Saturday, December 31, 2011

"if" Negations

Last post I found myself writing a construction that always confuses me, but is so common it was the first wording that appeared. Something like:

"I wonder if the realization of the perfect ending isn't part of the pleasure of reading."

"Isn't". Negative. Huh? (I think it has something to do with the subjunctive created by "I wonder if", but not sure and too tired to think it through.

I made it positive and CLEAR-- I wonder if the realization MIGHT BE....
Anyway, do you ever use that negative construction? Like:

She had to consider if he wasn't lying to her.
I questioned if she couldn't be this cheerful every day.

Well, now I'm having trouble coming up with examples! But I know I encounter this all the time in editing.  The "I wonder" and other conditional verbs seem to cause this.

Anyone else come across an example?  Anyone have any ideas why we do that?

Blog about writing process

I'm starting a Goodreads blog to chronicle my writing process and the questions and problems that come up as I write. I doubt anyone's interested in this, but what the heck. Maybe some future anthropologist will find it illustrative of the creative process or something.

Anyway, come join me there if you like watching sausage get made, I mean a book get written, though this probably is something you know from your own experience.


Friday, December 30, 2011

Article on ending

I thought it was just me, but this article on endings reports, "Earlier this year, researchers demonstrated that readers enjoyed stories more when they knew in advance how they would end, but the belief persists that an untimely revelation of plot points will ruin the experience."

 I do like to know the ending (I know, I'm a wuss), but I wonder if part of the pleasure of reading the perfect ending might be the surprise. That is, you're momentarily surprised, but then the rightness of the ending impresses you even more?

I don't mean twist endings. (I'm your father, Luke!)  I mean the sort of end the article talks about, that truly makes sense of the whole story, like 1984 ending with Winston professing his love for Big Brother. Will that realization be spoiled truly if you're told ahead of time, "Oh, Winston is brainwashed and ends up loving Big Brother?"

I hate coming up with last lines.  I never seem to find the right one. I often do a variation of "and they lived happily ever after" (well, not that bad).
What about you? How do you decide on a last line? Do you feel like you want to provide some philosophical coda?


Monday, December 26, 2011

The "Why" of Character Worksheets

There are a lot of character worksheets floating around. You might have seen a few yourself. They list hair color, eye color, occupation, age, clothing preferences, voice qualities, car, hobbies -- the lists vary, but the idea is the same. Fill out this list, and you will have a quick reference sheet to help you recall whether the police detective drives a Ford or a Buick and what color the pretty waitress's eyes were in chapter three. It's a good and useful aid to memory, and any good copy editor will have several such forms on hand to help them do their jobs.

But if you, the author, fill out a sheet like this and think you've created a character, you might have only done half the job. Sure, you have to remember whether the heroine's house is a ranch or a Cape Cod. But if I tell you, "Juliet lives in a white brick Georgian house," do you understand her character any better? Not really. Not without knowing why she lives there. Is it her dream house, or does she think it's a lemon? Did she inherit it? Did she buy it in a rush when her job relocated her across the country? Her relationship to the house -- the why of the house -- tells us more about the character than the fact of the house alone.

When you fill out one of these worksheets, ask "Why" at every stage. Sometimes the answers might be a little pat. Why is the romance heroine 27 years old? Because this is a good age to marry and start a family. It might really be that simple. Then again, think about how your story would change if your romance heroine was 67 or 17. Maybe now she doesn't have to worry about getting pregnant. Or maybe the hero has to worry about the age of consent. How does a simple detail like age affect the essentials of the story? Whatever the effect, understanding that will help you understand the "why" of your character choices. And when you understand that, then you understand your characters in a deeper, more meaningful way.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Over at RU

I'm talking about form and content and innovation and genre and why this isn't the same as a formula over at Romance University. We could subtitle that post, "This is what Theresa thinks about when she's walking through a roomful of Monets on her way to view the Rothkos."


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Scene Length

Someone emailed a question seeking guidance for how to determine the best length for scenes. She said her CPs were complaining that her scenes were too long, and she wasn't sure why they were making that comment.

Scene length is tricky because each scene is different. There's no set template for scenes or even for types of scenes. But if people are saying, "Your scenes are too long," that might mean they're literally physically too long, or it might mean there's a pacing issue within a scene that is a more or less appropriate length. These are related problems, of course, because if a scene goes on for 5k words and all they do is check their calendars to see when they're both free for coffee, chances are the length problem stems from a pacing problem.

