Making Dialogue Feel Real

Dialogue

I read a book recently, The Settlers, by Jason Gurley, that had fantastic dialogue. I wrote about it in my review. It was powerful and, more importantly, made me feel like it was REAL dialogue. Have you ever read a book in which the dialogue fell flat? Maybe like the words spoken between characters just didn’t seem right? Heck, maybe you’ve written some pretty bad dialogue yourself; I know I have.

When I’m reading a book, I love the dialogue. That’s what makes me feel involved in the process. With conversation, it opens up the characters to one another. As readers, we are gods. We’re omnipotent observers because we get to read the back stories. We know the characters thoughts. The other characters don’t know these things, so when the dialogue comes along, the characters are letting out the secrets that we already know. You know how hard it is to keep a secret!

I’ve said that the hardest thing for me has been character development. I think I have a decent handle on that now, but the second hardest thing for me is dialogue. In my opinion, dialogue is a very important part of character development, if for no other reason than it is what makes them seem real. I mean, Ian Fleming could have filled our heads with great backdrops, stories, and thoughts of James Bond, but it really is the suave way that Bond talks to others (particularly the women) that make us love him. Unless your story is going to be set up based around the life of a mime, then you have to practice your dialogue skills. It certainly took a good bit of practice for me.

Assuming that you already know and understand the rules of punctuation surrounding dialogue (no small feat if you are new to it or are not an avid reader), you have to have a certain flow. I almost don’t know how to explain it. Coming from an academic, research based writing background, my dialogue flow was rough. Contractions were so non-existent in my head that I didn’t know where the apostrophe button was. Unless you are writing a Commander Data or Spoke fan fic, you really need to know where it is. People usually don’t talk in proper English. We are all about some contractions.

Making the dialogue real is important, but you know it can go overboard. Very rarely can an author go full on slang and get away with it. Mark Twain could manage it, but I certainly can’t. Could you imagine reading a book base on characters from Boston or How about southern Louisiana in which the author tried to get every word phonetically correct? You can throw most accents and slang out the window, especially if you are new at writing fiction (like me).

Most of the time, dialogue can’t simply be the spoken words (I know that it pretty much the definition though). What you put around the spoken words is just as important. Conversations between real people usually are accompanied by some kind of hand or head movement. Real conversations are also filled with thought in the heads of the participants. That has to be shown through the dialogue. Here is a brief snipet of dialogue that I just wrote for two of the characters in my new book, but completely stripped down and flow inept:

“I still have not opened the Bible you gave me,” said Benjamin. Pastor Raymond had given it to him a few months ago.

“I did not ask if you had,” said Raymond.

“I know, but I did not want you to get your hopes up,” said Benjamin.

“You will open it when and if you are ready,” said Raymond. “Rushing faith is an easy way to turn people away from God.”

Now, to me, that is about as ugly as it gets. Let’s look at what I really wrote:

“I still haven’t opened the Bible you gave me,” said Benjamin. Pastor Raymond had given it to him three months prior, probably hoping that Benjamin would gain a better understanding of faith.

“I didn’t ask if you had,” replied Raymond.

“I know,” said Benjamin, “but I didn’t want you to get your hopes up.” Benjamin smiled a little, hoping he could keep the pastor’s patience in check. He knew he didn’t have to worry about it, though. Pastor Raymond was the most patient person he knew.

“You’ll open it up when and if you’re ready,” said Raymond. “Rushing faith is an easy way to turn people away from God.”

Mechanically, everything that could be contracted is. That’s just how we talk. We’re not writing a research paper, we’re writing fiction. Also new to the second part it the filler between the characters speaking to one another. It tells you that they are not simply robots, but people that are having their own individual thoughts and feelings. In real conversation, this is stuff we do. We think about what the other person it saying and we wonder what they are thinking. Often what we are thinking is not what we say, and that has to be shown to the reader in fiction dialogue. If you want your audience to connect with the characters, you have to make them real. OH! Yes, I was hoping I could circle this back around to character development and there it is (I’m feeling a bit like the Doctor today thanks to my new sonic screwdriver).

