Monday, August 24, 2009

Characters matter

by Maggie Toussaint

If I had the opportunity to sit down with a newly published person or someone still trying to break in, I would tell them the writing always has to come first. Sounds simplistic, I know, but there's so much packed into those few words.

Publishing has so many segments, and they can be so very seductive. Many writers try to do it all. They mount blog campaigns, social network blitzes, book lots of conferences, schedule signings all over creation, some even manage radio, print, and TV interviews. God knows, its crushing to think of the weight of it all, and I didn't even mention reviews or book trailers or people dropping by your house to talk to you about their idea for a book.

These marketing aspects can be wildly exhilarating or a disaster waiting to happen. I've had both reactions, sometimes within the span of the same minute. My point is there's a sense of doing your part with marketing, no matter the size of your publishing house. And there's also a sense of the more you do, the more your name gets out there, the better chance you have of building a fanbase.

That's all well and good if you have a dozen or more print-ready books on your shelves. If you aren't so lucky, then you have to find a way to balance writing and promotion. I used to think story was all. That if you had a well-plotted book, you were golden. With the wisdom of hindsight, I now see that character matters the most. If a reader doesn't care about your character, they won't finish your book.

Often times rejection letters have lines like this: "I just wasn't feeling your characters." Character is key. In my opinion, exceptional characters can transcend an average plot, but average characters will sink an exceptional plot.

In summary, my advice to newly published writers is to not get totally seduced by promotion, to keep writing new books, populated with three-dimensional characters.

What's your thought? Agree? Disagree?

Maggie Toussaint
stubbornly Southern and somewhat outspoken
author of romance and mystery


Mary Anne Gruen said...

Good advice! With marketing being the job of the writer nowadays, it really is possible to get lost in it.

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Mary and leaving a comment. I wish you success with your writing.

liana laverentz said...

Hi, Maggie,

I think your advice is spot on. Just keep writing new books.