How do you know when it's a pacing problem? Pacing problems occur when the story elements are not given an appropriate amount or type of attention in the text. To diagnose a pacing problem, start by identifying the important story elements in a scene. The more important an element is, the more space it should occupy on the page. (This assumes you're not trying to hide an important detail in plain sight, as sometimes happens with mystery clues. In that case, minimize the amount of page space granted to that detail.) Less weighty details should occupy less page space.

However, there's more to it than just the amount of page space. We also have to look at the type of narrative element being used to reveal the story element. So, let's say the story element is a bit of action -- someone does something in the physical world of the scene. Action is usually faster paced just by its nature, but it's possible to slow it down by revealing the character's physical movement through dialogue or exposition instead of through action.

Right then, Aaron pulled the trigger. (action)

"I am pulling the trigger right this second," Aaron said. (dialogue)
Aaron realized this was the appropriate time to use a pulling motion against the trigger. (exposition)

So, we've said that important story moments require more space on the page in order to carry their own narrative weight, but in this case, the longer the sample sentence gets, the slower the pace gets. What makes it slow down? Instead of directly conveying movement through action, it's being translated into another element, and the reader will have to mentally translate it back from dialogue or exposition to actual physical movement. This creates a drag on the pacing.

So, pacing is a complex issue that requires careful appraisal, and the general principles of pacing and length sometimes work against each other. That said, we can still formulate some very broad ideas about how long a scene should be.

Broad Idea #1:
If a scene is built around action and dialogue, it can be a bit on the long side.

Broad Idea #2:
If a scene is built around description, interior monologue, or exposition, it can be a bit on the short side.

These first two broad ideas work from the equally broad ideas that action and dialogue are faster (so you can have more of them before they feel slow), but description, interior monologue, and exposition are slower (so you should scale back on them to prevent a pacing drag).

Broad Idea #3:
The more the reader's emotions will be engaged, the longer the scene can be.

The reader's emotion can result from sharing the characters' emotions (as in a fight scene or a love scene), or it can occur from scene tension (as in a scene where the reader is on edge about what will happen next).

Broad Idea #4:
Modulate both the pace and the length of scenes.

Unless you're writing something meant for serialization and have strict format requirements, use a mix of lengths and paces to avoid a repetitive tone in the text.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Call to action

Working with a friend's ms, and I suggested she pump up the "call to action." That's usually in the first chapters, and is where the protagonist is given the incentive to act. It doesn't have to be a big high-stakes event, or some insistent demand, but I think a good "call to action" (Vogler calls it the "call to adventure," which is maybe more intriguing!) can entice the reader to keep reading and also launch the story into the second act of rising action.

Sometimes the call is rendered a bit too subtly to provide enough motivation for the protagonist to get off her duff and get moving.  However, we don't necessarily need a Wizard of Oz style tornado call to action. It can seem minor and become more important later, or actually be minor but end up dragging the character deeper and deeper into danger. Point is, whatever the incentive is, it should be enough to motivate the character out of her routine and into doing something.

and I came up with a few suggestions that might help power up the call, and give the reader a clue that conflict will be heating up.

1) Make it matter to the protagonist.  The main character is usually our surrogate in the story, so it has to matter to him/her for us to feel that it's important. I was just reading a pretty good book, a police procedural, that could have benefited from a stronger call to action.  The detective saw the central crime as just another murder of the 20 or so he investigates a year. There wasn't anything special about this murder, at least as far as he was concerned, and his "just a job" attitude made it easy not to get really invested in the conflict.

So what's different about this conflict event? Why is it a "call to action" that's more imperative than "get to work on time?" How can you show that either when the event is initiated, or as the character gets more involved?

2) Place it early. Don't make the reader wait too long. The call to action is the signal to the reader that the plot is getting underway. But it's also the event that tells the character to do something, to get started on the goal or overcoming the obstacles. In the classical dramatic schema, it's the end of the setup and the beginning of Act II. It means things are changing.
Even if you want to ease into the conflict-- it seems like just another murder at first-- think of having some little signal that this particular one is just a bit different, like the police commissioner calls right after the body is discovered in Chapter 1, oh so casually, to ask who caught the case. That way, when the victim is revealed in Chapter 3 to be the commissioner's mistress, the reader will experience a certain glee-- aha! I knew something was up!

