My NaNoWriMo Tip #7: How to fix a dud chapter.


NaNo7
It's NaNoWriMo Month
!

(National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated…)

For those of you who have begun writing your first book, every day I'll repost my fave creative writing tips here, just for you. 

Here's Tip #7, for Wednesday, November 7th…

The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too.

Here's to your success as an author,

— Josie Brown

Don’t forget to enter my HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING contest, for a chance to win a $100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice!

 

 

HAH Hanging Man V2Buy THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK Today, on

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And then there were five (NaNoWriMo tips)…


NaNo5
It's NaNoWriMo Month
!

(National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated…)

For those of you who have begun writing your first book, every day I'll repost my fave creative writing tips here, just for you. 

Here's Tip #5, for Monday, November 5th…

The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too.

Here's to your success as an author,

— Josie Brown

Don’t forget to enter my HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING contest, for a chance to win a $100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice!

 

 


HAH Hanging Man V2Buy THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK Today, on

 

 

http://www.authorprovocateur.com/2011/11/nanowrimo_tip_5.html

Are you ready for my NaNoWriMo Tip #4?

 


NaNo4
It's NaNoWriMo Month
!

(National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated…)

For those of you who have begun writing your first book, every day I'll repost my fave creative writing tips here, just for you. 

Here's Tip #4, for Sunday, November 4th…

The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too.

Here's to your success as an author,

— Josie Brown

Don’t forget to enter my HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING contest, for a chance to win a $100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice!

 

 


HAH Hanging Man V2Buy THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK Today, on

Day 3 of NaNoWrMo…

NaNo3
It's NaNoWriMo Month!

(National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated…)

For those of you who have begun writing your first book, every day I'll repost my fave creative writing tips here, just for you. 

In fact, here's Tip #3, for Saturday, November 3rd…

The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too.

Here's to your success as an author,

— Josie Brown

Don’t forget to enter my HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING contest, for a chance to win a $100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice!

 

 


HAH Hanging Man V2Buy THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK Today, on

NaNoWriMo Tip #30: The best advice I can give you is this: “Last author standing.”

RockBottomRemainders

Forget the Rolling Stones. I always wanted to be a Rockbottom Remainder.

You know: that grunge band made up of bestselling authors, like  Dave Barry, Amy Tan, Mitch Albom, Scott Turow, Roy Blount, Jr., Greg Iles, James McBride, Ridley Pearson and Kathi Kamen Goldmark.

I've had one impediment, and it ain't my singing:

It's that niggling issue of actually making the New York Times Bestseller list.

And doing it again. And again, and again.

But I won't stop trying.

My mantra: Last author standing.

With it, I've beaten the odds and actually gotten published.

In fact, in regard to my publishing record, I've been blessed. Ten years ago I reached a very big dream: I had not one, but two books published by New York publishing houses. And as of December 9th of this year I will have had twenty novels and four non-fiction books published: five of them, traditionally by New York  houses — Simon & Schuster, Pearson/Alpha, St. Martin's Press, and HarperCollins — whereas the rest self-pub'd, including my best-selling Housewife Assassin series, and my best-selling Totlandia series.

I am living my dream: making a comfortable living as a writer, and living in the city that is my heart and soul: San Francisco.

But it hasn't all been a bed of roses.

I've had my fair share of agent changes and editor rejections. Some occurred while one family member fought cancer and survived, and another did not. 

Like so other authors in the past couple of years, I had a book contract dropped when it was obvious that Borders wasn't going to make it–and ironically, Borders sold a good chunk of my books. 

But I'm surviving. 

In fact, I can say I'm thriving in this business. My readers found me, love me, and anticipate my next novel. 

Because I hung in there.

I believed in my mantra: Last author standing.

My literary agent paid me the biggest compliment regarding this vow by saying, “I quote you on it, to my other authors.”

I thanked her. I hope they thank her two. She believes what I do:

If you're going to accomplish your dream, you have to stay in the game

To survive in a business that is ever-changing, this has to be your mantra too.

With what you've accomplished in NaNoWriMo, you've proven you can write.

Now, time to sell it. To an agent who will love it, and cheer-lead it to editors.

To let readers find you and love you.

Or to self-publish it.

No matter which path you take, give it your all–and never stop promoting your book. Never give up on the dream that you can be make your fiction a financial and personal success. 

I hope these tips have helped you. I wrote them because I believe in you.

Because you deserve success, too. 

Now, finish the job.

Make your dream a reality.

(c) 2011 Josie Brown. All Rights Reserved

The photo above: The Rockbottom Remainders

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP HERE…

READ ALL OF MY NaNoWriMo TIPS, IN ORDER, HERE…

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Question of the day: Do you have a mantra, that keeps you writing, despite the odds?

Happy post-National Novel Writing Month,

— Josie

 

NaNoWriMo Tip #29: If you don’t sell your novel to a publisher, yes, self-publish it. Here’s why.



HAH on iPadOkay, here's the grand plan:

1. You finish this novel you've started this month, during NaNoWriMo.

2. You get an agent to love it.

3. The agent gets an editor to buy it.

4. You get that first advance check. (Fair warning: you'll wait a month for the contract, and another few weeks for the first advance check–around a third of the agreed amount, after you've signed it and sent it in; another third when you deliver the manuscript, and the final third by your launch date.)

5. The editor does a superior job massaging it into an even greater book.

6. You get your pub date. (Prepare for it to be anywhere from 12-18 months off into the future: AAAGGGHHHH, yeah, I know).

7. The book hits the shelves, and you throw your launch party. (Hurray! Hurray! Par-TAY!)

8. Then, you watch it sell…..

Somewhat.

Welcome to the world of the mid-lister: the publishing world's version of the 99%.

And that world — one in which nearly all authors inhabit — is shrinking by the day.

Aye, there's the rub: If you aren't already a best-seller for whom front table co-op is a given (yes, folks: those first tables in a bookstore are purchased placement), or have had a “breakout book” (a debut or mid-list novelist whose book gained incredible word-of-mouth, and the sales that go with it) you are only as good as your last book's sales figures.

A few years back — prior to the flood of sales of eReaders such as the Kindle, Nook Kobo, iPad, and the multitudes of iTablets and Android devices, that meant depending on your pub house's sales team to sweet-talk your book onto the shelves of brick-and-mortar stores: independent bookstores, and the larger chain bookstores, such as Barnes & Noble and Borders.

But then Borders went under, and with it 900+ stores where midlist authors' books (including those who wrote in such genres as romance and mystery) could be purchased.

