Monday, January 26, 2015

Writers Get Audience Attention with Surprises

Publishers and agents tell writers they want something fresh, unique, yet they also like whatever trend is selling. Coming up with new fiction can boggle the mind. We want it to be a hit with readers everywhere. Sometimes we try too hard and over-think a story when a little creative brainstorming will do.

My church choir really captured the audience's attention last Sunday. We performed a familiar hymn text to an unexpected tune. The congregation expected one thing, but got another, making them instantly pay attention. It wasn't an elaborate change; no one was jarred to the point where they couldn't accept what we planned. It was more of a pleasant surprise. To keep their interest, the choir varied the verses with things like unison or part-singing. The audience wanted to keep listening to find out what would happen next.

This is what we want to do for our readers. We want to capture their attention right off with something unexpected but not too jarring. The unexpected can be a unique event, setting, or character, for example. Perhaps Nichole Giles will start a new trend with a main character who transforms into a mermaid in her book Water So Deep, coming out soon. Keep your readers' interest with a twist, raising the stakes, conflicts, etc.

I've heard it said that there are only about seven story themes and every book is some variation of them. Many stories tie a character from the past to the present. I enjoyed Jo Noelle's fresh take on this idea in Years & an OceanI should start making a list, when I read, of things that catch my attention, surprise me, or specifically what kept my interest. 

Write a story that you love. Add some fresh surprises and others will love it too.

Monday, January 19, 2015

My Favorite Writing Advice

Red And Blue Pencils

ID: 180553
My critique group dished it out hard last week. Two major things received negative feedback: First, I introduced a new viewpoint--that of my main character's son. It was a small scene, and a small amount of multiple viewpoints had occurred, though not recently. I wanted readers to get used to Samuel's voice once in a while, because he would later be in places his mother couldn't go. I imagined some good internal dialogue in getting Samuel to transition into a warrior. It's usually best to show a scene from the character who has the most to lose. So, basically I was convinced it was a good move.

Their reaction took me by surprise. "No, this is Karlinah's story. It doesn't feel right," they said. At first I thought that they didn't connect with the scene because of choppy interruptions in our submissions. If they could adjust to it, they would see the wonderful ending I have planned in connection to the multiple viewpoints. (Note to self: A reader won't get to the end if the middle turns her off.) 

The second thing I did wrong was to "skip over the good parts so I can get to the good parts". This is a standard joke we have whenever someone rushes through an event that readers want to see in more detail, just so the writer can get to another good part they want to focus on. It happens most when I am skipping a chunk of time so that the book doesn't get overly long. 

When the feedback I get isn't as I'd hoped, I find it best to toughen up and listen. Why? 

  • I've learned that most of the time they are right. I've seen them improve my manuscript in big or little ways every single week. If you trust your critiquers, don't suddenly change that. 
  • If it's an early draft, expect lots of changes. It goes with the territory, no matter how seasoned the writer.
  • Ignore those instant defensive reactions and give the suggested corrections a little time to percolate. Time helps take emotion out of the equation.
  • If having a wonderful book takes top priority over your feelings, you will come to the best conclusions for your book.
My favorite writing advice for all stages of the writing process is to grow a thick skin (be tough) and keep writing! You can do it!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Judging a Book by its What?

We judge a book by its cover, don't we? Other common reasons to grab a book include the back cover blurb (appealing storyline), author reputation, and recommendations. What attracts you most about a cover? Splashy color, hunky characters, gorgeous settings, simplicity? It can be a hard choice. TIP: A good cover gives a general first impression of what the book is about/its genre, and entices readers by pulling them in to want to know more. The latter can mean a variety of things to different people.

The annual Best Book Cover Contest at www.newldsfiction runs through January 12. Karlene Wells Browning has made it easy to vote through her Pinterest site. You can see all the book covers in their categories and click the heart to vote your favorite picks. This is also a great way to define what you love about covers, get ideas--especially if you are considering designing your own, and see current trends in your genre.

I can't wait to see my own cover reveal for Secrets of the King's Daughter. I've made some suggestions, but don't really have a certain image in mind. The publisher's marketing team will work on it and present it to me for commenting. They put their best into cover design to attract potential buyers. I expect to love it. Now that the publishing date has been pushed back to January 2016, I'm sure I will have to wait a while longer to see the results. Guess I'll go drool over my favorites on Pinterest.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Entertaining (and Profitable) Marketing Gimmicks

I spent Christmas day 2014 at Universal Studios Florida (strange, I know) and was intrigued by several marketing gimmicks. If someone purchased one of the special wizarding wands with an electronic sensor inside it at Diagon Alley, there were several spots within the park where he/she could flick the wand to make something happen. Fans didn't want just any wand, they wanted the special wand that could make their experience more fulfilling. How can this translate into publishing? Hm. It's worth thinking about. 

Other products/events at the park had that something extra to make them stand out, like the souvenir pumpkin juice bottle with a pumpkin-shaped lid or breakfasting with superstar characters. It's more than satisfying food or drink needs. Unusual but iconic sights, like the blue heads of Blue Man Group, not only create interest--they're identifiable and unforgettable. Think "branding". Would a featured color best attract readers to your next book series? Sounds of Mannheim Steamroller Christmas music brought one's attention to considering their show. Consider putting the senses into your marketing.

 Here's a new-to-me idea. lets you share your creative projects with fundraising pledges toward publishing great books, like The Pancake Menu. The well-done video on this site is another great marketing tool.

What marketing gimmicks have attracted you?
Speaking of marketing, spotlighting an author's new book is great advertising for them. Here's one you might like:

Newly available this week: 
Infertility stinks. No one knows that better than Megan. After six years of insanity-inducing hormone drugs and desperate prayers, all she has to show for her efforts are enough negative pregnancy tests to fill a bassinet. All around her women are accidentally getting pregnant—like her star piano student—while Megan remains hopelessly barren. Megan’s never felt so alone. But she’s not the only one struggling. 

Christina has just entered the world of infertility, made worse by the fact her husband isn’t ready to be a father. Their marriage, already hanging in the balance, is being torn apart. 

Then there’s Kyra, the mother of a precocious three-year-old. She’s shocked to be struggling with secondary infertility. A baby is priceless, but sometimes Kyra feels like she’s being forced to choose which commandment to keep: stay out of debt, or multiply and replenish the earth. 

When Megan and Christina are assigned as Kyra’s visiting teachers, they all realize that what you see isn’t necessarily what’s beneath the surface. Some secrets aren’t worth the cost of keeping them.