Blog by VONNIE DAVIS -- International, Award-Winning Romance Author: Adventurous...Humorous...Amorous.

Friday, November 21, 2014

When Someone Says to Me, I'd Like to Write a Book Someday...

We've all heard it. "I'd like to write a book someday." Or we've overheard others encourage a person, "Your life is so interesting, you should write a book." Well, maybe so, but who would buy it? That was cold, wasn't it? But the reality is editors have a shopping list of what they do and don't want. I had a phone conversation the other week with an editor of a Big Five.

* Paranormals are out. Time travel is still in if it has a great hook.
* Reunion stories are hot. My mind went to family reunions and slipped into incest and I didn't hear too much of what she said after that, because I was stuck in the "ick" factor. I'm guessing she meant high school or college reunions.
* Memoirs are hard sells unless you're already famous, which I'm not, so guess I won't write about the day I was flashed on my way to work or how a Jamaican dude grabbed me and said he wanted me for his wife back in America.
* Historical romances don't go over so well. That's funny, I've got gobs of them on my Kindle.
* Romances centered around motorcycle clubs are on her list.
* Secret babies. Aren't we using birth control now-a-days???

When she was through with her list, she told me what she wanted me to write. What my next series should be...setting...the whole she-bang. So much for writing the story of my heart. But you see, that's what writing has become--a business. And I have no problem with that. The publisher wants to make a profit...and so do I. Plus, I've never had a problem writing to spec and putting my own spin on it. In fact, I get a charge out of that.

So, when someone says to me, I'd like to write a book someday, I want to tell them the following:
* Know the market. What's hot today will be dead by the time you get your first book written and professionally edited.
* Know the length of book--or word count--publishers want for your genre. Don't write 165,000 word book, unless you've got the time to edit it down to 90,000 words, or less.
* Know the genre of your book. If it's a historical, vampire, romantic mystery, just how will the publisher market it? If it goes to print, what section of the store will it be shelved in?
* Don't use said tags. It angers me they're teaching them to kids in school. What a waste. Show who is talking with action beats.
* Learn point of view. If you don't know what that is, you aren't ready to start writing a book.
* Have your book edited...and NOT by your husband or sister who got all A's in English in school. What did they learn about POV, GMC, plot arc, character arc, plot holes and character development. I majored in English in college and didn't learn those things. Oh, the stories I could tell you about my first few terrible, awful, too bad-to-read books.
* Avoid use of "that" and "just" and "feel" and other repetitive words. Don't use see/saw, hear/heard, thought, felt and other words that "tell the action" instead of using vibrant words that "show the action." I use this thick synonym finder to pick just the right, visual inducing word.
* Don't make your characters TSTL (too stupid to live). Young writers do this to get a laugh. More seasoned authors roll their eyes and trash the book.
* Don't fall in love with your sentences, your book's title and your character's names. Your editor might make you change them. And they have that right. Six of my titles have been changed.
* Unless you are the RARE exception, don't expect an advance. Publishers are moving away from advances to larger percentages of royalties. I've written twelve books and only one came with an advance.
* Don't expect to give up your day job. For a book sold this year, some houses won't pay you the royalties until next year. Most wait three to six months. Sometimes I earn enough to buy a cup of coffee and other times, I earn enough to pay our property taxes. It takes a long time to build up an audience who automatically buys whatever you write.
* Learn to promote yourself. You will become a used car salesman of books. Expect to work harder at this business than you have at anything you've ever done. Expect to spend 2-3 hours a day in some kind of self-promo and in helping other authors and at least twice that much time, every day, writing. I'm at my computer from 9am until 1am, seven days a week. But I'm retired and the kids are grown. You may have babies to care for, but do write at least thirty minutes every day, so your mind gets used to that creative time.
* You will love this more than anything you've ever done.



Angela Adams said...

Thanks for the "words of wisdom" -- you're the best!

quinn fforde said...

Very helpful!

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

Thanks, Angela. I wish I'd known this stuff starting out instead of learning it the hard way, by making darn near every mistake possible.

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

Thanks Quinn. Writers are always learning. I don't know it all. I read books written by others and drool with envy. WHY can't I write that good? We keep learning and trying new styles.

Jim Cangany said...

Wonderful words,Vonnie. This is a tough business and there is no room for weenies, so a thick skin sure comes in handy, too. LOL

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

Excellent words, Jim. I've gotten reviews that make me want to crawl back in bed and pull the covers over my head while I have a good cry. People will tear your literary apart...and almost take great delight in doing it.

Stephsco said...

Hi! I found your post from the IWSG list.

I'm working with an agent on selling, and you're right, it's a whole different game on writing what you love and writing what sells. I think the most successful writers manage to blend the two. That's my hope. I'm writing Young Adult and watching the market like a hawk. Knowing your genre is huge, because there are nuances with YA that some of my romance writer colleagues don't understand.

LOL to the motorcycle club thing; Julie Ann Walker is in my RWA chapter and is doing really well with her series. And I (possibly wrongly) assume only Harlequin editors want secret babies stories. Really--secret babies in 2014? I'm with on the Huh? factor there.

Here's my IWSG post

KSJ said...

Haha - too stupid to live.

Really, wish I had read something like this five years ago, but live and learn ;)

Great post, Vonnie!