Every day this month my friends and I will bring you a new set of Top 5 Tips to help you along on your author journey. 2017 was a year of change in the Indie author world for sure. So many happenings. So many new things to learn. So many old things that didn’t quite do what you’d hoped. Well, every day is a new day. And every year is a new year. So we hope that this month’s worth of tips will get you the kick start you need to make 2018 your best yet and please feel free to ask questions and leave comments.
Next up on the blog is my friend Blair Babylon. Blair is an award-winning, USA Today-bestselling author who used to publish literary fiction. Because professional reviews of her other fiction usually included the caveat that there was too much deviant sex and too much interesting plot, she decided to abandon all literary pretensions, let her freak flag fly, and write hot, sexy, suspenseful romance.
DON’T FORGET TO ENTER BLAIR’S GIVEAWAY ON HER BLOG HERE!
So I said to myself, “Self? How are you yourself in your writing?”
And Self replied, “Damned if I know.”
Even if you start out with a very strong character voice, to some extent, your writing will sound like you. I’ve met Julie Huss in real life. You know that snarky, sarcastic, give-no-fucks tone in her books? It’s just like having dinner with that. She’s hysterical.
So, don’t fight the regression to the mean. The way you speak is going to come through in your books. Go with it.
Your politics, philosophy, culture, and religion will pop out in your books. If your character is similar to you, this won’t be a problem. If they are very different than you are, you need to be sympathetic to them. Don’t be dogmatic, and don’t be snob-ass bitch about it. Don’t piss on your characters from a great height.
Create characters where your voice will not be problem. Don’t write characters that are exactly like you but better and awesomer, of course. That’s called writing a “Mary Sue” character (or a “Gary Stu,” as the case may be.) But do allow for what you know to be your own quirks and strengths.
Personally, I’m from the American Southwest. A lot of my characters are Western or Southern because I know that Westernisms creep into my prose from time to time. When someone is frustrated and wants to do something, they are “faunching at the bit.” If they’re happy and eager to get going, they’re “champing at the bit.” They’re horse terms because I am horse people. Yes, I go through and edit as well as I can, but sometimes, we don’t know what we know.
I’m also overeducated. I likes the big words. I likes lots of ‘em. I can affect a laconic prose style for a while, and I can do it in dialogue, but eventually it’s going to catch up to me. I write lush, descriptive sentences and paragraphs, so I use that.
2 Write what you know.
Although I wrote a blog post earlier here on Julie’s site about doing research and building your world, you should also consider what you already know that might be applicable.
I used to be a scientist, and I taught at a medical school. When I wrote about a female main character who was a doctor (several, actually,) it was easy to talk about jerk professors who work med students too hard and grade unfairly (evil grin.)
I also have seen first-hand both the vicious workload in med schools and the totally give-no-fucks attitude, because: what do they call the person who graduates dead last in their medical school class? DOCTOR.
3 Even if it’s not what you know.
Though I did a lot of reading and research about the music industry for the books about rock stars, I was child actor, as a kid. I understand that industry a little too well. The distance from the music industry to the child actor industry is small. I used my experiences in that to understand what it’s like to be in an exploitive industry and how my characters would react to exploitation.
So look in your own life for a parallel experience to draw from.
4 The Blood Sacrifice
In a writing book that I read long ago, Marge Piercy talks about how every character has to have a “blood sacrifice.” Something from you, in your past or in your psyche, needs to go in there to give your character life.
It doesn’t have to be something that actually happened to you, just something that you feel or think, deeply. In her book Eighteen, Julie talks in the End Of Book Shit about how the book was semi-autobiographical, and you can really feel how deep that character goes.
For my character Xan Valentine, the lead singer of rock band, I gave him my synesthesia. It’s a weird, neurological bonus prize where I can see colors when music plays, and I hear rhythms, colors, and music when I read words (that’s really strong for me.) Wulf von Hannover got my weird obsession with stock market derivatives like butterflies and iron condors. Rae Stone grew up on a dirt ranch near the Mexican Border, like where I spent a good portion of my summers.
5 Keep your expectations realistic and persevere.
When I talk to wanna-be authors, I tell them to write in a commercial genre where they will sell books and make a living, but they have to love it.
If you think romance novels are trash and you’re going to exploit readers who like smut and filth, fuck you and get out of my genre. Romance readers read dozens or hundreds of books per year. They’re smart. They’re savvy. They will be onto you before you can say, “But why aren’t my books selling?”
However, you should follow your passions.
I think certain strata of society are fascinating, and I tend to explore them. I think it’s really interesting when a high-flying billionaire meets a down-to-Earth normal person. I think there’s a lot social commentary that can happen there about the world and our places in it.
Julie combines genres in a way that I think is really interesting. Her SuperAlpha series is obviously the result of deep reading in and love for both genres. That’s obviously not a typical romance novel. That’s a passion project, and it’s really interesting.