Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bookish Stuff

You know how when you were a kid, you'd count down every day until your birthday? That's kind of how it's going now with the book. Sometime today I'm hoping to see a more detailed version of the cover art. I did get some dates though. ARCs go to press on the 6th, which means they should be back from the printer by the end of May. I assume this means the cover will be finalized sometime between now and then. The actual release is going to be a week later than I thought. It will offically come out on the 12th of September. That means I'll be touring for the two weeks beginning the 13th. Whoo hoo!

Yesterday I got back the final inside the cover blurb, and the final author bio. Not quite as cool as the cover I'll admit. But, hey, I'll take what I can get. So here they are. (Tomorrow I have to tell you about the most fun and funniest game I've played in quite a while. My younger boys and I are hooked on it.)

Farworld, book 1: Water Keep

Confined to a wheelchair, thirteen-year-old Marcus Kanenas is an outcast and a nobody, but that doesn't stop him from dreaming of a world far away, a world where magic is as common as air, where animals tell jokes and trees beg people to pick their fruit. He even has a name for this place—Farworld.

When Marcus magically travels to Farworld, he meets Kyja, a girl without magic in a world where spells, charms, and potions are everywhere, and Master Therapass, a master wizard who has kept a secret hidden for thirteen years, a secret that could change two worlds.

But the Dark Circle has learned of Master Therapass’s secret and their evil influence and power are growing. Farworld’s only hope is for Marcus and Kyja to find the mythical Elementals—water, land, air, and fire—and convince them to open a drift between Earth and Farworld.

As Kyja and Marcus travel to Water Keep, they must face the worst the evil Dark Circle can throw at them—Summoners, who can call forth armies of the dead; Unmakers, invisible creatures that are the very opposite of reality; and dark mages known as Thrathkin S’Bae.

Along the way, Marcus and Kyja will discover the truth about their own heritage, the strength of their friendship, and the depths of their unique powers.

About the Author

J. Scott Savage has been creating stories for as long as he can remember. He lives at the mouth of a canyon where morning and evening winds keep the air clear and blue—along with blowing over patio tables, trees, basketball stands, and the occasional small child. He has a wonderful wife who has stuck with him for more than twenty years, four great children, a spastic border collie, and possibly three or four fish. (The pond is still frozen, so he isn’t quite sure.)

Scott has held too many jobs to count, including: a mall Santa, French chef, CEO of a dot com, plumber, radio station talk show host, and the guy who sits in the little photo developing booth. He has completed one marathon and hopes to complete another when the memories finally fade away. He loves reading, writing, camping, playing games with his family, and especially hearing from and meeting his readers. To e-mail him or schedule a visit, come to his website www.readfarworld.com

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Return of the King


Well, after a week of voting, the results are in. We’ve decided what the top ten fantasy series titles of all time are. (We are the deciding committee after all right?) It’s been a lot of fun, and I have to admit I’ve added several new titles to my TBR list. I’ve also discovered that for polling purposes, the VIZU tool wins hands down.

We had a few less voters in this final round. Not sure if that’s because it’s Saturday, (and a beautiful Saturday here in Utah) or if the ranking tool was a little more intimidating. In any event, even with the slightly lower numbers, the voting was surprisingly consistent. There were a few wildcards. But you generally agreed on who went where for at least the top six or so.

I don’t think the top three or so will be all that surprising to most of you, but the order they came might. I wondered if HP had replaced LOTR in the hearts of fantasy readers—especially the younger ones. But clearly it hasn’t. It also makes me happy to see everyone still loves Narnia.

I have to admit, my heart raced a little as I considered having my novels join a group like the ones we’ve discussed. Not that I would ever dream of being compared to these top titles, but they very fact that I’ll be on the same shelves with them makes me smile all the time. So with no further writing, here are your top ten winners and the average place they were voted.

Hope you enjoyed this half as much as I did. Back to our normal programming next week.


Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien 1.4
Narnia by C.S. Lewis 3.7
Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling 4.3
The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan 5.5
Inkheart Trilogy by Corneila Funke 6.1
The Time Quartet by Madeline L'Engle 6.1
The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud 6.7
Fablehaven by Brandon Mull 6.9
Tales of Alvin Maker by Orson Scott Card 7.2
His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman 7.2


Hope you enjoyed this half as much as I did. Back to our normal programming next week.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Final Fantasy

And thus ends the second to the last round. We’ve narrowed the fantasy series titles from sixty to ten.

The second five to go move on are as follows.

In first place, with 78.9% Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling

Coming in second, with 52.6% The Time Quartet by Madeline L'Engle

Then we have a two way tie between The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman, each with 42.1%

And finally Tales of Alvin Maker by Orson Scott Card 42.1%

For the final shootout, I am going to try something a little different. Rather than just voting for your favorites, I trying a tool that will actually let you rank your favorites from 1-10 (1 being the highest, 10 being the lowest.) Just click the arrows until you have the titles in the order you want and click vote.

It doesn't look like I can have the results show after voting, So I'll post the full results at the end of the voting Saturday. Good luck and good voting.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Round 5 Goes Out With a Bang

Wow, the number of people voting has skyrocketed. And the competition was fierce. (Although just wait until Saturday!) Out of ten very good fantasy series we have narrowed it down to five that will go on.

They are:

With 88.9% of the votes, first place goes to Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
In a close second with 85.2% of the votes, was The Chronicles of Narnia
With 55.6% of the votes, the Inkheart Trilogy by Corneila Funke
With 44,4% of the votes, Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
And finally, with 37% of the votes, The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud (Which was actually out at one point. Cool comeback.)
Now for Round 6, which will decide the final five books that will make it to the ultimate fantasy shootout.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Round 4 1/2 -- Pick the 5 That Go On

Wow. This has been a tough one. It’s like watching a triple overtime basketball game, or a baseball game that goes twenty innings. Since I need to get up the next poll. I took the one clear winner, The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud, and picked the second winner by the scientific method of asking my wife to pick a number between 1 and 4. Since the Vizu poll opens in random order, it seemed as good a way to pick as any. The last series to make round five is . . . (internet drum roll please) . . . The Chronicles of Prydain by Alexander Lloyd. (loud tooting of cornets!)

Let the next round begin. Step 1 in, THE FINAL COUNDOWN!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

And . . . The Winners of Round Four Are!

