Monday, February 24, 2014

Judging a book by its cover.

Part of the secret squirrel stuff that I've been doing lately is working with my publishers on designing book covers. This is an ongoing process and obviously all will be revealed in due course. All I'll say is, well . . . I'm in love. I hope you will be too once when the time comes for the cover reveal.

Now I have to say that I am in the very fortunate position of having something of a say in the ideas I had for book covers. I guess it's one of the benefits of being with a smaller publishing house, or maybe it's just because my publishers are so wonderful. From what I've heard about with the more traditional publishing houses, they tend to have complete and total control over it unless you're a best-selling author and the first time you see it is as a set in stone final image. As a debut novelist, you can pretty much forget about having a say. Of course, that's purely conjecture based on what I've read on other publishing blogs, so I could be wrong. Regardless, as I said, I'm lucky enough to have some say.

Part of the process has been discussing the character, the book, how to sum up the story with a single image and because it's part of a series, how to carry that image/theme though out the rest of the series. It got me thinking about a blog post. What makes a good cover?

For me, a good book cover should convey the mood of the story. If the front cover is all rainbows and puppies, I'm not going to be expecting to see angst within the pages. The opposite is true, a dark and depressing cover on the front of a comedy just doesn't work, unless of course it's a dark comedy. One example of great covers which perfectly convey the tone of the books are the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. For the UK and Australian books the bright illustrations that wraparound the covers are fun and silly, and hint at the silliness that will be contained between the pages.

Do you ever judge books by their covers? Have you seen a cover and not read the contents? Conversely, have you found a great cover and the book just hasn't lived up to the expectation? I have to say I probably have done both.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Why do I write?

I've seen a few people in various online writing groups recently ask the question, "Why do you write?" and it got me thinking about my reasons.

This is both the easiest and hardest question in the world to answer. The truth of the matter is, I write because I have to. That's why the question is easy, but also why it's hard. To someone who doesn't have this same urge, it's hard to explain exactly what it is that makes me need to write.

If I had to, I could probably go a week, maybe two at the outside, without adding words to a story, but after that it starts to become harder. I have a compulsion to write the same way some people might be compelled to watch their favorite TV show.

So, why do I write? You could probably select any of the images at random and I'd be able to sympathize. Let's have a look at just a couple:

For me, personally, writing is cathartic. It helps to relieve stress or to celebrate a win. If I have a busy day at work, there's nothing better than coming home, switching off and letting the characters take control. If something great happens, after celebrating with my family and friends, I want to celebrate with my characters.

I've always loved the idea of walking in someone else's shoes though, when I was younger this was expressed through a love of the stage (both dance and drama) where with a simple costume and a different choice of words, you could be transformed into another person. I guess for me, writing is very similar. I can imagine this person who is my character and follow the way they handle a situation. As I've probably mentioned before, this is often not the way I would handle it, but there's something fun about seeing someone react in a way you would never expect.

There is probably a selfish part of me too that wants to leave a mark on this world. In my day job, I am important day by day, but would anyone really remember me in ten years time? Twenty? Will what I do now have any impact on the next generation at all? I have my family and friends, and I know that they'll always hold me in their hearts, as I hold them in mine, but if I look deep enough inside, I'm certain there is a part that wants to write something that will endure into the future.

What's the biggest goal I have for my writing? Besides getting a shiny, physical book with my name on it (which is ultimately my biggest goal) it would have to be connecting with the reader and making them feel something for the characters who I've become so intimately familiar with. I long for the sort of dynamic where readers will argue passionately for and against choices my characters made, where they will want to know, "what happens next." For people to care.

How about you? What is your compulsion; the one thing you can't live without doing? If you're a writer, why do you write?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Secret Squirrel!

There is so much secret squirrel, but super exciting, stuff going on for me at the moment. I will reveal all when the time comes, hopefully in the next month or two.

In the meantime, can I just say how hard it is for me to keep a secret? LOL

Monday, February 3, 2014

What's your point of view?

I've seen a few posts around on different blogs talking about whether a story should be in first person (I, me, etc) or third person (he, she, etc). This blog post isn't really about that. If I was pressed for advice on this, I would say write the story in whichever perspective best suits the story, and only very, very rarely should that be second person (you, your). I currently have a work in progress that's written in 3rd person. The novel that's being edited by publishers at the moment is in first. Why are they different? Because that's how the different characters spoke to me.

What my post today is really about writing alternative points of view (POV) of stories. This is often a great technique to help shake writer's block because you're forced to consider options which might not seem obvious if you're writing the story in the main characters POV. What prompted me to write this blog post is that I have been doing this lately, in fact I've been doing it enough that I think I might end up with another 2 books set in the same world as my series, just from a different character's perspective. Now generally, I'm not a big fan of retelling a story from another side for one primary reason: most, if not all, of the emotions of the secondary characters POV *should* shine through in the original story. The main character might not be able to see/understand the other character's motivations or emotions, but the reader sure as sugar should.

Why then, am I writing books that are a retelling of events from the other side? Well, because I'm not. Not really anyway. The characters each have their owns lives, their own experiences and don't spend every moment together. There is, naturally, some crossover, but the two main characters have separate and distinct stories to tell. Hopefully, when the time comes, you'll enjoy them both.