MUSINGS OF A STORY MERCHANT

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Monday, December 29, 2008

How to Publish Your Novel | A NOVELIST’S TOOL KIT - Part Four

A NOVELIST’S TOOL KIT
Continued From previous post: How to Publish Your Novel by Ken Atchity
Chapter Thirteen: Perfecting Your Craft

Now that we’ve got a handle on the basic elements of the novelist’s craft, let’s look at some of the techniques you’ll use to create your stories.

First vs. third person narrative

I recommend that writers stick to writing in third person during the early part of their careers. In general, only experienced novelists can write effectively in first person, because with a prodigious amount of writing under their belts, they understand the clear distinction that must be made between a fictional narrator and the author himself.

For example, in Cervantes’ Don Quixote, which I consider to be the first modern novel, the narrator is introduced to us from the beginning as someone who has a point of view distinct from the author’s. He debates the spelling of Quixote’s name, but remarks that it is ultimately unimportant to his story, “…providing that in the telling of it we do not depart one iota from the truth.”

First person storytelling only works if the storyteller is himself clearly fictional. The storyteller must be a character in the book, explicitly or implicitly, with his own clearly defined point of view. It must be obvious to the reader that this is not the author doing the talking. This is trickier than it may sound. New writers often struggle with the nuances of “voice” in their novels. This is one technique that’s better left for a later phase of your career.

Write what you know—or what you can imagine

Everyone tells you to write about what you know best, which for most people is themselves and their personal experience. What they don’t tell you is that fictionalizing your life is an entirely different matter, one that’s fraught with perils. Just because your life has been filled with hazards and drama doesn’t mean it translates well to the novel. Usually it’s for a simple reason: your life is in chronological order, a novel must be written in dramatic order. That’s what Sophocles, the great Greek tragedian, said, “Count no man happy until he is dead. The ending is all.”

Your own experience is a goldmine for dramatic inspiration, though, if not for dramatic structure. It’s all right to turn your relatives and acquaintances into characters, but proceed with caution. You don’t want to get hit with a libel suit. Besides, they do have a right to their privacy.

Every writer taps into the reservoir of his own personal acquaintances in order to garner material for his characters—how else could he create them? But the trick to doing this effectively, legally, and ethically is not to borrow too much from any given real person. Your characters should be an amalgam of the people you know.

It’s common for a character to be a combination of three or four real people from the author’s memory. He’s just taken the most memorable attributes of each and rolled them into one. Look for the characteristics that make the most dramatic combination, and above all, that serve your story’s action.

Your writing time

The secret to making time your ally instead of your enemy is to respect your own personal rhythms. Follow your energy. If the task of plotting everything out meticulously on index cards stops your creative process in its tracks, the odds are against your ever getting past the first blush of any idea.
If this is the case, skip this step and come back to it later. As I mentioned earlier, you will need to get all your elements working in concert before you enter that first keystroke. But you don’t need to have every scene plotted out before you begin. If it works best for you, you can write the first third of your book with the heat of inspiration, then stop and outline the rest of it. Leave the end to suggest itself along the way.

Beating the middle

The middle portion of a novel seems to be the toughest part for writers to get through. Many novels fizzle out in midstream because their writers have lost their perspective. Writers get exhausted, and sometimes mistake this normal, natural exhaustion for depression. They begin to second-guess their decision to undertake the project. And their exhaustion colors their judgment with negativity. Pretty soon, they’ve convinced themselves that the novel isn’t worth finishing, and they abandon it. But this drop in enthusiasm is just a symptom. It’s a normal part of the process, one that you should anticipate and prepare yourself to deal with before it cripples your efforts.

The best way to handle this inevitable burnout is to take vacations. Lots of them. Plan to take them at regular intervals, and any time you feel the writers’ doldrums starting to creep in.
Does the prospect of walking away from the project for a week or two fill you with anxiety? Good. That’s the whole idea. By stepping back from the process whenever it starts to bog down, you’re putting a healthy pressure on yourself. You’ll feel that much more compelled to use your time productively when you do get back to it.

Creating a story of 250 pages or more is a daunting task. You can make it feel like less of a monster by dividing it up into smaller chunks. Keep plugging away at this series of manageable-sized tasks until the rush of adrenaline that comes along toward the end of a project scoops you up and carries you to the finish line.

Read this entire post from the beginning.

Buy How to Publish Your Novel on Amazon.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

AEI RECOMMENDS QUERY-WRITING SERVICES OF GUMBOWRITERS.COM

Jeff Rivera’s clients at Gumbowriters.com have received thousands of responses from top literary agents for their query letters. They have included NY Times Bestselling authors and self-published authors, new writers and those with famous family members. If you've received a constant flow of rejection letters from agents after sending them your query letter then you need assistance a professional. “At Gumbo Marketing we specializing on crafting power query letters guaranteed to bring results or your money back.

For more information, contact us: Jeff@JeffRivera.com”

HAPPY HOLIDAYS [Via Joe Cervasio]

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

PALUMBO REPORTS ON NBC CANCELING CHRISTMAS [via The Huffington Post]

Dennis Palumbo

NBC Cancels Christmas!

As you might imagine, the entertainment industry patients in my therapy practice have reacted with shock, disbelief and outrage to the news that NBC has decided to put Jay Leno's talk show on the air in prime time, five nights a week, at 10 PM. That's five hours a week of scripted television literally wiped from the slate.

And what does that mean? Well, according to some industry analysts, the loss of about 1500 jobs.
Not just those of writers, actors, directors and producers, but the hundreds of on-set production jobs, post-production facilities jobs, even support businesses like restaurants, drivers, etc.

