Friday, July 12, 2013

Pacing by Ann Voss Peterson

Joe sez: If you've missed the previous guest blogs, they've been fascinating and informative.

You can read Kevin Hardman talking about Amazon ranking here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-kevin-hardman.html

You can read Mark Terry talking about his publishing journey here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-mark-terry.html

You can read Jeff Schajer talking about his thrillers here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-jeff-schajer.html

You can read Lisa Grace talk about movie options here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-lisa-grace.html

You can read Brandilyn Collins talking about dialog subtext here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-brandilyn-collins.html

You can read Katherine Sears talking about Booktrope: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-katherine-sears.html

You can read Richard Denoncourt talking about cover art here: 
http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-richard-denoncourt.html

Now here's Ann Voss Peterson...

Ages ago, I promised Joe I would contribute a blog post about writing craft. With the majority of the guest posts focused on the business end of publishing, I thought this might be a good time to actually live up to that promise.

My first book was published in 2000, and I've now written over thirty, but one of the final things I had to master before selling to a publisher was pacing. I've seen it in fiction I've judged for contests, too; stories that are almost there except for pacing issues. Pacing can be tough to learn.

First of all, pace varies with genre and voice. That's a given. Some stories are meant to be leisurely and rich, some fast and frantic. It's up to the author to know his/her audience and find the pace that's right for his/her story.

But it's useful to note that no one complains about a truly fast-paced book. Fast pace means important things happen, the characters change, and the reader doesn't want to put the book down. The prose itself sucks us in and feels urgent.

But what if the pace feels too fast? Too slow? How do you gage the difference?

If a story feels too fast, speed isn't the culprit. Instead, the story is underdeveloped. The underdeveloped novel doesn't feature fully fleshed out scenes but instead relies on vignettes, like short visual clips you might see in a movie. The scenes change very fast, but the story feels sketchy. A little of that can work well, if it's done skillfully and for effect. An entire book of that is a literary slide show, not a novel. The scenes streak past, but the story doesn't really go anywhere.

Pacing that feels too slow is even more common, and there are a lot of articles out there featuring lists of tips and tricks for speeding up the sagging story. Some of the common suggestions are:

-Make sure your protagonist is active.
-If the action sags, kill someone.
-Add a ticking clock.
-Keep a secret.

I've never been a big fan of random lists of tips and tricks like the one above. I believe it’s more important to understand the WHY behind something and make it your own, rather than to just stick in a device here and there. So in my quest to understand pacing, I set out to learn why some prose feels fast and some feels slow. And as I read and analyzed, I came to the conclusion that the conventional way we frame the subject of pacing--as fast or slow--is all wrong.

Pacing isn’t about speed.

That’s right. Pacing doesn’t have ANYTHING to do with how fast the action unfolds on the page. Think about it. We've all read thrillers where plenty of action takes place, but they still feel as if they’re moving as slow as a Prius driver at a four-way stop. We've also read literary novels or family dramas which don’t have a lot of exterior “stuff” happening, yet leave us breathless. So if a novel’s pace isn’t about speed, what IS it about?

The secret to pacing your novel—whatever genre you're writing—is making your reader NEED to turn the page.

Well I just happen to be a reader. I’ll bet you are, too. So I asked myself what makes ME want to turn the page, and I came up with four things.

1. Conflict: I turn the page to discover who wins the fight.
2. Sequence: I turn the page to uncover what happens next.
3. Delayed Gratification: I turn the page to learn the answers to my questions.
4. Escalation: I turn the page to see how on earth the protagonist gets out of this unholy mess!

Now there are entire books written on these subjects, and a blog post (as long as this one is) is not going to be extensive enough to do them justice. My hope is to get you thinking about how you can compel your reader to turn the page by using these four elements on a small (sentence, paragraph) scale and a large (story) scale in your writing. So let's go.

1. Conflict: I turn the page to discover who wins the fight.

This is the biggest topic of the four. The basis for all fiction is conflict. Without it, story doesn't exist. Your protagonist wants something, and s/he must struggle against opposition and through hardship to reach that goal.

