My wife and I returned two days ago from a ten-day research trip through west Texas, southern Colorado, and northern New Mexico. It was a lot of fun, apart from the altitude in Colorado and New Mexico, which proved difficult to cope with. That aside, I also learned a lot, yet again.
When I write, I find it helpful to try to see through my eyes what my characters are seeing through theirs. It’s a technique that pays dividends for me. I don’t always describe it on the printed page, but it helps me think about how they would react in a given situation, and how their thoughts and words would be shaped by what was around them. That’s a work of the imagination in something like science fiction or space opera, but far closer to reality in things like fantasy (at least as far as the world around the characters is concerned) and my Western novels. Traveling the regions about which I’m going to write helps me see things more accurately.
Today’s article is as much a bleg for information and comment from our readers as it is my own perspective. I hope we can get a discussion going that will benefit all of us, and possibly those outside our immediate circle as well.
If one writes in a particular genre, one is often “typecast” as “a science fiction author”, or “a fantasy author”, or “a romance author”, or whatever. This can lead to complications when a writer wants to broaden his/her horizons and publish in other genres. If one’s readership has been painstakingly built up in a particular genre, will they follow you to another, and buy your books in that one too? In my experience, if they like your writing because of your style/quirks/weirdness/whatever, they will; but if they’re genre-based readers who happen to like your work as representative of what they expect in that genre, not so much. Other writers have reported a wide range of experiences when confronting that reality. What have you found, both as a writer and as a reader?
There are all sorts of writing courses, seminars, presentations and lessons out there. Most appear to be offered by those who haven’t sold many (if any) books, and don’t rank among popular authors, yet present themselves as authorities in the field. Others are post-graduate university programs that speak in grandiloquent terms about the art of writing, but seldom appear to lead to career success. I’ve never understood why some of them appear to have so much credibility among students, but there it is.
However, I was recently reminded of one of the modern giants of pulp fiction, the late Warren Murphy, co-author of the “Destroyer” series of books and others. They were ubiquitous on military bases when I wore uniform, along with others of their kind, as I noted recently on my own blog. The “Destroyer” series gave rise to a pulp movie, if I could call it that, in the 1980’s. It was a hoot.
A month ago, I published an article titled “Lessons learned from a trilogy: an interim report, and Kindle Unlimited observations“. That was the first part of this article. If you haven’t already read it, please click on that link and do so before continuing with this one. Don’t worry. We’ll wait … what, back already? All right. Here goes.
Dorothy challenged me in December 2017 to complete my latest military SF trilogy, “Cochrane’s Company“, in full, before publishing any part of it. I should then publish the component novels in rapid succession, to maintain reader interest.
She noted that authors in other genres had had good results by doing that. Sales of each successive book in their series had both boosted the sales of those that had gone before it, and been boosted by reader interest aroused by earlier books, meaning that sales for the series as a whole were higher overall.
Dorothy was absolutely correct, although not quite in the way she or I had expected.
I’ve had a lot of feedback concerning my article, two weeks ago, about lessons learned from launching my most recent trilogy. I’m glad so many of you found it helpful and/or thought-provoking. It was the first pass at the topic; in two weeks from now, I’ll have another look at it, this time including a graphical analysis of sales and the “trilogy effect” or “series effect”. It should be even more interesting.
Meanwhile, I’ve run across a few articles that add depth to some of the points I raised in that first article. I thought you might find them useful too.
A few months ago, I wrote about an experimental trilogy, with which I hoped to improve my marketing dynamics and revitalize my writing career after some health-related doldrums. The trilogy is “Cochrane’s Company“, and its third and final book, “The Pride of the Damned“, was published on Monday this week. So far, it (and the trilogy as a whole) are selling nicely, thank you.
Dorothy and I have learned a great deal in the process of writing and publishing this trilogy. Many of those lessons are works in progress, and I’ll elaborate on them in another article a month or two down the road. However, some are immediately apparent, and I thought you might like an advance look at what we’ve either found out, or had reinforced by the market. Some of the lessons are new to us. Others are old news, but reinforced by current market trends.
A large number of articles and news reports related to writing have caught my eye in recent weeks. I thought you might enjoy a selection of them. Follow the links provided to learn more about those that interest you.