Category Archives: Writing
by Morgan St. James
This advice goes beyond the world of writing. Having spent five years as the co-owner of a marketing and promotion company, I constantly told our clients how important presentation materials are. They represent you and your product and trigger the image the buyer forms from the “get-go.”
Whether you are promoting a widget or a book, whatever you hand or show a potential client (reader) is your calling card. It speaks for the quality of the item you want them to buy. Too many authors are tempted to go the cheap and easy route. In the end, the cost is not that different than investing in high-quality materials.
What the materials communicate
Would you be inspired to buy something represented by handouts that look like the product was produced by “Loving Hands At Home” or “Gowns by Mama.” By the way, I didn’t coin those phrases. I owe a thank-you to Carol LeVeque who was my partner in an interior design business many years ago. That was the label she applied to poorly designed interiors, color boards and brochures, and I’ve used those two examples ever since.
Your book may be beautifully produced, but if you hand out bookmarks on flimsy stock that appear to have been printed on a home printer ready for the junk pile, that is how the quality of your book will be perceived. The same goes for “do-it-yourself” business cards and one-sheets. They are not going to impress the person you hand them to. Unfortunately, they do just the opposite. One time I’d run out of business cards and was participating in a book fair. An author with no cards? Unthinkable. I ordered 250 from a well-known online company because I could literally get them overnight.
The cards arrived just in time, and they were AWFUL. So bad, in fact, that after handing out about 20 and apologizing for each one, I threw away the rest. I really didn’t want anyone having a card with that poor quality in their possession, if they kept it at all. The next day, I placed a rush order with my regular printer. It is okay to print a quick flyer on the home printer. That is expected, particularly for one-time events. But, even then, make sure the layout looks professional. Use easily readable, attractive fonts and balance the copy and sizes.
Looking solid and professional
When I was involved in the marketing and promotion company, one of our specialties was making small companies look larger and more professional. We had bigger clients like Hollywood Park Racetrack and Tony Roma’s, but the ones we really helped were the smaller guys trying to look solid. As an author, if you are not with a big publisher who might provide all of these materials to you, you are like those small companies.
It may stretch the budget, but with careful research you will find printers who produce wonderful 2-sided gloss finish business cards for as little as $25 to $50 for 1,000. Always ask to see a sample, however. An order of 1,000 cards gives you plenty to hand out to everyone and anyone who will take the proffered card. The same goes for bookmarks. When you hand someone a beautiful gloss bookmark on heavy stock, you can be proud to give them out. Unlike matte finish bookmarks printed on flimsy stock with poor color quality and layout, the beautiful bookmark practically screams, “Hey, I’m a book you should check out!” Include the ISBN numbers, website, a few blurbs, bookcover image and one of yourself. With a bookmark like that it is easy to spot a stranger reading a book and say, “Here, take this. Every reader should have a good bookmark.” That often starts a conversation and might result in the stranger buying your book.
A one-sheet is a promotional sheet that has your photo, an image of your book or books, a short bio and other blatant self-promotion devices like blurbs from readers or people in the industry, how to buy the book, other credits like awards or media links–all information that fits on an 81/2x11 sheet in a readable, compelling manner. Be sure to allow white space in the layout. In other words, don’t cram everything together so that the end result is a badly cluttered sheet. Allowing white space is an old advertising device. It helps to showcase the material. Slick brochure paper is the best, because the photos jump off the page. That’s something that doesn’t happen with a matte finish.
The author needs several things in their promotional kit—and they all should be ready to send out or give out at a moment’s notice. Update the one-sheet as necessary, and include it when you send out review copies.
A friend of mine known as the Super Shopper was a TV personality for several years. When my son was starting his speaking business, he proudly showed her the media kit he self-produced. Her first comment was, “Whether you can afford it or not, spend the money on professionally printed presentation folders. Print both the inside and outside.” She continued to offer the benefit of her experience, and said, “My first reaction to this is that you did it on the cheap. You’re trying to book speeches that guide people to being successful. Successful people have professional looking materials.” He did what she suggested, and his bookings increased radically.
