I have to start today’s post with an announcement: Great Stuff and Critique Technique will be going on a short hiatus. Later in the week I’m off for a non-writing conference and expect not to have the time it takes to put together these posts. I expect to return to the blogosphere and your computer screens no later than Monday, September 24th.
OK, with that out of the way, we can get to the reason you and I are here. The one piece on craft today is from Kim Weiland (@KMWeiland): Is the Cliffhanger Ending Overrated? Kim’s answer, as you might expect is, “it depends.” At the ends of scenes and chapters, cliffhanger endings can serve their purpose of launching the reader onward–so long as they’re not overused. At the end of a book that’s part of a series, however, there are other, better ways–Kim names four: strong plots, concepts, characters, and themes–to entice the reader to go buy, or be willing to wait for the next book.
In that transition zone between craft and business, we find P. J. Parrish’s (actually writing sisters Kristy Montee and Kelly Nichols) Kill Zone post, I get knocked down but I get up again. Much like the lives our characters lead, the writer’s life often seems to be a series of setbacks and failures with only the occasional success. Parrish offers three strategies for coping with the frustrations of the business: find support, focus in not out, and have faith. Easier said than done, maybe, but who ever said this business was easy?
Fully into the business world, now, there’s:
- Angela Ackerman (@AngelaAckerman) writing on The Bookshelf Muse about Building Suspense [by] Meeting Readers In The Middle. Suspense works best–for that matter, so does any story–when the reader is engaged and emotionally involved. You knew that already, of course, but Ackerman offers techniques for HOW to do it.
- Over on Jane Friedman’s (@JaneFriedman) blog, Shirley Showalter (@shirleyhs) wonders Why Is There a Surge in Memoir? Is It a Good Thing? While I’m not only NOT a memoirist and have no interest in becoming one, fully a quarter of the Cochise Writers Group are, so I have an interest in the topic. Showalter suggests that memoirs have experienced a boom that may have already peaked, yet interest in them persists, perhaps because readers have a desire for–a “hunger” for, she calls it–a slice of reality, not the pseudo-reality of cheap-to-produce TV shows, and memoirs feed that need.
- Joel Friedlander (@JFBookman) lets us in on The Biggest Secret of Book Marketing Success on The Book Designer. Two secrets, actually, one not-so-dirty-little or secret but one authors either don’t know or don’t want to hear–“No one knows in advance which books will sell and which won’t sell”–and the other, which comes in three parts: “write the best book you can and get an editor to make it better; make sure the book speaks to the audience you wrote it for, and let readers judge whether you’ve hit your target; and get your book in front of enough people who don’t know you to get the ball rolling.” If you need to hire a book publicist to help you do that, hire one. If not, be ready to do the work yourself.
We’ll close with two funny pieces.
- The first, via Michael Swanwick’s Flogging Babel blog, is a promotional video clip for a documentary on science fiction writer Harlan Ellison. I first encountered Ellison in person waaaay back in the ’70s when I was in college. The years have not mellowed him. For comparison, Ellison was Joe Konrath before Konrath was Konrath–but with a sense of humor. That said, as Swanwick warns about The Writer Must Always Get Paid, “His opinion on this matter is intemperate, angry, obscene — and absolutely correct.” And, IMHO, LMAO funny.
- And finally, Robert Bruce (@robertbruce76) introduces us to comedian Dan Wilbur’s Better Book Titles web site via a 101 Books post of the same name. What Wilbur does is retitle books with something that more accurately reflects their contents. No work is out of bounds. Shakespeare’s As You Like It becomes Crossdressing Helps Everyone Find Love. Ouch. But to tell the truth, cross-dressing was an element in many, if not all of Shakespeare’s comedies. (Robert’s right that the web site is a bit awkward to navigate: the retitled works are down the home page on the right, and you have to click on one to see all of them and their original titles.) There aren’t a lot of retitled works on the site now; let’s hope there will be more.
OK, that’s it for now. “See” you again in ten days or so.