I get this questions so often from new writers, book marketing clients or those who start a new blog or website for the first time: "What shall I write on my blog?" It surprises me always to hear this from authors, that have written 200 or 300-page manuscripts ...
Creating Content Without Writing A Word?
Is that possible? Well, a couple of words, headlines or introductions should be always there, along with links to other websites, photographers or resources.
DECIDING TO WRITE FULL-FANTASY OR HALF-FANTASY IN YOUR NOVEL
Maybe one day we’ll get to the skill of the George R.R. Martin (the Tolkien of our day – in my opinion). Some will argue – as some typically do – but I truly think that GRRM has redesigned fantasy…although in some cases to a fault.
I know that sounds oxymoronic. But I’ll explain, though I must start by admitting that I did not get on the George Martin train until last year. **William covers his face as the stones start flying** I know, I know. How dare I claim to write fantasy without having first read the fantasy standard. My only rebuttal to that is: “I wasn’t ready…”
Now with that out of the way, here’s what I suggest to those who are getting a handle on fantasy (or sci-fi). And this applies to urban fantasy as well. DO NOT DO WHAT GEORGE HAS DONE.
What has he done? Well, I have to say that I was turned off by a large portion of Game of Thrones (not the series, but book 1, as the series is A Song of Ice and Fire…but I digress). I was told that the book was fantasy, but besides the prologue, there wasn’t any real fantasy until about 70% of the way through the book. Sure there was the small stroke here and there, but compared to fantasy that I’d read before, well GoT didn’t seem to deliver. I felt cheated, quite frankly. But after enduring through it, believing that some X million of people could not all be wrong, I realized that there was a lot of drama and intrigue – enough that kept me coming back to catch up with the world, as I am now eagerly awaiting book 6.
What I have noticed is that newer writers attempt to toy with George’s method, meaning that newer writers assume that their drama is enough to hold the reader’s attention. Usually, this is not the case. I know that’s a hard statement, so let me backtrack. I don’t want to deter anyone from writing what you want to write, but this is merely my suggestion for someone who is trying to figure out if she should incorporate fantasy throughout her WIP, or if she should hold off until later in the book.
If I had to choose, I would tell that reader that she should incorporate fantasy thorughout her WIP. The reason is because when a book is advertised as fantasy, it will undoubtedly attract readers who love what? You guessed it: FANTASY! My inclination is to know your fanbase and appeal to those people. Does that mean conform? Nope! But it does mean “know.”
If you decide you want to write an urban fantasy romance thriller set in a sci-fi world with zombies and Godzillas, you’d better know know know know KNOW your fanbase! They want to see a sci-fi city set in today’s time with fantasy elements. They want to see two lovers as star-crossed as Katnis and Peeta. And they want to see high action detective thrills on the level of JA KONRATH. Oh, and you’d better have zombies, and god help you if you don’t have Godzillas! And your readers will expect that. So why not give it to them?
Does that mean that you should compromise good characters and good drama?? I will let you answer that. (If you answered “yes,” I will be taking your pen from you…and your writing journal).
I’ve tried to read through a few books recently and it feels more like mopping a floor or churning butter – a chore. Why? Because the reader promised me fantasy and I didn’t get fantasy. Why be afraid? Why not write the genre that we want instead of trying to mimic GRRM? Because one thing’s true about fantasy AND sci-fi: people say they don’t like either, but if that were true, then why do these movies rule our box office: AVATAR, THOR, IRON-MAN, AVENGERS, LORD OF THE RINGS, BATMAN, STAR WARS, HUNGER GAMES, WALKING DEAD, TWILIGHT (grumble, grumble, grumble), HARRY POTTER? Oh and the list can go on. So people DO like those two genres if we give them what they want! And yeah, I left out Game of Thrones…I know…because we all know how great those are.
Anyway. What are your thoughts?
DECIDING TO WRITE A SERIES OR A SINGLE BOOK
Writing a series is a definite way to make some cash, ultimately because people who may have only slightly enjoyed your book 1 will perhaps continue through the latter books just to see how the story ends. An even greater reward is when someone praises all three books, detailing how they enjoyed each book in the series. So there’s some definite satisfaction when your readers talk like that.