New fiction writers, like myself, often rely on too little dialogue because it scares them. Sure, descriptions of the scenes are nice, and who doesn’t love to take a trip into a character’s past via flashbacks? But dialogue is where it’s at. I like to think of all the words in the book as parts of speech, with the dialogue being the action verbs. It adds the excitement and ups the tempo. Everything else is important, just not as much.

What do you think about dialogue? If you disagree, please let me know. On this blog, I just write things down regardless of whether or not it is right. Do you have your own way of making dialogue work? Put some of your own dialogue in the comments!

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My Review of “The Settlers” by Jason Gurley

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Now that I have finished reading The Settlers, I am glad I didn’t stop. I say that because I did initially stop. In fact, I made it known on Twitter that I stopped. There were no quotation marks around the dialogue. I’ve never read any book without them, so I got nervous. I decided I had to continue, and I am sure glad I did because the dialogue in this book was fantastic. I mean, it made the book.

The Settlers is a story about a group of people that are facing the greatest challenge that humans have faced. Sure, the premise is one that we’ve hear before, but it is nonetheless still based in reality. We are damaging Earth. In this book, it seems that that damage hit a tipping point and our world is rapidly spiraling out of control. Entire landmasses are underwater, and the Earth is falling apart. At least, the parts that we have inhabited for so long. Something has to be done to preserve humanity.

So humans start to build large space stations that orbit around the Earth. At first, the stations are thrown together rapidly, owing to the nature of the emergency on the planet. Gradually though, humans begin to perfect these stations. They become complex and extravagant. At some point, the crisis on Earth is solved and it seems that the planet is still habitable, but people keep coming to the new stations. Might as well, they are like small countries floating around up there.

Where The Settlers really gets interesting, and where Gurley shows his obvious love of sci-fi classics, is how these stations operate, particularly with the Argus station. This large space colony is set up to operate based on a governing system that rings familiar with elements from 1984, Brave New World, and many others. Heck, I couldn’t help but drift back to my ancient Greek philosophy class from college. It was as if Plato himself had written a modern version of The Republic. There is a sanctioned class system that includes who works what type of job as well as reproductive rights. The station goes as far as admitting that they are creating a different type of human; a smarter type of human.

Gurley does a fantastic job with the characters, though we only get to follow a few through the entire book. I found myself getting to know each one, which is no small feat considering how little time he actually gives you with each character. What made me feel particularly involved was his use of dialogue. Once you figure out how easy it is to read without quotation marks, the words flow through your mind as if you are actually talking to the characters. The dialogue was beautiful, and I actually made that exact note at one point in my Kindle. Here is one line that I highlighted that stuck out to me

Rivers are like thread…They stitch place together. They are seams that connect very different lands. I think it is lovely that you are an anthropologist. What better name for a woman who might herself be a river through time?

I’m not sure why that stuck out to me early on, but I knew that the rest would be amazing. Gurley relies on character dialogue to carry the book, which is very hard to do. Aside from character development, I think dialogue is the next hardest thing to perfect in a book. The job is accomplished here.

This is the first book in a trilogy, and I can’t wait to start the next book. The Settlers ends with two of the main characters encountering a pretty bad situation, and I can’t help but think back to an earlier part of the book when one character said

Equality, he would sometimes say, is a myth even in cultures that acknowledge and promote it.

The entire book is set on the backdrop of equality, or lack thereof. Gurley experiments with the concept, and leaves the book heading in a direction that makes me want more. Sitting here now, he has made me wonder if it is better to live in a place where the government openly denies equality, or one that says everyone is equal but in fact they never will be. Basically, would you rather someone lie to your face, or do it behind your back?