Small Scale:
There are opportunities to enhance the conflict your story on even the smallest scale. The simplest is word choice. Some words carry more visceral impact than others, generally short Germanic words as opposed to longer Latinate words. Add conflict to sentences by using strong verbs and nouns rather than propping up your verbs and nouns with adverbs and adjectives. Bring conflict into a scene with subtext; characters saying one thing while thinking or meaning something quite different. Show conflicting aspects of your character. A man can be both smooth and guttural; a woman both brutal and heroic.

Large Scale:
In the beginning of your story, you make a promise to your reader. What this promise is depends on genre and the inciting incident of the story. So if you begin with a detective finding a dead body, you are promising that by the end, we will know who the killer is. And if the story is a whodunit mystery, the murderer will be caught and brought to justice. If it's a romance, the couple will get together at the end. If it's a thriller, the threat will be stopped.

This doesn't just apply to genre novels. All books have an inciting incident (something happens that causes conflict) and the story is about the characters dealing with that conflict (and perhaps others), and when that initial conflict is resolved, the story is over. If you show the conflict has been resolved at the end of the third chapter, you've ended your story and no number of tips and tricks will fix the pacing of a story that feels as if it's already over.

There are a lot of good books on writing. And I'll be sharing a few I've found useful as we go along, both for beginners and for more advanced writers. Most of these are older and considered classics. All of the books I will be suggesting deal with conflict, but some to note here are:


2. Sequence: I turn the page to uncover what happens next.

This is also known as stimulus and response or action and reaction. A story is a chain of events. When something happens, there should be a reaction on the part of every character involved. Someone says something, another answers, and yet another acts out in a later scene. A character strikes, another strikes back. Everything that happens in a story causes something else to happen, like ripples in a pond.

Small Scale:
On a sentence and paragraph level, if your prose feels slow, you might not be ordering your sentences in a way that makes them easy to read. The reader's eye moves from left to right, and the action should as well. Every time you break this natural sequence, you ask your reader to backtrack in order to interpret the sentence's meaning.

Jake tripped and fell. –versus- Jake fell, because he tripped.

Now this doesn't mean you can never break chronological sequence, just that it should be your default setting. Breaking sequence is useful when you intend to draw the reader's attention. But every time you ask your reader to do extra work, there should be a reason. Nothing should happen by accident. Know what you're doing and why.

Large Scale:
The stimulus – response chain is the building block of story structure. Each action or reaction is called a beat. Beats add up to form scenes, scenes form sequences, sequences form acts, and acts form stories. I've found studying structure to be very helpful, and there are many books on the subject. One of my favorites is the classic Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain. I also adore this blog post on character development and sequel by JimButcher

Movie structure is actually easier to study than novel structure and is quite relevant for most popular fiction. McKee's Story deals with film structure, but I find that it doesn't translate to novels in some ways. To bridge the gap between movies and novels, try Alexandra Sokoloff's Screenwriting Tricks for Authors and Writing Love.

And for beginning writers, I suggest starting with the Bootcamp for Novelists Training Manuel by Linda Style and Connie Flynn.  

3. Delayed Gratification: I turn the page to learn the answers to my questions.

Remember the Carly Simon song used in the Heinz ketchup ad? 


Anticipation…Anticipation is making me wait…it's keeping me waiting…

Small Scale:
There is a delayed gratification trick that is used in poetry. The last word in a line carries the most power, as does the last line and word in a stanza, as does the last line and word in the entire poem. The reader reads through each line to find the point. We can use that in fiction as well.

Look at the last word in each sentence, paragraph, scene, chapter. Is it carrying a punch? Is it strong and significant enough to justify your reader reading to get to it? Don't contort your prose to make this happen, but pay attention to giving your reader a little reward, a tiny thrill, something to read toward. This technique can be really useful when writing your product description.

And if you want to test your prose to see if you're doing this, here's a fun little trick: take an excerpt of your writing that you think really works. Write down the last word in every sentence. Read them all together, pretending you've never seen that section of the story. Do you get a sense of what it's about? If those words are strong and significant, you will.