I’ve noticed trends in my sales with The Pioneers where someone will purchase book 1, and within a few days, I’ll see sales for book 2 & 3. What does this imply? Well, it makes me think that someone has bought the first book to test it out, and then that same person decides that 2 & 3 must be equally as good. So by writing a trilogy, I have in effect been able to sell 3 books at once.
The problem with a series in regards to marketing and versatility though is one that’s hard to ignore. Because I’ve written a series, the desire to try to sell the series to an agent has gone down substantially. Why? Well, if book 1 were to sell to an agent and that agent sells the book to a publisher, then I’d be stuck with that publisher for all three books of the series. And if that publisher did not want to publish books 2 & 3, then I’d have 2 books on my list that I could never sell unless I paid a sizable chunk of money to the publisher to have the rights of those books released back to me.
This means the series creates some “baggage” when it comes to selling your books. With the Dark Connection Saga, I have not queried any agents because I’ve already written the 2nd book and most of book 3. With that in mind, if I were to submit book 1 (The Girl with the Scar) to an agent and the series were to be accepted, I’d be in some serious trouble because I would not be guaranteed the privelege to sell books 2 & 3 and the latter books that are to follow.
My advice on this is simple. If you feel the need to write a large chunk of a series before putting it out there (I know I do), I would suggest that you create a side project that will only serve as one book. This book can be more mobile since it can be queried to agents without the feeling that you may lose several books’ worth of work.
I’m currently working on an urban fantasy novel that doesn’t have a title, but it’ll have some pretty good legs because I don’t intend for it to be a series; it’ll just be something that I can toy around with that’ll be a quick and easy read for those who are into the urban fantasy sector.
Anyway, what are your thoughts? Would you advise that a series be written in totality for selling purposes? Or do you think it’s better to have a sole book that you try to market while you work on your trilogy?
HOW TO MAKE SURE THAT YOUR CHARACTER IS SOMEONE OF INTEREST
This post will go along with the likeability post from earlier this week. What I’ve found with a lot of people’s work is that their world is cool, their elements are cool, and the plot points are cool, but the main character is just not so cool.
This can be rather disappointing because the reader will continue to enjoy your work, until they truly get to know your character inside and out, at which point the reader may be turned away from the work after having invested several hours. This to me is worse than if a reader puts your book down on page one. Why?
Well think about it. If a reader doesn’t spend but a few minutes checking out your work, chances are that she merely reviewed a quick sample on Amazon and figured that she wasn’t interested. This cost her nothing, and you really didn’t make a lasting impression. However, if a reader likes your first page and the pages that follow, only to find out that she hates your main character (and not in a good way), then that reader may not give your work another chance in the future.
That said, we have to make sure that we do our best to get it right the first time.
So, let’s get to the point.
Let’s say you want to create a mage (a witch whose focus is element powers). Your mage may have awesome ice powers, doesn’t wear the conventional pointy hat with stars and moons embroidered into the side, and he may even toke a pipe from time to time – all the elements for the beginnings of someone the reader may find interesting.
Now let’s take these elements and make him all-powerful. He can conjure any form of magic with only a few words and incantations. The reader starts to raise an eyebrow. “Is there anything this guy can’t do?” she might ask. Now if she does ask this question, you don’t want her to be disappointed that he has no limitations.
Which brings me to the point. There have to be limitations to a character – a sense that he cannot achieve all that he wants to because there is something holding him back. This type of struggle brings a high level of interest, because the way in which our mage overcomes his limitations gives the reader something to pull for.
So perhaps our mage can only draw power from the ground, and only ground that is not covered in asphalt. Well, that would be one of the many limitations of the Druid from the Iron Druid Chronicles (awesome book by the way). Atticus can use magic, but his magic wanes if his bare feet aren’t touching the ground since he draws his power from the earth. Pretty neat.
This limitations puts him in tough situations, because some of his enemies do not have the same limits, so now as the reader, I’m intrigued.
What if you’re working on a romance? Well, that’s a no-brainer. So many people use the limitation that Harry Hunkuvaman runs marathons, feeds the homeless, eats healthy, but the only thing he can’t do is…(you guessed it)…love. Sooooo you have this entire plot wrapped around a woman who doesn’t want to be with Harry until she becomes the apple of his eye.
