Friday, July 06, 2007

Friday 20

Using humor to promote a novel can get through to readers who are bored with the usual "Love me, love my book" approach. People remember you when you make them laugh, and they generally appreciate you for it, too.

Here's a letter I wrote for Borders Group, Inc., which was supposed to be published in one of their May e-mail reader monthly newsletters (have no idea if it was, actually):
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I loved reading comic books when I was a kid, and often had a crush on some larger-than-life figure whose job it was to save the world. I'm pretty sure that I spent most of the sixth grade writing “Lynn + Aquaman” inside little hearts in my notebook.

As I got older, however, I realized that what makes a great hero would probably make him a lousy boyfriend. For example:

1. Batman: only wants to play with his gadgets.

2. Captain America: refuses to wear anything that isn’t red, white and blue.

3. Iron Man: can’t take long romantic walks in the rain.

4. Spiderman: always picks fights with your exterminator.

5. Superman: faster than a speeding bullet? Pass.

6. The Incredible Hulk: always looks queasy or jealous.

7. Wolverine: Cuddling shouldn’t require a trip to the E.R. afterward.

In my novel “Night Lost,” the hero, Gabriel Seran, belongs to the Darkyn, my vampire-like immortals who have unusual psychic powers. If you don’t think a vampire would make a good boyfriend, consider this:

He won’t mind if you have a day job.
He never has garlic breath.
He doesn’t need to rent a costume for your Halloween party.
You don’t have to worry about what to make him for dinner.

Vampires may not be traditional heroes, but they certainly keep things interesting for me. I hope this month that you’ll pick up a copy of “Night Lost” and discover a whole new breed of hero: one who just might keep you occupied all through the night.
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Besides climbing onto my little soapbox and making the case for other-than-traditional heroes, I felt more comfortable writing a mild parody about superheroes than blathering on and on about my novel. It may seem like a waste of publicity space to the purists, but I think my letter has a better chance of establishing rapport with a reader versys the author who writes the typical phony I'm SURE you'll love reading my WONDERFUL novel as much as I ADORED writing it for you, tee-hee!

Besides, I already know that you'll love reading my wonderful novel. :)

That's all from my corner of publishing this week. Are there any questions out there for me?

19 comments:

  1. This really IS sort of writing related, I think . . .

    I think I remember you saying that you don't send out any books that you don't read first. Did you read the Val McDermid book you sent me? If so, why did you read it? Was it for market prep? And if it was, how would you compare that book to, say, your Darkyn books? (Is it in a similar market?)

    By the way, Books a Million puts the Darkyn books in the "Romance" section. Is that where they should be?

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  2. Revalkorn wrote: I think I remember you saying that you don't send out any books that you don't read first. Did you read the Val McDermid book you sent me?

    Yep. (The Grave Tattoo by Val McDermid is one of the surprises I've sent out along with giveaways this year.)

    If so, why did you read it?

    I read anything Val McDermid writes; superb storyteller. I liked this book very much both for the writing and the unusual premise.

    Was it for market prep? And if it was, how would you compare that book to, say, your Darkyn books? (Is it in a similar market?)

    Not specifically for that reason, but I guess reading any excellent writer is a form of market research. I do like to see what the thinkers and innovators are doing.

    Ms. McDermid and I write in different genres, so it would be hard to compare us, but I try not to do that anyway. The only writer I want to compete with is me.

    By the way, Books a Million puts the Darkyn books in the "Romance" section. Is that where they should be?

    Depends on who you ask. My publisher thinks they belong there, and they have the final word on marketing. I'd rather see them in the SF/F section, as they're dark fantasy, but I was overruled.

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  3. The only writer I want to compete with is me.

    Ahhhh... but which one of you... you wear so many faces. uh.. names...

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  4. Will you be doing online workshops next week during RWA Nats like you did last year?

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  5. Shiloh wrote: Ahhhh... but which one of you... you wear so many faces. uh.. names...

    Exactly. :) Competing with myself is like taking on an entire basketball team; that's enough for any writer.

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  6. Heather wrote: Will you be doing online workshops next week during RWA Nats like you did last year?

    I will, and I'm hoping a couple of other authors will join in. Details and a virtual program grid will be posted here on Monday, July 9th.

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  7. i would like to know about your first drafts. when complete are they near done or do they take a lot of rewriting? i'm finally working on a manuscript that has a pretty good chance of reaching the end, as opposed to page 40. i know that rewriting is so important, and yet i still want the comfort of knowing that someone who is published has a crappy first draft.

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  8. Have you ever had someone (a reader or reviewer) say something like, "That Lynn Viehl can't write for beans. Every one of her novels is dull boring trash, not like the Jessica Hall. She's amazing. I I love all of her work and I wish she'd publish more, instead of trash like that Vile, er, Viehl lady."???

    If someone actually did think like that, it would be hilarious.

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  9. Anonymous8:47 PM

    Online workshops -- Yea PBW!

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  10. Jessiegirl wrote: i would like to know about your first drafts. when complete are they near done or do they take a lot of rewriting?