Okay, I know I’ve been cutting the voting off earlier than I said I would. But I am still in Michigan. Grand Rapids yesterday. Lansing today. (To all you Michiganites out there, this area is just plain gorgeous!) But I have to get up at 5:00 (3:00 my time) to catch a flight home. So I need to get some shut eye.

Five more clear winners today. They are:

Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling in a runaway first place (any surprises there?) with 16 votes.

The Time Quartet by Madeline L'Engle with seven votes

And a three way tie for third, with five votes each for: Belgariad and Mallorean by David Eddings, The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan, and The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind

All very good books. Let me just give a shout out to a friend and fellow author, Brandon Sanderson who not only has written the Mistborn series, Elantris, and Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians (a MG fantasy/SciFi) novel, but who was also chosen by Robert Jordan’s widow to write the last book in The Wheel of Time Series. He is a great person. An awesome writer. And definitely the right man for the job.

Okay, on to round 4 ½ where we break some ties, give some drop outs a second chance, and pick the final two novels to make round five. This time you can only vote for up to two.

Thanks again, this has been a lot of fun for me.

Good news by the way. I can go back to the VIZU voting. I wish it showed how many people had voted (to you the readers. I can see it from my side) but at least it works and doesn't break the backspace button on IE browsers.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Round 3 Results

First let me highly encourage you to go out and get the third book in NY Times Best Selling Author, Brandon Mull's Fablehaven YA fantasy series. I seriously believe this may be one of the most enjoyable series since HP. I got a chance to get an early copy, but it's on sale everywhere today, and it totally rocks! Fablehaven 3 Grip of the Shadow Plague


Another day, another round completed. Today I’m ending things just a little early as I’m on a business trip in Michigan, (Can you believe 70+ degrees? That’s like 25 degrees warmer than Utah today. Shirt sleeve weather!) so I’m ending just a little early to hit the hay. No ties today. The winners are clear:

His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman and Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin tie for first with seven votes each.

Dresden Files by Jim Butcher with six votes

Tales of Alvin Maker by Orson Scott Card with five votes

And Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis with four votes

Maybe the biggest surprise is that Inheritance didn’t make the cut. Does that say something about plot, writing, movie, or all three?

In response to anon's comment about Ice and Fire, (which I haven't read yet. so I can't comment on it) unlike movies, there are no ratings on books. So, I would recommend you do a little research before reading any book or series. With the number of reviews available online these days, there's no need to read something you are uncomfortable with without knowing in advance that the type of novel may not be your style. Different people have differnt tastes.

So on to Round 4. Should be a couple of familiar names in this round.

On a totally unrelated note, can I just say I am so pumped for the Speed Racer movie? I know that says a lot about my geekdom and age. But I grew up with the Mach 5, and it looks like they did a great job with the movie. Yes!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Round Two Winners

I guess I should have foreseen some ties coming. We have three clear winners in Round 2. They are:

Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien with 15 votes.

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Steven R. Donaldson with 8 votes.

And Redwall by Brian Jacques with 5 votes.

We also have a six way tie for fourth place. Each of the following got 4 votes.

Tawny Man by Robin Hobb
Temeraire by Naomi Novak
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
Word and the Void by Terry Brooks
The Lost Years of Merlin by T.A. Barron

So here’s what we’ll do. Let’s move on to rounds three and four. After round four, instead of going to round 5, we’ll have a tiebreaker round. This will include any titles that tied for moving on, and maybe even a couple of titles brought back by popular choice. Then we’ll move on to rounds five and six, and the final round seven. There will still be only 10 series in each of the last three rounds, so if we need another tie-breaker after round 4 1/2 , it will be by coin toss.

Again, thanks for your votes, I may be a fantasy geek, but I’m really enjoying this. E-mail me if you can't get the vote button to work.

Oh, FYI, if you see a few new series showing up, that’s because a few got disqualified for not being fantasy, so I’ve been scouring my bookshelves.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Round 1 Winners

Okay, gang. The first round of voting is officially closed. The winners of Round 1 are:

The Chronicles of Narnia with 14 votes
Dragonriders of Pern with 12 votes
Inkheart Trilogy with 9 votes
Fablehaven and Sword of Shannara with 8 votes each.

Each of these will move on in round 5

Honorable mentions go to:

The Bartimaeus Trilogy and Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn

On to Round 2 which closes on midnight Sunday

For the next three rounds I'll continue using this poll format even though we've had some problems. Once we get to rounds 5-7 I can go back to the old format. Again, e-mail me if you can't vote.

Friday, April 18, 2008

And The Winner Is

Okay, gang, comments are officially closed for the fantasy series contest. First of all, let me just say, "Wow! You folks are good!" Even with a few titles that I pulled out because I didn't think they completely qualified as a fantasy series, there were 59 nominations. I went ahead and added one more to make it an even 60 for voting purposes.

First let's announce the winner of the contest. Then we'll get to the voting process. The winner, as randomly chosen by some random number generator I found on the internet is . . . Raych. Congratulations! E-mail me at scott at jscottsavage dot com, and I'll send you the fantasy novel of your choice.

You all have listed a ton of great fantasy series. I'm actually going to print this out and start taking it to conferences for when people ask what fantasy books are good. I'll post the full list below. I'm sure I've got some mistakes here, so feel free to point out if I've misspelled an author's name or series. Voting for the best of the best begins tomorrow.

Here's how we'll do it. I'll divide the books into four groups. Using the poll on the right we'll pick the best from each group, with one round per day. Each round will consist of 15 titles. You can pick up to five from each group. Once we have twenty titles (after four rounds), we'll narrow it down to ten (almost like March madness.) Then the final ten will duke it out head to head. Each round will last one day, beginning Saturday and ending next Friday.

One note. Rather than divide the list completely randomly, I'm going to try to make sure there are an even number of heavy hitters in each group.