Announcing the news right before the holidays, NBC laid a Grinch-like surprise on a helluva lot of people. Talk about lousy timing. Not only is the country in the midst of the worst financial meltdown since the Depression, but Hollywood itself has been suffering from pervasive unemployment at every job level, a severely-reduced number of production and development deals, and---especially in network television---a shrinking viewing audience.

What's particularly foolish about NBC's decision---which, I grant you, will undoubtedly result in considerable short-term savings for the network---is the fact that, in my opinion, viewers still want to see late-night talk shows in the same time slots they've always held: namely, late at night. Since the era of the first Tonight Show, viewers have associated watching late-night talk shows with "winding down" after a long day. It's the time for settling down in bed, or curling up on the sofa, and letting the loose, topical monolgue jokes and fluffy interviews with celebrities ease you into sleep.

Trust me, there's even some clinical support for this view. For those struggling with sleep difficulties, behavioral therapists have long suggested using simple, repetitive routines to create a bedtime habit that the body comes to associate with sleep. Like eating a banana every night before bedtime, or having a cup of tea while reading a book or listening to soothing music.

I believe that late-night shows like Leno's and Letterman's function in the same way. They're part of the habitual winding-down process for adults. They're a post-news-show, post-checking-that-the-doors-are-locked ritual that leads almost inevitably to preparation for sleep. (And after what we see most nights on the news, we need all the sleep aids we can get.)

Conversely, when prime-time shows like CSI:Miami, Law and Order and ER are on the air, people are still alert and engaged enough for a good story. In fact, they want one. The kids are in bed (hopefully), and their parents' brains usually welcome the idea of becoming involved in dramatic narratives thankfully unlike those that have occupied them, at work or at home, during their hectic day. As did their children (and themselves) when young, most adults want to be told a bedtime story.

Now, at least at NBC, the familiar creature-comfort satisfactions of late-night talk shows that actually air late at night (as God intended, dammit!) have been removed. I mean, do we really want to see some hyperbolic movie star plugging his latest film at 10 PM?

Moreover, frankly, I don't believe this new programming ploy will work. Okay, perhaps at first, in the way that ABC found initial success by running Who Wants to Be a Millionaire every night at 8 o'clock. But, as with that show, I think viewers will soon tire of a five-night-a-week diet of a talk show. When that happens, NBC, suddenly faced with five prime-time hours to fill, will have to scramble to come up with new programs.

Funny. When I was a kid, I always liked the NBC logo of a peacock, with big eyes embedded in each of its colorful feathers. Who could have imagined that now, many years later, all of those eyes would end up being so...well...short-sighted?

Monday, December 22, 2008

GUEST POST: JEFF RIVERA’S VISION OF THE FUTURE OF PUBLISHING


GumboWriters: The future of publishing?

With all the reports of book publishing executives being laid off by the hundreds (and right before Christmas, mind you), I don't see why all these talented people who were laid off at the publishing houses haven't put their differences aside and brainstormed a way to form their own companies rather than being at the mercy of a media conglomerate.

I forsee in the very near future a large percentage of authors skipping the entire agent to publisher route and publishing their books as ebooks directly. This could be through Kindle or whatever the IPod for books will be.

I forsee them hiring outside experienced editors, publicists/e-marketers and book cover designers (perhaps some of these talented people that were laid off?)

There will always be the scared authors who'd rather stay under the umbrella of an agent or a publishing house but the other half who "get it", those that realize they need to be more than just authors and more like author-preneurs will take the reigns in their career.

Does this mean that we will no longer need agents if authors choose to simply upload their books on a Kindle type device? Not for the really smart agents who will expand beyond representing simply the World & Foreign Print Rights and realize the real money will be in representing the authors as a whole entity.

This will mean agents representing them for their speaking fee tours, sponsorship packages, film and television, web content and all the other ways author-preneurs can make money.

Other authors will opt to simply hire an IP attorney to negotiate and make sure their rights are exploited properly. They may hire an outside firm at a flat rate to take care of the other money-making opportunities, along with their outside editors, publicist/e-marketers (once again, likely with some of these talented laid-off people). Perhaps literary agencies and managements companies who have not done so already, will restructure their companies to include such services or merge or co-represent authors for these other services all-inclusive.

And if were an agency I would think of a way to start representing these recently laid-off editors, book designers, sales people, etc. and somehow have a division (without dealing with conflict of interest issues) to start procuring more work for them as freelancers.

Jeff Rivera is the award-winning author of FOREVER MY LADY (Grand Central Publishing) and the founder of GumboWriters.com.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

BAZAN’S BOOK FEATURED IN NEW ORLEANS MAGAZINE


Fiction l Nicolas Bazan, MD, is a name more often seen in the “Healthbeat” section of this magazine. Bazan, director of New Orleans’ LSU Neuroscience Center of Excellence, has already earned respect in the local medical community. ...

New Orleans Magazine: Latest News

Sunday, December 14, 2008

How to Publish Your Novel | A NOVELIST’S TOOL KIT - Part Three

A NOVELIST’S TOOL KIT
Continued From previous post: How to Publish Your Novel by Ken Atchity

Chapter Thirteen: Perfecting Your Craft

Action line

Action isn’t the same thing as plot. Your action line is the direction in which your story moves. If you’re writing a tragedy, your story has to move from happiness to unhappiness. If your novel has a happy ending, you have to put your character in a hole and make him dig his way out—you have to start him out unhappy and let him make the journey to happiness. Whatever the case, there has to be a change. Your story has to move from one state to another. If it doesn’t, it will meander, sputter, and lose its drama.
Here are some of the fundamental attributes of your action line:

1.) Conflict: As we discussed, action occurs when your protagonist meets obstacles to his goal. Whether he succeeds or fails with a given obstacle depends on who he is, and on the mythic pattern that is the underpinning of your story.

