Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Johnny Ray's comments on MWA meeting

I attended a meeting of the Florida Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America last Saturday on the east coast. The speaker was Elaine Viets. Elaine writes two different series at the same time and for the same publisher. One is the hardcover Dead-End Job series where she told us she actually worked in these jobs to learn more of how they function and to add the detail that makes they come alive. Yes, she has had some interesting jobs in this minimum wage world because of this. The other series is the Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper series.
Elaine told how important it is to keep the characters totally different. She has received many awards for her work and has found a way to stay busy writing by having the two different series. Elaine is a great speaker and a great writer. Check out her books.
The chapter meeting attract less members this time of the year as many of the members go back home up north for the summer months. The big event they host every year is Sleuthfest. Last year it was fantastic and I expect the same next year.
Johnny Ray

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Meeting with borders romance buyer Sue Grimshaw

Last Saturday, the local chapter (TARA) of the Romance Writers of America had Sue Grimshaw talk to us about how borders operated and how books sales were going. I was also very lucky to have lunch with her at the meeting. She is extremely knowledgably and a very nice person to know.
She stated that romantic book sales are climbing nicely for all romance categories with the exception of erotica which is staying flat. She talked about how important book covers were becoming. This is so much so now that several publishers will send a jpeg to her for review before the book run. She detailed how books are purchased for the store and what criteria are used to determine where they will be placed. Placement is naturally a big concern for most authors.
She mentioned that book signing were not doing that well in moving the number of books that you need. There are many other ways to promote your books. It is important to get as much money from the publisher to promote your book as possible.
Borders has an affiliate program where you can make money. Why not, it doesn’t cost anything to sign up.
She mentioned one thing I found interesting. I know publisher have a monetary interest in a writer, but didn’t think about how much a book store has an interest in you becoming successful. She mentioned that she wanted to see authors grow and they wanted to help in that process. She mentioned how good web presence is and how you need to link to the borders true romance site. She also mentioned how important it was to be on social media sites like twitter. Of course, I loved that since I’m one of the most popular writers on twitter with around 14,000 followers.
She also mentioned how important it was to write a series. An example would be where on a stand along book where she would order say 3500 copies she would order perhaps 8000 or more if it was connected to a series. This is very interesting to know and perhaps why most agents want to know if you are planning a series. Another point she made is that on the series, they readers want it fast, if not almost immediately after they read the first book. In fact, she mentioned some readers will buy the whole series at one time if available.
If you ever have a chance to hear Sue Grimshaw speak, you need to take advantage of the opportunity. She is a wealth of knowledge and extremely friendly.

Johnny Ray

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Writing tips on creating characters by Johnny Ray

After you have the basic idea of what you want to write, it is time to select your characters. There are many ways to do this and I know many authors do it differently. I think all great writers agree that however you select them, you have to know them inside and out. This means knowing not only what makes them great but what their limitations are as well. I use a system where I actually interview the characters I want to use. I develop a full file on them. Do the characters change during the novel? Yes, I learn more about them over time. But as I do, I always go back to their file and update it. I post these files at the front of my novel so that it is always in front of me. Hopefully a great name comes to me that highlights who the character is. If not, I use the best I can think of. It is easy to change the name later. I also look for a photo that gives me a visual image of my character. This also gets posted on the front of my manuscript.

There have been times, I go to a public place and find someone close to what I envision my character to be like. Then, I make notes of all of the movements and quirks that person makes. Sometimes, I use actors or actress. It is good to watch a film they made and notice certain habits they have and the unique way they talk.

To make the characters believable, it is the authors job to breathe life into them. I know it is hard to understand unless you are a writer, but some characters become more real than people living and breathing around you.

It is interesting to see how other writers create their characters and look forward to hearing from them. Also,it is interesting to hear from readers on what they think makes a great character in a book.

Johnny Ray

Monday, June 08, 2009

Writing tips on the best use of time by Johnny Ray.

There are many ways to use your time as a writer. Sometimes it is under your control and sometimes it is not. A system that was promoted at Harvard earlier is called PERT which stands for program evaluation and review techniques. Basically the system made you establish a program to manage your time. It helps to know how much time is needed to complete each step and how to make sure each part is done in order and not stall the overall project. There are several steps in writing a novel.

1)Conception is where it all starts.
You need to have an idea for your novel. You need to know what you want to say. You need to know who your characters are. Every author is different and some want to know exactly how the novel will play out in every detail. Others want the basic part of the novel and have the freedom to allow their characters to tell the story. In any case, there has to be the spark to get started.

2)Research is where the hard work starts.
Some books require very little research and some require a lot. Many times the research can be a continuous project. Many times a writer can paint himself into a corner. This is why it is I think so important to do the necessary research before you get started.

3)Finally, the actual process of writing the story.
The fun part of writing is actually being able to tell the story. With a proper concept and research completed, this part can go smooth. however, most of the time the problems pop up with new unexpected twist to the plot you would like to add or change. Then there is the problem with getting facts correct. Having to stop to complete more research can really slow down the story telling.

4)Revisions is where you switch hats, going from a storyteller to a writer.
Now, that you have the story completed and all of the proper conclusion attended to, the actual work of polishing comes into play. a few novelist are blessed with the ability to write perfectly, but most have to go back over their work many times to correct the grammar and misspellings. But, polishing is much more. If the previous steps are completed properly, this part will be easy, if not, the revisions can take a long time.

5)Okay, now you wrote it, but can you sell it?
A new novelist can spend more time trying to sell a novel than he spent writing it. This is a whole new process from writing. but, again, if the prior steps are completed properly, the final step can be much easier. thus the reason for completing the program evaluation and review techniques.

Johnny Ray

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Drawing for a Free Kindle

The details of a drawing for a free kindle to be given away can be found at www.sirjohn.org/bloglist. To be eligible for the drawing you must e-mail your guess as to which Johnny Ray novel you think will be published first. Please e-mail to sirjohn@wwisp.com

This site also list Johnny Ray's various blogs as well. Writing the various blog post has been interesting. Your comments are always welcome, but because of various spam elements, they will be moderated. I hope everyone understands and wish everyone the best of luck on the kindle give away contest.

Johnny Ray

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Another day on the beach, another page, another character to develop.
It is amazing how work goes smooth one day and is interrupted the next day by various factors outside your control. One day the story is so clear and the next day the "what if" scenarios appear. You have to ask yourself, shall I rewrite now or wait and see how this goes. As many writers discover, the struggle comes from letting the characters tell the story or acting like "father knows best" and controlling it yourself. Can you trust your characters? I think it all depends on how strong and realistic you make them as well as how fully you have them developed before you start writing. Yes, sometimes a character develops into a whole new being and a rewrite is necessary, but that can be a good thing. After all, that is why they call it a first draft.
Keeping track of all of the different scenarios can be a daunting task, especially when many of them come to a writer late at night while everyone else is sleeping. It is important to keep track of all of the sub plots and twist that you discover. A character can be like a new friend. Some times it takes a while to fully know and understand the motives, goals and dreams of a character that does not fully understand himself as well.
My suggestion is to take the time to be a friend of your characters. You will be rewarded as well as your readers.

Johnny Ray