Nice people write lousy fiction

I suppose that better fiction comes from people who are messier, who don’t mind wading into a scene where there’s conflict.

Because that’s what messes up my plotting. There I’ll be, setting up the battle to end all battles, and I’ve got my people primed and ready to go. There’s going to be Donnybrook!

But wait. Not really a plot twist, more like a balloon full of molten lead. The antagonist has flown the coop. There is no battle. No bodies. No blood. No bullets flying.

That’s awfully boring, isn’t it? No one wants to read that. Give us the figurative blood and gore. We want it. We need it. It’s necessary for fiction to have that.

That’s the point of the title. The nice people out there, they shy away from dragging everyone else through their messes. Fiction comes from the depiction of people in different bad situations. Maybe people who’ve been damaged by conflict in their childhoods might write weak fiction because they shy away from the nasty stuff. I don’t blame ’em.  Maybe you are the eternal optimist and think there’s enough conflict in the world. Maybe you’re just nice and want people to have a yellow happy face have a nice day sort of  blather. Either way, that is the insipid path to dullness.

Stories do not work without conflict.

So brace yourselves and make everyone argue. Peace is a nice thing to talk about in blog posts where you have no intention of doing anything to back it up, but it’s dullsville in fiction.  If you manuscript says, “The elves and dwarves had been at peace as long as anyone could remember,” I’ll fix that for you. Say, instead, “The elves and dwarves had been in a bitter war as along as anyone could remember.”  Everytime we get and elf and dwarf together, there’s a fight!

Plus, each scene needs that conflict goal thing. You know, the character has a goal. There’s a conflict. They can’t have their goal. Then you do the whole mourning thing, they come up with a new goal, and go to carry that out. Scene and sequel. Repeat this over and over. Apply structure, apply arc, add plot twists, you have a book.

I will now go make my characters fight some more. There’s way too much agreement.

Angst, Handwringing, and Screenwriting

I live in Los Angeles. I live approximately 15 miles from major studios that  you all know and love, such as Disney, Warner Brothers, Universal, and countless other small independents. There are thousands of other businesses dependent on the movie industry, including catering, trucks, lights, sound, costumes, props, post production, special effects, and so on.

And, it seems if you’re a writer in Los Angeles, you really MUST have a screenplay.

So I was well aware of the fact that, having taken up the authorial title with the intent to produce an opus for Amazon that no one will buy but my closest blog friends (yeah, I’m lookin’ at all twenty of you. It’s going to cost you, this relationship!), I do not have the desire to write a screenplay. Despite the easy money falling off trees into the baskets of those hard-working screenwriters, I haven’t curled up with any self-help screenplay how-to books.

Enter the blog of Kristin Lamb. Many of you know her through her  blog devoted to improving fiction writing of anyone who will read. She is inspiring and also a kick in the arse for whomever will listen to her advice.  Yesterday, she posted a piece on Your Novel in One Sentence. It was essentially a breakdown of content found in the book, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder.

Save the Cat is a book on how to write a screenplay. It encompasses things like genre, structure, and the one line that describes your movie, the logline. I made fun of a random internet plot generator in this post, but that thing is actually producing loglines correctly. It’s not very good at what it does, in that none of the ideas were viable, but it has the format correct and it’s doing better than most authors, if they ever bothered to summarize their novels at all.

I’ve only read a third of Snyder’s book and it’s eye-opening. I see application from screenplay into the world of novels. One of the drums he bangs most loudly is that there are rules and you can break them, but if you want to be successful you probably should stick to the rules.

Therein lies the source of most of the authorly angst that may be out there. If you’re selling a screenplay or you’re selling a book, you must be able to sum it up in about the size of a twitter post.  Tell me what your book is about in 140 characters or less. Most books don’t know what they’re about, and that gets them lost in the slush. When someone reviews the book, can they state what it’s about in less than a paragraph? I looked at Ionia’s reviews of books, and note that her style is to state the premise of the book in a paragraph (2-3 sentences). I think those are not the book blurb but her own words.

When you write, do you write for the audience, or are you creating lit-ah-rah-ture? Do you want to sell your book, or are you just trying to be an artist? People who write for a living write for the audience. The other one starves or lives off others or has a Real Job.

