Some writing suggestions.
Since I published my first novel, I've received a lot of questions about publishing, getting published and about the actual process of sitting down to write a novel.
I do not consider myself an expert on literature -- in fact, I'm far from it -- but I don't mind sharing a few observations and suggestions. I wish I had known many of these things when I first started writing and trying to get published so many years ago.
Remember, these suggestions are only my opinion, I'm not a publishing expert and . . . ahem . . . as they say . . . results may vary.
Also, a few students have indicated they want to use one of my books for a high school book report in their English or literature class. What a compliment, huh? So below I also give some good advice on how to write an effective book report.
* Do not underestimate the importance of a good book title. Do your best to select or come up with a creative title that will grab a reader's attention. The title matters.
* Have a great imagination and writing talent? Consider writing a novel. Have writing talent and a lousy imagination? Consider writing non-fiction. Have no writing talent but an awesome imagination? Consider hiring a ghost writer. Have no writing talent and no imagination? Consider becoming an accountant!
* Before tackling a novel, try to write a few short stories. You'll get a great idea how much work writing is.
* Try to keep your first novel short, under 100,000 words if possible.
* Try to add some humor to your novel. Remember, though, humor is not easy to write.
* Understand publishing can be a lengthy process. Even if you have an agent who sells your book in days or mere weeks (lucky you!), it might still be a year before your book will be available for sale in stores. One reason is some publishers like this time to send out proof / review copies to reviewers. And, of course, there can be editing delays.
* If you want a large advance on your first novel, you will likely need an agent. Do your research on ways to attract the attention of an agent. Try publishing short stories in magazines. Attend conferences. Consider taking a writing course at a community center or college and ask if the professor knows of any agents taking on clients. Do not get discouraged by rejection letters even if they are form letters on little slips of paper. Writing is a competitive business.
* Be persistent in both writing and trying to get published. Do not let form rejections get you down.
* Be realistic about the advance. We've all heard of some debut authors getting six figure advances and we've heard of auctions at publishing houses. One reason they make the news is they are relatively rare. But it's okay because you're a writer because you like to write not because you want to earn big bucks, right? Ahhh, right?
* Try to be a writer because you like writing and not to earn large sums of money. Only a small percentage of writers earn the large sums and many of them have been writing and publishing for ten years or more. I met a writer who could not quit her "day job" until after she had published her fifth novel.
* Think of who your audience will be before and during the writing process. Who is most likely to buy and read your novel? Old ladies with canes? Teens with braces on their teeth? Executives on Wall Street who wear ninety dollar ties? Housewives? Understanding who your audience will be helps a lot.
* To improve dialogue observe how people talk in the real world. And know the difference between mere words and dialogue. Example below. A man asks a worker a question about his job on a crowded, hectic factory floor.
Man: "You work here in this location?"
Worker: "Yes, I work here."
That above is simple words. Nothing catchy. Maybe some real people do talk like that, but do people read novels for such "talk"? Or do people read for catchy, even humorous, dialogue?
Man: "You work here in this location?"
Worker: "This is where I plant my tired feet each morning after I punch in on that clanking time clock."
The second example is dialogue.
* If you use an agent to publish your book, consider thanking the agent on the novel's acknowledgments page, if your book will have this page. And be good to an agent if he / she agrees to represent you. Be polite. Show respect. Don't call everyday ( or three times a day ) to get status reports. If the agent asks for some minor changes, don't argue. If it's a simultaneous submission, tell the agent upfront.
* A novel's front cover is important. If your publisher gives you a say in what is on the front cover, try to select a photo or drawing that will catch a reader's attention. Cover design is important.
Below are some suggestions for students who might be doing a high school or college book report. Are you a student who is doing a book report or planning to write a book report on my novel April Curran Meets the Vampire of Crimson Cove High School or one of my other books? Teachers assign book reports for a variety of reasons, including helping students to better understand society, literature and the world we live in.
Here are a few general suggestions on writing an effective book report:
* In the first paragraph give the name of the book and the name of the book's author. If you like you can also list additional information, such as year published (copyright date), name of publisher and how many pages.
* In the main body of your paper, write about the book itself. The plot. The action. The characters. Basically, you are offering a brief summary of the story and yes you can weave you own thoughts and impressions into this summary. Additional things you can write about include:
What is the book's tone? What point of view did the author use? Did you enjoy the book? Why? Why not? Is this book part of a series? Did the author use humor in the book? Did you like the book' characters? Why? What was the book's genre? What did you think of the book's cover?
* The conclusion. Also called the final paragraph. Here if you like you can re-state the name of the book and the author's name. In this paragraph you can mention if you liked or did not like the book's ending? Did you learn any interesting facts from this book? Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why? Why not? Don't be afraid to give your opinion, and it's okay to love or hate the book you just read.
One final word of advice to aspiring or
beginning authors out there.
to become a better writer . . .