Large Scale:
And this is where I harp about backstory. J Lately I have come to suspect that some writers think backstory and character development are the same thing. They are not. Backstory is stuff that already happened to the character, the character's past. Just like people, characters are defined not only by their pasts, but by the choices they make in the present. We are what we do, and so are characters.

That's why a character's actions are most important, especially at the beginning of a book. The past can and should wait. Why? Because readers don't care yet. Sure you have to give enough information so the reader isn't lost, but that's far less than you feel they need. The best, most gut wrenching, character forming events of your protagonist's past should only be revealed when the reader thinks she cannot live without knowing. You leave hints. You show character behavior that begs an explanation. You let your character ooze with attitude. But you do not spill the beans.

In Writing theBreakout Novel, Donald Maass suggests holding backstory until at least the midpoint of the book, and I've found that works out pretty well in most of my stories. But the point isn't to adhere to a certain page. Hold off until you feel the moment is right for your story, just be sure to keep your secrets until your reader is desperate to know.

And when the secrets do come out, reveal them dramatically. In dialog. With conflict. Sittin' and thinkin' is boring. A tearful confession or a secret blurted out in the heat of an argument? That's conflict!

4. Escalation: I turn the page to see how on earth the protagonist gets out of this mess!

Raise the stakes. Increase the conflict. Break things. Make the problem unsolvable.
In fiction, the worse things get, the better we readers like it and the faster we have to read. So don't be afraid to rain down hell upon your characters. Then make it worse.

Small Scale:
Not only should the payoff for a sentence, paragraph, scene, sequence, act, story be at the end of each of these units, but the action should escalate to the end. That means each item in a list gets more intense, specific, important. Each beat builds. Each scene is more intense or meaningful than the last. If the emotional intensity stays the same, your story will feel as if it is sagging. If the intensity lessens, your reader will put down the book and never pick it up again. I know I will.


Large Scale:
Physical threat isn't the only way to escalate. There are things worse than losing your life, such as losing those you love, losing your honor, losing whatever makes you human. Stakes can be global, physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. When the physical threat hits a crescendo, escalate by increasing an emotional threat.

The Codename: Chandler series that I write with Joe is all about a breakneck pace. In the Chandler books, many readers have commented that the action never lets up. That's not exactly true. Chandler does slow down now and then. But when that happens, Joe and I ramp up the emotional threat or the psychological threat or add a global threat to the mix. As a result, each story and the series as a whole escalate all the way to the end, never lagging or getting weaker in intensity. HIT is the latest, and it's only $2.99.

5. Number Five; the secret to it all.

I know I said there were four elements to good pacing, and now I've added a fifth. But this isn't exactly an element of pacing. This is THE KEY TO EVERYTHING (See? I kept this one for last. Delayed gratification and escalation). So what is it?
Great characters.

Now that is yet another topic too large for this blog post. But without great characters, a reader doesn't care who wins, what happens next, what their secrets are, or if their situation grows more and more dire. Without great characters, none of the four points I mentioned above matters.

Story is character in conflict. Add structure. Build to a big payoff.

So how about those pacing tips and tricks I mentioned at the beginning? Why do they work?

-An active character is one who is facing conflict, not sitting there like a stump.
-If done right, killing someone is going to provide conflict. It’s also going to give those story stakes a boost (escalation). That’s why it can make a slow area feel faster paced. But it only works if the murder does those two things. If it doesn’t raise the stakes or if it doesn’t increase the conflict, it’s going to muddy your story instead of making the reader need to turn that page.
-The ticking clock is an example of escalation. The characters had to do something in your story (right?), and now they have to do it in a very short time span.
-Keeping a secret is an example of delayed gratification. The reader has to race through those pages to find out what the secret is or to see it revealed to another character. And of course, the character’s reaction to that secret is her response to a stimulus...sequence!

Obviously this blog post only scratches the surface of a complex topic. I hope you find the handful of resources I named here helpful. I also hope you share more suggestions in the comments section. Different approaches speak to different people, so the more choices we amass; the more likely all will discover something helpful.

