Friday, November 20, 2015

A Business Fiction Success Story--The "Buzz" about Lura Fischer's New Novel

When businesswoman Lura Fischer joined my online book-structuring class a few years ago, she told me she wanted to write a business fiction book.  I didn't know that much about this new genre, but I watched Lura build her story over the months we worked together.  This month, her new novel, Buzz, was released and rose quickly to #1 on the amazon Women in Business category. 

Buzz is a novel about "a relentlessly principled young businesswoman" who is "facing ominous threats to both the life of her business and to herself."  In classic storytelling, Lura places us in the business world of Taki Fujimori.  Taki "must draw on her samurai heritage to battle nefarious forces in the workplace and save her young company from dying," Lura says about the book.  "At the same time, a 500-year flood threatens to sweep her away into oblivion."  Taki is also on a quest to piece together her family's past.     
Taki's core values for both her life and her business are "vitality, genius, and heart," Lura told me.  She weaves business strategies and management tools into the story, so the book can teach as well as entertain with its compelling story.

I interview Lura for this blog post.  Here's her journey to publication in her own words, and the interesting story about business fiction, a rising new genre.

Q:  Can you share your definition of business fiction--what is it, how does it differ from other kinds of fiction, and who is the primary audience?

LF:  Business fiction features a fictional story with dilemma, characters, and container, like other fiction, plus it has embedded business concepts throughout the narrative. Business fiction has a dual responsibility, to both inform and entertain--and, when done well, inspire its readers. My intention was to tell a unique story, composed of vitality, genius, and heart - the same core values I espouse through my relentlessly principled protagonist in Buzz.
If you look at the Business and Money category on Amazon, there are a myriad of subtitles under that genre. I focused on two categories: Women in Business, and Entrepreneurship & Small Business. My focus, when writing this book, was on the millennial businesswoman. I wanted to reach out to the young business owner and tell a fantastical story, while also offering vetted business tools and practical solutions to everyday challenges. So far, more men have read the book than women, based on my Amazon reviews! I really love that, because I think men are just as hungry for meaning and relevancy as women are in business. And our brains are wired for stories, so it’s more palatable to absorb principles written in story-form format--sort of like gobbling up a yummy birthday cake, loaded inside with bright-colored fruits and veggies.

Q:  Why did you want to write a business fiction book?  

LF:  I was inspired by my husband’s business/suspense fiction book, written ten years ago (Navigating the Growth Curve, by James Fischer). I loosely collaborated with him on it, and suggested he use a pair of Japanese-American twins as support characters for his book. Ironically, I redeployed the same twins in mine. Although I have a business background as a commercial lender and an entrepreneur, along with my husband, he is the guru. I’m more like the guru’s muse. Inspiration is my best friend on the playground of life. I realized I might as well tackle something really big and scary because of such a stalwart friend. And, personally, I liked the dimensionality of a story layered with business concepts, sprinkled with Zen stuff, and having a glistening dollop of romance up on top. How fun is that? Adding a little love, to enliven business-as-usual, has been such a meaningful mission in writing this book.

Q:  When did you start writing it?  How long did it take?  
 LF:  I started writing Buzz about 3 years ago. Up until that point, I had written extensive loan summaries on bank clients--striving to bring a client to life, as much as possible. In fact, I was sometimes too creative and my boss would roll his, or her, eyes at my desire to go beyond the numbers and tell a rousing story. I imagined myself around a campfire, regaling bank executives, but that’s not a venue for storytelling! I finally found my calling, and your online classes, Mary. They helped me foment this unbridled desire to write into a digital and print reality. What a journey our book takes us on!

Author of Buzz, Lura Fischer 

Q:  During the process of writing the book, did it change a lot or did your original vision for it stay the same?  