This should be fun. Here's the full list:

The Chronicles of Prydain by Alexander Lloyd
Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
The Ships (Ship Who Sang) by Anne McCaffrey
Crystal Singer by Anne McCaffrey
Tower and Hive (The Rowan) by Anne McCaffrey
Catteni (Freedom's Landing) by Anne McCaffrey
Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Redwall by Brian Jacques
Chanur by C.J. Cherryh
Foreigner by C.J. Cherryh
Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis
The Southern Vampire Novels by Charlain Harris
Newford by Charles De Lint
Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
To Say Nothing of the Dog, and The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
Inkheart Trilogy by Corneila Funke
Pendragon by D. J. MacHale
Belgariad and Mallorean by David Eddings
The Runelords by David Farland
Young Wizards (So You Want to be a Wizard...) by Diane Duane
Warriors by Erin Hunter
The Old Kingdom Trilogy by Garth Nix
Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
Children of the Red King (Charlie Bone) by Jenny Nimmo
Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan
The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud
Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
The Curse of Chalion, Paladin of Souls, and The Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMaster Bujold
The Time Quartet by Madeline L'Engle
The Death Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
The Rose and the Prophet by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
Temeraire by Naomi Novak
Tales of Alvin Maker by Orson Scott Card
His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman
Incarnations of Immortality by Piers Anthony
Riftwar by Raymond E Feist
Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
Conan the Barbarian by Robert E Howard
The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
Tawny Man by Robin Hobb
The Liveship Trilogy by Robin Hobb
Farseer by Robin Hobb
Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
Samaria by Sharon Shinn
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Steven R. Donaldson
The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
The Lost Years of Merlin by T.A. Barron
Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn by Tad Williams
Alanna by Tamora Pierce
Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
Word and the Void by Terry Brooks
The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind
Discworld by Terry Pratchett

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

It's (Not) Just A Fantasy, Contest

Okay, time to find the best fantasy series (Is series the plural of series? Because I want to find the top ten or so.) of all time. We might as well make it a contest to boot. Here’s what I’m going to ask. Leave a post with as many of your favorite fantasy series (same problem again) as you want. On Saturday I will take all the series (pl) we have collected, a create a playoff pool. Then we’ll start voting for the best of the best. The contest angle is that I will pick one random commenter (some of you are definitely more random than others) and them a fantasy title of their choice. All fantasy genres apply.

I’ll start off with "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever," the first series other than Lord of the Rings to really hook me hard. And "The Dreseden Files." The most recent series to hook me.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Book Giveaway

My good friend and fellow Shadow Mountain author is giving away some books and T-Shirts on his blog. Notice that I'm linking to HIS contest, even though that weenie hasn't said a darn thing about my blog tour. So if you want to win a free copy of "The 13th Reality," which I must say is a darn good YA read, pop on over to his blog and post a comment.

May I suggest something like, "Why haven't you posted about Savage's blog tour?" or "Has anyone ever told you that you look remarkably like Mr. Bean?" Those will make his day and increase your chances of winning. In fact I will send a copy of "13th Reality" myself to the first person who makes both of those comments.

Note 1: See, give a guy a little trash talkin in public and everything works out. Since he did so kindly add a great link to the blog tour, I'll change the rules. The first person to mention Mr. Bean in any way on his blog, gets a free book from me. On a serious note, James Dashner is an amazing writer, and my Farworld series would not have happened without him, so drop by his blog. He will definitely make you laugh.

His blog is http://www.jamesdashner.com/
The website for his series is http://www.the13threality.com/



Note 2: Someone pointed out that I inadvertently posted a picture of the actual Mr. Bean. Wow, my bad. I’m sure it was an accident. I could have sworn that was Dashner at a Barnes and Noble book signing. I know that’s his suit. But for the sake of truthfulness in advertising or global warming, or some important cause, here is a real picture of James Dashner. You do have to admit the likeness is eerie, is it not?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Suspension of Disbelief, or Keeping the Magic Alive

After recently finishing “Heart Shaped Box” by Joe Hill, (Very, very good read. Some language people might find offensive, but he is definitely his father’s son. In fact I liked the ending much better than most of Stephen King’s novels.), I started his “20th Century Ghosts” last week.

So far I am really enjoying this book of short stories. However the third story in the book, “Pop Art,” was especially remarkable. It begins with this sentence. “When I was twelve years old, my best friend was inflatable.” Now before you start getting any funny ideas, let me clarify. This is a story about two twelve year-old boys, one of whom is inflatable. Not a doll mind you. But an inflatable boy.

The narrator says this about his friend. “The condition Art suffered from is one these genetic things that plays hopscotch with the generations, like Tay-Sachs (Art told me once that he had a grand-uncle, also inflatable, who flopped one day into a pile of leaves and burst on the tine of a buried rake).”

Now imagine for a minute that you just came up with the idea for this story. Your friend asks, “What’s the story about?” You answer with a straight face, “A twelve year old kid with an inflatable friend.” Your friend says something like, “That’s the lamest idea I ever heard.”

The idea is completely crazy. I mean how could the reader possibly be expected to believe in an inflatable kid? But the thing of it is, you do. I did. When the inflatable boy is nearly popped, the reader is actively concerned for his well being. The author has you worrying about a kid with a blow-up valve on his shoulder.

Why?

Primarily it’s about something called suspension of disbelief. In simpler terms it means that the reader wants to believe your story. Interestingly enough Stephen King himself, compares it to a magician and an audience. When people go to a magic show, they are trying to figure out the tricks. They don’t want to believe the performer up on the stage is actually doing magic. They don’t want to be tricked.

With a book however, it’s exactly the opposite. The reader wants to believe in magic. That’s one of the main reasons they’ve opened the book in the first place. They want to believe in spells, and wizards, and ghosts, and inflatable boys. They are giving the author the benefit of the doubt and it’s up to the author not to let them down.

How does an author maintain that belief the reader has given him or her? First off by being consistent. In the case of Pop Art, Hill shows us that the boy can’t talk because he has no mouth. He has to write on a tablet hung around his neck. (With crayons of course. No sharp pencils.) He shows the boy being batted up into the air by some bullies with a Wiffle bat. He even has a little story to explain why Art wasn’t circumcised. (Art is a Jewish inflatable boy.) It’s a great story. You completely believe in Art. You like him. You worry for him.

The next thing is that you have to create rules and stick to those rules. Art can’t run fast because he basically has no muscles. But he can jump quite high, quite quickly. He is prone to the same problems any inflatable would be prone to. He has to be regularly inflated. He must avoid sharp objects. He is easily knocked around. By sticking to the rules, Hill keeps us believing.

These same rules apply to fantasy. Magic is one of the toughest things to deal with in a fantasy novel. The biggest problem is how magic works. What limits are placed on it.

As an author you have to decide the “rules” of magic. Is there a limit to it? Must it recharge? Who can use it and where does it come from? Even if you don’t call the magic magic, you still must have rules. JK Rowling gets around quite a bit of this by limiting how magic can be used in front of muggles. She also has the kids learn a little more as they go.

