1. carsun1000
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    carsun1000 Active Member

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    Any real winning formula for being a successful author?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by carsun1000, Oct 21, 2015.

    Hello,

    So I have noticed that in recent times there is somewhat of a shifting paradigm in being successful as an author. I often ask myself if it is sheer luck, hard work, or great marketing strategies that get new writers noticed. And for the life of me, the answers to this question does not come easy. Hard work maybe?
    I picked up Paula Hawkins' The Girl On The Train and many many pages into this book, I still was not hooked.
    Whatever happened to the idea of catching the readers' interest from the first page? Those first pages I read only rambled about the main character and her somewhat miserable life and the couple she enjoys watching on the train and that didn't grab me enough to keep reading, yet this is a very successful book.

    So what does it? Are readers more patient these days and not very demanding for action from the first page?
    Is the author established enough to rely on the story's strength to do the work?
    Why shouldn't or couldn't a new author try this approach?
    What gives?
     
  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I don't think there are any formulas per say - but there are tricks to get you noticed. For instance take Ya - a book cover with a girl in a gorgeous dress can do wonders for your publicity. A high concept doesn't hurt either.

    As for The girl on the train it passed two hurdles - a publisher loved it and picked it up and they in turn passed it around to critics to create a buzz.
    Now the buzz can carry it. Because of the buzz it doesn't need a flashy opening.
    Someone was invested in reading it and probably passed it on in a manner that said you-have-to-read-this. The next readers ( critics ) were a little more invested in waiting for the story to happen. It is after all a mystery and those tend to start a bit slow. Plus with a gushing recommendation maybe they're geared to approach it differently. Now it's got a list of critics recommending it and now everyone wants to make their own opinion.

    I don't think readers are as impatient as we think they are - or else why would fantasy/sci-fi books go from an average of 125 pages in the 60's 70s to more like 300 pages now?

    I've become more skeptical of the idea of a hook after participating in a hook critique. First of all everyone's idea on a hook seems scattered. For me it's pushing the idea of the ( or a ) conflict up in those initial first pages. To others it seems to mean action, a flashy statement or idea or a typical beginning to showcase setting or character, or world.
    A lot flubbed it ( myself included. ) Mine was wording that didn't quite match up with what was happening ( trying to be over-clever ) and I was also accused of going to slow. Others were found to be boring, too cliché and what I found the most
    problematic was an urge to withhold information to create a sense of mystery - but there's no point in withholding something in paragraph 1 if you're going to reveal it in paragraph 2 all you're doing is creating confusion not mystery.

    Another problem was the need to use show. One of the hooks was about a story where the characters were a hybrid - part animal part human( not explained just alluded to ) but the mc had the name of an animal. Which was the first major trip. They behaved like people and had a setting like people but suddenly their was a mention of tails and ... well it was clearly written but execution-wise ... damn confusing.
    The writer's focus was to create an interest for the characters and their setting through show. But to be honest I actually would've preferred some fairytale - tell. Try telling that to someone whose had the show don't tell rule rammed down their throat.

    The only formula I want is a sense of clarity, a hint of what the book will be about and I think the rest comes down to personal choice.
     
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  3. aguywhotypes
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    aguywhotypes Active Member

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    I've been wanting to read it, but now I'm a bit hesitant because two members of my writing club read it and they had the same complaint. All three mc's sound exactly alike.

    Did you find this to be the case as well?

    The members were astonished that this is heralded as a "must read" book.
     
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  4. carsun1000
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    carsun1000 Active Member

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    TBH, I haven't gotten that far to get into it. I think my bias as a writer kinda kicked in and I just stopped because I was not hooked. Maybe I will give it another chance another time.
     
  5. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    As I've said before on the forum, I wish I hadn't read so many of those "you must grab the publisher's attention from the VERY FIRST WORD! Make every single word of Chapter 1 ABSOLUTE DYNAMITE or they will shred your manuscript and use it as toilet paper!" articles. This advice is becoming one of my bug bears. Readers are not stupid and they don't have the attention spans of toddlers. They open your book wanting to enjoy it, so unless you screw it up in the first few pages they are willing to invest a bit of time in you. They've bought your book for a reason: either it's been recommended to them, or they've read the blurb and thought "that's an interesting premise". Either way, they're going to give you some space where you can both settle down and get into the story.

    That being said, neither way (massive hook OR slow starter) is a formula for success. Both can work and both can fall flat on their faces.
     
  6. aguywhotypes
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    aguywhotypes Active Member

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    This is good news. I can now write whatever the crap it is I'm going to write.
     
  7. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the formula is:

    1 Story to tell
    2 Words that captivate the reader and draw them in

    I used to think a good story was important, but now believe/understand it is all in how you tell it; any story is a good story when it is written well.
     
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  8. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that @Tenderiser and @tonguetied make very good points.

    IMHO, there are different rules for people who are established authors, and those who are in the slush pile. Stephen King could easily get away with a book that starts with a page of seemingly senseless stream of consciousness prose. Would a slush pile reader who found that bother reading past that first page?

    In addition, for short story publication, I think it's very important to research the market you're submitting to. Reading through past issues shows definite patterns which can be catered to. I've noted that one place I would like to publish in (probably long in the future :) ) publishes quite a few stories featuring cats. Cat story coming up.
     
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