2.) Turning Points: During the natural course of the story, your protagonist will encounter turning points, so called because they literally spin the story off in a different direction. Your protagonist will come to the first turning point early in the story. It’s the event that launches him off on his mission. The second turning point comes toward the end of the story. It sets the stage for the ultimate confrontation that will culminate in your story’s climax. Both turning points are intimately connected to your protagonist’s motivation.

3.) Plot Twists: Twists, also called reverses, are exactly what they sound like: an unexpected turn of events, or a revelation, that accelerates the action. Your action line doesn’t have to contain twists, but they help. Often your second turning point will be a twist, though they can happen at virtually any time. The twist in Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game comes at the very end, and gives the previous climax scene an entirely different meaning.

The trick to writing an effective twist is to make it so that your readers don’t see it coming, but when they look back on it, they couldn’t imagine it happening any other way. There can be no clearer example in recent memory than the stunning revelation in The Sixth Sense, which had film audiences all across the country exclaiming, “How could I have missed that?”

4.) Climax: Your obstacles have been getting tougher throughout the story, but the crisis your protagonist faces at the climax blows all the others away. This queen mother of all obstacles brings your story to its darkest hour, the point which Joseph Campbell in A Hero’s Journey named “the Inmost Cave.” If your protagonist can rise to the occasion and face this challenge, he opens the door for the resolution of his problems.

The triadic shape of all good fiction

All good fiction has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Borrowing from screenwriting, these are in essence your First Act, Second Act and Third Act. Each has its own shape, nature and function. Your First Act brings you from the protagonist’s initial introduction and the setup of the situation to the first turning point that launches your protagonist into his mission. Your middle, or Second Act, the most challenging portion for many writers, shows that your protagonist is developing as he tackles an ever-escalating series of challenges. Your Third Act, your resolution, is the place where your protagonist overcomes his difficulty and achieves his mission.

You’ll need to have these portions of your story clear before you begin to write. But don’t become a slave to your structure. Plot your way through your first draft, then when you revise, throw your outline away and just tell the story.

But how will you know where to begin the action? Some writers think it’s necessary to go all the way back to the birth of their protagonist. But not all occurrences are drama. Drama only begins as soon as something compelling is happening. William Goldman counsels writers to start their scenes as far into the action as they can. I’ve often taught my students to look at their first drafts the way they’d look at a fish they’ve just caught and are about to clean. Just as they’d lop off the fish’s head, they should remove and discard any beginning parts of the story where the drama hasn’t yet begun. You wouldn’t serve inedible parts of the fish to your dinner guests; don’t serve un-riveting parts the story to your readers.

The first and continuous question you must ask yourself as you write is, “how will my readers respond if I tell the story in this order?” The second is just as important: “Do I want them to respond that way?”

Dramatic Setting

How do you decide where to set your story? You pick the location that will enhance the dramatic tension the most. When in doubt, look to your protagonist for answers. What kind of location would showcase his motivation best?

Many writers specialize in a location they know intimately: John Irving’s New Hampshire, Pat Conroy’s North Carolina, Anne Rice’s New Orleans. You may choose to explore your own geographic roots this way. But you’re not limited to your own origins. Whatever you can A.) research and B.) imagine, you can write about. But do meticulous, extensive research on the settings you choose, even if you think you know them.

Scenes as units of drama

All drama unfolds one scene at a time. A scene is the basic unit of drama: Ideally, each scene ratchets the story along one step. A scene has a beginning, middle, and end, just like your entire novel does. They generally look like this:

Beginning: somebody is somewhere.
Middle: something is going on.
End: something happens that does or doesn’t solve the problem.

Your scene should also foreshadow a fourth part: what could happen next? This is how you dovetail your scenes to one another, bypassing the need for a transition.

Tone

A single factor determines your novel’s tone: your relationship to your audience. How do you view your narrative position—are you “preaching” it or “offering” it? Are you setting yourself up as an authority to your readers, or are you letting them in on a personal revelation, as you would a friend or confidant? Do you want them to trust what you have to say, or is it more interesting if you deliberately set them up to doubt you? If you’re not sure whether a particular tone is the right one for a given story, try it for a few pages and see if it feels natural. If it doesn’t, let it go and try something different.

These, then, are the essential building blocks of any story: character, action, setting and tone. But how do you make these elements work together to form a great story?

Aristotle addressed this question twenty-four centuries ago, and came up with a single, simple, and completely satisfying answer that is as valid today as it was in his time: unity. In any work of drama, from novel to screenplay to stage play, all the elements must come together to serve one action. In the Iliad, for example, every element serves the same purpose: to deal with the anger of Achilles. Aristotle firmly believed that in the best stories, all the components supported a single plot line.

That’s what makes good fiction so satisfying. It feels like a package. It asks a question, “what would happen if…?” then proceeds to answer it. It has a single clear mission and a definite conclusion.

This why it’s so important for you to get all the elements worked out in your mind before you start to write. Beginning writers suffering from a lack of focus tend to put in too much, because they haven’t yet identified the one line of action that everything else must serve. The best writers put in only what moves the action along in the right direction. They leave room for the readers to fill in the rest with their own imaginations.

