Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Balance Your Narration And Dialogue

Finding balance in your life is a good thing. Finding balance in your writing is even better. And yet, for so many authors, finding the right balance between narration and dialogue can be tough. Both are truly essential to stories and have a place in the story, and yet, if an author uses one too much, it can have a huge effect on the story.

Narration is one of those pieces that tend to be used too much in far too many stories. Authors feel the need to add the back story and add the world building. Yes, we need to know this information, but when an author overloads the reader with too much, the story simply slows down. It becomes far too much for a reader to remember.

Dialogue, on the other hand, certainly gets the reader more directly involved with the story, and yet, if we are missing the narration, we lose the context of the story. We have nothing to attach it to.

Determining how much we need of both is pretty basic. As you get ready to add that element, stop and ask if it is truly necessary at that point in the time. This is especially true with narration. Back story and world building is always on a "need to know basis." I am reading a story right now where the author, wanted the reader to see a correlation to what was happening now and what happened to a historical figure in the past. In this case, just a reference to that event would have been fine. Instead, with this author, she went for pages giving us the full run-down of the actual event. Too much.

When it comes to dialogue, you can take the same approach. Ask yourself if the dialogue is really adding something to the story, or if you are using it to fill space. For a lot of authors, I see authors use dialogues just to pass the time to get the characters from one place to another. In this case, a single sentence to say that they had talked for hours would have been fine.

As always, I just recommend to think when you write. Stop and ask yourself how this would sound to someone reading it for the first time.

Monday, June 19, 2017

After All Of Those Rejections, Do You Still Publish The Story?

Since the rise of the e-publishing movement, and more specifically, the self-publishing movement, I have seen a disturbing trend from authors. After trying over and over again to get their stories published through traditional routes, they turn to self-publishing the story that so many others had passed on. I am not sure if this is the right move.

Now, I know exactly what many of these authors say is their "justification" for doing this. One thought is that many have convinced themselves that it is the industry's lack of forward thinking or willingness to take a risk in signing a new author with an innovative thought. Yes, since the housing bubble crashed and businesses had to take some tighter approaches toward who they sign, this is really not the reason. Publishers do take chances. Publishers are willing to sign new authors. BUT... the writing has to be good.

A second group of authors believe that the reason they are taking this approach is that the writing is good, but their writing is just in a "different niche." Again, while that might be the case, the more likely reason that these authors are not seeing, is that their writing is so different that it really doesn't have a fit in the entire market, whether that is the traditional market or the self-publishing route.

And then there is the final group that simply believes, "Well, at least I can claim it is published." Yes, that is true, but what good is that going to do for you?

What do all three of these have in common? The simple fact that, in many cases, these authors are putting work out there that is not their best work. Sure, they are justifying their reasons and maybe, in some cases, they are correct, but if the work is not the best, what message is being sent to the readers?

I actually heard one author say at a conference that even if they got negative publicity, at least they got their name out there. I am not sure if that thinking really works.

Look, I get you spent time on that story. I get that you put your blood, sweat and tears into that project. But in some cases, that is just going to be a story that will forever remain in that file cabinet next to your desk. Sometimes, it might be best to not put that project out there.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Don't Approach Your Writing Randomly

I see a lot of writers out there really trying to get published. They write and write. They submit. They edit. They are going at their writing with a wild abandon. The problem however, is there is simply no focus to their writing. So what are these writers doing? They are trying to write everything.

This group of writers are the people who tend to follow trends and what the latest thing is an editor or agent is looking for. They attend a conference and hear that a publisher is opening up a new line. At that moment, they proceed to start writing a story that will fit that line, or go back and start tweaking a story they already have to fit that line.

These authors start writing for one line, hear an editor is actively acquiring for another line and then dive into writing a project there.

These authors often have stories in 3-8 different genres and trying to throw all of those ideas out there to editors or agents in the hopes something will stick.

But, the problem with this approach is they are not fully learning that genre or building their skills in that genre.

A good analogy of this would be the approach many parents are taking with their kids and outside activities. I hear so many parent say, "I want to expose my son or daughter to as many different sports or activities as I can. I want them to get a sense of what they can really be successful in." While this sounds like a great idea, to be successful in something takes time. It is not something that you just acquire after one season of soccer or a summer league of swimming. The end result is that the kid is just exposed to a lot but not very successful in any of the activities. When asked at the end of the season if they want to go on, the kids often decide to shift to another activity. Why? They were not on the A-Squad. They simply were outclassed by those kids who do this on a regular basis and really focused their attention on that skill.

I would also add that the approach of having a lot of different projects makes it really hard for the agents when we are submitting projects. If one project doesn't work, editors will often ask if this person has something else. If all we have is a project in another genre, the conversation is over.

The big message here is to focus on your writing. Know where you want to be and do it well. Don't try to be good in a lot of things. Be really good in one thing.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

An Approach To Global Revisions

Doing revisions on anything we write is not a fun process. It is a necessary evil to insure that the final product we put out there for the writers is outstanding. In many cases, revisions can be pretty simple as long as you are working with isolated problems. This could include things such as, the introduction to the story is flat, or the scene between Bob and Suzie is just a bit awkward and doesn't show the reader a lot of emotion. However, the revisions that become difficult to work with are those global revisions. These are the issues that run throughout the entire novel.

I will tell you, these can be nightmarish. Authors often run into a domino effect situation. You make changes in one area and by the time you get to chapter 6, those changes are now coming into conflict with another change that happens in the story. In some cases, those changes now create an issue where you are thinking about just throwing the entire story out and starting over.

But there is a way where you don't have to fact these issues.

When you get revisions such as this from your editor or agent (or even your critique partners) stop and look at that list first. Take the time to think it all through first and to prioritize the issues. This is not an issue of prioritizing based on the size of the project or the order in which the problems occur. It is an issue of looking to see how things fit together.

For example, if one of the issues is the conflict between the hero and the heroine not really building at a regular pace, and a second issue deals with goals and motivations of the hero, you will want to start with the single character issue first. Those issues will generally begin before the hero and heroine start forming that relationship. This is also an issue that will control the way the two of them work.

The next thing to consider is to not do all of the changes at a single time. Make that list, go through the novel and fix that one problem and then move on to the second issue. Do not try to fix all of the issues at one time. I can promise you, this will lead to psychotic issues.

What I think you will find, is that if you do take this a bit slower, this process is not so daunting. The key is to simply relax and breathe!