The Rules of Writing from the Masters…and the rest of us

 

Okay, it’s humpty-hump day and that means it’s Wednesday Writing Class here on Mark Fadden’s Blog. Today, inspired by Eric from Pimp My Novel’s Monday post of Kurt Vonnegut’s eight rules of writing,  we are taking the rules topic one step further. Because while Vonnegut has his eight rules, Stephen King has rules, and so does Jonathan Franzen. So do I and so do you. We all have rules, and I bet my asterisk that if we all were told to name our top 10 writing rules, no two lists would be the same.

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t necessarily like rules as a youngster. Rules typically mean limits. And, like every red-blooded American boy, I liked to think of myself as indestructible and, therefore, rules weren’t for me. It is only now that I’m older and smarter that I’ve realized most rules are in place for my own good. I, dare I say, like rules now? But I do, I do…especially when it comes to writing.

There are writing rules and they are in place for a reason. Now, I’m not talking about rules of grammar, which should be pushed to the limits at all times. I’m talking about the rules of a good story, those unwritten rules that every good storyteller abides by to make sure that his or her reader ends up with a satisfying story. They are the rules of expectation, and it is these rules that allows someone to walk into their local book store and pick up a Steven King or Jonathan Franzen novel knowing exactly what they are going to get. And even though King and Franzen may end the occasional sentence in a preposition, they will probably always adhere to their own specific rules, which can be seen throughout their writing.  

And, like I said earlier, it’s not just King and Franzen that have their rules. We all do.  So, since it’s Wednesday Writing Class, let’s all write down our rules and share them for next Wednesday’s class. It should be an eye-opening experience.

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at www.markfadden.com

Writing and marketing your novel: A glimpse from the trenches

August 24, 2010

Day 71 of 365

Books sold so far (May and June 2010): 246

In this issue:

  • Writing topic – To Prologue or Not To Prologue?
  • Marketing Topic – Google AdWords, Day 3 and Yippee!

Writing topic – To Prologue or Not To Prologue?

So now that my kids are back in school, and I have some more peace and quiet around the house (I work from home, which meant a lot of late nights during the summer to churn out freelance projects while I was “Mr. Mom-ing” it during the day – but I wouldn’t have given up a second of it.) That means it’s time to start churning out the next novel. My main intention of this blog was to provide a chronology of my book marketing efforts so you could see which worked well and which crashed and burned. However, since I’ve decided to write another novel this year, I will be blogging about that effort in the “Writing Topic” section. So, if you are a budding novelist, or know someone who is, I’ll be kickstarting the old noggin tomorrow to get it in shape for the next novel.

That brings us to tonight’s topic – you lika da prologue-a? Prologues typically set up the main story by providing some backstory info. Sometimes, it will be an event that happens later in the book, like a juicy murder scene or some breathless action event. Some critics say that prologues are signs of a weak book. Like a crutch, the prologue props up an otherwise lackluster story that can’t stand on it’s own. It is the prologue that hooks the reader, and then drags them through misery for the next 400 pages.

I vacillated back and forth between prologue or no prologue for the next book. It’s a murder mystery and the opening murder scene was, I thought, some of my best work. It was its own separate scene, so I decided it must be the prologue. Then, I thought about what Stephen King said in On Writing, about how you should “kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” The scene really didn’t fit because the pace wasn’t there and it had no ties to anything else in the story, so out came the sickle and slice! Thank you again Mr. King for lighting the way.

Marketing Topic – Google AdWords, Day 3 and Yippee!

Yesterday’s post mentioned that I changed up the ads. And viola! It seems I may be getting better at this AdWord stuff.

Here’s the new ad:

I got quite a lot of hits pretty quickly and my $10 a day budget was topped out before I knew it. Here are the keywords associated with this new ad and the # of clicks for each: “Bilderberg” 9 clicks; “Bilderberg Group” 4 clicks; “New World Order” 18 clicks. Again, the sinister secret society in the book that our hero and heroine are running from are based on the real-life Bilderberg Group, which is said to be planning a One World Government through a combination of efforts including bankrupting the world and social engineering. During the Xmas holiday season, I’ll ramp these ads up a bit.

I also created a second ad. With Labor Day right around the corner and people looking for a good Labor Day read, I am trying to direct them to my amazon page where they can get the book 22% off and get it shipped in time for Labor Day.

Here it is:

Why the “finish it on your vacation” part? Simple. One thing that people have been commenting on about The Brink is that it’s so fast paced and “unputdownable.” One customer review stated that he finished it in a day and a half!  If people are looking for something to take them away over Labor Day, which is only 3 days, they want something they can finish. It makes them feel like they accomplished something in those three days. If not, they feel like its yet another task on their to-do list if they have to finish it once they come back off vacation and into the real world. Of course, that’s just my theory, and it could be a naive one. I guess only time will tell if the ad works or not.  

