I performed major surgery this week. I administered anesthetic to my screaming baby, took a scalpel to it, and cut to the bone. After that, I planted the seeds for new growth.
Did you see the movie, Catch Me if you Can? It’s based on the true story of, Frank Abagnale Jr., a con man who forged different identities and occupations for himself. No, I’m not doing that.
Like G. Parker mentioned in her blog a couple of weeks ago, the surgery I performed was to a manuscript.
In the sequel to The Hillside, I’d written a great ending. There were, however, almost 100,000 words. Yes, that’s a little long for this type of book, but that’s not what bothered me. I’d written more plots and subplots than the story needed. I felt I should send my character to New York and I created a reason to get her there.
The story haunted me, and even though I’d written a great subplot, it was just too much. To make matters worse, I’d written a climax to part of the story, in the middle of the book. My critique group felt like that was an ending, but there was more. The other character needed resolution.
So I went in and cut the cancer out. I got it down to about 50,000 words, and re-wrote the end. Now, It’s 80,000 and after I edit, there will be less. The result will be a fit and trim book that readers will love.
As a writer, you are the doctor, psychiatrist, parent, and mechanic for your manuscript. Don’t be afraid to shake it up.
All this talk about that movie, and performing functions I’m not trained for, made me think. Have you ever considered that as writers we are doing what Mr. Abagnale did? In our own small way, we live a little vicariously through our characters and we can be anything we want, even a villain. Perhaps that’s why I don’t write about murderers, I have no desire to understand that mind set.
Anyway, with a little research, our characters can be anything, from a doctor to a computer technician. As the creator, we can get a little taste of what it’s like.
In the case of the above-mentioned manuscript, I was benevolently cruel. It screamed and complained, but I offered comfort in my promise that I wouldn’t hurt it. Also, I saved the scenes I took out. Maybe I’ll take the advice of my critique group and turn it into a trilogy. Wouldn’t that be a hoot? Maybe, but I’ve got to finish the other story I’m writing first.
How do you feel about gas prices? Do you express misplaced anger at the owners of gas stations? Just for the record, service station owners only make about 2.5 cents profit on every gallon of gas. The real money is going to taxes and the executives of the oil companies.
I can remember prices at 19 and 22 cents/gal. I worked at a station when they rose to 60 cents. For many drivers, It was a hard pill to swallow. Now, we are paying close to 4 dollars and most of us wouldn’t mourn the demise of those who are raising prices.
I wanted to bring this up to illustrate a point. Are you angry that gas prices keep going up?
As a kid I watched the original Star Trek on TV and marveled over the gadgets I saw. I noticed a lack of paper and everything, from reports to novels, were read on a piece of hardware, about the size of an I-Pad. In the later series’ they used Palm Pilot sized pads. When I saw a character writing a speech in one episode, I realized electronic medium was probably the wave of the future. I figured we would see electronic books in my lifetime, but I thought it would be like checking out reader pads from the library, or buying them from the bookstores.
Now, we stand at the edge of a precipice. E-book technology has come into our lives. You can download the classics for 99 cents.
Recently, at the Storymakers Conference, Marion Jensen talked about the e-book trend and what we might expect in the future. I noticed a prevalent attitude in the class. Writers were thinking they might use the medium to bypass publishers and self-publish. I also noticed many of them hadn’t given much thought to how much work it would be to promote those books.
Marion went on to quote some experts who think electronic books will never replace the traditional. Still, I was disturbed. Apparently, some authors are promoting their work, by selling it for pennies.
I once heard an author say he didn’t mind his books getting passed around because it builds a fan base for the next book. I agree with his thinking, but keep in mind that he didn’t drop the price on the book that gets passed around.
Okay, here is the way I see it. When people get used to paying 99 cents for an e-book how are we going to raise the price? Like Pandora, are we opening a box that can never be closed? Is it better to sell five books at 15 dollars, or fifty books at 99 cents?
Yes, you can touch more lives at 99 cents, but isn’t your time worth more than that?
Like with gas prices, people will resent a raise. Keep in mind that gasoline has become a necessary staple in our life, books are still a non-essential item in our budgets. Well, I know some writers who ... Anyway, Since book publishing is mostly a good will business, you will never be able to make more for your books. Neither will I.
At this juncture, I have no intention of self-publishing. If, after the hard copy comes out, my publisher wants to sell it in electronic format, I will expect it to sell for a reasonable price. If the costs of other books are far below that price, my book won’t sell.
So, before you launch yourself into this final frontier, consider the future when the market is flooded with low cost e-books, and everyone works for free. I have another parable for you.
