Saturday, June 30, 2012

Guest post: Victorine -- Your indie-published book cover, Part One

Today’s blog is aimed at people considering self-publishing. My guest poster is fellow Critique Circle member Victorine Lieske. (yay! whoop whoop!) Only a couple years ago, she self-published Not What She Seems on Amazon Kindle, then sold over 100,000 copies, and has signed with an agent. Vicki exemplifies the extremely helpful community of writers. Check out her blog at Victorine Writes.

Self-publishing is not the automatic stamp of “nobody wants my book so I have to publish it myself” it once was. Its respectability grows by leaps every month. I’m seriously considering going that route myself, so I asked Vicki about one of the many really important aspects of self-publishing. This week and next, she gives us her take on…..

Indie Book Covers: Three Seconds to Success or Failure

Employers decide within seven seconds if they want to hire you or not. If you give a good first impression, the rest of the interview is spent re-affirming that desire to hire you. If not, the rest of the time is spent trying to overcome their bias. I assert that the same is true for books, although I don’t think it takes a whole seven seconds. People decide almost immediately if they think they would like your book. If you don’t grab them in the first three seconds, you lose a sale.

People make assumptions about your book at first glance. If they don’t like your cover, they will assume they won’t like the text. If the cover looks sloppy, people will assume the book isn’t edited. If your cover communicates the wrong genre, people will assume the book isn't what they are looking for. Be sure your book cover is giving people the right impressions.

Mark Coker said something important when he came to speak at my local writer’s guild conference. He said, “A good book cover makes a promise to the reader.” He’s right. I’ll even take that further and say a bad book cover makes a promise to the reader also. You’re just promising the wrong things.

------> Come back next Saturday for Vicki’s list of six things to avoid when creating a book cover. Trust me, you will want to see that!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday #9!

Onstage in front of several thousand people, Neal has done something rather unlike him: he’s gotten down on one knee and asked his girlfriend April to marry him. He’s terrified but determined to keep her.
Her eyes popped open wide. She looked from him to the ring and back. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he was aware of the crowd clapping and cheering.

Both of his hands went cold. He blinked up at her, wondering if the pounding in his ears was something anybody else could hear. At least he wouldn’t drop the mic because he pretty much had a death grip on it.
Go here for some great SSS excerpts from some very talented folks. It's a simple and elegant concept: sign up at the SSS site, and make sure your blog has six sentences from an original work of yours up by Sunday morning. It's tons of fun to read through the entries and see what other people are up to.

To find my previous SSS entries with this scene, just click on the Six Sentence Sunday tag.

And thanks for coming by. It's always appreciated.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Soapbox time!

I'm seeing a trend in people critiquing other people, and I feel the need to speak out about it.

Writing for publication is, let's face it, a bit of a crapshoot. You have to have a certain amount of luck on your side along with great writing skills and a compelling story. There are writing rules and writing guidelines, and a whole lot of misleading and just plain wrong stuff that get passed around on blogs and writing groups.

It's misleading to say "never use a dialogue tag in this instance", or "you always need a full stop after this word." Whatever the writer did may in fact be breaking some grammar or writing "rule", but please keep this in mind:
           maybe they did it on purpose.

You might be right that the sentence sounds clunky: but maybe the writer felt that fit the scene.

Maybe the piece does consist of sentences that are really really long and make you feel like you can't catch a breath while you're trying to take all of it in: but maybe that was the intent.

It seems to be very easy to point out everything we have any discomfort with, without any regard to what the finished product would look like if the author took all that advice. Ever hear of characterization? It's a portrayal or description of a character. My character Neal, in the beginning of the story, hates to be touched by strangers. Throughout the story he meets a lot of people who want to shake his hand. He changes in a lot of ways but retains the dislike of being touched. A mention of him hesitating to take someone's hand, taken out of context, sure could look unnecessary. But!

There is a reason for me to put that in. Readers who stick with the story will know that he starts out being kind of anti-social but becomes pretty friendly as the story progresses. That dislike of being touched is one way I show some consistency in his personality.

It just bothers the heck out of me to see people giving crits that sound more like pronouncements. Critiquing at its best helps both people learn to be better writers. At its worst, it makes somebody feel worthless. How about if we all think twice before spitting out crit comments? Before you hit “send”, re-read that crit and ask yourself how you’d feel if you were on the receiving end.

Honesty is not the same as brutality. I’m just sayin’.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday #8

He finally got the ring out of his shirt pocket, went down on one knee, and held the ring out to her. He swallowed, blinked, tried to stop his hand from shaking, and swallowed again.

“April, you’ve made me come alive again. I’m so in love with you, and will you . . .”

Shit, he’d never lost his voice before!

“Will you marry me?”
Welcome to my latest excerpt! You can find plenty of great snippets from pretty creative people at the Six Sentence Sunday site.