But reading how-to books is only the beginning. The most important thing is doing the writing itself. And when you sit down to write, ask yourself one question:

What makes you NEED to turn the page?
 
You are writing for YOUR reader. He or she values how YOU see the world. So put yourself in her place. Analyze your own writing from the point of view of yourself as a reader. Understand what makes your heart beat a little faster and your fingers clutch your Kindle a little tighter when you read.
Then work on tormenting your reader in the same way.
  
Pushed Too Far is free today (Friday 7/12) only.

Joe sez: I once had an argument on a writing panel with bestselling author who claimed the best novels were character driven. I disagreed. I said they were plot driven. I think you can have a really interesting character who readers won't care about if nothing happens in the story. He claimed the characters are what readers identify with.  
Ann eclipses this argument by stating that story is about a character in conflict, and I'd be hard pressed to debate against that. 

There are several tricks I use to keep readers turning the pages, some easy to master, some not. But they are things that my readers seem to enjoy, and in a blog post about pacing this is a good place to share them.

1. White space on the page. I've talked about this many times. When confronted with a big, blocky paragraph that takes up half or all the page/screen, some readers may start to skim. They'll read the first few sentences, subconsciously decide if it is adding to the story, and skip it if it doesn't escalate the conflict.

I like short, punchy paragraphs, no more than a few sentences each. I like a lot of dialog. I like avoiding adverbs, adjectives, overlong description, and speaker attribution when possible. The more white space on a page, the faster the reader can zip through it.

2. No chapters. The Joe Konrath School of Writing changes POV and starts each new section on the same page, tagged by who the POV character is, ending each section on a cliffhanger. I don't give readers a place to stop reading. And I try not to let any POV last longer than 2500 words. Some are as short as a few hundred.

3. Emotion. In the last five novels I've written, I try to find spots in the novel to make readers afraid, make them laugh, make them cry, and turn them on. Reading is a vicarious, safe way to induce emotion; to immerse a reader in a world they can imagine and identify with, and make them feel something. The more the reader feels, the harder it is to put the book down. So I use jokes and sex and violence and suspense, and I use them often.

4. Big ideas and big twists. A big idea is a hook--a plot point that intrigues the reader. A big twist is an a-ha--something unexpected. Conflict, Sequence, Delayed Gratification, Escalation, and Characters are something all good narratives should have. But if you have a great hook and some cool twists, you're going to set yourself apart from all the other good books out there. Readers expect all of the above things Ann mentions and so eloquently describes. But readers buy books based on the premise. A cool hook and some big surprises will get you fans.

5. Less is more. If a scene, a paragraph, a sentence, or a word can be cut, it should be. If you're wondering how to pare down your length, look at backstory, description, prologues, purple prose, interior monologue, showing off (look how much research I did), and darlings (I love this part even though it doesn't move the story forward). Every word should have at least two reasons for being in your story, and if you aren't deliberately doing that, you're going to lose readers.

The quickest way to increase the pace of your story is to edit stuff out. If you aren't sure what to edit, hire an editor (always a smart move anyway) or give it to a trusted peer who is a pro, or your writing group. 

I encourage everyone to pick up Pushed Too Far, which is free, for a good example of how to pace a book (for Jack Daniels fans, she has a fun scene in it). You can also pick up Timecaster Supersymmetry for free, which also has Jack Daniels in it. 

But warning: both books are page-turners and contain violence, humor, and explicit sex.

Addendum: Today I tried a new advertising service for my Timecaster Supersymmetry giveaway promotion called Book Blast. It runs today. Supersymmetry is currently ranked at #136 in free ebooks on Amazon. We'll see if this gives it a boost.

34 comments:

Daniel said...

Thanks so much to Ann for her in-depth and provocative advice. She is someone who has paid her dues but is still willing to learn. Please pick up a free copy of her Pushed Too Far and Timecaster Supersymmetry. Then try a few of her for-pay ones. Be sure you have a comfortable seat. You won't be moving for a while.

