Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012

Reading Habits

I have a confession to make. I have a weird reading habit. I’m a binge reader. Sometimes I go months without picking up a single book (bring out the whips!) Then, all of a sudden, something clicks in my brain and all I can do is read. I’ll go through five or six books in a week, devouring them in just a few quick sittings. This usually last a couple weeks. My massive to-be-read pile shrinks a bit and then as quick as it started, the urge vanishes and I go back to normal life. I have no idea why I’m like this, or when it started. The only time I don’t follow this pattern is when a major book I’ve been waiting to read releases.

I wonder if I’m alone in this weird habit. Do any of you binge read? Do you have other strange reading habits?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Book Trailers

Now that I’ve talked a little about writing, I wanted to jump back to talk a little more about marketing. Specifically, book trailers. I’ve been kind of fascinated with them since I first found out they existed. A lot of authors have them, despite a constant argument that they aren’t effective tools for selling books.

 I’ve started making one for myself, mostly for fun. I’m a visual person and I like seeing things. Hopefully I’ll be able to share my book trailer with you all in a few weeks.

Yesterday I was reading some reviews of Ally Condie’s book Matched on Good Reads and two people on there said they bought the book because they liked the trailer. So maybe there is something to them. I think the effective ones are the trailers that look professional and entice the viewer to learn more. But there aren’t many out there that fit this description because people tend to throw them together on a whim.

I’m curious if anyone here has bought a book because of a book trailer. Do you think they are a good marketing tool or a waste of time and resources?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Writing Tips and Tricks-Pacing

So it’s time to talk about pacing. This is one aspect of writing that is incredibly difficult to master. There’s an art to it. Some writers master it, while others struggle. I’m always worried when I’m revising my work if I’ve gotten it right. My basic formula for pacing the story is Fast beginning-some slow(er) story developing-increased action to a climax in the middle-more developing-high action ending. The idea is to keep the story going up ,up, up. The action scenes, and even the slower scenes should move faster as the story progresses. Of course, there are exceptions to this system. Some stories move in a totally different direction. I’m just sharing what works best for me. As a writer, your job is to keep people reading. Pacing is a huge part of that. Find a system that works for you and use it.

Another pacing tip of the trade, is to use a cliff hanger at the end of a chapter. It’s simple and used a lot. And it works. People will keep reading, just to find out what happens.

If you’re not the explosions and apocalypse kind of writer, there are other, more subtle, ways to keep your readers attention. Introducing an intriguing mystery can make people want to know more. They will keep reading to find out the answer to whatever questions you’ve created in their minds. Those mysteries often slow the pace of a story, but they make stories interesting and worth reading. So use them wisely.

Pacing is is really about figuring out how fast the story needs to move and finding the best way to implement it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Writing Tips and Tricks-World Building

Building a world for your characters to live in is really, really important. You can have the most complex and beautiful world EVER in your head, but if you can’t get your readers to see it, it won’t matter. Everyone has their own way of doing this, but I’m going to talk a little about how I like to do it.

When I’m reading, I hate being bogged down with paragraph after paragraph of descriptive writing. Even the most talented writers can really slow themselves down with too much descriptive writing. That’s why I like to be sneaky about my description. A single, well placed world can tell a reader a whole lot about a character or situation. I often slip descriptive words into conversations or short thoughts. It’s like shaking a little seasoning on the writing. A little here and there goes a long way.

Subtly blending descriptions into the story also lets the reader use their imagination to fill in whatever gaps you choose to leave in the story. And readers love using their imaginations.

That doesn’t mean, however, that you can completely ignore the whole description thing altogether. Every book needs description to ground it and make it real. Sometimes I struggle with exactly how much too add. Building an interesting world for your stories is sort of a balancing act between giving information and letting your readers create their own information. It really boils down to figuring out what works best for you.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Writing Tips and Tricks-How to Create Tension

Today I’m starting a week long basic writing series. I thought I would start with one of the most important aspects of story telling-tension. Sure, stories need characters and setting and a plot but if you don’t have tension, everything else is going to be flat. Boring.

Tension is really what keeps people reading. If there are risks, if your character needs to achieve something, you’re much more likely to have people stick with your characters. So how do you accomplish this?

There are a lot of techniques out there, but the easiest way for me, is to give my character a goal. Make your character want something. It can be anything, simple or difficult. Maybe they have always dreamed of being a rock star or they just want to cross the street. Readers want to see someone accomplishing something, or at least trying. Give them what they want.

This is just the first step though. The real key to building tension is putting obstacles in between your character and the goal(s) they want to accomplish. More obstacles=more tension. Just don’t go too crazy or your story won’t be believable.

I’m going to give you an example just to try and clarify my point. We will start with a character, let’s call him Character X, for now. And let’s pretend he wants something. Maybe he’s hungry and wants to get something to eat. I could just show him eating a sandwich, but instead I’m going to show him trying to get a bite to eat. Maybe Character X goes to the fridge first but his fridge is empty. There’s his first obstacle. In order to overcome that obstacle, he has to leave his house. And the story just became slightly more interesting. Once he leaves the house to go to the store, he tries to start his car but the car won’t start. There’s another obstacle to achieving his goal. And a little more tension is added. I think you get the idea.

Every road block you throw at your character helps move the story forward, because you force you character to make choices. And that’s what makes stories interesting. Characters need to make decisions, take risks. Otherwise books would just be long, descriptive messes. Tension will allow your character to shine and help your plot develop. It’s what moves things forward and what keeps them interesting. So please, please, please make life as difficult as possible for your characters. They will be much better people for it.