To find out how my scene began, click on the Six Sentence Sunday tag. I'm using a scene not intended to be included in the novel but it's helped me with characterization, and finding some new readers. My heartfelt thanks to everybody who stops by today.

Rock on!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

I've been tagged!: the Lucky Seven

So there's a Lucky Seven meme loose! I got tagged by Critique Circle and Six Sentence Sunday cohort Angela Quarles.

The premise works like this: Post seven lines from an unpublished work of fiction, and follow these rules:

Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript (fiction or non-fiction)
Go to line 7
Post the next 7 lines or sentences on your blog as they are (no cheating, please!)
Tag 7 other authors to do the same

I went to page 7 of my Work In Progress and that particular segment turned out to be not so interesting when taken out of context ... :( ...  But I got lucky on page 77! I still have to explain a bit of background but that's easily done.

This bit happens only a couple of months after Neal has left the street gang he grew up in. Despite his name, Neal is part Mexican-American. He and his gang pals have only had trouble with the local African-Americans. Here, he meets Sandy's drum tech (roadie) Phil for the first time.
“I ain’t afraid of you, chango."
Sandy’s voice raised. “Did you just swear at him?”
“It’s cool,” Phil said. “He’ll get used to me. He’ll find out that I like everybody.”
Sandy let his breath out loudly and added, “Neal, I don’t think of Phil as black, he’s just Phil."
The folks I'm tagging:
1. Teresa Cypher
2. ED Martin
3. Selah Janel
4. J. Andrew Jansen
5. Jean Davis
6. Chrystalla Thoma
7. Art Edwards

I can't promise Art will reciprocate since he's got a lot on, but he's the only one in my list (that I'm aware of) who also writes rock lit. Visit his site anyway, he's a cool guy :D

Friday, June 15, 2012

Wisdom from The Lovin Spoonful

Read AJ Hartley's post at Magical Words. He's described the exact problem I'm having: too much Stuff happening in the latter part of the WIP. I love what the characters have gotten into, but it seems like a too sudden a change of pace from the rest of the book. New characters pop up, the antagonist pulls his worst stunt, one of Neal's biggest lingering questions since the beginning gets resolved, characters hop on planes to go back and forth between the West and East Coasts, people get shot at--all in the space of a few weeks!

image photo : Crash TestAJ's solution was to force a stop to the action by making the characters (temporarily) unable to move forward. Everybody gets a breather, readers included. Characters think their way back into the action, which I often like better than the brute force approach.

I'd also like to point out that I only realized I had a problem because I looked at my outline. I saw that I was roughly 2/3 of the way through the outline currently, but still had a bunch of very active scenes laid out. Toss stuff out the window, make it two books, condense the way some stuff is told without actually tossing out plot points?? *sigh*

image photo : Hole in a wooden wallIf any of this sounds familiar, stay tuned because once I figure out how to resolve it, I'll let you know. If you've had a similar problem and fixed it, do share so the rest of us maybe won't get quite as bloodied :)

This brings us to that icon of 60s breezy pop music, The Lovin' Spoonful: Did you ever have to make up your mind? It's not often easy and not often kind. And because it's such a huge issue for me and my characters, I've run out of things to say about it!!! (for now)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday #7

Neal stands onstage with his girlfriend April. She’s really nervous being in front of several thousand people, he’s really nervous about what he’s getting ready to ask her. Here, he addresses himself to her though he’s holding a microphone.
“You are the light of my life, the brightest star in my sky. I sure hope this isn’t as lame as the first time.”

He fumbled with the ring in his pocket; a shaking hand did make things difficult. April tilted her head, watching him.

The first time he asked her—it sure didn't seem like only a year ago—he’d gotten down on both knees, she’d reached out, and pushed him over into the sand. Onstage, he wasn’t close enough to the edge to fall off if she did it again, but it would hurt like hell.
Click on the Six Sentence Sunday label and you'll see how this scene began. This is something not intended for the novel but is something I'm having fun with. I love writing even more when the pressure's off!

For great Six Sentences from a whole bunch of other writers, go here. Browse the offerings, have an awesome time, let people know you enjoy what they're writing!
As always, to the folks who've come by my little blog today, thanks a million. I love to read your reactions so do give me your impressions :)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Motivation for the long game

Yay! New background for the blog! Why? No reason. I just figured out how to do it :)

But there is another reason. It's part of what keeps me motivated. I'm revising my WIP and I'm into draft 3. I'm realizing this thing is A) way too long for one book but totally justified in being that way, or B) going to get chopped in half somehow and made into two books. I'm not jazzed about cutting a bunch of stuff and leaving the remains as a single book because the story follows Neal's transformation from street thug to respected charity co-founder and musician.

Cut major stuff, and what's lost is the full picture of how and why he changed, and why other people are affected by what he does.

