Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The 1st book vs. the sequel

I recently read a blog post in which the author said that the first book in a series is always better. I'm inclined to disagree. I enjoyed Lover Eternal better than Dark Lover, and The Laughing Corpse more than Guilty Pleasures.

However, compared to Pillars of the Earth, World Without End (though still an awesome novel) fell flat. Kitty and the Midnight Hour was a teensy bit better than Kitty Goes to Washington. And The Drawing of the Three was so different from The Gunslinger that one can't make a comparison.

What makes a first book superior to its sequel, or vice-versa?

I have a few theories for each circumstance:

1st book is better because:

1.) The book was intended as a stand-alone, but publishers or maybe readers demanded a sequel.

2.) The book was hoped to be part of a series, but the author was afraid things wouldn't pan out, so twisted it into stand-alone status so much that series world/character building was shunted aside too much for subsequent books to have a good impact.

2nd book is better because:

1.) The author was so focused on world-building that the 1st book was an info dump.

2.) Author was still a virgin-writer for the 1st book and his/her story telling skills have improved.

What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Writing a Series

Many of my favorite novels are part of a series, and I'm willing to bet that is the case with many people. A lot of naturally want to write a series of our own because we love to read them, and because one's characters keep having adventures. Writing a series, however is a whole new animal compared to a stand-alone project. Especially with a romance series, since there must be a stand-alone love story in every installment.

One of the biggest issues, in my opinion is blending the stand-alone story with the continuing story of the series. In my first novel, I botched this badly. However, I still think that the story and characters are awesome, so I have passed it on to my Saintly beta readers in a bid to fix it. In the meantime I am composing an outline of the series itself, and then I will write mini outlines of the individual books in hopes of discovering which key points can be emphasized in which books.

One of the leading geniuses of blending individual love stories with a continuing saga is J.R. Ward with her Black Dagger Brotherhood novels. The romance unfolds naturally amidst the backdrop of the brutal war the Brotherhood fights. Future characters are introduced to the reader smoothly, and often teasingly.

Another team of authors, not as well known, that do a great job with a series are Stella and Audra Price. Their Eververse series is like the ultimate guilty pleasure soap opera. The reader eavesdrops on multiple characters with multiple plots that build and unfold throughout each consecutive novel.

What are some of your favorite series? What do the authors do that "Works," in your opinion.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Agents and Conferences

As an aspiring author, I am constantly researching agents and the publishing industry. I check an agent's credentials and the genres they represent before I query. Then when I get a request I also check out the "buzz" on that agent and their response times. One thing I learned very quickly is that there are a ton of impatient people out there. It seems that many believe that an agent who doesn't reply to their query within a week is somehow doing something wrong. I once saw a post somewhere where the person was thinking of disregarding an agent because it had been 2 whole days!

I see people complaining if an agent tweets or blogs too much...or not enough. But one pattern of complaints has me baffled because it's illogical and silly.

I've seen a lot of aspiring authors complaining about an agent attending conferences.

What is their logic in this? From what I've seen most of the reasons are:

1.) "The agents are yet again too busy to read their query." Reading queries is not an agent's primary job. Selling books and protecting their clients' rights is. Why do people keep forgetting this?

2.) "They are worried that the authors attending the conference will get preference over the slush pile. " I can understand this one a little. The nearest conferences that happen in my area are 400 miles or more away. Still, one must understand that good writing is what the agent cares about, not the fun time they had with you sipping cocktails.

3.) "Agents who attend conferences all the time are somehow 'shady.'" I don't remember where I read this, but I found that post to be excessively silly. Many of the best agents in the business attend conferences regularly.

So far, I've never heard any complaints on conference attendance from agented and published authors. Why? I assume because they believe that conferences are a good thing. I'm sure there are many reasons, but I think one is sufficient.

Editors also attend conferences. Imagine this scenario: Your agent is at a conference. She is sitting at a table with the editor of your dream publishing house. Dream editor says, "I'm looking for...." and proceeds to describe your book.
Your agent smiles and says, "As a matter of fact, I have...." and she launches into an enthusiastic description of your work.
The editor grins and says, "Would you mind sending that along?"
Your agent hides her triumphant grin behind her wine glass and replies, "I'll send it on Monday."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Romance Plots: Melrose Place or Lifetime Movie?

As we know, romance novels come in an astonishing variety of subject matter and styles. Some are funny, some dark, some serious.

What I've been thinking about lately is the realism spectrum.

Some romance novels are like Melrose Place (an old guilty pleasure of mine). The characters are over the top and the plot twists are almost too extreme to fathom. If done wrong they can be obnoxious and tacky. But, if they are done well, those novels are devilishly entertaining.

Other romances, on the other hand, are like Lifetime movies, which half the time are based on true stories. The events are realistic, the characters are everyday people. If done wrong they can be boring or predictable, but if done right, they can be so poignant that they make your chest ache.

I have favorites on both sides of the fence and plenty that fall in between.
How 'bout you? Do you like "extreme" guilty pleasures in your romances, or so much depth that you could be almost be reading the newest addition to Oprah's Book Club?