If you’re an indy author, do you pay attention to any of the things necessary to market your novel to publishers and agents, or do you disregard such focusing devices? Is there value in having concise summations of your novel? Are successful authors on Amazon due to having the conciseness in summation and marketing to an audience the retread story formats we know and love?

How to Get Honest Reviews

In Amazon, you can click on the reviewers and that gives you an email (sometimes). Find reviewers you like from reviews on similar novels to yours and email them a request to review your book, and comp them a copy of the book for an honest review. Be very professional when you do so you do not taint your reviewer in any way. Or have someone else do it on your behalf.

I’m not sure how to comp them a book, though you can send books to someone directly on their Kindle. They must know the name of their kindle device so you can email the manuscript to them, and they must add your sending email to the permitted senders list. Some people may be wary about accepting direct books, but it works. Do not send PDFs. Those do not scale. Send a Word document.

Perhaps those that have done this process know a better way to comp books. If so, I’d love to hear it.

This is in response to Brandy’s comment about gaining honest reviews.

Also, M.J. Moores writes a tremendous piece on the other side of this, here:

Reviews for your Book.

I also read an interesting piece on whether authors should pay for reviews.

See here:

Should Authors Pay for Book Reviews?

The longshot of that is no, you shouldn’t. There is an alternative, which is to solicit reviews. As the article says,

Going through the process of getting blurbs, testimonials and reviews is one of the best exercises in feet-on-the-ground book marketing any author can have. It will teach you a huge amount about how books actually get sold, and how your book is being received. That’s incredibly valuable learning for any author.

The hard part is figuring out how you go about the process, etc. It’s much easier said than done.

I’m learning English this week

I found a website to teach me English.

I know how to write it. I know how to speak it. I’m an American native and this is my first language, and arguably only one. But I didn’t know the names for stuff, and the verb section is quite interesting… especially the tenses.

And “was” isn’t always bad.

You hate Amazon and the slushpile, but want to reward good new authors?

A lament I frequently read hereabouts is that people in general loathe the mighty Amazon for how their system permits anyone to publish a book and call themselves an author.

The system in place permits anyone to review a book, leaving between 1-5 stars to indicate their like/dislike of the book, and comments after.

Further, book is listed in categories selected by the author and then assigned a sales rank in that genre.

The problem lies in discovering good books that meet a minimum criteria for quality. As I posted yesterday, the readers judge your book on basic criteria such as grammar before they are willing to get on to the actual content of the book, that is, the plot, story, characterization, and so on.

I’m biased on this. I want a book that has the assurances of quality. So, for instance, if someone publishes something, there ought to be credits. Who were your proofreaders, your line editor, developmental editor, and so on? What’s their track record? If I look at your developmental editor, will I see a resume including dozens of books by other authors that are good quality?

Maybe requiring the same sort of care that goes with submitting a book to a traditional publishing company ought to be put in the author’s submissions to the public. Not just a paragraph, a freakin’ page on your plot, summarily executed so we can know exactly what we’re getting into.

And then there’s the reviewers. A review that does not discuss the book in question is not a useful review. Perhaps a separation of the review process into Pro/Con, or Good/bad/ugly. Separate the important things into categories so we can hit the salient points, such as structure, grammar, typos, characterization, story arc, and so on.  We ought to be able to review the reviewers. What’s their reputation? Do they write good reviews or just leave lots of 5 stars and nonsense comments (“Fantastic Read! 5 Stars!”) that are worthy of an eBay feedback? I suppose the “5 of 6 people found this review useful” is the application of this, but it’s not done in a way that weights the reviews to influence where the book appears.

Further, there ought to be a statement under the penalty of perjury where the reviewer reveals any relation to the author: Friend, family member, know them through blogging, acquaintance, stranger. Just like the reviewers on blogs where they reveal any sort of relationship for the purposes of bias, I want to know what possibilities exist.

Finally, there ought to be a way to sort based on cascading criteria that you decide. Maybe popularity isn’t what you’re looking for. Certainly price point doesn’t indicate quality.

