Monday, June 11, 2012

What Matters to You?

Novel Matters is truly community. We've come to know each of you through your comments and interactions on the blog with us and with each other. We've seen friendships bloom, and writers become published.

It's an exciting community!

Today, we'd like to hear your questions: what burning questions do you have about writing life? Or about the industry of writing (publishing, marketing, promotion, sales)?

Is there something about your current project that is bugging you that you'd like to ask other writers about?

Would you like to stick handle some new ideas around and see which ones work?

What's on your mind? We'd be privileged to hear, and we'll do our best to offer helpful ideas.

Post your question in the comments section--all six of us will chime in as we're able.

19 comments:

Susie Finkbeiner said...

With the release of my first novel coming, I'm wondering about promoting. What have you each found to work for you in spreading the news about your novels? Opinions about book trailers?

Megan Sayer said...

Oh wow, are you kidding?

Here's a question about story structure:
Where can I go to read more about writing books that don't follow a 3-act structure, or different kinds of story structures? All I know is 3-act structure, and I've been well-sold.

Do other, non-3-act-structure books rely on the basic structure (in some format) of a protagonist, an antagonist and a goal? I'm presuming not. But if not, how do you pitch them? I've read that many agent blogs about queries, and they tend to listen in behind the words a lot, to discover whether the writer actually knows how to distill a story down into a few sentences - and that usually translates as a protagonist, an antagonist and a goal.

Can I ask another question? What's the most successful non-3-act-structure book on the market?
How do you think they would have pitched it to agents?

Thank you!

Patti Hill said...

Well,um, gee, next question? Marketing is the big mystery for most writers. I assume you've got yourself set-up with a presence on the Internet--blog or website, Facebook, and other social media. Do you have a email list to send out a newsletter with announcements and contests? Some writers recruit a team from their readers to spread the word in exchange for free books or such. I've heard mixed reviews on publicists not related to your publisher. It's so very hard to gauge their effectiveness.

Other Novel Matters Babes? Help!

Oh, book trailers are a great way to give readers a visual about your book. Make sure it's stellar or it may work to the opposite effect.

Bonnie Grove said...

After you've gotten an online presence, make sure you don't start talking about your book.

Nothing is more of a turn off than a writer who only talks about her book.

Talk about it once a week at the most. Offer links to other sites where someone else is talking about your book (not links to articles of you talking about your book).

Social media is too easy to abuse. Yes, you are excited, but share that oversharing joy with people around you--not with potential readers. You will only scare them off.

Start thinking about your book launch. Try to hold it in a unique place that fits with the setting and themes in your book (so, for Paint Chips, hold it at Home Depot--for example), and invite the media.

Call all local media and tell them about your book. Tell them why your book matters to your local culture. Play up newsworthy elements of your book.

Do as many interviews as possible.

Avoid writers conferences--writers don't buy novels, they try to sell you a novel.

Go where the readers are. Take any gig you can get.

Share links on your blog, not so much on Facebook, Twitter etc... If you really want to get info out on these social media sties, you need to get people to ask you questions etc. and then you can respond.

Connect with bookstores as much as possible. Help your publisher's distribution reach as much as possible locally.

Be innovative, creative, funny, and interesting. Don't talk about your book all the time. Talk about the humanity that matters to you--themes, ideas. Sell yourself, not jus the book.

Other ideas, Novel Matters readers?

Bonnie Grove said...

Megan: We've talked about John Truby's book The Anatomy of Story. It's a hands on approach to learning how to tell story without relying on the 3 act structure.

You're questions actually lead me to thinking that you've got a different sort of question you mean to be asking, but you haven't hit on the best way to ask it. :)

All stories have a protagonist, antagonist, and a goal (sorta).

What I mean by abandoning the 3 act structure is to use an organic structure of story that looks more like a web than three acts.

Megan Sayer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Megan Sayer said...

Okay. Just bought Truby's book on Kindle, and read the first chapter over breakfast. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANKYOU!!! LOVE LOVE LOVE!
There is SO much brilliance in it. I can see where you get a lot of your thinking from. So glad to read it.
But gee, the guy is militantly opposed to the 3-act structure, isn't he? I actually still disagree with his argument on that - from my personal experience learning to embrace the thinking behind the 3-act structure led me to a shift away from external, mechanical and episodical writing and into a more organic story, not the other way round.
But I have a lot to learn. And now a whole nother book to read.
Thanks again : )

wanderer said...

Okay, can we go backwards now? Like way backwards? Back to the beginning?

How does one begin? I read a lot- always have- and I write almost every day, though sometimes only a few hundred words. Now what? I suspect I should have a goal; I suspect I should have a plan….

On another topic:

The way I understand it, writers need to offer readers something of value and readers should go away feeling like they received something useful. Nobody’s begging to read what you write; you have to make it worth their time. My question is: how do you do it? How do you give to others through your writing? How do you find that thing inside you that speaks to someone else’s need? How can your writing become valuable? If that makes any sense…

Mary in Idaho said...

Selfish question here for Patti Hill. When is your next book coming out?????

