Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Robin Shope (Advice for Novelists, Part 46)

Our advice for novelists series is still going on strong! I've asked editors, authors, agents and publicists their answers to the question:

"If you could say one thing to aspiring novelists, what would you say?"

Today the talented Ms. Shope shares her response:

My advice is simple; know your audience and genre. If you are like me, you enjoy various types of music, and your reading tastes run the gamut from fiction to nonfiction to children’s books. Many new writers, including myself, started out writing anything and everything . . . that is not so bad, and quite energetic for an aspiring author. But when we become serious about being published then writing takes on a whole new meaning. Pick one genre that you feel most passionate about and learn it.

That means read that genre. Study it as though you are preparing for a college exam. Take notes on how the characters are developed, when the problem occurs, how a hook is used, what about the story keeps you right on turning the pages. Better still, write down what you don’t like. Writing takes work. Writer Loops are filled with the same type of questions from aspiring authors all asking the same basic questions such as
I am writing a book for young adults. Can anyone suggest a good author for me to read? I shiver when I read that and not in a good way. Their shelves should already be filled with the likes of Jean Craighead George and Cynthia Rylant.

A good mystery book was all I ever used to pick up. I read them voraciously before I even considered writing them. Because of that passion I decided to craft my own thriller filled with DNA, and fiber evidence. It took root and everywhere I looked I saw a potential story. I worked at a rough school with at risk kids. One day a student attacked me with a metal door. I was asked to write out the police report detailing what happened. My principal at the time knew my love for setting up a story scene and told me to try to keep it under forty pages. Honest.

By the time my third book was published, I had acquired a bevy of forensic experts that I consulted. I also bought an underground book of how someone can acquire a new identity and studied that for my fourth mystery book,
Wildcard, which is coming out 2009.

Yep, mystery writing was my genre. Then the unthinkable, the unexplainable happened. A publisher asked me to write a romance book set at Christmas time. I bit back my laughter. After I agreed I went into shock that lasted for several days. What did I know about romance? My opinion of romance books up to that point was; woman falls in love with man. Man falls in love with woman. A problem arises that causes the woman and the man to break up. Woman cries. Man sulks. Woman and man get back together. The end. What to do? The only thing I could. I turned to Lifetime TV for help. The romance kind. And watched a weekend worth of sweet, very romantic stories, and I took notes. On Monday I headed to the library and checked out best selling romance authors.

Ooou, I soon discovered that romance is ripe with emotion and conflict. And dark villains. So I wrote my Christmas book and sent it to the publisher. A week later I signed a contract for a five holiday book series.

--Robin Shope, author of The Candidate (with Susan Wales), Wildcard, and more. Visit her online at her blog and Shoutlife pages:


nina said...

Good advice Robin!
Although I am not dreaming of a novel someday, I do have things I want to get down on paper. My audience? My kids and grandkids. So---perhaps you have inspired me to get a blog going!
In the book "The Creative Call" by Janice Elsheimer--she mentions that God did not simply give creative gifts TO us....but THROUGH us. We are meant to share them. And to enjoy the journey. Both of which you are doing! :o)

Robin Shope said...

Great idea Nina!
Oral & written family history is so important. I remember my dad telling my older sister some stories about his childhood late at night. I begged to sit and listen too but was always sent to bed...because I was younger. And now I am the story teller. How I wish I had some of those stories to pass along to my children. I have a journal that I write to my children in. I tell them about my day and what is going on in the news..and also include things I want them to know about life and about themselves. They are grown now and I think someday they will appreciate it. There is all kinds of writing.

nina said...

Thanks for the encouragement.
I've always been interested in writing,(thoughts and poetry) just a bit of play for me.
For now, my creative branch is leaning toward photography---but i hope to use both on a new blog soon.