Tag Archives: author

Unexpected High Points While You’re Waiting on a Submission

The torment of waiting can have its high points

The clock is ticking on a manuscript I submitted now 51 days ago. Within another week (hopefully) I will hear something. It’s good they have it a long time, right? If they hated the first few pages, they would have stopped reading and rejected it by now. Right?

Right? Right? Right?

But what if they are just behind? What if the editor has been out sick, and papers have piled up? What if she gets back from a vacation or something and then just rejects everyone just to get current again!?????

Ergghhhhhh!

It can totally get to you. I swear.

Anyway, I got a bright little flicker of hope today.

In response to an earlier query, I got a request for full from another publisher I’ve targeted for their awesomeness. For non-writerly-types, that means they have asked to read the entire manuscript.

Yay!

It feels good, having my completed manuscript in the hands of two publishing houses that I have had my eye on for a while. But even with a few successes under my belt, I still bite off my nails.

Publishing is so subjective.

Woman Erg PitchforkThey could take a manuscript just because their boss yelled at them and said “More aliens!”

Likewise, they can reject a fantastic manuscript because they spilled their coffee, missed the bus, or their boss just yelled at them: “We have enough aliens!”

It can leave you pulling your hair out. I swear it can.

Go_through_the_motions

So now I am at Day 51 with one publisher, and Day One with another publisher.

And the waiting goes on.

Anyone have any antacid? I ran out a week ago.

_JenniFer____EatoN

How to Publish. The decision can drive an author CRAZY.

Recently, I sent out a little tweet with an article attached. My comment was something like: “Interesting article, but I still think qualified small houses are the way to go.”

Someone tweeted me back asking why I thought that, since they were beginning to research the subject.

I thought about explaining in 140 characters or less— but you thought Twitter pitching was hard. Ha!

So, here is the blog post I promised her. I figured there are probably a lot of people out there with their heads spinning. Maybe this will help.

Remember, this is all my opinion after reading tons of articles, other blog posts, and researching the industry in general. Also, everyone is different. What’s right for one person may not be right for another.

(I also admit that my mind changes daily – but I usually return to my final conclusion eventually)

There are more options out there to be published today than ever before. Authors, for the first time, have a heck of a lot of control over making their dreams come true.  They have also never been in such danger of flushing their careers down the toilet.  Whatever you choose to do, just make sure you do it right. No shortcuts.

So, what are our choices? Don’t look anywhere else for all these categories. This is how I look at the industry. There is some overlap, but my nutty brain sees all of these as different in one way or another.

Here are what I look at as the major options available.

  1. Agent/No agent
  2. The Big Six (or five now). (Random House, Harper Collins, Hachette, Simon and Schuster, Penguin, and Macmillan) *And the oodles of imprints below them*
  3. Bigger than you can imagine houses (Like Harlequin – Umm, now part of Harper Collins, come to think of it)
  4. Qualified Small Houses (There is a fine line between #4 and #5)
  5. Up and Coming, Established Houses
  6. Startups
  7. Self-Publishing (And all of the different iterations of self-publishing)

Now, I’m not going to talk about all these in one post, because long posts bore me to tears. I know I don’t have the time to read that much, and I know it’s hard to digest all that at once to. In my next post I’ll talk about agents, and we’ll take it from there.

While we’re waiting, anyone want to chime in on why they made whatever decision they made?

Now Available from Jennifer M. Eaton

Paper Wishes FinalJenniFer_EatonF

Everyone can benefit from a critique, but not everyone should get one

I find myself shaking my head sometimes at the way people act when their work is critiqued or reviewed.

Recently I was in attendance at an event where an author spoke. She started by laughing about receiving a harsh review that day. Then she asked the audience if anyone read her book.  When one girl raised her hand, the author said (I’m making this up) “Do you think there was too much tomato soup in that pot?” The girl in the audience said: “Well, I do see how someone could think there was too much tomato soup in the pot”.

What went immediately through my mind was that maybe there WAS too much soup in the pot, and the author didn’t realize it.

The funny thing was, the author then started to argue why she didn’t think there was too much soup in the pot.

Think GirlIt made me think:

If two people thought the same thing, the issue is probably there.

As an author, we need to understand that what we type onto the page may not be perceived as we expect from  a reader’s point of view. We need to accept this, and move on.

Thankfully, the speaker caught that she was defending herself, laughed, and continued her talk.

This brings me to critiques.

If you cannot handle a critique, what are you going to do when you get out into the “real world” and people slam you on the internet because your main character’s name is Fred and they hate the name Fred? Think about that.

Some people react oddly when they get a critique.  For me, personally, If I get a crit that says “Wow, this was wonderful. I really enjoyed it in every way shape and form. You are brilliant!” I’m not really all that happy – Now, if you want to say that in a review, I’d love you for it 🙂

But in a critique?

