22 Apr 2011

Happy Easter and a case of brilliant marketing ...

In Norway Easter is about oranges, marzipan, snow - and crime novels. The oranges, snow and sweets are easy to understand - but what's with the crim novels, you may ask.
This article was published in Mystery Readers Journal - Scandinavian issue, in 2007.
The piece is about crime novels and Easter, but it's also about what brilliant marketing can do for a book - or in this case, for a genre.
Happy Easter everyone!

Crime at Easter
Singh & Normann
Norwegian crime writers have something no other writers in any other country have. Something other crime writers envy us, and love when it happens to their (translated) work.

About two-three weeks before the Easter holidays, there’s a crime wave in Norway. And by that we don’t mean criminals run free. No, it’s the crime writer’s that run free – or at least their books. Every publisher will have at least one or two crime novels in the bookstores for this season; it’s tradition. In Norway, a crime novel is as much a part of the Easter Holidays as snow, Easter eggs and fluffy bunnies.

It’s been going on for 84 years!
What happened was that two university students, low on cash, got a bright idea. They wrote a crime novel about six students robbing a train on Holy Saturday.
Not really a very original or sensational plot, you ask? You’re right.
The brilliance was in the advertising:
On 24 March, 1923, the headline in Norway’s largest paper read: “The train to Bergen robbed tonight!” in large captions. The headline scared people all over the country, and family and friends called the police to enquire about their loved ones on the night train. The police directed their attention to the small print in the corner of the ad: written by Jonathan Jerv. The brother of one of the students was the head of the largest publishing house at the time, and he agreed to print a small numbers of books. The advertising was his idea. The book became a huge success.
From there it grew, and now it’s A Tradition.
Something crime writers, their publisher and crime lovers are very grateful for. For the crime writer it means better chances for your book to be noticed. You rarely have to fight the celebrity bio, the latest “Great Novel of the Year” and so on at Christmas. (Of course, you do have to compete with all the other crime novels). People want crime fiction.
So, if you’re to be published in Norwegian, ask your Norwegian publisher for the Easter season. Chances are, you’ll be well received.

16 Apr 2011

The Plan ...

A writer's life is mostly behind a desk, staring at a computer,hammering away at moments of inspiration and lots of coffee. And even if my computer screen now turns pink whenever it feels like it, just to wake me up, the work can get tedious - okay, boring, if I don't do something to keep it fresh. So I like to give myself new challenges. It's good practice and it makes the writing more interesting. It's also great for ignoring witer's block, btw.
I'm starting a new book- the third in a series - and I want to do it in as short time as possible. I know I can write one of these books in five weeks, I've done it before.
Therefore April's challenge is this:  can I do a first draft in even shorter time than five weeks?
God knows.
I'm not obsessive about deadlines, but I find that my work takes on a better flow with a deadline looming in the horizon. There's nothing like panic to get the creative juices flowing ...
When I make one of these writing challenges for myself, it always means I have to plan. I never totally follow the Plan, but it keeps my head tidy to a certain point. I have the Plan under a clear plastic thingy my computer stands on, so that I can see where I am and what I have to do.
That's the idea, anyway.
To make this master plan I pull out my trusted copy of Elizabeth Georges Write Away. I first read it years ago when I was preparing for my ever first interview with a famous writer, and I was so nervous my hands were shaking all the way through the lunch and the interview. Elizabeth George couldn't have been nicer or easier to interview, but I was still nervous. Mostly because I was deeply impressed after reading the book several times. She plans her books in detail, and then she writes - following the plan. Wow.
I can't do that. I can plan and I can use the plan, but I need to throw it out the window if I want to.
To prepare myself this time, I've read through about half of Write Away again, making notes, thinking about what I need, and so on.
And this is what I'm using: Since I've finished the first two books of the series, I'm now comfortable with the characters, the setting, the historic research and I know how to bring the story forward. I also know that if I just start on page one and write whatever falls into my head, I'm more than likely to bring the story forward to fast, ending up with a lot of rewriting and loose lots of time.

So yesterday I sat down - with Write Away on my desk, a notepad, and the 3000 words I already have on the book. I started by making vertical lines on the notepad and then I wrote down what I know will have to happen in this book. I didn't worry about order or sense, I just wrote it down as I see it in my head. I asked questions while I did this - any questions that fall into my head. (I will organize them later). When I finished, I
had lots of scenes, lots of questions.
Today I opened a new document on the computer, split it in half, and started to organize the notes in two very neat rows. Tomorrow I will do it again, fine tune it, if you will. Then I will start to write.
As I said earlier, under my computer I have a clear plastic thingy that covers half the desk. Under there I stick small notes with inspired thoughts, scratch cards I've won on, things from magazines that inspire me, shopping lists, phone numbers -  and the Plan.
I also have a second part of the Plan there, this one hand-written. The paper is divided in two, there's dates on both sides. I like to write down how many words I write in a day, so that I can follow the progress. (the target is about 40.000 words). There's two lines for every date. The daily target is somewhere between 1000 and 2000 words. And I started this on April 15. Since I haven't really started the writing yet, I'm already two days behind schedule.
Which means that tomorrow's work also include making a new daily plan, starting from the April 18.
The most important thing is to always know that the Plan is not set in stone.
Otherwise you can't make a new one when it's necessary.
No worries, then!