Keywords on this one include: thriller books, crime thriller books, new mystery books, mystery and thrillers, and good mystery books. I just created it in the past hour, so no info yet. Stay tuned until tomorrow’s post.

There is one problem, though. Since the ad is small and doesn’t allow for many words, I can’t tell customers that once they order it, they can then go to markfadden.com to get their book signed for free. And ad about buying a signed book will also be a huge part of the xmas ad campaign.      

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,

Rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow…  

Writing and marketing your novel: A glimpse from the trenches

August 6, 2010

Day 53 of 365

Books sold so far (as of the end of May 2010, which is my first official month – sales reports in this industry lag big time!): 157

In this issue:

 

  • Writing topic – Writing, The Drinking Game
  • Marketing Topic – The Death of Independence?

 

Writing topic – Writing, The Drinking Game

 

As it’s Friday, and since I still don’t have June sales numbers from my publisher, I took a moment to reflect on why so many of our great writers were also some of our great drinkers. Do the two need each other? Were they also waiting on their publisher to get them their sales numbers and decided to take the edge of with a few cold ones? Stephen King supposedly wrote Cujo while lit like a Christmas tree. In fact, in his memoir On Writing, he states that he barely remembers writing it! Is there something that emerges from an inebriated brain, or perhaps staggers forth from the pain of the hangover that propels the writer to write? In my research, I came across the Reader’s Drinking Game and thought, why not put a little twist on it for the Writer’s Drinking Game?  It’s the beginning of the weekend, a perfect time to test this little game out. Will your writing improve after a few cocktails? Or, much like driving after a few too many, will your writing weave all over the path of your story?

 

If you’re worried about the health effects of tying one on, a new study in Self magazine (come on, you know you read it) that tells us beer is our healthy friend. I’m picturing a bottle of Fat Tire in Spandex right now. While this game is geared toward us novelists, it could be altered to fit those of us who write short stories, articles, book reports, or copy down the recipe for your mom’s Chili Verde, which you need to send me.

 

Here are some introductory rules:

 

  1. Chug a beer after you come up with a title (a good one, not just some lame filler to be changed later)
  2. Drink at every new paragraph
  3. Drink at the end of every page
  4. If your novel’s setting is anywhere south of Dallas, Texas, make a mojito (here’s the video)

 

turn on some Tito Puente (RIP) and dance around while you finish it. North of Dallas? Enjoy some Scotch to Led Zeppelin.

  1. If there’s a redneck character in your story, shotgun a Keystone. If it’s a woman of means who knows who she is, perhaps the matriarch of the family, how about sipping a Rob Roy?
  2. Any 5 syllable or more words? Drink whatever’s handy. Not vanilla extract. That’s a little too desperate.
  3. A semicolon deserves half the beer; a colon: down the whole thing.
  4. If you’re sitting in a Starbucks while you’re working, get up, go to the nearest bar that has wi-fi (for research, not to watch movies or go on Facebook while your half in the bag) and get 3 shots of Cutty Sark and a PBR tall boy (which now costs $44 in China!) and just let all that ride over you for the next hour or so while you bang out four pages of excellence.
  5. I’m going to stop and let you guys take over here….to the comments!

 

Marketing Topic – The Death of Independence?

 

Cue Freddy Mercury and Queen – another one bites the dust. Legacy Books, a ginormous and super cool independent book store in the swanky Shops at Legacy in Plano, Texas is closing it’s doors. After only 21 months. Sad. Got some thoughts about the independents? As far as marketing goes, the independents are typically more likely to show the great unwashed, struggling, starving writers that are we the love we need to bootstrap our own successes. Does this mean that our marketing efforts are more and more limited as more independents bite the farm? Do we switch to marketing our eBooks on the Internet now that they outnumber the books being sold on Amazon?

 

If you have a story about an independent store closing near you or how you might change your marketing approach in light of this news, please share in the comments.

 

Also, just a reminder that I will be on the “Books n’ Authors” radio show on QXFM tomorrow morning (Sat 8/7) at 10am. While I’m sure most of you can’t get QXFM on your radio, you can listen live on www.qxfm.com. And if you’re going to be in Weatherford, Tx tomorrow from 11am-1pm, please stop by my book signing at The Book Case at 109 Main Street.

 

Have a great weekend, o’ kings and queens of the written word, o’ masters of your universes. I can’t wait to hear how Writing, The drinking Game comes out. Just be careful, don’t drink and drive, and please no drunk dialing, texting or facebooking. That’s just never pretty. And try not to get your picture taken during your little weekend experiment. Lord knows you don’t want a photo like this floating around the Internet:

   

 

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,

rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow…