Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words"

Hmm. As a novelist, I’m not sure I like this old saw. However, it would seem we are becoming an even more visually-oriented society than ever before. And that’s saying something!

Authors know to use Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other social media sites, but
a relatively new kid on the block is Pinterest. Think of a virtual bulletin board you have divided into categories. You find pictures that fit your categories and “repin” them to your boards. For some odd reason, people search out your boards and “follow” them, like having “friends” on Facebook.

Pinterest launched as a closed, invitation-only beta site in March 2010. From it’s initial 5K users, after only nine months the site had 10K users. Time magazine, in August 2011 listed Pinterest in its “50 Best Websites of 2011” article. In December of that year, Pinterest became one to the ten biggest social network sites. By July 2013 the site had 70 million users world-wide.

That’s quite a potential audience for authors.

I heard about authors using Pinterest from someone in one of my Facebook affinity groups. She described how she used the boards to post pictures of her books and to promote the books of others. I was intrigued and checked it out.

This particular networking site doesn’t require nearly the same amount of energy as other social networking sites I use. Pinterest is more similar to my relatively-static website than the ever-changing blogs I write. I don’t actively seek followers, but they find me. It’s an interesting phenomenon.

To promote the author side of me, I have storyboards for the two books published (one in 2013; one in 2014) as well as a nascent story board for my current WIPs. I posted pictures of people who look like my characters. I posted pictures of important places, events, and objects in the books. Of course I have my book cover for Streetwalker and just posted the cover for Mission Impastable.

Additionally I have boards related to my books. For Mission Impastable, I have a board on “Food Porn” (luscious pictures of food) and “Kitchen Gadgets”. For Streetwalker, I posted a board for "Sex Toys" and "Carrie's Beauty Secrets". Without any effort, advertising, or soliciting, I have 117 followers. Just think what I could get if I promoted the boards!

It was fun to put my book concepts into pictorial form. It’s actually another sort of summarizing or synopsizing your ideas. Try it for fun! You might get hooked like the other 70 million folks using Pinterest.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

On Being a Novelist

Pat, my decades-long friend and writing partner from my previous professional life, is a natural storyteller. She tells of happenings in the lives of family and friends. While doing so, she embellishes with rich details, she paces the information flow, and she reveals the climax at just the right time.

Pat says she can't write fiction, but she is the most vivid dreamer I know, and retells her dreams fluently. For whatever reason, she doesn't see the connect to writing fiction. Of course she could write fiction. Why do some of us think we can and others do not? And what does she really mean by her staunch belief she cannot write fiction?

By nature, we are a story-telling creature. However, Pat doesn’t see that the stories she tells me are ones that others would want to read. Or she doesn’t think there’s enough detail to sustain a novel. And maybe there isn’t. Because she doesn’t like reading short stories, she would never write short stories. I, myself, write both full-length and short.

Maybe that is the disconnect. She doesn’t see how to stretch the dream into a feature-length film. Is that a difference between those who claim “fiction author” as an identity? Do we see all stories as potential novels? I know I do. Ah, but the execution!

I believe Pat could indeed write a novel. She is an avid reader who knows what makes a good story. But she has to believe she could do it, and more importantly, she would need to want to be a novelist. It’s a hard enough job when you want to and think you can.

Has it happened to you? You have a great premise. Novel, even (Ha!). Unique. Unknown to the known world.

Yeah, right.

How quickly the idea can devolve into the mundane. Been done? Ordinary? Prosaic?

There’s something about sustaining that great idea across 60,000-90,000 words that make 90% of us who start writing a book, quit. 90%. Don’t you think that’s high? Someone in some writing workshop tossed out that number. I have no idea how one could come to that estimate. Still, it doesn’t ring untrue. How many people have told you they have a book idea. And you should write it!

Let’s say the number is less. I know that I have started writing about three dozen books. I have completed seven; two others are about a third done. Oh, and I wrote several short plays and one full-length play. With another full-length play about a third done. (Seeing a pattern?)

How many novels have I started in my computer files only to abandon them because, as Gertrude Stein wrote of Oakland, California, “There’s no there there.”? Great premise, but thin on the development. Maybe a short story, but not enough engaging stuff to sustain a novel.

So that makes my personal percentage for completing what I start way below 50%. That doesn’t mean that 50% are history. Au contraire. Many stories are just delayed. I’ll get back to them. Later. After I finish the new one I just jotted down an idea for!