You could (bad pun) see the writing on the wall. Authors who had even a dozen or two of published books under their belts were passed over, or asked to write under pen names in order to re-establish themselves as “debut authors.”  Think about it: in any other industry — say, perfume — that is the equivalent of taking a fragrance that has sold steadily as White Shoulders, then re-packaging it as “Tabu.”

You are a brand. Your books are your products which your publishing house sells. 

The only difference: in the perfume industry, besides its research and production, a very substantial investment is made on a product's packaging and promotion.

Not so for any mid-list book. 

(And, according to my bestseller pals, other than co-op or an ad here or there, their books aren't that well promoted, either).

To give the author's return-on-investment picture even more clarity, consider that the initial advance to a mid-lister is around $5,000-$20,000, and the units that cover that must be sold prior to the author receiving any additional compensation, which, after that ranges from 8-12% of the book's retail price.

(And by the way, any books that are returned by the booksellers is counted against your advance; and retailers are allowed to return as many as they want, for as long of a time as they want.) 

The other 92 to 85% of the retail value is what the publishers hold onto, and divide with the bookseller, who gets up to 55% of the price.. And taken out of the publisher's revenue comes such costs as editor's salaries, cover design, sales force commissions, and marketing promotion.

Writing a book is not an easy endeavor. You've just gone through NaNoWriMo, a marathon that proves the point. The time and effort it took you to concept, outline, research, write, and rewrite your book was speculation on your part. Perhaps it added up to 150 endless days and nights. 

Now, divide all your time and effort of, say, 150 days by your advance of, say, $10,000:

That's about $66.66/day. Divided by ten hours for the average writer's work day, your down to $6.66. an hour.

Obviously, you'd make more money at Wal-Mart — selling other authors' books.

This is why authors — both published, and unpublished — consider self-publishing. 

At the same time that brick-and-mortar bookstores are shrinking, the sales of digital eReaders — and digital eBooks — are growing.

For the past couple of years, self-publishing has looked like the gold rush. Those authors who were among the first to get to that rich riverbed of consumers with digital eReaders (Amanda HockingJ.A. KonrathBella AndreKate PerryBarbara Freethy and Stephanie Bond) have struck the kind of financial riches the rest of us dream about. Whereas Hocking debuted as an eBook, the last three (Konrath writes thrillers; Andre writes romance; and Bond writes romantic suspense) were strong mid-list genre authors whose backlists had decent sales for their established New York publishing houses. 

Granted, by cutting out the middle man (the publishing house) you also cut out such crucial services, such as editing and cover design. But for a couple of hundred dollars, you can get a free-lance editor to help you with clean-up. And for another couple of hundred plus dollars, you can get your manuscript formatted as per required by all the online bookstores, as well as a decent cover to boot (and have a say in what that cover looks like)…

And you hold onto 70% of the online retail sales price. 

However, there's a rub in the self-pub world, too: the gold rush has slowed down. Supply (a plethora of digital eBooks) is way up. 

The good news: demand — and digital eReader sales — is still growing.

As a one-person industry, you will still need to do that thing the pub houses missed: PROMOTE.

I get it: all you want to do is write your books…

But even if you are “lucky” enough to sell to a New York publisher, you'll also need to promote the books they publish for you.

I'm warning you up front.

That means knowing your core target audience, and how to reach them. Make them know you (brand awareness) and love your books (sampling, contests, word-of-mouth).

Welcome to the business life of an author.

Plan A: Get New York to want you (doable), love you (doable), and promote you (don't hold your breath).

Plan B: Skip New York. Write a great book. Get it edited, and give it a cover that sells. Uplink it to all the online bookstores. Promote the hell out of it to its most obvious readers….

And write more books.

(c) 2011 Josie Brown. All Rights Reserved

The photo above: iPad's e-bookshelf 

 

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Question of the day: If New York passes you by, will you be self-pub'ing your book? Will go detour from New York altogether? If so why?

 

— Josie

 

NaNoWriMo Tip #22: If your dialogue doesn’t match the character, fix it. Now!

Tfios_soundtrack_coverMost novelists have several characters walking around in their heads at any given time. Sadly, not all authors take the time to bring these wonderful imaginary people to life.

Where they fail most often is in the words they put in their characters' mouths.

If all of your characters sound alike to you and to your critique partners, rewriting their dialogue may actually save your book.

Here are three steps to take in order to bring your characters to life:

1. Know your characters.
Where are they from, originally? How were they raised? What do they do for a living? What are their fears? How about their desires? As with all of us, these live experiences shape us, and affect the words that come out of our mouths.

Some authors I know actually do character bios: not just for their heroes and main characters, but for every character in the book. It's really a great exercise, and may make the difference in how your characters act– and react — on the page.

Actors do this, too. Michelle Williams (in the photo, above) is proving to be one of the foremost actresses of her generation because, like a Meryl Streep or a Kate Winslet, she is a different person in every film. One of her movies, My Week with Marilyn, is proof that she can lose herself in the iconic Marilyn Monroe: not just with makeup, but in the walk, the voice, and by saying the words written for her character in a way that rings true.

2. Do your “dialogue” homework.
Just as you'd research a moment in time for an historical novel, or a place (say, the Vatican, if were you Dan Brown, and writing The DaVinci Code), you should also research the tone, cadence and slang of your characters.

A female college student from Berkeley in the 1960s won't speak — let alone think — the same way as one who went to school at Wellesley. That is also true about a father raising his children in downtown San Francisco, and one raising his kids in Dunwoody Georgia. 

If these characters inhabit your book, it's time to do a little research into their lives, and how it affects the words that come out of their mouths

The most common dialogue mistakes come when an author is (a) writing in the voice of the opposite sex, or (b) writing a character who comes from a different country.

In my very first novel, True Hollywood Lies, the anti-hero, Louis Trollope, was both: male, and from England. Not only did I tap into my male side (the yin and yang/dominant and recessive traits are something we all have, and must use if we are involved in creative writing) and have my husband vet my male dialogue, I also sent the manuscript to a male friend who grew up in England, to check the authenticity of my slang research. It was a great move, as he was able to tweak a few phrases, and to verify much of what I'd written was in fact “spot on.” (Love that term. Used in Britain more than here, but it aptly makes the point.)

3. Read your dialogue out loud to yourself.
Charles Dickens was an actor as well as a novelist. He knew the power of great dialogue. It was part of his writing routine to read his chapters out loud to himself, in order to hear the flow of his prose and gauge the authenticity of his dialogue. 

You should do that, too. If it doesn't sound real to your ear, it won't sound right to anyone else, either.

