New Website Design (a.k.a. Nothing to See Here…)

In case anyone is wondering, yes: I’m playing around with a new website design. Going for something simple, clean, and easy to read. In other words, a better design. (I disliked how my last theme wouldn’t let me change the text color over the background image, which made it difficult to read. I could have removed the image, but I still wanted something graphic to show; the old theme didn’t look very good with a header image.)

Eventually, my home page will be a static page instead of the blog, but that won’t be happening for several months, I’m sure. In the meantime, don’t be alarmed.

Nothing to see here…

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On Finding a Novel’s Target Audience & Understanding Reader Expectations (Part II)

Last week, I mused a bit about the importance of identifying your target audience as an author and understanding reader expectations within your genre(s). This week, I wanted to follow up with some more thoughts on this as it pertains to my WIP, TEROH.

Before I get too far, I’d like to point out that a lot of these thoughts are stemming from a few things: beta reader comments I received, reviews that I read on books that are similar to mine, and also things I’ve been learning recently about selling and publishing on Amazon. Some books from indie authors are more financially successful than others—and while I don’t think things like good cover designs, good book descriptions, and the use of well-researched keywords along with an apt selection of categories/genres are the only reasons for their success, they do tend to be a substantial part of it when you look a little closer.

With the right positioning, a book can get a decent amount of hits from organic searches over time and better reach its intended audience. But if you haven’t considered the market and don’t know and understand who your intended audience is or what they’re looking for, then how are you supposed to reach them? As a writer still weighing the pros and cons of self-publishing vs. traditional, these are the reasons I’m considering all of this now.

As I see it, knowing the answers to these questions from a writing standpoint is just as important from a marketing one.Read More »

On Finding a Novel’s Target Audience & Understanding Reader Expectations (Part I)

Lately, as I’ve been pondering some of the feedback I’ve been getting on The Elementalist: Rise of Hara as well as the intricacies of publishing and marketing, I’ve been thinking about who the target audience for my novel might be because it’s very eclectic and therefore not easily categorized, in my opinion.

It never fully occurred to me until recently that this is actually a really important thing to figure out as an author—not just when you attempt to publish your novel but even while you’re getting feedback on early versions of your manuscript. (Some career writers would even say this should be considered before you start writing a novel.)

So why does this matter during the beta reader process?

Well, variety may be the spice of life and it’s very possible to learn something new from anyone you meet, but if what your story has to offer doesn’t really compliment the palettes of those you present your offering to (so to speak), then some of what you love about your story is liable to leave a bad taste in their mouths. Beyond this, every reader has his/her own standards for what they expect from a good story, and this can vary widely from genre to genre.

I think that’s why it’s important to seriously consider who your target audience is if you plan on publishing a novel so that your story is met with the best reception and financial success possible. Unless you don’t care about these things, in which case you might as well just skip my thoughts about all of this.

Different Reader Expectations for Readers of Different Genres

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Using Beta Reader Feedback & Highlighters to Analyze & Shorten Your (Long-Ass Fantasy) Novel

If you’re like me and know you could probably shorten your novel but have no idea how to go about doing that because “OMG, I love/need everything—the feeeeelz!”…then you just might like this post.

Writers who are looking for agents hear it time and time again: word count matters. But that doesn’t make it easier to contend with—especially if you’re a fantasy writer and you decided to create your own world. Finding beta reader(s) to take a crack at your novel can help you find some of your story’s problems. However, they won’t necessarily tell you outright, “Hey, I really think you need to shorten this book,” or, “Hey, I think you should cut X, Y, and Z out.” You may hear something more like, “This part didn’t really do much for me,” or, “I feel like it took too long for such-n-such to happen.” Some of that might be pacing or lack of development…or the opposite: too much development (in the wrong places).

Regardless, if you know you’ve written a doorstopper, then y’already know things need to shrink to have the best chance at finding representation and selling your novel (if that’s the route you want to go). My story is currently hovering around the 216K mark. I’m not expecting miracles—I truly feel this is a big story that will lose something vital if I try to take it to something like 120K, so I will pitch to UK agents or self-publish if I have to—but I do want to challenge myself to cut a minimum of 40K words. The good news is I found a ridiculously easy way to cut 25% of that goal with little to no heartbreak; the bad news is I still need to find where the other 75% (or more) is hiding.

So how am I planning to do that?

Well, I’ve talked about some of this before on the blog, but if you’re more of a visual-audio person and more specific examples then check out my video! You can easily adapt the process I talk about for your own particular needs. It’s certainly helping me see my novel in a more objective light, and I’m barely getting started. (Not claiming to be the first to do this, by the way. I just go about it differently.)

