Category Archives: romance

Finding the Write Road

Musings by Heather Sylvawood

This morning started with a bit of a hiccup – I had a flat battery. The car I am currently driving doesn’t have mod-cons like warning beeps if you turn off the car while the lights are still on. It does, in fact, assume you will be vigilant and remember … duh!

batteryDEAD

Once the battery issue was solved by the nice young man from AA, I set off.

Now I don’t usually drive a manual. Anyone driving behind me could probably tell. I often manage to confuse the slot for third gear with the slot for fifth gear. Consequently I’m either over-revving or stuttering under the strain of a gear jump.

All of these faux pas instantly connect with the blood supply to my face.

Battering my self-confidence

Taking the back route (less chance of shaming myself in front of others), I rattled along, berating myself for every mistake and generally giving my self-confidence I right battering.

Then, in one of those break-through moments, I realised that this is what I do when I’m writing! I leap forward and write heaps, and then I re-read and start to doubt myself, comparing my first draft writing with the polished published writing of others. I compare my least polished with their pristine.

IMG_0274

Recently I have been reading a selection of writers – the series writer, romance writers, mystery writers, New Zealand writers, and Christian writers. I find myself picking up proofing errors (ahhh … the permanency of print against eBooks) and even clumsy language which their editors surely should have noticed. What’s been happening to me is I have been developing my critical eye. Only this time it isn’t for my own work but for that of others.

The Critical Eye is valuable

I am beginning to realise that my over-revving and stuttering gait probably mirrors that of other writers. They too must feel  lacking when comparing themselves to the honoured writers of our culture. That critical eye, however, is what keeps writers improving.

As well as noting the less-than-perfect, the joy of my research is that I am also identifying clever writing.

I recently read Tiger Lillie by Lisa Samson, a Christian writer living in Maryland, USA. I love her style. She manages to convey so much more in simple descriptions and with such humour, I want to come back for more. Take the following example:

“I’ve always loved evening. Even back then, as a chubby, bug-eyed little girl who also loved a good joke, that time of day sobered me and filled me with peace. I know now it’s due to the fact that the clock never stops ticking down and the time for making the day’s mistakes draws to a sweet close. Even the circumstances in which to make these blunders fly away, for in the twilight we simply sit and breathe quietly, cross our fingers and hope the phone won’t ring or the Jehovah’s Witnesses won’t come to the door.”

What craft! How much does she reveal about her character in a passage ostensibly about ‘evening’?

Research good writer and author examples

By reading the work of others I am observing the unusual word construction, the insightful capture of character, and the clever development of plot.

Research is important, be that by reading the work of others, or finding out what is capturing the readers of the day. Writing, however, is the key to becoming a writer. So it’s back to the computer for me.

Oh! Yes. I am writing. A blog!

Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

What does your fiction cover say?

There are so many considerations for Indie authors when they decide on their fiction book cover. There’s the picture design first:

1.  Should the image be a photograph or a graphic? Photographs always seem to me as if the author is writing about real serious people, whereas a graphic gives me a more frivolous impression.

BookCoverViolentSandswww_jeremyRobinsonOnline_com  BookCoverRoadtoSuccesswww_design21sdn_com

TheBeachHouseReview2 US-Elder-Care-Aging-book-cover-design1www_hiretheworld_com

Above: These books use a mixture of graphic and photo images to convey their message.  Note their use of text to attract attention. ‘The Beach House’, a print book, was the only one that used a written font – usually not a good idea for Indie publishers because it is so hard to read in a thumbnail image.

2.  Does the picture convey to the potential reader what the contents describe? Can a reader be misled about the genre?

Author and blogger Joanna Penn warns  that  “fiction titles need to:

  • Communicate a promise to the reader – which is further aligned to the cover images – which mesh perfectly with what the customer expects in the book. If there’s anything that jars the reader in any imperceptible way, they won’t buy.

Where to find a good (cheap) designer

Indie authors are recommended to find a good cover designer and Fiverr.com is one place where you can find a designer who produces graphics or book covers to suit the style of your book.

3.  But don’t be carried away by the designer’s cleverness in their past work; make sure it matches the concept you want to convey:

  • Moody or romantic
  • Humorous or witty
  • Matter-of-fact or practical
  • Crime or mystery

Here are a selection of covers offered by Fiverr designer. You can see that designers can be very flexible and if you give them a clear description of what you want

eBookCoversFiverr

Many Fiverr designers come from different cultures where earning a ‘fiver’ is big money. Be aware that they also need an understanding of the culture where your story takes place. Check out their work before committing yourself to a cover designer. Be prepared to use more than one designer until you find the cover that’s right for your book. That doesn’t mean not paying the original designer, even if you don’t use their design. You engaged them and they did the work.

Consider your font and font size on your eBook cover title

4.  Title size are really important for eBooks, especially. When eBook covers are reduced in size unless the title is in a large font it will be hard to read. Rule of thumb I’ve heard is that the title should take up one third of the depth of the cover.

Take a look at the covers shown below:

eBookCoversOmdiamond

They follow the title size rule quite closely.

According to Kate Harper in her book How to make an E-Book Cover – for Non-Designers’ :   “The main purpose of an online book cover is to encourage the customer to click on the title and read the book’s description, sample pages, index and table of contents. But if your cover doesn’t grab their attention from the beginning, they may just pass it by.”

Kate’s book takes you through the steps of making a quality eBook cover in both Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop. So if you really can’t afford to employ a designer (good designs cost more than $5 with Fiverr) and you have some copyright-free graphics you want to use, then this eBook would be great. It certainly gave me help in understanding the special needs of Indie publishing and e-Covers.

5.  Choose a font that is easy to read and fits the content of your story.

When you’re creating a cover the font you choose is vital. Just like the options I listed under Point 3, different fonts convey different levels of urgency, mystery or intrigue.

BookC1 BookC2 BookC4

BookC6 BookC7 BookC3

The images above were from an exercise I did to look at the types of fonts and what they conveyed. I am NOT writing a novel called Dead in the Water – so go ahead if you’re so inclined! A couple of them seemed too hard to read easily, and others did not convey the seriousness of death I thought such a title deserved. Of course, this is all subjective and the best you can do when choosing a font for your cover page is to show a few people and get some feedback.

Is your name more important that your eBook title?

Definitely not if you’re publishing your first few books. After you’ve become a ‘discovered’ writer then you can bring your name up into larger font size.  Here are some writers who totally ignore the rule:

   

Any guesses why?

Yes, once you have a following, your fans will read whatever you write because they know they’ll enjoy a good read. Unknown authors must let the Title and Cover of their book create a little anticipation and draw the reader into the book. Or at least to read the sample pages.

Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Does popular mean less ‘literary’?

Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

I’ve just completed my first novel and I’m looking at publishing it on Amazon, however, I’m finding it difficult to find a category that fits its subject matter.  Here’s a brief synopsis:

“Laura Holland is coping (just) with her life bringing up two teenagers and her almost seven-year-old autistic daughter, Estella. Living on a small farm raising chooks and sheep, and the family’s vegetables, Laura’s role is definitely that of an isolated homemaker. Her husband Richard, however, is a busy principal whose involvement in the farm is spasmodic, at best. Then the Hollands meet the Langleys, a family with a very different way of coping with their disabled daughter. At first Laura and Anna find support and new possibilities in their growing friendship. But all is not well in the Langley household, and as Laura gets drawn in, further and further, the stage is set for a dramatic showdown.

Set in the early 1970s in Canterbury, New Zealand, the novel deals with how beliefs about caring for children with an intellectual disability can trap women in the caring role.”

So where does family drama fit?

It hasn’t any real mystery, no murders, little violence, no fantasy, only a little sex (but not the 50 Shades of Grey  type), it’s set about 40 years ago – but is hardly a ‘period drama’, and it doesn’t fall into the category of romance.

If I could find a category called Family Drama then that’s where it would fit. But the last time I looked on Amazon, there was no such category.

Popular novel themes

That dilemma started me thinking about popularity. Books, television, and lagging only a little behind – films, reflect what is a popular read (or genre in the world of novels). Take a look at what’s showing on the celluloid (oh, what an ancient word!) and you’ll gain a clear understanding of the genre(s) that sell most readily.

‘Write novels in popular genres’

Writers who want to make a life writing popular novels are advised to look at what sells.

On the face of it, the advice is sound. If I was to follow that advice I would write crimes novels with likeable detectives and a bit of romance; or vampire horror; or sci-fi with lots of killing at the hands of superior aliens until good old human cunning overcomes the long odds. And, of course, the other popular genre is the classic romance between heterosexual couples leading unreal,  usually privileged lives.

The genres are far removed from real lives of most people, I wondered why that appealed.

So why do people enjoy reading escapist novels?

I thought I would do a bit of research.

The first thing I realised is that ALL fiction is escapism. We look to read fiction that allows us to live (safely) some of the emotions that would otherwise be inappropriate for us to express. It is escapism for the reader, but it is also escapism for the writer.

Escapist novels have had a bad rap

As author Neil Gaiman says: “I hear the term (escapism) bandied about as if it’s a bad thing. As if ‘escapist’ fiction is a cheap opiate used by the muddled and the foolish and the deluded, and the only fiction that is worthy, for adults or for children, is mimetic fiction, mirroring the worst of the world the reader finds herself in.”

He goes on to say that escapist fiction “opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with” and that it  “…can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour: real things you can take back into your prison.”

Popular fiction may be what the doctor ordered

Author Steven Handel, creator of the blog: The Emotion Machine, writes: “Instead of venting your negative emotions, sometimes it is better to just shift your awareness toward something completely different that makes you forget about your troubles.

“In many ways, this is the powerful role that entertainment plays in our lives. It is a way to escape from the stress, anxiety, and negativity of our everyday lives – and sometimes that is what we need to stay sane and healthy.”

New York Best Selling Author Elizabeth Lowell has this to say about the so-called divide between popular (escapist) writing and ‘literary’ writing:

“My life’s work has been popular fiction. Writing alone and with Evan, I have published more than sixty books. They range from general fiction to historical and contemporary romances, from science fiction to mystery, from nonfiction to highly fictional thrillers.

“Through the years, I’ve discovered that most publishers talk highly of literary fiction and make money on popular fiction; yet asking them to describe the difference between literary and popular fiction is like asking when white becomes gray becomes black.”

Isn’t WRITING a novel ‘escapism?

Wikipedia defines ‘Escapism’ as mental diversion by means of entertainment or recreation, as an “escape” from the perceived unpleasant or banal aspects of daily life.  If you use that definition, then I am using ‘escapism’ whenever I think about or start writing my novel. I am creating an unreal situation in a way that gives me pleasure. I might not be escaping from a banal life, but my escapism certainly enhances my life.

Goodreads includes The DaVinci Code, Bridget Jones Diaries, Harry Potter and Kate Hooper’s Redemption series in its list of Escapist Fiction. Put like that I’d be glad to be listed in the realms of ‘escapism’ and popular novels. Here I come!

Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author