Of course there are always going to be loopholes. Why, for instance, are the Weasleys so poor if they can transmute one thing to another? If you can change a mouse to a cup, why not change an orange to a diamond? But early on Rowling showed us Gringotts Vault. By showing us that even magic folk protected their money, we accept that for some reason there is still a currency. Maybe magic coins can’t be conjured? It doesn’t really matter as long as we are consistent.

Another thing an author must do if he is going to maintain disbelief is prepare the reader for things to come. By showing us early how good Harry Potter is on a broom right from the start, it is okay later to have him use that talent in Quidditch, the Tri-Wizard tournament, etc. In fact we even add to the belief when we learn that genetics are in play as Harry’s father was a great Seeker. It would have completely pulled us out of the story if Harry hadn’t discovered he was good on a broom until he needed it to get out of a scrape.

Another thing that is key, is characterization. Recently I was talking to a friend about a book she wasn’t too impressed with. “Even in the middle of the battle,” she said, “I didn’t care what happened.” That’s because the character hadn’t become real to her. Every major character, good or bad, must have believable motives. They must have side stories. I would not have cared near as much about what happened to Art if I hadn’t come to really like him as a person. In the moments when we share his hopes and dreams, we forget he is inflatable.

The great thing about being a fantasy author is that I know my readers are looking for cool things. They want a world that surprises and mystifies them. They want fanciful creatures and exciting adventures. The downside is that fantasy readers, ironically enough, are the toughest to sneak anything by on. If I explain why some things change when they go from one world to another—or if I even have the characters make an educated guess but leave open that more information may be forthcoming—readers will accept it. But if I just randomly have some things change and others not, they will eat me alive.

So what keeps you believing, and what pulls you out of the story?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

What's In A Name

In my last post, I talked about book covers. Today I’m going to discuss the actual title of the first volume. Again you’d think that would be addressed early on in the process. But like the cover art, the title of a book can have a huge impact in its sales—at least initially. You have to consider the age of the target audience, the genre, and other books that are out. An unusual title can stand out, but if it’s too long it can be hard for readers to remember. A shorter title can be good, but does it say enough to hook a prospective reader.

I’ve always loved the Farworld series title and my publisher did too. Surprisingly, it hasn’t been used much in fiction—although the website is taken by a tech company of some kind. (The official website will be at www.readfarworld.com, but it will be awhile before that goes up.)

The working title of Book 1 was “City Under the Water”, which was originally what I called the place where the Water elementals lived. That title quickly changed to “Farworld—Water”, as each of the first four books deal with finding a different elemental group. The thing is, the more we talked about it, the less my publisher like that title. The problem is that “Water”, by itself, doesn’t have much kick to it.

The publisher liked “The Water Elemental.” But to me that made the book sound like it is actually about a water elemental as opposed to searching for their city and their help. After getting quite a bit of feedback (including some great thoughts from the Green Dragon gang over at Librarything.com) I talked to the publisher about going another direction.

Awhile back I had decided to change the name of the elementals’ home to Water Keep. We all really liked this as a title. It’s something you can repeat in future books Fore Keep, Air Keep, etc. It’s cool for people who know that a keep is like a castle and for people who don’t, it’s mysterious enough that hopefully they’ll want to know more. It goes great with the cover art, and yet it’s simple enough that people can remember it. And best of all, when I did an Amazon search for it, nothing showed up.

So unless something changes, Farworld—Water Keep it is.

By the way, tomorrow I get to see a more detailed sketch of the cover art, before Brandon does the actual artwork. Can’t wait.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Cover Art

So, I get a call from Chris at Shadow Mountain yesterday. “Scott, I don’t know what your afternoon looks like. But Brandon just sent over some cover sketches and . . .”

I think I might have been at his office before he finished the sentence. Okay, not really. It’s about a twenty minute drive from my office to his. So it probably took me five to seven minutes to get there. I’ve been excited about this meeting for a couple of reasons.

First, and foremost, it’s a freaking fantasy cover for my new series. What’s not to get excited about? I’ve never put a book poster from any of my other books up on the wall, but this baby is going to be framed, spotlighted, and put right in the center of the living room wall where you have to see it as you come in the house. Okay, not really, that spot is actually taken up with a giclee of the prince rising on his white steed to rescue Sleeping Beauty painted by one of the illustrators who did Marie Poppins, among many other Disney films. But I am going to frame it and put it up in my office.

The second reason is that despite what most readers think, authors often get very little say in what their covers look like. I’m sure bigger authors have this benefit, but with my regional novels I never saw the cover art until it was actually in a catalog. So to have Shadow Mountain not only give me a sneak peek, but actually ask for my input, is incredible.

Once I got to the office, Chris and Richard, the art director, met with me in a conference room overlooking Temple Square in Salt Lake, which is really beautiful this time of year. The first thing they did was show me the font they’ve been working on for the Farworld title. Now I’ll admit, this isn’t something I’ve paid much attention to before. I mean I know font is important and all, but these guys take it to a new level. They actually look at the series font the same way a company looks at a logo. In fact it is the logo for the series. For example, look at the logos they did for Fablehaven and The 13th Reality. Cool huh?


The font they are working on for Farworld totally blew me away. Think Gothic (You know where the O’s have little plus signs inside and all) but souped up with all kinds of fantasy feel to it. A font shouldn’t be able to make the hair on the back of my neck stand up, but it did!

Then we discussed the title. This has actually been something we’ve been playing with for awhile. If you haven’t read the overview I put together in my “hooks” post, the first four books in the five book series focus on finding the four elements of water, earth, air, and fire. (In this case land instead of earth, because Earth means the planet in this series.) So the original idea was to just call it Farworld—Water. But we all agreed that Water just doesn’t have that much kick to it. We’ve been playing around with Water Elemental, because the protagonists are looking for the elementals. But that felt a little too young, and the story is not about the elemental as the primary character. It looks like we’ve decided on Water Keep, which is where the elementals live. So that’s cool.

Then they spread out the different sketches.

Can I just say my heart leapt right up in my throat? Brandon Dorman is an art god. He just whips out six different cover ideas and all of them blew me away. It was like being a kid in a candy shop. I’m sitting there going, “Oh this cool. But I really like that too. And, oh my gosh, look at that one.”

