Robert Newton Peck’s “Fiction is Folks”

Robert Peck’s Fiction is Folks was a difficult book for me to get through on my first read and an entertaining book on my second read. I’ll read it at least one more time before I’m satisfied I’ve sucked all the marrow from its pages (that odd phrasing is one of his suggestions. Such odd phrasings wake the reader up. You may not like that one, that’s fine, and learn the technique. Practice it. The technique useful even if my example is not).

My initial challenge was the reason I was entertained on my second read: Peck is homesy and folksy. He is direct, clear, honest. He’s a native Vermonter and it shows in both his prose and his examples.

An important point about his examples: most of them passed over me on my first read because this entire book is an example. He explains something and read his explanation again. It’s an example of what he’s explaining. Now look at the example he uses for his explanation. Yes, it’s an example and it contains a thread to the next example.

Also (and like most Writers’ Digest books I’ve read) he covers a broad range of topics well beyond character (the main item in this book). A partial list includes:

  • Blurbs
  • Plot
  • Character
  • Covers
  • Story
  • Marketing
  • Structure
  • Language
  • Exercises
  • and this doesn’t touch on the general stuff you need to know to get your work published

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How do you demonstrate you’ve written a well-told, interesting story in a tweet?

At the end of Metrics? We don’t need no stinkin metrics! (finale), I wrote “(anybody notice I haven’t covered “How do you demonstrate you’ve written a well-told, interesting story in a tweet?”
that’s a big question. let me think on it a bit and get back to you.)”

This is me getting back to you.

The first way to demonstrate you’ve written a well-told, interesting story in a tweet is to practice your craft (to which most authors go “Duh!“).

But think about it. You need to demonstrate your competency in both story-telling and -crafting in 250-260 characters (the link to your work’ll take up some characters) (want to see a kind-of master at this? Check out @ShorterThanFic. His tweets are both a riot and gems.)

A tweet demonstrating you’ve written a well told, interesting story is primarily a sales tool and great sales tools get past all the defenses consumers have developed to sales pitches and touch them at either their core or identity levels. They need to slow the consumer down enough to focus on the sales pitch’s content and not everything else going on around them distracting them from the pitch.

In other words, a good sales pitch aka a tweet demonstrating you’ve written a well-told, interesting story needs to get inside the consumer and make sure nothing else gets in for long enough for the pitch to take root and become actionable (== the person wants to buy your book or at least learn more about it).

This takes us back to blurbs. A blurb’s header is often a good tweet. I don’t recommend summing up your novel in one sentence. That exercise may be useful when submitting to agents and publishers but it usually takes the form of a statement and statements rarely have a call to action (an inducement for the consumer to purchase or learning more).

For example, some good tweets re The Augmented Man might be


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Blurbs

Noun: blurb
1. A promotional statement (as found on the dust jackets of books)

 
I’m studying blurbs.

You know that stuff you find written on the backcover and/or dust jacket of most books? That’s the blurb. It’s underneath the endorsements (if there are any) and the grabber-headline.

My study revealed that opinions differ (Duh!). Some times the terms used for the same things differ. There’s no hard and fast rules, only opinions.

Opinions are called soft data, meaning they’re subjective and hard to pin down into something actionable. However, get enough soft data and you can perform statistical analyses that turns soft data into hard data, meaning objective and pin downable, provided you remember your original source is soft data and therefore your valid results could be valid results based on invalid information or incorrect analyses. Two-thousand people claiming something is valid doesn’t necessarily mean it’s valid. It could mean two-thousand people are incorrect.

The Chinese General Solicitation
I study soft data using The Chinese General Solicitation. I learned the Solicitation a long time ago, it’s served me well ever since in any number of situations:

  1. Ask the same question to lots of different people.
  2. Get their answer,
  3. then ask lots of questions to get an explanation for their answer.

Do that until you run out of time, money, or both (and recognize that the data won’t harden up quickly. You generally need lots of people taking part), then make a list divided as follows:

  1. Top of the list – find out what everybody agrees to.
  2. Second part of the list – find out what most people agree to.
  3. Bottom of the list – pay attention to what you agree with (not because it’s least worthy but because it’s your gut-check station).

Now lets apply these concepts to Blurbs.

1. What does everybody agree to?


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