3) Make it new. The police procedural never really overcame the "just another job" problem you see often in books where the protagonist's job is taking care of this problem. The call to action might SEEM routine-- just another murder for the homicide detective!-- but think about how you can pretty quickly make it more than just another job. Maybe the victim is the mayor's college roommate, or the evidence points to the police chief, or the modus operandi reminds an old-timer in the department of an unsolved murder, or.... What's different about this event? How is it not just routine? How can you show that early enough that the reader's attention doesn't wander off?

4) Make it demand some action. The "call to action" means the protagonist should act or react because of this, and not just the usual or routine (opening a file, stopping at the bank). What does the protagonist have to do in response to this event that's different than usual? Maybe he agrees to call the police commissioner back after the autopsy. Maybe he stays late to wait for a call from the Pacific Time parents about their daughter, and so misses the pickup at his kids' daycare center and gets into trouble with his ex-wife.  Or he has to call her at 5 pm and ask her to do the pick-up, even though it breaks his heart to hear her voice. The call to action should quickly disrupt this person's life and call for some unusual activity.

5) Use scene placement to show that however negligible this might seem, it's actually important. Anything placed at the end or beginning of a scene gains importance just from the position, from the pause that comes before or after, from the sense that all builds up to this event or ripples from it. 

6) Use another character to elicit some notion of "specialness".  The police commissioner is elaborately casual in his inquiry... too casual. The ex-wife remarks that the detective has always picked the kids up-- what's wrong?  The detective's partner passing by the desk picks up the file and mentions that this is the third "Brittany" killed this year-- weird, huh?

7) Don't be too gradual. This is my mistake every time. I think I want to make it entirely plausible, completely logical, and so I spend three scenes carefully setting up the interlocking clues that This Is Special. (I also keep telling myself to "bury" the big clues in the middle of other clues, so I have to create all those other clues, hence more scene detail, more scenes.) In the first scene, maybe the detective notices her charm bracelet. In the second, he has to call her parents to tell them that she's dead, and they weepingly tell him that she had a new boyfriend, someone important. In the third scene... you get the idea.  By the time the reader has carefully picked through the minefield of event, clue, detail, I might have lost her interest.
Stack.  Get more than one big moment into the "call to action" scene.  Start with the charm bracelet, have him call the parents, let the partner notice something-- all in one scene. Let the small event build into the larger revelation or realization that.... "this is different!"

8) Show the change soon. Again, don't be too gradual in the opening. (I think in the middle of the plot, you can probably take things more slowly and meticulously, but in the opening, you want to get underway.)  The call to action changes things not three scenes later, but right now. If you can make the change clearly a result of his taking this unprecedented action, all the better. As soon as he agrees to keep the commissioner informed, he gets caught up-- the commissioner is "casually" calling him the very next morning.

9) Show the character having to change-- that is, how does this skein of events make his actions and/or attitude different?  For example, he might be sort of flattered that the police commissioner is paying attention to him, but he knows that his captain won't approve, so when the commissioner calls, he lowers his voice and takes the phone into the hall so no one, not even his trusted partner, overhears.

10) Let this call to action open to a new world or a new opportunity.  Say the police commissioner is grateful to be kept informed, and invites the detective to his club where the mayor and the judges hang out. Or the trail of clues leads to Los Angeles and he has to board a flight and leave the frozen Midwest for the beach.

11) Notice what you set up in the call to action scene and use that later in the book, to deepen characterization or develop new conflict.  If you want him to get back together with his ex-wife, for example, in the end, how can you let the call to action and aftermath set that up? Like instead of just abandoning the kids at daycare (not conducive to later getting back with ex!), he uses this as an opportunity to call her, get her to do the pickup, and... this is the important thing... promise her in exchange a nice dinner out. That last in the chain of actions will set up the much later "date" that resolves the romantic conflict.

Again, you're in control here. You're the one who determines what the event is, and how it first appears. You can turn up or down the emphasis. You can move the initiating event earlier or later. You can use dramatic or understated prose. You can select detail that adds to the suspense or narrows the focus. You can show the ripples of the event on the character's life and the setting.  Challenge yourself to use the tools you've got to make this event a real call to action, for the reader as well as the character.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Four years ago today, Alicia and I plunked ourselves down at a Panera and opened a single laptop between us. An hour later, this blog had been born. We had no idea what we were getting into, really, and I remember at one point sort of wistfully wondering aloud if people would ever read it.

Here we are, four years later, and this blog has turned out to be a blessing in so many unexpected ways. We've made new friends with so many writers we might not otherwise have met. Our readership averages nearly 20k unique hits a month -- a fact that never fails to shock me. Several of our early readers are now published authors, and several of our published authors are now topping bestseller lists. We're humbled by the response and the effect this little blog has generated.

