Thursday, September 18, 2008

Top Ten Signs a Book Was Written by Sonja Foust



I found an exercise a long while back that had you list out the top ten signs a book was written by you. I did it and thought it was a fun little meme, but didn't really put much more stock into it.

Lately, though, I've been thinking about that exercise and thinking about how important it is in the grand scheme of selling myself as an author. If I know the top ten signs a book was written by me, then I know what I write and, more importantly, what makes my writing different. It's that elusive "something different" that makes an editor request your full, or makes a reader buy your book after skimming the back cover. Those little pieces of "something different" are what you need to get across right away, whether that's to an editor at conference on your 15-second elevator ride, or in your query letter to the agent of your dreams.

So try it! Sit down and think about the Top Ten Signs a Book Was Written by You. Here are mine. Let me know what you come up with!

1. Lots of dialog. So much dialog that there's not much else.
2. Heroines with big mouths... Is this, perhaps, a comment on the author's tendency to have a big mouth?
3. Heroes with huge biceps. What? I like biceps.
4. Dry humor, especially from the heroines... Perhaps another comment on the author's tendencies.
5. Fated lovers-- soul mates, best friends, reunion stories, that sort of thing.
6. At least one funny injury scene. I don't know why, it just always seems to happen. Someone gets beat up and comedy must follow, because getting beat up is, like, the opposite of fun.
7. Unconditional love. So your career is in direct opposition to mine, and I'm obligated to hate you for it? Nah, I'm so past that. So you cruelly dumped me five years ago? It's ok, I understand why you did. So you're a different species? No problem, still love ya.
8. Parental figures. Yes, I write romances, but there's always a parental figure influence for the hero or the heroine, and sometimes both. Let's face it: we always need parental advice, no matter how old and wise we get.
9. Commentary on society, sometimes not-so-subtle.
10. They live happily ever after.

Sonja Foust is a romance author. Her short story, "Cat in the Mist ," features lots of dialog, a big-mouthed heroine, a huge-biceped hero, dry humor, soul mates, a funny injured hero scene, interspecies snorgling (with apologies to Cute Overload for yoinkage of the term "interspecies snorgling "), a dead-but-still-influential grandfather, commentary on the nature of humanity, and a happy ending. Visit Sonja at sonjafoust.com.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed by the guest blogger do not necessarily reflect those of The Deadly Vixens.

27 deadly screams:

Teresa D'Amario said...

Hi Sonya (waving)

Good to see you here! Hmm, top ten things? According to one person who read my books it's "Hot sex", "Hot guys", "hot Sex", "hot brothers", and "Hot sex".

That's only five, but you get the idea. LOL. I laughed because I don't write THAT much sex into my books by any means.

I'm going to come up with 10 things that identify my books now.

Molly Daniels said...

Mine would be,
1) Dialogue
2) Set in the 1980's
3) Warm friendships between the girls
4) Mild to steamy sex scenes
5) Funny drinking scenes
6) Infidelity (noticed this trend last night...am trying to correct it!)
7) Set in Indiana
8) Social issues to deal with
9) Non-popular heroines
10) Good-looking guys who fall for my average girls:)

Hahaha...when I submitted a sample chapter on a grant application, one of the people on the panel responded with 'If you're going to have that much dialogue, why not write a play?'

I was turned down for the grant, but am trying again, and balancing my scenes with more description:)

Sonja Foust said...

Ha, Teresa, that made me laugh so hard I snorted. Hey, hot sex = good in the books I read. :)

Sonja Foust said...

Molly, I'm a dialog girl myself. Getting all that description in there can be HARD! Sometimes I'll write a whole scene in dialog and then go back and add the descriptions. It's easier for me to just get it on the page first, THEN worry about all that touchy feely stuff. ;)

Sonja Foust said...

Hey, also, just wanted to let everyone know that everyone who comments today is entered to win a copy of "Cat in the Mist," so tell your friends to stop by too for a chance to win!

Ilana said...

I've only completed one manuscript and just started the next, but I can see some trends already:

Historical aspects.
At least one ghost.
At least one dead body.
Connections between the past and the present.
A romantic interest.

Perhaps I can finish this list after this new novel.

Beth Caudill said...

Hey Sonja. Just wanted to pop in and say hi. (BTW, I don't need to be entered in the contest.)

I'll have to work on the top ten thing. I hate analyzing other peoples stuff much less my own. That's what I hated in English class. Loved reading, and diagramming sentences wasn't hard but figuring out what the author 'meant to convey' was torture.

Jesse P Luna said...

Hi Sonja, this is a great idea for learning about one's personal brand.

Here are my top 10 author telltales.