Thanks for putting out such a great book, Jason Gurley. I look forward to the rest.

Click here to see his book on Amazon!

I want characters that I can sleep with…

Well, I know what you’re expecting. Maybe you think I’ve switched to the erotica genre overnight. As tempting as it sounds to try, I have to admit that I’ve never read anything erotica. Unless you count my inner thoughts as reading. Honestly, if I tried to write it, I would be looking over my shoulder making sure nobody was looking.

Here’s the deal. I’ve been super stressed about character development for my book. It is with four different editors right now, so I’m holding my breath until it comes back. Until then, I’m just trying to figure out what kind of attributes people want in a character and how they want them introduced and developed. I read a blog yesterday of someone that said they had to connect with the main character in some special way within the first few pages or they put it down. Uh oh. I started wondering if my main character could do that. Well, I have two main characters and the other one does not come in until about page twenty. Guess I lost that reader before my book is even published.

So, I did something that I should have done a long time ago. I got all of my favorite books off the shelf and put them on my bed. I’m not talking about the ones that I kind of liked. I’m talking about the ones that stayed with me. The ones that had characters that I felt like I knew as well as the ‘real’ people around me. You know what kind of book I’m talking about. For me, the list was somewhat big and included Harry Potter, Star Wars, Star Trek, James Bond, 1984, and ENDER’S GAME. Well, as you can see, I’m mostly a sci-fi guy with a little thriller thrown in, but what made these and a few others so special to me? I cleared off the books and went back to writing, but as I was about to go to sleep, the answer hit me. My head was on the pillow and I was in that “about to fall asleep, so lets go on a thought adventure” state. My adventure included a lightsaber and some sith.

I want characters that I can sleep with! Literally all of the books that I love and cherish made me put myself into their world as I was falling asleep. I have always thrown myself into books I’m reading or have read and added chapters to them with me as a new character. If it’s Star Trek, then I’m right beside Picard and Janeway battling the Borg as Commander Captain Watson. If it’s a Bond book, then I’m 008, fighting the villain right along side 007 (Watson, Allen Watson). All of my favorite characters were ones that I could see myself becoming friends or colleagues with. I lull myself to sleep with the fantasies of becoming one of the major characters beside them.

Now that I know how to recognize my favorite characters, I need to know how to accomplish that as a writer. I want to get readers so involved with the people in my book that the characters stay with them until they open the book again. I want my readers to end a chapter and try to create the next chapter in their mind. Readers have need to find their best friends and greatest enemies inside of books.

So now I’ll be inserting myself into my own book. Before I fall asleep, I’ll become a new character in my own book. I’ll have conversations with the other characters and ask them what they would do next and what they think of developments so far. I’ll find out what their lives are like and how they would like to grow up.

There is no better way to write a book than to get your characters to help you out.

The Stigma of Self-Publishing – An Indie Problem

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Indie authors are dirty, sloppy, and worthless. Their covers are crappy and you should just look at their writing skills – makes you wince even thinking about it. Character development? Self-publishers have no clue. Their work does not deserve to be displayed anywhere near the work that has been vetted and edited by actual publishers.

Anyone who has followed me for any length of time probably just had a heart attack. You know that I clearly don’t feel that way about self-publishers. My first book will be out in a month or so and it will be self-published. 

I’m proud of it. Not because it’s fantastic (that’s for you to decide), but because I actually got a book written. Not only did I get it written, but I am following the right steps towards getting it published. I pounded out a first draft and then took my time completing a second draft. I printed multiple hard copies of that second draft and gave it out for editing from serious professionals that I have networked with for years around my area. They are marking it up now and I will get those copies back soon. I will then complete a third draft and get some of my gracious beta readers to give it a test drive. In the mean time, I have contacted a great friend and spectacular artist that I know to begin work on my cover. She has an MFA from the University of SC and our creative visions are similar. I know that I will get what I want from her and more.