This is a great theme for a romance (albeit common and cliché, but still great).
What are your thoughts?
HOW TO CREATE A LIKABLE CHARACTER
When it comes to understanding the main character, a lot of times it’s difficult to near impossible to figure out what characteristics are actually “likable” and what characteristics are despised by readers.
Honestly, this doesn’t vary much from genre to genre, and quite frankly, it doesn’t vary from male characters to female characters.
Will there be some subtleties in how likability is executed from a female character to a male character? Of course, there are some keys that will ensure that your readers won’t roll their eyes at the characters you’ve developed.
When I say confidence, I’m not talking about the “stick your chest out and flaunt your abs” kinda’ confidence. I mean that you, the author, must be confident – confident in who your character is and what your character’s quest should be.
So if you want to make a school wimp who gets beat up all the time, as the writer, you must know without a doubt that this is the route that you want to go. You can’t have Harold Haroldton getting slammed against the lockers in one scene, and then two scenes later he’s ready to retaliate his unrestrained revenge on his attacker.
Why is that?
It’s because Harold needs to have a more definitive character arc than just a temporary spike in “pissed-offed-dedness.” There has to be a build up of his willingness to stand against his attacker, a sense that he’s fed up.
I’ve read stories where wimps don’t work because in the end, they aren’t truly wimps. They’re more like characters who just tend to lose fights. To me that shows that the author wasn’t truly confident that creating a wimp was what she wanted to do.
Take a look at this post about how your main can become a bully: Please, Sir, Don’t Hurt Me.
Confidence alone does not get the job done. Your character must have a stake in a ground, something that he will not compromise. Even though he gets pushed around, he has to have something that he won’t budge on, something that he’s willing to have his nose broken over a dozen times before he’ll even consider giving in.
This type of character has an inner strength that we admire as readers – something that we can encourage him in, something that he mustn’t give up.
The trouble with characters without a resolve is that there is nothing the reader can use to connect with the character, nothing that we want to see him accomplish.
What if the only accomplishment is that we want him to stand up against his bully? Well there’s a resolve, but it’s not enough. We still need that sense that he is a person with something in him that’s worth saving.
It could be that he takes care of his dying mother while his other brother ignores her, going out at night and not tending to her medical needs. This shows that Harold is wimp by day, but a hero by night. And now, as readers, we want to pull for this character, because we know that by pulling for him, he can better care for his mother.
Harold may be a wimp at heart, and he may love his mom, but if he isn’t going anywhere, no one wants to read about him. Is it enough that he gets the courage to fight his bully?
Yes, it is, BUT, what’s most important are the clues along the way that show him growing to this moment. There has to be a trajectory – a line that he travels.
You can build it up this way:
ACT 1 – Harold gets bullied, but he’s been hiding it from his mother who doesn’t need any more stress to couple with her illness.
ACT 2 – Harold’s mother reveals that she’s known about him getting beat up at school, but she never brought it up.
ACT 3 – Harold knows that he has to be strong, not just for himself, but for his mother.
This is a pretty even trajectory, but let me mention something here. Harold doesn’t need to “fight” his bully physically. Merely standing up to him is sufficient. He may still get beat, but what’s important is what has happened within Harold.
I’ll take a more in-depth look at likability in the next post.
Thanks for stopping by.
Just in time: William Stadler's new series THE GIRL WITH THE SCAR. Book one is the perfect start into the Dark Connection Saga Series, and a great read on 263 pages. If you liked his first three books of the Pioneer Series: EXTRACTED, INFUSED and REFINED, you will love THE GIRL WITH THE SCAR too.
"Burned by fate...inflamed with destiny."
So THE GIRL WITH THE SCAR is available!
Burned by Fate, Inflamed with Destiny
Hearing of her neurotic episodes, the King’s Raiders have been hunting her, the Girl with the Scar, though she has been able to escape the reach of their hand…until now.
Ripped away from her wearied mother Maria and her cavalier brother Edward, Genevieve is catapulted into an epic journey that is sure to quake the entire kingdom of Kalarn.
Available NOW: Amazon.com
Available NOW: Smashwords
So, THE GIRL WITH THE SCAR is set to be released soon, though my publisher has not given me an official release date as of yet.