LF:  Once I vowed to write my business-fiction book, I had a dream. Two momentous things happened in the dream: One, I saw my book represented by a codex. On its vellum pages, I saw both text and concentric symbols in medallions, dotting the pages (similar to the Phaistos Disk, from the Ancient History Encyclopedia). I knew intuitively my book would house disparate story elements, some mystical, which would ultimately provide my heroine’s symbolic journey, about good prevailing over malicious-ignorance in the workplace. Two, an actual explosion occurred in my brain, and I inwardly saw a blinding light flash across its curving interior---like a light-wave tsunami within my skull! So my vision for my book was granularly embedded within me. I had little recourse, then, but to try and ferret out what was encoded there and write it down, as best I could, over the course of my book’s developmental life.
Q:  Can you share three to five big things you learned along the way?
LF:  I’ve learned that taking a risk, writing the book I envisioned, as wonky as it seemed at times, gave me creative confidence. That confidence fueled my passion and ignited my purpose. The more risks I take creatively, the more I come alive, both on and off the page.
I downloaded my book on Kindle Direct Publishing this past Veteran’s Day and, one week later, I offered a free-purchase day to the public. My book is number one (#1!), in both the Women in Business and the Small Business categories today. It won’t last, but it is so much fun to see #1 in print, even if only for a day. Big and small wins need to be celebrated and infused back into our writing.
Additionally, I’ve learned there is the business of writing your book--- then there is the business of your book being your business.
Let me provide a few tips I found useful from my brother, Mark. He decided to write a book because he was sinking in financial quicksand; he resourcefully grabbed a pen to pull himself out of the mire and began to write sci-fi novels. He’s written eleven books in over two years and is a HUGE commercial success. Now, he is brilliantly imaginative and innately talented (buggah!), but he told me some things that would help any aspiring writer: Check out books in your genre on Amazon, or go to Barnes and Noble and feel the weight of a book in your hand, like yours. Research covers in your genre and hire an artist who captures the spirit of your book.

Then create a great blurb for your book and vet it with everyone you can, to see if the blurb captures the essence of your book. Hire a developmental editor and a line editor (can be the same person) and don’t rely on friends and/or family to give you the unvarnished truth about what works in your book, and what doesn’t. There are terrific, economical, websites out there, promoting skilled people as your team of experts.

Q: How are you promoting your book?
LF:  I made a deal with Amazon for exclusivity for a few short months and I am glad I did. Writers have to decide for themselves how they want to position their book for maximum exposure.

Sure, I feel like a shameless hussy at times, putting up a Facebook announcement with my book’s ranking (actually a friend helped me with this), or going to promotional websites that advertise your free day to booksellers and readers. As a self-published author, writing the book was the easy part. Sort of like buying a horse for thousands of dollars only to discover its daily ongoing maintenance is mindboggling.

In only one week, I feel like I birthed a gigantic, unwieldy baby, and am now bending over backward to subsidize its college fund. The life of your book is just that--a living thing that needs your attention before, during and after.

After you get your writing team together, get a support team! You’ll need it.

Q:  What would you suggest to other writers who are trying to write business fiction?

LF:  First of all, welcome pioneer! You’ve found a niche that has so much potential.

This genre needs to be explored and championed by you. If you are not an academic, like me, you’ll need to trust yourself as never before. It is easy to look at the competition in this field and feel rather stupid, because only a handful of “experts” stand out. So what! A good story is a good story is a good story. Go for it!

What if business fiction is not your dream? Believe me, I understand that too, because my next trilogy is a mystical romance. You can always find a way to link your memoir, your short stories, or your suspense thriller to a budding genre.

Go online and see which genres are adolescents, then intentionally make a bridge to it in your writing, somehow, someway, so that you can target a market that is expanding and not oversaturated. It is highly competitive out there and I realized Women in Business is a growing, often undervalued, market.

Go beyond the scope of being an author to being a creative traveler, navigating beyond your written word. Explore!

Check out Lura's book here. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Where Do You Get Your Ideas? A Basic Primer of a Novelist's Writing Process

One of my online students, new to writing fiction, brought up a couple of good and very important questions in class this week.

1.  How do you start writing a novel?  What are the steps?
2.  Where do you get your ideas?

In this blog I'm going to tackle the second question--about idea gathering--because it's really the first step to writing a book of any kind.  But I'd love to refer my student, and all of you, to Elizabeth George's wonderful writing-craft book, Write Away, where she details her writing process. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Three Tricks to Keep Your Book Warm (or Even Hot) This Winter

Here in New England of the U.S., we're getting dire news.  Winter is going to be long and intense again, like last year.   After the holidays, we may be socked in for a while, if the predictions are correct.  I'm hoping they're not, but I'm also hedging my bets.