GAH!

Nope.

This is a person who will never crit my stuff again.

Because I am smart enough to know I’m not perfect. Nope. Far from it.

But some people out there want to be coddled. They want their egos stroked. People like this SHOULD NOT be asking for critiques. A critique is not a forum for your self-esteem, although it can be a place where you can BUILD your esteem.

If you are not ready for feedback that you may not like, then you need to find a way to GET READY.

PKO_0013466 sadBecause learning that the pivotal scene you wrote— the one that makes you cry and changes your life every time you read it… (yeah, you know that scene. Everyone has one)

Anyway… learning that your scene DIDN’T provoke the emotional response you wanted is going to hurt. But what you need to train yourself to do is let that pain sink in for all of five seconds, get over it, and then re-read the comments and look for useful information to better your writing.

PKO_0004816Believe me, guys – for those of you who are not published yet – it is FAR BETTER for a critique partner to tell you that something does not work, and give you ideas on how to make it work, then to get slammed in an amazon review later.

So where are you on this? If you have not been critiqued or reviewed, are you preparing yourself, or are you looking for a testimony to your brilliance?

If you’ve been receiving critiques for some time, how do you react when one, two, or three people say something you disagree with?

_JenniFer____EatoN

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How to make Your Reader Care About Your Character #5

I am skimming over notes I took from a class about creating characters that your reader will care about.

Disclaimer:  I honestly don’t remember where this handout came from. I’m going to paraphrase the topic and think up my own ideas, but I don’t want anyone to think I’m stealing without giving credit.

It should be a given to an author that they need to create characters that their readers will care about. They do not necessarily have to like the character. Some really great characters are very unlikable. But we need to CARE about them, or we won’t keep reading. Right?

So how do we do this?

1.       Relationships.  (See previous post)

2.       Give them a goal (See previous post)

3.       Caring about others (See previous post)

4.       A special gift or talent. (See previous post)

5.       A handicap

Oooooo.  That’s a good one.

Here’s a good one. Even though you might not be handicapped, you can imagine what it would be like, right?  You feel for someone with a disability.

This came up recently in a comment on my blog, when someone mentioned that the horrid character on the TV show House was softened because he had a handicap.

How about a phobia?

A phobia is a good one two… something they need to overcome in order to fulfill their purpose of hero in the story.

Or something even more simple and relatable

Maybe it is something simple, like they need to run for their lives and the only car available to flee in has a stick shift, but the character does not know how to drive a stick.

Anything wrong with your character is an easy way to make them relatable. No one wants to read about someone who is perfect, right?

Unless you are Mary Poppins.  (But she was only practically perfect, right?)

That’s it!

Five ways to create the ever-important care-factor.  Give your readers characters that they can care about, and they will scream for more!

Think about the main character in your favorite novel. Pinpoint exactly what it was that made you engage with them. What was it? Come on, share the ideas!

_JenniFer____EatoN

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Learning from someone else’s mistakes – How to NOT write a novel

I’ve been reading a lot of romance novels lately. Not because it is my favorite genre, but to help strengthen my skills in writing inner-thought and making an emotional connection between the reader and the character.

I recently read a book that was AWESOME at this.  I was totally engaged. I liked the heroine. I cared about her. I liked the hero even more. They were both complex characters with faults that drove their characterization, and I completely believed them and felt like part of their lives. It was everything I wanted in a novel. This author totally deserved the “bestselling author” splash on her advertising.

At the end of the novel, there was one of those lovely magic buttons nice and handy so I could buy the next book.

Did I buy the next book? No.

Wasn’t I interested in the story? Didn’t I want to know more?

Yes. I totally did. I was ready to stay up late and read more.

So why didn’t I buy the next book?

The author, despite being incredibly talented, lost my trust. The story was not complete. Not by a long shot.

The heroine is being threatened by her brother and a former boyfriend who raped her. She had been in hiding for years, but they found her. She needs to go home and face them because her mother is dying. The hero of the story agrees to go home with her so she is not alone. BAM. It’s over. If you want to see what happens, you need to buy the next book. There isn’t even a neat, tidy closing thought to make the novel feel like it ended, like “I would be fine, I knew I would be fine because we would face this together.”

Nope—a closing line like that was not there. The chapter just ended, and the next page prompted you to buy the next book.

Seriously?

Now, if this had been a free read, I totally would have cut the author some slack. I would have purchased the next book. Call me snobby, but I expect a story to be complete when I pay $5.00 for it.

But maybe I was wrong. Maybe I misunderstood. So I checked to make sure there was not a worded warning like “part one” that I overlooked.

Nope. Nada.

I went from being a wildly enthusiastic fan to a lukewarm, disappointed reader in a matter of seconds.

But the novel was great. Why wouldn’t you buy the next one?

Like I said, she has lost my trust. Will the next book finish the story, or will I be prompted to buy another book? I don’t know. I cannot trust that I will ever see a satisfying ending.

For now and probably forever, I will see this author’s name and red flags will pop up all over the place.

Why not just tell the truth?

Now, if it was stated up front that this was an add-on series, a work in progress available in installments (and priced at $.99 rather than $5.00 each) I would have totally slipped the next book in my cart. In fact, I think that’s an awesome idea.

But you just need to be honest about it.

Don’t lie to your readers.

Would I recommend this book? No. Absolutely not.

I sure did learn from it, though.

What would you think if you finished a book, and it totally left you hanging… Holding you ransom until you paid to find out what happened?

JenniFer_EatonF

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How to make Your Reader Care About Your Character #4

I am skimming over notes I took from a class about creating characters that your reader will care about.

Disclaimer:  I honestly don’t remember where this handout came from. I’m going to paraphrase the topic and think up my own ideas, but I don’t want anyone to think I’m stealing without giving credit.

It should be a given to an author that they need to create characters that their readers will care about. They do not necessarily have to like the character. Some really great characters are very unlikable. But we need to CARE about them, or we won’t keep reading. Right?

So how do we do this?

1.       Relationships.  (See previous post)

2.       Give them a goal (See previous post)

3.       Caring about others (See previous post)

4.       A special gift or talent.

A special gift or talent can be tricky

This one can be tricky, but it can be used when the others fail. A special talent, I think, needs to be part of the plot to make it work.  Like a person loves to draw, so we want to see them become a successful artist.  If they don’t, then why did they have the talent mentioned in the story to begin with?

Make sure it has meaning

This needs to be all about fulfillment. They need to use the talent to make something happen in the story.

Yes, this could be a great device, but be careful to make sure it fits inside your plot and story arc.

What recent special talent have you read that really drew you in to a novel?

_JenniFer____EatoN

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How to make Your Reader Care About Your Character #3

I am skimming over notes I took from a class about creating characters that your reader will care about.

Disclaimer:  I honestly don’t remember where this handout came from. I’m going to paraphrase the topic and think up my own ideas, but I don’t want anyone to think I’m stealing without giving credit.

It should be a given to an author that they need to create characters that their readers will care about. They do not necessarily have to like the character. Some really great characters are very unlikable. But we need to CARE about them, or we won’t keep reading. Right?

So how do we do this?

1.       Relationships.  (See previous post)

2.       Give them a goal (See previous post)

3.       Caring about others

Even the most horrible person on the planet has to care about someone, right?

Well, maybe not the most horrible person on the planet. I suppose you could create a noteworthy character who does not care about others, but the more I think of it, even the greatest villains of all time cared about something.

A villain can be a big softie

The guy in Psycho was pretty twisted, but that was okay, because he really loved his grandma. The Dude in Despicable Me wanted to be the greatest villain of all time, but these kids that he cared about kept getting in the way.
I think the idea is that in most cases everyone cares about someone. It may be trivial, or it may be gruesome, like keeping your beloved dead grandma… but it is that “care factor” that a reader can relate to.

Taking the easy way out

The handout talks about easier versions of caring, like taking care of a baby or helping an old lady cross the street.  So, if your character is a nice person, just make sure we can see them doing something that shows that they care for others.  They will get brownie points from your readers for their trouble.

Think about a novel your recently read that you loved. What did the main character care about?

_JenniFer____EatoN

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How to make Your Reader Care About Your Character #2

I am skimming over notes I took from a class about creating characters that your reader will care about.

Disclaimer:  I honestly don’t remember where this handout came from. I’m going to paraphrase the topic and think up my own ideas, but I don’t want anyone to think I’m stealing without giving credit.

It should be a given to an author that they need to create characters that their readers will care about. They do not necessarily have to like the character. Some really great characters are very unlikable. But we need to CARE about them, or we won’t keep reading. Right?

So how do we do this?

1.       Relationships.  (See previous post)

2.       Give them a goal

Ugh. Goals. We all have them, right? We all have something we need to do every day. Some goals we like, others we labor over.  The point is, we can all relate to having to do something.

If your character is wandering around in circles with no clear intent, the reader will not be able to engage.  Even before the inciting incident that is the real start to your story… your character has to have a reason for being… a goal of something that needs to be done (it can be simple, like making dinner)

But soon you should hit the “big goal” that will carry your reader along for the rest of the journey. We have to know what the goal is and have a vested interest in the character getting there.

