Monday, July 30, 2012

Finding Strong Metaphors

Metaphors are figures of speech in which a word or phrase is compared to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable: I had fallen through a trapdoor of depression.  Metaphors, especially ones where something concrete is symbolic of something abstract, can be the very heart of powerful story telling. Simple examples:

clear glass: transparent
heart: depth, meaning
down: bad, loss
up: good, hopeful
etc

When you want to communicate abstract ideas or feelings (those that cannot be experienced through a sense organ—eyes, nose, skin, tongue), using metaphor is your best option. A good metaphor allows you to communicate with fewer words and far more powerfully than trying to describe the idea of feeling with adjectives and adverbs. The trick is to find metaphors as close to original as possible, and avoid clich├ęs like the plague. (No sobbing over spilt milk or running around like a chicken with its head cut off!)

For example, say you have a character who is in emotional crisis of her own making. Maybe she just had a screaming fight with her closest friend or her lover and walked away, leaving the relationship in tatters. You want to describe the emotional turmoil she's experiencing.

You want to choose something concrete to demonstrate what's going on inside her head and heart. Maybe she stands at the edge of a lake, squinting at the glare of reflected sun off the water. Maybe the glare is so bright that tears form in her eyes. (lake: feelings; sun: light/goodness/brightness; glare: goodness and brightness turned into something bad). The actual (concrete) reflection of the sun off the lake is also symbolic of abstract reflection. She must reflect upon what has happened, what she's done and why, and whether and how to repair the damage.  All that from a simple metaphor of her standing in that place in those conditions.

You can be sure your readers will get it. Our minds speak metaphor even when we don't know it. Even if your readers don't say to themselves, "ah, she's struggling with powerful feelings and has to deal with their harshness and reflect on them), they get it. In fact, it's much more appealing this way. Our brains love to understand through metaphor.

Then, you can be even more clever and extend the metaphor if you want to. Given the power of this crisis, perhaps your character won't be able to whip out the answer in a couple of intense minutes standing at the lake's edge. Perhaps she needs to give herself time and space. Maybe she's wandering aimlessly through her house the next morning and glances up to see herself in the mirror (a continuation of the reflection metaphor). What does she see? What might dawn on her as she absorbs the meaning of the disarray of her hair, the smudges under her eyes, etc.? (Don't tell us, just let us see the hair and smudges, then show what dawned on her by her action.)

Metaphors can be tough, especially for the literal-minded among us, but they are worth digging for. It's good to keep a list of them. Ones you hear that make you smile or nod in appreciation. You'll find a way to use them for sure. One caveat: as Priscilla Long points out in her book, The Writer's Portable Mentor, some subjects defy comparison. You're writing about the horrors of war? Stick with the strong nouns and verbs (see last Monday's post). As Long says, "there's nothing to compare with the blood of children running in the streets, so don't try."


Friday, July 27, 2012

Responding to Inspiration

One of the great sources of creative energy we humans tap into is being inspired by others who are doing what we love to do and doing it well.

When my son was in middle school he was all about playing basketball and soccer. We lived in Chicago. It was the Michael Jordan era and the Chicago Bulls were fantastic. Every game was on tv, and we watched them all. I would be amazed that my son couldn't stand to watch a game from start to finish. Not because he didn't want to see the game, not because he couldn't stand to see his heroes blunder or get hurt, but because when he saw those guys out there doing what he loved to do, he had to get out of the tv room and do it himself. He'd head to the basketball hoop on our driveway. I'd be sitting there in front of the tv, mesmerized by the game, and at the same time hear the pounding of our basketball on the driveway, and the swish as it went through the net. In he'd come, sweaty, to get a drink of water and watch a bit more of the Bulls game before he went out again.

I have to admit, I do the same thing with writing. I'll be reading a fantastic novel and find that the power of the way this talented author used words resonates so completely with me that I NEED to write, right that very moment. Down goes the book I'm reading. Out comes my paper and pen, and I spend a satisfying five or fifteen minutes writing a paragraph or two or ten.

When I'm stuck for how to dramatize a scene, or how to make a description visceral and powerful, I pull out books I love that give me excellent examples of how those things are done. "Oh, yeah," I think, "of course!" And I'm back in the game.

What inspires you to do your most fun, most powerful writing? Do you have favorite sources to tap that give you not only ideas, but the creative energy to bound into your game?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What Do You Cherish Most About Your Writing?

Do you write for yourself, to get published, or a combination of both? Or for a different reason?

Writing a novel is therapeutic for most of us, no doubt about it. We may not think of it that way when we start out. We might just have an idea that seems great, or fun, or powerful. But sure enough, once we get into it and get hooked, we discover that, somehow or other, we are working through concepts that are important to us. The writing itself is making us laugh, cry, search our souls, and feel lots of feelings. Whether it's great writing or not, it has value for us.

It's a journey in itself. Is that enough? What about the joy of knowing our work might be meaningful to others if we get published? And then, of course, there's the ever elusive wealth and fame.

What is the journey for you? What do you cherish most about your writing?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Strong Sentences; Concrete Nouns and Verbs

Some of the best writing advice is also basic: get rid of most of your adjectives and adverbs (especially the adverbs), and make sure you're using strong, concrete verbs and nouns instead. What is a concrete verb or noun? One that can be perceived through a sense organ—eyes, nose, skin, tongue. (The Writer's Portable Mentor by Priscilla Long, p. 25).

Examples: boulevard rather than wide, tree-lined street; sting rather than painful bite (n.);  bee-stung (as a verb) rather than bitten by an insect; slither through, rather than move stealthily through the crowd, etc. 

Like all rules, the adjective/adverb rule needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Of course great writers use adjectives and adverbs. Hemingway, noted for his short, direct sentences, did use modifiers, especially adjectives—plenty of them.

But most important is clarity. To paraphrase E.B. White, the closest a writer can get to Godliness is Clarity.

Then, if you want to add a few halos, you need to make sure your writing has not only clarity, but depth. The key to clarity and depth: word specificity, as indicated above in Long's definition of 'concrete' words. 

Select your words with clarity in mind, and make sure they mean exactly what you're trying to convey. This is not as easy as it sounds. To avoid superficiality or lack of nuance, you need to dig deep into your vocabulary bag and find words that are clear and specific, but not necessarily simple. There's no shame in using a thesaurus to find the right word.

An example from Pricilla Long, quoting writer Tim O'Brien on how to describe what war is like for soldiers:

  • First, Long's example of abstract (cannot be perceived through the senses) descriptive language: "War is burdensome on soldiers." 'Burdensome' does little to let the reader sense what war is like for soldiers. 
  • Tim O'Brien's concrete, specific language (visual, smelly, and itchy): "They carried diseases, among them malaria and dysentery. They carried lice and ringworm and leeches and paddy algae and various rots and molds. They carried the land itself—Viet Nam, the place, the soil—a powdery orange-red dust that covered their boots and fatigues and faces. ....."

There are modifiers in O'Brien's descriptive language (powdery, orange-red), but note how they flow from the tongue in a powerful rhythm as if emerging from the concrete descriptors that came before them.

Writing a strong sentence with concrete, specific nouns and verbs is a great exercise for all of us to do every day until it's what comes naturally. Do you have one you'd be willing to share?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Brainstorming a Title

Titles can be so hard.  But they are truly important in the marketing of your book, both to the public and to agents/editors/publishers. I used to get to the point where I'd throw my hands up and just write "Working Title" before whatever lame handle I'd come up with for my book, and claim to anyone who'd listen that it didn't matter because the publisher would change it anyway. I've come to realize, however, that a great title makes a huge difference in people's interest in looking at a manuscript (or a published book), and it's worth devoting yourself to getting it right, from the get-go. Yes, it may still get changed by a publisher if you go that route, but you can bet that your own great choice helped in getting it to the publisher in the first place.

