Genre Fiction

I’ve been blogging about the craft of writing fiction for some time now.  I’ve been passing on tips learned from other writers and a few things I figured out on my own.  But I find that now when I sit down to write a post, the ideas no longer crowd each other in their need to be heard and read.  So I’ve decided to widen the scope of my blogs.  But how?  What else to say?

I write genre fiction.  Several genres, actually and often all are in the same book. Romance.  Sci-fi.  Small Town.  Paranormal.  Sweet.  Eco-fiction.  And probably a few more I haven’t heard of.  And I’ve learned that not everyone agrees on what belongs in which genre.  There are some generalities, but once you get beyond those general descriptions, genre fiction seems to be all over the place.

So I’m going to jump in head first and see what happens.  Okay, honesty compels me to admit that anything I jump into will more likely involve a belly-flop than a swan dive.  But you get the idea.

Any thoughts?  What genres do you read?  Which do you write?  Why?  Do you like cross-genre fiction?  What would you like to see done differently in the world of genre fiction?  Which genres would you like to see more of?  Less of?  Let me know and maybe we’ll get something going.

As a former first grade teacher, I know that sometimes when there’s  mud puddle in your path that calls out to you with a mesmerizing siren song, the best thing to do is hold your nose and jump in.  And enjoy the mud.

(Note:  It took me years to develop a tolerance for leeches, and guess where they live?  In the mud.  But that’s another story.)

I Love My Kindle

Last week our son visited.  Happened to be here on Sunday so he went to church with us.  Before leaving the house, he asked about this particular church.  Whether there were bibles in the pews.  We looked at each other in puzzlement and wanted to know why he’d ask such a question.

There was a good reason.  He wanted to know whether he should bring his own bible or whether there were bibles already in the pews for those people who wanted to look up passages the pastor was referring to.  We didn’t know the answer to that question because we don’t look up passages, we just listen.  (Hey, at least we don’t sleep!)

He’s a Regional Pastor.   In his job he travels constantly to churches in many states.  When visiting churches he wants to be able to smoothly handle different ways of doing things so if the church doesn’t provide pew bibles,  he wants to have his own.  But carrying several bibles (to have whatever bible that particular church prefers) would add to the weight of his luggage and airlines charge per pound of extra weight.  Several bibles equals several extra pounds and many extra dollars.

So, that Sunday he pulled his Kindle from his suitcase.  He had all the bibles he could ever need right in that one, small device.  Along with all the reading matter his job requires.  And several novels to choose from when he’s done working.

And here I thought Kindles were only for enjoyment.  Mine takes the place of the library I gave away when we moved into a house too small for all those books.  Doesn’t matter now, I’m quickly gathering a new library.  A more extensive one.  And all in that one, small device  that fits in my purse.

This isn’t a plug for Kindles per se, instead it’s a plug for progress in the form of any electronic device that makes life easier and fuller without adding to the mental and physical clutter that present day life involves.  And Kindles, Nooks and all other electronic readers do just that.

Long live Kindles!

Guns and 99 Cent Reads

I’ve decided that Americans like their guns and I have the data to back up that claim.  My data, as inconclusive as it may be, is that my novel Wanted Sharpshooter is selling better than any of my other books, even Spirit Legend, the book that was prominent last week in a book blast that sent it to be featured in a dozen blogs.  I admit this is a surprise to me.

Why has it  happened?  I have a thought.  Just a thought.  If you check out Wanted Sharpshooter, you’ll see that the cover features a guy with a rifle and he’s ready to fire it.  Both the guy and the rifle are prominent and can’t possibly be missed.  Both man and gun are dangerous.  The book sells for 99 cents.

Conclusion?  We Americans like our guns and I suspect we aren’t the only people who do. And I know that people everywhere also like a good, inexpensive story to read.  So perhaps Wanted Sharpshooter fulfills both desires?

As far as guns go, I can’t hit the broad side of a barn.  But when my dad died, our inheritance was guns.  Growing up, he repeatedly reminded us that guns are capable of killing people and you must remember that every single time you so much as touch one.

Books can be equally dangerous, though in a different way.  Words have the potential to change the world.  Not the books I write, they are for enjoyment and relaxation.  But both words and bullets are extremely potent weapons.

And a good, affordable story is a well-deserved treat.

Too Much Research

When I decided to become a writer, I thought I’d write non-fiction because it paid better.  I thought that, since I lived on a lake in the North Woods, that’s what I’d write about.  So I checked out magazines that featured those places.  And decided what my first article would be about.  And started to write.

I soon stopped because I had to make sure my facts were right.  That was before the Internet had arrived in northern Minnesota.  To make a long story short, I soon discovered that research was so time-and-money intensive that I soon changed from non-fiction to fiction.  I haven’t looked back and I haven’t been sorry.

But I soon learned that research is also necessary for fiction.  All fiction.  Even a story about a fictional universe must obey the laws of physics. But fiction isn’t real.  So I wondered exactly how much research is truly necessary.

I asked around.  I now know of writers who practically write a book of details about the world their protagonists live in before beginning the story they want to write.  They spend a lot of time doing research.  A lot!  I wondered if all that time was really necessary.

Over time I learned that it was necessary only for the kind of writer with an inner compulsion to get all the details nailed down before starting.  I believe that’s a personality thing, and I don’t have that kind of personality. So I learned that, for most of us, there’s an easier way.

Start writing.  When you come to a place where you need to know a bit of background, stop writing and take a walk, garden, cook, or do whatever you do when you need to brainstorm.  If appropriate, go online and look up a few details, but not too  many because you don’t want to get bogged down.

