It’s a Brave New World of Publishing out there. We’re no longer locked into only one path to becoming a professional writer. Yet, despite all the shinies and tools and gadgets, there are core fundamentals that will remain unchanged.
Humans LOVE a good story. One of the reasons I worked so hard to put together a simple plan for author branding is the writing needs to be paramount. Most writers, no matter which path they choose, do not see success on the first book. A standard tipping point is book THREE.
Many of you are hearing stories of writers-gone-indie who are making a really good living. Most of these authors are comprised of two types of writers:
a) Authors with extensive backlists.
They worked their tails off for years and years and wrote A LOT of books and got the rights back to those old titles. Time didn’t change the fact that these were still really good stories. But, reality dictates that B&N can only shelve so many books.
But note, these authors already put in YEARS of sweat-equity. They are reaping NEW harvest from older works.
b) Authors who work hard and write their tails off and write A LOT of books.
Indie authors Amanda Hocking, John Locke, Aaron Patterson, etc. didn’t see success with Book One. They wrote their tails off and built up a tremendous amount of potential energy. Thus, when word-of-mouth ignited? These authors enjoyed the benefits of compounded sales. They didn’t write ONE book and then beat others to death marketing it.
How To Be Successful in the New Paradigm
Regardless which publishing path you choose, writers have to learn to write good books at a professional pace. Yes, sure it took six years to write that first book, but what if NY loves it and hands you a three-book deal? Are they going to give you 18 years to complete your obligation?
Without certain fundamental skills, it’s easy to get lost in a labyrinth of plot bunnies…bunnies that, over time, turn feral. Plot bunnies, like real bunnies, multiply like CRAZY if left untended.
Our stories can get so complicated we need a team of sherpas and a GPS to locate our original idea. This wastes time and makes it hard to keep writing more books. Thus, to combat this, writers must:
Learn to Develop a Bad Situation into a Solid Core Story Problem
The best way to combat feral plot bunnies is to truly understand the antagonist. What are the different types of antagonists? How do we use them to generate page-turning tension and thus keep the bunnies at bay?
Most new writers don’t properly understand the antagonist, yet the antagonist is the reason for the story problem which must be solved by Act III. If the core is weak, the rest of the story will be flawed. I watch writers rework the same book year after year after year and yet, I can tell in five minutes what the problem is.
No core antagonist. No clear story problem. Ripe breeding ground for plot bunnies.
This is why a lot of writers want to throw up in their shoes when faced with having to pitch an agent.
Lack of a core story problem makes it impossible to generate true dramatic tension, thus what we are left with is drama’s inbred cousin, melodrama.
Plot bunnies LOVE melodrama.
Problem is, we aren’t taught to write commercial fiction in school and so we have options:
- Read a bazillion books. Read so much story structure is practically embedded in our DNA.
- Read a bazillion books then write a bazillion books (most of them bad) and then finally write enough books we stop sucking.
- Read a lot, write a lot, read craft books and get some training in commercial fiction.
- Read a lot, write a lot, read craft books, break apart movies, go to conferences/critique groups and get some training in how to write good fiction
Notice there aren’t a lot of shortcuts. I was bummed too.
Most of us begin a book with a fuzzy idea, a scene and then we take off writing (Hey, I did it, too). Okay, but I want to make you aware that the story problem must be proportionate to the size of the work. Sometimes we do have a story problem, but it just isn’t strong enough to be a foundation for an entire novel. We have to get good at learning to:
- Formulate interesting story problems.
- Develop the core problem until it is strong enough to support a novel.
- Make sure the problem is clear and actionable.
- Learn to layer the problem to sustain dramatic tension.
When you get good at spotting good ideas and then developing that idea into something that can make an interesting novel, your writing will be leaner, meaner and faster. You will be able to write multiple books because you won’t be duct-taped in Act II by a hoard of rabid plot bunnies.
To help you guys, I am offering a class to train you to understand the antagonist and create solid plot problems quickly and easily. As a gift to you, I am offering a 15% discount Wana15. Class is July 23 and in our WANA International Digital Classroom. I know it took me years and a lot of pain, heartache and cookie dough to grasp the concepts I will be teaching in this class.
Regardless the publishing path we choose, we need to be experts at our craft. My goal and WANA’s goal is to give you what you need to be successful.
So, are you being held hostage by feral plot bunnies? Are you stuck? Can’t seem to make it past a certain point in your novel? Is your work getting rejected and you’re unsure how to change it to make it work?
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of July, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
NOTE: My prior two books are no longer for sale, but I am updating them and will re-release. My new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
Right now, I am flattened with a cold or flu or something that just makes me want to crawl off into a dark place and die, so I will announce last month’s winners sometime this week.
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of July I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!