Here's a little gambit for generating title ideas for your book that can be loads of fun, and has the added bonus of providing you with a good meal, too.

Invite a bunch of people over for dinner for a book naming confab. It helps if they're all avid readers, but some people say you might like to avoid other writers for this purpose. (I'm not sure I agree with this point. Some of the craziest, most fun people I know are writers.) Make sure everyone knows a little about your book—the basic story line and what's at stake and who the main characters are. Ask each person to come armed with one word that came to mind when you told them about your book that describes what it's about.

Now, here's why it's good to have the confab at your place. Put up a white board or a big sheet of paper, and use a magic marker to write each word that was brought to the dinner party on it. Then, have a game of word combinations, where everybody participates and shouts out their ideas. Make it a timed contest if you need to inject some liveliness in the group to get them going. Tell them they each have five seconds to blurt out a phrase, any phrase. Have a prize for the best word combos if you like.

The more wine and laughter, the better, up to a point of course. They do have to get themselves home unless you're having a giant sleepover.

I had a great time at a brainstorming session like this that took my mystery/suspense title two giant leaps beyond the 'working title' I'd settled on (And When I Die). I think that the new title is better—descriptive of the tone and content of the book, and more fun, too :-). It is Love, Lies, and Spies. 

What is your favorite way to come up with book titles? Is it easy for you to find great ones?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Success In Self-Publishing: Data, How-To's

It's July and self-publishing is mid-summer's hot topic. Forgive me for highlighting this category two Wednesdays in a row, but last week's Publishers Weekly offered two articles that are hard to resist as pass-along info of interest.

First, Kelly Gallagher, v.p. of publisher services at Bowker (the world's leading provider of bibliographic information management solutions designed to help publishers, booksellers, and libraries better serve their customers), attended the uPublishU conference just before the official opening of this summer's BookExpo America (BEA) in New York. Her findings as reported in Taking the Measure of Self-Publishing:

  • the self-publishing market is surging: 211,269 titles published (based on registered ISBNs) in 2011, vs. 133,036 in 2010.
  • nonfiction and paperbacks do best in this market: nonfiction accounts for only 22% of sales by units, but 38% of sales by dollars; paperbacks account for 47% of sales by units and 75% of sales by dollars
  • the average price paid accounts for nonfiction's strength: with easily the highest price consumers were willing to pay, at an average of $19.32; the average price for fiction was $6.94, the lowest among all segments
  • women bought more self-pubbed books than men (62% vs. 38%), but men spent more money on them (56% of sales). Why? Men buy more expensive books—academic/professional and nonfiction titles, than women
  • e-books are a close second to paperbacks, selling 41% of units sold, but account for only 11% of dollar sales (avg. price of e-books: $3.18, vs. $12.68 for paperbacks and $14.40 for hardbacks)
  • unit sales by segment: fiction—45%; nonfiction—22%; juvenile—11%; religion—5%; academic/professional—15%; sci//tech/med—2%
  • average price by genre: fiction—$6.94; nonfiction—$19.32; juvenile—$9.47; religion—$12.93; academic/professional—$13.24; sci/tech/med—$8.77


The second article is from a romance author (Rachel Abbott) who shares her story of how she went from deciding to self publish with Amazon after failing to get an agent to becoming #1 on the Amazon list for four weeks. In My Bestselling Story, she tells what the key elements were to going from nowhere in her self-publishing effort, to success.