I was particularly interested in her Book Blast experiment comment at the end. I'm on my last day of a "free on Amazon" offer with my book LOVE THUG, a romantic comedy for kids. Yes, you read that right. However, I used ebookbooster, as recommended by Joe -- after getting denied by BookBub -- and other sites I found on my own. I took notes on which sites featured my book and in what format. There's a wide range of differences there. Some give you a picture at the top of the first page; others bury you deep inside long lists that are hard to find. I'm just saying to due your homework ahead of time before investing in such sites. An Alexa search will also show how much traffic each site gets.

Again best of luck to you, Ann. You're on of the pioneers.

A.R. Wise said...

Thanks Ann, great post and lots of useful advice. I also took note of the Book Blast experiment. I've spent a good amount of money with various ebook advertising venues and can share a little of what has been successful for me.

First off, I've had very little success with any sort of ad on a site. This shouldn't surprise me, because I could probably count on one hand the number of times I've visited a site, saw an ad on it, and clicked that ad. I think the internet has worked pretty darn hard to train us that it's rarely a good idea to click on an ad.

Of the various other sites I've used to promote my books, the most success I've had has come from the following sites: BookBub, Freebooksy, Kindle Nation Daily, and FK Books and Tips. If you choose to pay for any sort of ebook advertising, make sure to keep detailed notes on how many books you move on the day (and about a week following) your book is promoted. That will give you a pretty good idea of whether or not the cost was worth it. Also, I only ever promote free books because those promotions tend to be much more productive.

Lynn Dean said...

Great post! An absolute gold mine of solid advice. I took notes and saved them as a checklist for editing.

Thanks!

Douglas Dorow said...

Ann & Joe: Great advice and things to think about when writing.

Always have to think in terms of the reader.

I'm going to have to go back and read through this post a few times, and the books Ann mentioned are good resources as well.

Book Blast > not as big of an audience as Book Bub, but also doesn't cost as much. I like to pair Book bub promo with Book blast promo, a day or two apart.

Thanks & Good luck!

Jude Hardin said...

Great characters are indeed the secret. There's simply no way to generate suspense without readers first caring about the character(s) they're reading about.

Character + dire circumstances = suspense = pages turned.

And of course there are as many ways to fill in those variables and execute the equation as there are writers on the planet. If everyone did it the same way, it would get boring pretty quickly.

There's nothing inherently wrong with leading with backstory, for example, as long as it's entertaining and compelling. COLT opens (after the short prologue) on the 14th anniversary of the worst day of my protagonist's life, and he's drinking alone and thinking about the events of that day and the loved ones lost. Does it work? I don't know. I like to think so, but of course it's the readers who will ultimately decide.

Anyway, great post Ann. I agree with pretty much everything you said, just wanted to add that some writers can sometimes do the opposite and get away with it, depending on execution.

Tracy Sharp - Author of the Leah Ryan Series said...

Wonderful post, Ann. Loved Pushed Too Far. Bought it last May and I remember that I couldn't put it down.

Darlene Underdahl said...

Thanks for this, and I’m really enjoying your Chandler series!

A. J. Abbiati said...

Great post....thanks for the tips!

As to the whole character vrs plot debate, I found John Truby's book ANATOMY OF STORY covered the issue rather well. Basically he says plot is what your character does, and character is WHY your character does it. In other words, a person's character is based on the choices he makes in the story. So, in a nut shell, you can't have plot without character, or character without plot.

Interesting stuff...

Alan Tucker said...

Ann, fantastic post and thank you so much for all those pearls of wisdom!

You're spot on when you say pace isn't about speed. We should instead call it Pull. Does the work pull the reader forward?

Television and movies have changed the way we write. Many of the authors and books we revere as classics would have a hard time finding traction in today's market as new releases.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

Thanks, everyone! I hope this is helpful. I am not using Book Blast, that's Joe, so I'm looking forward to hearing his results, too. I used Bookbub, ebookbooster, and paid for a highlight on KND.

Lynn-- You're spot on; these points are perfect for editing. Don't let any writing advice get in the way of getting the story down. And use what works for you, just always think of your reader.

