Friday, 19 April 2013

Question Time

It’s Q-day in the A to Z Challenge and as is traditional here at Moody Writing, I'm opening the floor to any questions you might have about the writing process. I can’t promise you a good answer, or the right answer, but hopefully I can offer you a new way of looking at the problem.

Writers can often get locked into one way of doing things. This character acts in this way, in this world. When things don't work, this can lead to a lot of options getting overlooked.

In cases like these a new perspective can help. That's where I come in. Hello! 

So, if you have any questions, either regarding writing in general, or specific to something you’re working on, please leave it in the comments section below and I’ll copy and paste it into the main body of the post, along with a link to your blog or website (a little free publicity never hurts).

And if there are no questions, then I’ll happily put my feet up and have a day off. You don't have to ask a question, by the way. You can just say hello or comment on one of the other  questions.

Alex from Alex J Cavanaugh (perhaps you've heard of it) asks:
Can I ask one about you? How did you develop your writing expertise?

All self-taught, no credentials or scout badges to my name. I read a lot, listen to what others have to say, make up my own mind about what's useful. Hopefully people who read this blog will do the same.

Al Diaz from over at Father Dragon Writes asks:
Many times I've read from the experts that it is important to know your genre, your audience and your market. Honestly, I have absolutely no idea what they are talking about or where to learn about it. Can you give me some directions? 

Generally, they mean keep an eye on what's selling in your genre; read the kinds of books you want to write to see how long they are, what kind of language they use; and check out sites where readers review and complain about books to see what pleases them and what doesn't. Which is fair enough, but you'll find a lot of conflicting info.

We have more access to that sort of information than ever before, but it's important to remember that publishers have all the latest data and they still fail to make money with 90% of the books they print.  

Most industry analysis is done after the fact and is out of date almost immediately. It tells you how it happened in the past, not how to do it in the future, same as movies. That's why you see a lot of the same sorts of stories shoved down people's throats. They can still make money that way using marketing and shutting out any competition. Much harder for a lone author to break in and get noticed that way.

Diane Carlisle at Are We There Yet? asks:
Have you an opinion on mixing genres, specifically a suspense thriller with a notion of romance?
Example:
My protagonist is a detective out to solve a crime. She has a new boss and he's a bit of a puzzle. He's going to end up being her mentor and helping her, but what damage might I do if I leave a hint of internal conflict, maybe passion, that never comes to be? In other words, I'll leave it up to the reader to wonder about the romantic interest, but never fulfill the intimacy.


Romantic Thrillers a la Nora Roberts are big business, but there's usually a strong emphasis on the romance (with follow through, if you know what I mean). Suspense, danger, passion. if your story is more a thriller with a hint of unrequited love or something like that, the danger is if readers prefer the lovey-dovey stuff, you may frustrate them. If you get the balance right, there's nothing wrong with a sense of 'What might be...'


Gwen from Gwen Gardner, YA Fiction Author asks:
How important is it to stick to writing rules? I sort of feel like breaking them sometimes :)

It isn't important at all. What matters is how to get across your story in the most effective way possible. For most people this means using conventional methods. Others have done it before you and they've found certain ways work. But other ways work too. Understanding rules and why they're recommended, though, usually helps writers see why people might not be connecting with their work.

Sarah Foster at The Faux Fountain Pen asks:

I've been obsessing over symbolism lately so I'd love to know your thoughts on that. How can it be effective and how much is too much? 

More important is theme. If you have a strong idea of what your story is about (what it's really about), and if that theme carries weight (i.e. readers respond to the theme), then symbolism will help enhance that feeling. But you need to know your theme, not sprinkle in crucifixes in various guises and  hope it means something to someone. In general, I'd say symbolism comes in late and tends to appear by itself, or you notice it and maybe shape it a little, rather than plant it into a scene or build a scene around it. You can do both those things, but it will probably stick out a bit, which can be distracting more than enhancing.

Maria from First Draft Cafe asks:
What is your view on finding a writing partner, someone who can help to spur you on to the finish line with a project?

If you mean a fellow writer to buddy up with on your own separate stories (so you both sit sown at the same time to work on your individual projects), then that's hugely helpful. It's like going to the gym or on  a diet with someone going through the same thing, makes it a lot easier. But they have to be doing it too, just offering encouragement can end up making you resentful.

Michael from Michael Offutt, Speculative Fiction Author asks;
My question is about you. Are you a guy or a gal?

