Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Really Big Story

"Now that's a big book!"
Image captured from Bart King's blog
It's a thousand pages, give or take a few
I'll be writing more in a week or two
I can make it longer if you like the style
I can change it round and I want to be a paperback writer

~ From "Paperback Writer," Lennon-McCartney

I'm fresh off the first two weeks after the paperback of my novel Calling Me Home released. It's been fun and stressful—two bookstore signings that went really well (yay!), awesome sales in the first two weeks of the Target Club Pick feature, meetings with several book clubs, a wonderful weekend hanging out with readers and other authors at the Pulpwood Queens' 2014 Annual Girlfriend Weekend.

And now I have just a couple of days of relative peace to get back into my groove again before the pace picks up again with in-person book club meetings, Skype talks, and … just LIFE. Life goes on whether we are ready or not!

I'm really settling into my brand new shiny manuscript. I actually LOVE it! The idea, the characters, the settings, the conflicts. They feel like ME, which is more than I can say for many of the ideas I've been batting around and playing with for the last few years. I made the commitment to myself and my wonderful agent to not just write the next story for the sake of writing the next story. I was so passionate about Calling Me Home, we both knew I needed to feel that again. I think I might be there with this one. The longer I work on it, the more excited I get. I think that's a good sign. So I'm attempting to put together a book proposal to present to my publisher with what I've already done.

And I'm thinking things through again. Not to beat a dead horse, but each new book, each new story, is a learning process.

One thing I'm remembering, and thus, the reference to the good old Beatles song, is that I want to write a BIG story.

For me, "big story" has nothing to do with the number of pages, or honestly, with the format. For all I know, my next novel could be trade paperback original instead of hardcover—and I'm completely okay with that. I am not a hardcover diehard. (I've also seen what can happen with a trade paperback original book that could easily have been published in hardcover—think Kristina Baker Kline's Orphan Train—it's blazing an amazing trail!).

But what I'm thinking about is writing a book that could be published in hardcover first, mostly because it seems like it just OUGHT to be. Does that make sense?

I want to write a story that is big enough, no matter how it's published.

What makes a story big?

I have my own ideas. But instead of telling you what I think, I went to my handy dandy Facebook page to see what readers and other writers thought. Here are some of the responses. Things to ponder as we write our books or decide what to read.

One that has true enough characters with lives that engross and end up leaving the readers wanting more.
~ Brenda H.

An epic sized story that somehow catches fire with the buzz of what's going on at the moment in popular culture.
~ Book Promoter Pamela Mason

It has to stay with me, down in my gut. The characters and story have to leave me changed in some way.
~ Author Barbara Davis (The Secrets She Carried)

Unexpected ending. Good and bad. We read a book, then if we think it could be big, we make another read it. Locally loved translates to big for me. It grows and grows. But if you can imagine it as a great movie, then it's big to me.
~ Michelle B. C.

I think big tends to be a sweeping story, covering time, history perhaps.
~ Anita LeBeau (book blogger extraordinaire)

A book involving several generations of family/families.
~ Elizabeth B.

One that connects to all my emotions, laugh ,cry page turner, one you talk to, say don't open that door, with words that can visually bring you there.
~ Terry T.

I love feeling drawn in to the story with all senses and emotions.
~ Gayle M. C.

A big sweeping saga with a lot of characters and some kind of quest or "bigger than us" thing to conquer. An epic story. Or, alternatively, a story that changes you on some deep level. For me it was To Kill a Mockingbird.
~ Gail C.

High stakes. A wrong that must be righted. Winning against all odds. David and Goliath.
~ Author Lynne Gentry (Healer of Carthage)

A book is "big" when you read it and want more! Either on a new topic or you want more from the characters in that book. A book is also "big" when it has a positive social aspect, like The Help.
~ Katie W. S.

For me, the word "big" congers up a literal meaning … So literally, a "big" book would be a tome, an atlas or something of that sort. I would describe a considerably important book not as "big", but perhaps as meaningful, epic, momentous or significant.
~ Laura W.

It makes an impact on the readers. And, when they're finished reading they sit back and go, "Wow. What a ride!" and then they recommend it to their best friends.
~ Angie K.

To turn a personal experience into a universal experience.
~ Author Ann Brown (Free Me)

I don't think of "big" meaning "saga" or "sweeping" or even a complicated story. I think of it as a book that can be described in a sentence or two that makes someone go "oh. . . my. . . God."
~ Author Diane Chamberlain (Necessary Lies)

I think it's a book that you read & remember, that you recommend to friends, that you will "reread" again and that you look forward to the next book by that author as soon as you finish this one. And if you border on "stalking" the author by going to a book signing, you may just have a "big book"!
~ Cindy C. J. (Of course, I advised Cindy to stalk as many authors as possible in this way—by attending book signings!)

What about you? What do you think makes a "big" book/story? Please join the discussion in the comments!


  1. I love a story in which the characters grab you from the first pages and keep you engrossed through their journey and leave you feeling like they are old friends. (I may be a little prejudiced, but you sure did that with Calling Me Home.

    Ann Ellison

  2. Calling Me Home felt like a big book to me because it made me forget I was reading a book, instead I was LIVING the story. That has never happened to me before.

  3. I love the responses you received, really wonderful thoughts. Thanks for the blurb:). You have brilliant friends.

  4. Loved calling me it in 2 days and felt sorry to have it end!. I know I have found a new favorite author and look forward to reading more from you Julie Kibler!


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