 4. Unless your character is Father Knows Best, a super hero, Ghandi, or Mother Teresa, he or she is not perfect–and that's okay.

So write them that way. Let them make mistakes. Let them do, and say, stupid things. Let them do things that will come back and bite them in the but later in your plot.

In other words, let them be real people. Because no one is perfect.

Except for you.

At least, according to your mother.

(c) 2011 Josie Brown. All Rights Reserved

The photo above: from the movie “The Fault with Our Stars” 

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Question of the day: How many times do you re-read your manuscript before sending it out into the world?  And honestly, do you feel it's enough?

 

— Josie

 

NaNoWriMo Tip #27: Don’t do this in your query letter. Pretty please.

Johngrisha_6905555_11586349As mentioned in yesterday's NaNoWriMo tip (#25), you don't have to wait until your novel is completed to start the process of researching literary agents — or, for that matter, crafting a “I want this book”–inducing query letter.

Get started now, after you finish today's word count, of course.

Yesterday, I made some suggestions as to what a query letter should include. Today, I want to let you know what will get your letter tossed immediately:

1. Poor spelling.
 We all make mistakes. We make less of them if we proof our letters prior to sending them. And then proof them again. Then, to play it safe, have someone else proof them, too. 

While I'm on the subject: Since we live in the age of multiple submissions and cut-and-paste (and we should all be thankful for both), it is truly bad form to leave the name of the last agent you queried in the salutation of your letter for another. Not to mention calling a Ms. “Mr.” or visa-versa. 

Proof. Proof. Then proof again. Trust me, you'll find something.

2. Bad grammar.
You are what you write. That goes for your query letters, too. Again, proofing should catch an “It's…” that should have been an “Its…”

3. Boasting.
You aren't J.K. Rowling. You aren't Stephen King. You aren't John Grisham. However, if you can attach a personal letter from an author of note espousing on your manuscript, you'll certainly get an agent's attention.

4. A biography that is longer than a couple of pertinent lines.
This isn't a job interview, so don't include a resume. And for that matter, it isn't a date either, so skip your hopes, dreams and future financial projections. 

5. Threats.
Warning literary agents that they are missing out on the next Twilight series doesn't make them beg to see your novel, but may give them a needed chuckle for the day. The begging part comes when you whet their appetite with a surefire teaser that describes your book. Which brings us to…

6. An inability to sum up your plot in a paragraph.
The sole purpose of the query letter is to intrigue agents about your novel and to request that you send it to them to read. If you bore them with paragraph after paragraph of specific details about your plot or hero, they'll think that your manuscript reads that way, too…

And they'll pass on it. 

Sell it to them in a one-liner: “In (novel's title), a (middle-aged woman/shy teen boy or whatever) has their (life/ or whatever, cut short/changed forever) when (s/he finds a letter from…).”

Hopefully, you'll show more nuance and perspective than I did in the line above. In other words, it's your story, so sell it. 

And yes, it's okay if you need two or three sentences instead of one. 

7. Begging.
They don't care that you took eight years to write this novel, 24/7, or that you're supporting your invalid mother. Should they like what they read and get a bidding war started for your manuscript, trust me: that will be the backstory used by the publicist to get you an interview or two. So cut the sob sister act. Work on a killer one-liner instead.

8. Photos or Illustrations.
John Grisham claims he received twenty-eight rejection letters before he found a publisher for his first novel, A Time to Kill. I'm guessing that the bare-chested photo he included had something to do with it. (I kid you, John!) This isn't Match.com or the Miss America Contest, so resist the temptation for visual stimulation. 

For that matter, don't send chocolate, either.

Save that for your first face-to-face meeting with your new agent.

(c) 2011 Josie Brown. All rights reserved.

Picture: The s(pec)tacular John Grisham. I'm sure the six-pack abs are under there, somewhere…

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP HERE…

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I've got a question for you: Have you already made a query letter faux pas ? Let's have a pity party, 'cause I've made some, too, lemmee tellya! 

Let your fingers do the talking during National Novel Writing Month,

— Josie

 

NaNoWriMo Tip #25: Do you really need a literary agent? Maybe. Here’s when.

Ari Gold

Now that National Novel Writing Month is almost over and your novel seems so real to you (50,000 words will do that, right?) you must also be thinking about how your book will find readers.

Traditionally, you'd be tossed onto a publishing editor's slush pile and pray to be discovered. 

With the shrinking of publishing house staffs, that slush pile is now the domain of the literary agent.

But many an author will ask: are agents still necessary in a day and age of independent book publishing? 

I've been published both ways, and my thought is this:

Yes.

Many of the authors I know feel this way, too. Like me, they have their feet in both worlds: they still sell to “New York” (where most of the major publishing houses have their offices) but they also independently publish their solely-owned backlists, or novels that have never found homes, or a variety of experimental projects.

Frankly, it’s the best of both worlds.

Why? Because to publishing houses, you are only as good as the sales of your last book. I’ve known previously best-selling authors who have been kicked to the curb by their publishing houses, just because their sales numbers fell short of what they had done two years before.

Is it fair to blame the author? I don’t think so, considering all the marketing factors that are out of their control. Most don’t get any say-so on their covers. And the publishing industry isn’t as progressive as other industries in creating brands for their authors – let alone developing brand awareness with key target audiences. Rather, they have relied on a narrow retail channel (big chain bookstores for most books; and independent bookstores for a smaller, select group of books).

And sadly, they have been slow to build awareness to their own brands: their name, and the various imprints within their houses.

In the larger marketplace of the Internet, branding and name awareness is key. Knowing your audience and reaching it will make or break a brand.

Every author is a brand. You are the biggest cheerleader for your brand and your manuscript.

But no writer is an island. It takes a village to sell a book: you (to write it) an agent (to sell it) and an editor, or producer, or whoever to buy it, and (prayerfully) market it properly—

So that you sell lots of copies to readers.

Which brings up the question of the day: what is the role of the agent in this brave new world?

Here’s how I see it:

First and foremost, your agent will be making your deals with publishing houses. 
Doing so is an agent's bread and butter. They work on commission. The more sales they make – and the more costly the acquisition – the happier they and their clients will be. It is also the best way for them to grow their own reputations.

Agents know what editors are looking for.
Agents know what genres are aging out, and which genres are getting hot (again). For example, if you write westerns, you’re probably hitting the reader zeitgeist just about…

NOW.

Well, guess what? Even if you were bought today, your book wouldn’t be hitting the bookshelves for another eighteen months —  just when you’re genre is, hopefully, due to be hot again.

