Friday, December 7, 2012

“Couponing” for Authors—Guest Post by J.L. Greger

by J.L. Greger
Coming Flu Front CV“Couponing” for Authors

Every shopper likes a good deal; every writer likes a clever idea. Most of us see lots of great ideas, but forget most of them. That’s why I “coupon” them.

Is “couponing” a real word?
One definition (found on The Free Dictionary) is the sending out or turning in coupons. That’s not the meaning I want to focus on today. I want to target all the “guides to couponing” found on the WEB and in popular women’s magazines.

Couponing ideas for writing:

I substituted the word ideas for coupons in a composite guide for couponing. My examples will focus on the development of my two novels Coming Flu, a medical thriller published by Oak Tree Press in July 2012, and Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, a medical mystery to be published in April 2013. They are the start of a medical mystery series set in the Southwest.

Look for ideas everywhere. Printed materials, TV, ads, etc.
I like to include bits of science in my novels to add authenticity. So when I read Science and other scientific journals weekly, I pull pages that look interesting. I save maps and postcards (with notes) when I travel. Now for the hard part.

Identify a use for ideas.
Write on each saved item an anticipated use when you clip it.
For example in April 2010, I read an article “The Microbes Made Me Eat It” (Science 328: 179-180) and labeled it, in my messy scrawl, “novel on obesity.”

Focus your collection activities.
Random collections are difficult to use and bulky to store. That’s one problem with computers, most of us save too much unsorted (or poorly sorted) fluff.
Throughout 2010, I looked for and found interesting articles in medical journals on how the trillion microorganisms in our guts influence us, including our weight control or lack of it. The result was Dr. Izzy Roth and Dr. Richard Varegos, the diet doctors in Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight. Of course, Izzy is killed in the first chapter of this medical mystery and Richard is suspected.

Keep a file of quotes.
Ads and students comments in classes often provide the best quotes.
Currently I’m trying to create a character to be described by this quote from Oscar Wilde. “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.”

Don’t save stuff that is easily available on the Web.
To emphasize how difficult it is to lose weight, I set many scenes in Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight in popular restaurants in the Albuquerque area. I used the menus published on the web to give descriptions of food.

File ideas the day you get them.
This is a good idea, but I can’t give an example because I’m not that organized.

Review ideas regularly and purge.
In 2006, I started saving articles on mutations in the flu virus, the development of vaccines, epidemics, and the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act with the intent of using them in a novel. Re-examining the file when it was a half-inch thick finally gave me the incentive to start writing Coming Flu. Yes, I did use this information to create a realistic (certainly not optimal, but not a worst case scenario either) of what could happen if a new and deadly mutation of the flu virus hit a community before vaccines to the new virus were available.

Are you ready now to start couponing your ideas?
JL Greger was a faculty member in the biological sciences for more than for 25 years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also served as the associate dean in the graduate and medical medical school at UW and as VP of Research at the University of Connecticut. Now she enjoys putting tidbits of science into her fiction. She hopes her novels help to increase interest by women and minorities in careers in science.
Coming Flu (paperback and ebook versions) is available now on Amazon.
Look for Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight in March 2013.