Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Neglect Not the Reader

It's rare that I'm not reading something. The book-that-shall-not-be-named claiming space on my bedside table is well-written, has an interesting premise, and features easy-to-connect-with characters. But since the first few chapters, I couldn't help thinking, How many pages until the end?
Issue 1: Book Blurb 
I'm an impatient reader. When I'm halfway through and the enticing events in the book blurb haven't come to pass, I think, What's that all about? That blurb is a promise to readers, a morsel of what's coming. When it takes over half the book to deliver on that promise, either the book blurb needs to be tweaked or the first 100 pages need to be lopped off. (Neither solution is particularly encouraging to writers, but it's better than disappointing readers.)
Issue 2: World Building 
The first 100 pages of the story were mostly world-building, defining life back in the day (culture, etc.) and relationships between the main characters. I'm not a proponent of Start With A Bang! because there are compelling stories that draw readers in through wonderful storytelling. Fun/interesting characters dropped into intriguing/uncomfortable situations will always pique my interest. Like the characters, the reader is dropped into that world, and just like real life, they won't learn everything at once. The beginning is only a snippet, a small nugget of the world. The majority of world-building is for the author's benefit and has little place in the story.
Issue 3: Point of View 
There are 4 narrators so far, one of whom has little to do with the main storyline and little new perspective to contribute. For me as a reader, a certain amount of mystery is created when the storytelling is confined to one or two characters. They only know, view, and understand a certain portion of what's happening at any given moment. There's nothing better than making the audience question the narrator's knowledge or understanding and wondering if the narrator is truly reliable. 

Finally, on page 165 the story is getting good. I've passed all the social mores, the random outside characters telling their part of things they're not featured in, and 15 relationships defined in minute detail, and something awesome is about to happen. I'm glad I'm still reading and will probably finish this weekend, whereas it's taken me a week to get this far. Readers should never have to work so hard to see the author's promises fulfilled. Isn't our goal to earn those reviews that say, I couldn't put it down! I had to read all night! That's money, my friends.

There's much to consider when writing and editing a novel, but narrowing the focus and treating your audience like intelligent humans is always a sound plan. Also, delivering on promises you make throughout the novel (and especially in the cover art and book blurb) is important.

Just a little food for thought, my friends. Not every book will become a favorite, but there are reliable techniques for reaching readers. Carry on, my dears! Happy reading! (And writing.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Purpose Reborn

So much stronger than fleeting happiness, a sense of purpose can drive us forward through the dark days.

What was I thinking when I published a book, took on the unknown world of marketing, left my job, started a new job, had hand surgery, underwent various dental procedures, and participated in several author events? 

No wonder I'm tired.

After the dust settled and the new car smell wore off those wonderful new experiences, the work of it settled into my bones and I understood what I'd gotten myself into. No matter how inspired I might have been to finish penning a chapter or complete a project, like I always do, I hit a place where I question my own capability and wonder if I can make it through. 

After reading A Room With a View in college, I have always thought of that state as being muddled. (Fabulous read, by the way.)
Photo courtesy of
There are few endeavors I undertake lightly. I've always been a test the waters, then retest the waters again before jumping in kind of gal. So when I feel like I'm going through the motions, pasting on a smile while everything inside me is cold, it's particularly muddlesome. 

The cycle typically begins with a period of wallowing in couch potato land, accompanied by ranting, raving, and basic hermit behavior. (I try to keep this part strictly offline. To my dear friends, I love you and I'm sorry.) When I'm finally ready to take a proactive approach, I do the following:

I mentally review what brought me to this place and this decision. For me there is usually a pinnacle moment, a feeling of rightness that precedes the decision and gifts me with the purpose to see it through. Remembering that moment awakens at least a portion of that purpose again.
Sometimes taking a moment to breathe and rest, reconnect my heart and mind, and remove myself from the muddle is enough to recenter my mind. Music, art, theater, and literature all distract me from the drama of day-to-day life and help my mind refocus. On top of escape, the bonus gift of inspiration is just as likely to spark the next good idea, solution, or direction. 

Acting like an utter imbecile removes me from the muddle and allows me to examine the issue from the outside. Game night, chicken dances, kitchen yodeling, acting like a kids with kids, and about a million other pointless activities always help me remember who I am. Some people are off-put by silliness, but there is little I know that is better for retraining negative thoughts.

Each of us has moments when we lose sight of our purpose. As devastating as that might be, we can always reclaim it. And yes, I'm right there with you. Leave me a comment and tell me how you cope with life's muddles.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Finding Jesus

I have a philosophy about classroom chatter. It's permissible as long as the assignments are being completed. Also, it's good for my own entertainment. I present the following as evidence:

Finding Jesus
A conversation between five-year-olds

“Did you see Jesus' footprints?” a boy whispers loudly. His expression is a mixture of mischief and barely contained excitement.

I'm already holding in snorts of laughter. The teacher next door has set up some sort of alphabet game in the hallway with brown footprints laid out in a path.

“Maybe he's hiding!” a girl replies. “Let's play hide-and-seek with Jesus at recess! He's fast!”

I have to walk away to keep from bursting out and alerting the whole class to the situation. Nothing prevents everyone from hearing what the boy hollers out next.

“Baylee's found Jesus!”
Who knows? Maybe this is who she found...

* * *
For other gems from my kindergarten life, please read: 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Authoring & Other Ventures

Overpriced parking and people dressed as anything under the sun (especially if it includes a corset). Also, Captain America and a number of his high-profile associates. Sounds like a really crazy dream, you might say. I say, Welcome to Comic Con!
I'm lucky to have a friend who volunteers at Comic Con, so I get the inside scoop (and free passes!). I've been to my share of these events. The difference is, I've always gone in the guise of fangirling, never as an author. And certainly not with other authors. 
Chilling behind a table and/or enticing potential readers to pick up your book isn't my usual Comic Con experience. (My usual experience included more hysterical yoo-hooing.) That being said, there's nothing cooler than chatting up Maleficent, finding out she loves fairytale retellings (in retrospect, I should've seen that coming), and passing along a signed copy of Becoming Beauty to her. Yep, I've officially hit the big time!
My marketing guru friend Raylynn Sleight always says that marketing plans need to feature a blend of traditional (i.e. face-to-face, feet-hit-the-pavement, real-life marketing) and social media marketing. In my experience, keeping a balance between the two keeps sales regular and author events fresh and exciting. (Plus sometimes you get to wear really cool tees!)
Really, is there anything cooler than engaging in tete-a-tetes with new readers? I'm going with No. Also, Comic Con is a brilliant place for character studies. Where else will you find lowered inhibitions, people playing out their deepest fantasies, and girls wearing fishnets as pants? Nowhere, man. At least nowhere I'd want to go.

For more on my adventures at Comic Con, follow the links embedded above! I promise to only fangirl a little...