Your agent will have great insights on what will make your manuscript even stronger.
The best agents read what you write, and give copious notes on how to make it stronger. Why? Because you don't need a yes man. You need a partner in selling your book to an editor.  

Your agent will be making your deals with other media platforms.
The explosion of television networks is a great opportunity for authors. Even if your agent hasn’t sold you to a publisher, s/he may be able to get you in the hands of a producer who is actively seeking to adapt books for film or TV. In fact, most literary agents are smart enough to network and co-venture with talent agents who work in the fields of movies and television.

Here's a perfect example: my wonderful literary agent, Holly Root, thought my novels would translate well in other media. There were several talent agencies — and agents within those agencies — she could have paired me with. She felt the best match was CAA. She was right. My agent there was diligent in sending my novels out to producers whom he felt would see their potential. A year and two months after my novel, Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, hit bookshelves, it was optioned by movie and television producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who promptly pitched it to ABC television as a dramatic series. It will be hitting the airwaves next year. That is pretty quick turnaround. Some novels take years to get that kind of notice from Hollywood. 

A great agent is a great sales person. S/he will always be looking for opportunities to sell your book. And your next. And your next. 

As technology forces the world of publishing to change, the role of the agent will change as well, too. The services they provide their clients will have to get broader. My guess is that these services will include all other things that help expand brands in other industries: name awareness (promotion) and  product positioning. 

So how do you get an agent? That will be tomorrow’s post…

(c) 2011 Josie Brown. All rights reserved.

Picture: You may not want ENTOURAGE'S Ari Gold as your agent, but your literary agent might co-agent with someone like Ari who can help you sell  your manuscript into television or the movies. It's the way we live now.

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP HERE…

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I've got a question for you: Have you already tried to get an agent? How did that go?

— Josie

 

NaNoWriMo Tip #28: Here’s what to do to keep your story from being a turkey.

Boyfriend-a-Turkey
Over Thanksgiving weekend–yep, NOW!–the pull of family, friends and great food will lull you away from your daily NaNoWriMo goal of 1,350 words or thereabouts.

The more diligent writers will do what they can to double up on their daily word count prior to this holiday. But if you're actually in charge of the feeding frenzy, you may be AWOL the Tuesday and Wednesday of prior to Thanksgiving as well.

That said, here are some food for thought to help you stay on track over the weekend: 

1. Don't beat yourself up for taking time off.
It happens to all writers, published or not. I've known of writers who were under deadline during family illnesses, personal illness, while planning weddings, and even planning funerals. Here's the facts: real life gets in the way. If you're lucky to have family to gather with on this wonderful holiday, be thankful about it. You can write when everything calms down.

2. Like getting on a diet, force yourself to get back into your best writing habits.
In the past, these skills have done the job in the past to keep your creative juices flowing. Don't get lazy; get OCD crazy with them again. It's a regimen, so get back on it, and keep to it.

3. Don't worry about overbaking your manuscript.
Layer in atmosphere. Pack it with nuance. Give us the deets on your characters — by showing, not telling.

In other words, more is more.

So stuff it. Stuff. It. Good.

(c) 2011 Josie Brown. All Rights Reserved

The photo above: An overdressed turkey. I used him in an article I wrote on SingleMindedWomen.com: “Is Your Boyfriend a Turkey?” 

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP HERE…

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Question of the day: Did you write on Thanksgiving Day? If so, let me know, so I can celebrate with you (that means an extra piece of pie for us both, so YEA!

Happy Thanksgiving — and happy National Novel Writing Month,

— Josie

 

NanoWriMo Tip #23: Don’t send out a half-baked novel manuscript

Chocolate-Walnut-Pie
Around Thanksgiving, pies are my thing. Besides pumpkin, I've been known to make a mean pecan pie, too.

Unless I feel the grocery store is gouging their customers on pecans. Then I choose walnuts. (See my recipe, below…)

And because the pie is soused with so much Amaretto and lined with so much dark chocolate, it doesn't really matter to my family what kind of nut they're eating, because they're enjoying the hell out of every bite.

Unless the crust is under-baked.

Sadly, that can ruin everything.

To ensure the crust at the bottom bakes fully but that I don't burn it around the edge, I will bake my crust first, for about ten minutes, prepped with tinfoil on the bottom and along the sides of the inner shell, which if then filled with dry beans or dry rice to hold it down and reduce heat exposure.

Saves my arse every time. 

Now that you're in the last few days of National Novel Writing Month and are feeling great about your word count, I want to give you a gentle reminder that this is just the first draft of your book. 

In other words, it's only half-baked.

Before you get literary agents and editors to bite, make sure you've done the following to ensure it's as tasty to them as possible:

1. Re-read your manuscript.
Specifically, for holes in your plot. Trust me, there are some. Perhaps a story thread that isn't knotted to anything else, and therefore isn't necessary. Or for scenes that go nowhere: that have no spice. If it bores you, it will bore those critical first readers too. Or for any little niggling thing that bothers you about your story, whether that be a character's name, or a location that hasn't been fully visualized for the reader, or for a paragraph that seems to slow the plot down.

Re-reading encourages editing.

Editing tightens your plot.

A tight plot makes for a great story.

2. Now, re-read it again.
This time, for character flawsThis does not mean that your characters should be perfect people. BOOORRRRRING. It means that your writing has to make them come alive on the page.

You won't be doing this by telling us about them, but showing them in situations that make us love them, hate them, be annoyed by them, root for them….

In other words, we've got to care about them.

3.  Once again now: read it. I'm begging you, please.
You're doing this in order to catch typos you've missed during the first and second reads. (They are there, just waiting to be found!)

You're doing this because tight (plot, characters, dialogue, story flow) makes right. 

And you're doing this in order to fall in love with your manuscript all over again. Because when you're high on it, you'll write a fantastic query letter for it, too.

Between that letter and your fully-baked manuscript, you'll have agents beating down your door.

(c) 2011 Josie Brown. All Rights Reserved

The photo above: PIE. YUMMY! 

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP HERE…

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Question of the day: How many times do you re-read your manuscript before sending it out into the world?  And honestly, do you feel it's enough?

Happy Thanksgiving — and happy National Novel Writing Month,

— Josie

 

MY PIE RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 1/2 stick of butter or margarine
  • 1 BAR of at least 70% dark chocolate 
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 Amaretto (Bailey's or Carolans works, too)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust (my favorite is Trader Joe's roll-out crust, found in the refrigerated foods area)
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. 
  2. Prick bottom and sides of pie crust with fork. Press heavy-duty aluminum foil onto bottom and around side of pie crust; fill with uncooked rice or beans. Bake 10 minutes; remove foil and rice. Bake additional 7 minutes or until pale golden brown. Cool on wire rack.
  3. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Stir together chocolate, walnuts and flour in medium bowl; set aside.
  4. Beat butter and sugar in large mixer bowl until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in corn syrup, vanilla and salt, beating just until blended. (Mixture may look curdled.) Stir in walnut mixture. 
  5. Pour mixture into baked pie crust.
  6. Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until outer edges of pie are set and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out with just melted chocolate. Center will still be jiggly. Cool completely on wire rack. Cover; store up to 2 days at room temperature or if storing longer, refrigerate. 8 servings.

