How do you give readers the background information they need?

All my books seem to have a character like Teach, my learned con man from Daughter Am I, who tends to be a lecturer. The hardest part of editing that particular book was to take out everything that wasn’t essential to understanding the story. I worry that Teach’s talk about the history of gold is a bit much, but there is no way to understand why the gold was buried without understanding the history of the era. I did try to space the information to add a bit of suspense at times or to offer a respite from the action at other times.

For Light Bringer, I had to present various conspiracy theories, and instead of having a character like Teach to “teach” the theories, I created a discussion group, each member of which believed a different theory and vociferously defended it while denigrating what the others believed. It was a fun way to present the information without an extended information dump.

Here are some responses from other authors about giving readers the background information they need. The comments are taken from interviews posted at Pat Bertram Introduces . . .

From an interview with Donna Galanti, Author of “A Human Element”

I try to tease them with only a few descriptive details of backstory and setting as I go along. Give them only what they need at the time. Readers want to feel smart. They like to fill in the blanks, as long as there aren’t too many blanks. I try and look at all backstory and gauge if it serves the story. If it doesn’t out it goes. By introducing questions early on with giving just enough information to keep the story going, we involve the reader, take them along for the ride, and…build suspense. Hopefully!

From an interview with Sam Lopez, author of “Dead Sea”

Disputes between characters can provide helpful information but if there is no conflict, then sometimes you just have to spell out what needs saying.

What about you? How do you deal with exposition and give readers the background information they need?

(If you’d like me to interview you, please check out my author questionnaire http://patbertram.wordpress.com/author-questionnaire/ and follow the instruction.)

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Describe your writing in three words

Three words to describe my fiction writing:

colorful, character-driven, conspiratorial

Here are some responses from other authors about three words they would use to describe their writing. The comments are taken from interviews posted at Pat Bertram Introduces . . .

From an interview with Donna Galanti, Author of “A Human Element”

Haunting. Dark. Hopeful.

From an interview with Siobhán Nolan, Author of “Old Man Harry”

Silly, relatable, fanciful.

From an interview with Andrew Scorah, Author of “Homecoming Blues”

Dark, gritty, cool

What about you? How would you describe your writing in three words?

(If you’d like me to interview you, please check out my author questionnaire http://patbertram.wordpress.com/author-questionnaire/ and follow the instruction.)

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

What advice would you give other novelists about book promotion?

I don’t generally give advice about book promotion since so many authors are better at selling books than I am, but if I had to, I’d tell other novelists to have patience, stamina, and willingness to give up part of their writing time for promotion. Unless a writer has the benefit of a major publisher’s publicity department, and sometimes even then, he/she will have to spend time promoting their book. It’s not enough to have a blog dedicated to self-promotion or to add thousands of friends on Facebook. You have to give people something to get something — write interesting articles, comment on articles other people write, get to know your Facebook connections. And most important of all, check out Book Marketing Floozy. http://marketingfloozy.wordpress.com It’s an indexed blog with how-to articles on every facet of promotion.

Here are some responses from other authors about advice they would give to other novelists about book promotion. The comments are taken from interviews posted at Pat Bertram Introduces . . .

From an interview with Debra Purdy Kong, Author of “The Opposite of Dark”

I’d advise writers to use patience and not expect too much right away. Promotion means engaging with others and building a rapport with potential readers. It means building a solid, longterm platform through social networking, blogging, and designing your website. It can seem daunting, but if you limit your time each day, then you won’t risk burnout. And burnout is a big factor for writers who are also actively promoting!

From an interview with Joylene Nowell Butler, Author of “Broken but not Dead”

If you’ve gone to all the trouble of writing and revising and querying, why not market? Why not spend hours blogging and visiting other blogs and establishing a connection to like-minded writers? I’m still astonished when authors tell me they don’t have time to blog and they certainly don’t have time to visit other blogs. They just want to fill your inbox with news of their book and why it’s important for you to buy it. They’re targeting the wrong people. Writers write, readers buy books. Yet how many emails do you receive in a week telling you why you should buy their book?

Promotion is about creating a presence online. But it’s also about getting out and doing readings, signing copies, writing related articles, doing online, radio and newspaper interviews, joining evening events where the opportunity to read arises. It’s about fairs, bazaars, contests, giveaways, and anything else you think will put you and your book in the public eye.

What about you? What advice would you give other novelists about book promotion?

(If you’d like me to interview you, please check out my author questionnaire http://patbertram.wordpress.com/author-questionnaire/ and follow the instruction.)

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

How do you juggle the promotional aspects with the actual writing?