To be continued. Check back soon!
Buy How to Publish Your Novel on Amazon.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

TWO GEORGETOWN GRADS ARTICLE ON REEL BUSINESS

Richard Warren Rappaport (LL.M. ’74) recently co-authored the lead article in Inside the Minds: Entertainment and Media Law Contract Strategies (Aspatore Books, 2007), a book on the world of professional screenwriting, with Hollywood film and television producer Dr. Ken Atchity (C’65) and Miami attorney Emily P. Graham. Rappaport’s article,“Inside
Hollywood: The Reel Path to Success in the Motion Picture Industry,” explains the legal issues and process in presenting a screenplay for presentation within the motion picture industry. Rappaport is a partner at Adorno & Yoss.

From F a l l / W i n t e r 2 0 0 8 • G e o r g e t o w n L a w

Friday, December 12, 2008

Review of Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure at MyShelf.Com

Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Goblins!
An UnderEarth Adventure

by Royce Buckingham

Royce Buckingham is a new voice in youth literature. His debut novel, Demonkeeper, introduced his quirky sense of humor and his love of fast-paced adventure. That novel was quickly optioned by 20th Century Fox and there looks to be a movie of it in the future. His sophomore offering, Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure, is equally funny and has so much action, you need to put the book down to take a breath! It is the tale of two boys. Twelve-year-old Sam is always in trouble with the local sheriff of Sumas, Washington, a town near the Canadian border that has had a lot of Bigfoot sightings. The sheriff's son, P.J., seventeen, reluctantly comes into town to spend the summer with his dad, and Sam and P.J.'s paths soon cross. Within the first few pages, Sam steals fireworks from a truck at a gas station and lands in the pokey. P.J. is assigned to look after him while his father is off on a call, and both boys end up discovering that Bigfoot really isn't a giant ape but a species of goblin living underground. When the boys encounter human guardians tracking a goblin who has found a secret tunnel to the surface, they rashly follow the guardians down into the depths of the earth and find a whole new world there with dangerous swamp beasts, bug gladiators, and nasty goblins who have a taste for humans. Needless to say, the boys have the adventure of their lives—and if they survive, they both still have to face the sheriff!

Buckingham has a real winner with Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure. Young readers will love the grossness of the bugs, the swamp creatures, and the slobbering, slightly-stupid goblins. They also will discover bravery and honor from some very unexpected sources. Great Job, Royce Buckingham! Keep the stories coming. Kids and adults will love these!

Buy Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure and Demonkeeper on Amazon.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

GUEST BLOGGER: Dennis Palumbo REST IN PEACE FORREST ACKERMAN

As most sci-fans know by now, editor and genre enthusiast Forrest J Ackerman has died. As editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland, the favorite magazine of every kid I knew growing up in the late 50's and early 60's, Forry almost single-handedly kept the interest in such hoary Universal screen monsters as Frankenstein, the Wolfman and Dracula alive...

Until the 70's, when in a remarkable twist of the zeitgeist, such luminous, dream-haunting characters became hip again. We saw Coppola's Dracula, Broadway musicals about Frankenstein, and Albert Finney tangling with werewolves in Wolfen...not to mention Blade, Buffy, The Lost Boys, then Kenneth Branaugh's Frankenstein film (with Robert DeNiro as the Creature), and Kate Beckinsale in Underground...all the way up to today's True Blood and Twilight.

Yet who kept the faith all those long, lean years between the Karloff and Legosi 40's, and the revisionist frenzy of today's entertainment world? Forrest J Ackerman, that's who. The world's Number One Fan.

How great was Forry, and how glorious his love for all things sci-fi and horror?

Ask anyone who ever got to visit his memorabilia-filled home, the Ackermansion in Horrorwood, Karloffornia. I was lucky enough to do so, soon after I first arrived in Hollywood in the early 70's.

I was also lucky enough to convince Forry to buy my first published writing, a short story called "I (Alone) Stand in a World of Legless Men." It wasn't very good, its title was a knock-off of Harlen Ellison's "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream," and it appeared as a back-of-the-book filler in the series of Perry Rhodan sci-fi paperbacks Forry was editing at the time. But, nevertheless, I was thrilled.

I haven't seen Forry in many, many years, but his death still is quite a blow. He represented something whose like we'll probably never see again: a true and dedicated and utterly sincere fan, who made it okay for all us geeky kids to love the genre stuff we did, and yet also encouraged us not to take it too seriously. It was fun, he insisted, and all the more valuable, important and memorable because of that fact.

In this difficult, complicated world, a lesson worth learning again and again.

Rest in Peace, Forry Ackerman.

ALEX CORD’S FEATHER IN THE RAIN REVIEWED ON ASSOCIATEDCONTENT.COM

A Feather in the Rain by Alex Cord
Alex Cord's Semi-autobiographical Novel Exploring the Emotions Felt with the Loss of a Loved One

By Susan Lambert, published Jul 18, 2008

Jesse Burrell is grieving for the loss of his son to drugs. Whilst in the midst of his grief he meets the beautiful Holly Marie who is mourning the murder of her brother. 'A Feather in the Rain' is a passionate story about the feelings of loss when someone dies tragically young.

Alex Cord has written this book with a great deal of emotion, which is understandable as it is based on the death of his own son to drug addiction. This is an extremely easy novel to read and once you start to read this amazing story it is very hard to put the book down until you reach the end. Even though this book does have a happy ending you still get a sense of sadness to a point, at the end, as the birth of a new child does not replace those they have lost, it just helps them to move on. There are some incredibly dramatic scenes depicted in this book associated with the horses' element of the story, and you can easily picture the situations described in this novel.