The stigma that surrounds self-publishers is not going to go away any time soon. No matter how many success stories come out of the indie author circle, it seems that so many people refuse to pick up an indie book. They are convinced that nothing good can come from anyone that didn’t go through a traditional publisher. I just read a review of Hugh Howey’s Wool that I think was tainted by the reviewer’s disdain of self-publishing. I honestly wondered if we had read the same book, because I loved the book.

Like it or not, many of the problems are on the shoulders of snobby self-publishers. You know who they are, so don’t pretend you to have no clue. They put their work out well before it is ready. I’m not talking about having a bad story, that can happen to published authors (come on, sometimes Stephen King’s stories need a little help). I’m talking about work that an author might have let their spouse read and that’s it. Right, your spouse if going to tell you the truth…

I’m talking about the indie authors that never had to write a single paper in college, if they even had a college class. There is nothing wrong with that. Heck, some high schoolers are successful self-publishers now, but guess what? Someone helped them! Someone looked over their work and took a big red pen to almost EVERYTHING. I’m talking about the ones that are published and then given reviews from friends and family as the rest of us look at it and say, “Sure, we self-pub to avoid the almighty gatekeepers and slush piles, but damn, that piece of writing is really not good.”

Professionalism and Discipline

Just because we self-publish and call ourselves indies does not give us the right to skip vital parts of the publishing process. Professionalism and discipline has to be our mantra. Sure, write a sloppy first draft. Write a sloppy, if somewhat better, second draft. Then give it to someone smarter than you. Give it to many people that are smarter than you (preferably with some editing experience). Give them free reign to rip it apart. Let them know that your feelings won’t be hurt. Get those copies back, cry a little, then pound out another draft. Then, if you think you need it, get a good group of beta readers. There are many people willing to trade work back and forth online. All you have to do it network and be nice in the right circles online to find them. Please don’t skip the cover. It has to be professional to be taken seriously. I’m getting someone with a master’s degree in fine art to work on mine. It doesn’t get more professional than that. The cover will be the thing people see first, so make sure it is great!

Does it all sound hard? Of course it does. Is it a ton of steps to take? YES. It does take serious discipline to take the professional route, but it has to be done. You took the time to put your awesome ideas down on paper, so treat them with respect. If you don’t, the readers will respond accordingly.

This is the only way to rid ourselves of the stigma surrounding indie authors. We have to become our own gatekeepers. Just because we chose to not take the traditional route does not mean we get to skimp on our work, and that is unfortunately what has happened to much of it. Sure, there will always be bad work out there. We will never be able to fix that. In fact, I don’t want to fix it because it shows the freedom that we have as authors. But, with some hard work and serious perseverance, we can get the good work to rise to the top. We can break even more indie authors out into the world. We have great stories to share so let’s make sure they don’t drown in laziness and complacency.  

**I know some of you will take offense at me saying college is necessary for good writing. I know it isn’t. I will say this – college and grad school forced me to really analyze my writing and ensure that what I wrote was quality work. It also made me realize that everyone does indeed need someone to read over their work.

My Review of “Poor Man’s Flight” by Elliott Kay

PoorMan's

In my quest to review other self-published works, I came across Poor Man’s Flight by Elliott Kay. I know nothing about the author, but he sure did have me intrigued within the first few minutes of reading it. I will do my best to not have too many spoilers.

Poor Man’s Flight, set in a future realm in which humans have spread across the galaxy to other systems, parallels many problems plaguing us today. The main antagonist, Tanner Malone, is finishing high school and hopes to head off to a university soon thereafter like the rest of his friends. Unfortunately, he is not able to pass the big culminating test to place him high enough to enter school without having to gain an excruciating amount of debt. For this society, it seems like going to a good university, on loans, and getting a good job with the loan holders is the only way to make a decent living. People get stuck in a perpetual circle of debt-payments-more debt. Talk about similarities today’s world. Every kid nowadays is told they have to go off to college or they won’t succeed. Average student loan debt crushes modern day grads. In the book, Tanner, on the advice of a friend of his, enlists in the Navy to assist with some debt and help get himself reset to enter a university.

