I’m getting packed to leave for a conference tomorrow, so tonight’s blog will be shortish. I will try to keep to my regular schedule of blogging–blogs should appear Monday through Friday, leaving us all to recover on the weekend. We’ll see if I can manage that, because conferences really are a ton of fun, and it’s too easy to hang out in the hotel lobby talking to the other loons until all hours of the night.
Judith posted this sample author bio a couple of days ago:
Originally trained as a teacher of English, Judith Robl has morphed through more than the requisite seven career changes. She’s worked in varied milieu from adult care facillites to petroleum production, with forays into printing, publishing, real estate and accounting.
She is a member of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, having been the organizing regent of her local chapter. Her novel, Patience, evolved from her desire to be a fly on the wall in her ancestor’s household, when the menfolk were read out of Quaker meeting for their participation in the American Revolution.
Judith and her husband have occupied the same home in central Kansas for the past 37 years.
Randy sez: The strong part of this is paragraph 2, where we learn that Judith’s forebears forebore to foreswear arms-bearing in the American Revolution. And that’s what her novel’s about.
See, a good publicist could make hay out of that. It won’t get Judith on Oprah, but there are a ton of radio folks out there scrambling every day to put together the programming. So Judith’s publicist calls them up and says, “Hey, did you know that in the American Revolution, there were men who got tossed out of the Quakers for fighting? And we’ve got one of their descendants who’s researched it all up. And by the way, she even wrote a novel. Interested?”
Truth to tell, not all radio folks will be jazzed by this. But some of them will, and that’s the point. That puts Judith on the radio, and she gets a bit of name-recognition. It all adds up over time.
So Judith, put that second paragraph first, and juice it up as much as it will bear. The rest of it’s all fine, but you want the glitzy stuff first.
Destiny asked a few questions a couple of days ago:
1) How fun/teasing can your bio be? Like where you talk about how John’s gone to Mars. Is it possible that an editor would not take it in it’s funny intentions?
2) What kind of credentials can you have for fantasy? A degree is philosophy? A degree is Wicca? An ardent knowledge of many popular fantasy books? And if you are a lawyer or a doctor writing a fantasy book, is it taken as against you? Should you simply avoid mentioning it? Is there anything you MUST mention is your bio?
Randy sez: I referred to your question 1 obliquely a few days ago, but it bears repeating. Humor is good. It will hurt you with some editors and help you with others. If you’re going to use humor, make sure it’s really good, so it’ll help more than it hurts. With John Olson’s bio, he applied the humor with a fairly light touch. Yesterday, when we looked at Christophe’s bio, it was laid on quite a bit thicker and with that comes added risk. However, Christophe just has to find ONE editor who’s also a werewolf, and he’s found a friend.
As for question 2, the only credentials needed for fantasy are the ability to write fantasy. A strong background in medieval studies can help. The novels of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and J.K. Rowling all reveal a lot of study in medieval history.
A degree in philosophy could help, IF you are writing a fantasy in which philosophical study is important. Likewise, a background in Wicca could help a fantasy writer with a Wiccan slant. A lot of reading of other fantasies is very important, since you want to avoid being called “derivative”–the kiss of death in fantasy writing. A doctor or lawyer writing a fantasy might want to mention that fact if they are writing one that involves herbal healing or legal dealing. If not, then it’s not helpful.
The general rule is to tie your life as closely as possible to your story. You want the editor believing that no person on the planet could possibly be better suited to writing your story than YOU.
OK, I better go finish packing for that pesky conference.
What’s our next topic? Leave a comment and let me know what you’d like to talk about next.
Christophe Desmecht says
Have fun at the conference, Randy, and thanks for taking a look at my bio.
As for humor in your bio, here’s my opinion. It makes sense that if you’re writing a ‘serious’ novel, then the humor you put in your bio should be light at best. You don’t want to give the editor the wrong impression, or the impression that you’re inconsistent. Though if your novel itself contains humor, then I feel that adding humor to your bio only helps to tie you to what you’re writing. In this case, you’re not just saying that you’re an expert on the subject that you’re writing about, but that your style of writing fits in perfectly with who you are.
Not sure if an editor would go for this, but this just makes sense to me.
Makes perfect sense to me, Christophe. Stumps me, too. I’m not sure my off-beat humor belongs in the bio if the book isn’t overly humorous. My current wip has traces of dememented humor (nearly blind grannie isn’t allowed near the keys to the old farm truck, or the axe) mingled in with the heavier stuff, sort of comic relief. But Randy sez play up the contradictory/bi-polar/perverse angle in my case.
Looks like we’re moving on, but I’ll take a feeble stab at answering the “WHY???” from my bio, a.k.a. the hook, feel free to fire at will:
Camille C. earned a PhD in Learning Things the Hard Way. She’s well acquainted with dysfunction, abuse, pain, and despair. And thanks to the self-help Eighties, in additional to dysfunctional, she’s self absorbed. She’s also sarcastic, ironic, gifted but lazy, compulsive, wry witted, self-depreciating, and over-caffeinated. She plays bass guitar, loves Classic Rock, muscle cars, big V-twins and action flicks, and HATES shopping.