Jude, of course all rules can be broken. But these aren't meant to be rules. They are ways to look at your story (through the eyes of your reader). So if you can present backstory and still make it PULL your reader through the story (love that, Alan!), then of course it works! :)

Thanks for the suggestion, A.J. I actually have that book, but I haven't read it. Now I will. :)

Tracy Sharp - Author of the Leah Ryan Series said...

Checked out the Jim Butcher article that Ann linked to. Very helpful.

Adrian said...

Great information!

I look forward to trying out some Ann and Joe's thrillers. I wonder how long until they're available on Nook. I really don't want to buy more paperbacks.

Daniel said...

Ann's Pushed Too Far is #4 in the Kindle Free list overall. Congratulations!!
It may have been higher already or still on the way up. Amazing either way!

Mark Terry said...

Great post. I'm rather obsessive about pace in my books. I'm ghosting/collaborating on a historical novel and I have a lot of discussions with my partner about the fact that I'm good at plot and pace and he needs to understand that those are the biggest thing I bring to the table. He's (collaborating) and he brings different things to the table, like texture and description. In the end, though I expect some battles over which wins out in the end.

Jude Hardin said...

The Joe Konrath School of Writing changes POV and starts each new section on the same page, tagged by who the POV character is, ending each section on a cliffhanger. I don't give readers a place to stop reading. And I try not to let any POV last longer than 2500 words. Some are as short as a few hundred.

I like that. Stealing.

Merrill Heath said...

Nice article, Ann. Lots of good tips.

I've noticed that when I'm working toward the climax of a story I tend to pick up the pace by writing shorter scenes, shorter sentences, and using action verbs. This isn't something I'm conscious of, necessarily. But it does pick up the tempo a bit.

Frank Sergeant said...

> I look forward to trying out some Ann and Joe's thrillers. I wonder how long until they're available on Nook. I really don't want to buy more paperbacks.

I gather Joe's books are not DRM'd (same for Ann?), so I think you can purchase them from Amazon then bring them up in Calibre and save them out as an EPUB to put on your NOOK.


Frank

John Kaden said...

Awesome post, Ann.

I bought Alexandra Sokoloff's book and have been using it to great effect. It's keeping my pacing much more on track. It's a really useful guide.

Eric Christopherson said...

An interesting quote from Raymond Chandler that is in line with some of the commentary here: "My theory was that readers just thought that they cared about nothing but the action; that really although they didn't know it, they cared very little about the action. The thing they really cared about, and that I cared about, was the creation of emotion through dialogue and description."

Jennifer Hayward said...

Wow Ann. What a great craft piece. Thank you!

Joe Konrath said...

I think you can purchase them from Amazon then bring them up in Calibre and save them out as an EPUB to put on your NOOK.

Yep.

tips PTC said...

nice and for share ...

Mean Teacher said...

I notice that when discussing craft, Joe often discourages the use of description. I have seen Jude Hardin and some other frequent commentors on this blog parrot the same sentiment. However, some of the biggest bestsellers of genre fiction - Koontz and King, to name a few - use tons of "superflous" description in their work. I think the Chandler quote reinforces the idea that a page turner need not sacrifice texture and interesting language.

Nancy Beck said...

COLT opens (after the short prologue) on the 14th anniversary of the worst day of my protagonist's life, and he's drinking alone and thinking about the events of that day and the loved ones lost. Does it work? I don't know. I like to think so, but of course it's the readers who will ultimately decide.

It worked for me, Jude. :-) Enjoyed Colt immensely and just recently bought Pocket-47.

Anyway, I second Ann's recommendation of Goal, Motivation, & Conflict by Debra Dixon. I'd been thinking of getting it for quite a while, but it was only until after it was mentioned in Rock Your Plot (another good but short how-to) that I finally sprang for it. (Only available in print, alas.)

Don't know why it took me so long, but I'm so glad I got it. Helped me keep track of where the story was going, but I didn't feel as if everything was set in granite - because I ended up changing quite a bit of what I originally came up with. What's there now makes more sense within the context of the story.

Jude Hardin said...

However, some of the biggest bestsellers of genre fiction - Koontz and King, to name a few - use tons of "superflous" description in their work. I think the Chandler quote reinforces the idea that a page turner need not sacrifice texture and interesting language.