In the meantime, I would like to invite everyone to get a taste of some shorts and a few snippets here and there. Bear in mind that THE GIRL WITH THE SCAR is written from the point of view of Genevieve Solace, a fifteen year-old sheltered girl in the southern planes of Kalarn.
The White Wolf is a $ 0.99 short story that introduces one of the novel’s main characters as he is set to make his move to find the one whom he has been searching. Enjoy!
A GAME OF THRONES
–by GEORGE RR. MARTIN
Gets 5 out of 5 Lattes!
“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength, and then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.” –George Martin
1. CHARACTERS [1 CUP OF COFFEE]
The development of the characters in A Game of Thrones is like a very slow snowball bounding down a hill. There is little momentum at first, and it seems that there isn’t much aim.
They are just men and women living out their lives, one trying to get a better hand at life than the other.
Somewhere along the line, we start caring about the characters, particularly Eddard Stark, also known as Ned Stark. He is the noble and honorable father of 5 children, each of whom are lords to the castle of Winterfell.
But behind every nobleman is dark past that looms, and we are left to see Ned’s oldest son, Jon Snow, be shunned by Winterfell and the lady of Winterfell, Ned’s wife Catelyn, because Jon Snow is Ned’s illegitimate son — a bastard.
There are a slew of other characters who are named in Book 1 of A Song of Ice and Fire (the actual name of the series, not A Game of Thrones, as many may believe).
One particular character is a dwarf named Tyrion Lannister who is a lord himself of house Lannister, but because of his size, he is hated, much like Jon Snow. Due to Tyrion’s height, he has chosen to use his tongue instead of his sword to fend off his enemies, and he does a jolly good job of it!
My favorite character would have to be Arya Stark, Ned’s younger daughter. She doesn’t want to be lady like her sister Sansa, and so she picks up swords and longs to be soldier like her brother Rob Stark or Jon Snow, both of whom she adores.
You won’t find any characters in this book whom you hate because of how poorly they are written (i.e. bad writing). However, you will certainly find characters whom you hate due to how well they are written — characters whom I will not name for fear of spoiling a great tale!
2. WRITING STYLE [1 CUP OF COFFEE]
The writing style of George Martin is one to emulate. It is as if his pen has disobeyed him and chosen to write the story itself, splashing ink across the papyrus and designing letters in an ancient calligraphy that Martin himself could not comprehend, even if he tried.
One of the opening lines of the book is: “Fear filled his gut like a meal he could not digest.” That image is so vivid that I cannot get it out of my mind. And this line alone is not one that unique to the story.
In fact, imagery along these lines are speckled through the story like neatly placed flowers, sprouting up like beautiful blossoms as you saunter by with your eyes.
Even in my foolish attempts, I cannot mimic Martin’s writing style. I would say that he is the Tolkien of our day, being able to take lords and ladies of the 16th century and transfer them to an audience that specializes in twitter-speak and text-talk.
3. PLOT [1 CUP OF COFFEE]
The plot is similar to watching water boil.
Though we have come to associate that phrase with something ill, actually it’s not a bad problem to have. The issues in this book seem very mild at first — a bastard son, a cunning dwarf, a spoiled prince.
With a few smacks on the wrist, it appears that the conflicts could be easily resolved. However, the more you read, the more intricate the plot becomes, and once that first boiling bubble bursts, you are in for some heated trouble!
The Starks, our heroes, are cast into scenarios that we would never have wished on our worst enemies, except the Lannisters of course, but even then, the lines between good and evil seem to dissolve like salt bubbling within the boil.
Also in this story is the fantasy element that seems to be like a distant other character, coming at you in the darkness, though you cannot see from which direction it comes. Having read through book 3, I see its direction, but in book 1, the fantasy is very minimal.
That said, the plot is so powerful that you don’t consider the fantasy that much at all. And if you’re chomping at the bit for fantasy, then you’ll get a healthy dosage of it about 75% into book 1, but you’ll need patience, because remember, George Martin always pays his debts.
4. BELIEVABILITY [1 CUP OF COFFEE]
There was not one place in this book where I said, “Okay, now you and I both know that could never happen!!“
The story is linked together in a very compelling cause and and effect, hand in hand kind of way. One thing leads to another, but never do you get the feeling that George Martin is playing a hand in devising what happens.