    I edit everything I write on the same day I write it, so I don't have rough drafts per se. My daily edits are for technical blips like typos, grammar, spelling, etc. I never look at the day's work again until I finish the entire manuscript, then I do a huge edit, rewrite, and final buff and polish. It boils down to three drafts before anyone besides me sees it.

    Occasionally I will throw out massive chunks of the manuscript that make me unhappy during the final edit and rewrite them from scratch. The most I'd tossed at once was 175 manuscript pages until last year. In December I trashed an entire manuscript that I felt was severely flawed in more ways than I wanted to fix. Starting over from page 1 was hard, but I went with my instincts, and I was right -- the second version came out a hundred times better for it.

    i'm finally working on a manuscript that has a pretty good chance of reaching the end, as opposed to page 40. i know that rewriting is so important, and yet i still want the comfort of knowing that someone who is published has a crappy first draft.

    I'm your girl, then. :) It is important to finish rather than go back and rewrite over and over and get nowhere. Knowing you can complete a manuscript is a big boost to your self-confidence as a writer, and the more you finish, the more you feel at home on the page. I'd rather write a crappy first draft and learn from the mistakes I make in it (which also make me a better self-editor) than spin my wheels trying to make the first three chapters perfection and never writing more than them.

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  11. Jason wrote: Have you ever had someone (a reader or reviewer) say something like, "That Lynn Viehl can't write for beans. Every one of her novels is dull boring trash, not like the Jessica Hall. She's amazing. I I love all of her work and I wish she'd publish more, instead of trash like that Vile, er, Viehl lady."???

    Not to my knowledge, but I don't read reviews so I probably wouldn't notice. I am constantly accused of being other writers; so far these confused people have said I am Holly Lisle, S.L. Farrel, J.R. Ward and Rob Thurman. I've also been accused of being dead and being a man; I have no idea why. Plenty of industry people can vouch that I'm a chick and still breathing.

    If someone actually did think like that, it would be hilarious.

    Authors aren't allowed to laugh at stuff like that anymore; it hurts the reviewers' feelings. I know I have the memo here somewhere...

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  12. Anonymous wrote: Online workshops -- Yea PBW!

    Bunny slippers are optional this year. :)

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  13. No question. I just wanted to say I finally got the chance to buy one of your books - Afterburn. I'm only a couple chapters in, but I'm enjoying it very much. I'm always a little hesitant to read the books of people who give writing advice. I admired one person whose advice seemed very logical and insightful, but when I finally read his work, I saw he wasn't taking any of his own advice. I'm so relieved you're not like that Lynn. Thanks.

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  14. B.E. wrote: I'm always a little hesitant to read the books of people who give writing advice. I admired one person whose advice seemed very logical and insightful, but when I finally read his work, I saw he wasn't taking any of his own advice.

    Thanks for investing in Afterburn -- and I know what you mean; sometimes we preach better than we practice.

    More and more I believe that being published is just getting paid to do this, it's not a measure of a writer's talent or ability. I'm reading a really wonderful writing companion/practice book at the moment with all sorts of story ideas and exercises that I've never tried or even thought of. The bio in the back says the author is still working on writing her first novel. :)

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  15. Bunny slippers are optional this year. :)

    better be! I won't do it if i have to have animals on my feet staring up at me.

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  16. I thought of this question as I read your response to jessiegirl on first drafts.

    Do you make outlines, plot diagrams or character analysis before you start a story? Do you let the story go where it takes you? Or do you use some special, patented combination of Planning and Seat-of -your-Pants writing? And if the last option, how does one find a good balance--planning without stifling the fun of writing and writing with enough of a plan to stay on track?

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  17. Not going to RWA Nat'l. Will be at home with my bunny slippers ready. *g*

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  18. Shiloh wrote: I won't do it if i have to have animals on my feet staring up at me.

    Lol. It's when they start talking to you that you have to worry.

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  19. Bettie wrote: Do you make outlines, plot diagrams or character analysis before you start a story? Do you let the story go where it takes you?

    I must have missed this question back when this session of the Friday 20 originally posted, and I kind of doubt Bettie is still waiting around for the answer. :(

    I plan every novel I write extensively, with comprehensive outlines, synopses, character profiles, timelines, setting notes, the works. There isn't a single thing I begin to write that isn't planned. I'm the sort of person who takes pleasure in plotting, mapping and working out everything before I commit a single word to the page. To write without a plan is for me like being tortured.

    Now, that said, plenty of times my plans are derailed by characters who develop on the page, plot lines that veer into different directions while I'm writing, and ideas that form new ideas. I try not to wander off course too much when these things happen, but they always happen for a reason, so I go with them and see where they take me.

    Every writer finds their own process (and spends a lifetime refining it.) What works for me might be stifling for another writer, and there is a great deal of good things said about the artistic merits of working organically/spontaneously. I've seen organic writers turn out amazing books, so the no-process process can work, too. My advice is to find your comfort zone -- glean what appeals to you from different processes and methods and see what makes you happy and more productive.

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