And then consider the idea that you could have something like the Netflix deal where you are asked if you liked or disliked certain movies. You rate ’em with a few stars, and after rating a few dozen books, the thing comes up with movies it thinks you will like.  Can we do this with books? The difficulty lies in categorizing and assigning values to new books, but if someone writes as well and similar to a well-known author, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to discover them through a program that does this. I would limit the submissions for this to authors that can demonstrate they had a team of some kind that assisted them in publishing. I know I’m biased on that point, but the slushpile is created by loner self-publishers for the most part.

There’s a book plot for you: the Unpublishers, a book mafia group of bibliophiles who go around getting people to withdraw unworthy manuscripts from the market.

Reader’s Opinion: Yes, we are judging your book based on form, not function

First off, the following reviews I selected at from books picked at random. I did not read the books. I do not know if they have the errors or problems indicated. My purpose here isn’t to shame those authors or attack their work, it’s to point out what the fickle public is going to do to your book when you release it into the wild. They will savage it if they detect weakness. Read on:

Amazon review from Brian Harmon’s Rushed (Rushed Book 1):

FlashKnickers says:

Totally agreed. OVERLY LONG descriptions of everything, endless chase scenes (also overdetailed and dragged out). Too many typos, non-existent editing–how can you use the word “ghastly” in two consecutive sentences?–and honestly, would someone who died in the 1970s be using “LOL” and saying things are awesome, super-this and super-that? I found myself skipping ahead just to get through scenes that took 10 pages to explain five seconds’ worth of action that really didn’t require so much detail and description.

Amazon review from Jarvis Gatlin’s The Books:

Teresa Rambo
Besides the poor punctuation and senseless conversations, there was no plot development nor did I get a feel for the characters. It jumps around from setting to setting without explanation of how or why. I gave it a try but can’t give it over one star.

Amazon review from Cristin Cooper’s Until Now:

Teresa Rank
Very poorly edited — author doesn’t know the difference between there, their & they’re or your & you’re. I find this very distracting….and NO, I am not a grammar Nazi!!!

No, Teresa, you’re no grammar Nazi. And I like that you capitalized Nazi. We know you’re no grammar Nazi because your ellipsis had four periods, not the requisite three, and I’m wary of the em-dash you put in there. But why would desiring an author to have their homophones straight make you a monster concerned with a strict interpretation of grammar and punctuation and extinguishing entire races of people while conquering all of Europe?

Anthony Vicino at One Lazy Robot discussed why he believes that ratings and reviews don’t matter anymore (sort of!). His post brings up the fact that a well-edited author with a strong following of readers will gain skewed review statistics which makes the review system ineffective.

That may be true, but for the non-edited author, the readers aren’t your friend, yet, and they’re (There? Their?) out for blood. They won’t be leaving you a 5 star, or a 4 star. They’re going to 3 or lower star you.

The above reviews aren’t given to bash those particular authors; I went through the list of kindle books and culled the ones with only a few ratings, as I believe that books fall in to three categories: Well-written with underutilized marketing, poorly written with angry readers, and well-written with a lot of marketing/readers. There’s some other categories, but for today’s experiment, I looked for books with ten or fewer reviews. My assumption is that a sprinkling of poor reviews will cause others to shy away from the book and effectively kill it. If you read a review that describes a book with obvious editing errors, are you going to bother to read it? No.

The main takeaway here is that the book you sweated your way through and wrote in snow, rain, mud, and pestilence, that book you finally capped and told the story with 120,000 words, if you didn’t use editing, it’s going to fail.

For that reason, you need to engage proofreaders. Proofreaders are warm bodies who look for homophones, run-ons, awkward constructions, and tyops and flag them for you. They look at sentences and flag the awkward or wrong ones. They’ll do what Word 2013 does if you turn on the grammar. That’s the bare minimum.

Then we have the other people who will hone your text. Developmental editor? Yeah, you want one. See the complaint up there about Harmon’s book? What flashknickers is pointing out is the lack of a developmental editor, or possibly any editor. The problems that are obvious to a reader were not obvious to the author and you can’t erase 2 star “you didn’t edit” reviews.

Then there’s the story editors who will address your constant waffling on tense. They’ll insert commas where you desperately, desperately, for the love of all things holy, please please please NEED ONE. They’ll rip out your semi-colons and put periods on the comma splices.

