I've already got my story laid out, and I'm about half-way through writing the first draft, but I'd like to think the completed book will delight readers rather than bore them (see previous blog, which was a little despondent about my search for a good book, sorry).
I'm also receiving funding from the Arts Council to get this book written which is wonderful, but that puts additional pressure on me to get this right. I've had to promise to reach an audience. So I really have to think hard about what kind of book I am writing and how it will engage readers, and surprisingly that's always the best way round - to think about this matter now, before I've finished it.
So yesterday, I set out 5 issues that I see as problems for anyone writing a book right now, and in the following post, I will address each in turn. Here's the issues:
1) A storyline that captures readers' attention amid all the competition out there.
2) Promoting the book, with a much lower budget than the TV companies and big publishing houses have access to.
3) Market testing and quality controls - in a world where there are so many high quality stories out there, how do I get my story to be the very best it can be, and appeal to a substantial readership (not just my friends) ?
4) Bringing characters to life, characters that excite readers, when you haven't got actors to do that for you!
5) An ending that makes, not breaks, the book. (There's nothing worse than a disappointing ending.)
And as I considered this, I started thinking about Mission Statements. Most organisations I know have some kind of Mission Statement - they are a good way of defining your work ethic, your intentions and your methodology. And as a writer, my Mission Statement might be something like:
To entertain readers with darkly thrilling narratives and characters that spark the imagination.
Bit cheesy, but okay for now. It covers most of my work to date, and implies that I will do my best with language, editing and story design to achieve this.
But can a book have a Mission Statement? How about -
The book "The Burning Girl" will attract a substantial readership by....?
Sounds a but too 'business-like' for a creative endeavour, and yet, isn't that exactly what I'm trying to define here - my goals and how I am going to reach them? It's no good writing a book that no-one wants to read, and I need at least some sales to keep going as a business. So I need something like a Business Plan with objectives and a Mission Statement, to define my intentions before I start the hard work of promoting the finished book.
Having looked at some disappointing books in my last blog, and the problems of finding the next great book to read, I wonder if I could define the book in the following business terms, using the issues I've highlighted above?
So, my Mission Statement for "The Burning Girl" might look something like this:
My next novel, "The Burning Girl" will attract readers by:
1) Offering a storyline like no other on the market right now. A thrilling gothic horror story combining true crime and historical fiction narratives, with the detective protagonist who is a female witch, having to work - at great personal risk - with her worst enemy, a witch-finder.
2) Promoting the book through social media, a new website with an ongoing blog, and - most importantly I think for this visual age - commissioned, original and unusual illustrations.
3) Market testing with critical friends, and through the blog and social media, and quality controls performed by a range of publishing industry colleagues. Making use of good contacts in historical fiction and horror genres.
4) Creating believable, dynamic and unusual characters that come alive in the readers' imagination, compelling readers to keep reading, desperate to know what happens to their heroes.
5) Building the narrative action to a dramatic and satisfying climax, which will thrill readers, and improve sales both through word-of-mouth and also genuine reviews. An ending that will 'make' the book a success.
Does that sound too business-like? Does that work as a 'statement of intent' that not only keeps me on track, but also attracts readers to the prospect of reading "The Burning Girl"?
In future posts, I'll be looking at other aspects of attracting readers, but for now, I'll give those 5 goals a try. I'll let you know how I get on.
After all, in any project, you've got to have something to aim for.
Bye for now
Love, Laura x