writing rengeek magpie mind

November 2014

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writing rengeek magpie mind

ten things I have learned from writing popular fiction

  1. Most people do not read. They skim, and make assumptions. This tendency, however, can be manipulated.
  2. It helps if you honestly like to blow stuff up. Or at least write about blowing stuff up.
  3. All books are broken. Some are less broken than others. Some are broken in ways that a particular set of readers do not mind in the least. If you can find out the group of people who do not mind the ways in which your books are broken, you have identified your target audience. Unfortunately, this fact does not excuse you from actually learning to write.
  4. Can't please nobody if you try to please everybody.
  5. In terms of the market, the quality of your voice is often more important than what you have to say, unless what you have to say is really interesting.
  6. What you have to say matters, anyway.
  7. If you make it too accessible, people will assume it's not artistic. If you make it too artistic, people will assume it's not accessible. Go ahead and blow something up if it makes you feel better.
  8. Despite the number of people who will write in to tell you that they never read the sex scenes, sex does, in fact, sell. It does however mean that if you put the major plot revelations in sex scenes, a certain percentage of your audience will not notice them. [8(a).] don't put the crux of the plot in the middle of the homoerotic kissing scene you've been building to for three books: nobody will notice. Even the ones who aren't skimming.
  9. Be honest. Not all readers can tell when you're phoning it in, but a significant fraction can, and they will despise you for it. And while it might in fact make rejection and critical dismissal hurt less when you can tell yourself that it wasn't your best effort, it's still cheating.
  10. There is always somebody better paid, more acclaimed, or whose books will make you turn green with jealousy. It is the nature of the universe. Carry on.

 

Comments

I think I have to print this out and tape it up next to my computer--especially numbers 3 and 10.
Second that.
#7 made me laugh.

Note to self: Blow more things up. Would probably help with #10. *grin*
Smart lady, you.
It does however mean that if you put the major plot revelations in sex scenes, a certain percentage of your audience will not notice them.

8(a).] don't put the crux of the plot in the middle of the homoerotic kissing scene you've been building to for three books: nobody will notice. Even the ones who aren't skimming.


In combination with 1), this DOES suggest an avenue or two for the subtle planting of clues...
True. Very true.
I'd really love to learn more about 1)
Unfortunately, I'm not sure I can explain it.

"Beach books" actually rely heavily on this tendency, of the reader to fill in the story around the framework that the writer provides. It's clever because it's not very much work for either writer or reader; there is no revelation, only the fulfilled expectation.

Which is satisfying to a reader who likes that particular story-framework, because he can plug in the details he likes best.

Something like a caper movie makes use of this--it allows the viewer's assumptions to function as part of the misdirection, while some sleight of hand is going on under the table.

The thing is, some readers only want a particular species of novel, or they want a book to be other than it sets out to be, so they will judge it against the book in their heads rather than on its own merits.

If I want a tuna sandwich and you give me egg salad, it doesn't matter how good the egg salad is. I didn't get my fucking tuna, and I am gonna be pissed.

OTOH, if you can convince me I really wanted egg salad in the first place, and just didn't realize it....

..congratulations; you have subverted the genre.
*g*

I also would like to know about #1.

Also, #2 I think is a rather universal rule. *further g*
Hello, Elizabeth. I've just friended you and wanted to introduce myself. I've enjoyed your posts about writing because I am a writer myself. I also noted that you listed forensic anthropology as an interest. I studied that subject for several years in graduate school before complete and total burnout set in.

Cheers!
Hi! Nice to meet you, and thanks for the intro.

My training was undergrad only, but the fascination has lingered. Hello!
#7 made me laugh.

Where do I send the dynamite?
To meeeeeeeeee!
on't put the crux of the plot in the middle of the homoerotic kissing scene you've been building to for three books: nobody will notice

However, the reason people skim the sex scenes is that they don't do anything. (funny, in my fiction I never use italics almost but in comments and stuff I use them a lot)

I think sex scenes should always do something important -- maybe not the crux of the matter, but something important -- even if it means that some readers have to go "huh?" a few pages later and read back to figure out what just happened.
If *any* scene isn't doing anything, it doesn't belong in the book. That goes for sex scenes, fight scenes, and scenes in which the protag is putting on his shoes.
It really helps to keep #6 in mind when dealing with #5.
I nodded my head at number 2 and laughed out loud at number 7. But then, everyone knows I like to write big shiny explosions (typically coupled with character deaths) in my stories.
Ayep times nine. (Not ten 'cause I have yet to put a real sex scene in a published book.)
If you make it too accessible, people will assume it's not artistic.

OMG so true. Just "yes ma'am"ing from the peanut gallery over here.
If you make it too accessible, people will assume it's not artistic. If you make it too artistic, people will assume it's not accessible. Go ahead and blow something up if it makes you feel better.

But the author demands ramps and ADA compliance!

Maybe I can make them really artistic ramps.

And then blow them up.
That's the spirit!
Go #2! I find that when all else fails, throw in a car chase. *nods firmly* Or reference flame throwers. I'm on a mission to reference flame throwers at least once every book. The fantasy world needs more flame throwers.
The fantasy world has lots of flamethrowers.

They're called 'dragons'. I like them. >:)
Re 1) -- I think you're right, and I think the fact that I virtually never skim, am almost constitutionally incapable of it, is what gets me in trouble with certain books and authors. I notice the things that are supposed to be lost in the stampede to get through the book, and they annoy me to the point where I slow down even more, and notice even more stuff I'm not supposed to, and so on, world without end, until I am reduced to rewriting the book in my head as I go and pretending that my version is the one on the page so I can get through the fracking thing.
::tattoos 10 on inside of brain::

::carries on::
I just finished Matthew Reilly's 7 Deadly Wonders for *cough* research *cough* reasons. Once upon a time, I thought he was the shit. He blew things up better than anyone. But, here he is. Failing #2 because he's not following #9. Oh yes, I could hear the crackle of the international phone line between every one sentence paragraph.

This is just a sign really. Someone needs to show this boy how blowing shit up is done. I'm going to go finish my book now.

(And thank you, as always, for the reminders that are so worth printing and learning to live by.)
aw, shucks. *g*
Number 10 is a big winner for me. Some days I feel like my career is bug shit, some days I feel pretty good, but there's always number 10...
Sad but true. Sad but true.
>It helps if you honestly like to blow stuff up.
>Or at least write about blowing stuff up.
Does hitting things with swords count?
sure, depending on genre. sometimes gunpowder is hard to come by.
You are so wise.

I, too, nod over #7. If I'm going to be juggling artistic and accessible anyway, and probably dropping what I'm juggling on occasion, it would be extra nice if what I drop can go spectacularly boom when it hits the ground.
Boom!

We do love our boom.

Ten Things

Started my morning with a grin. And then some second thoughts...

Re: Ten Things

;-)
I found this via anghara; so true! Great observations!

Funny yet true...

Had to laugh at #7 - but how true is that? (blowing stuff up besides lol).

(Anonymous)

I LOVE to blow stuff up!

I LOVE to blow stuff up in my stories! I might even write a novel titled "STUFF BLOWS UP" with increasingly bigger blasts in each chapter.
:)

-A.R.Yngve
http://yngve.bravehost.com

Re: I LOVE to blow stuff up!

You must subscribe to the InfernoKrusher mode of science fiction.

http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/006381.html#006381