Editing Removes Barriers to Story Immersion

Speaking only on my behalf, when I read a book I desire to immerse myself in the world. Immersion means to go under water or to be completely in something. Anyway, I want immersion. I don’t want story sprinkling. I want to be there with your character. I want to see what they see, experience what they experience. I want it to be vivid and interesting and there are setbacks and intense conflict and we are arcing and overcoming and trying and failing and doing all the fantastic stuff that a book is supposed to do. It is a complex endeavor to string 120 k words together in a cohesive fashion and tell a story and make the reader live there.

I heard this quote in church yesterday, from George Bernard Shaw. I think it applies to your writing as much as to anything else you do.

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

George Bernard Shaw

You want to be a candle or a torch? You’ve done this hard, hard work and then you just throw it out there on the web. $.99, buy my book. Why don’t you finish it before publishing? Spend the money and take your book from the “meh” level to the “ahhhh” level.

Mistakes Eject Your Reader From the Story

As a reader, when I see a mistake such as a missing comma or misused comma, it irritates me for a moment. Normally, my irritation is not your concern. If I’m reading your book, it should be. I’ll grant a few a mistakes and let it go. If you have an awesome story to tell and you’re a great storyteller, I may grant you leniency, but in my head your book still has a “deducted one star for no editing” sort of label.

Not just that I’m irritated, I’m also ejected from the story by your error. I am thinking, at that moment, about “why didn’t the writer put in a comma” rather than “what’s next? What happens next?” You NEVER want me to think about your craft. The underlying structure of words and sentences, spelling and punctuation, those things the reader should never think about. When they do, your text has failed and you have ejected the reader from the story.

Don’t Ask Me to Proofread the Book I Bought

When you get a homophone error (they’re their there), that’s a sure sign you did not engage a proofreader. Books that aren’t proofread and contain exhortations from the author to “drop me a line with any mistakes,” is a two-fold message. 1st message: “I want to fix my errors and I know they’re in there.” Yep. You won’t see Real Published Brick and Mortar Authors saying such things in their prefaces or afterwords. Why? That sucker is edited, that’s why. There ARE no errors in there.* 2nd: “I want you to pay for my book and then do the work I’d pay a proofreader to do by sending me the errors.” So, Tom Sawyer, you want me to paint your fence for you and pay you for the privilege?

*Yes, I know that errors do creep in to paper books. A majority of them do not have more than one or two nits. Big publishing houses tend to police the stuff they churn out pretty well. At least when I read some work from Penguin, I won’t be critiquing the author’s use of punctuation.

Where is your professionalism? It doesn’t matter that you’re a strong, independent author with a strong independent voice. Your voice has errors. Get a strong, independent editor to help you speak better.

If Someone Sends You a Note Telling You About Errors, Act on it

If you do ask readers to send you mistake reports, then in my opinion you have a short grace period between publishing the book and publishing your revisions. My assumption is that someone will have read it and sent you a list of mistakes. This is a lot nicer than leaving you a nasty review and shooting the book. If they’re right about the mistakes, GO FIX YOUR TEXT. Do it right away. Do not save up the errors for a really big edit. Fix it before anyone else sees that stuff. And by errors, I’m not talking about the endless revisions to your text that you might do to make the story better. I’m talking about grammar and punctuation errors. By the time a few months have passed, your eBook should be free of errors.

In fact, I wonder why Amazon authors who do get bad reviews about homophones or emails with lists of their mistakes don’t fix them, and address their detractors with a rebuttal: “Thanks for pointing out these problems with the text, I did a rewrite and revision and am grateful you contributed to the work in this manner.” It’s that whole idea that complaints allow you to see where your book is not doing the best and fixing it.

Your Text, and Only Your Text, is the Thing We Will Judge You On

I can only judge an author by their work. I don’t know most of the people whose work I read; I have their books and that art has to stand on its own. Errors and mistakes indicate to the reader that this author didn’t think it was necessary to dress up for the wedding, that they could come in ratty short, flip flops, a torn t-shirt, and without bathing for week. “Ignore the stench,” they say, “this is just the real me and you just need to get used to it.” I get that you have a unique voice and that the rules are there to be broken, but what I see a lot are rules that are not broken to create a stronger story, they’re broken because you didn’t have the bucks to hire another person to fix them and maybe you just don’t know that your semicolon habit is aggravating us to death.