S. F. Foxfire said...

How do you ladies go about choosing which novel idea to work on next? I have several plotlines floating around in my head, but I can't decide which to grab and make into the novel form, hatch it from its cocoon. What are your methods?

Bonnie Grove said...

Wanderer: I understand that antsy feeling of 'where to start?' is there a wrong place to begin? How do I avoid that murky place?

In the end, you simply begin. You take hold of the story in whatever form it presents itself to you and you write.

That's what I did when I began writing Talking to the Dead. Do I begin that way now, years later? No. I have another way to begin, but I cobbled this knowing how my writing should start over the years.

Leap off the cliff and build your wings on the way down.

Oh, and a plot would be helpful.

I like your second question very much. It's a question wrought from love.

The difficult answer, from my perspective, is to make the themes and questions in your novel as personal to yourself as you possibly can. Painful, but what is most personal is also what is most universal, and this makes it hugely valuable.

Bonnie Grove said...

S.F.: I understand what you mean about floating plots. For me, there's no substitute for time. Part of how I decide what to write is a reflection of how long the story has endured in my mind.

I'm beginning work on a new novel, I know it's the one to work on because it has stayed with me (and grown) for the past two years or more.

This isn't the answer for everyone. I recall a CBA agent telling me that she has clients who regularly pump out two books a year. Perhaps they have more effective methods.

I'd love to hear from some of the other Novel Matters writers, as well as from our readership. I know there are wonderful writers lurking out there that can contribute!

Bonnie Grove said...

S.F.: I understand what you mean about floating plots. For me, there's no substitute for time. Part of how I decide what to write is a reflection of how long the story has endured in my mind.

I'm beginning work on a new novel, I know it's the one to work on because it has stayed with me (and grown) for the past two years or more.

This isn't the answer for everyone. I recall a CBA agent telling me that she has clients who regularly pump out two books a year. Perhaps they have more effective methods.

I'd love to hear from some of the other Novel Matters writers, as well as from our readership. I know there are wonderful writers lurking out there that can contribute!

Marcia said...

Great question: "what matters to the Novel Matters readers."

Lately I've been studying the Myers-
Briggs Temperament writings. (Please Understand Me II, by David Kiersey, for one.) I've been analyzing everyone and would give my eye teeth to know what temperament you ladies who host this blog are... and anyone else who posts here.

For those of you who have found your MB personality--I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours!

Marcia Koelln

Steve G said...

Megan: You probably have a different sense of story structure in part because of where you live. Truby is the guy who fixes movies in Hollywood when they are going bad. If your market is the USA you may find that your understanding of story structure will shift as you read Truby. It may be helpful if you tell us what you mean by three act structure, because I don't think that is "protag, antag and a goal".

The best thing to pitch to agents is stellar writing.

When Bonnie first read Truby, she worked 6 months on the novel before she wrote her first word. Writing well is about learning the craft. If you want to write professionally, take the time to learn the craft in your writing.

Marcia: I did MB a couple decades ago, and have no idea what I ended up with. I know what I am good at, and what I'm not good at, though. Does that count?

disclaimer: I am not a published author, just an observer of one.

Haryo said...

I'm curious about grammar. How important does grammar in novel writing?

Megan Sayer said...

Steve: I get what you're saying. And no, I never thought a 3-act structure was a protag, an antag and a goal. I guess my definition is possibly using the term wrongly, what I think of is more Mythic structure, but even that is a loaded term.

My understanding of the 3-act structure is desire-opposition-resolution, in whatever form that takes for a book, and often that isn't in clearly defined parts.

I had a big revelation a number of years ago about the Mythic structure in modern storytelling when I read Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey. Vogler is - like Truby - one of those guys who fixes Hollywood screenplays. Vogler refers back to Joseph Campbell's research into ancient myths and his premise that all stories are in essence the same story: desire-opposition-resolution. I probably had a similar reaction to Bonnie when she first read Truby - it struck me so profoundly and so deeply that it was a few years before I was able to fully ingest it's depth and apply it to my own work. In fact, it wasn't until last year when I read Larry Brook's Story Engineering (another story-consultant and major salesman of the 3-act structure) and had to get my brain around how Brooks' theories worked with Vogler's, that I really, REALLY got it. They use different language but in essence they're saying the same thing.
I'm finding the same thing about Truby now too - his language is different, and there are times he militantly opposes the 3-act structure (because, I think, people have read Brooks and tried to force his ideas onto their stories) but in reality he's arguing a different level of the same thing that Vogler is.
In short (that was an awful lot of words) they're all saying the same thing underneath.

How did I go? Am I making sense yet?

Megan Sayer said...

Okay, I've had another thought...what if we altered our language a little, and talked about BOOK structure vs STORY structure.

I'm pretty sold on the 3-act story thing. But I'm happy that people can tell a story any way that works for them and use whatever BOOK structure works. Which, often, is a linear 3-act thing. But not always.

Bonnie do you think we're on the same page with that?

Bonnie Grove said...

Three act structure is a story told in three acts.

Introduction (inciting incident).
Middle (tension climb)
Climax and conclusion.