Your presentation materials represent you and your product. This definitely applies to authors with a book to promote. Whatever you present, whether it is the book itself, the materials to compel people to buy it, or your own personal presentation, make sure everything is first-class.
Morgan St. James is the author of Writers Tricks of the Trade: 39 Things You Need to Know About the ABCs of Writing Fiction, due for release later this year.
Writers Tricks Of The Trade includes the book, blog, eZine and Blog Talk Radio show. For More Information: http://writerstricksofthetrade.blogspot.com
My normal movie review consists of one or two sentences. Something like “Good film.” Seriously, because I’ve never been a big fan of critics of books or film, thinking that they represent a sort of a “those who can’t do, criticize” situation. But this review is actually a cleverly disguised lesson in story and structure. It’s short, but not as short as my norm. For the record, my official review is, “If you liked the first two movies, you’ll like this one.” Now, on to the cleverly disguised lesson. Be warned, I’m going to completely spoil the ending.
The first part of the third part of the Hunger Games trilogy follows the book closely. That makes sense, since the original author also wrote the adaptation. If you’ve read the book, you know what happens, so I won’t go into that. It’s a well done movie, except for the ending. Right near the end of the film, the team from District 13 rescues the Victors from the capitol, including Peeta, the love of our protagonist’s life. For those who don’t know, Peeta and Katniss (the protagonist of the whole story) go way back, and of course they are in love. So it is a shock to Katniss when Peeta tries to choke her to death. The last moment of the scene where he does that has the head of security for District 13 knocking Peeta unconscious as Katniss pssses out, then it fades to black. Now that’s a great ending! What the Hell is going on here? Devoted viewers want to know! Unfortunately, this film actually shows the answer.
Ending the chapter there (and that’s what this film is, a chapter in a larger story) would have been a wonderful thing to do. People who had not read the books would be on tenterhooks for a year until part two came out. It would have been a great way to keep up interest in the story, and especially in the last segment of it. But, “hey, we’re filmmakers! We don’t need no steenkin’ story structure!” (I guess that’s what they thought.) The explanation is that Peeta was cruelly brainwashed. Katniss wakes up, and as President Coin gives a rousing speech, Katniss sneaks off to see Peeta through an observation window, strapped to a bed and writing in agony. Okay, still not a good thing, but, in terms of building suspense, a large let down! Now instead of “What the Hell is going on?” viewers are left with “Gee, hope Peeta’s going to be okay.” The ending could be worse, but consider that Peeta is not the protagonist! If he were killed the story would have continued. It’s nice that he’s alive, and it’s a bit of mystery as to how it will all come out, but really, this is Katniss’s story, so focusing on Peeta at the end is, pffffft!
Katniss is the protagonist, heroine if you prefer. She’s the one that we’ve been following all along, and she’s the one we worry about. Shortly before Peeta tries to kill her, President Coin tells her that she’s one of the people who somehow find the strength to carry on in spite of everything. So, Peeta’s death, while tragic, would not stop the story. Katniss’s death would. This isn’t a filmmaking storytelling error on the level of the Lord of the Rings fiasco, but it’s a bad mistake. You need to end a chapter on a note of rising tension and uncertainty for the main character, not a problem with a supporting actor. When you’re writing a chapter, keep in mind that the ending has to make the reader want to turn the page and start the next chapter RIGHT NOW! For a secondary character to heal or not, we can wait.
by Fred Rayworth
Sunday morning, early. Easter Sunday. No big deal to me since I’m not of that persuasion, not since I was a little kid (and not even then, because my belief system wasn’t formed and I was lucky enough to have parents that let me make up my own mind). To me it’s just another Sunday morning with the usual self-imposed deadline for my Tuesday web site article posting. Or, as some of you might call it, my blog posting. I don’t really like to call it a blog because that implies a quick three-times-a-week smidgen of thought. At least that’s the impression I retained when I first dove into this game over a year ago. On the other hand, a lot of my fellow bloggers can be quite prolific several times a week. I just don’t have the time like I used to.
My once-a-week, Tuesday posting usually comes out of my head every Sunday morning as I’m sitting here by myself, with a quiet house. Everyone else is asleep, even the dawgs. Woof… or, lack of woof, to be more precise.