I'm a guy, although Alex always refers to me as female, which I don't mind.

Beth from Beth Camp asks:
What a wonderful idea for "Q" -- a question session. You really opened up a neat discussion! My question is: Since so many writers seem to be introverted, how do we overcome our resistance to marketing? And (oops, two questions), what are, in your opinion, the three most important marketing strategies a newbie writer can take when self-publishing? Can't wait for your answer!

I'd say if a writer really doesn't want to play the part of salesman they don't have to. Plenty of authors stayed away from the spotlight. What I think is important is to make the title of the book memorable (The Farting Nun is going to make more of an impression than The Wind in the Trees). Get the title out there, doesn't matter how. A lot of people do blog tours and character interviews and stuff like that, but few people read them. What they do, though, is keep putting the name of the book in front of people. There are still a lot of things you can do to make the book sound interesting (good blurb, good cover, good reviews) but just making the audience aware the book exists and is available is a prerequisite. And finally, get to know Alex J. Cavanaugh. If there's one person giving new writers a boost, it's him (or possibly her, hard to tell on the internet).

Rachna from Rachna's Scriptorium asks
What genre do you write and have you done any writing course (you come across as an expert on the craft of writing and your posts are so informative).

I write contemporary mainstream fiction, usually a little dark and satirical. I recently started writing short fantasy fiction of the Swords & Sorcery variety but this was just to try out slef-publishing, and I didn't want to use up any of my WIPs for experimentation, so I knocked out some fun shorts. You can check out the kind of thing I'm working on here.

I haven't taken any courses, although I've read a lot of books about writing, and my tastes are very broad, so I've seen examples of both where the rules are applied and where they are broken, producing good and bad in both cases.
 

16 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Can I ask one about you? How did you develop your writing expertise?

Al Diaz said...

Many times I've read from the experts that it is important to know your genre, your audience and your market. Honestly, I have absolutely no idea what they are talking about or where to learn about it. Can you give me some directions?

Diane Carlisle said...

Have you an opinion on mixing genres, specifically a suspense thriller with a notion of romance?

Example:

My protagonist is a detective out to solve a crime. She has a new boss and he's a bit of a puzzle. He's going to end up being her mentor and helping her, but what damage might I do if I leave a hint of internal conflict, maybe passion, that never comes to be? In other words, I'll leave it up to the reader to wonder about the romantic interest, but never fulfill the intimacy.

Gwen Gardner said...

How important is it to stick to writing rules? I sort of feel like breaking them sometimes :)

Sarah Foster said...

I've been obsessing over symbolism lately so I'd love to know your thoughts on that. How can it be effective and how much is too much?

Maria said...

What is your view on finding a writing partner, someone who can help to spur you on to the finish line with a project?

Anne Mackle said...

Sorry no questions just popping by from A-Z to say hello.

Michael Offutt, S.F.A. said...

My question is about you. Are you a guy or a gal?

mooderino said...

@Anne - Hello!

Beth Camp said...

What a wonderful idea for "Q" -- a question session. You really opened up a neat discussion! My question is: Since so many writers seem to be introverted, how do we overcome our resistance to marketing? And (oops, two questions), what are, in your opinion, the three most important marketing strategies a newbie writer can take when self-publishing? Can't wait for your answer!

Lydia Kang said...

Last time I listen to Alex. I thought you were a gal too, but before Alex called you a "she" I thought you were a guy, so I was right. Actually, I just like being mad at Alex, because really, you can never get mad at that guy. :)

Great Q & A!

Lynda R Young said...

lol!! For some reason I thought you were a girl too... oops (It might only be because the majority of bloggers are female, so when in doubt I picked female for you).

And yes! Reading a lot really is a great way to learn and to see all the 'rules' in action.

Rachna Chhabria said...

OMG, I too thought that you were a girl.

These questions are for you. What genre do you write and have you done any writing course (you come across as an expert on the craft of writing and your posts are so informative).

mooderino said...

@Lydia - Should we start a Mad at Alex blogfest? Not sure we would get many sign ups.

@Lynda - I quite like being a man/woman hybrid. Although finding shoes that fit is a nightmare.

sassyspeaks said...

I don’t have a question but I learned something from your answers :D

Elise Fallson said...

I'm sorry I missed Q day. I certainly would have asked something intelligent like do you brush your tongue in the mornings and how many balls can you juggle at a time. But, I don't see where people would think you were a girl. I've always gotten that Y chromosome vibe from your posts.

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