RRBookThree SecretsI haven’t been juggling the promotional aspects with the actual writing. I’ve been concentrating mainly on promotion. I have a one-track mind, and for now I am focused on figuring out how to get my books to really take off. I don’t see why millions of people can’t enjoy my books (though so far, they don’t seem to agree). What writing I do falls under the category of promotion, such as blogging and keeping up with my chapters in Rubicon Ranch, the mystery serialization that several of us Second Wind authors are collaborating to write online. You can find the ongoing story here: Rubicon Ranch.

Here are some responses from other authors about how they juggle promotion and writing. The comments are taken from interviews posted at Pat Bertram Introduces . . .

From an interview with P.I. Barrington, Author of Isadora DayStar

Promoting and writing? That’s the REAL trick of publishing today. Writing takes time, but for me at least, promotion is constant and at times overwhelming!

From an interview with Beth Groundwater, Author of “A Real Basket Case”

Promotion is something that is ongoing, and which ramps up around the time of each release (every spring and fall for the next two years, at least). I try to focus on the writing and editing I need to get done each week first, then work on promotion later in the day or later in the week after I’ve finished the writing I need to do to meet my deadlines. I have to be very organized and give myself weekly goals to stay on track..

From an interview with Dale Cozort, Author of “Exchange

I tend to do marketing in blocks of time rather than trying to do it at the same time as writing. I have writing days, editing days and marketing days. That fits my somewhat obsessive personality. I’m not sure if it’s the most effective way to get things done.

From an interview with Christine Lindsay, Author of Shadowed in Silk

The marketing and promotional aspects are awful. I love talking to people and making friends, but it’s not easy to always be talking about myself. The phrase “I must decrease in order for Him (the Lord) to increase”  is running through my head quite a bit these days as I try to do my part in the marketing of my novel. It’s not just me that it affects, so I must do my part. But I hope I never sound pushy, but that I encourage someone in everything I say or write.

What about you? How do you juggle the promotional aspects with the actual writing?

(If you’d like me to interview you, please check out my author questionnaire http://patbertram.wordpress.com/author-questionnaire/ and follow the instruction.)

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

My advice to aspiring authors varies depending on how cynical I am about the book business on a given day.

When I’m philosophical, I tell aspiring writers:

A book begins with a single word. Many novice writers get intimidated by the thought of writing an entire book, but all you ever need to write is one word. I know that’s not much of a goal, but in the end, it is the only goal. That’s how every book all through the ages got written — one word at a time. By stringing single words together, you get sentences, then paragraphs, pages, chapters, an entire book.

When I want to be encouraging, I tell aspiring writers:

Write your book. Rewrite it. Edit it Re edit it. Study the publishing business. Learn everything you can about good prose, story elements, promotion. With so many millions of people out there who have written a book or who want to write a book, the competition is fierce. A writer does not attain maturity as a writer until he or she has written 1,000,000 words. (I’m only halfway there.) So write. Your next book might be the one that captures people’s imaginations and catapults you into fame and fortune. Not writing another book guarantees you will never will reach that goal. It also keeps you from doing what you were meant to do.

When I’m cynical, I tell aspiring writers:

If you aspire to be a writer, write. That’s all it takes.

If you aspire to be a good writer, write — and read. Read how-to books about writing and read good books to absorb good writing.

If you aspire to be a bestselling writer, write, read — and gather luck. Less than 1% of 1% of writers ever attain that status.

Here are some responses from other authors about advice they give to aspiring writers. The comments are taken from interviews posted at Pat Bertram Introduces . . .

From an interview with Polly Iyer, Author of “Hooked”:

You’ve heard it before. Keep at it. Period.

From an interview with Sandy Nathan, Author of Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

You’ll make more money as a brain surgeon.

From an interview with S. M. Senden, author of “Clara’s Wish”

Write from a place of knowing. Bring your experiences to what you write; be willing to invest a piece of yourself in your writing so it will be real to the reader.

From an interview with Tom Rizzo, Author of “Last Stand At Bitter Creek”

Read—not only for enjoyment. Treat your reading as a study lab, taking note of how the writer lures you into the story, how characters are introduced, and what makes you like or despise them. Reading soaks the brain with ideas and possibilities. And write, of course. Don’t wait for inspiration. Just write.

What about you? What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

(If you’d like me to interview you, please check out my author questionnaire http://patbertram.wordpress.com/author-questionnaire/ and follow the instruction.)

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

What’s the most surprising part of being a writer?

What’s the most surprising part of being a writer?

The most surprising part for me is that I know how to write. For many years, my life was shadowed by the sadness of having no innate talent for writing. I’m not being modest — I really couldn’t write a novel or anything worth reading except for some snippets of poetic thoughts. When I decided to write a novel despite that lack of talent, I set out to learn everything I could about developing a readable story. Most of the how-to books confused the heck out of me — the authors would talk about rising conflicts and motivation/reaction units, and I didn’t have a clue what they meant. It’s only recently that I realized I actually know what I’m doing.