NaNoWriMo Tip #24: It’s not what you mean, but how you phrase it.

The_Legend_of_Bagger_Vance
I am from the South, where politeness is an art form. There, merely saying “Good morning” is a curt form of communication. Instead, conversations are dressed up with additional gracious phrases, such as “Looks like it'll be another hot one…” or “That dress certainly becomes you.”

These comments may be spoken prose, but the pictures they draw in the mind's eye of the receiver fall as lightly on the ear as any poem.

That's because it's not what you mean, but how you say it.

This is especially true when crafting a novel, as so many of you are doing during National Novel writing Month

Case in point:  When my son, Austin, was twelve, he was golfing with my brother, his Uncle Marty, at Marty's country club in Atlanta. Even at that age, Austin had a phenomenal swing. Or, as Will Smith's mysterious golf caddie calls it so poetically in the movie The Legend of Bagger Vance, an “authentic swing.”  

On the third hole, when Austin hit his ball all the way down the fairway, over 175 feet.

His ball landed a few feet from the cup.

One of men in the foursome whistled low and muttered, “Way to hit that ‘tater, boy!”

Granted, the man could have merely said, “Quite a swing!” But where is the poetry in that? 

There should be poetry in your writing, too.

It comes with the daily words you strive for during NaNoWriMo, a process which allows you to flex your creative muscles, to find your writing rythmn.

Or, in Bagger Vance parlance, your “authentic swing.”

Because of NaNoWriMo, some of you have already found it. Others are struggling to make their word count, to make their plot work, or to create characters who seem authentic.

If I were to attach a golfing metaphor, I'd repeat the one Bagger uses with Matt Damon, who plays the golfer under his tutelage:

“You've lost your swing. You've just got to go find it. It's somewhere in the harmony of all that is and all that was, and all that will be.”  (Watch the video clip, below…)

Practice makes perfect. So does the belief that you have it in you to complete your novel, and to sell it.

If, at any point during NaNoWriMo, you feel as if you've lost your swing, remember: it's there.

You just have to find it.

(c) 2011 Josie Brown. All Rights Reserved

The photo above is of Will Smith and Matt Damon, in The Legend of Bagger Vance. See the scene mentioned,  below. 

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP HERE…

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Question of the day: What was the hardest writing day you've had thus far during NaNoWriMo?  

Happy National Novel Writing Month,

— Josie 

NaNoWriMo Tip #21: Every word counts. Here’s why.

Jack-nicholson-the-shining

The most chilling scene in the movie based on Stephen King's novel, The Shining, is when the heroine, Shelley Duvall, discovers that all the days her husband, Jack Nicholson, has spent supposedly working on his novel were in fact spent writing the phrase  “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” over and over again.  (See the clip here, below…)

 It's disturbing, not because it proved Jack was possessed, but because all that time and effort produced boring, redundant prose.

Talk about scary.

For those writers participating in National Novel Writing Month, suffice it to say that following Jack's format is not the right way to achieve your 50,000 word count goal.

Instead, every single sentence you put on a page has to do the following:

1. Create an alluring image for the reader.
Think of your prose as poetry that doesn't have to rhyme. However, it still should sing. It should move the reader. It should make them laugh, or cry, or gasp. 

Most of all, it should make anything it is describing– be it person, a place, or an incident — come alive to the reader.

2. Propel your story forward.
To agents, a golden manuscript is one that is a page turner. Every sentence has to make them want to read the next. Every page has to make them want to turn to the next. Every chapter should leave them wanting to get to the next one. 

If it gets them excited, believe me: your agent will pitch it in a way that excites editors, too.

3. Make the reader want to turn the page. And the next page. And the next.
Throwing words on a page has its place — if in fact they are the right words. That said, after you've met your word count for the day, go back and read what you've just written. Does it flow off your tongue? Does it sound natural to your ear? Is it colorful?

Or is it just…filler? 

Filler sits there, saying nothing. It takes up space. It's a placeholder until you think of some action or wordplay or dialogue that takes the story in a new direction.

In other words, it's your version of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

Cut. It. Out.

Is there a better way to make your point? Yes. There is. 

Find it. Write it. Make it sing.

(c) 2011 Josie Brown. All Rights Reserved

The photo above is of Jack Nicholson, in The Shining. See the scene mentioned,  below. 

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP HERE…

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Question of the day: Have you found yourself being redundant? If so, have you been successful in breaking that bad habit?  

Happy National Novel Writing Month,

— Josie

 

  

NaNoWriMo Tip #20: Write the way George Clooney acts: with confidence.

George-Clooney

I consider self-sabotage one of the biggest issues facing any aspiring novelist, especially during National Novel Writing Month, when so many others are posting online their daily word count triumphs–

While others are falling short, or perhaps haven't had the time to write at all that day.

Talk about discouraging.

Writing a novel is a Herculean endeavor. Then there are the the additional hurdles of querying agents in the hope that they, too, will love it enough to want to represent you to editors at the various publishing houses.

Publishing is a high-stakes gamble. Considering the fact that  57,000+ adult fiction books were estimated to be published in 2010, you've got every right to wonder if your book will be one of the chosen ones for 2013. (Sorry to break the news to you, but the publishing house catalogs for 2012 are already closed out.) 

My best advice to you: Don't freak out. 

Instead, be cool.

Why? Because like wolves agents and editors can smell fear.

So, what's the best way to keep your eye on the prize that is worth all your sweat equity?

Simple. Pretend you're George Clooney.

When you consider that (despite his dreaminess) he's not much different from you or me.

Remember: before all his “Best Actor” Oscar nods, this was a guy who once starred in Return of the Killer Tomatoes.

Not to mention one of the worst Batman movies ever.

So, how did a guy who got his start on the ridiculously bad TV show Facts of Life catapult himself into the Hollywood firmament as a celebrated producer/director/actor?

He's doing what I'm suggesting to you now: He thought like a winner.

Believe me, every writer wonders if their next book will be their last. Because besides being a craft and a business, fiction writing is also an art, which is very subjective to buyers (initially, an editor). Many great books are turned down by editors before they find a home, and perhaps become a success with readers.