Key among them:

  • writing a marketing plan: "the single most important thing that I did" It gave her structure, a set of priorities and some specific targets. Everything listed after this is part of the marketing plan.
  • identifying, within the marketing plan, which 'channels' were best for people to buy her book (She chose Amazon U.K. as her # 1 target because the book is set in London and Oxfordshire and there was potential for word-of-mouth buzz
  • visibility: web site, blog, Twitter, Facebook. She says one thing Amazon does really well is provide 'lots of opportunities for making a book visible.' She chose the following Amazon visibility options: 'customers who bought this book also bought...' and 'Browse Kindle Books.' In both instances, Rachel says the key is that if you have done everything else right, visibility results in people starting to buy your book. She talks about how to understand using the Amazon capabilities for visibility. Key point: visibility "is only important if people want to buy your book when they've discovered it—and that's why your product description is so important. Make it count. It needs to be as good as the blurb on the back cover of a printed book, not a one-line description."
  • reviews: she used Amazon's 'browse by average review' option successfully by sending formal review requests to book bloggers and producing a professional review request that provided all the details of her book. Good reviews will make a real difference, she says.
  • ways to find readers who love your sort of book to spread the word: Twitter. She suggests following people who follow authors in your genre that you admire. Many will follow you back. To find these people, use hashtags to find people who are reading books like yours. Do this before your book is launched. If a few buy your book, the linking begins. Also, Online Forums. She used Goodreads and Amazon. Again, the key was when people she met there talked about her book on other forums.
  • price and discounts: pricing does play an important role. She originally set the price at $2.99, then dropped it to $1.99 as a promotion for a limited period. It worked. (she also took only a 35% royalty during the promotion period) When her book reached #1 in the U.K. on Amazon, she waited a few days, then raised the price back to the original level. At that point she was selling over 3,000 copies/day.

If you've gone the indie route, do these factors resonate with you? Anything to add?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Openings: How to Grab Readers from the Moment They Start Reading


The job of the first sentence in a novel is to draw a reader in, and the job of the opening paragraphs is to convince him or her that this book is worth reading all the way through.
Whatever genre you write, the opening paragraphs need to create suspense and make the reader care about the characters and want to know what's going to happen to them.
James Scott Bell, in The Art of War for Writers, says this about openings:
“. . . you are in a battle for attention. You must use all haste to surprise and capture the reader.
And I mean take him by the lapels and drag him into the story world with no time wasted.
. . .
So how do you do it?
By understanding why people read.
They read to worry.
They read because they want to have their emotions wrenched by the plight of a character to whom they feel emotionally connected.
You do the connecting. You start connecting from paragraph one.
If you want to sell your fiction, you must grab the emotions of the reader by putting a character in some kind of discomfort or danger or the possibility thereof . . . Anything that is a disturbance, or potential disturbance, to their ordinary world.”
Bell’s making a strong point, but he is not saying to open with murder and mayhem, unless that’s what your novel is about. He is saying that you should open with a disturbance to your character’s ordinary world that will make the reader pull for them.  
That’s the litmus test.  To do that, it helps to make the opening pithy and immediate.
Here’s an opening Bell offers as an example, where the disturbance is placed at the end of the first paragraph: from Allan Folsom’s The Day After Tomorrow:
Paul Osborn sat alone among the smoky bustle of the after-work crowd, staring into a glass of red wine.  He  was tired and hurt and confused.  For no particular reason he looked up.  When he did, his breath left him with a jolt.  Across the room sat the man who murdered his father.
No question that gets my attention and makes me not only curious about Paul Osborne, but worried about him.

Bell is a master of fiction writing, and if you haven't had a chance to read his books on writing yet, you'll no doubt love them. The Art of War for Writers is chock full of pithy, usable examples to help you hit the beats just right throughout your novel.

Do you have a favorite opening in a book you enjoyed reading (or writing)? Maybe a different kind of book than the one Bell shared? How did it pull you in? Did it create suspense and curiosity and above all, worry? Care to share?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Little Free Library Movement: Books Creating Improved Face-to-Face Communities

Something interesting is happening with a movement that started about a year ago in Wisconsin, called the Little Free Library Movement. People put up small, free library boxes on their property, usually out by the edge of their front yard, and put books they own inside for others to stop by and borrow at will. That concept, itself, is certainly interesting, and as the experience has spread throughout the U.S., there seems to be a happy byproduct—positive face-to-face community interaction through sharing the books.

The Little Free Library Movement is a kind of amazing grass-roots effort. When you go on the website, you'll see that their mission is:

To promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide. 
To build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity, and wisdom across generations
To build more than 2,510 libraries around the world - more than Andrew Carnegie!

Here's how it's described in a recent newspaper article:
The book-sharing movement began about a year ago in Wisconsin and is creating ripples of goodwill in neighborhoods. 
The two men who started the Little Free Library are Rick Brooks, 64, and Todd Bol, 56.
Brooks is an outreach program manager at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He does a lot of workshops on everything from preventing lead poisoning to getting through to kids about drinking and driving. Bol's background is in developing businesses in foreign countries. 
In the fall of 2009, Bol happened to attend a workshop by Brooks, and then told him about a memorial he had built in his front yard in Hudson for his late mother, June Bol, a schoolteacher. It was in the shape of a little red schoolhouse, with a bell on top, and offered free books.
Bol soon found himself starting to make Little Free Libraries for others, having gone to an old barn that had been torn down and gotten trailer loads of wood. People loved the little buildings.
"They'd tell me they had met more people than in the last 10 years, 20 years, 30 years," Bol says.
By 2011, they were getting national publicity. This year, they hear every day about more of the hutches going up. . . .
Maybe in a few years, the Little Free Libraries will be remembered as just another fad.
For right now, though, Rick Brooks says about the little wooden structures that are spreading across the country, "This is obviously about more than just books. Something is going on."
(Seattle Times 7/12/12)

Do you have a Little Free Library participant in your neighborhood? I have to admit, I was not familiar with this until I read the Seattle Times article. But I'm kind of thrilled by it. Sometimes things happen that restore your faith in humans. They don't have to be big things, they can be little things, and they can make your heart full. This is a great Little one.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Thinking About Self-Publishing? Things You Need to Know

Are you thinking about publishing your book yourself? It's a huge decision, and every writer has deeply personal feelings about whether indie or traditional publishing is the right goal for them. Over the past few years, as traditional publishers have faced dramatic changes and self-publishing has expanded its capabilities, lots of writers have become interested in the indie route.

Fortunately, with so many authors publishing independently, lots of information has become available on what's involved. Recently I came across a great article on the subject by David Carnoy at CNET. As an indie author himself, and a professional techie, he's in a position to offer some excellent insights. He chose the self-publishing route several years ago, against the advice of his agent, and says that while many things have changed since then, especially in the e-book world, much of what he learned along the way applies more than ever. Here are his twenty-five tips on the pluses and minuses and how-to's of indie publishing today.

Now, if you think you've got something truly special with your book but are butting your head against a brick wall trying to get through the traditional publishing industry's gatekeepers, keep in mind that standout books can make a huge splash in the indie world—once in a very great while. Looking for inspiration to take the plunge?

We all know the success stories of the authors of HUNGER GAMES  and FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. Now comes Tracey Garvis Graves, a forty-five year old mom from Iowa who got tired of rejections from literary agents, and decided to go indie with her debut novel, a romance. After selling 360,000 copies, she's been picked up by a major publisher. The paperback edition of her book, ON THE ISLAND, came out from Penguin yesterday. Here's the Wall Street Journal article about Ms. Graves and her book. You have to admit, that's inspiring.

Personally, I'm still interested in finding support from the traditional publishing industry, but I must say the indie world has definite appeal. I'm not closing any doors. What about you? Which direction will (or did) you choose?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Writing the Long Synopsis

We don't usually think about writing a long synopsis (about five pages). If asked for materials by an agent after pitching to them, we typically send a query letter, a short synopsis (one page), and the first two or three chapters of the novel (or sometimes the full ms.).

But if you are submitting materials to a publishing house, whether through your agent or on your own, you will probably be asked for a long synopsis. They need to see how the whole story plays out before they decide whether it's something they can run with.

And here's a secret: you need to write a long synopsis even if you don't intend to ever submit to a traditional publisher. Why? Because the end result will tell you whether your novel did its job. How? It forces you to be very clear about what's in your book, and when you've finished you will know if the story works from beginning to end, where its storyline weaknesses are, and what you need to do to fix them. Your key points need to track and connect from beginning to end and be compelling to someone unfamiliar with your book. Putting that on the page makes it easier for you to see the story from that unfamiliar someone's eyes.

Anyone who's tried to write a synopsis of any length knows how hard it is. I've heard best selling authors state flatly that it's harder to write a synopsis than it is to write a novel, and if you know someone who's read your manuscript, ask them to do it for you. (If only!!)

While a synopsis is not a blurb, you still have to give it a little zing. It needs to be somewhat compelling, even though the plot, not language, is its main focus. You have to tell the story, not write an outline.

I recently came across a great point-by-point for writing a long synopsis. It incorporates the six main points in any novel (inciting incident, first major plot point, character turning point at book's midpoint, second major plot point, climax, and end), plus transitional sections between them, into a total of nine items to be included. Below are the nine points with my descriptions of them added.

Long Synopsis 

  • The Hook: a compelling statement of the inciting incident (the thing/event that turns the protagonist's world upside down and sets the story in irrevocable motion. The inciting incident usually happens within the first twenty pages of the book, with some exceptions in literary and experimental literature).
  • Set Up: what the characters are up to, how they settle into their new reality after the inciting incident. Here you have the opportunity to give some flavor of characterizations in reactions/behaviors.
  • Major Plot Point 1: something key to moving the story forward that happens once the protagonist is well-established (typically the plot point is unexpected/unwanted events, or behaviors of others).
  • Response: how the protagonist and other prime characters react to what happened in Plot Point 1. This, in turn, sets up . . .
  • Midpoint/Major Character Turning Point: around the midpoint of the novel, the protagonist's defenses against the problematic action of the story are bridged somehow, and s/he sees the situation in a different light and changes his/her attitude and behavior to reflect the new understanding. The synopsis presents this by showing the decision/changed behavior of the protagonist.
  • Attack: what the protagonist and other characters do after the turning point to take on the issues they are confronted by, and to assert themselves within the plot. This typically involves working toward a resolution of the primary problem of the plot. Before they get to the resolution, though, another big thing happens. This is . . .
  • Major Plot Point 2: a new development or intrusion of a major new but related element in the storyline that compels reaction and moves the story forward, perhaps in a surprising direction, and definitely at a faster pace.
  • Resolution/Climax: key points after Plot Point 2 that show the protagonist making a choice that is like entering the river of no return to follow through with his/her resolution, so that the climax becomes inevitable; and the primary action of the climax.
  • End/Denouement: the wrap up—should feel inevitable, and if it's really good, will also be surprising
 I've found this approach to be a huge help in writing a long synopsis. Hope you do, too!

Friday, July 6, 2012

What Do You Do to Focus?

Writers always seem to have particular methods of helping them tune into their writing minds. Ideas come at odd times—usually when you're doing something repetitive when your mind can meander—like taking a shower or ironing or washing dishes (those last two may not apply any more since almost no one irons or washes dishes by hand these days. Did anyone think about THAT when they invented wrinkle-resistant fabric and the dishwasher??)

But how does it work for you when you've got the idea and want to write it? Not just jot it down, but actually make it part of your book?

I've posted here on writer's yoga and on creative visualization meditation(click on Creative Energy in the Pages Bar above), two of my favorite methods. A long brisk walk is another I like, and then there's playing the piano for a while. All seem to help with jump-starting the disciplined writing process. I'm always interested in what other writers find useful. So, what works for you? Do you do something particular each day to warm up for your writing time?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Viewpoint: Professional Editors Are Not Optional for Top Quality Novels

One of the first outward signs that some of the biggest traditional publishers were changing years ago was when they started pruning editors from their ranks of employees, apparently to cut costs. (This was back in the early '90s before e-publishing was any kind of threat to the bottom line, so it seems unlikely there was any connection there.) Perhaps editors, who once upon a time were the most revered people in publishing houses, became overabundant. But unfortunately, one result of reducing their numbers seemed to be fewer opportunities for mid list and debut authors in these big houses. The big authors still got full editing support, others not so much. Sound familiar? This trend has only accelerated over time.

