Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A brilliant flash of the obvious…


I’ve been struggling on the new book because it incorporates several different characters’ points of view – different stories that converge, one storyline that comes from 400 years ago.

Last night as I read some research on the witch trials in Virginia from Colonial Williamsburg, I realized in a “brilliant flash of the obvious” [as my former boss, the VP of technology, used to say] that I didn’t have to write the draft in the order that I want to eventually structure the story. Duh.

Working on the Anna storyline set in 1690s was difficult when I would then jump to present day and write scenes on her descendents. I’ve always been structured, logical, and synchronous. My other four books, I started with chapter one and wrote through until the end. The structure was linear. The process was linear. Once finished, this book will be linear, but with parallel storylines across time. I have increased respect for science fiction and fantasy writers who move around in time and place.

Scenes, chapters, POV segments are my components, my strategy. Once I have the building blocks, I can construct the story for next draft. Gee, it’s freeing to allow yourself to do things in a different way.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Novel Approach

I attended and presented at the Virginia Writers Club’s “Navigating Your Writing Life” – A Symposium for Writers of All Ages & All Stage this past weekend. What an inspiring and informative day! All writers discussing the craft and art of writing…and the business.

Thriller writer and author of the new James Bond novel Jeffery Deaver presented the keynote. He talked about how he writes a novel a year, used to write two a year when he “was younger.”

I’ve had some distractions and paid work that have kept me from the new novel. Jeff Deaver has convinced me incorporate his processes.

First, he said that writing is a BUSINESS. A writer needs to keep a product in front of his customers. This means I need to get my ass in the chair and write this novel.

His second rule was that since writing is a business, a writer needs a business plan. He used the example of mint toothpaste versus liver toothpaste. Know your readers and what they want to read and what you like to write. Pâté may be popular, but no one wants it as a toothpaste flavor.

Next comes the idea – an idea that “grabs the reader and drags him through the book to the last page.” That’s a page-turner.

Jeff Deaver spends eight months of his 12 month schedule working out a detailed outline of the structure and plots of the story. This is the time he tests and confirms that he has a great idea (not a liver-flavored toothpaste idea) and that the structure and plan are sound.

After this, he writers and re-writes the book.

And finally after the book is out, like all good business people, writers need to gather feedback. He doesn’t rely too much on critics, but more on sales, reader e-mails, and fan comments at events.

Some of this I have done over the years, but the outlining is a tale of two camps in the writing world. Creatives usually rally against outlines because we recall the high school English teachers making us use Roman numerals and hierarchies of indention. Other writers, usually non-fiction writers, outline heavily and see it as the only way to finish a book that is worth reading.

I always tell my writing classes that I know where I want to start and where I want to end and then let the characters take me there.

Well, it ain’t a-working this time.

I think I’m going to try outlining the structure of the new novel, not as extensively as Jeffery Deaver, but enough to know that I have a firm architecture in which my characters can live and interact.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Comma, comma, chameleon

On Twitter, I saw this post from APStylebook:
We do not put a comma before the "and" in a simple series: The flag is red, white and blue.
A follower had asked about the use of a comma in a series. There were plenty of comments, recommendations, and accusations (see I just broke the AP Style rule by putting that comma before the word and).
Some posters were almost mean about the proclamation that the extra comma is not used. I think I read a thinly-veiled threat to the Associated Press Stylebook team – guys check your cars’ brake cables before driving home today.

I had to learn these rules when I first started writing and editing for a magazine. You see, non-fiction writing tends to follow AP Style. Fiction writing follows The Chicago Manual of Style. I do both, so I’m always confused.

Chicago says the sentence structured would be: The flag is red, white, and blue.
As an editor, I just want consistency.

For some reason, I’m partial to using the comma in front of the and in a series – maybe as Lady GaGa says, I was born that way. Although, I think my elementary school English teachers must have taught that.

My suggestion is that fiction writers buy a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style for reference when in doubt about how to punctuate something.
For magazine and newspaper writers, refer to the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook. Either way, watch those commas. Wars have been started with less passion.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

e-Book Pricing

I've heard a lot of chatter on e-book pricing. I understand how some of it comes about. For example: I have a hard time spending money for a reader then shelling out trade paperback prices for a NYT bestseller from a NY mammoth publishing house. Lisa Unger for $11.99 Kindle edition? That just seems greedy.

A publisher can’t drop the price of e-books too low because the cost of editing, graphic design, royalties, management and promotion are all still there. The only cost-savings is paper printing and distribution – but then the e-book seller/distributor replaces those with their own costs.

Because I can (I still control the electronic rights to all my books), I lowered the price of my four novels on the Kindle format, from $6.99 to $2.99 (the lowest price Amazon will allow me to use). This is an experiment to see if price really enters into the buying decision.

At that price, I would make a few cents per book. This scenario would be difficult for a publisher to get everyone who has a finger in the per book margin to agree to take pennies, so it can’t happen in a for-profit company, but with me, sure – for a limited time experiment.

March is my birthday month. So, for a few days, I want to extend a price break to readers, and also, test the pricing model. Does a 58% reduction in price increase demand as our economics professors claimed? I’ll let you know.