What it takes to be a successful author?

Hope you can join us!

This Friday’s Indie Books show features Author Dianne Harman. Live at 11AM EST.

ITunes podcast @ https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/indie-books-blog-talk-radio/id719075685

Hope you can take a break and join me as I talk with Will Wilson on his acclaimed radio talk show, Indie Books. We’ll be exploring the process of writing, what works, what doesn’t, and how to make your book a best seller.

I’ve published four books, three of which have been on Amazon’s Best Seller lists. Additionally, one of my books, Blue Coyote Motel, was a quarter finalist in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Awards contest and the Book of the Month for e-thriller and the Goodreads group, Psychological Thrillers!

I certainly don’t know everything, but I have a few thoughts on writing and marketing!

WHEN IS TOO MUCH DESCRIPTION TOO MUCH? THE READERS SPEAK!

A few weeks ago I asked readers to give me their opinion on descriptions in a novel. Is it necessary? When is too much? I received answers that were all over the board. However, the one thing that came up consistently was:  Is the description relevant to the plot and/or the character? Below you’ll find a number of snippets I received regarding the use of descriptive writing. Enjoy and heed! The readers and writers have spoken!

“I think there is a lot of difference between genres, for my own efforts it has been up to the story and characters. Even in the same book the amount of description has varied, for key scenes I might add more for others less so. In one of my books I have a very emotional scene on a beach, which stays with the lead character forever. I describe the setting extensively and the feeling and sights the characters see. For another scene the lead just walks past a building with almost no description.

Does the descriptive writing add to plot, characterization or conflict?If it doesn’t, it’s out of there no matter how brilliant I think it is.

The other criteria for descriptive passages and dialogue – if my own eyes cross after 2 pages I’ve done something wrong!

Readers aren’t stupid, they will notice if a world is unconvincing.

Hm, honestly I think it depends on the pacing of the scene. While writing I find there’s a time and place for descriptions and it’s up to the writer to decide when it is.

I find descriptions tend to slow the pace down a bit. It adds feeling to the scene and can really allow the reader to enter into what the character is experiencing. Sometimes it’s beneficial to add the description of the wall color because maybe that soft lilac contributes to the mood of the scene. However, this being said, you probably don’t want to describe that soft lilac if you’re character is in the middle of a high stakes chase.

Though, as a reader, I don’t like reading full page after pages descriptions. I find them a little dry and I find myself going…. WHY?

So,I dunno. It’s up to you and your style.

I believe it is too much when the reader notices it. In The Maltese Falcon Dashiell Hammett spent a full paragraph describing an ash tray that had nothing to do with the story, but it flowed so smoothly as to be unnoticeable.

Well, take Dickens for example, excellent writer. He got paid by the word. It shows. I don’t need to know a whole page on how you got the name Pip…

Write as much you want as long as its interesting. Too little can be too much too if it’s boring.

I guess I fall into the less-is-more category when it comes to descriptive work. I have no interest in knowing the color of paint on the walls and the pattern on the drapes unless it’s significant to the story somehow. I feel the same when it comes to character description. I’ve read some books where the hero was said to be handsome but then a detailed description was given of things I didn’t find handsome at all! For me, more general terms work best–eye and hair color along with height and build. If he has tats or scars or facial hair then that’s fine, but a head-to-toe description isn’t necessary, for me.

I also think too much description can ruin an intimate scene. I recently read a book where the author described a couple kissing. For some reason she thought it was necessary to tell us all the things the guy’s tongue touched in the girl’s mouth, with dentist-like terminology and I thought that was completely gross and unnecessary. THOSE type of details ruin a story, in my opinion. So, yes, I’m definitely a less-is-more type reader when it comes to descriptions.

The Harry Potter books–and too much fluff and padding. After wading through a few I stuck to the movies.

It all depends on its placement. I enjoy some descriptive background, but right at the apex of a suspenseful or dramatic scene is not the place to pull back and insert a paragraph about what the protagonist is wearing, or her difficult childhood. That’s just going to make me mad. You’d be surprised how many authors do this!

I don’t mind a little “stage direction” myself. A simple statement can be read in so many different ways. “Tell me about it,” for instance. Did she say it sarcastically? Was she sympathizing with the person? Was she demanding an explanation? Ideally, the reader can tell from the context, but if not, if the author can’t SHOW me the inflection, I don’t mind a little hint: “Tell me about it,” she said with an air of resignation.

Description, in the right places, and if not overused, adds flavor and depth to a story.

 Descriptive writing, to me is like dialog. If it is natural and conveys with clarity what the author is trying to communicate it is not overdone. For a reader, it is done right if it does not draw attention to itself. That is to say, it should not break the illusion that what one is only reading is actually happening. The good writer makes me forget that he’s the wizard behind the curtain. His descriptions make me “live” the scene. Descriptive words are the spice, so they can easily be overused. Like spices, the strong (make that unusual ones) can be all one tastes.

Perhaps I am not the usual reader. When I enjoy a book (or a series,like Dune), there is never too much description. I hate it when the story finally ends. I suppose it’s all a matter of taste. 

I once did a blog post comparing Hemingway and Faulkner. Faulkner’s style is very descriptive with beautiful flowing sentences while Hemmingway’s style has been described as a complete absence of style. The vast majority of writers today copy the style of Hemmingway.

Description has to draw pictures for the reader. Has to be colorful, interesting and brief. One of the things I do when I take my wife to shop. is visit a good bookstore – I don’t buy books, I just read the first two pages. I look for good opening paragraphs and how they introduce characters. A lot of times I’m disappointed by beginning paragraphs followed by what I call FILL.

It’s too much when the reader notices it, meaning s/he’s pulled out of the story world and is back in the real world of reading a book and admiring the phrasing.

When the descriptions become too wordy and don’t really add anything to the story. If the reader begins skimming over pages to find a spot where the story finally begins to move forward, the author has lost the reader’s interest and possibly the story’s focus.

Slowing the pace down. I like that. And it’s a good benchmark. Thanks!

Interesting what you said about attention span. I read somewhere that because of twitter people’s attention spans have significantly reduced. That may be true and if so, may be the death of description!

HOW TO MAKE YOUR BOOK #1 ON AMAZON!

Coyote in Provence (Coyote Series) by Dianne Harman (Nov 15, 2013) – Kindle eBook

#1 Best Seller  in Museums & Art Collections http://ow.ly/tESEd

How fun is it to wake up and find your book is a #1 on Amazon? I’ll tell you. It’s fantastic!!!

I want to share how it happened. You can do this.

Coyote in Provence is a mystery set in Provence with lots of food and art. It’s the second book in the Coyote series, a continuation of the best seller Blue Coyote Motel, a quarter finalist in the ABNA contest as well as a Book of the Month for e-thriller and the Goodreads group, Psychological Thrillers.

Provence has done well over the months. I played with a few different categories on Amazon, knowing mystery was a huge one. I put it in cozy mysteries>culinary which helped it get listed as a best seller from time to time. I recently had a friend tell me that she had put her book in some obscure categories and it had risen to the top ten in three categories.

I pulled up Amazon and spent a lot of time looking at the number of books in various applicable categories. Obviously mystery was huge. So what to do? I thought about the elements of the book: art, food, mystery and Afghanistan orphans. I found the Museums & Art Collections category and decided my book fit into that category, plus there weren’t that many books in it. Then came the challenge of getting it on Amazon in that category. Went back and forth with emails and Kindle was very obliging. After several days, it went up in that category. It immediately went to #3. Then this weekend I decided to do a $.99 promotion. Within hours of putting it on my facebook site, tweeting, and google+ sites, it started going up. When I got up this morning, it was in the 6,000 Amazon paid and #1 in the above category and #21 in Cozy Culinary.

These are legitimate categories in which the book fits. If I’d kept it in just mystery and broad categories, it never would have achieved #1. The book is darned good, but I don’t delude myself that my name has the clout of Michael Connelly, Sandra Brown, or any of the other superb mystery writers. But I do have a gold banner next to the book on Amazon as a #1 Best Seller, just like Connelly!

Take some time and look over the categories where you’ve placed your books and where you could place your books. When you get to #1, I’d love to hear about it. Good luck!

Can you Imagine

Wanted to share a recent article I wrote for the Huffington Post. Enjoy!

 

Unfortunately, the United States is one of the few countries in the world which holds little reverence or respect for their elders. Other countries honor them, take them into their homes as they age and seek their wisdom. The Native Americans valued their counsels of elders, but today, we tend to warehouse family members when they get older.

What a loss! There’s so much we can learn from them. They’ve experienced the very things we’re often struggling with. They’ve seen the world change and learned how to adjust to it. Can you imagine not having an airplane to get on when you want to go somewhere? Can you imagine not having Google when you needed information? Can you imagine only being able to contact someone by a dial telephone, and often with a party line of other people listening in on your conversation? Can you imagine needing cash and having to wait until the bank opened? Can you imagine hearing that men were going to land on the moon? And one of my personal favorites, being out of books to read and having the library and book store closed. What? No Kindle? Our elders have seen all of that and more.

We recently had some neighbors over for dinner and one of them commented that one of our guest’s lives would make a great novel. Naturally, my interest was piqued! When she was 14, she’d taken a train from Berlin across Germany during WWII to see her newly-born nephew. Her story was fascinating. She told of having to get out of the train two and three times a day because of air raids. 14? And traveling by herself! Can you imagine? Today, we have apps on our smartphones so we know the exact location of our children. Many parents won’t let their children out in front of their house unless an adult is with them. 14? And traveling by herself? That’s a book in the making. And to think I’ve been waving to her and meeting her at the mailbox on a daily basis for over 20 years and yet really knew nothing about her. My loss!