Here are some responses from others authors about the most surprising part of being a writer. The comments are taken from interviews posted at Pat Bertram Introduces . . .

From an interview with J J Dare, Author of False Positive and False World

The most surprising aspect of being a published writer is the positive feedback I’ve received from readers. Only a few weeks ago, I had a reader ask when the third book in the Joe Daniels’ trilogy would be coming out.

From an interview with Smoky Trudeau Zeidel, Author of “On the Choptank Shores”

The awe some people display when they find out I’ve not only written a book, but written several! Really, I don’t tell people I’m an author to stun them! It’s what I do, just like some people are gardeners or bank tellers or forest rangers. But there is something about being a writer that makes other people think you’re pretty cool — even if you aren’t!

From an interview with Sheila Deeth, Author of “Flower Child”

I’ve surprised myself by finally learning to tell people I’m a writer — maybe that’s what I should have said has changed since my first book was published.

From an interview with Beth Groundwater, Author of “A Real Basket Case”

The amount of non-writing work involved! There’s the contracting process, research, promotion, networking and all of the other ancillary activities that are part of having a writing career, but that take precious time away from the writing itself.

So, for you, what’s the most surprising part of being a writer?

(If you’d like me to interview you, please check out my author questionnaire http://patbertram.wordpress.com/author-questionnaire/ and follow the instruction.)

Stream of Consciousness Blogging

I’ve often used this blog as a form of stream of consciousness writing, trying to work through story problems, trying to figure out who I am as a writer, basically just letting my mind wander onto the page, but now that I’m getting more than a few readers, I feel a bit embarrassed about it. People are kind, and they feel a need to respond to what comes across as an appeal, when it is mostly just me working things out. (I know that is gramatically incorrect, but it is correct in the context. It is me, and I am working things out.) So, do I still keep it up at the risk of alienating people? Or do I try to be more professional and do what other writers do — give tips on writing, give tutorials, and whatever else it is that they do?

The thing is, I no longer feel qualified to give people instructions on how to write or get published — or anything else, for that matter. I did not follow the rules I was expounding — though I do think I followed through with the major one: thou shalt not bore thy readers. So far, with all the comments and reviews I’ve received, no one said they were bored. Nor do I know how to get published by a major publisher. So all I can do is what I’ve done all along — whether it’s a book or a blog, or the short story I’m supposed to be writing but am not — try to write what only I can write.

Perhaps with all the focus on trying to conform to the wishes of the major publishers, writers lose their individuality, their voice, their uniqueness. And no, I am not condoning sloppy writing. No matter how iconoclastic we are, we still need to get our points across, and one does that with good grammar, great word choice, and proper punctuation.

I’m sure there are a few people out there laughing their heads off — we used to argue these points in the early days of this blog, with me taking the party line. Actually, I’m laughing, too. Who would have thunk it?

So what am I saying to me and to you with this particular bit of stream of consiousness blogging? Perhaps only this: write and have fun and worry about the rest later.

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When Did the Realization “I Am a Writer” Hit?

The title of this bloggery is the topic of a discussion on Facebook hosted by Christine Husom, a fellow Second Wind author. My response was:

The realization that I am a writer hasn’t hit, and I’m not sure it will. I’m very involved with writing — I belong to various groups; I talk a lot about writing; and even when I’m not writing creatively, I’m writing: blogs and articles, comments and emails. But I don’t define myself as a writer. When you consider all that being a published writer entails — promotion, engendering good will, etc — writing is a small very small part of the whole.

Of course, when I’m accepting the Nobel Prize for literature a dozen years from now, perhaps then the realization will hit. (You do know I’m joking, right?)

A few people responded that of course I was a writer, and they are right — I do write, therefore I am a writer. I even have two books published. But the question was: when did the realization hit? And it never did. My journey to becoming a writer was a long, smooth (or almost smooth; let’s just forget about those 200+ rejections) journey from first draft to second, from second draft to edits, from edits to proof to copy-edits, from proof to finished book. I saw so many copies of my proofs that when I received the final book, it never struck me as being different from the proofs I’d struggled over. Even the demarcation between being published and not being published was smeared. A month or so before A Spark of Heavenly Fire and More Deaths Than One showed up in print, I noticed that they were available from Second Wind Publishing as ebooks. I don’t know how long they’d been on the site, but their availability made me a published author, and I wasn’t aware of it.

I’m sure if I was making a living off my writing, I’d define myself as a writer. And if I won the Nobel Prize, I might. But still  . . . I blog more than I write creatively, but I don’t call myself a blogger. I promote more than I blog, but I don’t consider myself a promoter. I sleep more than I promote, but I don’t call myself a sleeper. (Though some people might.)

But how I define myself isn’t the question. The question is: When did the realization “I am a writer” hit?  And my response holds true. I never did have that realization.

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