Tag Archives: genre

Writing What You Would Want To Read

The most important thing is you can’t write what you wouldn’t read for pleasure. – Nora Roberts

 

Happy belated Labor Day. Hopefully everyone had a great holiday. I did really enjoy having a little time off, but I also made myself tackle a chore I had long been putting off. I began cleaning out my office. Sadly my office has become something like the junk drawer of rooms in my house. It was filled with boxes of random things we have no other place for and which we told ourselves we will get to sorting eventually.

“Eventually” happened to be most of my Saturday and Sunday. While sorting through the madness, I stumbled upon several of my old notebooks where I had brainstormed several stories and part of a book. It was very cool to look at some beginnings to work that now has become more fleshed out, but also to see others I had forgotten about years ago.

One thing I noticed was that almost all of them had the same basic theme. They all had a romantic storyline of some sort. For a minute I was thinking how unoriginal I seemed, but then considered how that is what I like to read, so why shouldn’t I be writing that?

The Nora Roberts quote at the beginning of this post about writing what you would enjoy reading may seem obvious, but I know I am not the only one who has had a friend try to write a book unlike something they read just because they think that genre will make money. While pushing yourself to try new things may be good at times, making sure that you not only read but respect the genre you are trying to write is essential to the success of writing in the genre.

I’ve know people to try to write YA (young adult) because that is what was selling or another person who wanted to write romance since that would make more money than the genre he was writing. I support taking advantage of a chance to expand your range and hey, we all would like a little extra money I assume, but to do so without respect for the type of book you say you want to write is a quick path to failure.

Do we have to love everything about the genre? No. I love romance but do not always love the cliches that can crop up at times. Of course there are examples where few, if any, of these cliches occur, just as there are others that are so full of them you couldn’t possibly finish reading them. But there are still so many other things about the genre that I truly enjoy so I will always find myself drifting back for fun reading.

On the other hand, I am a big chicken who loves Stephen King for his book On Writing and for fun pop culture commentary, but cannot possibly bring myself to read his horror novels. I don’t go to horror movies ( though there is one I am going to give a try because it has my fangirl favorite as the lead actor ). I don’t like scary TV shows or video games. So basically just no scary anything, right? Right! I could challenge myself to write horror, but I would have to make myself read some in the genre and learn what horror usually offers before I could do a credible job writing a true horror novel/story. Knowing me, I would write a romantic story line with a scary moment and try to call it horror. My attempt at horror might be the true horror. 😉

We’ve all heard the advice to write what you know, but I would also add in that we should write what we have read and enjoy reading.  The reader will know. Readers are smart and they have more than enough to choose from out there to stick with a book that doesn’t seem to be written by someone who likes what they are writing.

What do you think? Have you ever tried to write something outside of what you would read for fun? How did it go? Was it difficult? Was it successful? Or do you, like me, seem to keep going back to what you would read? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Thanks for stopping by! Have a great week. 🙂

~CJS

An age old question

When you meet a writer, one of the first questions is, “what do you write?” or, “what are you working on?”

 
This past weekend, while some of our fellow Twisted Writers were running the library book sale, I met another local writer. And sure enough, these were her first two questions, “what do you write?” and, “what are you working on?”

 
I struggle with these questions. I am not sure why, but I always have. It is almost like I guard these tidbits of knowledge as my own precious jewels needing to be locked away from prying eyes. Mine!

 
But being a writer is opening up and sharing your bits of treasured words with others. So I guess I should start handing out my treasure maps…

 
What do I write?

 
I write contemporary fiction, usually in the YA (Young Adult) or NA (New Adult) genre. I write flash fiction on the side, but it’s not something I really think much about in the long haul. My love is for novel writing and that is where I want my future to be.

 
What am I working on?

 
At the moment I am working on several different pieces.
My biggest project is writing the Storyteller’s point of view in my novel. (Synopsis: The synopsis for this one is; One family. One hour. One Action. Several Reactions. They say blood is thicker than water, but what do you do if that blood is slowly choking the life out of you? We delve into the lives of six family members, three generations; each dealing with a situation that could make or break them.) It is a big project for me because there are so many POV’s that if I do not get this done correctly then it will become a confusing mess of words. I have written out the stories from everyone else in the book, but now I am left with the most important one, the one who created the mess in the first place. My goal is to have her side written by the end of the year so that I can start on edits and rewrites by January.

 
My second smaller project isn’t really a project at all. Yet. I had an idea come to my head a few weeks ago and I am working on getting the bits and pieces out on paper to see if I want to take it further into a story later on. Right now, I have a bunch of random scenes and dialogue scrawled out in a notebook. Oh and a time line. It’s always good to have a time line.

 
For my mini project, I am working on a short story for a Twisted deadline. (I say mini project, this is the one giving me the most grief at the moment.)

 
Human nature is to always be working on something, towards something, or doing something. It’s what we do. Keep our minds busy, our hands working, our imaginations rolling or we become stagnant.

 
And no one wants that.

 
What are you working on at the moment? Share with us down in the comments, we’d love to hear what you have to say.

 
Till next time,
~AJP

What to do?

The past several days have been exhausting but enlightening ones both on a personal and on a professional level. Our local library has been holding its annual book sale and I’ve been doing what I could to help out. Now, before you start thinking I’m a socially-minded gal who loves to volunteer, remember, books. Thousands and thousands of books I get to play with. Some new and some going back to the early 1900’s. It is a bibliophiles playground.