There’s an elderly man who comes to our house once a week to pick our papers up and recycle them. He’s had a stroke and I’ve admired him for years for doing this. I’m sure it would be a lot easier for him to stay in his house rather than walk up to people’s side yards and get the papers. It can’t be easy to be in a body that only half responds. When he didn’t come for three weeks, I realized I knew nothing about him. I’d been far too busy doing the “stuff” in my life that I’d never taken the time to connect with him. Naturally, being a writer, my mind began making up stories about where he was. Of course I wondered about his health. Then I wondered if he’d gone back home, to Mexico. I’d heard him speak in a very heavy accent, so I assumed (and it was an assumption) that he’d come here from Mexico. But no matter how many stories I conjured up, none made up for the fact that I had not made the time to find out anything about him. He returned and I took the time and wondered why it had taken me so long. The stories he told took me took me to other places and captivated me. I think he enjoyed it as well. Now when I wave to him, I feel I know him, at least a little bit. It was a lesson we all need to learn — to take the time to connect with people.

Are we missing out on our elders’ stories because we get so caught up in our busyness and don’t take the time to listen? We have every time-saving device known to mankind, but do they really save us time? Seems to me everyone’s a whole lot more hurried trying to do as much as they can in the shortest amount of time possible.

I recently spent a few days in Montana. People actually wasted (as many would say) an afternoon just sitting around a picnic table talking and telling stories. One of the older women told how she would sing to the wild horses at midnight in the mountains when she was younger and they would lay down at her feet. Can you imagine? If I hadn’t been able to take the time to sit around that table, I never would have known about the wild horses in the mountains and it would have been my loss!

The next time that older person starts to talk, listen and ask some questions. You might get some firsthand knowledge from someone who’s experienced what you’ve only read about!

Follow Dianne Harman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DianneDHarman

Here’s what a great review reads like

Wanted to share a recent article I wrote for the Huffington Post. Enjoy!

 

Unfortunately, the United States is one of the few countries in the world which holds little reverence or respect for their elders. Other countries honor them, take them into their homes as they age and seek their wisdom. The Native Americans valued their counsels of elders, but today, we tend to warehouse family members when they get older.

What a loss! There’s so much we can learn from them. They’ve experienced the very things we’re often struggling with. They’ve seen the world change and learned how to adjust to it. Can you imagine not having an airplane to get on when you want to go somewhere? Can you imagine not having Google when you needed information? Can you imagine only being able to contact someone by a dial telephone, and often with a party line of other people listening in on your conversation? Can you imagine needing cash and having to wait until the bank opened? Can you imagine hearing that men were going to land on the moon? And one of my personal favorites, being out of books to read and having the library and book store closed. What? No Kindle? Our elders have seen all of that and more.

We recently had some neighbors over for dinner and one of them commented that one of our guest’s lives would make a great novel. Naturally, my interest was piqued! When she was 14, she’d taken a train from Berlin across Germany during WWII to see her newly-born nephew. Her story was fascinating. She told of having to get out of the train two and three times a day because of air raids. 14? And traveling by herself! Can you imagine? Today, we have apps on our smartphones so we know the exact location of our children. Many parents won’t let their children out in front of their house unless an adult is with them. 14? And traveling by herself? That’s a book in the making. And to think I’ve been waving to her and meeting her at the mailbox on a daily basis for over 20 years and yet really knew nothing about her. My loss!

There’s an elderly man who comes to our house once a week to pick our papers up and recycle them. He’s had a stroke and I’ve admired him for years for doing this. I’m sure it would be a lot easier for him to stay in his house rather than walk up to people’s side yards and get the papers. It can’t be easy to be in a body that only half responds. When he didn’t come for three weeks, I realized I knew nothing about him. I’d been far too busy doing the “stuff” in my life that I’d never taken the time to connect with him. Naturally, being a writer, my mind began making up stories about where he was. Of course I wondered about his health. Then I wondered if he’d gone back home, to Mexico. I’d heard him speak in a very heavy accent, so I assumed (and it was an assumption) that he’d come here from Mexico. But no matter how many stories I conjured up, none made up for the fact that I had not made the time to find out anything about him. He returned and I took the time and wondered why it had taken me so long. The stories he told took me took me to other places and captivated me. I think he enjoyed it as well. Now when I wave to him, I feel I know him, at least a little bit. It was a lesson we all need to learn — to take the time to connect with people.

Are we missing out on our elders’ stories because we get so caught up in our busyness and don’t take the time to listen? We have every time-saving device known to mankind, but do they really save us time? Seems to me everyone’s a whole lot more hurried trying to do as much as they can in the shortest amount of time possible.

I recently spent a few days in Montana. People actually wasted (as many would say) an afternoon just sitting around a picnic table talking and telling stories. One of the older women told how she would sing to the wild horses at midnight in the mountains when she was younger and they would lay down at her feet. Can you imagine? If I hadn’t been able to take the time to sit around that table, I never would have known about the wild horses in the mountains and it would have been my loss!

The next time that older person starts to talk, listen and ask some questions. You might get some firsthand knowledge from someone who’s experienced what you’ve only read about!

Follow Dianne Harman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DianneDHarman