Oh, and here’s a helpful hint: when the highlighters stop flowing largely in the color(s) that you need them to: you’ve definitely got some issues…

How do you find ways to shorten a lengthy novel?

Working with Beta Readers

Repeat after me: my novel will not appeal to everyone. My novel will not appeal to everyone. My novel will not appeal to everyone. 

This may seem obvious to some, and maybe not so much for others, but this matters in some very big ways but also some very small ones.

Some people like having romance subplots in their stories. Others don’t. Some like detailed history and political intrigue. Others don’t. Some need happy endings. Others are a bit more open.

Do you see what I mean?

This is why before you can even decide what feedback to listen to or how to interpret it, you as the author must decide what your novel is really about, what’s most important in your story, and what it is you’re trying to achieve. (Chances are if you can’t sum up your answers to these questions in a couple sentences each, you need to give this some thought. And if your blurb is well over 200 words, then you’ve probably got too much going on.) You also have to understand your readers—what they like and don’t like, what they’re used to reading, and what makes a good story in their opinions.

You can make all the changes in the world, but none of those will matter if you don’t have clear answers to these questions.

Why?

Because without answers, there isn’t enough clarity to help focus your story, which makes it susceptible to being led in a direction that you don’t necessarily want it to go—and then you really won’t be happy with the results.

Why Finding the Right Reader(s) for Your Novel is So Important

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Novel Aesthetics & Revising a Novel

Being that my background is in interior design and visual merchandising, one of the things that inspires me most and drives a lot of my storytelling choices is visual aesthetics. Looking back, this has especially been the case with my WIP, TEROH.

For better or for worse.

I like the subtle complexity of dark espionage stories, the suffocating sense of paranoia, and the way this genre looks on the big screen. I like elemental magic and the larger-than-life way it can be portrayed. I also like the look and sound of old black and white movies like melodramas and film noir—fedoras and glamorous femmes fatales, chiaroscuro lighting, mid-Atlantic accents, psychological drama…

And that’s what drove a lot of my choices while developing TEROH.

The strange thing is that, when I first started writing, I really hadn’t watched very many black and white movies. Just a few. So for them to have such a big influence on the style of my novel seems almost…disproportional, in retrospect. Nevertheless, it’s this very combination of elements that helped determine the spirit of this story.

notorious1946
Notorious, 1946. Image by RKO Radio Pictures (corporate author), The Kobal Collection. Photographer: Ernest Bachrach. – Chicago-Sun Times, Public Domain. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9571484

What got me thinking about all of this in the first place is because not long ago, I watched the 1946 movie Notorious with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman for the first time—and I realized something: the style of this film is almost exactly the blend of elements I’ve been trying to channel all along with TEROH. Not directly in a studied, intentional manner but in my own loose but inspired way. (There’s also some romance, I suppose, but it’s by no means the main story.) Granted, I tossed in some fantasy/occult elements, too, which is suited to a more gothic tale. Still, I feel like noir draws some things from the gothic genre, which I’m also drawn to at times. (Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea anyone?)

So why does any of this matter?Read More »

Happy New Year! + 2018 Goals

It’s hard to believe another year has gone by, but it has—and much to my surprise, I’ve pretty much achieved my goals. (This is only surprising to me because usually, I don’t set any goals.)

Last year, I set out to achieve three things: (1) finish editing Book I of my fantasy series, (2) begin planning and writing Book II of said fantasy series, and (3) plan the end of a long-distance relationship I was involved in. (Notice how I used the past tense.)

#1 I’ve done; I’m still not “finished”, per se, but I’m “done” for now. I’ve sent the thing out to beta readers and am currently still getting some feedback to consider. So far so good. (Thought maybe I could be done with the whole beta reader process and edits based on that before now, but that was a joke. Still, I consider this goal “accomplished”.)

#2 I can also check off the list. Barely started actually writing the story just a few days ago so squeaked that one in. (My progress bar on the side of my website now reflects this.) One particular scene was in my head and I just wanted to get it down on paper. Since I’m still waiting on feedback for the first novel, I thought this would be a good time to get the second one going.

As for #3, well, things just didn’t work out with me and the ex-boyfriend. I think we were in very different places in our lives, and our lifestyles were way too different to really coincide. He was a lot more footloose and bohemian than me. Traveled light…that kind of thing. (And here I am collecting vintage furniture I don’t necessarily need.) There’s a certain appeal to that, but if you’re talking about possibly spending the rest of your life together and moving to another state…well, I’ll let you fill in the blanks.