Anyone reading this book that has experienced the loss of someone young will empathise with the characters and will easily relate to their feelings of loneliness and isolation. This is also a tale of a May-December romance, and shows how life can move on in an unexpected way when you least expect it to. Anyone who has a deep rooted interest in horses would also love this book as the author brings vividly to life the world of a modern day ranch owning cowboy, with both its ups and downs, all of which is described in great detail.

'A Feather in the Rain' is a wonderful, powerful, and at times dramatic story, full of emotion, and at times erotic, which easily captures the readers' attention from the first word to the last. It is a tale of an extremely passionate love affair between two people from different age groups, but who share equally the feelings and emotions associated with grief following bereavement. Together the two central characters help each other to move on with their lives following their grief and shows how life can move on in a positive way, not just through their relationship, but also with the birth of their new child.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

PUT YOUR FEELINGS TO WORK FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Especially in the pre-Holiday recession mode when bad news seems to line up at every portal, with SAG perched to decide to add a final nail to the coffin by authorizing a strike, it’s good for the writer to remind himself or herself that the FEELINGS caused by such news need not be allowed to linger in the brain and heart. Instead they can be put to work, going back to regular attention to the project you love the most. You will quickly lose yourself in that creative work and when you emerge your hope will be restored. That will create the good mood again. I know it’s a constant struggle—and I can assure you it doesn’t get any easier the older or more successful you become. It just becomes more necessary. In the work itself you will rediscover enthusiasm, self-confidence, and gratitude that you have a vocation that is under your control and only yours. I’m talking about the work itself, not the world’s reaction to it, not the money, not the recognition. The work itself is the center of the artist’s being and you betray your artistic calling when you neglect it while indulging in feelings that will make no tangible difference a week from now, much less a year or ten years from now. The only tangible result feelings can produce is in your work. Put your feelings to work for the holidays!

Monday, December 8, 2008

GUMBO WRITERS HELPS YOU FIND THE RIGHT AGENT

by Jeff Rivera

I do extensive work with seasoned and aspiring writers to attract the right agent for them. I deal with literary agents every day on some level, either in matching them with the right authors or helping their clients to promote their current books, or even more important and lasting helping to build their authors' platforms. So, I'm in a very unique position to listen carefully to what agents are looking for and what they say they want right now.

We are constantly receiving an influx of media messages about economic changes and how that is or could be effecting the future of book publishing.

Some agents are scared with some of their key relationships in the editorial departments at publishing houses being laid-off and publisher's tightening their purses on the amount of an advance for a book they acquire, this is effecting the agents' pocket books.

They are having to redefine their interests, sometimes "selling out" as one agent put it and taking on projects they normally wouldn't be interested in but that they know will sell.

Right now, if you want to attract an agent you need to be concentrating on two things, whether you write fiction or non-fiction.

1) A fantastically written book or non-fiction proposal
2) A strong platform.

Some would argue this has always been what a writer should be concentrating on, but it is true now more than ever.

When I ghost or co-write a query letter for a writer, I see the difference in responses from agents between those that have a strong platform and those that do not. It is night and day.

Let's talk about the importance of Category 1: a fantastically written book. Do whatever you need to do to make that book unbelievably fantastic. You can no longer rest on something with a great concept that is written mediocre. There are no trends like chick lit or street lit to fall back on. You need to make that book zing. What does that mean?

That means if you need to find a qualified freelance editor like John Paine or those provided by www.thewriterslifeline.com or a host of other freelancers such as Marcela Landres who can line edit for you, then you do it. If you need to find a ghost writer with a track record of NY Times Bestsellers, like Pat Tucker to take your writing to the next level, then do it. You do what you need to do to make that book unbelievable. If you're writing a non-fiction book including a memoir then you better make sure that book proposal is solid. Talk to someone like Nancy Padron who specializes in writing book proposals.

And secondly, which brings us to Category 2: you need a strong platform. What is a platform? A built-in fan base. It can mean a YouTube audience, it can mean blog with thousands of subscribers, it can mean you are vetted as an expert by the national media, it can mean you have a radio show with thousands of listeners and you have a roster of thousands of fans poised and ready to buy your book. These are people who aren't just potential buyers but who are guaranteed buyers.

This goes for non-fiction obviously but fiction too, nowadays. Agents always comment about how difficult it is to sell fiction, but you better believe that if you've built a loyal following of thousands of fans (and you can prove it), thousands of fans that follow your weekly short stories and it's all leading up to what happens in a novel that agents and editors will take a good look. How many people do you need in your fan base? One agent says you need so many that those not in your target market will have heard of you. But I will go even further and say you need to have at least 10,000 fans (though you might be able to get away with 5,000 fans.) Did you know if you have 10,000 fans you can actually make a living? Here's a link to an article about that very subject, here.

To give you an example of how important a platform is to agents: One client we did a query letter campaign for yesterday had been in 3 national magazines, had a database of thousands of people and within 3 hours she had 12 agents requesting her work. To date, less than 24 hours from her campaign she's had 75 agents requesting her work (all top agents). Another client we did a campaign for yesterday also had won a major award, and we worked with him to get committments for over 12 television stations to write letters saying they guarantee to have him on their show when his book comes out. The result? over 70 agents so far requested his proposal in 24 hours. Platforms are important to agents in these economic times and they need to be just as important to a writer who is looking to snag an agent now.

To find out more about how you can build your own platform visit: www.GumboWriters.com

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Saving the Story (the Film Version)

By MICHAEL CIEPLY
New York Times


LOS ANGELES — The movie world has been fretting for years about the collapse of stardom. Now there are growing fears that another chunk of film architecture is looking wobbly: the story.

In league with a handful of former Hollywood executives, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Laboratory plans to do something about that on Tuesday, with the creation of a new Center for Future Storytelling.

