Rocky Road, Anyone?

 

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The subject of writing a series of books has come up, again. 

Since a series has value for both authors and readers, let’s look at just how authors can accomplish this.  

The key to writing a series is to find a commonality and then keep reproducing it.

You can:

1- Tell virtually the same story, but from the viewpoints of different characters.

2- Tell different stories in the same setting. (Stories set at the beach, a certain city, etc.)

3- Tell similar stories in different settings (CSI is a good example of this)

4- Stories around the same theme or profession (sports, babysitters, cooks, teachers, fire fighters, doctors)

5- Stories of characters that were once children, and are now grown up.

6- Characters who have different adventures by traveling to different countries. 

7- Stories that simply continue from the previous book.

Look for that common thread and then weave your story in a new and exciting way.

If a reader enjoys your first book, chances are they will buy the second in the series. Then, if that second book delivers, consider them hooked. 

However, even good things can get boring. My husband can attest to this because he is finally getting tired of Rocky Road ice cream, which he has been eating for YEARS. He is trying different brands right now hoping for a slight change in flavor. (The latest favorite has chocolate covered almonds).

Something similar may happen when readers tire of mysteries and seek out different authors who may use a fresh twist to their plots. 

So, be careful not to make your series too long and too predictable.

Write each story so that it can be enjoyed on its own merits, while giving readers just enough pertinent background information from previous books in the series. 

Do everything you can to make sure your road to success isn’t a rocky one!

 

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Now Available on Audible

 

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The Choice: Will’s Last Testament is now available on Audible. In a few days, it will also be available on iTunes and Amazon. The amazing C.J. Stephens produced it for me. His exciting voice makes the words come alive in this emotion-filled Christian Fiction book. Be sure to listen to the audio sample on Audible.     Brenda Poulos

Free Fries!

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My husband and I had been going to our favorite sandwich shop for several years. We had even recommended it to our friends.

You can imagine our disappointment at our last visit when there was hardly any meat on our sandwiches. 

I went up to the counter to talk with the manager, knowing that there had been some mistake. He said, in fact, that the sandwich had been made correctly. He had been faced with a tough decision: put less product on the sandwich, or raise the price. 

He had opted for the “skinnier” sandwich, so we went away hungry…angry…feeling cheated. We haven’t been back since.

When your customers read your books, you don’t want them to feel disgruntled. You want them to feel like they got their money’s worth—a generous helping of meat in that story sandwiched between the front and back covers.

That doesn’t mean that the book has to have a spine of a certain thickness, but the content has to be satisfying.

So, how do we achieve this? There are several ways (and if you think of more, please share them).

First of all, create characters which seem real and with whom readers can identify in some way. Write them in such a way that the readers become invested in their story and cheer for them to succeed.

Secondly, deliver a main character who struggles—and then succeeds—in reaching his goal.

Thirdly, take readers on an emotional journey.

Give them a satisfying “ride.” Depending on the genre you write in, deliver to the reader what he is expecting. 

Sci Fi or Horror readers want thrills, goosebumps, heart throbbing action, even fear.

Those who read Christian devotionals expect comfort, peace, or uplifting content.

A humorous book should give readers a good laugh, while non-fiction should supply information.

It is important that we make each book we write fresh and unique in its own way, while still meeting the expectations of our readership.

Don’t leave them feeling cheated.

Give them the meat!

Then, give them a surprise…more than they thought possible. Exceed their expectations.

Throw in some free fries!

Follow the Pattern of a Skirt

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I remember writing assignments in our ninth grade English class. One of the inevitable questions that would be asked was, “How long should it be?”

Mr. Dee would always answer: “Like a skirt: Long enough to cover the subject; short enough to be interesting.”

That’s still good advice.

Our books, articles, stories—whatever we are writing—shouldn’t feel “padded” with information or scenes that don’t contribute to the overall project.

If characters are introduced by name and are given space in our writing (in other words, if they are elaborated upon by giving them a name and background and some sort of importance in the story) then they should lend to the total story. Otherwise, just say that the waiter brought the food. Period. Don’t give him more than a brief one or two word description.

Granted, there should be a certain amount of description of our characters. They should also share their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. And, of course, they need to interact and DO SOMETHING. Hence, the plot unfolds with ACTION.

But, if a character doesn’t move the plot forward–doesn’t have a purpose in the overall story–they shouldn’t be given much, if any, line space.

