Alycea Snyder is a board member of the Tampa Writers Alliance and a fellow author.
I watched her presentation on writing last night.
Here are a few things to consider.
First of all, Alycea is an avid reader.
She’s very smart.
When it comes to the writing process a lot of you are struggling with, she “gets it.”
Alycea does what I call “investing” in the learning process, not just by reading a lot but by being a critical thinker when she reads, studying why the successful authors are successful (especially new, breakout authors in a genre), and drilling down on that. For example, she goes to Barnes and Noble and looks at a display table. It has the two NYTBSA books, surrounded by the newbies that “you’ll also like.” Then she reads the back cover matter to see what’s up there – why they fit, how they are unique, etc.
Who are the new breakout authors of the last 12 months or so and what are they doing? She studies that.
She also invests in things like the online Masterclass, where she has taken master classes from Neil Gaiman and R. L. Stein, etc.
One of the (several, great) things she mentioned in her presentation was when we want to (paraphrasing) keep the story moving. a lot of times we increase the stakes or add tension. Different genres do that in different ways, but for somebody who’s writing a mystery, that might be making the challenge or hurdle bigger and bigger and bigger. She noted we could go back and make the character more internally flawed so that they are overcoming their own internal problems, which is equally tense. She had a great, short, list of ideas on how to do that. On is as follows.
EXAMPLE: Gone Girl. (The book, not the movie.)
Alycea gave the example of Gone Girl and said how the author built the husband character to be the exact type of person who nobody would believe, and that he would get in his own way due to his internal flaws, causing himself all kinds of problems.
(This is not unlike having my detective in The Gamma Sequence 2: Rogue Elements fighting the sudden onslaught of a debilitating disease as he tries to find out who killed his friend. Great minds…)
But I thought it was a great idea to increase the stakes on a micro level instead of a macro level!
She asked us if we could specifically identify who are reader is: Age, sex, education, income level, what it is they read, who their favorite authors are, who they follow on Instagram…
- Who else they read
- Do they follow on Instagram
Hmm. I know a lot about my readers, but I didn’t know that. But I can ask! I tend to think mine aren’t on Instagram; should I be? I mean, I am but I NEVER use it. Hmm.
DIFFERENTIATE YOUR BOOK
She suggested when we construct our book, we stay within the norms (again, paraphrasing) but we also differentiate ourselves somehow. What is unique about us? We don’t necessarily have the ability to be the leader in the market nor do we want to be the bargain basement, but we’re going to be somewhere in between – and when we are, follow the norms but differentiate somehow. (I’m not doing that segment justice; you’ll have to go see her presentation yourself for more on that. Maybe she’ll do a guest blog post.)
Everything stalls at 80% (AND)
- She said that everything stalls at 80%. book writing, projects, manufacturing… That sounds familiar. I see it with writer types all the time.
- AND… Have a DEADLINE
Have a deadline. That seems like that would be a huge motivator to certain friends of mine. All of them, in fact. But the proof is, how was I able to write an 80,000 word medical thriller in six weeks? Because I had to. Magically, we get things done when there’s deadline.
She suggested finding specific beta readers who will give proper feedback and that on are Facebook there are groups of beta readers you can fine; there are also online beta groups you can find. That’s something to look into.
Do First – before starting your novel.
- Write back cover copy description – could you even? What a smart idea. it will keep you focused.
- Find comparables
- Plot key scenes
- Plot key decisions
- Refine main character
Set a deadline for the book to be completed.
I’m not sure she emphasized the deadline thing as much as I am, but it’s a huge point.
I firmly believe if we write the back cover first and set a deadline, we’d write better books, and complete them faster.
Those two things, plus an outline, are probably the biggest things I see myself doing for every book going forward.
Want more? Here’s her blog, and if you are in the Tampa area on Wednesday nights, you can usually find her at the Tampa Writers Alliance meeting.