When you have the background figured out to the point that it feels right for the story, check what you’ve already written to see if you were right.  If your new thoughts about background are right, everything you’ve written will be right.  A few sentences might need to be tweaked but not much because subconsciously  you knew all along what the background for your story should be and your research is done. (You might have to repeat this a few times as the story progresses, but not nearly as much as if you tried to do it all beforehand.)

Then grab a sheet of paper, an index card, or appropriate software on your computer and jot down a few notes so when you next need to know the background, you’ll have a handy reference.

It works.  You won’t have to write a book before writing your book and your background details will be right for your book because you’ll be filling them in as you write instead of having to fit your writing into an already existing, rigid and possibly wrong framework.

Why Loglines?

There’s a spot on the wall above my computer where the paint has worn off.  Because there have been so many loglines stuck there over the years.  I pulled the paper with the logline off the wall when the manuscript was finished and often some of the paint came off too.

For those of you who don’t know what loglines are, they are those one-sentence descriptions of your story that are used to pitch your book or that become the beginning of the blurb on the back cover.

But there’s another reason for writing down a logline.  A reason that has to do with the process of writing.  You seldom see this reason listed but it should be.

Because …  a one-sentence description of your story taped to the wall above your computer reminds you what you’re supposed to be writing.  It keeps you from getting lost in the details.  It tells you how to slant a scene if you don’t quite know how to write it because it keeps you focused on the bare essentials.  In short, it tells you where you’re going and how to get there.

Most importantly to you as a writer, the process of writing the logline makes sure that you know what you’re writing.  Because if you don’t know … and know well enough to put it into one sentence … no one else will either.  And if your readers don’t know what you’re saying, they won’t bother finishing your book.

Maybe one of these days I’ll paint that wall.  Or maybe not.  I’m kind of fond of that bare plaster.  It reminds me that I’m doing my job.

Minor Characters

Minor characters are sneaky.  They are necessary to the story but they aren’t supposed to take over.  The problem comes when one or more of them do exactly that.  So what to do?

Depends.  There are two kinds of minor characters.  You need to know which category your minor character belongs to before you can decide what to do about it.

The first category is that in which the minor characters flesh out the story, make it deeper, stronger and better. But if that character could be written out of the story without changing the story itself, then that particular character isn’t essential.  Rein them in, keep them under control.  Do it!

The second category is that in which the minor character is essential but isn’t the character that the story is about.  Same question applies.  Could you write that character out without changing the story?  If the answer is ‘no’ then you should think long and hard before you rein in that character.

Because your story just might be better for enlarging that character’s place and letting him or her take over a larger chunk of the action.

I’m thinking about this because, in my book Spirit Legend that’s going to be featured in a Book Blast starting the 8th of April (drum roll, please) a minor character took over and became a major player.  I didn’t know it was happening until after the book was finished.  It was the reviews that made it very clear that the character of the spirit in the lake was pivotal and important.  Reviewers used words like  ‘charming.’  ‘interesting.’  and ‘endearing.’  And the spirit only came into existence as a device to hang a story on.  Until it took over and I let it run riot because I couldn’t figure out how to rein it in.

Now that I’m deep into Wolf Legend, the same thing is happening to the character of the psychic wolf pup Snowball.  She was supposed to be an afterthought.  She now has a starring role and I’m glad to say that this time around I’m smart enough to recognize what’s happening and run with it.

So expect to see a lot of Snowball in Wolf Legend.  And I’m looking forward to seeing whichever of your minor characters take over and run with your story when you publish your next piece.

Self Promotion

Self-promotion is on my mind a lot these days because the very first professional promotion of any kind starts April 8th for Spirit Legend, my third book, my fourth e-published anything. I never had to self-promote before because I sold my works to publishers and they took care of the rest.

My first foray into promotion uses the simplest promotional package I could find. I figured I’d start easy and gradually work my way up to complicated.  My experience with this simple package makes me realize what’s behind something I’ve noticed that puzzled me greatly.  Why many not-so-great books get wonderful reviews and sell well while other, possibly better books, don’t get reviewed and don’t sell at all.

The reason is simple.  There’s nothing easy about promoting books.  Nothing!

This first foray of mine into publicity doesn’t require me to do anything except spread the word about a Book Blast that starts April 8th and continues for a week.  I’m to name the book blogs that will feature Spirit Legend but that’s not hard, I have a list.  Then all I have to do is check the blogs on the days they are featuring my book and comment and reply to comments if there are any questions.  Which, by the way, the promoter said may not happen because it often doesn’t.

Sounds easy, right?  Wrong!  I’ve already learned that spreading the word isn’t simple.  I do know many places where I can post information of this kind, but each place has rules.  Different rules for different places and I’d better not break any of them!

So that’s where I am now.  Slogging through the muddy waters of mentioning my Book Blast.  That’s all I’m doing and I’m already lost.  I’m sure that when the Book Blast begins, I’ll find myself equally lost as I pick my way through the maze of book blog etiquette. And It’s possible that none of it will be worth the effort and expense.  Sales may not increase.  Name recognition may not be helped.

But no matter the result, I’ve learned something.  Authors who figure out how to work the system sell books while those who don’t know how to do it right sink like stones.  Now I know why a book I read by an author who can’t even write a sentence in decent English is not only selling very, very well, I know why her novel is being chosen as ‘best of’ in several categories. And it’s happening even though many reviews of her novel commented on the fact that her English is very bad.  Some reviewers were shocked and turned off by her poor grammar.

Yes, the story line of her novel is good. Excellent.  Still, with so many other books out there that also have excellent story lines and, in addition, are easy to read, I suspect that the reason she’s selling so well while others aren’t is that she knows how to self-promote.  She knows how to work the system.

I wish her luck.  I just wish every writer out there could learn those same deceptively simple skills.

Anyone out there know the secret?  If so, please let all writers know. Most of all, let me know in time to get things going for my Book Blast!