Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Keep Your Story Simple

I feel like I am always trying to get this point across to authors. Yesterday, however, an editor I was working with used a different explanation that made a lot of sense.

What we are talking about here are authors that make stories far too complicated than the stories need to be. They add sub-plots. They add a ton of external conflicts. They go over-board linking prior stories to the one they are working on, and then try to set up things that will happen in the next three books. Too much!

Now, while this does add depth and can work for some authors (primarily those writing large scale epic level novels, for the general novelist, this is over-kill. The issue now comes to play when the author is trying to market his or her story to agents, editors and book-buyers. You might be one of those people. Consider this...

Is your synopsis more than 5 pages in length?
Do you have to explain your story by telling the listener the backstory of how the plot came to be?
If you write historical, do you have to re-tell the entire historical period down to the exact dates of the events?
When you tell the story, do you also have to give us an in-depth understanding of the secondary characters and even those that only show up 2 or 3 times in the entire novel?

Then you probably have an issue.

So, what was the great explanation one of my favorite editors gave? She simply said that authors need to put themselves in the shoes of their editor. It is that person who is going to be responsible for drafting up the back cover copy. It is that person who is going to have to explain the story to the marketing team and the art department. It is that person who has to put together the publicity. To do so, your editor (and yes your agent has to do the same thing) has to have something short, simple and to the point. As she noted to me, that back cover copy has to be 75 words or less. And, for some of you out there, that is going to be tough.

Why does it have to be this way? Because it will be easier to remember. It will be easier to capture the essence of the story to show the uniqueness of the project when "selling" it to others.

As you get ready to start that new novel, you need to think of those 75 words. It has to be exact. It has to be to the point. I cannot be full of fluff and clich├ęs such as "sparks flew when..." This is 75 words that have to tell us about the hero, the heroine, the conflict and their motivations. BAM!!!

This is not about word economy but a plotting issue. It is about getting to the point of the story, and then, when you start writing it, stick to it!

So, here is your challenge. Try it today... Try answering these simple questions and then blending it together:

  1. Title
  2. Word count
  3. Genre
  4. Tell us about the setting
  5. Tell us about the hero
  6. Tell us about the heroine
  7. Tell us about the conflict
  8. Tell us about their motivations
Now keep it to under 75 words.

Have fun!

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