Fortunately once my heart resumed a somewhat normal rhythm, I could look objectively at them, and we all zoomed in on the same one. I can’t say a lot about the sketch, because it will change a lot before it becomes the actual cover. But let me just say, I think it will stop people in their tracks. It combines several different parts of the story with the feel of the actual cover being water. It nailed a couple of minor characters which I really liked so well that it felt like Brandon had pulled them straight out of my imagination.

There are a few changes we discussed, but really just minor tweaks on how a certain part should look or how the covers of the series would tie together. But I walked out of the office and to my car floating on clouds. Some time this month I should have the final cover and I’ll post it here before I show it anywhere else. I’ve said it before, but let me repeat, being a fantasy author has to be just about the best job in the world.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Marketing Part IV—The Blog Tour

As promised, I am officially kicking off the Find Your Magic, Farworld Blog tour. Since I haven’t done this before, I am going to kind of make it up as I go. It’s pretty simple, so that shouldn’t be too hard. But if any of you more experienced bloggers think of a better way to do it, or catch something I missed, let me know. Here’s the deal:

My publisher, Shadow Mountain, is providing me with 400 advanced reader copies of the first book in the Farworld series, Farworld—Water. The books will be used for a blog tour running from July 1 to August 31. (The book should hit the shelves the first week of September. It appears the official release date is September 5th.) I will send the first 200 bloggers who sign up to take part in the tour an ARC, and will also drop ship a second copy for them as part of any type of contest they would like to run.

What: Farworld Blog Tour
When: The tour will run through the months of July and August. Signup will begin Friday, April 11th. (But you can get in early. See below.)

Here’s what you do:

1) Send an e-mail to me at scott at jscottsavage dot com any time after 7:00 am MST Friday, April 11th telling me the name and URL of your blog, the mailing address where you’d like the book sent, and any preference you have as to when you want to post your review. I’d kind of like to spread out the reviews over the two months prior to the release, but I don’t want to tie anyone to a specific date. Let’s just make it easy and say first half of July, second half of July, first half of August, or second half of August.

2) Agree to run a review of the book and do a Q&A with me on your blog during the tour. You don’t need to send me your questions now, since you may come up with different questions once you’ve read the book. (I’d imagine something like, “If you can get this trash published, doesn’t that give hope for everyone?”) Okay, I hope that’s not really the first question that comes to mind, but it would be great if sites asked questions that are most tailored to their audience so they aren’t all the same.

3) When the time comes to do the review and the Q&A, run any type of contest you’d like. When you have a winner, send me their address and I’ll send them their book. On both the book I send you and the one I send the winners, let me know if you’d like them signed and personalized in any way.

Here’s what I do:

1) I will provide Shadow Mountain with the list of blogger addresses. As soon as the ARCs come out they will be mailed to you.

2) I will post here on the site when the tour is full, and when the ARCs are sent out. If you don’t get your book within a week or so of the mailing, let me know and I’ll check on your copy.

3) As soon as I get your questions, I’ll send back my answers.

4) If we get too many people signing up for one part of the tour, I’ll ask for volunteers to change to another part of the tour.

Random Notes:


G sharp, E flat, D.

Sorry.

The only real rules I can think of are that you must be using a blog that is fairly active. No fair using sites that haven’t been updated since 1999, cool as that year was. If you have two blogs that have different audiences, I think I’d be okay with you posting and running contests on both of them, but I’d only send you one review copy. Also, if you are part of a blog that you share with other people, it will be first come first serve. Only one review and contest copy per blog.

Oh, this might be kind of a pain, but since the initial release will only be in the US, I’m going to limit the tour to US and Canadian addresses only. I promise to do another tour in other countries when foreign rights are sold.
If you don't have a blog, not to worry. I'll link to all the blogs on the tour, so you'll have 200 chancea to win one. And I might be able to snag a couple of extra copies to give away here too.

Finally, thanks everyone. I really appreciate all of you who have given me such great feedback and support. It’s great to have good people helping you, and I hope I can return the favor. But in all seriousness, review the book honestly. I’d much rather have someone say they didn’t like this or that so I can try to improve with the next book in the series. But, hey, if you really do think I’m the next JK Rowling, say what you have to.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Marketing Part III—Finding the Magic


When I was in eighth grade, my family moved from Pleasant Hill, CA to New Providence, New Jersey. I soon met another boy my age who lived just down the street. He was seriously into rock and roll, and introduced me to a lot of the groups I came to love. He also taught me the basics of playing the bass guitar. One day I asked him what kinds of books he liked to read.

I have to stop here for a minute to point out how important books have been in my life. Some kids played sports, some played musical instruments. Some kids spent all their time watching TV, or in generations after mine, playing computer or video games. Some kids spent all their time at the movie theater. I spent not all my time, but a great deal of it, with books. I actually used to cut school to go to the library. (Not suggesting that at all Brian and Anna!) The point is, I grew up surrounding myself with all the books I could get my hands on. That’s why I was beyond shocked when my friend told me he didn’t read books. Not that he couldn’t read them—he was fully capable of reading—he just didn’t like to.

That very day, I gave him a copy of S.E. Hinton’s classic novel of rival gangs, “The Outsiders.” I remember coming to his house a few days later. The first words out of his mouth were, “I had no idea anyone wrote books like this.” Within the month, he’d read every Hinton book published at the time and was looking for other books to read as well. I don’t know if reading those books changed his life or not. We moved a few years later. But I do know the statistics about kids who read vs. kids who don’t, and let me tell you they are astounding. Do a little research on the effects of literacy and you’ll be amazed.

Here I am, thirty plus years later, with the incredible opportunity of making a full time living writing the very kinds of books I loved to read as a kid (and still do for that matter.) It seems to me, I have not only the opportunity to share the—I was going to say importance, but that’s the wrong word. To share the love of reading with kids who think the only thing that can hold their attention comes on a screen or a monitor.

Fortunately, my publisher feels the same way. When my book comes out, they will send me on a two week tour of schools all across the country. In addition, they will send me to even more schools throughout the course of the year. Every one of their YA fantasy authors has the opportunity to do this. In addition, each of the authors brings a unique message all their own. James Dashner calls his tour the “Change the World Tour.” Brandon Mull’s tour focuses on using your imagination. I’m planning on calling my tour the—and this shouldn’t surprise anyone here—“Find Your Magic Tour.”

My publisher will probably shoot me for this, but I’m going to post a small section of my book. Since I haven’t received my final edits yet, this could change. But I’ll take my chances. I want you to understand a little of why I call this blog, the Find Your Magic blog and why my tour will focus on the same thing. Here’s a little snippet from Farworld—Water.