His characters seem like real people with real emotions who do real things, even at the expense of the reader’s petty little feelings. If you are looking for the typical epic fantasy, this is not the book for you. There are many others out there that would suffice; but if you want a story with a fantasy backdrop, this is it.
One thing that bothered me for an instant was how the Starks found these animals called Direwolves. The Direwolves are these rare mega wolves which happen to also be the sigil of the Stark household.
It seems out of place for this event, but the Starks just happened upon 6 Direwolf pups whose mother had died. The pups were going to die too, so the Starks each take pup — one for each of the children. Oh yeah, and don’t forget that there just happened to be an albino pup for the bastard Jon Snow.
That seemed a bit coincidental and contrived, but I easily looked past it since the rest of the book, and the book up to that point, were believable. However, strike 1, George.
5. GRAMMAR [1 CUP OF COFFEE]
This goes without saying: the grammar is great, and the dialects that come about, along with the slang, are easy to read.
I highly recommend reading this book. Start now while it’s summertime, because…winter is coming.
So I read this blog, and I figured I would quote he whole thing: visit his site at jakonrath.blogspot.com
I tried to color code the voices, but I ran out of colors so you might notice some repeats.
Moderator: Welcome to Obsolete and Anonymous! I’ve gathered you all here to welcome our latest member, the Print Industry.
Print Industry: Hello, everyone. But there’s been a mistake. I don’t belong here.
(chuckles all around)
Print Industry: I’m serious. I’m not obsolete. I’m relevant. Print books have been around for hundreds of years. They’re never going to be replaced.
VHS Tapes: Yeah, we all thought like that once.
LP Records: It’s called denial. It’s tough to deal with at first.
VHS tapes: Easy for you to say, LP. You’ve still got a niche collector market. They can’t even give me away on eBay.
Antique Stores: Can we please not mention eBay? I used to have stores all over. But more and more keep closing thanks to that good-for-nothing website.
CDs: At least you still have some stores left. The specialty stores that sell me are almost extinct. I’m down to a few narrow isles at Best Buy and Wal-Mart.
Print Industry: Look, everyone, I assume you all think that ebooks are going to put me out of business. But that won’t happen.
Ma Bell: We all deny it at first. I remember when you couldn’t walk twenty yards in a city without seeing a pay phone. Then those gosh darn cell phones came along. Do you know some people don’t even have land lines anymore? Used to be a land line in every home…
(Ma Bell begins to cry. Print Phonebooks joins in. So does Dial Up Modems. Encyclopedia Britannica, wearing an I Hate Wikipedia T-Shirt, pops a few Prozac. A group hug ensues.)
Video Rental Store: What Ma Bell is trying to say is that when a technology comes along that’s faster, easier, and cheaper, the old technology–and all the companies that supported it–tends to fade away.
Print Industry: Why are you here, Video Rental Store? There are still Blockbuster Videos everywhere.
CDs: There were record stores everywhere once.
Cassette Tapes: Hell yeah! They sold cassettes, too! Someone give me a high five!
(no one gives Cassette Tapes a high five)
Video Rental Store: Things looked good for a while. I had a decent, twenty-year run. Then I got hit by all sides. Netflix, shipping DVDs though the mail. On Demand. Tivo. YouTube. But the nail in the coffin came in the past two years. Hulu. Roku–which allows Netflix subscribers to stream video instantly. iTunes and Amazon offering movie downloads. Red Box, which rents DVDs for 99 cents and takes up no more space than a Coke machine…
Print Industry: But ebooks are just a tiny percentage of the market. People have been reading print since Gutenberg. They won’t adapt to change that easily.
Kodak: You’re correct. It takes a few years for people to fully embrace new technology. Some never do. Polaroid never replaced me.
Polaroid: Shut up, Kodak. We both got our asses kicked by digital. When was the last time you sold any 110 film?
TV Antennas: I’m still big in some third world countries!
Typewriter: The bottom line is: when technology improves, it becomes widely adopted. Me and Carbon Paper used to have a groovy thing going. I’d make the words, he would make the copies. Then Xerox got into the act, but he’s not doing well now either.
