The myth that publishers have stacks of brilliant manuscripts and that writers have to line up in a long queue was deflated by Jennifer Bacia during her talk at the Gold Coast Writers Association meeting.
‘Actually, that is not the case’ she stated. According to Jennifer, publishers are always looking for something that will make them money. The words ‘commercial books’ (popular fiction, commercial fiction or main-stream-fiction books) are a strong reminder that publishers are aware that publishing is a business where real risk is taken and real money invested. ‘They need the big commercial books to be able to produce more literary and esoteric books,’ said Jennifer sealing her argument.
However, she explained that simply writing what is currently in fashion will not automatically improve your chances of becoming a well-paid and successful writer: ‘You cannot write what you do not like reading. If you want to give yourself a chance, you have to pick a genre you like and you have to target your audience’.
Going to book shops and analysing what sells, choosing your preferred genre could be a very helpful exercise but what is more important is to bring something different and unique to your story in order to have that chance. The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller was given as a clear example where marketing played a big role in selling the book because of the hype that was attached to the fact that a man had written a woman’s romantic story.
Popular fiction, commercial fiction and main-stream fiction are different from literary fiction and to explain these differences Jennifer Bacia said: “Popular fiction is exactly what it states – it reaches the widest audience. Think about Shakespeare who wrote plays designed for popular tastes and to make money.” Popular fiction is all about a compelling story that will entertain readers. Its characters have to have credible motivation which means that your heroine or hero must have a worthwhile goal. .
The conflict arises according to what your character wants and what opposing forces are standing in the way. A fast moving plot must be balanced between the crisis peaks and resting points. Resting points can be achieved through various techniques, including calm moments where the starting points of the next crisis must be presented. Calm moments can be achieved by the ‘leap in time’ (flash back or flash forward) technique or the moments where your character explores internal thoughts about his or her situation.
Pacing and suspense are linked, but suspense is achieved by ensuring the reader cares enough about the main character to be worried about the problems and risks that arise from her fight to achieve her goal. To make the final conquest over opposing forces more credible you must let your character have some small victories, keeping readers in state of suspense about when and how the opposing forces will be finally defeated.
To sum up what suspense is, Jennifer Bacia states: ‘Suspense works through anticipation. It is created by hinting at the crisis to come and by withholding information from the reader until the last possible moment. It is all about hints and clues before the next dramatic event is presented.’
Ultimately, Jennifer explained the importance of the preliminary thinking process. She stressed that writing passionately, from your own interests, loves and hates is also important because ‘creativity springs from passion’, a passion that has to come from what is important to you. However, what is important to you has to be tested. Will it have value to readers and therefore be of potential commercial value for publishers?
Jennifer encouraged the audience to think about ‘Writing honestly, with true vulnerability’ as that is what helps writing to be original while affording creative joy and satisfaction.
You can contact Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org
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