Thursday, October 11, 2012

Write the Book You Would Love to Read

I've given the same advice to two author friends recently and it occurred to me, why not post it at Promantica (aka, the most anorexic blog on the planet)?

Of course you don't need to read the post; my advice is in the title: Write the book you'd love to read.

Here's what I'm talking about. Between various online discussions and the brand new Amazon author rankings, it's clear that some romance authors are doing very well indeed. E.L. James, Sylvia Day, Kristen Ashley, Robyn Carr, Debbie Macomber, J.R. Ward and so forth. Mazel tov to them!

I've enjoyed books by some of these authors, and not the books by others. Some books aren't particularly well-written, which clearly doesn't rule them out of "Ohmigod, you have to read this" status. (In fact, I've come to the conclusion that "the writing's not very good" is often a justification of someone's dislike of a book, but "it's very well-written" is never a selling point in the "No, really, you have to read it" urging.)

Here's the thing. I may never sell the voluminous quantities of these authors because to do so, I'd have to write books I don't personally want to read. How much fun would that be?

Oh, I don't think anyone's writing to the market--those bestselling authors are writing the books they'd love to read, and they've tapped into a huge readership that happens to love the same things.

Sure, that could happen to me, but I'm okay if it doesn't. Sales numbers, book rankings, and author status are all very nice, but they're ancillary to what I can control: the words on the page.

A lot of that is about good writing--believe me, that's the easiest thing to learn or fix--but a lot of it is about the storytelling, which is much harder to gauge.

So what sorts of things are true about books I love to read? Less tension between the hero and heroine. I know this means my books seem to have less conflict, but as I don't like to fight, I don't like to see my friends and family fight, I don't even like to overhear strangers fight, why would I want to write about characters who spat all the time?

I prefer characters who like each other, respect each other, are attracted to each other, and still can't make it work. (I'm all about the back story...)

I like angsty emotions, black moments, and heart-wrenching endings. I love five-tissue weepy reads!

I like sex but if I'm being honest, I can take it or leave it when it comes to a romance I love. What is required is that any sex be specific to those people and that situation.

And I like smarts. Characters with smarts. Plots with smarts. Sassy dialogue. Clever situations. I don't need the characters to have advanced degrees, but if they do, I expect them to act like they do. On the other hand, a street urchin can be credibly inventive. I love that too.

I like characters to be comfortable financially. Rich is nice but not necessary. Just not broke. That said, Rachel in Susan Elizabeth Phillips' Dream a Little Dream has to be poor for the plot to work.

I'm sure there's more, but you get the idea. Right now, I'd say I'm writing books I'd enjoy if they were by another author. Not sure I'd love them to the point of saying, "No, really you absolutely positively have to read this!" Maybe someday.


  1. I agree that "good writing" or "bad writing" is not a selling or detracting point to any book. I've been reading for almost my entire life and I don't even know what those phrases MEAN; and I hate seeing them in reviews. If you think the writing was bad, fine, but say what you think was bad about it, or vice versa. "Writing" is kind of like a Jenga tower of elements, and one weak element doesn't necessarily topple the whole thing.

    As for writing the book you want to read, that's great advice, but not just for sales. You're going to be spending a lot of time with that manuscript. Rewrites and edits and more rewrites. If you don't want to read it, you're not going to want to reread it, that's for sure. The manuscript I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2011 wasn't in a genre I enjoy reading, and guess how many times I've gone through it since I typed The End last year.

    1. Wow, is that ever true. I first wrote Love in Reality in 2010 when I was a BAD writer. I reworked it later that year, then started a full re-rewrite last year. Another couple re-rewrites & it should be ready...LOL.

      It did cross my mind to ditch it. Apart from the fact that it's Book 1 of a quartet where Book 4 is the other twin's love story--so what was I going to have her say? "Oh, yeah, my sister fell in love on this TV show while she was pretending to be me...but it's really not a very interesting story"?--I like it too much to ditch it.

      Still, I can't recommend four rewrites.

      Also, great point about how amorphous "good writing" is as a compliment and even more amorphous "bad writing" is as criticism. I'm a bit like Potter Stewart and the word "pornography": I know "bad writing" when I see it. But, like you, I've read a lot of reviews (or Tweets) where I've seen that term thrown around, often in high dudgeon, and I wonder, "What was so bad about it?"

  2. I would be delighted to read your books. They sound like everything I want, especially smart. Really smart. It takes a clever author to make that happen. Based on reading your blog the past three years, I think you have what it takes to write engaging, intelligent stories. I look forward to buying your books someday.

    1. What a lovely compliment! Thank you so much. Don't worry, you'll know when there's a book of mine to buy.

  3. Ah...rewrites. A book is never done, is it? I read a quote from Neil Gaiman recently. I'm paraphrasing, but it was along the lines of a book never being finished, just abandoned and published.

    I write the sort of books I'd like to read. As is the case for many writers, squeezing writing time into my schedule takes effort and determination. If I didn't love my stories, it would be all too easy to slack off.

    1. I love the Gaiman quote, although one wonders if some books (*cough*) aren't abandoned a bit too soon...


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