Monday, February 20, 2012

Five more things authors should not do

6. Don't concentrate on making those first three chapters sing.  Make the whole book a symphony and those three chapters will take care of themselves.  So what would the first three chapters do?
  • Grip the reader by the throat
  • Make them want to read about the character
  • Give just enough world to bring the reader into the story

7.  Don't try so hard.  A lot of times, writers aim to write in the beautiful flowing style of the authors they adored in college.  They write long, glowing descriptions rife with metaphor and imagery that comments on the state of man.  There's only one problem.  They're writing a fast-paced thriller.  Beautiful prose has a place in any novel, sure, but in the middle of a gunfight is not the time to contemplate the beauty of the sunset, or expound on the pathetic fallacy of the hailstorm.

8.  Don't jump to self-publish.  The boom in self-publishing has in some ways hurt both readers and authors, I believe.  It's so easy to self-publish now, that a lot of people aren't putting the amount of work into their book that they really should.  I know--personally, even!--some authors who are very successful and happy with their self-publishing experience, but they put a lot of time and yes, even money, into doing it right by hiring an outside editor, making a professional (not just pretty) cover, and doing the marketing.

9. Don't forget to stretch,  Sitting at the computer is not good posture, even with the best of ergonomic furniture.  In particular, your shoulders curl in, causing the muscles to shrink, overcompensate and get knots.  Just a couple of stretches that open up the pectorals every half hour or so can help.  (Advice I need to remember myself.)

10.  Don't feel that you must focus on a genre, topic, novels, etc.  This one, I took from Chuck Wendig.  Here's how he put it:
Diversification is the name of survival for all creatures: genetics relies on diversification. (Says the guy with no science background and little interest in Googling that idea to see if it holds any water at all.) Things are changing big in these next few years, from the rise of e-books to the collapse of traditional markets to the the galactic threat of Mecha-Gaiman. Diversity of form, format and genre will help ensure you stay alive in the coming entirely-made-up Pubpocalypse.
 If you look at my website, you can see why I stand firmly behind this idea.  I have written in multiple genres, fiction, non-fiction, even craft books.  I write school calendars, I teach classes, I have newsletters and websites.  Some of my most successful stuff has been the left turns I would not have taken if I'd followed the advice of keeping my "brand."  (Those who do like to stick to brands can use pen names for that purpose.  I would not be able to keep track of all the new social media a second (third, fourth) pen name would entail, but I know a few authors who do this very successfully.)

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