“…that was the moment I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you are writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.”
I must be a professional writer. I don’t feel like writing today. I don’t feel that what I’m writing is particularly good. I still like the story, but I’m not so thrilled with the way the writer puts words on the page.
I thought one of the benefits of selling a manuscript through a contest was that the manuscript had sold based on the story itself. I was patting myself on the back for not having to write the dreaded query letter.
If you publish traditionally, you still have to explain the story to the people who are going to sell it. The people who design the cover need to know what themes are in the story. The distributors want to know what angles the story has that makes it stand out from all the other books that are coming out that month. The reviewers need to know why anyone should pick it up and read it in the first place. Your story, your word baby that you labored over with sweat and prayers, is special to you. Why should anyone else care? Well, it’s your job to tell them. Or, in this case, my job.
On the plus side, this is an opportunity for me to influence the process. For example, for the cover I was asked to write a brief description of three different scenes: the mood, the setting, how the characters were dressed and how I pictured them. I hear stories about other publishers, about authors who feel like they have no say in what the final product will look like. I think it reflects well on Harlequin that they ask for input.
I love Pinterest. I don’t know what authors did before the Internet. I can just point and say “There. That’s what Matthew looks like. That’s Liza’s claim. There’s Elijah, looking adorable.”
I still hate writing blurbs. And synopses. And catchy catch phrases. These are skills that I need to work on. But I’m getting better!
He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” – Luke 24:6-7
Or this one, which came up with the catchy title, “The Greek Tycoon’s One-Night Plan for Tax Purposes.” I think that one’s my favorite.
If you need more than a title, you might try this one, which has generators for titles, plots, character flaws, and a horde of other novel elements.
While random generators might help spark the creative process, what works best is to find a title that expresses what is unique about this particular story. Finding the right title is not like playing a roulette wheel, more like picking a snowflake out of a blizzard.
My story about Matthew and Liza needed some revising, and then more revising. And then some tweaking. And then re-tweaking. This is not a bad thing. Trust me when I say it needed the work. I am grateful that I had a kind editor who could point out the things that needed to be tweaked and revised.
Now it has a publication date. It should be coming out in January. This gives the production staff the time they need to work their magic on it.
But first, they need me to do more work. I need to think up some exciting titles that will tell the reader at a glance how fabulous, dazzling, and covered-in-glitter-amazing my story is. Or at least titles that will give them a hint what the story is about and rouse their curiosity so they have to click the link to see what it’s about.
Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Rope isn’t a movie that I like to re-watch because I always feel uncomfortable in a story where the murderer is the protagonist. But it’s a great example of how to create tension. In the picture above, the murderers are being confronted by the one person in the story smart enough to figure out what they’ve done, which is murder a man and hide his body in a trunk.
The murderers and the ‘detective’ are in the background. Hitchcock put the trunk with the dead body in the foreground of the shot. He always kept the tension right in front of the audience.
I have to resist the urge to keep everything secret from the reader until the Great Reveal. That doesn’t produce tension so much as it produces annoyance. It’s far more effective to use suspense instead of surprise.
Hitchcock had the right idea. if the audience can see the danger coming, the tension is high. You’ve caught their attention and they want to know what happens next.
Note to self: Twists in the story are great. But if given the choice, go with suspense every time.