There once were two kids who each opened a lemonade stand. Billy opened on his corner, and Mary opened across the street. They drank a lot of lemonade, but didn’t get many customers. Then, Billy decided that if he lowered his price, the customers would buy from him, rather than across the street.
Incensed, Mary lowered her price and got all the business until Billy lowered his, again. This went on, until Mary got fed up and offered hers for free. Well, Billy couldn’t compete with free, so he packed up and went out of business.
After a while, Mary noticed a significant fact. Even when she gave it away, she still could not attract the majority of passersby. They just didn’t care. That’s when Mary got an idea. She developed better lemonade. It was far superior to anything anyone had ever tasted. Mary advertised and tried to sell it for a reasonable profit. After all, with advertising, she had overhead costs.
Soon, she found that customers wouldn’t buy it. “It may be as good as you say, but we can get lemonade from Jane, down the street and she gives it away.”
Be careful where you tread. You might be stepping on a landmine.
At the LDStorymakers Conference this year, I walked into the ballroom at the beginning of a session and encountered a lady who wouldn’t shake my hand.
We introduced ourselves and I told her I write women’s fiction. I don’t remember her exact words, but she looked me square in the eye and asked, “How are you qualified to write women’s fiction?”
I was perplexed. What qualifies every writer to write anything? I must admit that getting into the mind of women is dangerous, and a difficult journey. Not unlike the first moon landing, and being a man, how can I presume to be successful in this genre?
I stumbled over my answer, not knowing quite what to say. “I’m the only man in a six member critique group and I get insights from my partners?” I could’ve claimed an understanding, and I would’ve liked to claim the title of, Casanova of the Twenty-first Century Book Writing World, but I’m just a man. I think Nicholas Sparks would like to contest that claim, anyway.
I shared my dilemma with my friend, Tristi Pinkston, and she joked, “You should’ve looked her in the eye and said, I’m really a woman.”
I write stories about women, for women, in a way that men would enjoy reading it too. You see, there are differences, but basically there isn’t much separating the sexes. With a few genre specific details, all fiction is pretty much the same. Yes, there are situations women find themselves in that men wouldn’t, but women’s fiction, not romance, is a contemporary story about the struggles and joys of women characters. The secret to success is telling it with resonance to women. Sometimes, that includes romance.
My new friend made me consider the answers to many questions, and sparked a visit into my project files. I’ve written stories about men, but my very first, written twenty years ago, was about a woman who struggles to find balance between the corporate world and her desire to be a singer. A mystery unfolds along the way, and she finds answers to her life’s questions.
The second book, my first LDS market, was a coming of age story about a teenage girl. Pregnancy and a desire to find her own way, spurs a late night flight to a new life in the big city. Through a series of missteps and misplaced trust, she finds herself at the end of her rope, and discovers God.
As I said before, I’ve written male protagonists and testosterone-laden plot lines, but really, women’s fiction is what I’ve always written. So, how am I qualified? After considering many possible answers, I came up with a good response. I write women’s fiction because my characters dictate their stories to me. I am competent, if people find joy in reading them.
I’m writing this blog between classes at the LDStorymakers Conference. I have no Internet on my computer so I hope I can post on time. I have no time for editing so please don’t laugh at my mistakes.
Although the standard is changing, in our culture, boys are given a set of rules to follow. They are taught to be the breadwinner, the protector and provider. Girls are taught to be the homemaker, nurturer, and teacher of all good habits.
Being true to my lessons, I’ve endeavored to make ends meet, provide, and keep a status quo, no matter what the circumstance.
About fifteen years ago, we were given the opportunity to purchase a bigger house than I could afford. If the truth were told, however, It wasn’t much bigger or expensive. I’d just grown comfortable in my situation and making a larger payment worried me.
At the time, we were making payments on a one and one-half bedroom bungalow with plumbing problems, but it was ours, and we loved the garden. I’d spent the early part of our marriage paying debts we brought into it and I didn’t want to start over.
One day, while considering my options, I realized life was short and if I didn’t grab the piece of happiness the new house would bring, I might never realize the dream. In short, if I didn’t take a chance, I might never move forward.
Now, this might seem like selfishness, or self-justification, but I learned there are times to take risks you can’t move forward if you don’t speculate occasionally.
At the LDStorymakers Conference this year a presentation reminded us that if you never take a chance, you’ll never succeed. It also suggested if you’ve never failed, you never tried.
Keep writing. Success may never mean writing full time or making a six-figure income, but dreams, not pursued, can never come true. Your writing will never touch a life, unless you keep writing.
Hang in there. Good luck with your writing—see you next week.