rd so we don't hurt little Billy's feelings. I don't know. The reality is that there may be times when your story gets a bad review...so suck it up!

I heard an author lately complaining about a bad review. Instead of looking to the comments the person made about the books, the shift was immediately shifted to other reasons and ideas:
  • The reviewer was a complete idiot.
  • "You know, that entire website doing reviews only likes a particular genre.
  • I am sure the person didn't read the entire book.
  • What is this person thinking? All my Beta readers loved the book
But consider this. Maybe, just maybe the reviewer wasn't a complete idiot and your beta readers don't know their butt from a hot rock. Maybe, just maybe, someone finally had the nerve to tell you the story was not good.

In other words, your book really may suck!

Maybe the reason all of those editors and agents were passing on your book really did come down to the quality and they were trying to save your feelings and not telling you the truth?

The point is, if you get a bad review, own it! Learn from it! Grow! You might find the next time you write a book, that good review will come your way!