Friday, August 23, 2013

Fridays Links

Last year, at least for a while, I used Fridays to post interesting links I'd come across during the week. Occasionally they dealt with writing, but usually they had more to do with science and entertainment--anything I thought you guys might enjoy.. After a couple of months, I decided I spent too much time searching for suitable links, so I stopped.  

Today, I've revived the tradition of Friday Links.  Let's see if it works out any better this time.

Here are this week's links -- all of them dedicated to writing.  Enjoy.

Making The Leap

Seven Question to Ask Before Self-Publishing

TheBookDesigner: Why Your Blog’s About Page Is Completely Wrong

Magical Words: On the relationship between plot and character

Pub Life: Authors' Advice on Self-Publishing

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Plot or Character? -- Or Is It Voice?

It’s the age old question. Which is more important? Character or plot? As far as I can tell, it depends on who you talk to.

For me, it’s all about the plot. Hands down. I’m not belittling the importance of having a great character, but in my opinion, it’s nearly impossible to have a great character without a great plot, or at least a good one. It’s the character’s struggle against the plot that makes us care about him in the first place. No matter how sympathetic you’ve made your character, no matter how many habits and peculiarities you lovingly lavished on your MC—unless those traits somehow interact with the plot in an interesting way, no one will care about them. You may think having your MC be afraid of snakes is funny, but if the plot doesn’t give him a compelling reason to fight his way through snakes, no one will even remember that phobia.

Think about Harry Potter. A kid who lost his parents when he was a baby. Someone we can sympathize with, no doubt. But other than that, he’s pretty much a generic nice guy, with about as flat a character arc as it’s possible to have in a fantasy adventure. (I’m just talking the first book here – not the series.) Yet we all love Harry. Why? Because of all the things that happened to him as a consequence of the plot.

But that’s not the real point of this post. Today I’m wondering where “voice” fits in alongside plot and character on the importance scale. Ever since I received my Kindle, I've been blasting my way through lots of books—mostly fantasy. And to be honest, many of the stories have the same basic plot. Oh, certain details may be different, but the plot is roughly the same. The middle school kid, teenager, vampire, mage, demon hunter, angel, etc, has to save the world by facing and defeating the bad guy. The names change, along with the rules of the world, but they’re all pretty similar. Nothing wrong with that, of course. The classic hero’s journey has been around a long time. It’s the world-building and other little details that make the stories different.

Still, as I peruse book descriptions on Amazon or back cover blurbs at the local bookstore, they all sound about the same. And the only way I can decide which to buy is by reading the first chapter and getting a feel for the author’s voice. Because the exact same story can be told by two different authors, and I can end up loving one of them and being bored to tears by the other. Does the author spend too much or too little time on descriptions and internal thoughts? Do the words flow like a hot knife through butter? Does the author have a sense of humor? These are the things that make or break a book for me these days.

There are plenty of books out there with good plots and good characters, but with all the competition these days, it may just be “voice” that wins out in the end.

So how do you go about making your voice unique?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Insecure Writer and Marketing

Today is August's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?


Since I’m still working on my first book, I have yet to enter the world of marketing. But I’ve read (and bookmarked) so many articles on the subject, I’m becoming a little intimidated by the whole process. So intimidated, in fact, I almost want to leave my book unfinished, just so I don’t have to face the marketing bit.

 Some authors claim Twitter and Facebook are great ways to market your books. Others say it hasn’t helped them at all. Goodreads is supposedly a good place to begin, but who knows if that will change in a week or two. Giving books away for free on Amazon to jump start purchases doesn’t sound like it works all that well anymore, at least according to some recent articles. What does seem to work (at least so far) is offering your first book for free so that happy readers can buy more of your other books.

And that tactic is what leaves me with an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. Because the advice I’ve come across most often is that there's no point in marketing your books until you’ve got several of them available for purchase. You’ll get the most bang for your buck if the reader who enjoys one of your books can buy more of your books immediately. Otherwise, they may forget about you by the time your next book comes out.

And for a slow writer like me, that’s a daunting hurdle. I mean, how many years will it be before I get to that point? It already feels as though it’s taking a lifetime to finish my first book. How many times will I have to be reincarnated before I have three books available for purchase? Books may not even exist by that point in time!

Okay, maybe I'm overreacting a little.

So I ask you, fellow insecure writers, how do you plan on marketing your books?