And. . . . she writes touchingly sweet, old fashioned, faith-based romances targeted toward nice, normal women with nice nails. WHY??
Because maybe, just maybe—this sassy rocker chick has a soft heart. And if word of that gets out, she’ll deny it.
Independent studies—actually a few moments of scowling at the keyboard—indicate that when a broken heart grows a thick skin and a sharp tongue, it’s not impenetrable; it just takes more powerful emotional experience to get through. Which means . . . she’s a real sucker for a deeply touching, take-your-breath-away love story.
Go ahead, laugh it up: she can take it. Beat her up: she won’t cry. But give her a genuine, poignant love story and she’ll shed a tear or two . . . so long as no one’s looking.
Better yet, let her tell the story, one with a shard or two of wit and so full of compelling characters, touching moments that take your breath away, and love that overcomes all obstacles, that it would crack the toughest nut. If it can do that, she’s afraid to think what it would do to the polite types.
Mmm…thanks a lot for answering my questions!
I think our next topic should center around being able to not procrastinate on and on about the novel. Like how to deal with writer’s block, or something along those lines.
Okay, I’m ready to go back and totally rework my (boring) bio. This has been a lot of help.
New topic? How about characters? What do you do to create your characters beyond the one paragraph and one page goal/conflict/motivation development? Do you chart out details like physical traits, background, personality, quirks, etc? I feel like I need to have mine fleshed out before diving into the story (maybe it’s just my way of procrastinating).
Have fun at the conference! Wish I could be there to get more or your insights.
Next topic? How about office organization (dry, I know – but how do you file – not your finger nails, but your file folders). Or how about contract know hows? Or maybe what to do when you find an agent who is willing to take you on?
Karla Akins says
Have loads of fun at the conference — and especially enjoy those lobby fests! Life is more than blogging! But we sure are glad you do!
Pam Halter says
If I were an editor, I’d ask for your manuscript, Camille. You’ve given us a taste of how you write, and it’s witty, humorous and fun. I’d like to read your stuff.
Lynn asked about what to do if an agent wants you. I’d like to add to that, Randy. What do you do if TWO agents want you?
Randie—My next hurdle is finding an agent. Maybe you could give us some tips.
Oops! Should be spelled Randy. Sorry.
Thanks for devoting so much time to helping us. It came just in time! I’ll be at the conference, see you there!
Hey Randy, I almost forgot — Have a BLAST at conference!
(Those of us not attending hold no sinful grudges or envy at all.)
May your classes be attended to overflowing with attentive listeners and not a single heckler in the crowd. As you pour out wisdom for those eager writers, may you be showered with blessings you never expected! And may your late night looning be nearly free of all scamming and other evil mischief making.
Enjoy — and thanks LOADS for all you do!!!!
Randy- Thanks for all the bio info–have a good time at the conference. Next topic? How about standout query and cover letters?
Camille, if I give you my info could you write my bio? I love your bio and would read your book based on it! And I don’t read romance novels.
Randy, Have a great time at the conference. Since most of us can’t be there is it possible to buy the audio (CD, MP3, etc)? I know some of the conferences offer a list of sessions and you can purchase the ones that suit your interest. Is there a website available, or a number to call?
Andra M. says
I also thank you for all the info and hope you have a great time at the conference, Randy.
Others have asked for better subjects to tackle next, but I have a small question: For competitive comparison books, can we mention books of similar writing style as well as subjects?
Here’s an idea for a future topic:
I often struggle during the plotting phase in the process of writing a novel. I find it difficult to come up with enough scenes for a novel-length work. I feel like I’m coming up short and I don’t know how to beef up my plots to make a longer book (i.e. the book I’m currently shopping around to agents I had intended to be at least 90k words, but it ended up a mere 76k). I like lean, punchy prose which is often found in the genre I write (crime fiction), so the last thing I want to do is pad my scenes.
So how does one get enough plot into a book to reach 90-100k words? And how do you know you have enough? I thought I did for that previously mentioned book, but it fell considerably short of my expectations.
Carrie Neuman says
The advice I’ve seen on the subject is to add another PoV character. Each one should be good for 10 to 20k words, so that would be just about perfect for you.
So what else is going on behind the scene that your protag doesn’t know? Is that witness holding out on him because she’s dating one of the perps? Is the villain deliberately interfering with the investigation behind the scenes? Is one of the cops covering for the bribes he’s been taking and accidentally screwing up the protag’s trail of clues?
I bet one of those minor characters has been calling out to you, right? Find their secret and why it’s important to the story, even if the protag can’t see it. Badda bing extra words with no padding.