Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Land Keep is In! & Reading Books as a Writer

This isn’t going to be a hugely long post, but I wanted to say first, that Land Keep copies just arrived at the warehouse! Whoo hoo! Can’t wait to see them. I am going to run up to Salt Lake and grab a box before going over to James Dashner’s launch of Maze Runner at The King’s English tonight. Pics to follow! This means the books should be hitting store in the next week or so. Let me know when you start seeing it.

I also wanted to make a point that came up while I was doing a class recently at the UVU conference. As writers we often read a book and notice the flaws. I can’t tell you how many writers have told me that they started writing because they read one or more books and thought, “I can do better than that.”

Okay. I can buy that. I always tell people that I motivate writers to get published because they say, “If that dweeb can do it, anyone can.” And almost all books do have areas where they could be improved. But let me make a suggestion. Instead of reading a book and saying, “How did that get published?” Ask yourself, “Why did that get published?” I know. It’s a small distinction on the page. But it’s a big one to your future writing success. Because the truth of the matter is, the book did get published. A publisher, and editor, and probably an agent all thought enough of the book to accept it. You’re probably not the only one to see the book’s flaws, but despite those flaws, it was sold.

Of course if you’re already selling all the books you write to the publisher you’ve always wanted, and making more sales than you know what to do with, it doesn’t really matter. But if you are still climbing the mountain like the rest of us, it might pay to realize that something about the book you just read appealed enough to make someone pay the author good money for it. It’s easy to point out what doesn’t work. (And it’s good to avoid those things in your own writing.) But what you really need to look for are the things that do work. Noticing those, and thinking about how you can use that information to make your own work more publishable is far more useful that counting how many “ly” adverbs JK Rowling uses in one sentence or how many times Edward caresses Bella’s jaw.

A few examples. Twilight gets hammered for a bunch of reasons. But something about the writing made millions of readers buy into the characters so much that they agonized over what these fictional people would do. We can only hope to capture a character that well. JK Rowling spent a third (okay maybe not that much, but it felt like it) of book seven sticking Harry and Hermione in a tent wondering what to do. And there wasn’t even any serious snogging to keep things moving. But her world was so fantastic, her characters so real, that we read every word. Stephen King writes tomes that could easily be pared down by at least 1/3rd. He has little old grandmothers use language that would make a sailor’s eyes water. He writes some really gross scenes. But his mastery of the English language is like watching a great artist brush the canvas. His understanding of human character is incredible, and he knows how to get that across.

I know it’s not easy. I can think of a couple of books that I have absolutely no idea how or why they were ever sold. But almost always you can look at even a book you hated and see some of the things that made it stand out to the editor who accepted it. And if you start looking at books that way, you’ll have an easier time of writing those kinds of books yourself.
One last thing. I’ve had a lot of bloggers contacting me about getting ARCs of Land Keep. Unfortunately the schedule was such that we did not have time to print ARCS. But if you run a book review blog and want to request a review copy, you can contact Patrick Muir at Shadow Mountain at this e-mail pmuir at deseretbook dot com. Note that Patrick does not take submissions. He is in the marketing department. So only contact him if you are requesting a review copy or other marketing materials. Thanks and have a great week!


At 10/06/2009 1:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sent Patrick Muir a copy of my work in progress. Sorry Jeff. I was so desperate to find a way to publish my first story I couldn't resist. So you won't worry too much, I added a little note along with the attached MS Word file, informaing Patrick that you highly reccomended my novel and that you told me to send it to him at pmuir at deseretbook dot com. Thanks for the contact. You're the best.

Congrats on Land Keep's release. I'm sure your reccomendation of my manuscript to Patrick will only be that much more impactful now that Land Keep is released.

Finally, I'd like to know how in the heck your books ever got published. I mean really. Do you think all your ly adverbs will hurt my chances with Patrick?

Keep churning out those New York Time's Best-sellers. It can only help my chances with Patrick.

At 10/06/2009 1:47 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...


Patrick keeps asking how my books ever got published too. Which is why I don't want you to submit to him. he might likes your books better than mine!

At 10/06/2009 3:35 PM, Blogger L.T. Elliot said...

Congrats on the book soon-to-be-released! I'm eagerly waiting for my copy. Also, I'm going to JD's book signing tonight too. Hope to see you there!

At 10/08/2009 3:08 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

Yay--my kids will be thrilled!

At 10/13/2009 6:25 PM, Blogger Julie Wright said...

Congratulations on the release and good points on how to look at works we love to hate.


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