Thank you, all of you, for making that happen.


Monday, December 12, 2011

It takes more than a question mark to make a question.

Thea asks:

"I wonder if" sentences I was taught take periods at the end because they make a statement. These days, I often see "I wonder if" sentences end in question marks. Have standards changed on this matter? I'm wondering what is the correct handling of such sentences. Thank you.

There are two issues with the construction you mention. Let's start by creating a sample sentence. We'll work in third person because that's the standard for most kinds of fiction.

She wondered if this sentence would survive the red pen?

As written, I would want to correct this sentence. But I see two issues here, one of style and one of grammar. The grammar issue is a quickie, but it will help show the style issue for what it is.

Normally, to make a question in English, we do two things. We replace the period with a question mark, and we invert the main subject and verb. In our sample sentence, the main subject and verb are, "she wondered." Those are followed by a dependent adverb clause starting with the word "if." We don't invert the dependent part of the sentence. We invert the main subject and verb. So we would end up with:

Did she wonder if this sentence would survive the red pen?

That looks kind of bad, right? If we're in the pov of the "she" from this sentence, then she would know if she was wondering or not. The pov character's thoughts would not be hidden from the pov character. (Well, barring any plot elements involving mental derangement, experimental mind-bending drugs, and the like.)

You see, the real issue with this sentence lies not with the punctuation, but with the relegation of the important thought to a dependent clause attached to a "thought tag" type main clause. Thought tags attach to interior monologue the same way dialogue tags attach to dialogue.

She asked, "Will this sentence survive the red pen?"
She wondered if this sentence would survive the red pen.

In the dialogue, the tag serves to identify who asks the question. It's necessary to tag dialogue (or add a beat that identifies the speaker) when the speaker might not be otherwise clear. But if you're writing in an intimate point of view such as limited third,  then the identity of the thinker ought to be known to the reader. The pov character can't think other people's thoughts. He can only think his own thoughts. So we don't need to attribute those thoughts if the pov is clear. And if that's the case, slice off that thought tag and move the dependent material into an independent clause of its own.

Will this sentence survive the red pen?

Now it's a proper question in terms of grammar, but it's also better fiction style.

Yes, there will be times you'll want to attach thought tags to the interior monologue because the nature or manner of thinking is important to the action. For example, if you're writing about a brain-trauma patient becoming capable of thinking again, then using those kinds of words -- he realized, he reasoned, he thought, he wondered, etc. -- at the moment when thought returns would be important to the text. But for ordinary circumstances, the fact of thinking is not critical to the plot, and so these kinds of words serve only to weigh the pacing and create narrative distance.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Minor Rant About a Bad Trend

This afternoon, I was taking a moment to read one of the few non-publishing blogs I visit, and something in the comments section made me cringe. A regular commenter there, who is articulate and intelligent, used a colon in his comment. A colon, you know, is the one that has two dots stacked atop each other, a smile, not a wink. ( : ) Immediately under this comment, another commenter praised this use of a "semicolon" ( ; ), and then she claimed she was an editor.

Now, this error didn't escape my notice, but it did escape my censure, because we all can make a simple error like this in less guarded moments. We talk about semicolons all the time, and about colons only rarely. Her fingers may have typed the word semicolon automatically, and then she didn't catch it before she clicked to post the comment, and this is one of those places that doesn't allow for comment editing. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she caught the error too late to change it. It's an embarrassing mistake, but what happened next was even crazier. Others chimed in with, "Hooray for semicolons! I'm an editor, too!" type comments.

And those are a little harder to overlook or forgive. The bigger problem, though, is that they point up a disturbing trend I've noticed growing over the past six months or so. Seems everyone is claiming to be an editor these days, and some of these folks are displaying an appalling lack of command over the language. It's not just this chain of me-too comments from self-styled editors who don't know colons from semicolons. I've received DMs from people on twitter advertising their "editting" skills. I've heard countless tales of authors who hired the cheapest editor they could find, and were shocked at the complaints from reviewers about horrible editing. As more and more people pursue direct publishing, I imagine this trend will continue to grow.

Be careful when you hire an editor. When you submit to a house, of course, you don't always have control over who does the editing, and not all in-house editors are built alike. You get what you're stuck with. But when you hire a private editor, you have more control over who edits your work. That's one of the benefits of DIY publishing, right? So why would you hire a shoddy, cheap editor with no credentials other than the claim that they can edit? Would you hire a plumber without first checking whether they can actually fix pipes?