So, staying focused on the core story and staying pumped about slogging through the revisions (and there will be more of those, oh yes!) requires motivation. *ahem* A shitload of it, if I may be so blunt. How to find and keep it?

I do more than one thing. As mentioned in my previous post, I mostly enjoy revising. It puts a new light on the story and the characters that keeps everything fresh. Plus, I'm a visual person, and I find that having physical reminders of my characters helps me feel connected to them and the story.

The name of the band in my WIP is Sylvyr Star. When I see an image of a single five-pointed star (especially one in silver) I grab it and keep it where I can see it as I write. Many years ago when the bones for this story came into my head, I pictured what the band's debut album looked like: on a white background, a single five-pointed star nearly fills the front cover. Above it, in simple but classy lettering, are the two words of the band's name, also in silver. The star itself is shiny and slightly raised.

That sharp vision has been with me for, well, a long time. The wonders of modern technology (with which I am slowly familiarizing myself) make it touchable. When I can touch that vision, it takes me right back to the reason for telling the story in the first place. I remember that newlywed excitement of realizing I had the seed of something really special.

Now, I see that star every time I open my blog.

Motivation? Aced it!

How about you? When the going gets rough, how do you keep going? Short term breaks are good for recharging, but you need to come back with all cylinders firing. How do you relight your fireworks?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday -- #6!

Continuing the scene. This isn't something intended for my novel, just something I'm having fun with: Neal and the band have performed a cover of Chicago’s “I Am Alive Again”—hard rock style—as a hint to his girlfriend of his feelings for her. He stepped up to his microphone to address the crowd and said that since nobody can see any stars inside the arena, maybe the crowd would turn on lighters so the place would be beautiful for his girlfriend. Lighters came on all across the crowd, sprinkling golden stars everywhere. Holding a hand out toward the darkened side of the stage, he asked April to join him.

Finally, through a haze of white light that fell from the overhead truss, she came toward him, hands behind her back. Ah, her clingy red dress swayed as she walked and her curled hair fluttered around her shoulders.

She stopped close to him, her face a mix of fright and curiosity.

He put an arm around her shoulders, turning her toward the crowd. “Look, we’ve got starlight and this white moonlight, just like a secluded beach . . . though that does beg the question of why I’m holding a microphone . . .” A thought skittered through his mind: now for the real show.

Go here to read more excerpts from a whole bunch of talented people. It's a fun idea to post only six sentences.

For those interested in my previous snippets of the same scene, just click on the Six Sentence Sunday label and you'll see 'em all. Thanks to everybody who stopped by today, I really appreciate your time.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The no-regret revision

So I'm deep into draft three of my Work In Progress and it's involving a lot of revising. I want to encourage people not to be afraid of revising. I know, it's a crapload of hard work, sometimes. In my case, I'm tossing out scenes, adding others that had never occurred to me before, changing names of a few minor characters, and removing whole threads of subplot that seemed so important way back in draft one.

image photo : Mind powerBut I look at it this way. First, those changes are resulting in a story that's more interesting for me to tell. I've referred before to changing Sandy's personality; now that he's more 3D, I find I'm enjoying his scenes a lot more. By adding an additional, more personal reason for Neal wanting to get out of the street gang he was part of--and putting more emphasis on how the loss of his kids affected him--I'm fascinated by his gentler side that didn't have a chance to show itself before.

I'm creating new scenes, which I love because it's like seeing new sides of your best friend. You find more things to like about them, and occasionally dislike. But I even have fun with that! It's truly a process of getting to know these people.

I'm paying a certain amount of attention to details as I revise. The more sentence tweaking I can do in this draft, the less I'll (probably) have to do later, though Draft 3 is still an early one. I don't get hung up on word choice or paragraph structure. By now, I have a good sense of the "feel" I want for the story. And because I've learned to trust my inner editor about when something seems wrong, I stop immediately when I sense that something's out of place and try to fix it. If I can't fix it in a few minutes, it can wait.

So revising is actually keeping the story fresh for me. I realize that once I get the plot kinks worked out and go back for fine tuning, I may feel a bit jaded. Still, I'm learning stuff as I continue to do research and since I love what I'm researching, it doesn't feel like work. I don't imagine the research will fully end because it may come in handy for the next book *wink*

The other thing is, once the story gets published, readers will only know that version. Everything should feel natural and easy to readers, as if the whole thing fell out of my computer in that form. That's what matters, not me crying over taking out something that I like even though it doesn't fit.

image photo : Love or Fear Change - Embrace Different ThingsRun with your revisions! Let them open up new vistas! This is what you do--telling stories. Changing them is part of the process. The more new things you can learn about your characters and/or plot, the more exciting it will be and the better your story will be. Does anybody have any examples of how revising added some juice to their project? How do you keep yourself interested through all the changes?