The center is envisioned as a “labette,” a little laboratory, that will examine whether the old way of telling stories — particularly those delivered to the millions on screen, with a beginning, a middle and an end — is in serious trouble.

Its mission is not small. “The idea, as we move forward with 21st-century storytelling, is to try to keep meaning alive,” said David Kirkpatrick, a founder of the new venture.

Sam Ogden

Frank Moss, right, of the M.I.T. Media Lab, and David Kirkpatrick, left, of the Center for Future Storytelling, with a friend.

Once president of the Paramount Pictures motion picture group, Mr. Kirkpatrick last year joined some former colleagues in starting Plymouth Rock Studios, a planned Massachusetts film production center that will provide a home for M.I.T.’s storytelling lab while supporting it with $25 million over seven years.

Arguably, the movies are as entertaining as ever. With a little help from holiday comedies like “Yes Man” with Jim Carrey and “Bedtime Stories” with Adam Sandler, the domestic motion picture box office appears poised to match last year’s gross revenues of $9.7 billion, a record.

But Mr. Kirkpatrick and company are not alone in their belief that Hollywood’s ability to tell a meaningful story has been nibbled at by text messages, interrupted by cellphone calls and supplanted by everything from Twitter to Guitar Hero.

“I even saw a plasma screen above a urinal,” said Peter Guber, the longtime film producer and former chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment who contends that traditional narrative — the kind with unexpected twists and satisfying conclusions — has been drowned out by noise and visual clutter.

A common gripe is that gamelike, open-ended series like “Pirates of the Caribbean” or “Spider-Man” have eroded filmmakers’ ability to wrap up their movies in the third act. Another is that a preference for proven, outside stories like the Harry Potter books is killing Hollywood’s appetite for original storytelling.

Mr. Guber, who teaches a course at the University of California, Los Angeles, called “Navigating in a Narrative World,” is singularly devoted to story. Almost 20 years ago Mr. Guber made a colossal hit of Warner Brothers’ “Batman” after joining others in laboring over the story for the better part of a decade.

But in the last few years, Mr. Guber said, big films with relatively small stories have been hurried into production to meet release dates. Meanwhile, hundreds of pictures with classic narratives have been eclipsed by other media — he mentioned “The Duchess,” a period drama that foundered last month as potential viewers were presumably distracted by the noise of a presidential election — or suppressed by louder, less story-driven brethren.

“How do you compete with ‘Transformers’?” asked Mr. Guber.

Ultimately, he blames the audience for the perceived breakdown in narrative quality: in the end, he argued, consumers get what they want. Bobby Farrelly, a prolific writer, and director with his brother Peter of comedies like “There’s Something About Mary” and “Shallow Hal,” concurred.

“If you go off the beaten path, say, give them something bittersweet, they’re going to tell you they’re disappointed,” Mr. Farrelly said. He spoke from his home in Massachusetts, where he is working on the script for a Three Stooges picture, and said he missed complex stories like that of “The Graduate.”

At the Sundance Institute, as it happens, other deep thinkers tend to think that film storytelling is doing just fine.

“Storytelling is flourishing in the world at a level I can’t even begin to understand,” said Ken Brecher, the institute’s executive director. Mr. Brecher spoke last week, as his colleagues continued sorting through 9,000 films — again, a record — that have been submitted for the coming Sundance Film Festival.

The festival, set for Jan. 15 to Jan. 25 in Park City, Utah, will have story as its theme. The idea, Mr. Brecher said, is to identify film stories that have defined the festival during its 25-year run, and figure out what made them tick. (Mr. Brecher said the final choices had not been made and declined to identify candidates.)

If anything, Mr. Brecher added, technology has simply brought mass storytelling, on film or otherwise, to people who once thought Hollywood had cornered the business.

“One of the most exciting things I’ve run into is a storyteller who’s been texting his stories into the urban centers of Kenya,” said Mr. Brecher, an anthropologist by training.

The people at M.I.T., in any case, may figure out whether classic storytellers like Homer, Shakespeare and Spielberg have had their day.

Starting in 2010, a handful of faculty members — “principal investigators,” the university calls them — will join graduate students, undergraduate interns and visitors from the film and book worlds in examining, among other things, how virtual actors and “morphable” projectors (which instantly change the appearance of physical scenes) might affect a storytelling process that has already been considerably democratized by digital delivery.

A possible outcome, they speculate, is that future stories might not stop in Hollywood all. “The business model is definitely being transformed, maybe even blown apart,” said Frank Moss, a former entrepreneur who is now the media lab’s director.

Mr. Kirkpatrick is not completely at ease with that prospect, partly because his Plymouth Rock Studios, a $480 million enterprise, will need scores of old-fashioned, story-based Hollywood productions to fill the 14 soundstages it plans to build.

In a telephone interview last week, Mr. Kirkpatrick said he might take a cue from Al Gore, who used a documentary film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” to heighten concern about global warming. Mr. Kirkpatrick is now considering an alarm-bell documentary of his own, he said.

Its tentative title: “A World Without Story.”

Thursday, December 4, 2008

SERDAR OZKAN INTERVIEWED BY MOLESKIN

Serdar Ozkan‘s Istanbul
By Claudia Tani


Serdar Ozkan

His book,
The Missing Rose, has been translated into 25 languages in more than 30 countries worldwide. Thanks to this undisputed success, Serdar Ozkan represents the main exponent of contemporary Turkish literature, becoming the 3rd most translated novelist in the history of Turkish Literature, after Orhan Pamuk and Yasar Kemal. Moleskinecity has met him and asked him a few questions about his novel, his future projects and the relationship with his city: Istanbul .

