Make an Editor Fall for Your Story ~ Wayne Thomas Batson

Wayne Thomas Batson is the Bestselling author of nine adventure
novels including the fantasy epic Door Within Trilogy, the pirate duo Isle
of Swords
and Isle of Fire, and the epic Dark
Sea Annals
. A middle school Reading
and English teacher for 22 years, Batson loves to challenge—and be challenged
by—his students. So, when he began writing stories to supplement the school
district’s curriculum, it was his students who taught their teacher a lesson.
Batson’s students were so taken by one of the stories that, over a thirteen
year span, they pushed him to make it into a full-length novel. You can find Wayne at:

Welcome, Wayne! First, tell us
about your latest release, please.
On a grand scale, The
Errant King is about a world that has lost its way, a place where too many have
opened doors to evil and the global consequences. 
On the personal
scale, The Erran
t King is about a boy and a girl. Ariana lost her
parents in the infamous Grey Hour Raids. Now, all she wants to do is make a
name for herself in her village or leave home for a new way of life. Lochlan is
the High King of the known world, but all he wants a chance for someone
anyoneto really know him without the
crown
s
interference.
Do you purposely weave Christian pictures into your books or does
your worldview seep into the story?
It’s a little
of both. Generally, the plot and characters come first, but as I get to know
the people in the story and better understand the challenges they face, I start
to see thematic threads emerging. Once I recognize where that theme is (or
could be) heading, I do seek to create places where the theme can be woven in.
That said, I’ve heard from readers about themes in my books that I never even
knew were there. They just sort of “become” because of who God has made me to
be.
What is your goal when weaving in the theme?
My goal in all aspects of writing: craft, story,
mechanics, themes
all of
it
is to
honor God with quality and lead readers to ask the big questions of life. If
readers are impressed with the quality of the story and they ask those big
questions, I
m
convinced God will meet them halfway.
Are you trying to connect with kids who go to church or to any
kids? Boys or girls?
My publishers havent given me much demographic
information. But early on, my books were selling better in the secular market
than they were in the Christian market. I
m not sure if thats still true. But I dont write just for anyone. Books like The Hobbit had such
a huge impact on me as a kid that I want to do my level best to write stories
that will thrill readers today
without violating consciences.
One book all children should
read, and why should they read it?
The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. See there, I
cheated. I put several books in. But really, I think all kids should be exposed
to a world that is more black and white, where honor matters. I also fully
believe that Tolkien
s
books, with their lush description and world-building, will
wake something up in readers, a
longing for a faraway world. It is the yearning for what C.S. Lewis calls
that mysterious something that were all after but that this
earth can never fully satisfy.
I can see where a reader might
long for heaven after spending time in the Shire.


How can I make an editor fall for a story?
Two ways:
1) The Unique Hookthis is a plot device, a
scenario that the reader hasn
t seen before but is an obvious problem. A
character wakes up
six
feet underground or a train enters a tunnel but doesn
t come out of the other side.
Something that makes the reader sit up straight and utter that famous Keanu
Reeves-ism:
Whoa!
Or:
2) Thumbscrewsthis is a character driven
approach where you not only bring an interesting person to life in short order,
but you also dump that person into any one of a thousand worst case scenarios.
He
s lost
his wife; his daughter is dating a biker, and the office just called claiming
that he
s
responsible for a huge account failing.
But no matter which approach you use, you need to
do it FAST. First line, first paragraph, first page. Spend a month just on
those. Make them spectacular. You have got to be noticed out of a sea of other
stories. Do it right away, or the editor may not even read on.
Heh heh. What have you got
against bikers, Wayne?
But, really, I love this
advice. We do have to find a way to stand out.
So you like conflict early on.
What do you think is most important–conflict, characters, or voice/prose?
I think you can be successful with any approach.
But why not just excel at all three. You
ll have a much wider audience that way.
That said, the stories that really endure are the ones with at least one
endearing character.
Why not excel at all three?
Well, when you put it that way…it all
sounds so simple.
Do you outline your plots?
I outline vigorously. I use a program called
Scrivener that lets me use pushpin note cards to fully plot my stories,
complete with art files, sound FX, pretty much anything I want. I spend about a
month outlining each novel. For me, that
s the only way I can do it. Otherwise, I
get lost in my own plot
s
twists and turns.
Okay, let us gain from your
hard-won wisdom. What do you know now that you wish you knew five years ago?
I wish I knew way back then more about the actual
business of publishing. I
m grateful for the contracts Ive gotten. But having sold
close to half a million books, you
d think I would have earned enough to write full
time, but not so.
Unfortunately, legacy publishing just doesnt treat the author very well.
The royalty percentages are scandalously low. Thank God that
s changing now with the advent
of eBooks. It won
t be
long now
traditional
publishing houses will need to begin raising royalty rates or their authors
will jump to eBooks.
Whoa. Okay. So what do you know
now that you wish you still didn’t know?
I wish I didnt know the conflict of duties
that writing professionally can trigger. I
m a full time teacher at a public middle
school. I
m a
husband, as well as a father of four. I
m a writer busy with several deadlines a
year. And no matter what I spend my time doing, something always feels
neglected. It can be very stressful and discouraging.
I can’t even imagine. You work
really hard.
Will you ever consider
publishing with general market publisher?
If the contract is right, I would in a heartbeat.
That said, I
m not
sure I
ll ever
sign with another print publisher. I
m under contract for seven books in the Dark Sea series.
But aside from those, I plan to do the rest of my books as self pubbed.
Well, I wish you much joy and
success, because writing has to be satisfying or it’s not worth doing. So, what is your favorite part
of writing novels for teens?
I absolutely LOVE reading my stories to kids. I
tend to dress in full medieval gear and speak in English/Scottish accents, all
the while reading the stories with all manner of drama.
Fun! Do you have a life verse or a
Bible passage that shows the direction you want to go with your writing?
Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of
our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;
Do the children read your
books? Do they give you fodder for the books?
My kids have read some of my books, but they just
see me as Dad. And yes, they are always targets for future characters.
 
Thanks for stopping by, Wayne! 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 is the editor of the semi-annual newsletter: Best Books for Young Readers (subscribe for free and you’ll be entered to win your choice of a Kindle Fire or a Google Nexus). She has published short works in a number of places and has received an SCBWI Work in Progress grant. She can usually be found blogging about young adult novels at sally-apokedak.com