Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Too Much Will Ruin Your Story

One of the top reasons I pass on projects that I have requested more information about is about plotting. More specifically, it is when an author has a great idea at the beginning of the story, but instead, chooses to start adding a lot of extra STUFF to their stories. The end result is that great premise you started with is now bogged down among a bunch of useless and distracting ideas.

So, what are we talking about? Here are some of the top ideas:

  • THE CHARACTERS HAVE TOO MUCH BAGGAGE In this situation, the authors have tried to "justify" their characters behavior with a ridiculous amount of baggage. For example, if a heroine doesn't want to go on a date or get involved with someone, it is due to a prior relationship who cheated, an abusive family relationship, and, oh, why not, for the heck of it, throw in a miscarriage. While all of these might be valid, remember that the time it takes to explain and justify all of this is word count that could go to adding depth to your character and making them three-dimensional. The reality is that we can simply have a character who might feel a relationship is just not right for the time.
  • TOO MANY CHARACTERS GETTING IN THE WAY This one happens when authors need to have their characters learn something that they could probably have done on their own. Instead, they turn around, bring in a new character to tell them something and then never use that person again in the story. If you have a story in an office, we don't need to know EVERYONE in Human Resources!
  • FILLING THE STORY WITH AN EXCESSIVE AMOUNT OF UNNECESSARY INFORMATION This situation comes from authors who are writing about topics they simply do not understand. These authors start "researching" and then proceed to fill the novel with all of that "really cool research" the came across. I remember reading a historical romance where the hero was a doctor. Clearly the author found "the mother lode" of research because she spent over half a chapter describing every detail of his lab including information on how some of the instruments were developed and the exact procedures they were used for. Ask yourself, does the author REALLY NEED all of this information?
  • TOO MANY SUBPLOTS In this case the author believes that adding more subplots will add depth to the story. The reality is that it now mucks everything up and we lose sight of the main story arc. Let's take a romantic suspense story. You have the hero and heroine story arc. You have the suspense arc, but then adding in an additional arc to show us the entire underbelly of the bad guys, and maybe even a storyline revolving around the hero trying to prove something to his boss and why not have the heroine in the middle of trying to take care of her elderly family too. Ugh, just too much.

I get why you add this stuff. For some of you, it is just to increase the size of your story. The reality is that you probably didn't have a premise in the beginning that was worthy of a full novel, so you added all of the other pieces thinking that would help.

For another batch of you, it is due to your wonderful critique partners who kept asking questions as to why your character did that. Instead of giving them a basic answer, you listened to them as they created a whole new worldd that was never part of your original plan. 

In other cases, it is because you were told your stories lack depth. You seem to believe more is better and that lead you to adding in all of those extra storylines. Depth is all about giving us a three dimensional character and world. It is about giving us more scenes with the hero and heroine. 

I always recommend going back to that basic plot diagram. If what you ant doesn't fit on the plot line, don't add it. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

There Is No Easy Solution

This last weekend, I was teaching a workshop on resume writing. For many of the participants in the class, there was truly a belief that the class held the golden ticket. That in that 3 hour workshop, I would provide for them that hidden secret that would not only get them a job, but get them a job that would make them so much money, they could retire forever.

Even during the course, one participant told me that she was also in a program that, after completion, she would have earned a certificate. She knew that the certificate alone would get her a job in that field. Now the fact that other than course work, she had never done anything in that field did not seem to matter to her. 

In other words, there are not easy solutions.

I see this a lot with writers as well. There is a belief that there is one book out there, one quick Google Search and all the answers have been solved. Even at the workshop over the weekend, we were asked if there was one website that told us everything they needed about all of the agents. 

We laughed.

They were amazingly shocked when we said it finding the right agent or right editor took time to visit and research every one of the prospective websites.

We are, unfortunately, living in a world that seems to believe this. Thank you Siri. But, what you will find is that the people who are successful in the long run, are those who are not looking for the easy solution. With every success you see from them, that looks from your end as being accomplished so easily, are a ton of hours and struggles.

You have to just keep working at it.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Any Contract Is Not The Best Contract

For authors, getting that first contract is a dream that always seems elusive. Time and time again, rejections flow into author's inboxes. They write and rewrite their stories. They start a new genre. They write a new book. They read everything they can, and yet, the rejections still show up.

Until one day... 

They leap at a new opportunity they heard from a friend, or heard at a conference. Wow! This could be it! Instead of the normal months of waiting, the author hears back and dang it, they got a contract. They can now claim they are published. Break out that champagne and celebrate.

And yet... (you knew this was coming).

Things just don't work out like they thought. Sales are not the way they had hoped. Distribution is just not there. Maybe the final product just doesn't look like they had hoped. So what happened?

It was just not the best contract. It happened to be the first contract.

I get this all of the time from submissions. Authors who tried one approach, and yes, it is often self-publishing, only to find that it was not all that it was hyped up to be. And now, unfortunately, the author may be paying the price. In the case of self-publishing, it may be a ton of money from their own bank account. It may be bad publicity or reviews. It may just be that bad taste left in your mouth. 

Here comes the line I have said over and over again. Being a published author takes time, education and talent. It is not just about writing a story on your computer and getting it printed. Yes, you may be rejected. All authors get rejected. But jumping at the first thing that comes your way may not be the best approach either. 

In simple terms, look before you leap.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Who Did You Hear That From?

I recently attended a great writing workshop. I love these where you have the chance to get together with people who all share your same passion. I also love the fact that the attendees are there to learn. They are sponges! However...

Like sponges, they absorb EVERYTHING. They bring in the good and the bad.

As I sat in the lobby getting ready for a session, I heard one author giving another author some advice. This person talked with authority and recommended the other author use an approach to his writing as well as how the market and the publishing industry worked.

Every ounce of that information was wrong. Let me stress here, the advice he was giving the other author was not something that came down to subjectivity or something that would work with, say e-book sales vs regular sales. It was just information that was flat-out wrong. 

And yet, the other author pulled out his journal and furiously took notes. They exchanged cards and could not wait to continue this conversation and journey together. 

There are a lot of people out there on the Internet and in the writing community who will give you advice 24/7/365, but before you even think about listening to that information, or even worse, following that advice, you have to take the time to truly listen and determine if that person has any clue what he or she is talking about. Along the same lines, even if the information was potentially OK, it doesn't mean it is going to work for your writing situation. 

I get it! Writers want to learn. They want to find out how to make that book great and how to get their writing published. This is a good thing. But try to think of it this way. Do we attend colleges without finding out if the college is accredited? I doubt it. We go to the colleges that can deliver quality and reliable services. 

The same should go for the advice you are getting about your writing!