There are plenty of good editors out there. Really, there are, and we're not hard to find. Ask around. Ask your author friends for referrals. Word of mouth is the best advertising for any of us, but a good editor can usually point to a solid track record of published projects, strong reviews, endorsements, and the like. (Take a look at my minimalist informational website for an idea of what I mean. I cobbled this together in half an afternoon just so I'd have something to link to -- believe me, other editors can boast better developed sites, but mine at least has listed the basics.) And though many of us don't like to reveal the names of private clients without express permission, an absolute refusal to reveal anything about past projects probably means that there aren't any, or those projects never amounted to much. 

I'm hearing some of the same complaints about people trying to claim that they're cover artists. They're selling cover art for a pittance, and the grateful author snaps it up without realizing it's the wrong specs or there are copyright issues with the artwork. I haven't heard of similar problems with disreputable typesetters or file-makers, but that might just be because I haven't heard of them. The whole thing reminds me a bit of the days when everyone was rushing to set up an author website (mid-90s, late 90s) and so many people got burned by homecooked design jobs. Just be careful out there. There's a sucker born every minute, and right now, it seems a lot of people think writers are the suckers.


Mouse help?

Help! I need a mouse, I mean, really. I hate the touchpad. But my mouse isn't working-- suddenly.  Here's the scoop:

Put another battery in mouse.
Tried another mouse.
Tried all the USB ports.
Flashdrive worked fine in all USB ports.
Tried mouse in another PC and it worked fine (not mouse problem).
Reinstalled drivers.

I did all the troubleshooting and stuff, and nothing worked. I thought it might have something to the function key F9, so tried to toggle that, and nothing happened.

Device manager doesn't list the mouse, just the touchpad, now.

Any thoughts? I am pretty sure it's just a setting issue, that I inadvertently switched something off or on, so I'm really reluctant to spend $70 to have the tech keep it for a week and say, "Oh, you just needed to press Ctrl something."

Windows 7. Computer is about 2 years old, no problems.

Help! Any ideas?


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Editing and rights

RWA reports that at least one publisher (let's guess which) is suggesting that authors who get their rights back shouldn't use the edited book as that's a collaboration.  (Let me say quickly that RWA's position-- they got an attorney brief-- doesn't support this at all.) 

This is pretty pernicious. (For one thing, the finished book is usually copyrighted NOT to the publisher or editor, but just the writer.)  RWA suggests that everyone in this position should check their contract's reversion clause (none of mine, btw, say anything like that).

RWA does point out that material actually written by the publisher's employees, like the back cover copy, might be better left unused. (And the cover.)

Anyone have experience with this sort of situation?

I'm getting the idea that everyone wants to get yet another piece of the pie.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dean's at it again

I love Dean Wesley Smith's jaundiced blog posts looking back over 40 years in publishing.  He's got one up about agents, and maybe if you read it, come back and let's talk about this question: Are agents still essential? Were they ever? If you have decided to go another route, how does it work without an agent? Will agents be useful in the new publishing climate? How?

I was just in a discussion of "how to use IPads in a writing center," and I thought, "We're trying to come up with a purpose for the hardware!" So tell me if you think delineating "roles of agents in the new publishing climate" is sort of like trying to invent a purpose that isn't really there-- to help agents out, not expecting agents to help writers. I'm wary of that, because as Dean points out, the 90s and later, the industry kind of shifted in order to create roles for agents. Many writers were enriched that way, yes, but many never got past the door too.

Anyway, read the post (and comments-- Laura Resnick's is intriguing) and maybe tell what you're doing, how you've dealt with agents in the past, whether you're looking for or using an agent for your NYC-submissions, and whether if you're going direct or small publishing, whether you're using an agent, etc.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Who did Nano?

Who did Nanowrimo this November? Results?

No, not me. Sorry. I graded about 50K words of papers, but I don't think that counts!


Why Romance Novels Are Feminist in Nature

This might be the greatest thing I've ever seen on youtube.