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Ortakoy Mosque & Bosphorus Bridge © Dan
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Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque) with some morning seagulls. © Oberazzi
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Main entrance of the Topkapi Palace © vtbrak

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New Mosque Sultanahmet© cactusbones
What attracts your attention when you walk through the streets of Istanbul?

Istanbul is a very big and a very diverse city, so when I walk in different parts of the city, I notice totally different things. In some places it is the buildings, in some places it is the people, and in other places it is pure natural beauty, the sparkling sea and the hills covered with pine tress for instance. Unfortunately this is not the case when I am driving, as one can only notice hundreds of cars sitting in the traffic.

Which are the places in Istanbul that are most meaningful to you?

Kirecburnu, where I currently live. It is a relatively quiet and calm coastal area of Istanbul, looking at the entrance of the Black Sea. Dolphins come to the bay in front of my apartment, which have given inspiration for my second novel. But to be honest, because I love the sea so much, I can say that most places along the Bosphorous is special for me.

And also, the old city, in other words Sultanahmet area with the Blue Mosque, St. Sophia, Topkapi Palace is very meaningful to me. These places I mentioned are also the setting of The Missing Rose. Sultanahmet area was special for me because of the ancient and spiritual air it carries. Plus, thousands of people from so many different cultures visit there every day, making it even more special, making it a place of unification. And when I used this place as the setting of my novel, it became even more special for me. I am delighted that my novel went on to be translated into 25 languages, so that people from so many cultures visiting this ancient part of Istanbul could find it in a story which, like this place, brings different cultures together.

If you were to take a friend (to visit Istanbul for the very first time) which itinerary would you follow?

First I would take them to the Sultanahmet Area, showing them the Blue Mosque , St. Sophia, Topkapi Palace. But instead of showing the physical aspect of these places, I would suggest that we could perhaps try to focus on the soul of these places. To try to touch the unseen. Not just the history, culture and art, but something else which is present there. And I can't put this into words, but the people who have visited these places with such an intention and vision will know exactly what I am talking about. After the old city, I would take my friend to all the beautiful places along the shore, followed by a cruise on the Bosphorous, which I believe is the best way to see the mesmerizing beauty of Istanbul. And if one cruises in the last two weeks of April, one can see the wonderful purple blossoms of Judas Trees which are only seen in that time of year.

What does a novelist look for when visiting a city?

I don't know about other novelists as I suspect that each novelist may look at a city in a different way. But I personally look for the people of that city. I look for what is alive, and I believe that any city is only alive with its people; their thoughts, their emotions, beliefs, desires, worries, fears, etc. And the best way to experience this is to interact with the people. I feel fortunate in this respect that, because my novel is published in over 30 countries worldwide, I have the chance to interact with many people from so many different cultures, and also see how differently or similarly they react to the same story, The Missing Rose which carries universal themes. And I get so happy when people of different cities verify my belief that regardless of race, culture and religion, we have a huge meeting point and that our similarities are far more important than our differences.

“The missing rose” can be considered a unique novel of self-discovery that emphasizes the universal side of man, why, in your opinion, is self-discovery so important in the modern world?

Self-discovery is very important in every age because it is necessary if one is ever to dream of living in a peaceful world. Both outer peace and inner peace. I believe that all wars, all injustice, all unhappiness are, some way or another, related to not knowing ourselves.

Self-discovery becomes even more important in the modern world because cultural conflict is constantly on the rise, and there is a lot of separation and clash. As the egos strengthen, the separation between us increases. Self-discovery has many levels, and if we go deeper, we realize that we are actually one -regardless of race, culture, social status and religion. So self-discovery is especially important to bring us together; to nourish peace and understanding between us. And also to nourish peace within, and to forgive ourselves.

Serdar Ozkan


At the same time, it represents a bridge between East and West, it stresses the meeting points between various cultures and traditions rather than the differences…
I believe deep within us we all meet at the same place, regardless of where we are from physically, East or West. Our heart has no geography and we all belong to the same culture in the depths of our hearts.

I feel that as long as a story focuses on the universal aspects, it is inevitable for the East and West to merge, and it is such a great joy for a writer to notice and bring together the connections between the two.

What can you tell us about your future novel?

My second novel which is already completed is again related to self-discovery on a different level. It is a novel about hope, unconditional love and the miracle of life. The story is about a unique little boy; the special friendship he enters into with a dolphin and his experience with the Angel of Death twenty years later.

Hopefully, it will reach readers after all the international publications of The Missing Rose.

© images are subject to copyright
November, 27th 2008

Successfully representing contemporary Turkish literature in the international arena, The Missing Rose has been translated into 14 languages to date. Entering bestseller lists as the No.1
bestselling foreign fiction in Canada,
The Missing Rose has remained on bestseller lists there for weeks. The Missing Rose, often compared and alikened to all-time favorites The Little Prince by St. Exupery and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, is a unique novel of self-discovery.

The Missing Rose, like The Little Prince and The Alchemist, emphasizes the universal side of man. The young author Serdar Özkan believes that it is for this reason that a first novel has been translated into so many languages and gained the approval and appreciation of readers from so many different cultures.

Visit Serdar Ozkan's website

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

David Angsten Bookgasm Interview

Q&A with NIGHT OF THE FURIES’ David Angsten
Author: Rod Lott

One of the newest names in adventure thrillers is David Angsten, but we at BOOKGASM think his profile is too low for such a high talent. In DARK GOLD and now the new NIGHT OF THE FURIES, he’s already carved a noticeable chunk into the pop-lit landscape. Here, he discusses the genesis and inspiration of his mythic tales of travel and terror.

