What are you writing?

16 Jan

Here are a few things to think about before you put your rump in the chair to begin your book –

Who are you writing the book for?  Yourself? The reader? Who IS the reader you want? What sort of book is it going to be? Fiction? Non-fiction? Picture book? (combination of words and pictures)

If it’s fiction – do you know who your protagonist is? The antagonist?

If it’s fiction – at some point in the story, the protagonist will change. This can be a monumental change of opinion, emotion, thought, manners – a wide range of things, but HE/SHE WILL CHANGE!!! That’s carved in stone. Without it, you have no story. A story is, after all – a beginning, a middle and an end. No alterations allowed.

If it’s a romance novel, there will be two people who will change. And, while a happy-ever-after ending is no longer a strict requirement for all romance novels, there must at least be a commitment between the two main characters. Any other genre may have only one main character, but he/she shouldn’t be alone during the entire book.

Play fair with your readers. This doesn’t mean you can’t tell the ending before the last page, but there has to be an ending somewhere. Some very famous books begin with the ending and then go back to the beginning. It worked for Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier,  so you might be able to make it work for you, as well.  Agatha Christie’s career nearly ended before it began because of her use of the ‘unreliable narrator’ in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.  Holden Caulfield is another example of this maneuver.

Are you going to buck tradition, and pay no attention to structure or style? Be sure your story is a real dazzler, or you might not be too successful in your venture.

Please have at least one character that your reader can like. That way, if the plot isn’t too swift, at least there will be one reason to hopefully keep the reader engaged.

Will the book you want to write be a book that readers (other than your family) and preferably a LOT of readers, will want to read?

And finally,

Start saving your pennies now, so that when your manuscript is ready for submission to publication (whether commercial or self-) you’ll be able to hire an editor who can tell you that:

one does not sew wild oats — and — fathers don’t turn over the reigns of the company to the wastrel son

and other such goodies. Be prepared to pay up to $1000. for a REALLY GOOD editor. If, however, you’re a pretty good writer, and have a rather clean manuscript (fairly free of typos) you should be able to find an editor for a lot less money. Unless you have a relative who was chairman of the English Department at your local university, you need to HIRE AN EDITOR!!! If you’re considering self-publication (and I think this is quite possibly the fastest-growing trend in the world today!) you should also consider hiring someone to design/format the pages for you. With your input, of course. It’s really important to have a cosmetically ‘pretty’ manuscript.

One final bit of information. Once you are published—even by a commercial publisher—this does not automatically guarantee acceptance of everything you write. That happened to me last year. I wrote a Regency Christmas novella – some 18,000 words. The idea popped into my head after the previous year’s novella was accepted as part of an anthology. I wrote about a third of the new story, then had to put it up for a while, because of other matters that were more pressing. During those 3-4 months, I forgot where the story was originally meant to go! I should have quit then, but STUBBORN is my middle name. So, I persevered, but the story kept wandering away from me, and the result from my editor was – No thanks. Very politely stated, but it was a definite – ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’ sort of thing.

So now what do I do with it? Well. Actually nothing. I did write what I wanted to write – and that’s what I’m encouraging you to do. BUT—you must also realize that what you want to write might not be what anyone else wants to read! Don’t put the blame on them! NO. Put the blame on yourself, where it rightly belongs, because not everything works, every time.

I might be able to rearrange the story to make it more acceptable, but why bother? I think it’s much better to start fresh. Renovation works wonderfully well with historic buildings or a classic car. An 18,000 word novella? Not worth it.

Just for kicks, here’s another copy of the gift certificate. Use it yourself, or pass it along to a writing pal. They’ll thank you – and so will I!

Cheers, and as always – Happy Writing! If you get stuck, my e-mail is: bookmechanic@gmail.com

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4 Responses to “What are you writing?”

  1. Debbie Alferio January 16, 2013 at 2:02 am #

    Great post, Kelly,and even greater advice! I am one who breaks some of the rules in my writing, but I am mindful to make sure that what I am writing is still something my readers will enjoy. Since I am a series writer, rather than showing the “total” growth/change in my characters in one book, I am doing it over the course of the series. I am putting them into situations that will,over the course of time, cause these changes to take place. Cliffhanger endings help with this and keep my readers coming back. I am getting requests almost daily for the third installment, which I am working on. I can’t wait to finish it, but first, of course, will be the rewrites and editing. Thank you for pointing out the need for an “expert” editor. I made that mistake with my first book, and learned the hard way, as they say. Won’t happen again! Keep up the great work you are doing and thanks again for the awesome tips!!

  2. Judy Scott January 16, 2013 at 2:09 am #

    So glad you are back. I missed your blog.

  3. Thor Duffin January 16, 2013 at 2:12 am #

    Always good to read your down-to-earth views on writing. It encourages me to try again in spite of resounding indifference from the marketplace. It’s a different market, now that there are a million or more wannabe authors with a lot of time on their hands, flooding the market (guys like me!) But telling a good story — that’s still a great thrill. (Thor Duffin)

  4. Bob Birch January 16, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    Good advice as usual, and a reminder that I need to build change into the erotic romance story I’m currently writing. Since I’m nearing the end, I’ll need to go back to the beginning and see where I can create a bit of suspense.

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