January 29, 2012

Purge the Fire Concluded

14 reads, that's what I've managed to accomplish in 31 days. 14 measly reads that barely made a dent in my Kindle Fire shelves. For every book I knocked out, I added 3 to replace it.

So let me gush and gripe for a bit here.

I love my Kindle Fire and if you don't have one, get one or a decent reader/tablet or even an Ipad if you can afford it. I never thought I'll be a fan of ereaders but it is very convenient and the world of fiction just got even more exciting in my eyes. I now have access to dozens of free or cheap books that I would otherwise have no interest in checking out if not for my beloved tablet.

Which brings me to Indie reads and authors. I love working with independent authors because they are so accessible and it's so fun to be part of that person's history and success. At least we can say we got to chat with some of them before they became NYT or international best selling authors. Plus they are so candid and honest about their work and inspiration one can't help but develop a relationship with them via twitter or facebook. They still have time to appreciate and acknowledge their fans unlike some of those authors who already made it.

Indie books are a class on their own. Although wading through the list is like finding a gem in a pile of tumble rocks and reading mediocre ones can take its toll. I think the ratio of good, quality indie books versus the crappy ones is 1:5. Which explains why I cheat with the other books I reviewed, call it cleansing the palate. I still have a lot of books to go through and I'm hoping that most of those are gems instead of rocks.

But it is also exhilarating especially when you find a good deal or a really good story. Self publishing in itself is a challenge which makes me, as a reader, appreciate the value of good editors. But it's also in the indie world where you find unique plots and colorful characters due to the freedom the writer has to explore and exhaust their creativity.

Now after this challenging but rewarding experience, I would like to make some suggestions to you, Indie writers, from the viewpoint of a fan and an avid reader:

Sell what you know. It is so obvious when a material is poorly researched. This is one of the most common and frustrating mistakes emerging authors make: writing about a place, for example, that obviously they haven't even been to or made a real connection with. Like writing a story about Ireland but missing out on important details that makes Ireland uniquely Ireland and would instead sell us something that we've read in wikipedia or banking on stereotypes.

Character distinction. It is in reading indie books that I got schooled on what "character dimension" really means. When you're used to reading well edited and bestselling books, that is close to nonexistent. The reason why say J.R. Ward's vampires is such a hit is because they each have their own distinct personality that is evident in their "speech patterns" and reactions that is consistent with the characteristics she created to the point where she can conduct character interviews with them. So distinct that you can find a word to describe each Brother perfectly. Most characters in Indie stories are as flat as Kansas or only the leads are in HD while the rest are gritty and gray.

Let the characters tell their story. The series of events have to be fluid, they can't be in point A and jump to point B without a filler in between. Contriving a series of events to poorly justify the outcome they want is off putting and can be insulting to your more intelligent readers. It's also obvious when a story is too "scripted", take a cue or two from RPG players or imrpov actors, sometimes spontaneity is the script.

Have a core group of critics. Don't pick your cheerleaders, pick your harshest critics or an anonymous focus group. They are the ones who will give you an honest opinion if the story needs some tweaking or just plain sucks.

Reading indie books is such an adventure and I'm officially a follower. It certainly opened my eyes to endless possibilities and stimulated my creativity and imagination as well. I applaud all those aspiring and emerging authors out there, I hope you won't be deterred by your bloodiest reviews but instead find inspiration in them. Like what some people say, it's easier to take apart something than to create out of nothing. We appreciate your hard work and the wonderful world of Vamps, Weres, Sorcery and everything else in between will not be as colorful and rich without the words each of you have contributed.

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