If you're going to write for a living, you'll have to develop a thick skin.  Here's how to make it as handsomely rugged as George Clooney's:

Be yourself.
Joan Cusack put it best in Working Girl: “Sometimes I sing and dance around the house in my underwear. Doesn't make me Madonna. Never will.”  Don't try to be (or write) like someone else. You have great ideas for your books, and you have a unique voice with which to render them. Play to those strengths

Believe in your material.
By the time Clooney starred in the movie Out of Sight, he'd made the decision that he was beyond working just to work. He wanted to work on projects he believed in. Writing a novel is a long-term commitment. If you don't enjoy the project or the process, quit it. Start something new. Something you can live with, for a very long time.
 
Surround yourself with great characters.
Clooney works with actors and directors who are just as easygoing and committed to the project as him. That keeps things stress-free.
 
You, too, should have a support group. Form a critique group filled with like-minded authors who can commiserate with you on the craft and business of writing.
 
As for the characters you create on the page, they should be a joy to flesh out. Give them great dialogue. Make their backstories worthy of your time, and that of your readers. Make them interesting, engaging, fun. Your readers will appreciate you for doing so.
 
Love what you do.
Joie de vie is French for “the joy of life.” We are our happiest when we love our work, and our lives. You should feel blessed that you have the talent and the drive to write that book within you. If you believe in yourself, trust me, it will come across in your writing.
 
Enjoy yourself.
Everytime we see a picture of Clooney, or read an interview, it's obvious he's having fun. We think to ourselves, “Why can't our lives be like that?” Guess what? They can. It starts with you. If your life is a ball, everyone wants to be at the party…
 
Including smart agents and editors. 
 
I'm not asking you to be the sexiest author alive. I'm just asking you to believe you are. 
 
Make us believe that you are ready for your close-up.

(c) 2011 Josie Brown. All Rights Reserved

The photo above is of — whom else? — George Clooney. He is now starring in the movie The Descendants, based on the superlative novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings. See the trailer below. 

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP HERE…

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Question of the day: Which is your least Clooney-esque feature? Share it, below, and maybe you'll see why it's holding you back.  

Happy National Novel Writing Month,

— Josie

 

 

NaNoWriMo Tip #19: Scene needs a rewrite? Change the point-of-view.

Wicked-witch

Sometimes while working on your novel — perhaps several hours into your work day — it becomes obvious that a particular scene just isn't working out. You've changed the starting point and the dialogue, and that didn't help. You've even added a character or two, and noticed that the only effect it had was to slow the pace: not good.

Instead, try changing the point of view in which the scene unfolds.

For example, if you've been writing it through the eyes of your heroine, rewrite it so that it is now seen through the villian's eyes, or even those of a secondary character. 

By doing so, you allow the reader to also see the action from a different perspective — and that new point of view may make them more sympathetic to your heroine. 

Not only does this exercise shed new light on your heroine. It also adds dimension to the secondary character. We would not have felt so strongly about Dobby, the free-thinking house elf in the Harry Potter series, if we had not read a scene from his perspective.

In fact, the whole story takes on a new life when seen from a different character's point of view. In his novel Wicked, Gregory Maguire has built his reputation and success imagining L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz from the viewpoint of Elphaba, the name he bestowed on the before nameless Wicked Witch of the West.

Just imagine if some of the scenes in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn were played out in the mind's eye of his friend: the runaway slave, Jim.

A whole new take on a literary classic can be created if you open yourself up to the possibility of seeing it through different eyes.

(c) 2011 Josie Brown. All Rights Reserved

The photo above is a scene from the movie version of The Wizard of Oz, with Judy Garland and Margaret Hamilton.

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP HERE…

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Question of the day: Have you changed the POV of a scene, with success? Share it, below, so we can celebrate it together. 

Happy National Novel Writing Month,

— Josie

NaNoWriMo Tip #17: The emotional depth of your characters is important.

Scarlett and Rhett

Throwing words onto the page is the essence of National Novel Writing Month. But meeting a word quota isn't the most thoughtful way in which to craft a story. When you go back and read what you've written, inevitably you will re-edit each scene.

This will be the time in which you can ask yourself if your character is all he (or she) should be — and strengthen them even further.

When it comes to developing characters, most writers seem to fall into two camps. The first works from a great plot premise, allowing it to determine what characters will inhabit the story, and to drive his or her plot forward. The second starts with an idea for a unique hero, then creates plot challenges that showcase the hero's character strengths and (hopefully) flaws.

There are pitfalls to both approaches. When a story is plot-driven, sometimes the author will leave out all those things that allow readers to empathize with the hero. Remember: you want your readers to fall in love with your hero.

However, if your story is character-driven, the author may be telling us all the reasons why we should love this character, but is not giving the hero anything to do. If the hero is not challenged, he is not given a reason to grow and change.

And the reader has no reason to care for him.

As in real life, character is demonstrated through actions (plot) and words (dialogue). A strong narrative voice — not necessarily first person — allows us into the heads of the hero: not just to hear what he is thinking, but to gauge how he is feeling, too. 

Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind was her debut novel. It took her nine years to write. No NaNoWriMo deadline, there!)I

t is a perfect example of a hero whose strength of character is revealed through the challenges that come with a sweeping plot.

Mitchell's heroine, Scarlett O'Hara, is a young Southern woman who is unable to let go of  her unrelenting obsession for a childhood sweetheart, Ashley Wilkes, through the course of the Civil War and Reconstruction. This obsession destroys her chance for true happiness with the man who has stood beside her from the beginning: Rhett Butler.

In her novel's nine-year journey, Mitchell edited, and re-edited and re-edited her unwieldy none-hunderd page manuscript, and still wasn't satisfied with it. Everyone in her social circle knew she was writing a novel, but she never had the courage to show it to friends.

Mitchell's break came when she met an editor from MacMillan Publishers at a local tea. He was in town looking for novel manuscripts that his company might consider. Although Mitchell kept silent about her own project, a scornful remark about Mitchell's efforts made by an acquaintance gave Mitchell the kick in the pants she needed to box up the manuscript and hand it off the the editor just as he boarded his train to New York.

The rest is publishing history. Her effort proved to be Pulitzer- and film-worthy as well.

Despite a devastating war that has turned Scarlett O'Hara's fortunes upside down, and in spite of her flaws of vanity and pettiness, for decades now readers have been drawn to Scarlett and her story, for good reason: 

We know people like her. We are her.

We are annoyed by her, we pity her. And we love her.