There’s no real reason for my self-imposed deadline except I like to post on Tuesday because that’s the day I picked when I started my web site. Monday is the Henderson Writer’s Group meeting. Tuesday is the first evening of the new week where I get to spend time on the computer, after nightly news, and before NCIS comes on. I have a span where I can check my e-mails, maybe do a bit of work on updating the Observer’s Challenge and even add to the forums on Cloudy Nights or watch some heavy metal vomit band on YouTube. Or, at least watch part of a video. For some reason, I don’t often watch them all the way through as of late.
THE OBSERVER’S CHALLENGE
My second deadline, which is a bit looser, is the Observer’s Challenge. My friend, Roger Ivester and I compile observations from other amateur astronomers around the country. I put it all together in Microsoft Word and then .pdf documents, then send it to our web master at the Las Vegas Astronomical Society (LVAS), Rob Lambert. He posts it on the club web site. Besides that, Roger and I both post the .pdf files on our own web sites, mine here on my Observer’s Challenge page. This process takes about a month and a half. A much looser deadline than my weekly blog. However, it is still a very important process that does take time and effort, but time and effort I enjoy immensely, just like these articles I write every week.
These deadlines, while self-imposed, provide enjoyment, though no profit. The Observer’s Challenge involves other people so I’d be letting down someone besides myself if I didn’t come through. If I slipped and didn’t post my weekly article, a few of you might wonder what happened after a week or so. Most would probably forget about it for a while then all of a sudden wonder what happened to good old Fred. Then you might shrug and go on about your lives, if that.
THE BIG KAHUNA
When and if my books (Meleena’s Adventures – Treasure of the Umbrunna & Lusitania Gold) ever reach the publishing stage, I’ll most certainly have deadlines. The publisher will go through them and red-line the daylights out of them. Send them back to me with a date of expected return for a second run-through. I’ll be given a deadline to fix those edits. If not, my book will be delayed in publication or they might even drop me from the list. That could be real pressure except I’d be on it like… well, I don’t want to say the unprintable cliché. I know all about deadlines. When I worked as a technical writer, I used to deal with deadlines all the time. With my books, we won’t be talking about work-related deadlines. This has to do with my writing, what I do for a calling, what I do for fun and profit. My self-imposed deadlines because I want others to see my work.
Do you have any kind of deadlines? Do you not only set them, but do you meet them? Or, do you let them slip, over and over again and just go on, never quite finishing what you started? On the other hand, do you set a deadline, or get one for something you wrote and freak out then lose all your writing skill and turn into a blubbering mass of insecurity?
Remember, we’re not talking about the making a living type deadlines, but what you do for fun and profit. This is supposed to be a calling, what you do because you love it, because it’s what you have to do, not something you must to do because someone has a gun to your head.
WHEN IT’S NOT SELF-IMPOSED
If you’ve turned in a manuscript and an editor sends it back all redlined and says “Fix it. I need it back in three weeks.” What do you do? That’s a deadline. Are you going to get right on it and fix it and run to the post office and get it back to them, or are you going to freak out, sit on it until the last minute and make a few quick changes then throw what’s left in the mail and hope for the best? Or are you going to blow the deadline and take your sweet time and hope they didn’t notice?
There’s a deadline for submission to a periodical and you want to submit a short story. You have a great idea but keep procrastinating. Either do it, or move on (See? I avoided the obvious censored cliché here).
Deadlines can work in our favor if you are one that can write under pressure. If you can’t, never let one get that close. Start early so you can finish early.
by Tami Cowden
In the real world, a lasting romance rarely happens in the few days or weeks over which a romance takes place. Yet over and over again we read about the accelerated development of a loving bond between two people. Why do some books make us happily sigh as we read the last page, while other make us shrug and murmur, “I give it a few months?”
More than simple sexual attraction is needed to make me believe that Jane Heroine and John Hero are going to live happily ever after. Not that I have anything against good old-fashioned lust, but people can’t live their lives on bearskin rugs in front of fireplaces. I need to understand why Jane and John were meant for each other, and pheromones alone won’t convince me. And won’t convince my readers, either.
