Books, Questions

To TOC or not to TOC

Open any printed novel on your physical book shelf and tell me if it has a table of contents. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Does it? Probably not. Now open a novel on your digital reading device. Does that have a TOC? Does it consist of nothing but a list of numbers? Is that helpful to you?

I have never referred to a TOC in a digital novel. Not once. As I read, I barely notice the chapter numbers. If I’m reading a good book, I may not even be aware when I progress to a new chapter, so I certainly couldn’t go to the table of contents to find my place the next time I pick up my Kindle. Fortunately, my Kindle opens to the point where I left off. It also has a bookmark function, and a “Sync to Furthest Page Read” function.

I understand a TOC in non-fiction book because usually those chapters have titles, or at least subtitles. I do find those helpful. I even understand a TOC in a novel when each chapter has a descriptive name or subtitle—though I doubt I would ever refer to it anyway. But what is the purpose of a TOC in a novel when the chapter headings are numbers only—no subtitles? Apparently, I’m missing the point. Someone enlighten me, please.

Doubt, Fiction, Musings, Questions, Writing

One question too many?

Lately, I’ve spent more time thinking about writing than I have writing. Though exactly what I’m thinking about is probably not what you imagine. I’m questioning why. Why do I write fiction? Why does anyone?

Non-fiction has an obvious reason to be. What is the purpose of fiction? Would you say it exists to explore the human condition? To illustrate the beauty and complexity of language? To convey universal truths? Would you say those reasons best describe literary fiction?

So then, what of commercial fiction. Is this fiction meant to simply entertain? Does it matter that it’s only a temporary thrill, fright, mystery, heart throb? So what if none of these books will ever be deemed a classic, they serve a purpose, right?

Of course, many books fall in-between those two categories. Every book has its readers . And with the ease of self-publishing nowadays, all authors have the opportunity to share their stories. They don’t need permission. They’ve deemed readers as the gatekeepers now. Should they have?

I question why I write, why I think my stories have any reason to exist outside my own head. Is it an act of hubris to foist my imaginings on others? Who am I to take such a step? Who am I?

Forgive me for thinking aloud in this post. I’m not seeking affirmation. I’m just wondering. And I’m thinking this is something I should have questioned long before now. Don’t you think?

Blog Stuff, My Books, Questions, Social Media, Writing

Has my blog passed its Use By date?

Today, I’m questioning the continued existence of this blog. It’s reached the point where I can no longer deny that visitor stats are in decline. Ignoring the ludicrous bump they took after being Freshly Pressed in March (and the overflow to the following month) and the mysterious slight rise in October, my visitor counts have decreased since 2010.

I have no reliable way to know how many people might read my posts in email or a blog reader, so I tell myself that I still have tons of interested readers, they just don’t come online to be counted. But am I fooling myself?

It’s been a weird year on this blog, for many reasons. I admit my posts have deteriorated from hopeful excitement leading up to the publishing of The Brevity of Roses, to disappointment, grumbling, whining, and bewilderment. Hmmm … sounds like a good way to send readers scrambling, doesn’t it?

  • Novel thought—maybe I should work harder to write quality posts.
  • Maybe I should post less frequently. I, too, get overwhelmed trying to keep up with some bloggers.
  • Maybe it’s not my particular blog. (I’m grasping here.) Maybe blogs are passé. Maybe everyone has moved on to something else. Something shinier. If so, I didn’t get that memo.
  • Maybe it’s cyclical. Many of my earlier followers have gone on to be serious writers, and some of them serious bloggers. They have their hands full with their own followers. Others are still working toward publication and they want blogs with helpful writing advice, which they’re increasingly hard-pressed to find here.
  • Maybe that’s the thing— I’m comparing apples and oranges again. I blog, but I’m not a Blogger. I don’t have any clout—or should I say Klout? I’m not destined to have a big following. I shouldn’t expect a growing readership.  Accept that. Be thankful for the readers I have (and I am). Move on.

Many I know have quit blogging, or greatly curtailed it, so apparently they don’t miss it. But I believe I would. And since I’ve already concluded that I’m a bust at Twitter and Google+, my blog is my only real “public” presence. Still, I’d hate to be the last to realize it’s time to mark this blog expired and remove it from the shelf.