On the other side of this book, we have a ruthless, yet sometimes likable set of pirates that prey on the rich and treat their own crew members with respect. On one hand, they are much more fair than the ‘democratic’ society that they rob. The head pirate has the same rights as everyone else and they do nothing unless the majority agree that it’s the right move. Kay makes me actually think it would be cool to join this band of criminals who have managed to escape the loan and debt system while living what seems like a gluttonous lifestyle. On the other hand, my morals kicked in. While the pirates are fair to one another, they certainly have no regard for anyone outside of their circle. They are true killers.

Kay takes us through Tanner’s boot camp as we watch him transform from a true book smart kid to a trained soldier. We see him get assigned to a group of ill prepared soldiers on a patrol ship, and watch proudly as he rises to the occasion to pull them through a serious mess. Kay does a good job of relaying the different realities of military life They just happen to be in space. For all you former military people, and those interested in the military, you’ll love Tanner’s role and experiences.

This story is really a reflection of our current state of affairs. We live in a world that tells us that we have to go to college to get a good job, but neglects to prepare us for the cost. We then go on to accrue more and more debt while the same corporations gain more and more money from our debt. The book highlights the frustrations that are currently building in our society. We can almost see ourselves in the pirates. Maybe not the ruthless and murderous parts, but certainly in the part that wants to live free of the debt forced upon society. In almost every character in the book, I found a part of me. It was like looking in a mirror and having the reflection show these characters. I think you’ll find the same thing if you read it. The ending is fantastic and I know you’ll enjoy it just as much as I did!

The thing that made this book even better was the way his characters interacted. One thing that I struggled with in writing my first book was giving the characters dialogue that seemed natural and engaged the reader. Kay does that well in this book. The characters interacted realistically and I appreciate that.

This book has sold fairly well on Amazon and is selling for $2.99. It is definitely worth the price and, as I like to say now, is less than a cup of coffee. Pick up a copy and help support this fellow self-published author. From what I gathered on his blog, he recently had surgery, so that’s even more of a reason to buy his book – let’s cheer him up!

Here is the link to his book on Amazon

Here is a link to his blog 

*The only disclaimer I give is for language. I personally have no problem with foul language in books. To me, it more closely mirrors reality. Just know that it is present in this book.

Why Indies HAVE to Read and Review Self-Published Work

Karma

If you’ve self published, you know that the hardest part of the process is certainly not writing the book. In fact, writing it is the enjoyable part. Marketing it is the bane of indie author existence. After all, you’re authors, not professional marketers. Most self-published authors certainly aren’t rich and definitely can’t finance a marketing campaign, but we all know that without people finding out about your writing, simply hitting the ‘publish’ button online won’t mean a thing. You could have a work of art. You may have written the next Harry Potter series, but if nobody reads it, you’re done. Your work gets buried in the glut of other books. It will be hidden in between the work by a ninth grader and some fitness book that your thousand pound yoga instructor wrote.

That is where other self-published authors come in. Since trying to merge into the scene, I have met some incredibly great people that read, review, and share other people’s work when it comes out. Unfortunately, they are few and far between. It takes more than simply spamming my Twitter with yours or somebody else’s work (more than 10 spams an hour gets an unfollow). It takes a commitment on the part of all of us. I would like to think of the indie author scene as a group of colleagues. We can be the gatekeepers of the self-published world.