Perhaps this is the only book you’re going to publish. If so, you don’t need to worry about gaining future readers to future works, and don’t care if the customer isn’t satisfied and puts your name on a list of “authors I will never read again.” But they’re going to give you poor reviews, and you won’t be read by the legions of readers out there.

“But Pontius, I’m awesome at editing,” you say. Maybe you are. Would you bet a two star review on it? Maybe getting one bad “you didn’t edit” review won’t submarine your book, but two or more of them are like the kiss of death. You cannot fool the reader.

Arcst thou, story: Poem and long analysis of WIP

Today, I will write like Shakespeare.
I claim the author title but have not
yet the fruits of my labor to
proclaim it so.

What, then, portends
this labor of words that shall lie
‘pon that broad thoroughfare of the
Amazon so thickly?

‘Tis the
manuscript, e’en so, that cast
in words passes thousands and more
yesterday, and thousands and more
today, and thousands and more for

Arcst thou, character;
arcst thou, story.

‘Tis three acts and
your part be done, passeth then thy
words unto “Remove from device”
and thy fame unto the stars for

I hope you may get five.

“So what gives,” you ask. “You’re not a poet. I can tell by your writing. Up there. What is that doggerel?”

Amidst a response to a commentator, I was struck by the passage from Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well, which is the beautiful commendation and blessing of Bertram by the Countess. She says to him in Act 1, scene 1,

Be thou blest, Bertram, and succeed thy father
In manners, as in shape! thy blood and virtue
Contend for empire in thee, and thy goodness
Share with thy birthright! Love all, trust a few,
Do wrong to none: be able for thine enemy
Rather in power than use, and keep thy friend
Under thy own life’s key: be cheque’d for silence,
But never tax’d for speech. What heaven more will,
That thee may furnish and my prayers pluck down,
Fall on thy head! Farewell, my lord;
‘Tis an unseason’d courtier; good my lord,
Advise him.

Those are some great words of advice: Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none. And I strive for the last, and struggle with the first.

I considered the idea that I’ve laid claim to the title author. It’s a faint perception. I write. Sure, it’s not published yet. Every time I get a few hundred words ahead, I tramp back to revise, and revisions are death for finishing a work. Say what you will; I quail from the mess my writing is.  I’ll not have it so. Thus, I revise.

Claiming the title announces my intent. I have no wish to be proven a liar, so I will do whatever is necessary to publish this book. Think of it as incentive, for me. Then, Tara, I can fill your Twitter feed with a dozen requests a day to “buy my book!”

Nevertheless, I’ve penned typed 1,738 words in the last twenty-four hours, with fewer necessary revisions and more progress. The protagonist has returned to the place she grew up, and is about to have the conversation with the him I’ve been beating about the bush for the last five chapters. This is the guy she wants to shoot. And you’re all sitting there, expectantly–er.

What are you guys all doing? You’re reading your Reader feed? You’re not waiting for chapter 6? You haven’t read the first five chapters? You mean, you’ve been doing other stuff like checking your email and your twitter feed and so on?  What, you think this is a blog and you can’t be bothered?!

It’s okay, I love you guys, too.  I understand no one is going to camp overnight on a cold sidewalk waiting for the book to be published. (But you would do that for a well-priced microwave.)

As I was saying, there’s this guy she wants to shoot. I’ve danced around why she wants to shoot him. She needs good motive, and you probably guessed from the subject material that there’s some sort of sexual shenanigans in the past. After all, I’ve got the elements lined up: Attractive under-age girl, priest, New Roman Catholic Church, she’s mad about something, what could it possibly be?

It’s too easy. It’s easy to take shots at the Roman Catholics with the scandals involving priests. Interestingly, those scandals seem as if they were confined to the United States. The rest of the world blinks sleepily and says, “what seems to be the problem here? Boys will be boys.” So there’s something about Americans that gets them outraged at pedophilia but doesn’t outrage everyone else? I don’t get that.

