Tag Archives: novel

How to Figure Out What a Reader Wants in a Story or Book

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What writer wouldn’t love sitting inside a reader’s head as they read a book, whether it is the writer’s or another’s? I would relish knowing what thoughts occur to a reader as they progress through the novel. Are the characters intriguing or boring? Are there too many characters or too few? Is the setting over described or too vague? Should the plot be pimped to make it more interesting or is it already all over the place? Where does the reader fit into the writing of a novel?

Unfortunately, we can’t sit inside a reader’s brain. But we can ask readers what they like and don’t when they read. And we can tell via sales whether a book lives up to a reader’s expectations. But while being written, is there some way a writer can try to zero-in on ways a reader reads?

After giving this some thought and investigation, I came up with the following list:

  1. According to reader desires, a good novel contains these elements, in this order:

Story-must be interesting

Characters-must have dimension

Theme-must be current

Atmosphere/setting-must seem genuine to story and genre

  1. Characters are the reason readers read. If the characters are boring or flat a reader will put the book down and pick up another with interesting, intriguing characters.

The main character must want something specific. Strong desire of a goal defines a strong character.

The main character must do something within the story. If all of the plot situations ‘happen’ to the character a reader gets bored. Sometimes the character must instigate the situation.

  1. Humor helps any story and readers love it. You don’t have to create a comedy, just insert some humor, especially where it’s not expected.
  1. Lastly, style is not nearly as important to a reader as it might be to a writer. The days of ‘purple prose’ are gone. Today’s readers want quickly flowing story with little narration and less description. Don’t eliminate either completely, just be judicious.
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Finding the Title of your Short Story, Novella or Novel

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Finding the title of your short story, novella or novel can be frustrating and difficult. It took me several months of trying to finally arrive at the title Seraphym Wars. There are certain guidelines that help and bloggers have suggestions all the time. So I’m going to throw in my two-cent’s worth.

  1. Look at titles from your genre in the bookstore and online (Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com). Jot down your favorites.
  1. Keep it short and simple – one to three words works best. You may use a subtitle, but it’s not a requirement.
  1. Create a list of as many titles as you can think of that relate to your story’s theme, genre, characters, plot, setting (especially if you world-built). Use a thesaurus.
  1. Survey family and friends to choose their favorite three titles from your list. Narrow the list and resurvey until you have about five to choose from.
  1. Make sure it relates to the genre of your story.
  1. Use the title in conversation. Create a title page. How does it look and sound? If you don’t like it, change it. (I went through about four titles)
  1. Create a mock-up book jacket. Place the title on the spine and front. How does it look? Try this with the other four until you find one that displays well.
  1. Try using this link but don’t rely completely on it; use your own judgment. http://www.lulu.com/titlescorer/index.php (mine got a ‘22.9% chance of being a bestselling title!’ Which was the highest ANY of my suggestions got.)

What are some of the best titles you’ve come up with for stories?

What are some you came up with but didn’t use because they didn’t fit at the time?

Portal to Cimmeria Excerpts Removed for Contest

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I’ve submitted my YA novel Portal to Cimmeria (renamed Dragons in the Dark  Volume I: Threshold) to a contest (Serendipity Literary Agency, in collaboration with Sourcebooks and Gotham Writers’ Workshop, is hosting its first Young Adult Novel Discovery Competition) and so had to remove the excerpts.

I’ve also entered into the Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers Twenty-Eighth Annual Delacorte Press Contest for a First Young Adult Novel.

I’ve also submitted a Christmas Story to the Jacksonville Times Union and a poem I wrote as a Picture Book to a poetry contest. I already had three short stories in a contest and am waiting to hear about them.

I won’t know about most of these until early 2010, so it’ll be a pins-and-needles Christmas for sure.

In the meanwhile I’m working on a MG version written as a journal with line illustrations. It looks awesome in my head!

Cross your fingers ya’ll.

Young Adult Dark Fantasy Novel Series

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I did something novel over the past few weeks.

I rewrote my first novel and it almost completely changed. It even has a new name as do all of the characters. What has happened in effect is I have a Middle Grades novel, the first one, and a Young Adult, the second one.

It was an interesting exercise taking the old story and rewriting it for an older audience. I got to create new characters. I added an element of romance. I even added new dangers and adventures.

In fact, the story grew so much it has become two novels. I’m very excited to finish the editing and get the new novel out there for you readers to evaluate.

I’ve even posted the first three chapters here to whet your whistle. Let me know what you think.

Here’s what the new story is about:

19-year-old Falon ‘Andria’ Watts is a sophomore at Jacksonville University, living alone in a dingy apartment within walking distance of the college and working as a waitress at Renee’s Spaghetti Barn, which is within walking distance as well. Having been very sheltered and very fat in high-school (and having lost the weight and become quite beautiful once she left home and matured) she has never had a boyfriend or even been on a date until she accidentally and repeatedly bumps into her soul-mate at the college.

19-year-old Michael Clancy Osburn is a sophomore at JU living in a suburban house with his very ill 15-year-old sister. He goes to school, works full-time at repairing computers and takes care of his sister because his parents were killed recently and he assumed the responsibility for his sister. He doesn’t have time for a girlfriend; until he meets his soul-mate at college when she keeps bumping into him at lunch.

Together they discover an insidious evil creeping slowly throughout the world. Then strange and bizarre visions begin assaulting Andria’s dreams and waking hours. Demons and people who shape-change into dragons appear around any corner without notice or warning.

Andria’s world begins to spin out of control.

Then she finds there is another young man who desires her attention. And this dark eyed, dark haired, dangerous-looking college student makes her feel strange in ways Michael never has. And while she enjoys the attention she also fears the ramifications.

Finally Andria is approached by an Angel with a revelation of her destiny. And it isn’t going to unfold on Earth. And she doesn’t have any choice in accepting it. And neither does Michael.

So click on the page labeled Portal to Cimmeria and read the excerpts for yourself.

Dragons, Demons, Monsters and More

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For quite a while I’ve been contemplating starting a blog. But I kept thinking, “No one is interested in my thoughts.” But then I kept reading that as an author I should do this, so here goes. For over 20 years I’ve had a story running around my brain like a hamster on a wheel. I’d get up at 5:30 am and write a chapter, then go to school and teach my lovely 5th and 6th graders. This lasted for a few months then the chapters got put away in a file cabinet and forgotten. This was before computers and everything I did was handwritten. The funny thing is, what I finally wrought is in no way even related to what it started out as 20 years ago.

In the meanwhile, I started my own family by adopting a precious baby girl, so between being a new mommy and teaching, the writing took a far back seat. Then I had precious baby girl #2 and adorable baby boy #3. Still the writing sat in the file cabinet. Lastly, we adopted the final sweet baby boy #4 and shortly after that I retired from teaching permanently.

By that time, we were living in the countryside of North Florida and I was running a vacation rental business out of the log cabin on our property. So I took my computer to the cabin every morning after the school run and wrote and wrote. For 18 months I did this and out came child #5: The first book of a series called Between the Dark and the Light: Vigorios for Alcedonia Volume I.

I was a very proud Mama and immediately sent my baby off to a publisher so they could tell me what a wonderful thing I had birthed. But, of course, that’s not what happened at all. Instead, I spent the next 18 months rewriting, revising and editing to make it the truly wonderful story it is now.


For an excerpt from Between the Dark and the Light go to the excerpt page of this blog. Tell me what you think. Each post I’ll list a new chapter so subscribe and get a good idea if you like it, then buy the book!