The first step is actually buying other colleagues work. Come on, will $2.99 really kill you? You spend more than that in gas to get in your car to go to the store. It will certainly make the day of the author when they see the sale. Second, if you like the work, review it and let everyone else know why you liked it. A book won’t sell without reviews, and we have to review each others work. Karma. Don’t expect your book to get read and reviewed if you snob it into the digital without bothering to help others out along the way. If you don’t like a book you’ve read, simply don’t leave a review. I know this is controversial, but guess what, someone outside of the self-published world will leave a bad review. As colleagues, we don’t need to hurt each others sales figured by posting bad reviews in public forums. My take on this is a key leadership principle – praise in public, criticize in private.

My personal goal is going to be to read and review one self-published book a week. If I like it, I’ll make sure to let everyone know. I’ll tell them on Twitter, Facebook, and I’ll post the review here on my blog. If I don’t like it, well, then I’ll let it slip quietly into the Delta Quadrant (maybe the crew of Voyager can check it out). We need to leave the bad reviews to the professionals, which most of us aren’t. The thing is, once we see good reviews, we should take the time to buy the book. Again, as Hugh Howey would say, they cost less than a cup of coffee. Anyone willing to put serious work into writing an entire book deserves at least that much. I have not published my own book yet, but when I do, I hope people take time to do the same. Take care!

Why Do You Self-Publish?

I mean, I already know the generic answer to that question. People self-publish to escape the evil twenty-something gatekeepers that hate their work, even though the work is fantastic. They self-publish because they don’t want to go through the many rounds of rejection, many times because what they are writing ‘is not currently selling.’ Of course, one of the main reasons to self-publish is for an author’s creativity to remain intact, which they often see as one of the things that publishers suck away.

My reason for pursuing the self-publishing path is pretty simple. I like immediate results and I want a bigger percentage of the money. I also think that, with the internet, everyone has a right to have their stuff read. Sometimes people’s work is not that great, but there is an easy way to handle that – don’t buy it.

Don’t take this to mean that I am going to cut corners. I know the importance of good writing, solid and complete editing, and sound cover designs. I understand that it is easy to spot the self-published authors that really don’t have a firm grasp on plot and character development. Heck, I might not be that good at it either, but I sure as heck will work hard to improve. And again, it seems like a better deal to keep more of your money. Why should good authors be forced to take such a small percentage of the profit?

What I really want to know from other self-published authors is this – what do you hope to realistically gain financially from self-publishing? I know that’s a personal question, but it seems like such a tall order to do well in the current market. The market is filled with good work. Sometimes that good work makes it big. Hugh Howey certainly did with Wool. Heck, even bad writing can make it big if it involved sex. I saw shirts based on Fifty Shades of Grey the other day at the bookstore (unfortunately it was next to the kid’s section of the store).

How about you? Do all self-published authors get into it seeing dollar signs? Or do you do it just because you have some extra time and want to share your work with the world?

For the sake of all self-publishers, I wish more semi-successful indie authors would speak up with some of their incomes figures from books sales. I know how personal finances are to most people, but it sure would be nice for others to know that there are some serious success stories out there. I’m not talking about the ones selling thousand upon thousand of copies. I’m talking about the authors that can pay their bills from their self-published work. The ones that aren’t rich, but can now go out to eat without worrying about blowing their budget. Where are you? I know you’re out there. We want to hear from you.

I have my own reasons for going the self-published route, and I will discuss that further in another blog post in about a month or so. It’s two-fold and deserves more than a sentence here. Take care!

Publishing – The latest medium to succumb to the internet?

Self-publishing has taken off thanks to the ease brought forth by Amazon, Smashwords, PubIt, LuLu, etc. Of course, the rise in eReaders has certainly helped. Just wait until everything is digital (I love my regular books, but I am also a realist). Unfortunately, there are many (and I mean MANY) people out there that refuse to buy anything self-published. Some of that is the individual authors faults (errors and snobbery) but most of it has to do with simple tradition. People have always bought their books from traditional publishers and they just simply don’t know of the other routes.