By the way, the “big goal” needs to materialize in the first 25% of the book or earlier.  This may seem like a given to most of you, but I’ve read some works in progress lately where the author did not understand this. Think about your character’s goal, and make sure it is apparent to the reader.

Everyone wants something.

A reader can connect and care if they have the opportunity to root for your character to get what he/she wants.

So go ahead, give them a goal!

What was the character’s goal in your favorite novel? Do you think this is what made it your favorite?

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How to make Your Reader Care About Your Character #1

I was cleaning off my desk this weekend and I came across a handout from a seminar or class that I don’t even remember taking.  I read through the page and considered my current work in progress.  I’m pretty sure that by this time in my career I am doing what the handout recommends as an almost instinctual part of my writing process.

I almost tossed the paper, but thought there may be some people out there who could benefit from these notes.  And, of course, I tend to learn stuff myself when I write out and analyze notes for posts, so let’s see what happens.

To keep things  short, I will break this topic into 5 separate posts.  One thought to chew on at a time.

Disclaimer:  I honestly don’t remember where this handout came from. I’m going to paraphrase the topic and think up my own ideas, but I don’t want anyone to think I’m stealing without giving credit.

All right:  Creating a character people care about:

It should be a given to an author that they need to create characters that their readers will care about. They do not necessarily have to like the character. Some really great characters are very unlikable. But we need to CARE about them, or we won’t keep reading. Right?

So how do we do this?

1.       Relationships.  Everyone in the world has relationships. They can be good, bad, or just tolerable, but you know what a relationship is, and so does your reader. Seeing a character in a relationship is an easy way to help a reader connect.

Let’s think over some memorable relationships.  I’ll grab a character most people know.

Harry Potter.

Harry lives with his aunt and uncle. Wow, they do not treat him well, do they? Have you ever been treated unfairly? Have you every had to put up with it because you had no choice? Have you ever wished a magic letter would show up and scoot you away? (Well, I’m sure the answer is “yes” to most of what I said, anyway.)

Giving Harry this horrible home life helps us to INSTANTLY connect with him. We feel sorry for him and want him to live up to his potential.  If Harry can overcome the odds, maybe we can, too.

Do you see how quickly and easily the connection is made? In the first few scenes we totally care and we are engaged.

Relationships. Use them.

And if your character is stranded on a deserted island, have him draw a face on a ball so he has someone to talk to. Yes, that has been done, but that helped you to connect as well, right?
Relationships are one of the easiest ways to help your readers care about your characters.

How have you used relationships to develop your characters?

_JenniFer____EatoN

What makes you abandon a novel you are reading?

I recently finished a novel that was truly painful. In respect to the author, I’m not going to name it… but it was NOT an enjoyable read.

All the other novels I have lined up were screaming “Try me! I’ll be better, I promise.” And I was pretty sure that ANY of them I picked would have scaled higher on the enjoyment factor.

Was it written poorly?

I don’t think so.  You see, I purchased this book because it was by one of my favorite authors. In fact, this is someone I’ve reviewed and given five stars to, and if you hang here you know I don’t give away five stars all that freely.

I almost gave it up on this story five times, but I continued reading hoping that the author that I’d fallen in love with would shine through.

It didn’t happen.

What didn’t I like?

Well, I think it was a lot of things. This was a western. I detest westerns, but I’d read one last year that I really enjoyed, so I figured my favorite author could pull it off, too.

Ah, no.

The main character also had an annoying name. “Jazzy”.  Yeah, I’m serious. Don’t you want to smack her upside the head already?  I hoped my favorite author could overcome the annoying name.

Nope, didn’t happen.

In the end, I forced myself to finish. Probably because I purchased the book and wanted to get my money’s worth. Probably because I was waiting for some kind of a Sixth Sense ending that would make it all worth my time.

Didn’t happen.

In the end, though, something about the background came out that made me sympathize with Jazzy. Interestingly enough, I suddenly connected. Unfortunately, it was in the last couple of pages… thousands of words too late.

I’m wondering that if I had known this little tidbit of information in the beginning of the story, if the necessary connection between reader and character would have happened… that maybe, just maybe, I would have cared enough about her that I would have been worried when the stagecoach got overrun by bandits. I would have worried when the gun was pointed in her face. I would have cared if Mr. Perfect saved her scrawny butt…

The problem is that I suddenly cared to late, and it did not fix the rest of a very uninteresting read to me.

Have I given up on this favored author? I don’t think so, but I will be much more leery of picking up another title of hers. It’s a shame.

What did I learn?

I try to take away something from every novel I read. In this case, I will remember that if there is a secret or something in a character’s past that may help reader connection, I will push that little tidbit up front.  Late revelations are just that. Late. In this case, too late for me.

What about you? What makes you stop reading a book you have paid good money for?

Jennifer___Eaton