So how does a writer show the progress of the relationship from lust to love in a believable way? Well, as in real life, once you start with that nice chemical attraction, there are three more steps to a lasting loving relationship.
The first step is respect. Something should occur in the story so the hero and heroine develop mutual respect. For example, the hero notices her compassion; the heroine notices his bravery. The basis of the respect can vary depending upon the needs of your story.
For example, think about the movie Romancing the Stone, a great romantic story where the hero, Jack, and the heroine, Joan, fall in love over the course of just a couple of days. Remember the scene where they are in the plane? Joan is berating Jack for his lack of finesse, and general ungentlemanly conduct. She realizes he’s not listening, and starts to scold him for that too – just as he pulls out his machete and kills the snake that threatens her. She begins to respect him at that moment – she realizes that while he doesn’t fit her idea of a “gentleman,” by golly, he’s one helluva a man. And Jack looks at the whining writer with new eyes a few scenes later, when the drug dealers shower praise on her for her books.
This movie has a several other scenes in which their mutual respect continues to grow. The novelist can add as many scenes as appropriate to her story.
Next comes trust. Here, the hero and heroine each not only learn the other is worthy of his/her trust, but also display the trust they feel..
In Romancing the Stone, Joan shows their relationship has advanced to trust when she agrees to hunt for the treasure itself, rather than simply focusing on getting the map to the people holding her sister. Jack shows that same trust when he – already having possession of the map – puts it back under the mattress when she agrees to go with him. Her confession that he is the best time she ever had is also an exposure of herself – a demonstration of trust, which touches him. Joan also demonstrates her trust by agreeing to meet Jack in Cartegena with the treasure, once the river separates them.
Finally, comes love. All defenses removed, the hero and heroine realize and demonstrate their love for each other. In Romancing the Stone, Jack realizes/shows his love when he 1) gives up the stone to the bad guys so Joan would not be hurt, and 2) lets the alligator (crocodile?) that swallowed the stone go so that he can save her. Of course, she’d already saved herself, but he didn’t know that.
Joan’s demonstration of love is subtler. On the one hand, she probably wasn’t the sort to sleep with him at all if she didn’t already love him. But also her entire changed demeanor after this ordeal demonstrates her love. She is now a “hopeful” romantic – and shows no surprise when he and his boat arrive outside her building. Just as though she knew he would come – and I think she did know it.
Even though Jack and Joan fell in love over only a couple of days, it is entirely believable that they would be happy together, because we understand why they grew to love each other.
Keeping the progression of a lasting relationship in mind is a great tool for plotting. At minimum, three scenes are necessary to show the development of the relationship. But, because you may have separate scenes to show the progression for each character, you might have six or more scenes with which to keep that middle from sagging.
So, to get your hero and heroine to the point where the reader will heave that satisfied sigh, make sure you’ve included the steps to a lasting relationship in your love story.
Want more of Tami’s stuff? Check out Tamicowden.com!
by Steve Fey
I’m not listing rules here. Sorry. But I am commenting on how hard it is to sell something you’ve written. How should you go about it? Get an agent? Skip the agent and query an editor? Skip them both and put it out in e-format and market the hell out of it? Well, sure. I’ve heard stories of each of those methods working really well. And the sale of a book, like the sale of anything else, depends upon some hard and fast rules. Unfortunately, those rules are not logical in the sense that you can parse them using a Ben Franklin Close (look that up if you want; it’s a real thing) or other hard, logical means. Like any sale, the rules of selling something you’ve written are perfectly logical, but they are emotionally logical. And the greatest story out there can be rejected a thousand times just because nobody reviewing it for possible publication felt like buying it at the time! That doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with it: there’s a famous story about somebody who changed the names in Casablanca and shopped it around Hollywood, where it was rejected by every single mover and shaker in that town! It’s even a true story, I’m pretty sure, and it illustrates my point very well.