Master Therapass glanced suspiciously up at Riph Raph, and the skyte quickly averted its big yellow eyes. “Come, little one, and sit.” The wizard pointed a finger at Kyja’s chair and she reluctantly took a seat.

The old man stroked his long gray beard, his face crinkled in thought. “Kyja,” he said softly. “A horse may wish to fly. And it may briefly be able to launch itself into the air. But shortly it must return to land again. A duck may wish to carry a melody like a song bird. A goat may wish to swim beneath the waters. But ultimately, every animal, plant, even the rock in the field, must accept what it is, and in doing so, fulfill the measure of its creation.”

Kyja could feel her lips trembling as her eyes began to fill with tears. “You’re saying I should quit trying? Just give up?”

“Is casting spells really so important?” he asked, his deep brown eyes mirroring the pain in her glistening green ones.

“Yes!” Kyja cried leaping from her chair. “Everyone has some magic. Cooks, farmers, blacksmiths. Babies turn their rattles into sweets. Mothers command scrub brushes to wash their children. Even plants and animals have magic.”

“Everyone but you.”

“Exactly!” Kyja began pacing about the room. “I’m an outcast. It’s not bad enough I can’t do magic. But I can’t even take part in the magic the other kids do. Charms don’t work on me, spells bounce off, potions might as well be water for all the good they do me. I can’t play in any of their games.”

Master Therapass traced his boney fingers across the surface of the table. “Don’t you see, little one? The very fact that magic does not affect you makes you special.”

“Not special—strange.” Kyja said, unable to stop the tears from dripping down her cheeks. “Do you have any idea how I feel when the other kids make fun because I can’t do spells? They laugh behind my back and call me halfwit. They say I have to live in a barn because I’m as dumb as a cow. I don’t want to be different. I want to fit in.”

She waved her hand up at Riph Raph. “Even he has . . .” Sudden understanding dawned on her as she stared up at the little skyte. “It was you, wasn’t it? You were the one who made my hairclip move.”

Riph Raph tucked his head under his wing in shame. “I’m sorry,” he said, his voice muffled. “I just wanted to help. I was watching you try so hard. And I was concentrating with you. And suddenly . . .”

“Ohhhh,” Kyja cried. She dropped into her chair, burying her face in her arms. “I’ll never be able to do magic. Never!”

“There, there.” The old wizard hobbled around the table and laid his hand gently upon the back of Kyja’s head. When her sobs changed to sniffles, he took her chin in his knobby fingers and raised it so she was looking into his eyes.

“Listen to me,” he said, his face dark and serious. “You are right. Everything does have magic in it. From the smallest insect to the mighty trees of Before Time.”

Kyja looked up at him miserably. “But not me.”

Master Therapass smiled. “Even you, little one. But magic is not just spells. The magic you see on the outside—making pots and pans fly or brewing potions to make boys swoon before you—is but a tiny fraction of the power of true magic. The real power of magic lies within you. Who you are, what you do, and most importantly of all, what you may become.”

Kyja wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “You really think I might have some magic inside me then?”

The wizard nodded. “I know it.”

There you have it. The first public posting of any content from Book 1. If you see Lisa or Chris, we’ll just keep this quiet. But hopefully this will give you a small taste of a theme that seems to keep coming back in the book, and I’m sure in the series, although I didn’t intend that when I started writing. Every one of us has magic inside. I know that sounds corny, but I believe it wholeheartedly.

I can’t sing if my life depends on it, but when I listen to someone with a beautiful voice sing, it feels like I’m witnessing magic. When you see a painting that seems so incredible you can’t believe anyone made it with their own hands, tell me a part of you deep inside doesn’t believe some kind of magic had to be involved. Those are big examples, but little acts of magic happen around us all the time. One little kid cheering another kid up. A girl discovering she can play the flute. A boy discovering he stinks at kickball but is good in drama.

That’s the message I want to take to kids all across the US, and hopefully across the world. Every one of you has magic inside. All you have to do is start looking for it and eventually you’ll find it.

Of course this is still marketing. I’ll be selling books along the way. That’s what pays for the tour. But in way, that’s a kind of magic too. Because people buying books provide enough money that I can go to even more schools and spread the message to more kids. All of you have magic inside you and what better way to discover what it might be than reading books about different people in far away places.

I’m sure there must be a better job than writing books and telling kids how great they are, but if there is, I can’t imagine what it would be.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Marketing Part II—Side Attack


Yesterday I wrote about my release party, and the goal of starting off with a bang. You’d think that would be the first of my marketing objectives since it coincides with the book’s release. Before I started writing, I just assumed the actual marketing didn’t start until the book came out. After all, what would be the point of marketing a book that isn’t even released yet, right? Man was I wrong.

Turns out that much—if not even most—of the marketing for a book takes place long before the book ever hits the selves, just so it actually will hit the shelves in quantity and people will be looking for it. In book sales you have two things to consider: distribution and demand.

Distribution is putting the book in a place where you can buy it. Of course these days nearly all new books are available online through Amazon, B&N, or even the author’s own web site. But the huge majority of books are still purchased through brick and mortar stores. If I want to have successful sales, I need to get my book on the shelves of as many stores as possible. Fortunately for me, this is all handled by my publisher. I already know my book will be carried by all the major retailers and most of the independents as well.

The second issue, demand, is where I can have some impact. Working hand in hand with my publisher, I need to make sure people look for my book, or having on the shelf space won’t help me much. One thing I can do is get the word out early. And who better to get the word out on the B&M side of things than the bookstore employees themselves. Bookstore employees can be your greatest asset or possibly a detriment. It all depends on how much they know about you and your book. I’ve done book signings where the store employees were actually recommending another book in my exact same genre while I was there. On the other hand, an employee who likes you and your book can hand sell dozens of copies.

Obviously, I want bookstore employees to know my book so they can recommend it. I think this is especially true of children’s/YA books, where parents often come in to buy their kids “a” book not a specific book. They may not know what book to get, so they ask the employee what they would recommend. Also, and I know this sounds strange, but I want them to know me personally. That’s because people like to sell the books of authors they know. It’s great to be able to recommend a friend.