I remember when I downloaded my first illegal music file. It was 1999 and it came from a thing called Napster. I thought it was the coolest thing! I didn’t have to buy anymore CDs. I didn’t really think about how bad it screwed the artists over. Now I do, but I also know that the music industry had to adjust. The big labels and musicians didn’t go down without a fight either. They whined and moaned and told us that their way was the best because they knew what they were doing. They sued and sued. In fact, they won most of their cases. Unfortunately for them, they were fighting a new era brought on by the internet. Nobody could stop the digital world of sharing. So, instead of trying to stop it, they eventually came around and adjusted. Sure, people still download illegally, but with iTunes and Google Music offering better solutions for all involved, everyone came out on top. The artists get paid and we get our music for a relatively cheap price.

I know it is not exactly the same, but I equate the music situation with the publishing situation. Self-publishers are the ones downloading the free music and crashing the party of the major labels. They are breaking into their profits (supposedly) and not playing on their established field. So, how are the publishers responding? Slowly and not happily.

One of the main arguments coming from “real” authors is that self-publishing waters down their work. Yeah, I guess they have beef, but can they really stop it? Nope. There is absolutely no way they can stop self-publishing. They know that deep down, and we have seen them work to adjust to that reality. They are now picking off the best self-publishers. You know the biggies, but some examples are Fifty Shades of Grey and of course, a great indie success story, Wool by Hugh Howey.

I see it as a good thing, and not just because I’ll be self-publishing soon. Sure, we have some kinks to work out, but it offers everyone freedom. First, it give the authors a chance to be found. Let’s face it, publishers really do miss some good work. They are not book gods. Often, an authors hard work is left in the hands of an intern who’s job it is to decide whether a piece of work is worthy or not. I know, they have a lot to do, but now, the public can be the gatekeepers. They can decide what is good or not. Very American, huh?

In the end, and if they play their cards right, publishers can get in on this. They can almost let the public do their job for them in scouting good work, pluck off the indie authors with good deals, and publish them. Sure, the power shifts to the author more than ever, but I like that. Power at the top sucks no matter what you are talking about. 

Can you be successful without a young adult audience?

Think about the latest science fiction/fantasy to really take off. What has been the most popular in the last year or so? The following are what come to mind for me-

Hunger Games – dystopian sci-fi

Twilight – vampire fantasy

The Avengers/All Marvel – comics/sci-fi

Percy Jackson series – fantasy

What do those things have in common? None would be nearly as popular without the young adult audiences. Sure, a few would hold up without the young girls and boys to fuel them, but they would not be nearly as successful. So, what does that mean for prospective science fiction authors?

Well, I think they need to seriously consider who their audience is going to be. Of course, they already do that. When writing a book or short story, an author is always conscious of who will be reading their material. Some set out from the beginning as young adult authors, some do not. An author will tone their book to the intended audience. Foul language and sexual descriptions are likely to be left out of books geared towards younger audiences.

Pandering to both young adult and adult audiences is hard. Many people I know won’t go near the young adult/teen section of a book store or Kindle store. Why? Not really sure. Maybe it’s psychological. Maybe they think they are less of an adult if they pick them up. Some adult sci-fi readers just prefer adult stories. As a writer, I love reading young adult books books. My reading mind has never really left childhood anyway. Heck, I’ll pick up Dr. Seuss if it helps my creativity. I read the Hunger Games and Percy Jackson books very quickly. The thing about well written young adult books is this – sure, on the surface they have kids in them, but the things those kids are dealing with are pure adult situations. They teach acceptance, responsibility, courage, and leadership. Those lessons are great for youth, but even better for a forgetful adult generation.

Can an author hit both audiences? Many have. They are the ones that have been most successful so far. To do this, the author can’t make it seem like a young adult book at all. I think it has to be an adult book that has some aspect in it that young adult audiences will respond to. Having a young adult being a main character in the book is a good way to do this, though I know how hard it is to integrate kids into an adult plot while ensuring they remain a vital character that can be taken seriously.