1) First person - I'm all about introspection
2) Dry humor - you'll laugh but it may not be til the end
3) Something rattling happens right at the beginning. - Shock and awe
4) Always an element of my childhood - hey, if ya got material, use it!
5) Political implications - I slip it in your coffee while you're not looking. It's good, no?
6) Character always has a kindred soul - this may come in any form
7) Supernatural element - Do you believe?
8) Allegorical version always available - I get deep, if you're ready
9) Transformation - my favorite concept.
10) Culture - your going to learn about other cultures if you like it or not

This was a great exercise! Now please enter my name for your short story.

Sonja Foust said...

Ilana, those sound like GREAT things to have in a book. :) Hurry up and sell one so I can buy it!

Hi Beth! Thanks for stopping by. I think what English teachers miss a lot is that it doesn't MATTER what it meant to the author. What matters is what it means to you. I think that's especially true in poetry.

Jesse, thanks for coming and what a great list! I'm really impressed. Your name is, of course, in the drawing. Good luck!

Sierra Wolfe said...

Great post Sonja. The exercise sounds fun. I'll have to try it out. Thanks for sharing with us today.

I don't need an entry either, since I'm one of the Deadly Vixens. ;-)

Shawna Renee said...

Hi Sonja. I found you thru a twitter by Jesse Luna. I need to do this. Although, I think I will have two lists. One for fiction books and one for non-fiction.

Glad I found your blog.

Shawna

Sonja Foust said...

Thanks for hosting TWRP this week Sierra! It's been really fun so far.

Shawna, yeah, I think fiction and non-fiction each deserve a list. :) Thanks for coming! I'm just a guest blogger here today, but feel free to check out my regular blog, http://blog.sonjafoust.com too!

Sabrina said...

I would have trouble doing the 10 things, because I honestly don't know what are the key things in my writing (plus, I'm too lazy to sit down and figure it out *G*)

And I too tend to just write the dialog and then go back and add description. It explains why we like each other's writing so much!

Sonja Foust said...

Sabrina, I bet I could make a list of your 10 things. ;) I think sometimes it's easier to ASK people what your writing is like rather than try to figure out your own "voice." I always have real trouble with that.

What makes this 10-things exercise fun, for me anyway, is that I wasn't thinking too hard when I did it, and when I went back to look at what I'd written, I went, "hm, that's not bad. I could use that."

Thanks for stopping by!

(I'm trying to resist getting all fan-girl, but y'all, it's SABRINA JEFFRIES! I love her.)

Skye Forbes said...

Hi hon! Look at me, still alive! :)

no need to enter me in the contest, because i already have a copy of the best short story ever!

Sonja Foust said...

Yay, thanks for coming, Skye!

Everyone, meet Skye, my BFF and critique partner.

Petrina Green said...

Hi Sonya,

Great post, great exercise. Definitely on the top of my To Do List.

I know three things for sure:
1. Tantalizing secrets.
2. Enticing psychics.
3. Murder happens.

But then, that's my tagline so it was easy. The real thinking will come later.

See you at HCRW online.

Petrina

Sonja Foust said...

Petrina, that's a really good start! And you already have a tagline so you're way ahead of the game anyway. ;) Thanks for stopping by!

Pat said...

A book has to be so intersting that it has your attection. Your's always does

Sonja Foust said...

Thanks very much, Pat! I really appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. :)

Kimberly said...

No need to enter me in the contest, but I had to drop by.

I have noticed a tendency to have my characters check how tight their bun/braid/ponytail is when they are nervous. I wonder what that says about me?

Lisa Moorefield said...

Hi Sonja! The top 10 list is a great idea!

Sonja Foust said...

Thanks for coming by Kimmy! My characters tend to wipe their hands on their jeans when they're nervous because, hey, my palms sweat when I'm nervous and I figure theirs do too. ;)

Thanks for coming, Lisa! (Everyone, meet my sister-in-law, Lisa.)

Sarah Mäkelä said...

Hey Sonja! Thanks so much for blogging with us today. It's a real pleasure to have you here. That's an awesome exercise.

I'd say that a few of my "signs" are:

1. Sizzling first attraction.
2. Sensative, yet strong (and handsome) hero.
3. Bold heroine.
4. Potential kidnappings. ;) That's an exciting thing, right?
5. Hunky male secondary characters. Hey! I like them. I usually end up pondering if the heroine should go for them at least a few times during the course of the novel.
6. Dark mood.
7. Unique, urban settings.

Hmm... I can't really think of any others at this point, but thanks for posting that exercise! It's fabulous and really made me think about my writing. =)

Mad said...

Hi Sonja! Loved the list. :)

Sonja Foust said...

Sarah, thanks for having me! It was a lot of fun.

Mad, thanks for reading!

Joanna Pendleton said...

I'm a little late, and I'm not an author, but here are some things I look for in a book to read to kids (because I AM an elementary school librarian):

* some characters that lend themselves to "doing" the voices
* at least one surprise
* something repetitive
* something mildly disgusting
* an ending that inspires applause from listeners