This brings me to part two of my personal marketing plan. In early May I’ll be getting my ARCs. Fortunately Shadow Mountain will get me as many as I need—not typical with most publishers, which is one of many things that makes them awesome! I live about smack dab in the middle of Utah. Within a one day’s drive, I can reach Las Vegas, Idaho, Denver, all of Utah. Focusing just on Utah, Denver, Las Vegas, and Southern Idaho there are the following number of bookstores:

Utah: 3 Borders, 2 Waldenbooks, 10 Barnes and Noble, 1 B. Dalton
Las Vegas: 7 Borders, 3 Borders Express, 4 Barnes & Noble, 2 B. Dalton
Southern Idaho: 1 Borders, 1 Waldenbooks, 1 Barnes & Noble
Denver Area: 8 Borders, 2 Waldenbooks, 1 Borders Outlet, 12 Barnes & Noble

So that’s a total of 58 stores. In addition, Deseret Book, parent company of Shadow Mountain, has 29 Deseret Book stores, and another 23 Seagull stores in the same areas as above. That’s a total of 87 stores. Add the good size independents and we are over 100 stores.

I figure if I take off on Friday afternoon and work through Saturday—coming home Saturday night—I could hit all of those stores over the course of 5 weekends. That means by the time my book actually comes out there will be a minimum of 100 stores that will personally know me and my book. But because I also travel quite a bit for business, I should be able to hit at least another twenty or thirty stores in the evenings.

So let’s be somewhat conservative and say I only make it to 120 stores. Who will I meet? Everyone I can. No point in taking all the trouble of going to a store and not meeting the whole gang. I’ll probably bring some kind of giveaway too. Chapter books, bookmarks, whatever. But in each store, I am specifically looking for the person who runs the children’s books section. That’s who I’m giving my ARCs to. I also want to meet the person who handles school events, book signings, etc. In the Seagull stores the manager does pretty much all of that, so I’ll target them unless they have an employee that specializes in kids books. I’m also going to visit some of the bigger independents. No point in going by the big box stores (WalMart, Cosco, etc), because they don’t have anyone who recommends books for the most part.

At this point I’m sure some of you are asking who’s going to foot the bill for several thousand miles of driving and at least three nights in a hotel? That would be me. Could I get my publisher to pay for it? Probably. But they’re going to be doing my big book tour when the book is actually out. And they are providing all the ARCs. To me it’s a no brainer that I invest some money now to start the snowball rolling, and hopefully make a bunch of friends down the road.
So that’s part two of the plan. Seed every major bookstore within a 24 hour drive with advance copies of Farworld Book 1, and whatever kind of goodies I have. Tomorrow stay tuned for bringing up the flank—part 3 of my marketing plan. Finally on Monday we hit the internet streets hard with the blog tour promotion and prepare to give away 400 advance reader copies!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Marketing Part I—Frontal Assault


At a recent conference, I bumped into my editor Lisa Mangum. Almost the first thing she said to me (other than that I’d turned her smiley faces into capital Js in the Q&A. Oops!) was that I should quit waiting for something new and exciting to happen on Book 1 of the series and get writing book 2. We both agreed that it is much easier to have the second book done before you hit the road promoting the first book. So, in good conscience, I can tell Lisa that book 2 is coming along swimmingly. Now I can get back to worrying about how book 1 will do in the exciting but crowded market of YA Fantasy.

Here’s the thing. I firmly believe “Farworld—Water” is good. (Okay, fine, I think it’s so freaking great people will beg for the next book in droves. But I’m not biased at all. Ha, ha.) The thing is . . . I also believe good isn’t always good enough. I once saw a sign in someone’s house that read, “Pray as though everything depends on God. Work as though everything depends on you.” Seems like a pretty sound strategy. Covering all the bases right? I’ve come up with a similar slogan. Maybe I can even get it embroidered on a pillow or something and keep it on my desk. “Write as though everything depends on your book. Promote as though everything depends on your marketing.”

I’ve actually got a little story I wrote to this effect called, “The Parable of the Artist and the Goat.” In essence it boils down to the fact that some darn good books have sold poorly because not enough people heard about them. It’s all about building a big enough snowball and getting enough speed to get it rolling. Numerous studies have been done showing that popularity creates greater popularity. In an isolated environment, people would judge a work solely on how much “they” liked it. But in the world we live in people often make decisions based on what they hear from other people. If we hear people taking about a book or a movie, we are much more likely to see that movie or read that book, and then talk about it with other people—which in turn creates more interest. It makes sense when you think about it. We like to discuss books, movies, restaurants, or whatever and we can only discuss them with people who have already read, seen, or eaten the same thing.

Of course you still have to have a good book or word of mouth can work against you. But getting that word of mouth is key, and as I discussed in a previous blog, it’s tough to get the word out with your first book. Technically this is my fifth book to be published. But the previous four were small print runs (5-10k) that mostly sold regionally, and in an entirely different genre. They gave me lots of training on writing a good story, but very little marketing momentum for the national market.

So over the next few days I’ll post some of the ideas I’ve come up with. And see what you think.

Big idea #1

A really huge release party. Everything I’ve heard says that the first week of sales has a huge impact on future orders. If I can get enough books to sell in the first day or two of the release, I will appear on charts which store managers see all across the country. Working with the lovely and talented Jennifer (Mrs. Savage), we contacted the local Barnes and Noble. Turns out they have a community relations person who is in charge of special events, school visits, book fairs, etc. Also turns out they can donate a % of sales from said event to a school or other group.

So far so good. I’m all in favor of donating money to a good cause. And what better cause than the local library? I LOVE libraries. Not like. LOVE!!! I think I must have spent half my childhood in libraries. Wandering down the fiction aisles and pulling out books at random is just about the coolest thing since wooden go-carts with tennis shoe brakes. It’s like standing in a movie theater and randomly watching the beginning of different movies until you find one you like, and watching it for free. When I make it big, I am going to have a library in my house that actually requires one of those rolling ladders, and it’s going to have cool leather furniture, and interesting odds and ends. But I digress.

So we talked to the librarian about doing a release party on the day the book comes out in front of the library. We would offer free signed posters, free bar-b-q sandwiches and drinks, drawings, and a percentage of every book sold would go to the library. All under a couple of those big white tents on the front lawn of the library on a Friday night in early September. Tell me that wouldn’t be awesome. Of course I would promote it by going to all the local schools and doing presentations for the two days building up to it. Fun huh?

I can also get it promoted and covered by the local papers who I know pretty well (my daughter works for one of them. Heh, heh.) which should generate even more sales for people who miss the event.