*sigh*

I’m stubborn. I’ll probably be the last blogger standing. But maybe some changes are due around here.

Any suggestions?

Advice, Fiction, Marketing, My Books, Novel, Opinion, Promotion, Publish, Questions, Reflections, Writing

Could I live without a hardcover?

From some of my recent posts, you may have gotten the idea I’d already made the decision to end my quest for traditional publication. Decision making is always a long, complicated process for me. I think I have a few extra convolutions in my brain. Or something.

I read pros and cons. I listen to the experienced. I think and think and think and find myself not much closer to taking a stand than I was at the beginning. I hesitate in a thousand ways. I like to think of this as thorough research. More likely it’s just fear of the unknown.

In my last indie vs. traditional post, I concluded that a book published by one of the big NY publishers carries no guarantee it’s a better book, in any sense, than an indie-pubbed book. Yet the stigma of “lesser quality” still attaches itself to the idea of self-publishing. I confess, I’ve been guilty of that prejudice.

I have another book prejudice. I love hardcovers. If cost were never a factor, they would always be my first choice. Alas. Because I’m on a budget, I’m okay with trade paperbacks (soft-cover.) But I loathe mass-market paperbacks. If I indie-pub, my book won’t be in hardcover. End of dream.

So, let me consider other advantages to having my book traditionally published.

More publicity: Or not. Nowadays no matter how a book is published, for the majority of debut authors most of the task of publicizing it will fall on their shoulders. Still, that Big Publisher’s name does carry some weight. This is almost a draw.

Wider distribution: Yes, for a while. According to the latest I heard, the typical debut author will have a book on the shelves of brick and mortar bookstores for about 2-4 months. After that, it’s reduced to special order status. As an Indie author, I would not get the thrill of walking in B&N and seeing my book on the shelf, though if I choose the right options and self-pub as POD, my book could also be a special order by those stores. Safer to assume it would sell only online. I’d say the scale tips toward traditional—except I wonder, where do YOU buy most of your books?

More profit: True—if I received a $5,000 advance. Is that likely? I don’t know. I know there are Indie authors who make buckets of money every month, but they are not debut authors, and most of them are non-fiction authors. However, my self-pubbed novel might sell quite well. Or not.  Even if I received only a $2,000 advance from a traditional publisher, I might come out ahead profit wise. Toss up.

Those are all logical considerations. However, as a writer—as a person—I’m not always logical. To be honest, “always” is probably stretching it. I feel more than I think. So, what are my feelings? *sigh* I’m still working on that.

Your turn: I know some of you have already made the decision to become Indie authors. What was your deciding factor?


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Craft, Fiction, Imagination, Novel, Questions, Short story, Writing

Are you the best one?

As I was scrubbing the stovetop Monday, I was thinking about writing—what else? There’s a question I’ve seen asked, both online and in writing manuals, that always surprises me. The wording may vary, but essentially this is the question: Why are you the best one to write this novel/story?

I understand asking that question of a non-fiction writer. If you’ve never visited Spain, I doubt you’re the best person to write a travel guide for that country. But this question is also asked of fiction writers, and that makes less sense to me.

Yes, it might be difficult for a lifelong bachelor to write plausibly as a young wife and mother. Then again, there’s always research. That bachelor likely knows a young wife and mother or two. The woman writing from a male point of view, probably has male family members and friends from whom to draw the character.

Likewise, the writers of crime and horror fiction don’t have to be murderers or monsters themselves. And it’s probably a sure bet the writer of a middle-grade fantasy is not eleven years old with personal knowledge of dragons, or fairies, or magical spells.

What these writers do have is life experience, imagination, and, let’s assume, the ability to craft a story. But added to those, isn’t the most important qualification for writing any particular story having the idea for it? By “idea” I mean more than a fleeting thought. I mean the basic premise expanded in the writer’s brain to a fully-formed story idea.

Am I missing the point of the question? Isn’t the fact that the idea came to YOU the primary reason you are the best one to write the story or novel?

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