Even Mitchell's secondary characters — Aunty Pittypat, the Tarleton twins, Charles Hamilton, Mrs. Merriweather — are so well-written that we feel as if we know them. Even if they annoy you, they raise emotion in you. 

This says a lot about the author.

What do your characters say about you?

(c) 2011 Josie Brown. All rights reserved.

PICTURE: in the movie version of Gone with the Wind, Vivien Leigh played Scarlett O'Hara, and Clark Gable played the man she should have loved, Rhett Butler. It was casting at its best.

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP HERE…

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I've got a question for you, and be honest: Would you want to hang out with your hero/heroine? Tell me why (or why not)…

Happy National Novel Writing Month,

— Josie

 

NaNoWriMo Tip #16: How to get out of “paragraph paralysis.”

Indiana Jones on doom_bridge
You've written your hero into a cave, and he can't get out.

Or maybe he's hit a wall. Or hanging from a cliff.

In any event, you've put him in a corner, surrounded by bad guys, in every direction.

Now, you're stuck — both literally and creatively.

To quote former Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry: Ooops.”

 This is what I call “paragraph paralysis.”  

Let me put it this way: If you were Stan Laurel and I was Oliver Hardy, now is when I'd turn to you and say, “Well Stanley, here's another fine mess you've gotten us into!”

One of the most notorious solutions to paragraph paralysis that I can recall occurred on the television show, Dallas. Whereas the Season  7 cliffhanger had one of the characters, Bobby Ewing, killed off, it's revealed at the beginning of Season 9 that ALL of Season 8 was just a bad dream happening to his wife, Pam. (And the viewers, I'm presuming.)

Okay, I feel your pain. I get that you're freaked out. Like your hero, you've come to a complete stop.

Here's how you (and he–or her, as the case may be) can get out of that hole:

1. Remember: In your novel, you are GOD.
That means you can move mountains, both literally and figuratively. If he's in a cave, maybe it has a false wall, or ceiling, or floor. Help him find it.

2. Think outside of the box/cave/cliff/wall/bridge.
There is a reason why today's illustrative photo is of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom bridge. Quite frankly, my example could have been taken from any of the Indy movies, since he's always stuck somewhere. In this case, there were bad guys on all sides, and no plane or helicopter to swoop down and save him–

But he had his trusty machete.

And he knows how to swing it!

So there you go: a solution. If you just hang in there, he (and you) will survive, and live to see another chapter.

3. Rewrite your scene, so that you are more comfortable with it.
This untenable position may be your subconscious telling you, “I don't know where I'm going with this (page/chapter/story). If so, it's time that you revisit the full outline of your plot. If something isn't working now, it will affect your plot down the road. The sooner you make the change, the better. (After you've written the day's 1,650 words, of course.)

(c) 2011 Josie Brown. All rights reserved.

 

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP HERE…

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I've got a question for you, and be honest: Have you ever left a character out on a ledge? Did you come back to save him, or is he still out there?

Yes, you will survive National Novel Writing Month,

— Josie

NaNoWriMo Tip #14: Is writing a craft, or an art?

Vincent Van Gogh Self Portrait

It's a trick question: creative writing is both a craft and an art.

Those who master the “craft” part have taken the time and effort to hone the skills needed in order to push out the words in a timely fashion (just as you are doing throughout National Novel Writing Month). They use proper grammar and syntax. And of course, they know how to format a book manuscript (a one-inch border all around; double-spaced: and in  the header, the book's title / your name / page number).

They've also taken the time to learn the business of writing. By this, I mean that they:

(a) Have critique group. Every author should have access to other like-minded writers who meet at least once a month in order to read each others' pages and help each other work through plot holes; and

(b) Listen to what others are saying about literary agents who are actively seeking manuscripts.Then they research these agents to assess which of them will be the best champions for their stories. (Broad hint: it is those agents who are already selling stories similar to yours, and have established strong contacts with the editors who love those types of stories.

Writers who are good craftspersons follow each agent;s specific rules for querying. (One agent may ask for a synopsis and 50 pages of the manuscript, whereas another may want to see a full manuscript from an unpublished author.)

At the same time, these authors break rules, too: they aren't shy about introducing themselves to agents at a networking event or industry party, because they know that a little face time–coupled with an intriguing one-liner about their book–will get them an immediate response, like: “Sounds interesting! Email me your manuscript, and be sure to put in the subject line that we met here….”

(c) Listen what others are saying about publishing houses and their various imprints. Who are the editors, and what are they buying now? Are cozies selling well? Have zombies peaked? Is Steampunk holding its own? Is YA aging out? 

Here's the bottom line: even if you are a Nazi grammarian, or are the best networker in the world, if you haven't embraced the art of creative writing, it won't matter how many agents you query, or how many editors' desks your manuscript ends up on–

Because everyone is looking for the next great book, and that ain't yours. 

Unless you are an “artist,” too.

Authors who are artists recognize a wonderful “what if” premise for a story, when they run across one.

They know to create a story arc, with a “got to keeping reading this”  beginning, a rachet-it-up middle, and a climatic as well as satisfying ending.  

Their characters seem so real that you want to love them, or despise them, or hang out with them — forever.

Their dialogue makes you laugh out loud, or gasp, or cry.

If they describe someone, your mind's eye can see him immediately. 

The art of writing is what makes a book great. 

Your book is great, too. But you'll have to challenge yourself once again: both as a craftsperson, and as an artist.

Once NaNoWriMo is over, take the time to review your manuscript for craft issues. Do you have too many typos? Do you know when to use a comma? Is the document formatted correctly? Have you researched the best agents to send your manuscripts (Multiple submissions are okay, and most accept online submissions as well).

After you've got the craft side down, you're ready to sculpt it into the work of art it should be.

This means making the effort to rewrite your plot holes, your unrealistic dialogue, or peripheral characters who don't move the story forward (let alone in any direction).

The artist in you will make sure that readers can empathize with your hero. They have to feel his pain.

Your narration must be potent, intoxicating your readers to stay within the world you've created for them, here on the page.

To do all this, both as a craftsperson and an artist, you can't just read over your manuscript once or twice. You'll read it at least four times. That should take four weeks, with breaks in between (otherwise you'll go cross-eyed and hate the sound of your own writing voice.)

Then, by January lst, you should query agents with a boffo letter that will have them intrigued.

All agents appreciate craft. But they live to sell art.

So you have to get it into the agents' hands. You can't be a Van Gogh: that is, afraid that agents won't love it as much as you do. How can they, if you don't let them see it?

More on query letters in a future tip…

(c) 2011 Josie Brown. All rights reserved.