I guess success in science fiction is measured based on the needs and wants of the individual author. Some have no interest in catering to the young adult audience. Those authors should also be prepared to not reap the success that can happen if the younger ones go crazy over something (a la Bieber, One Direction, Hunger Games, etc). They bring a new meaning to viral. Of course, Stephen King and others manage to do well all on their own. Us indies have seen Hugh Howey explode to success without many young adult readers. So, it is possible, just harder.

I can’t wait to see how the new movie After Earth does in theaters. Sure, its a movie, but it can be a good case study. Will Smith, a favorite among almost all age groups, stars along side his son, Jaden Smith. Jaden is fourteen and will attract the younger audiences even though the plot and trailer make it seem to be a completely serious film (meaning, not geared towards younger audiences). It looks like the movie will revolve around those two, so it should be interesting.

Will Smith                                                            jaden-smith-300

After Earth trailer here!

Self-Publishing Editing – The Biggest Indie Flaw

BookEditing

So, since I’ve been integrating myself into the indie author scene, I’ve realized major themes that are constant. I mentioned many of them yesterday in my blog post about covers, but I want to talk about editing today.

We have always heard that editing is sooooo important. My high school English teachers and college professors would pretty much threaten us if we turned in badly edited papers. Of course, we all thought our work was fantastic as it was. We had read over it at least once, so it had to be great. Right? Nah.

No matter how great of a writer you are, someone else has to read your work. There are many benefits to this other than just finding grammar and spelling errors, and trust me, no matter how many times you have read your work, there will still be errors. It’s natural for us to miss our own mistakes. We have already written it once, so when our brain is reading it again, it knows what to expect. It jumps ahead. Unfortunately, our brain has a bad habit of jumping right over all of the errors.

I was a teacher for a while, so I have a new appreciation for the editing process. I didn’t realize just how easy it was to spot errors in a paper/book until I started reading stuff that had not passed through some kind of gatekeeper. Some of you may think that one or two errors are fine, and usually you’re right. A few errors can be forgiven if your book is spectacular. But finding more than a few, especially obvious errors, leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths. When I am reading a book and keep running into errors, I form a picture of the author in my mind. I picture them as sloppy and maybe even a little snobby. I mean, if you think your stuff is already good enough to not be edited, then I’m sorry, I won’t be reading any more of your stuff.

Sure, have family and close friends read your work. Tell them to be honest and brutal if need be. Guess what? They will still sugarcoat it for you. If you rely on family for editing, use them for part of the editing process, not the whole. Get your work out to acquaintances, not necessarily friends. Make sure you get it to people that will not hesitate to take a red pen to it!

Within a few days of being involved in the indie scene, a few people offered to beta read my book. As soon as I get my local copies back from editing and make changes, I’ll be using them. Who am I using locally? Well, of course my family, though I know not to rely 100% on that. I’m also going to be giving it out to professionals in the area that I have connected with throughout the years. They are friends, but they certainly have no problem being blunt. Two are former Marines, one has a doctorate in theology (my book needs God on its side), and others are marketing and finance professionals. I’ll feel pretty confident that most of the errors will have been found by then.

I mentioned above another benefit to the editing process. As long as this is part of the agreement, editors are great testers. Tell your editing crew to look for typical spelling, grammar, and flow errors. But also tell them to give you advice. Here are some questions I am sending along with my book –

  1. What intrigued you about novel?
  2. What disappointed you about the novel?
  3. Did anything surprise you?
  4. Who was your favorite character and why?
  5. Is there anything you would have cut? Added?
  6. Anything else I need to know?

I’ll think of a few more, but you get the point. By the time your book is ready to publish, it should have run the gauntlet. One of the biggest complaints about self-published authors is our lack of a gatekeeper. Well, it’s time to pony up and make our own gate. The only way to really change the minds of others and to gain a much larger readership in the indie scene is to make our work better than published work. It can be done, but first we have to get past ourselves.