Even if it isn’t a movie, there’s a lot of expense involved in publishing a book. You can check it out for yourself, if you want to. Just see how much a printer would charge you for five thousand copies of a three-hundred page book, library bound and with decent paper. But, e-publishing is different, you say. No books to print, or bind, or store or anything. Yep, that’s an advantage, and feel free to go ahead and publish your work. Like a speaker I heard recently pointed out, however, there are tens of millions of books on Amazon, but only those in the “top 200,000 in sales” actually are selling any. All those others? Well, as you might have been thinking, they didn’t cost much, did they? If you think about it, an e-book still needs layout, good cover art, and marketing. Lots and lots of marketing. You can opt to do that yourself, if you have any marketing talent. But it’s going to take more graphic talent than is evidenced by the average Garage Sale sign for your efforts to be successful. You’ll have to actually know how to do graphic design (or pay someone to do that for you.) You’ll have to know how to get people to want to read your book, even if it’s a great one. Ask your self what you think of television commercials (adverts if you’re a Brit.) Marketing people generally like them, so long as they’re well done. Thirty seconds of time in a second tier market will cost you thousands of dollars. Now how do you feel about them?
Selling comes down to appealing to potential buyers on an emotional level. Sad, but true. If you write fiction, then maybe you have a leg-up in sales, because presumably you can get inside your characters’ heads and figure out what they want. Maybe, if you can do that with real people, you have a chance at selling your own work. If you can’t do it with living beings, you can hire someone to do it for you. Which brings you smack dab back to needing a publisher. Aaaargh!
I think of my own moods. One day I may really like something, but the next day I think it’s really stupid. I’m not unusual in that. Maybe the second day I’m tired, or hungry, or I twisted my ankle in a pothole on my morning jog, or my kid got caught stealing from the candy store. Or any one of a million other variables that you, as the writer, can’t possibly anticipate or do anything about even if you could know about them. The only thing you can do, and this is the truth, is make your query absolutely irresistible. That way, even if the editor is having a terrible day, she may put it aside and read it later, when she knows she’ll feel more like doing so. An ordinary query, well, it’s just a part of a pile of work that’s interfering with thinking about being tired, or hungry, or, you know. And that’s a “maybe” only. Maybe she’ll just get frustrated and reject the whole pile just because it clears her schedule. Maybe. There’s no way to know, and no law says she ever has to tell you why she didn’t buy what you were selling.
Which brings up some more emotional rules. Such as “Don’t bug the agent/editor.” “Don’t be clever with them.” “Remember you will need to get rejected a lot before you actually sell anything.” It’s true. In sales there’s a rule that you make twenty contacts to get one prospect, and twenty prospects will yield you one sale. That’s 400 contacts to sell one item! Because, for some reason, the other 399 people just weren’t emotionally ready to buy what you were selling. In this case, they just didn’t feel like risking a lot of work on your book. It isn’t personal, it’s just the way it is.
So, I guess I do have a rule or two. Rule #1 is to be persistent. Keep learning, keep submitting, keep writing. You haven’t failed until you’ve quit. And rule #2 is be ready for tons of rejection, because that’s what you’re going to see. If Sony wouldn’t touch one of the greatest movies of all time, and Decca wouldn’t hire the Beatles (and they wouldn’t,) you must know that it isn’t personal, it’s just tough. When it feels really tough, just re-read rule #1, and keep on plugging.
by Diane Taylor
As a retired writer now enjoying freelance, I’m having a great time. I can do the stories I want to do, and I’ve found that I love the whole process of writing, photographing and making videos….yes, making videos.
I grew up in a family of photographers and I typically can hold a camera without shaking. A couple years ago, I found that in telling some stories in Las Vegas, I was desperate to show my subject (a convention, a new destination, etc.) in all its moving glory. I experimented with the video option on my point-and-shoot Sony camera, and because I’m somewhat of a ham, I talked while I shot. By golly, the pictures were good and the sound was much better than I imagined. One small camera: I could take pictures AND video.
However, playing back my video, I found that not everything I filmed was wonderful, so I then had to learn video editing. I had a MAC computer and it came with iMovie. I gradually leaned how to use iMovie to stitch scenes together, to eliminate throat-clearing sounds and dumb remarks by yours truly, to brighten scenes and to use a scene of just background noise to re-record segments where those not-so-bright remarks could be corrected. Yep, I spent hours editing….not as a professional, but as an interested amateur.