PICTURE: Vincent Van Gogh, Self Portrait. No one in the world will deny that Van Gogh was a prodigiuos genius artist. Sadly, he was rarely compensated for his paintings, which are now among the art world's most valued treasures. Sadly, he was emotionally incapable of learning the business side of his craft. 

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP, HERE…

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I've got a question for you, and be honest: As an author, do you consider yourself a craftsperson, or an artist? Tell me why…

Happy National Novel Writing Month,

— Josie

NaNoWriMo Tip #13: Make your readers love your hero.

Daniel Craig as James Bond
If you ran into your hero at a cocktail party, would you talk to him?

If so, what is it about him that would have attracted you to him in the first place? Would it be the way he stands out in the room? Or his laugh? Or his voice?

I'm guessing it's the way he attracts a crowd (other great characters) around him. If he looks like a fun guy, then just like you, others will want to hang with him, and soak up his vibe.

If your character isn't engaging to you, trust me: he won't hold his own with readers, either.

Sure they may finish the book. But that's no guarantee that they will come around for a second book, or recommend it to others.

Dagwood__SandwichThose of you participating in National Novel Writing Month know that the prime objective is moving your story ahead each day in November, at a clip of 1,650 words a day. That averages around five pages a day (or 330 words per page). Much of what I've written about in the twelve tips that have preceded this one involves crafting a solid, fast-moving plot, which, if your story were a sandwich, is the tasty bread that holds the story together. But your main character is the meat in the middle: 

If he or she ain't tasty, your story is plain. Blah.

It's just dry as toast.

Case in point: There are a vast number of spy novels, but the ones that attract legions of ongoing readers have one thing in common:

Characters who are smart, fun, fearless, and flawed enough that they aren't (in Mary Poppins-ology) practically perfect in every way. (My god, think how boring that would be?)

In that genre, my favorite authors are John LeCarre and William Dietrich, for different reasons. In the case of Mr. LeCarre, I enjoy the tortured backstories of his heroes just as much as the intricacies of his plots, which demonstrate the amount of skill and research that go into his into his novels. I love the flaws that are etched into his heroes.

As for Mr. Dietrich — especially in his Nathan Gage series — his plots are fun romps built around history and mythology, and his hero is a delightful scoundrel and an adventurer.

Both writers are skilled enough at their craft that their characters'  backstories aren't “told” to us (show, not tell, as in Tip #5, remember?) but appropriately intercut as flashbacks (LeCarre), or worked back into the ongoing plot (Dietrich).

A strong character wears his backstory heavily in his eyes, his gait, or on his sagging shoulders. It is sprinkled into his conversation, and that of his friends and enemies. 

Like all of us, your hero's traits are the sum total of his life experience. They are why he makes wrong choices, and why he seeks redemption. 

They are what make him interesting.

It's why we want to hang out with him.

It's why we fall in love with him.

Otherwise, we can be doing something else.

And so can you. 

Like re-examining your hero, to take advantage of every opportunity to make him more interesting.

 

(c) 2011 Josie Brown. All rights reserved.

PICTURE: Yep, that is Daniel Craig tux'ed up as James Bond, the iconic spy as written by master novelist Ian Fleming. Your main character doesn't have to be as self-assured , but he or she will have to have traits that allow readers to want to hang in with them, for the three hundred or so pages of your story. 

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YESERDAY'S NANOWRIMO TIP, HERE…

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I've got a question for you, and be honest: Have you ever written a character that was so boring that you had to get rid of him/her?

Happy National Novel Writing Month,

— Josie

 

NaNoWriMo Tip #12: Choose the right time to write.

Chutes and Ladders board
A wonderful thing about National Novel Writing Month is that it gets participating writers into the mindset of writing under deadline. This may come easier to those of us experienced in doing so (like journalists, or advertising copywriters), but it's still a challenge for anyone who is working on a creative project — like a novel — for the very first time.

During the thirty days of NaNoWriMo, there will be many of those days in which you'll be on your game. Metaphorically speaking, that “game” is similar to the one we played as kids called Chutes and Ladders. Some moves put you far ahead, whereas others put you back to Square One.

I'm presuming you've already had more than a few days in which you've been knocked off your pace. Perhaps real life got in the way. Or maybe your muse took the day off (that is probably what keeps her mossy; and maybe you should follow her lead…after NaNoWriMo, of course). 

A lot of your success as a novelist will depend on the habits you develop to nurture your creative writing. A very important consideration is what time of day you write, and why you've chosen it.

If you're one of the lucky people in this day and age who actually holds down a full-time job, obviously those eight hours are out the window. If you're too tired to write after you come home, then maybe the best time to write those 1500 words is prior to leaving for work. (Hey, it worked for John Grisham. Make him your role model).

Granted, if you have to get your kids ready for school in the morning, there goes that writing opportunity, too.

Which leaves your lunch hour. Can you throw 1500 words onto a page in 60 minutes?

If you're focused, yes you can. 

If you're driven, yes you can.

If you are well-hydrated well-fed, and away from distractions, yes you can.

Many writers will work in groups. Seeing your pals clicking away may be the best motivator. You don't want to be the only one staring off into space. That said, seek out a local NaNoWriMo daily/weekly writing group. It may light a fire under you like nothing else can.

I've always been in awe of my writer friends who can write anywhere, like a favorite coffee shop, or their local bookstore. It's what works for them: to be out of their home and writing, even if they don't have an out-of-house office.

Okay, here's my little secret: some of my best writing takes place on airplanes. It's psychological: back before WiFi invaded airplanes, I was actually relieved that I couldn't be distracted by email or surf the web.

Today I'm cheap enough that I refuse to pay the $5 fee to get connected.

At least, that's what I tell myself.

The truth is, I love those cross-country flights because it's five hours of uninterrupted writing time (especially now that I've purchased a tiny Netbook, so that when the guy in the row in front of me reclines his seat, I don't end up with my keyboard sitting on my chest.)

If I were under deadline for a book, it might behoove me to buy an unlimited ticket, so I can stay up in the air. Yeah, right. Financially, that's out of the question. So I do the next best thing: I've noted that my best writing has been done after a full day's work (yes, of writing). I seem to get a second wind sometime after 11pm. It's quieter. No hubby pawing at me. No kids whining at me. No dog asking my thoughts about an evening stroll. 

It's MY time. 

And my books are worth my taking the time.

So are yours, so figure out WHEN you can write optimally, and go for it.

Because yes you can.

(c) 2011 Josie Brown

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP HERE…

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I've got a question for you: What writing habits work best for you? Which haven't worked?

Happy National Novel Writing Month,

— Josie