Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tagline, Anyone?

Do you read the taglines on the covers of some novels? Taglines are those catchy little phrases that smell of marketing. They often tease or tantalize and give a taste of what the novel promises. Sometimes they announce that the author or the book is a bestseller. Other times taglines distill the novel into a few well-chosen words that enhance a title by adding a bit more information about the story behind the cover. I took a stroll through one of my favorite bookstores the other day and found a few choice taglines.

Consider this one for The Help, which is a quote from NPR.org: “This could be one of the most important pieces of fiction since To Kill a Mockingbird…lf you read only one book…let this be it.”

Then there is this snippet for a book titled X-Isle: “In a drowned world, everybody wants to get to the island.”

And this one for The Nine Lives of Chole King: “Even curiosity can’t kill her.”

Another tagline crafted to work with the title is on the cover of Divergent: “One Choice Can Transform You.”

Did these lines entice you? I ended up buying a copy of The Nine Lives of Chole King. Taglines seem to work best when they are relevant, succinct, with a zippy hint of something. Think elevator pitch on steroids. Such a well-done tagline under a title in a manuscript might even catch the attention of an agent, or editor, or both.

What do you think about taglines? Has a tagline ever snagged your attention? If you are a writer, could you write a tagline for your work in progress?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Too Much Authorial Voice?

At the Miami SCBWI conference, I heard a lot of first page critiques--where the first pages of manuscripts are read aloud and then reviewed by agents and/or editors. A consistent theme in the comments had to do with too much of the author’s voice distracting from the stories.

An author’s voice is usually the writer’s natural tone, rhythm, and choice of words. To put it more poetically--a reflection of the writer’s soul. An author’s voice is unique to each person, which is why the same story can be told in different ways by different people. In comparison, a character’s voice is crafted by the writer to fit a certain character in a story.

When there is too much authorial voice, the reader can become distracted from the story and the emotional flow of it. This sometimes happens when the writer inserts too much set up or back-story instead of allowing this information to become apparent as the story unfolds. Or, the writer may be sharing information instead of allowing the characters to do this. Or, the author may have injected his or her own judgments or commentary or opinions.

To fix too much authorial voice, a writer can revise it into the voice of a character or characters. So, an author judgment or opinion such as “He looked like a total slob” would transform into a character’s dialogue or thoughts, such as “You look like a total slob,” or “She thought he looked like a total slob.” Apologies for the lame examples, but hopefully they make the point.

What do you think? Have you ever stumbled over too much authorial voice in your writing or something you were reading?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

An SCBWI Conference and A Blog Award

When a good friend suggested that I join her at the Miami SCBWI conference (it had an Alice in Wonderland theme), my first thought was of palm trees and sunshine. I could almost smell coconut oil. However, this fabulous conference turned out to be a lot more than warm temps, oranges, and alligators. Amazing speakers, workshops, critiques, intensives, and people made this conference one of the best I’ve attended. As a bonus, I got to meet a blogging buddy--Medeia Sharif http://www.medeiasharif.com/. It’s always fun to meet blog and Twitter pals in person.

As with most conferences, I left with enough information and inspiration to fill multiple suitcases, but here are a few gems I can share with you:

An amazing book: SECOND SIGHT: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing
Books for Children and Young Adults by Cheryl Klein, Executive Editor at Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic.

I am in the middle of this amazing book, but I also heard Cheryl Klein speak on character and plot this past weekend. She is brilliant. If you ever have the opportunity to hear her speak, go for it. In the meanwhile, I recommend her book.

A book that writers were gushing over: Plot Versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction by Jeff Gerke

I have ordered this, so I can’t write much else about it yet.

A series of YouTube videos by Martha Alderson, a.k.a. The Plot Whisperer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESfT2Lh1cWo

These were recommended by the agent and author team who taught a novel intensive. I’ll be logging onto YouTube as soon as possible.

Are you familiar with any of these?

* * *

In other news, I’ve been granted a blog award by Carol at http://carolriggs.blogspot.com/ Thank you, Carol! From what I understand, this is for regular and/or great blog comments, and I am to pass it on to 20 fabulous blog buddies—folks I’ve had the pleasure to “meet” by way of their wonderful comments and blogs. Here are my twenty picks in no particular order:





















There are more than twenty wonderful people who generously comment on my blog and have amazing blogs, but the rules said only name twenty. And who needs a bloggy slap on the wrist for not following the rules? Not me.

Happy reading, writing, revising, and blogging to you all!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The To-Be-Read Magazine Pile

The most recent arrivals of assorted writing and publishing magazines, journals that review books, and newsletters focused on writing and publishing trends are forming a mountain on my desk. This pile is competing with the to-be-read novel pile. All this reading is cutting into my writing time. No lie--I’ve started keeping some book review magazines in my car to read when I show up somewhere a tad early or I have to wait for someone or something.

And there are lots of tempting magazines, journals, and newsletters available: Publisher’s Weekly, The Writer, Writer’s Digest, Poets and Writers, The Writer’s Journal, The SCBWI magazine, Lion and the Unicorn, Horn Book Magazine, School Library Journal, The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Children’s Writer newsletter, Children’s Writer Marketplace . . . And I’ve named just a few.

A little voice in my head is nagging that I must trim down on the subscriptions. The only thing I know for sure is that I will not (WILL NOT) give up my subscription to Writer’s Digest. An issue of that magazine will have to be pried from my dead, rigor mortised hands at some point.

Am I alone here? Do you subscribe to magazines, journals, newsletters, and periodicals? If so, do you have a favorite or favorites? If you had to give up one or two, which would you let go?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Bestseller or Award Winner?

During one of the many holiday get-togethers, someone asked me if I’d rather be a bestselling author or an award-winning author (we had already been talking about how the two don’t always go hand-in-hand). I announced “both,” which didn’t surprise anyone. However, my friend went on to ask which I would choose if I could only have one.

Tough choice.

A writer’s job is to entertain, right? So, imagine the joy that must come to an author when her book lands on the bestseller list. The knowledge that lots and lots of readers are escaping into this novel must be pure satisfaction after the countless hours of love, blood, sweat, and tears that went into writing that story. And what if that novel lingers on the bestseller list? Or people stand in line, waiting for a bookstore to open, just to get their mitts on that book? That’s the kind of crazy that most authors would love to experience.

But just because the buying public has become infatuated with a story doesn’t mean that the reviewers and critics will praise it.

Most writers I know strive for critical approval. They work hard at the tricky and often frustrating balancing act of juggling how a story is structured with developing characters that breathe, settings that exist, and situations that engage, all while creating layers of meaning and painting prose that enraptures. When all of these elements synchronize just right, a book reaches a level of success that often leads to rave reviews and awards. Why wouldn’t an author embrace this sort of acknowledgment?

But just because a story is a literary masterpiece doesn’t mean that the buying public will fall in love with it.

So, which would you choose, if given the choice? Would you prefer to be the author of a best selling book, or to be an author of a book that wins awards for its literary merit?

As a reader, are you more likely to read a best-selling novel or one that has won a fabulous award?