Because I post a story every week for Living-Las-Vegas.com, I typically spend two to three hours filming and then many more hours editing and writing. (I do it for love and the money I save by NOT gambling.) Before each filming episode, I research the project so that I can include a few facts in the narration. If I go to a convention, for example, before filming, I find out the convention sponsor, expected attendance, the convention’s history in Last Vegas, the kinds of folks who will attend, etc.
The videos accompanying my stories are first uploaded to You Tube and then an “embed” link is included in the Living-Las-Vegas stories. People also find the videos directly on You Tube, and they may even subscribe to my channel. (My channel is “DTBenefits”. In my working life, I was a benefits manager.)
You Tube keeps track of statistics and as I write this, my channel has 619 subscribers and 602,973 views – not Justin Bieber stats, but not bad for an aging amateur. Comments on You Tube are typically quite kind, and when I check my email, I will get a notice that someone has subscribed to my channel or sent me a comment, and that news makes my day.
You Tube will typically cull out spam, and I can delete any messages that are racist, nasty, etc. and I have had a few of those. I leave negative comments that are reasonable – and because I have the time, I answer most of the comments. For me, hearing that someone from Holland or Australia has watched one of my videos is quite an honor.
Making videos is “free” once you have the camera and the computer, and if you have a writer’s sense of organizing a story, you can organize your commentary as well: tell the viewer what you’re going to show them, show it (with narration), and then clearly end it. Make the scenes short and leave out extraneous words. If you film a scene and know it isn’t interesting, re-do it – maybe two or three times. Yes, you have to think on your feet, and you must be your own vicious editor.
I typically film an ending to a video before I get to the end of the visit I’m filming. I believe in endings so the viewer isn’t confused. And oh yes, bring along an extra battery and have a generous memory card. The videos I make these days are between 15 and 20 minutes long, and I typically edit out a third to half of what I film.
Always have business cards with you so you can tell filmed subjects where they can see the video.
I have much more to learn, typically about cameras, sound and lighting, so I’ll keep at the video-making. I do believe journalism’s future will increasingly depend on writers who can talk, photograph and make interesting videos.
by Fred Rayworth
How long have you been at this game, this passion, this ahem… business of writing? It’s of course, all of these things, yet when you break it down, looking back at where you likely stand right now, it’s basically either a bunch of effort for a: nothing or b: a great deal of fun with tentative results.
Here we are at the beginning of a new year. What will you resolve to do in 2014 with regard to your writing? Perhaps 2013 brought the hoped-for success but if you didn’t get the contract for your latest effort or can’t seem to finish a project, your outlook will make all the difference as to which choice you make.
Things to consider
Do you have goals? This one’s a bit more difficult. Is it to get published? Or, is it to write? More than likely it’s both, but if you’re a true writer, it probably leans more toward the writing part. It should, because that’s where all the passion is, where your prime motivation should be or there would be nothing to take to a publisher. However, if you want anyone else to ever see what you’ve written, the next logical step is, of course, to get published.
It can be said that a true writer can just write for writing’s sake, and be happy. Yet there’s nothing wrong with wanting others to be able to enjoy the stories real, or unreal that you’ve created. You have the passion and creativity and are constantly developing your skills as a writer. However, the most difficult thing is getting it out there so someone else can read it.
All the passion for writing makes no difference to the outside world unless you can break into the world of publishing. There are hundreds if not thousands of others with the same idea, trying their best to do the exact same thing. We, as writers are flooded with advice on how to break in. I’ve heard it all. It never ceases to amaze me how many variations on the same thing come from different experts on how to break into the game.
The basics are simple
It takes writing talent, a great story, face time, perseverance and just plain luck.
Talent and a great story go without saying. Unfortunately, there are literally thousands of talented writers with great stories.