I want to keep my book cooking--even hot--despite frightful weather outside.  Three motivation tricks I've practiced these past winters, shared below, really work for me.  Maybe they'll inspire you too.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Omission--The Art and Craft of What to Delete

This week I removed a page from my novel's opening chapter. I'd worked on that page for two years, off and on, and workshopped that chapter maybe a dozen times. It was as good as I could make it. But I hadn't seen that there was material I didn't need, and I couldn't see that in even the eleventh draft, just because the shape was still evolving in my mind.
This week, I had a new perspective, thanks to some feedback from an agent. Opening chapters need to do two things, she said. Introduce the character and put them into some immediate action. I had the action, no problem. But I spent too long introducing the character. Now, what I've omitted, makes room for more tension in the storyline.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Building Your Writing Routine--What Will Keep You Going This Winter?

What's the difference between a writer who gets a book finished and a writer who never does?  A writing routine.  Believe it--there's nothing more important.  Not talent, not a great idea.  It's down to basics:  putting self in chair, putting hands on keyboard or taking up the pen.

I recently finished Elizabeth Gilbert's new book on creativity:  Big Magic.  Gilbert has produced well in her writing career.  She has had huge successes (Eat, Pray, Love) and lesser ones.  Gilbert's no stranger to the magic of the Muse, but she defines it differently. 

It's what happens when you are listening.  And when you have a writing routine.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Story Told from Then, Story Told from Now--Getting Clear about Your Narrative Point of View

Deciding who is telling your story--that's a big moment in writing a book.  But even more important is deciding where your narrator will be standing, as he or she tells the tale.  Is the narrator speaking in real time, as the story is happening?  Or from what's called the "retrospective" point of view, looking back from the distance of years?

Which narrative point of view will best serve your story?  Can you move back and forth between them?  And if so, how do you weave them together to make a cohesive book?

Friday, October 9, 2015

Saying No to Everything Else--How Much Can You Realistically Give to Your Book?

When we happily begin our books, we really don't know what kind of time they will take. Such naivete is a good plan, in a way. Ignorance of what we've signed up for keeps us enthusiastic for quite a while. We write, accumulate pages, stay high on the process.

Until we compare notes with another writer.

"I write every day," our new writing friend says. "My instructor/mentor/favorite famous writer days you have to, if you want to really finish your book."

We slink back to our writing desk, wondering what to do now. It doesn't help that our new friend (pick one): (a) is single, no kids; (b) doesn't have to work; (c) is retired and looking for stuff to do; or (d) works at home and can write anytime.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Why False Agreements Make Strong Chapters

The inner story of a book is the transformation of a person, the main character or narrator, through a series of outer events.  This is called a narrative arc.  Without this narrative arc, a book is just like reading a list of crises.  
Readers want to witness growth.  The narrative arc is the journey of growth. A clear narrative arc makes a book feel cohesive. 

But since narrative arcs are about change, the character's journey often starts with something they don't understand.  Something they are challenged by.  Another way to look at this:  it starts with a false agreement.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Big Fights and Little Fights--How Conflict Drives Your Story's Success

This week I am teaching about fighting--at a serene writer's retreat on beautiful Madeline Island in Lake Superior.  An odd topic for a retreat, maybe, but conflict seems to always be in the driver's seat in successful books.

We began our first lesson with a brainstorming session about big fights and little fights.  I wrote the word fighting on the whiteboard and asked the group of thirteen writers to call out different ways fighting can appear in life--and in stories.  We came up with dozens of ways.  Everything from jihads and riots to hate mail and stony silences.  We also explored the subtler kinds of fighting that happen inside a character or narrator in a story--or even a reader trying out a new idea by reading a nonfiction book.  What does a person have to give up to grow?  And how does this internal resistance to surrender cause conflict in their outer lives?

Monday, September 14, 2015

What Thriller Writers Can Teach You about Stellar Dialogue: Learning about Beats, Tags, Interruptions and Other Techniques to Increase Tension

I'm not a thriller writer.  I've edited thrillers, I've read them, I've taught thriller writers how to structure and refine their books.  But writing that high-tension stuff doesn't come naturally to me. 

But I've learned a LOT from working on thrillers.  One skill that's translated over into my own memoir and fiction is the thriller style of dialogue.  It's tense, it builds, it can take a mundane subject and create undercurrent that makes the reader shiver.  Best of all, it's aces at revealing character.