Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Land Keep is In! & Reading Books as a Writer

This isn’t going to be a hugely long post, but I wanted to say first, that Land Keep copies just arrived at the warehouse! Whoo hoo! Can’t wait to see them. I am going to run up to Salt Lake and grab a box before going over to James Dashner’s launch of Maze Runner at The King’s English tonight. Pics to follow! This means the books should be hitting store in the next week or so. Let me know when you start seeing it.

I also wanted to make a point that came up while I was doing a class recently at the UVU conference. As writers we often read a book and notice the flaws. I can’t tell you how many writers have told me that they started writing because they read one or more books and thought, “I can do better than that.”

Okay. I can buy that. I always tell people that I motivate writers to get published because they say, “If that dweeb can do it, anyone can.” And almost all books do have areas where they could be improved. But let me make a suggestion. Instead of reading a book and saying, “How did that get published?” Ask yourself, “Why did that get published?” I know. It’s a small distinction on the page. But it’s a big one to your future writing success. Because the truth of the matter is, the book did get published. A publisher, and editor, and probably an agent all thought enough of the book to accept it. You’re probably not the only one to see the book’s flaws, but despite those flaws, it was sold.

Of course if you’re already selling all the books you write to the publisher you’ve always wanted, and making more sales than you know what to do with, it doesn’t really matter. But if you are still climbing the mountain like the rest of us, it might pay to realize that something about the book you just read appealed enough to make someone pay the author good money for it. It’s easy to point out what doesn’t work. (And it’s good to avoid those things in your own writing.) But what you really need to look for are the things that do work. Noticing those, and thinking about how you can use that information to make your own work more publishable is far more useful that counting how many “ly” adverbs JK Rowling uses in one sentence or how many times Edward caresses Bella’s jaw.

A few examples. Twilight gets hammered for a bunch of reasons. But something about the writing made millions of readers buy into the characters so much that they agonized over what these fictional people would do. We can only hope to capture a character that well. JK Rowling spent a third (okay maybe not that much, but it felt like it) of book seven sticking Harry and Hermione in a tent wondering what to do. And there wasn’t even any serious snogging to keep things moving. But her world was so fantastic, her characters so real, that we read every word. Stephen King writes tomes that could easily be pared down by at least 1/3rd. He has little old grandmothers use language that would make a sailor’s eyes water. He writes some really gross scenes. But his mastery of the English language is like watching a great artist brush the canvas. His understanding of human character is incredible, and he knows how to get that across.

I know it’s not easy. I can think of a couple of books that I have absolutely no idea how or why they were ever sold. But almost always you can look at even a book you hated and see some of the things that made it stand out to the editor who accepted it. And if you start looking at books that way, you’ll have an easier time of writing those kinds of books yourself.
One last thing. I’ve had a lot of bloggers contacting me about getting ARCs of Land Keep. Unfortunately the schedule was such that we did not have time to print ARCS. But if you run a book review blog and want to request a review copy, you can contact Patrick Muir at Shadow Mountain at this e-mail pmuir at deseretbook dot com. Note that Patrick does not take submissions. He is in the marketing department. So only contact him if you are requesting a review copy or other marketing materials. Thanks and have a great week!


Deb said...

Congrats on Land Keep!

And thanks for the post. I find it easy to trash all the big selling, multi-million dollar making writers out there who've made it. But I'm woman enough to admit it's jealousy :)

See you tonight at the launch party!

The Scarlet Tart said...

Great comments on why books get published. Thanks for helping tweak my attitude...just a little. :)

The Scarlet Tart said...

Haha! That's funny, Deb!

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

Great advice. And congratulations on your book!

Bluestocking said...

Im glad the book is almost out. I contacted the media guy last Wednesday.


Dont know if you care or not but this girl who is a lot of my classes had your book in her hands and got over halfway done with the book at school.......I shall be waiting for Land Keep just like im waiting for the next 3 books in the 13th reality series...My confromation word is nobeep...lOl

Graham Chops said...

Props on LK--we got our shipment in this morning and I put it out right away. That cover is awesome, thing practically sells itself.

Keep at it, brother!

Laura said...

I feel like I owe you this much.... I finally bought Farworld. Actually, my husband bought it for me for my birthday. So, even though you've already one upped me by buying my book first, I'm going to make it up to you, and one of these days, I'm going to have you sign my copy of Farworld for me.

Good luck with book 2. I love your attitude about writing. It keeps the juices flowing even when I wonder sometimes if it's all going to work out.

Erin G. said...

Just bought Land Keep at Deseret Book. I was so excited they had it! I was a little worried because from your blog it sounded like I might not see it for a week, but then BAM! There it was! :D

Well . . . I'm gonna go start reading now. :D

Dave said...

nice post Scott. It makes a whole bunch of sense (even though im not an author)....Seeing what it IS that got a book published..

Congrats on Farworld..Im im reading correctly, it looks like it is available in some places. Exciting! Now, just get snapping on book 3!