It's very difficult for a publisher to take on projects that aren't already highly polished if they don't have editing staff to support them. As anyone who's tried to edit their own manuscript knows, it's a HUGE amount of work. There are layers and layers of editing, ranging from spelling, grammar, and punctuation, to tweaks of story arc and character integrity, to full character development and storyline revisions, requiring scene cutting, scene additions, and rewrites of chapters. This applies to the work of almost all writers, no matter how articulate they are. Editing is no place for sissies. Professional editors in publishing houses tend to have spent many years learning to be editors and typically have college degrees in editing or related subjects.

I believe it was a mistake for publishers to cut their editing staffs. It may have lowered their costs, but in the long run it made them less competitive. I also believe there isn't a substitute for quality editing when it comes to developing outstanding novels. So how can we get the editing we need to make our manuscripts topnotch if we don't have a publisher with great editing support?

We can hire editors ourselves, and many of us do exactly that. But most of us can't afford to pay the prices top professional editors charge (and deserve)—easily $2,000 for a 350-page manuscript, often twice that much, especially if the manuscript requires a lot of work. There's also the built-in potential for conflict of interest. An editor you are paying may not be entirely comfortable giving you in-depth, honest criticism and advice on your manuscript (especially if it's not as well-developed as you think it is, an all-too-common occurrence). This is often raised as an obstacle to objective editing by author-paid editors.

It's a complicated topic, but here's my viewpoint: we owe ourselves topnotch professional editing to make our novel the best it can be. If we've taken the manuscript as far as we possibly can, and truly believe in it, but are still not getting a sale to a publisher (or if we intend to publish independently) we need an excellent editor to help us put the final touches on it. 

What's your viewpoint? Do you hire professional editors? Do you think there's a good middle ground? Maybe great crit partners do enough? Or less expensive, less experienced editors who still provide valuable input? Or perhaps if the novel doesn't sell over a period of time, we should simply put it away and move on to a new project?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Kiersey Temperament Survey Identifies Who Reads What Genres; Says Reading "Still Strong"

The Kiersey Temperament organization is an interesting operation that identifies temperament types (personality types) through psychological testing and provides lots of detail on what these personalities are like.

One of the 'details' they've focused on recently is how much people like to read books. A major question they wanted answered was whether book reading is in decline. They also investigated what kinds of books are being read by what types of personalities. They surveyed over 3,300 people who've participated in their self-assessments over time, and came up with some interesting data.

It's great news that a large majority of respondents in the survey are avid readers who state that they will continue to be avid readers. (Did we ever really have any doubt?)

What's really interesting in this survey, though, is the breakout of what types of personalities like to read what genres of books. Fascinating to contemplate, and could be useful in shaping those marketing messages.

There are four basic temperament types, and four character types within each one of those. They are:

Guardians: cornerstone of society. Given to serving and preserving our most important social institutions. Guardian Character Types: Supervisor, Inspector, Provider, Protector

Idealists: passionately concerned with personal growth and development. Their quest for self-knowledge drives their imagination. Idealist Character Types: Teacher, Counselor, Champion, Healer

Rationals: the problem solvers. Rigorously logical and value competence and ingenuity above all. Rational Character Types: Fieldmarshall, Mastermind, Inventor, Architect

Artisans: want to be where the action is. Spontaneous, adaptable, and competitive, they believe today must be enjoyed. Artisan Character Types: Promoter, Crafter, Performer, Composer

Go here to see which genres are read by which temperament types.

And if you're interested in finding out where your own personality fits into the Kiersey paradigm, go here to take the temperament test and see which type you are. (It's really fun!)