Sure, there’s dumb luck, but the only way to make your own luck is with plenty of face time. To do that, you need to go to conferences and meet agents and publishers face-to-face. If you think query letters work, I’ve got a drawer full of them, mostly ignored. If you think sending the full manuscript works any better, I’ve got a bin full of returned, mostly unblemished and unread manuscripts.
Numbers make a difference
The only thing left in making your own luck is the numbers. Like they say, if you don’t play the Lotto, you have zero chance of winning. I started querying agents in 1995. My first attempt was The Greenhouse. I’ve pitched many different manuscripts since then and have accumulated 669 rejections as of last count. Perseverance.
You’ll get nowhere if you don’t try.
In eighteen years, I’ve actually nailed two book contracts. Publication is tentative right now, but it’s a start. Many people would’ve given up long before that.
Do you have perseverance?
I’m not exactly sitting around waiting for a publisher to find my great novels, either. I’ve had multiple short stories published, a newspaper article as well as several astronomy articles in a national magazine. I also publish a monthly astronomy observing project that’s been ongoing since 2009. I’ve written 787 reviews on Amazon, so far, and am a continual contributor to the Cloudy Nights astronomy forum. On top of that, I’m always working on the next novel, which right now is number twelve (is it?). I’m also editing constantly as well as occasionally editing for friends. My world, when not working is mostly about writing. I keep busy.
Right now, even though I have two books tentatively under contract, I’m still gearing up for the next Las Vegas Writer’s Conference. More face time with agents and publishers and everyone else involved in the industry. You can’t win the Lotto if you don’t play. Perseverance!
Writing and trying to get published is all about keeping at it. You have to make your own luck. You won’t get anywhere if you don’t try. Perseverance.
NOTE: Thanks to Morgan St. James for the special formatting of this page and the 2nd paragraph. You rock!
By Richard Warren
Some time ago a member of the Las Vegas Writers Group expressed concern that a book she was working on might be too controversial. It was a work of fiction where the male protagonist was a pedophile. It certainly was a sensitive topic but my response to her that no book is too controversial. The role of an artist is to provoke the mind, invite debate, and challenge the status quo and the norms of society. That is how we progress. That’s not to suggest that all writers are required to do so; for many the goal is simply to provide the reader with entertainment. However, the books that are memorable or stand the test of time tend to be those with a more powerful message.
Throughout history there are many writers who have made political or social statements in order to raise awareness of an issue or support a cause. Thomas Paine’s pamphlet “Common Sense” illuminated the reasons for the American colonies to break away from Great Britain. A short time later a number of English authors engaged in a spirited literary debate in the form of essays about the French Revolution. Richard Price, a Unitarian minister, wrote an essay in support of the revolt. This elicited a reply from English author Edmund Burke in support of the French Monarchy. The debate didn’t end there. Another author, Mary Wollstonecraft, published her rebuttal to Burke called “A Vindication of the Rights of Men” and Thomas Paine penned “Rights of Man” as his own response to Burke. These writers were the internet bloggers of their day.
Eight decades later Charles Dickens used the French Revolution as the backdrop for his novel A Tale of Two Cities. In other works he stirred controversy by creating characters that were oppressed by titans of industry. His novels were critiques of the social and economic conditions of the industrial age. These books are considered classics of the Victorian era and helped curb the abuses that were rampant in that period.
Many books have been deemed so controversial that they were banned for a time. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, and James Joyce’s Ulysses all shocked people in some way yet these books are now considered literary classics. Two decades ago Salmon Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses was considered such blasphemy by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini that he issued a fatwa that called for the author to be killed. In many countries authors risk death simply for writing what they feel they must.
Contemporary author Alissa Nutting, who received her Ph.D. from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, wrote a book that has been called “the most controversial book of summer” by numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. Her novel Tampa explores the sexual relationship between a female teacher and her fourteen-year-old male student. Pedophilia is a sensitive topic to be sure, but discussing it in literature raises awareness of the issue. Since the book’s release in 2013 there have been numerous reports of female teachers molesting male students. Coincidence? Perhaps, but maybe the book’s controversial press brought the subject into the open and made people more sensitive to such situations.
Authors should never fear pushing the envelope and stirring the pot, they should embrace it.