A Reader has to care about your book… That’s the point of the dazzling cover and the spicy, zinger blurb. Craft the best cover and back matter you can. They are invitations to explore the first sentence, and then the first chapter. And there is no moment to waste in holding the reader’s interest. As authors we are in competition with the whole of the available internet, music, television, movies. And the millions of stories that have come before we hit PUBLISH.
Know your market… So many great stories have already been told. As a creator of fantasy/ science fiction I must first know what my readers already have seen. I cannot create the unexpected if I haven’t watched BattleStar Galactica, Star Wars, Star Trek, The Guild, Farscape, the Expanse etc. The list goes on and on. When I write space opera, I compete with Firefly and Joss Whedon’s dialogue for the reader’s attention. We compete with all the media that has come before. Our challenge then is to know our market so we can:
Create something new. How many retellings can you name of Alice In Wonderland? I can think of at least five off the top of my head. There are hundreds. Taking the familiar and adding a twist, or changing all the characters in the original story by gender, ethnicity, age, species… that puts the familiar within the realm of a new/unexplored world. And there is a reason creative people do retellings. Readers and Children are the same in one respect:
We read to escape. We read to relax. Think of all the bedtime stories. And how many times Guess How Much I Love You? Or Goodnight Moon can be read to sleepy children. Most parents will nod their heads and confirm: Countless times. Beyond the limit of adult sanity, kids still want the same story. The familiarity. The characters. The plot points. The best poignant lines. People want that. As adults, we crave the same thing: we want familiarity, we want the Happily Ever After or the Painful Lesson. Which means that authors must:
Find the core of their story in the strongest of human emotions: Love, Fear, Suspicion, Pride, Anger, Survival, Hatred. Those emotions that move us the most are what hold the reader to the next chapter and the next book.
We write to speak to the few. It is important to remember that. No author has all five star reviews. In the past year I have learned to think of the writing universe like this: There are over 80 chocolate bars manufactured in America. People have varied tastes. And we crave new things. So how can you ever expect 100% of readers to like your book? We don’t even agree on whether or not raisins should be in cookies. listchallenges.com/candy-bars
We write. We revise. We edit. We hold in our hands a new book. And then many of us stop. We get stuck, undone as creators by the simplest unkind word. By doubt. By a thousand red marks on a page. So many of us never leave this closed cycle. We get one negative comment and instantly inflate that weakness to cover the entire novel. And so back our work goes, editing, revising. We all know authors who have been working on a manuscript for years, decades. And this is the important part:
Breathe. Make the manuscript the best you can. Realize that in fact there will always be typos, there will always be errors. We are human. We make mistakes. Once the best quality product has been written, at some point you as an author have to be brave. Be courageous and let it go. Let the book fly away from you, to an uncertain fate, to unkind reviews. Because once it is the best you can do, the book itself is dead. The creative process is over. The shining, the polishing, the editing, the formatting, once the book is ready, LET IT GO. Because…
You are meant for better things. The old work, the one that you have regrets about still, you will always have those regrets. Because here is the big secret: writing a novel is the same thing as getting a tattoo. It is a mark on your soul just as clearly as ink is buried under the skin. And some people will love it, some will hate it, but in all honesty: your written, finished novel is a mark of who you are as an author, at that moment in your life. And you have moved on, the moment you have crafted the best product possible. You move on.
Because now, today, you are a better writer than you were yesterday, last week, last month, last year. You grow. You change. And what you need to write, the desire you have to communicate, the passion of your voice changes as you grow. So begin a new project and let the finished books go out in the world on their own. They will be rejected by some and loved by some. And in some cases, they will affect a reader so much that one book changes their world, their idea of what they want in life, of what they can be.
Then, as an author you have done your job. Change one life. Write for one person. Create a new story that blooms on its own. Now, sit down and type in your name, a working title, the Chapter One heading, and begin again. We have a calling: to change what it means to be human, to affect one other person with our ideas, one book at a time.
A little about the author:
After attending UCLA, I traveled to Chicago and Rome, reaching for the limits of what I could see and my own ability to express myself.
As an artist, I adore E. Degas, A. Mucha, Rembrandt and M. Parrish as direct influences.
As a writer, my new novel Flying Away, book one of the Flykeeper Chronicles, represents a journey into madness and justice,
grace and fury, binding love and blood.