Back to the motivation for shooting the priest. What sort of heinous act could he do that wasn’t the obvious, raping the protagonist?  Emily Russel, over at Piss, Coffee, and Vinegar writes in her post on Writing: 5 Things I Want More of In Fantasy Romance Subplots,

I understand that it’s a very tragic happening, and it’s ruined many a life, but that doesn’t mean you should resort to it every time you need to come up with something negative to happen to a female character.

She had a good point. I was driving down that road. Simple, right? Priest rapes girl. Girl is mad and wants revenge. Yawn. Boring. Not in a “rape is boring” kind of way. It’s a “rape is a trope” kind of thing. So this put me off of that, and I started trying to come up with alternate scenarios that made some sort of sense. What did this priest do that she wants to murder him and cannot face him?

The reader can see this coming, too. My subtle little hints are nothing of the kind. You read the hints and if you’re the typical intelligent reader (and most of you are; however, based on some Amazon reviews, there are some unintelligent readers who have access to the internet and a keyboard), these hints are huge lit up Las Vegas billboard signs saying that there’s some messed up Catholic stuff coming up. As I said, too easy. It’s a trope.

To write this part and understand it, I wrote an external story about the event in question. Plot points emerged. I established some characters, and then put them in motion. I don’t want to put this part in the book because it’s not germane to the plot, and I don’t want to use flashbacks. I want to stay in the timeline and push through the story.  As for the event, it’s not rape. It’s not even something that happens to *her*, it happens to someone else, but she blames herself. So, now it’s no longer victim with a gun, it’s self-blaming soldier with a gun in the middle of something where she needs to confront all the pent-up crap she’s been failing to deal with for seven years. It won’t be therapeutic; it won’t be nice. It needs to happen for the story to move forward.

I also wanted to respect the Roman Catholic Church. Writing them as villains who locked up pregnant Irish girls in asylums or slaughtered the Huguenots on St. Bartholomew’s Day isn’t treating this branch of religion with any respect. What is so compelling about it that millions of people across the globe worship in this tradition? What will it look like in the future? A thousand years hence? People who serve God, who serve Christ, what does that look like in the religionless future? Oh. You thought the future will have no religion? Take a look around you. People ALWAYS have a religion. It’s just some are considered more okay than others. So, yes, the future will not be some sort of Isaac Asimov religionless future. It’s going to have an eclectic mix of the same sort of stuff we see today. Polytheism, atheism, monotheism, and all sorts of other interesting things.

But the story also needs to stay in the genre. Space marines. Show us some combat, dude. That’s what people are buying. You put a girl in a transformer suit with a gun on the cover, it darn well better have Starship Troopers and Denise Richards in a shower scene. (I’m probably the only one who was shocked at that scene. They already had all the nerds in the world slavering over the movie: It’s STARSHIP TROOPERS, man, only the best space combat book evar, and now in a movie, and there’s .56 seconds of Denise in the nude, so now we have to see it. Or something. There was no point to showing DR’s chest, unless it was the titillation value.) Do you go with the genre (combat!) or do you have a touchy-feeling psych session to deal with past hurts?

I suppose that one way to overcome that is to blow something up every time the plot calms down. For instance, there’s a meeting in a kitchen with Sister Mary Angela.These are dull, talking heads, and there is no tension. I’ll re-write that. It’s better if the stove explodes and the orphanage catches fire. This is your fault, Alfred Hitchcock, and your dumb quote:

Drama is life with the dull parts cut out of it.

Author’s Dilemma: Revise or Publish?

A.G. Moye over at Lightning Books discussed whether to push through on the four (!) different manuscripts he has in progress, or to go back to the shiny allure of polishing already published manuscripts.

The problem with the revisions is that it does not significantly improve your bottom line of book sales. It is compelling but unnecessary. Do painters touch up old paintings constantly? Some do, I imagine, but once it’s out there, that’s it. They don’t drive to the home of the owner and ask to fix the nose of the subject in the painting.  [n.b. the number of paintings where they discover another painting beneath the first, a recycling of the painting canvas. So scrapping an old work for a new one is not unheard of. This is where our simile departs from sense.]

If you’ve got four stories burning, or even one, you’re better off finishing your works in progress and obtaining the marketing push from having multiple products selling for you, than from polishing earlier works.