There was also the issue of him changing his tune from “I can see us getting married” and nonchalantly asking me about ring styles to “I’m not sure I want to get married/believe in marriage anymore,” which is enough in and of itself if you ask me. #dealbreaker

That all happened back in February, in addition to having to put down my two very sickly cats of 17 years, and I’ve pretty much been single ever since. Actually, I think I’m a lot happier being single. Looking back on my dating escapades, I think I’ve always been happier single. Doesn’t mean I don’t get curious about men every now and then; I like men. (Well, some of them.) I’m just not sure I ought to be living with one. See, I happen to be responsible with my money, I live a pretty stable life, and I still believe that marriage can be a good thing. Unfortunately, none of those things seem to be en vogue with the guys I run into nowadays. (Because in my past lives, apparently, things were different. </sarcasm>)

I could really go on about this if I’m not careful, but that’s not why I started this post; I’m setting some new goals for the New Year, people. Three of them, to be exact—two that are writing-related and one that’s more personal. After all, that’s what I did last year, so y’know, let’s not get too creative.

Okay, I lied: let’s do two personal goals. There, I’m trying something new now.Read More »

Using a Blurb to Shape Your Novel

When I finished the first draft of the final version of TEROH that I’m sharing with beta readers now, I decided to write a blurb (a short, intriguing description) about it. Since then, I’ve edited it countless times as I seek to balance how I want readers to view my novel along with their actual perceptions of the story they end up reading. It’s not so much the plot that changes in the blurb so much as how I pitch it.

There are so many ways to turn a thought or phrase, and each way holds a slightly different meaning.

This also pertains to the other novels I’m planning for my series. Unlike TEROH, I’m actually starting with a preliminary blurb before developing the novels themselves. (I’ve talked a bit about this before as well as how I’m using music playlists to shape the direction that my stories will take.) Looking back on my process for TEROH, I think there are some advantages to doing this.Read More »

I’ve Got Something to Say: Why TEROH is Not My First Draft (or Novel)

I don’t think this is clear to people who haven’t been following me for very long, but the version of The Elementalist: Rise of Hara (TEROH) that I sent out to my beta readers recently—as many flaws as it still maintains—is actually not my first draft. Technically, it’s not even my first novel.

Granted, I still have a good amount of work to do on the manuscript, not having consulted outside eyes until I felt I had a solid understanding of the story’s soul, but the point I want to make is that this novel (and the series it continues to spawn) has not only seen several rebirths of its most basic concept; it’s also seen numerous cycles of development to a minute level of detail, which has allowed my subconscious brain to make connections between my ideas in ways that wouldn’t have been possible if I’d only spent one or two years on this project.

There are several reasons for this.

Element 7 Wordle 2

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It’s done.

You guys. I have something important to tell you.

You know that novel I’ve been working on for over 10 years now? The one that started back in 2007 as a series of random journal entries that eventually became scenes, which eventually became a novel? The one that I rewrote several times just so I could “get it right” then edited more times than I can recall?

Yeah, well…it’s done.

No, I really mean it. I sent it out to beta readers. Today. Like the whole thing. Completed.

Does that mean it won’t see any more changes? No, but I’ve gotten it as good as I can get it on my own, so now I’m sharing it with others who can help me make it even better.

What Comes Next?

Well, once I’ve gotten feedback from my beta readers (thank you!), I’ll be reading through that then deciding what changes should be made to my story. After which…

See, now that’s where things get fuzzy. Do I get ready to send the thing to literary agents and hope that I can find representation and a publisher, or do I strike out on my own as a self-published author? I’ve been debating this for some time now, and I’m still no closer to an answer. I’ve been telling myself, “Hey, why don’t you do some submissions for a while and see how that goes? If nothing comes of it, you can always self-publish.” Which is fine. But the very designer/creator side of me really likes the idea of having a say in things like the cover and layout design of my first novel.

Besides, I’m hearing it’s tough for self-proclaimed dieselpunk writers to get any representation right now—simply for the fact that they identify their work as “dieselpunk”. And that’s messed up ’cause y’all know I’m all about dieselpunk. I’ve gotten very involved in that community lately on Facebook and am even one of the top profiles that pop up on Twitter when you search for “dieselpunk”. In other words, I’ve been branding myself a certain way and would like to continue doing so.

In any case, I could go back to brainstorming ideas for Book II, which I’ve already started. I might wait a few weeks on that, at least, though. Take a break.

*sighs*

Anyway, that’s what’s going on with me.

What Are You Working On?

Writing a novel yourself? Or maybe you’ve been reading some good stories lately. I wanna know!