Can YOU Feel It?

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This week I was asked how a writer can know if they have written a “good” book.

I paused for a moment. Trick question?

No, she was serious. 

So, I began my answer by stating the obvious:

Your Beta Readers love it.

Your editor thinks it’s a winner.

Your initial sales are good.

Your reviews are stellar.

But here’s the not-so-obvious answer: You’ll know it in your gut.

That’s right. Authors want to produce emotional reactions in their readers.

If you write romance, for example, you should feel the electricity between the couple. You should find yourself cheering for them to get together. When they have a blow up and all seems lost, you should feel upset, too.

YOU, the writer, is the YOU I’m talking about.

If you write chilling suspense/mystery/horror/thriller, then you should be looking under your own bed at night!

I’m guessing that those of you who write fantasy and humor want your readers to feel a release of emotions and uplifting of their spirits.

The genre doesn’t matter. But, you must write it to evoke an emotional response in YOURSELF.

Because you are the best person to judge whether you have written a “good” book or not.

My theory is that if YOU feel it, your reading audience will, too.

 

Journey Ended

 

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Today is the Grand Finale of our Journey Through the Genres. The last five genres to peruse are:

Historical: This genre offers readers events and fictional characters that occur within a historical setting. Some authors even include real people that interact with the fictional characters.  

Humor: This genre’s goal is entertainment. However, it should also convey an underlying concept.

Realism: These stories are true to life or sometimes may simply be “inspired” by real events. (Example: The TV series Law and Order.)

Short Stories: This type of story may fit into any number of genres, but is so short that there is only one plot—no sub-plots. 

Westerns: These stories take place in the Old West, usually in the late 1800s or early 1900s. They may include the other genres of romance, suspense, and/or realism.

So, that’s it. We’ve covered quite a bit these past five or six weeks. It is always good to refresh our memories as to what genres are available to us. Why not try writing a scene in several different genres? It may not only be fun, but you may be inspired to see what writing a longer version might lead to…

Your Thoughts Matter

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What is the most helpful information you have ever received related to writing?

 

It is a hard question, I thought, as I looked at the email I received.

Several people have recommended books on writing that they viewed as helpful to them in their own journey as authors.

Some colleagues listed the essentials for an author, as being: a quiet home office, a Thesaurus, MS WORD, a good editor, and so on.

Some said I should join a critique group and a professional organization.

Others told me that I must write every day. No excuses.

Still others reminded me to SHOW—not tell.

And, on and on.

But, that doesn’t answer the question as to what has been most helpful to me.

I could say that it has been a combination of things—because, in fact, it has been.

But, I suppose what has been most helpful is the same advice I would give to anyone facing any career change: “Don’t ever compromise your values in in order to get ahead.”

There are some genres that are “popular” in our culture today. I know writing in them would be more lucrative. But, I also know that I don’t want to fill my head with the kind of thoughts necessary to write in those genres. 

If I were a nutritionist, I might say, “You are what you eat.”

I believe that whatever we dwell on…whatever thoughts we entertain…we will become. That goes for the books we read, the movies/television we watch, and the music we listen to.

If you think on good things, you will never be embarrassed by—or have to apologize for— the words you have written.

Are You A One-Trick Pony?

So, here you are

in front of your computer,

pens all neatly in a row,  a stack of scratch paper nearby,       stock-photo-businesswoman-using-pc-computer-on-her-office-table-215226196

ready to write.

Want to do something different?

Fun?

Challenging?

Write the first paragraph of a story in different genres.

The characters are: Twelve-year-old Shauna Price and Twenty-year-old Stockton Miller.  Setting: Windsor Mall. Sunday afternoon.

I’ll begin:

Suspense:  The point of Stockton’s knife had already torn a hole in Shauna’s bulky sweater. Her eyes searched for the nearest exit. Would she somehow be able to slip away, and lose herself amongst the other shoppers in the crowded mall? She took one calming breath, then another. After saying a silent prayer, the twelve-year-old twisted her wrist from his grasp and ran in the direction of the escalator.

Now, it’s your turn:  Using the same characters and setting, write the opening paragraph of the story as Fantasy, Sci Fi, Romantic Comedy, and so on.

I found this to be a fun exercise. After all, I am a fairly new writer. I am not yet settled on any one genre. My first book, Runaways: The Long Journey Home, is Fiction Suspense. However, the novel I am writing currently, The Choice, is completely different.

It is true that writing in only one genre, may help a writer grow a following of readers. And, it is also true that a writer may be able to hone their skills more quickly if they stick to one genre.

However, if you are a new writer and haven’t yet settled on a particular genre, now is the time to try your hand at different genres, techniques, and writing styles…before you are “type-cast” (I borrow this term from Hollywood) as one kind of author or another.

And, if you find you like writing in, say, two genres, there is always the possibility of writing in one genre under your real name, and using a pen name to write in the other genre. Lots of authors do this very successfully. Their followers are frequently unaware that their favorite Historical Romances are written by a well-known author of best-selling Thrillers!

Balancing Act

If you’re anything like me, you have a stack of books somewhere in your house that keeps getting taller. It seems like every book you read is replaced by one or two more!

The fact is, writers like to read. Need to read.

I’m not just talking about pleasure reading, which is a “given”. Every writer I have ever met has told me that it was the love of reading that sparked within them the desire to write.

No, I’m talking about reading about writing. The craft. Punctuation and grammar to be sure, but also reading about genres, point-of-view, voice, character development, plot and hundreds of more things we need to consider—need to master—in pursuit of excellence.

Once I started writing, I quickly realized the necessity of erecting two stacks of books. One I dubbed “Pleasure”; the other, simply “About Writing”. I have a rule concerning these books: Read from both stacks, simultaneously, so that I fulfill my need for learning AND for enjoyment.

So, what’s next on my stacks? James Scott Bell’s How to Write Dazzling Dialogue and Steven Pressfield’s Turning Pro are on top of the “About Writing” stack. And for pleasure, next up is Chapel Springs Revival by Ane Mulligan.

So, whether you keep an actual physical stack of books, like I do, or simply a list of “Must Reads”, my suggestion is that you try to balance your reading. After all, didn’t you hear this expression as a child? “All work, and no play, makes Jack a dull boy.”

 

Please visit http://www.spiritual snippets.com and http://www.5scribesandtheirstories.com to see what is going on there.