Writing to Genre

This tends to happen more with newer, inexperienced writers, but it also happens with those who have been hanging around writer circles long enough to understand the mysterious and baffling world of genre. Here's the basic scenario. A writer generates a manuscript that doesn't fit any particular genre. There's a mystery, but it's handled in a subplot. There's a romantic relationship, but it already exists on page one and doesn't really change by the end of the story. The main character is female, but her personal journey doesn't form the central plot or structure -- some other external plot does, and the protagonist doesn't change as a result of the external plot action. There are family dynamics involved, but those dynamics are not large enough to carry the weight of a family saga. There are supernatural characters or horror elements, but all the other competing elements relegate them to a supporting role. There might even be a political assassination attempt thrown in somewhere around the midpoint. And, the cherry on top, it's set in 1870 in Wyoming. In short, the book is about everything and nothing, and it doesn't fit into anything like a recognized genre, let alone a particular subgenre.

A book like this will be hard to market even during good times. During these times of across-the-board uncertainty, it will be virtually impossible.

I know that's a tough reality. Believe me, I see the evidence of how tough it is for writers with this kind of book. This is something I deal with pretty regularly with clients, and these dealings tend to follow predictable patterns. I suggest ways to shift the book more firmly into one or another genre (which is the right move, especially if you're a new writer with no track record or fan base). I usually outline more than one strategy to accomplish this so that the writer has a choice of direction. But the response is usually uncomfortable, sometimes even hostile. "Why do I have to change this?"

Because you do. Because books are a retail commodity marketed under "the same but different" principles. Because you are an unknown. Because until readers start asking bookstore clerks for your books by your name -- "Do you have the latest Steven King/Scott Turow/Nora Roberts?" -- they will be more likely to buy your book if it bears a resemblance to the latest King or Turow or Roberts.

Someday, you might have enough pull, or times might be good enough, so that you can publish your hybrid romance/mystery/horror/political thriller/family saga/coming of age/western novel. But when you're new and untested, the best way for you to find readers will be by writing to recognized genre standards. Innovate within the form now, and innovate the form itself later. (If ever. Chances are, after you have ten or so books out there, you'll also have a tidy collection of tales of woe from authors who risked books like that. Seriously, folks, there's a reason these books rarely get published. No matter what happens on the actual last page, the story almost never ends well.)

Does this mean the hybrid book is terrible? Of course not. In fact, I've read some excellent hybrids over the years. None of them have seen publication, but they were darned good, and I'm glad I had the chance to read them.And yes, there are tales of breakout, genre-busting books -- and yes, some of the books I've read could find huge crossover readership. Or they could end up disappointing readers who were looking for "the same, but different," and found not enough same, and too much different. Regardless, the reality is that these books are a damned hard sell, and if you're interested in being a career writer, it's wise to start by writing to genre specifications.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Misdirection for emotion

I just saw a heartrending scene on TV (Law and Order, actually), which would be devastating anyway-- parents identifying the body of their slain child. But the scene made it even more excruciating. When the cover was drawn back, the mother breathes a sigh of relief and says, "It's not my baby." For a moment, there's this hope... and hope, you know, is the most dangerous emotion of all. The husband looks at her, and embraces her, and his face tells the truth-- it is indeed their son.

I'm wondering if that moment of misdirection is something we can use when we designe scenes, as long as it fits and doesn't seem contrived. (In this case, of course, we understand that the mother might wish so hard she sees what's not there, or doesn't see what is there.) The misdirection gives another moment of suspension, a gathering of dread and hope-- and then the emotion that results is that much more intense.

How can we postpone the emotional denouement to increase the power? It's all in scene design.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Poll results

We recently polled our readers about a common twitter practice seen from authors.
Here are the results.

An author followed you on twitter, and you followed them back. They immediately DMd you a link to their amazon page. This is:

Smart marketing, and I will click the link.   2 (1%)

Acceptable marketing, and I will not click the link.  6 (4%)

Something I delete without further consideration.  31 (21%)

Bad netiquette, but other than temporary annoyance, I let it slide.  82 (56%)

Unacceptable, and I unfollow them, and maybe report the spam.  25 (17%)

Of course, this isn't a scientific poll, but I think we can safely assume that sentiment runs against this particular PR practice. If the poll is accurate, this means DM spam is 12 times more likely to result in an unfollow than in a clicked link. About three out of four people find it bad or unacceptable, and only 5% view it as smart or acceptable. Even if these numbers are off by a wide margin, that margin won't be wide enough to reverse the trend. In fact, given that many of our readers are authors who are on twitter and looking for ways to promote their books there, I tend to suspect any error is in the other direction. I tend to suspect self-promoting authors are more tolerant of author self-promotion (even bad self-promotion) than the general public might be.

In any case, this all leads me to ask one question. If sentiment is so strongly opposed to this kind of self-promotion, then why in the world would anyone continue to do it? Is it mere ignorance, or are we missing something?