However, it is not just superfluous characters that unnecessarily pad a story. One thing that is often overused is description (think weather, appearance, terrain, nature, and so on). As a matter of preference, some readers enjoy books with long, flowing descriptions that can take up pages, while others prefer more dialog, or action.

I recently read a book that had four consecutive pages devoted to description of the clouds–and this was NOT a book about clouds, the weather, or anything close to it. But, some people enjoy knowing every minute detail and others are content with reading “a dark storm cloud” and letting it go at that.

So, the point is, give us examples, take us on a journey, fill our hearts with joy–or suspense– but keep the story moving.

Don’t pad it with things we will want to skip over. Don’t give us hundreds of pages of nothingness in order to make the spine thick enough to showcase our names or a certain number of pages so the reader will think they’ve gotten their money’s worth.

Remember Mr. Dee’s advice and make your story long enough to cover the subject; short enough to be interesting.

 

Would You Like to See Your Name in Lights?

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Perusing through a quaint bookstore in Bellingham, Washington last week, several book titles caught my eye. (I tend to pay attention to ones that are unusual in some way, either by font, color, or wording.)

However, this time what caught my eye was the size of the authors’ names. Some were downright HUGE—much larger than the titles.

Hmmmm. Authors like JAMES PATTERSON, MARY HIGGINS CLARK, AND TOM CLANCY have enormous audiences who are lined up to buy each new book as it comes out. Their readers follow their NAMES.

I asked myself this question: Is it the quality of the writing that makes certain authors “worthy” of elevating their name to a print size larger than the title?

After all, it seems that the author’s name in large print is akin to having one’s name in lights on the Las Vegas strip or a theatre marquee or a highway billboard. So, wouldn’t it make sense that the writer has achieved some sort of writing status?

Are the days gone by in which clever titles and unique covers draw the reader in?

If the author’s name is LARGER than the title, should that be a clue to the reader that the story is just incidental?

Are big name authors counting on FAME, rather than quality of writing, to sell their books?

Is the size of the author’s name a fair judge of how well their career is going? Or have they simply found a clever way to make readers THINK they are better writers than the actually are…

I wondered if there could be some “rule” about font size.

Researching the subject, I have found no evidence of any such rule. Size seems to be totally unregulated and, thus, completely arbitrary.

One thing I do know is this: if you want to promote your writing, make the TITLE the largest print on the cover. 

If you want to promote your name—or have a recognizable name, already—perhaps you’ll want to use a larger font for it.

Understand that you are in the business of selling books.

Turn the consumers’ attention to that aspect of your book cover that will boost your sales, whether it be your name or the title of your book.

 

What’s Your Story’s Purpose?

 

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I watched a television talk show this week, featuring a man who was exonerated of three murders for which he had been convicted nearly thirty years ago. Having been on death row for over 27 of those years, he has now written a book about his ordeal.

Hopefully, you and I will never experience an injustice like that, but we still have stories to tell—ours, or someone else’s.

Whether fiction or nonfiction, we can still make sure our books send a message to our readers. Messages of hope, love, forgiveness…

The written word is a vital force. It has power to move readers in a new direction, to change their viewpoints, to solidify their beliefs.

Before we begin to write—before we even put that first word on paper—we must decide what our book’s purpose will be and let that purpose guide us each day as we put pen to paper.

I find it helpful to print out my book’s purpose and post it near my computer. I read those few sentences each day before I begin to work, letting it guide my writing so that when I finally type, THE END, I can rest assured that it will be THE BEGINNING for someone else…

What Motivates You?

 

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There has to be some reason to write…to sit in front of the computer for hours at a time…usually by yourself…writing a book or article which you cannot be totally sure  anyone will ever buy or read…

Maybe it’s because you have an image in your head that you are trying to recreate in the real world…or a childhood dream that you simply must bring to life…

For all of us there is a reason.

For many of us there are multiple reasons.

Which of these motivate you to write?

Praise/accolades?

Money?

Seeing a product complete? (The feeling of being “done”?)

Sales?

Fear of failure?

Checking it off of your “to do” list?

Helping others?

Entertaining your reading audience?

Being called an “author”?

Winning writing contests?

An innate love for the craft/process?

I’m not judging.

But, something has to motivate you. And, it has the power to keep you motivated day after day, year after year.

I think of it as that dangling carrot…crisp…juicy…sweet…

That hunger that is never quite satisfied

Isn’t that write?