I'm all for texture and interesting language. The point about long descriptive passages is that they invite skimming with some readers. Best to incorporate description into action whenever possible, IMO.

Jude Hardin said...

It worked for me, Jude. :-) Enjoyed Colt immensely and just recently bought Pocket-47.

Thanks, Nancy!

Josephine Wade said...

Ann,
Thanks so much for the tips and the link.
One thing I played with last year was how far I could jump down the plot points, cutting what originally I thought I needed to put in for continuity and just going right to the high scenes and I was amazed at how few times it was necessary to put in those expository scenes - usually just a line or two of explanation about how my protagonist ended up in a train car when she was last in her bedroom, as an example, did the trick. More fun to write also.
Now I'm going to play with some ideas you have here. Thanks for the helps. You're a class act.


Richard Schiver said...

Thank you Ann, I will be referring to your post often as I start the rewrite of my next novel. And thanks Joe for providing a place for all us newbies, old and new alike, access to such in depth information from those far ahead of us in our journey.

Kelly Faunce said...

That's a bit like selling a paperback in code and demanding that the buyer use a translation program in order to read it. An unfair burden on the reader. Why not just publish on multiple platforms?

Joe Konrath said...

An unfair burden on the reader. Why not just publish on multiple platforms?

Because the author makes 10x more publishing exclusively on Amazon.

I agree it isn't fair to readers. But my books are available in paper, and there is a way to get them in ebook on the device of their choice even though it is time consuming.

Publishing on multiple platforms was a logistical nightmare, and not worth the money.

Plus, I don't expect B&N and Nook to last more than two more years, so everyone is going to have to buy a Kindle eventually. And I bet Kindles will be under $50 this holiday season. Or pick up a tablet (I've got an iPad) which has both Nook and Kindle reading apps on it, so you won't lose your epub library.

Back in the day, I had a Betamax, and there were certain movies only available on VHS. It wasn't fair. But, if I wanted those movies, I had to get a VHS. So I did. Then DVD came along and I had to buy the movies again. Then Blu Ray came along and I had to buy the movies again. At least, with an ebook and Calibre, you only have to buy it once...

Ann Voss Peterson said...

The trick to writing description that is compelling is to use the four things I outlined in the post, especially focusing on conflict.

Make sure your description is shown through the eyes of the pov character. That way whatever you're describing is a window into the inner conflicts of your character. The things s/he notices show her/his state of mind, attitude, worries.

The setting should either present conflict or show something about the character. The way the pov character describes another character shows more about the pov character than the other.

For example, when Chandler looks at a person walking down the street, she is assessing whether that individual is a danger to her. She'll notice his size, where his hands are, if he seems like he's paying too much attention to her, etc. When she looks at a great view, she might be looking for escape routes. She notices smells and sounds, because she's trying to detect anything out of place. The description is there, but it serves many purposes. It shows character and conflict.

We bring our attitudes to everything we encounter, and your character should be no different.

Sorry I wasn't able to post more in the comments. I lost my internet on Thursday night, then took a trip down to Chicago to visit Joe and take my kids to Bloxcon (convention for the online game, Roblox). Fun weekend, but I wasn't online much.

Kelly Faunce said...

Thanks for answering. I had to jump through hoops to post, and I wasn't sure my question came out right. Don't want to step on any toes. :)

Not sure I agree with the notion that Kindle will be the only way to go in a couple of years, though I'm sure that Amazon will still be dominant. Most of the people I know are drifting away from designated e-readers, and going with all-around tablets, and seem to want the option of shopping around. It just seems to me that if someone is just starting out, that it would be smarter to keep all your options open.

Joe Konrath said...

It just seems to me that if someone is just starting out, that it would be smarter to keep all your options open.

I encourage all authors to experiment and explore all options. I know of people who have had a lot of success on Nook, iTunes, Smashwords, and Kobo.

That said, I make 5x all of those sales combined on my KOLL alone. That's $20k a month, just on borrows. The other platforms can't come close to that. Which is why I'm exclusive with Amazon.

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