Your marketing leverage comes from readers who have already read your previous works and will purchase your new works. Some readers will read your previous works and choose not to read subsequent works. You cannot improve their experience or get them back by fixing your previously published manuscripts, you can only try to attract them to newly published manuscripts.

As a reader, I forgive an author a lot of mistakes if tell a great story. However, I cannot buy books they haven’t published. It’s nice that previous books I have already purchased will now be improved, but I’m not rereading them for a few years, if that. Give me another book to buy, if I like your voice, or better yet hook me with a series.

I appreciate editions where authors fix their comma splices and run ons and passive voice and tyops, and feel free to tell me about it at the beginning of your book so I know that you did this nice thing for me to make your work better. That’s worth an extra star if your work is seamless. But save those revisions for downtime, and understand that it may affect future sales, but it will not affect past sales and what they think of your writing.

If readers do the work for you, great, utilize them.  There are people who find it compulsory to fix problems, and I’m one of them. I highlight books as I go through them on my Kindle if I see obvious errors, and I’ll send them to the author as a courtesy. It’s the author’s prerogative to act on that or say, “sodoff Baldrick” and that’s that.  If a book was published more than six months before and typos still abound, that gets a downgrade in my opinion because surely someone has read it and commented on the typos, and if so, the author doesn’t care enough to update their manuscript to make simple corrections. This is purely based on perception! It’s tough for you as a writer to fix every little thing, but fixing outright errors must be done. Ultimately, your book is your business suit. How it looks tells me volumes about you.) –                     Some guy named Charles Dickens. I’ll bet he never polished his old works. He got paid by the word. It’s a good gig if you can get it.

So, yes, polish a little to fix the glaring stuff; that’s professionalism. Reworking plot points and rewriting? It won’t gain you sales from your existing readership, but may gain you sales for future readers who tackle the book.

Word Frequency and stuff you say too much, like stuff

Miss Brandy at Blood Toy brought up another wrinkle in your manuscript:

What is the frequency of words appearing in your manuscript? What are the words you use all the time? Which words are uncommonly high frequency use, other than the usual conjunctions and prepositions and pronouns?   I saw this elsewhere, and now we must examine it with laser focus. Why? Because you’re along for the ride.

I found this VBA script for Word… this one here. Copy the third one, that one, starts with “Sub WordFrequency()” and copy all the lines to “End Sub”.

Open Word and paste that thing into a macro.

View> Macros > View Macros, then Create one.

To run it, open your document and then View > Macros > View Macros, click on the name of your macro, click Run.

Here’s my top 10:

200         in
183         you
172         i
160         on
139         yuen
138         it
116         was
108         she
107         with
106         we

Oh. You see those? 116 was. 138 its. (To be fair, I don’t think my its are the unsupported variety that were beat up here in Marcus Trower’s post. However, I haven’t checked that yet. I’m still reeling from the passive voice corrections.)

Since Yuen is my protagonist, and she speaks fairly often, I’m okay with the 139 instances of her name. I wonder what my obsession with “in” is? Guess I’ll go look, now.

22 Rules of Storytelling

This is splendid and I will be going back through these.  Jen at Jen’s Thoughts posted these rules from a list composed in 2011, by then Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats. While they aren’t linear, it does bode well for formulaic writers. Do each of these things and you will write a successful story. Some seem simple, others may stretch you. If you want just the straight list (text) without the pictures, it follows the pictures at the end.

Jens Thoughts

I wanted to share this article with everyone. To me, it’s a gold mine that you can review over and over. I hope it inspires you.

Back in 2011, then Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats (now freelancing) tweeted 22 rules of storytelling, according to Pixar. Coats learned the ‘guidelines’ from senior colleagues on how to create appealing stories,tweeting the nuggets of wisdom over a 6 week period.

Last week, artist and User Experience Director at Visceral Games (a subsidiary of Electronic Arts), Dino Ignacio, created a series of image macros of the 22 rules and posted them to Imgur and Reddit.

Below you will find the list of image macros along with a text summary of Pixar’s 22 rules of storytelling at the end of the post. Enjoy!

[Sources: Emma Coats, Dino Ignacio, The Pixar Touch]


pixar's 22 rules of storytelling as image macros (2)

Written by Emma Coats | @lawnrocket

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