Xerox: F*cking computers.
Floppy Disc: You said it!
Dot Matrix: F*cking laser and inkjet. Doesn’t anyone else miss tearing off the perforated hole punches on the side of paper? Don’t they miss the feel and smell of that?
Fold-Out Paper Maps: I agree! Isn’t it fun to open up a big map while you’re driving, in hopes of figuring out where you are? Don’t you miss the old days before cars came equipped with GPS and no one ever used that bastard, MapQuest?
CDs: F*cking internet. That’s the problem. Instant access to information and entertainment for the whole world. You guys want to talk about pirating and illegal downloads?
(everyone shouts out a collective no!)
Moderator: We all read on JA Konrath’s blog that the way to fight piracy is with cost and convenience. Print Industry, are you lowering your prices and making it easier for customers to download your books?
Print Industry: Actually, we just raised prices on our ebooks.
(collective sighs and head shaking)
Moderator: Well, far be it for you to learn from any of our mistakes. Are you making it easier at least?
Print Industry: Well, we’ve begun windowing titles, releasing them months after the hardcover comes out.
(collective head slapping)
Music Industry: Have you at least tried selling from your own site? I wish I’d done that. But that upstart Apple came along…
Print Industry: Uh… no. We haven’t tried that. In fact, some ebooks–we’ll use JA Konrath as an example since he was mentioned–aren’t even available on all platforms and in all territories.
Moderator: What do you mean? Konrath’s ebooks are available all over the place.
Print Industry: Those are the ones he uploads himself. The ones of his that we sell are missing from several key markets, and have been for years. But it’s okay. We’re paying him much smaller royalties and jacking the prices up high so we can still make a profit. Besides, ebooks are a niche market. Ereading devices are dedicated and expensive.
Arcades: I used to be a thriving industry. Kids spent billions of quarters in my thousands of locations. But then Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft made home arcade machines, and now people play their videogames on dedicated devices. It’s a multi-billion dollar business now, and I can only compete if I sell shitty pizza and give out plastic trinkets to kids with the most foosball tickets. If people want the media, they buy the expensive device. Period.
Print Industry: None of you are listening to me. Print will always be around.
Newspaper Industry: Yeah! What he said!
Print Industry: Let’s not compare ourselves, okay Newspaper Industry? No offense.
Newspaper Industry: None taken. Hey, maybe we can help each other. I’m selling advertising space for dirt cheap these days, and…
Print Industry: No thanks. No one reads you anymore. People get their news elsewhere.
Moderator: So why won’t people get their novels elsewhere as well?
(Print Industry stands up, pointing a finger around the room.)
Print Industry: Look, this isn’t about me. All of you guys have become irrelevant. Technology marched on, and you didn’t march with it. But that WILL NOT happen to me. There will always be bookstores, and dead tree books. We’ll continue to sell hardcovers at luxury prices, and pay artists 6% to 15% royalties on whatever list price WE deem appropriate. And the masses will buy our books BECAUSE WE SAID SO! WE SHALL NEVER BECOME OBSOLETE!!!
Buggy Whip Industry: Amen, brother! That’s what I keep trying to tell these people!
CDs: (whispering to LPs) I give him six years, tops.
Joe sez: I wrote the above three years ago. So what has changed since then?
Every video rental store in my area has disappeared. Blockbuster Video filed for bankruptcy and now has 500 stores left in the US. They once had 9000.
Kodak filed Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. In 2010, you could still buy 35mm film everywhere. Now you can’t.
One of the two major bookstore chains, Borders, has closed.
The last commercially produced typewriter was donated to a museum.
The US has almost entirely switched to digital TV.
Roku supported Netflix streaming video. Now Netflix comes preinstalled on new TVs, Blu Ray players, Wiis, Xboxs, Playstations, 3DS, Vistas, WD Live, and Apple TV. It can be installed on the iPad, Kindle Fire, and Nook. Amazon also streams video, free to Prime members.
Since getting my rights back, my income from those titles has gone up over 1000%.
The print industry still hasn’t raised author royalties. They faced a DOJ lawsuit for price fixing, allegedly keeping ebook prices high, and have settled. Paper sales continue to decline, while ebook sales continue to rise.
The buggy whip industry still hasn’t recovered.