Continue reading the interview.



Buy Dark Gold on Amazon.

Buy Night of the Furies on Amazon.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

FIRST REVIEW FOR DR. BAZAN’S UNA VIDA on ABOUT.COM: 3.5 STARS!

Una Vida - - An Alzheimer's Book About Memory, Hope and New Orleans
By Carrie Hill, PhD, About.com
Updated: November 20, 2008

About.com Health's Disease and Condition content is reviewed by the Medical Review Board

Una Vida is an interesting mix of neuroscience and New Orleans history.

The Bottom Line


Una Vida — A Fable of Music and the Mind is a unique book about Alzheimer's disease, memory, hope and the cultural history of New Orleans. Nicolas Bazan, MD, one of the world's premier neuroscientists, wrote this novel in such a way that combines his knowledge of the brain with his love of jazz music and the foods and culture of his home city.





Pros

Written by one of the world's premier neuroscientists
Endorsed by two Nobel Laureates in Medicine/Physiology
The author's sincerity shines through his writing.

Cons

Neuroscientific explanations do not always blend well with the narrative.
Some lengthy passages may seem to serve the writer more than the reader.

Description

Published by Five Star Publications, Inc., in Chandler, Ariz.
218 pages, including a prologue and acknowledgements.
Una Vida — A Fable of Music and the Mind is Bazan's first novel.

Guide Review - Una Vida -- An Alzheimer's Book About Memory, Hope and New Orleans

Bazan dedicated his novel to "all the minds silenced by Alzheimer's." I'm convinced of his sincerity: Bazan is committed to discovering the mysteries of the brain, including what causes Alzheimer's and how we can cure or prevent it. Through his writing, it's obvious that he respects the dignity of every person and believes that those with Alzheimer's have much to teach us. I wholeheartedly agree.

Bazan also loves New Orleans, the setting of his book and the city he's called home for more than 25 years. His descriptions of New Orleans' food, history and jazz culture create a unique backdrop for the story.

The title refers to a homeless woman with Alzheimer's known only as Una Vida, meaning "one life" in Spanish. The book's main character, a neuroscientist named Alvaro Cruz, meets Una Vida and feels compelled to help her because of disturbing dreams and the guilt he feels over not being there for his mother, who died of the same disease. The story follows Cruz as he tries to unravel the mystery of Una Vida, while dealing with his own personal demons.

The premise is interesting, and Bazan's sincerity shines through his writing. Still, fiction lovers should note that this is Bazan's first novel, which creates some weaknesses in the writing. The beginning is mostly background and reads like part neuroscience lecture, part biography. Throughout the story, scientific interpretations are not woven seamlessly in to the narrative, making it a bit uneven. I felt as though Bazan was trying to bring the reader in to his world as a neuroscientist in New Orleans, but in the end, he was more excited about this scenario than the reader.

Still, Una Vida is a sweet story that reveals Bazan's message of hope for families dealing with Alzheimer's. We are fortunate to have such a gifted neuroscientist so dedicated to finding a cure.

BUY UNA VIDA ON AMAZON

Monday, December 1, 2008

How to Publish Your Novel | A NOVELIST’S TOOL KIT - Part Two

A NOVELIST’S TOOL KIT
Continued From previous post: How to Publish Your Novel by Ken Atchity
Chapter Thirteen: Perfecting Your Craft


All five of these elements must be present in your protagonist. And as you’ve no doubt noticed, all of these attributes link directly to your novel’s action. Because in a good story, the action happens as it does because of who your protagonist is. Conversely, your protagonist develops as he does because of the way the action unfolds. Action and character drive each other.

All the elements in your novel must support this single line of protagonist in action. This holds true as well for all the other characters who populate your novel. Whether major, minor or functional, characters only belong in your story to the extent that they serve the action line.

Minor or supporting characters have a “tag”: a single attribute that defines them and makes them memorable. Any supporting character who isn’t memorable should be instantly thrown out.

A minor character’s “tag” can be just about any attribute: greed, lechery, or like Sally’s friend in When Harry Met Sally, an all-consuming desire to get married. Don’t spell it out, though. If a character is absent-minded, show it in action, thought and dialogue, don’t use the phrase “absent-minded” or you rob audience of the chance to figure it out for themselves.

A minor character can have a motivation but not a mission—that’s your protagonist’s job. They, too can evolve, but not along the same lines as your protagonist. Your minor characters are there to make his life more interesting. Establish them quickly, then move on.

Function characters play an even less important role than supporting characters. They perform a single function without being involved in the main character’s motivation. They ride in at sunset to deliver the fateful telegram, then ride away again. They serve the drinks, drive the cabs, do their duties, then go upon their way. Unlike your protagonist and minor characters, they’re supposed to be forgettable.

Keep function characters simple. If you spend too much energy on them your readers will start to think they’re more significant than you mean them to be. Then when the character disappears, it will feel to your readers like you left something dangling, or worse, like you misled them.

Keep in mind that your characters are not real people but devices that you invented for the sole purpose of capturing and holding your reader’s attention. As such, it’s your primary responsibility to keep them interesting. The best way to do that is to give them, at all times, something significant to do.

Your audience wants action. The best writers don’t get wrapped up in the complex psychological machinations of their characters. They write to satisfy their readers’ expectations. Your audience wants more than anything to see how your protagonist gets out of the corners you paint him into. All you have to do to create a compelling novel is: don’t disappoint your readers!

Continue reading.
Buy How to Publish Your Novel on Amazon.