But here’s the kicker. Because it’s a fund raiser for the library, we can also put fliers in the utility bills of all 30,000 plus residents of our little town. Free food. Friday night in early September. Part of the sales go to the library. Brand new YA fantasy book in a brand new series. Local author signing. Drawings from local merchants. A flier sent to everyone in the city. Newspapers covering the event. All the schools visited beforehand. Tell me that won’t be a rockin way to kick of the book tour. And if I could sell 500 books or more that night, I would definitely show up on the B&N radar of all their stores.

Okay, so that’s step 1. Tomorrow, The Side Attack.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

An Update on the BLOG Tour and Treating NESS

Before I do my actual post about multiple storylines, let me pass on some great news. The ARCs are on track for early May. I haven’t seen the sketches for the cover art yet, but from what I’ve heard, it sounds like the cover is going to be great. I am supposed to get final edits back about the third week of this month. Okay, stop yawning. I’m getting to the good stuff. What this means to you is that the Farworld Blog Tour is officially a go.

Sometime early next week I will post the juicy details, but the 2000 foot overview is that on Monday April 14th I will take the first 200 people who sign up for the tour. You agree to post a review of Farworld book one along with ten or so questions and answers appropriate to your blog. Shadow Mountain agrees to send you an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) for you to review and to ship a copy anywhere in the US as part of a contest which you tie to the tour. Just as an FYI, if you haven’t ever seen an ARC, it looks very much like the hardback—same cover art, same size, same formatting inside—but often it doesn’t have the inside illustrations, and it could have a few typos since it is created from the gallies of the book before they get the final, final, edit.

Here’s one new twist I decided to add. It looks like we are going to get a really good response as I’ve already heard from over a hundred bloggers wanting to take part. But you can guarantee that you are part of the tour and help build publicity for the event by posting a link on your blog about the tour when I post the actual details (on or about the 7th of April.) Everyone who blogs about the tour and encourages other bloggers to sign up will be guaranteed a pair of ARCs. How can you complain about that huh?

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled program. Have you ever read a book and come away from it thinking, “You know that was a cool plot, but I really didn’t feel any connection to the characters?” Or have you ever read a book where the big twist of the story took so long to get to that you either found yourself turning to the back of the book to see what the solution was, or abandoning the book altogether? If so, the book might have been suffering NESS. Not Enough Storylines Syndrome.

NESS is pretty much what it sounds like. A severe weakening of your plot and or characters because of a deficiency of storylines, causing the reader to become disinterested and or frustrated. Additional side effects may include nausea (that book made me puke), bleeding (I swear I was about to jab my eyes out with a bookmark if something didn’t happen), trembling (I was shaking with rage because I couldn’t stand how the author dragged out the story), or worst of all drowsiness (it put me to sleep.)

The reason it is important to have multiple storylines is much like the reason a good meal must have multiple dishes. Steak is great. But ask anyone who’s been on an Atkins diet. Without anything else, meat gets old fast. But it’s not just about variety. Storylines allow you to reveal enough information that the reader can live with the fact that you are hiding the ultimate answer. They allow you to keep the story moving forward without having every chapter build up to one big climax. They allow you to give the characters additional depth.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say our main storyline is about a girl discovering she is really the Queen. How do we begin the story? Well if it’s like most stories where ordinary people do extraordinary things, we probably have to begin with her living a simple farm life. That way we can enjoy the surprise along with her when she discovers her true identity.

Let’s take the first five chapters of our book and examine how exciting they are in relationship to that one storyline.

Chapter 1 Nothing happens
Chapter 2 Nothing happens
Chapter 3 A wondering wizard finds a mysterious letter
Chapter 4 The protagonist’s mother dies and tells the girl she is not who she think she is
Chapter 5 Nothing Happens

On a scale of 1 to 10. with 1 being no moment on the storyline and 10 being the most exciting point, we probably have something like 1,1,3,6,1.
Three chapters of absolute nothingness. Now you could fix that by creating a linear storyline something like this, 1,2,3,4,5. But even then, you start out with a boring beginning and how long can you keep raising the stakes without the reader revolting?

Instead, let’s add a secondary storyline. Since we want the reader to empathize with our protagonist, let’s have her supporting her sick mother and four younger brothers and sisters. And since we want to begin with a bang, lets start with a fight at work that ends up with her losing her job. In fact, to be mean, let’s have her lose her job in the first chapter, and get robbed by the mean boss in the second chapter. Then in chapter five we’ll have her offered a job by the wondering wizard. In this storyline, we now have an 8,10,1,1,5. True there are two ones, but those are chapters that already have a three and a six.
So now if we take the highest score—from either storyline—in each chapter, it looks like this, 8,10,3,6,5. Not bad. But chapter three still has me a little worried. All I’ve really got happening is the wizard finding the letter, and I really like to have all of my chapters be a six or higher. There’s nothing worse than a chapter that feels liked it was just stuck in to connect the chapter before it and the one after.

I think we really need another storyline. The one area we haven’t focused on is the antagonist. And as I discussed in a previous blog, the antagonist is one of the most important parts of your hook. The current queen would be the obvious choice. But remember that wondering wizard? The one who finds the letter and gives our poor protagonist a job? How evil would it be if we made him the bad guy? Of course he will have his own motives that we’ll fill in later. But let’s have him find the letter, realize what it means, and try to poison our heroine. We can’t kill her off in the third chapter of the book, but . . . mom’s death certainly looks a little more suspicious now doesn’t it? And how on edge will the reader be when the girl they now love takes a job with the man they hate?

Our third storyline would look like this, 1,1,8,7,10. Chapters 3,4, and 5 build up with the wizard finding the letter and trying to poison the girl, the mother accidentally ingesting the poison and dying, and the girl taking a job with the very person. Our overall storyline, with each of the three arcs looks like 8,10,8,7,10. Now that is a story!
One of the other benefits of having the three storylines going is that we can have smaller resolutions along the way to the major climax. It wouldn’t be much of a story if the heroine regained the title of queen halfway through the book. But we could have her come into enough money to support her family halfway through. And we could certainly have her discover the true nature of the wizard 3/4s of the way through. These little victories keep the reader satisfied on the way to the ultimate conclusion.

You can get too many storylines going on, making the reader lose focus. But if you stick with somewhere between three and five main storylines in a typical book of 70k+ words, you should be fine. Middle grade novels or early chapter books will probably not have as many storylines, while a series like the wheel of time could have dozens.

What’s your opinion?