Saturday, October 31, 2015

My New Look

Before I talk about NaNoWriMo, I suppose I should comment on my website's new look. A couple of years ago--heck, it might have been three or four years ago--I decided I wanted a more "mysterious" look here. Something darker, edgier, something in line with the kind of mysteries I was writing. In looking through the Blogger templates (yes, this is a Blogger site), I found the one that I'd used up until this week: dark red with light text. At the time, the red "popped" at me compared to all the other sites I'd been looking at.

Recently, I'd been thinking the website needed some clean-up. Over the years, I'd added more widgets, many of the links to blogs I follow pointed to now-dormant sites, and I'm changing the focus of the mysteries I write from edgy Christian fiction to... something else. And, ironically, I've always hated light text on a dark background. It's hard to read and somehow my posts were all in a small font, making reading even more difficult.

I've spent a lot of hours over the past couple of months reviewing my options. Everyone said a self-hosted Wordpress site was the way to go. There are reasons for this, most of which I won't go into. Since my experience with Wordpress was minimal, I looked at tutorials and books and YouTube videos trying to learn what I needed to learn to change over. I posted questions in writers' groups. I mocked up a free Wordpress site and fiddled with changing themes and customizing them until my brain hurt.

Fortunately, I set myself a deadline to finish the redesign of my website. I knew I wanted it done before NaNoWriMo started. Once NaNo starts, my writing day is pretty much filled up. So two days ago, I looked at what hosting would cost me. It's not a ton of money, but it is an additional expense. In my fiddling, I discovered that, while some customization of Wordpress themes is possible, to do a lot of it, including getting the colors to be something I didn't hate, requires paying more money for Premium.

So I came back to Blogger and started looking at theme alternatives. I picked a few that I thought would work and tried them out. I discovered that Blogger offered me more options--for free--to customize the look of a theme. Besides, I already know my way around Blogger quite well. I weighed the supposed advantages of Wordpress--most of which I am not ready to use--against the cost in both time and money to convert my site and decided to stick with Blogger.

I've gotten rid of the dead wood, picked lighter colors and black text on a white background, and updated my fiction page to multiple pages. I hope you like it as much as I do.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

James Patterson MasterClass Week 6

As I said last week, the final week of this class isn’t exactly about writing.

In the lesson titled Marketing the Patterson Way, Patterson talks about branding, which he defines as a relationship between a product and customers. Authors usually aren’t very good at branding themselves. Most get that deer-in-the-headlights look if you ask them about their brand.

One author who has focused on branding is Brandilyn Collins, who even trademarked “Seatbelt Suspense,” her brand. With branding like that, readers know immediately what to expect from one of her books.

Patterson’s brand is “The pages turn themselves.” You’ll notice that, while Collins tells you up front she writes suspense, Patterson doesn’t have as narrow a definition of his brand. This allows him to write in different genres; except I’m pretty sure readers generally expect to find a thriller when they pick up a Patterson book.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

James Patterson MasterClass Week 5

We have now, for the most part, moved past the lessons on writing. In this week’s lessons, it sounds as if even Patterson has gotten tired of the class. There’s no enthusiasm, which he did have in the beginning lessons. Fortunately, there’s only one more week after this.

The first lesson is Editing, which, for Patterson, appears to consist mostly of cutting words out. Since his genre is thriller and his primary goal is to keep a high level of action and the pages turning quickly, this works for him. I write traditional mysteries, which are more character based than thrillers as a rule. I also tend to write rather spare drafts, perfect to do during NaNoWriMo. For me, editing is both taking words out and putting words in.

Some of my scenes are mostly dialogue in the first draft, with maybe a little bit of emotional reaction or body language. But they could take place in an empty white room. So I have to add in the ambience, the sights, sounds, and smells of the location, so the reader experiences being there with the characters. And, while I know what my characters look like, I have to make sure my readers do, so I’ll add in little details about their clothing or hair or mention they have to put sunscreen on their fair skin before going out.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

James Patterson MasterClass Week 4

As I was listening to the first lesson for this week—Dialogue—I realized another problem with the way these lessons are presented. I mentioned in my blog on the first week of this class that each lesson was obviously put together from several separate interviews.

Except they’re not interviews. It’s really Patterson chatting informally about writing, a mix of advice, his own process, how he learned something, etc. And it’s presented in a talking-head style. That’s why I said “listening” in the first sentence. I found myself clicking on other tabs in my browser as he spoke because the video wasn’t visually interesting.

So, on to the lesson itself. A character’s dialogue reveals who they are. I have no argument with that. After a few examples, we cut to a different interview where Patterson starts talking about an author (I only know the guy is an author because I Googled the name) and a scene which Patterson believes has great dialogue. But he never states that this is the name of an author or gives us the name of the book it comes from. That part must have been left on the cutting room floor. He then proceeds to quote the dialogue and ends by saying it’s wonderful. He also says it’s comedic, but his delivery was so dry I didn’t laugh once.