At the risk of repeating myself I decided that a little help from an author than has sold millions of books world-wide couldn’t do any harm. So I signed up for his masterclass and committed in my first blog on this subject to keep you posted as to how it goes and what I think of it. So is it inspiring – yes it is. Is it helping – yes. Or at least I think it is. It is certainly making me think about every aspect of my story telling. Not so much perhaps the writing, but the story telling.
I think my writing is OK, actually I think my writing is pretty good (as an author you have to think that). But the story telling? It’s one thing having a good story and it’s another telling it in such a way as to engage the reader so they keep wanting to turn that next page, move on to that next chapter. It’s also understanding more of what the audience for my books want to see. To Illustrate: The masterclass is by James Patterson (I’ve avoided using his name in the last couple of blogs), the thriller writer. So I’ve read a couple of his books. They are not my normal genre (I mainly read science fiction with a little historical fiction thrown in). It’s something of a bonus that I’m really enjoying them and part of that is the way they’re written. It would be hard not to.
Bottom line, they are enjoyable, fun books to read with short punchy chapters that bear out everything he’s telling you in the master class. You plough through one and think that was fun, where’s the next (which is what you want if you’re trying to sell books). I wouldn’t want to read them all the time, sometimes it’s good to have something a little more challenging. However, in the past I have also read Le Carre’s, ‘Tinker, Taylor, soldier, spy’ – very good and much acclaimed. However, maybe it’s just me, but I found it hard work. So these days with so much more competition for readers, and especially if you are a self-published author trying to establish a following and have some commercial payback, it’s not difficult to see where you have to try and position yourself.
So now following his advice I’m setting about my latest story making shorter chapters that end in a way that makes you want to move on to the next one. I’m trying to build in more questions that the reader has to have answered. I’m trying to keep the suspense going, building in more twists without making it seemed contrived. To use a phrase that he uses a number of times I’m trying to “raise the stakes” and thereby to use other phrases “build in a wow factor” and the “I didn’t see that coming” moments.
I’m also looking more critically at my characters. I’m questioning my books opening lines and paragraphs, does it grab you, make you want to read on? As a self-published author it is easy to lose readers before they’ve finished the first page. I know I’ve done it myself, read the first few paragraphs on Amazon and decided it’s not for me.
On a personally positive note – at the writing group I attend, this week someone who had read my latest book, Bleak – The story of a shape shifter, said they had really enjoyed my book, thought it a good story well written. As a self-published author those are the sort of comments that keep you going. So maybe, with the help of James Patterson and his Master Class I might be able to persuade more people to carry on past that first, line, paragraph, page, to take chance and buy the book.
As always thoughts and comments are welcome.