Friday, June 3, 2022

What Is The Message Of Your Novel

I remember teaching a workshop about query letters and synopsis writing to a chapter of the RWA a while ago. We got to the element of "the high concept" and suddenly found that I had an entire room staring at me with that "deer in the headlight look." What was the problem? These authors, like so many that I see, had no clue what the message was of their novel. They had no theme to it.

For too many, authors have simply sat down and wrote a story, or I should say, a lot of words about characters doing things. They spend countless hours just writing about event after event, adding witty dialogue, well-crafted phrases and so forth, but in the end, the story is a failure simply because there is no purpose to it. 

That purpose that we speak of is referred to as the theme of the story. This literally goes back to those basic lessons we all learned about in junior high. The theme is the "take away" from the story. It is the message you want us all to learn by the time we get to the end of the story. These themes are also "universal themes." In other words, these are timeless themes that we have seen over and over again throughout the history of writing.

I know that there are some of you who will argue that stories can also be used "just to entertain." Unfortunately, even those stories have a theme to it. Think of it this way, even when you watch stand-up comedians, they still have a common thread of something that we all need to learn.

So, when do you come up with a theme? This needs to be done BEFORE you start writing. As an author, you need to know that message so that everything, the characters, actions, scenes and dialogue, all support that theme. Trying to figure out that message after you write it, is like writing a Master's Thesis, and, at the end, trying to figure out what your thesis was.

With that said, before you start to write today, think about your theme. If you don't have one. STOP writing, figure it out, then go back and edit before proceeding further. You might amaze yourself with the outcome of your novel.


Thursday, June 2, 2022

Why Name Recognition Is Important

One of the top reasons I pass on authors, is when they state how long they have been working on the project they are submitting. As a "hobby author" the time it takes to write a story really doesn't matter. You spend a lot writing that perfect story, lingering over the words and working on the perfect phrase. But here comes two big problems. First, your readers, assuming you get signed by an editor, are not going to want to wait around for your next book. Secondly, you increase your readership through name recognition.Let's talk about each.

If you are familiar with the Game of Thrones series, or even the Outlander series, you will understand. People devoured these books. In the case of both, each TV series moved faster than the authors could write. The readers wanted more and the authors simply did not want to wait. Did they wait? Yes. Did they like it? No!

For you new authors, name recognition is what will save you. Think about the authors you go back and buy. You probably always return to the authors you remember. Sure, you stumble across new authors, but if you get on Amazon, or hit your local bookstore, you start looking for the authors you remember. To be successful in this business, you have to keep your name out there.

I know that for many authors, they have convinced themselves that it is more important to produce the best book possible, regardless of the time it takes. Part of this is true. Yes, we want good books, but you have to be able to produce those books. For publishers, asking for 2-3 books a year at 77K-100K word count should not be an issue. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Funny From Submissions Today

There are many times when I simply have to sit back and laugh at some of the submissions I get. Of course, the humor is not necessarily coming from the quality of the book or the premise, but the submission iteself.

As I was answering emails today, I received a ton for projects I don't represent. Normal, but when it comes from someone who is a PhD at a university who claims great research, or even worse, real medical doctors who don't know how to figure out if what they write I represent, it makes me laugh.

Of course, there are also the submissions where a person openly admits they are working through a directory A-Z copying the same query to everyone with "Dear Agent" or in my case, "Dear Mr. Greyhaus" but then writes back to state there was a typo in my reply to their project (and yet they take the time to send out quality submissions"...

you have to laugh.

I get that submission writing is not fun. It IS tedious. But if you are getting tired to rejections, go back and think about your approach!

Friday, April 8, 2022

Is Your Conflict Strong Enough

I'm working with one of my clients on her latest work in progress and it is all about the conflict this time. Surprisingly, the lack of conflict is one of the reasons I pass on projects more often than not. 

When we talk about conflict, we have to see this as being that single thing that is preventing the character from moving forward. In the case of romance writing, the biggest conflict is the reason that the hero and heroine are not going to get together. That conflict has to be significant and not easy to overcome.

Too often, writers don't have a significant conflict in their stories. What they have is a complication. I have talked about this before, but let me again explain this. A complication is often something that can be solved by a simple conversation. We see this a lot with stories where one character overhears, or misinterprets something another character said or did. How is this fixed? The characters simply needs to ask the other person. 


A conflict is one where someone is really going to have to change or give something up. This conflict should lead to that dark moment where it almost feels like there is not solution.

So, let's go back to those romances. That hero and heroine have to be in a situation where, as much as they want to be together, the forces of nature are simply not going to make it possible. Maybe it is a situation where they are working for opposing companies. A relationship might be one that would hold back that big corporate deal. Maybe they are in the same company and there is now a policy that comes down that says you cannot be in a relationship with someone else. So, does one person have to quit their job? Do they both quit? 

As you think of that conflict, you need to push those stakes as high as you can. Remember though, you never want to make the conflict so big that they cannot fix the problem. Along the same lines, don't create a conflict that gets fixed by a sudden "act of nature." In this case, maybe it is someone faced with financial difficulties. It becomes a real let down for the reader when you suddenly drop that a crazy uncle left them with a nest egg. Really? You fought tooth and nail with that character to find a solution, only to have this drop on you? Ugh!

So, your task for the weekend is to look at that conflict in your story. Is it a conflict or a complication? Is it big enough or too big?