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



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.

 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.

The photo above is of Jack Nicholson, in The Shining




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

I Want My Book TV! Using the AMERICAN IDOL Model in Publishing

If the publishing industry is to survive, it has to promote it's products (books and authors) and its brands (imprints — and again, authors).

That's the wave of the future.

And the eBook — the fastest growing distribution method in the publishing industry — ia taking us there, at warp speed.

Sure, technology is the lead horse, but shouldn't publishing houses be grab the reins — and the bulk of sales?

That means more promotion.

And creating more impulse sales.

And opening up point-of-sale in more venues.

Not just publishing houses, but bookstores, too. If they want to survive (let alone thrive) they must must get on the bandwagon . . .

Or go the way of the buggywhip store.

I'm talking bread and circuses here.

Yep, the more, the merrier. Make it a happening, a be-in.

I'm talking a book slam. In person, and in a BIG way.

Big venue, big crowds. 

Then invite the world.

Some booksellers get this.The town in which I was born and raised (as we say in the South) puts on a world-class book fair. The Decatur Book Festival (in Georgia) is something that the independent book stores in the area should be proud of. I know I am.

If the world can't be there in person, take them there, via TV and radio.

Podcast it. YouTube it.

Forget about "American Idol." What about "American Novelist?"

But big ideas take big bucks.

Which brings us to the pub houses — many of which are owned by media conglomerates. So CBS (Simon & Schuster) or ABC (Hyperion) or Fox (HarperCollins), why not devote a
few hours of TV programming each week to promoting your publishing subsidiary, and showcasing
your authors?

Make it an elimination contest. Each week, have the novelist contestants do round-robin reads of 2-3 chapters.

The audience can vote for their faves (via online, where they can also download .pdfs of the chapters they just heard).

You could have your bestsellers serve as judges–and showcase trailers of their upcoming books.


Like most readers, I love any venue that helps me visual what I'm reading. More to the point, I want the readers of my books to visualize my characters and my plots.

But let's be honest: most authors read like frightened 5th graders giving book reports.

Solution: hire up-and-coming actors that act out scenes, or to give table reads.

Afterward, the host talks with the author about plot and character.

The requisite "video bio" of the author will help endear him/her to new fans.

And of course "American Novel" will culminate in a "grand prize": a bigger advance, multi-book contract, and front table status for mid-listers.

Talk about a way to build the brands — and the sales — of your authors


You get the picture.

And yes, I am ready for my close-up,


BestSLHW Josie's Next Book: Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press

(ISBN: 9781439173176)

Look for it in bookstores June 1, 2010

From Amazon

From Barnes & Noble

From Bigger Books

From Books a Million

From Borders

From Copperfield's

From Your Local Independent Bookstore

From Powell's