One of the parts of helping at the book sale I love the most is being able to talk with the people who come in looking for bargains. Some come in with detailed lists of what they are looking for. Others bring in lists of what they have already read so they don’t duplicate what they already have in their library. There are even dealers who come in with their bar code readers or appropriate apps to see if we have anything they can snap up for a bargain and sell for a profit.

Those folks are fun to work with but the ones that get my writer’s brain to working are the folks who come in looking for recommendations for a new author or a title they haven’t read before. Sometimes they are wanting to return to reading a genre they left years ago because of the way the genre had changed. Most often, those folks once read every fantasy and science fiction book they could lay their hands on and then, in the 80’s and 90’s — and later — left the genre as it became more about writing to the message than writing to the story. Now they are hoping there are authors writing to the story again and come looking for such books — or books from the time when they still enjoyed reading the genre.

Then there are those who are looking for certain authors, often names I remember from my childhood and early adulthood as authors my father enjoyed reading, as also eye openers for me as a writer because of why they want to find the likes of Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, Phyllis A. Whitney and others. The reason they are looking for books by those writers or others like them is the ease of the story, the emphasis on plot and character and not on sex. The lack of f-bombs every other word.

And that all makes me, as a writer, think about what I should be writing. Yes, I have to look at what the market wants. But the market is much broader and certainly much deeper than traditional publishing believes. Who knows how many readers have felt left behind by the emphasis by traditional publishing on putting out books that are nothing but clones for Fifty Shades of Gray or the Hunger Games or the Da Vinci Code.

That is why the influx of quality indie published and small press published books has been so good for the reading public. For those who have made the transition to e-books, it means a return to affordable reading. Most indie and small press e-books top out at $4.99. That’s a big difference from the $13.99 currently being asked by the publisher for Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, the somewhat controversial follow-up to To Kill a Mockingbird. Then there is James Patterson’s latest, Alert, that is currently selling in digital form for $14.99.

But even more important is the fact that the upswing in indie and small press publishing have brought back a lot of the sorts of books folks have been looking for and not finding. Science fiction, once viewed as the the very poor red-headed step-child of publishing has seen a number of indie authors not only making money but making good money writing space opera and military science fiction that celebrates things like honor and duty and gives the reader a story that takes them on a roller coaster of events and emotions. Sweet romances and those with just a hint of sex have returned to the scene and readers are celebrating because not everyone wants to have the down and dirty played out in graphic detail once, much less multiple times during the course of a book. They want the romance, that dance that sometimes goes awry before everything finally falls into place.

So, when I see articles like one that came across my feed this morning telling writers to write to the market, I frown and get ready to fisk the article. Most often, those articles tell you to look at the New York Times or USA best seller lists to determine what you should be writing. (Of course, those are also the articles that tell you you should be trying your best to be traditionally published before ever considering going the indie route.) My issue there is that those lists are not only manipulated by publishers and book sellers and determined by pre-orders and then by Bookscan numbers. Then there is the little fact that those lists are also completely at the whim of the publication putting them out. Remember how Ted Cruz was kept off the list for awhile because the publication in question accused him of bulk ordering his own book, or having others do it for him, thereby artificially inflating the numbers? Finally, after Cruz and his publisher as well as others came back and publicly denounced and denied the accusations, days later the publication allowed the book onto the list. (I won’t go into the possibly political reasons why the book was initially kept off the list).

However, when an article tells you to look at the Amazon best seller lists, I find myself agreeing, especially when you look at the sub-genre lists. Why? Because you are seeing what folks are buying in basically real time reports. Amazon updates those lists every hour or so. You can see what books and e-books readers want. That means if you want to write space opera, you can go to that list and see what sort of books are selling. You can even sample those books for free, no matter who the publisher is — unless, of course, the publisher has decided not to allow you to and that, usually, is a red flag for a bad book.

So, all of this is a roundabout way of saying that you can write to what is selling but that what’s selling now is a far cry from what traditional publishers want us to believe. Don’t give up writing that sweet romance or that cozy mystery where your heroine is chaste or whatever. There is probably someone out there wanting to read it. But, do your homework. Go to Amazon and check the genre and sub-genre lists. Just remember, the deeper into the breakdown of the lists, the easier it is to get listed in the top 100. Those books may not be selling more than a few a month.

However — and this is a big however — if you write a good yarn, if it is well edited and well formatted, if it has an interesting cover and blurb and if you tag it with the right meta tags AND IF YOU FOLLOW UP IN SHORT ORDER WITH THE NEXT BOOK IN THE SERIES OR ANOTHER IN THE SAME GENRE/SUB-GENRE the bigger the chance your sales will increase. It takes time but if you keep putting out quality work and keep rewarding your readers, you have a chance of building your readership. No guarantee but then there are very few guarantees in life, are there?

So go read a good book and write a better one.

 

To read or not to read

That is a question many authors, especially new authors, ask themselves. Should they be reading anything while writing a book? Should they read the genre they write? How about other genres? Or, if they write fiction, maybe they ought to read only non-fiction.

This question has always amazed and confounded me. That was especially true when I read a comment by a new author who proudly said she never reads in the genre she writes because she doesn’t want her wonderfully original idea to be diluted by what she reads. Yes, you read that right. Not only did she honestly feel she had a truly original plot but that it would be “tainted” by what she might read in the genre.

There are two basic problems with that statement. The first is the belief that she had a truly original plot. Sorry, but there are only so many basic plots out there. Originality comes with how you handle that plot. The important thing is to remember that. Your story may be one of exploration — nothing new — or a coming of age story. Again, nothing new. But how you handle that story, what you put your character through and how your character handles what life throws at him, that is what you make your own.

The second issue is with believing your plot can be tainted by something you are reading. Now, if you are afraid you will wind up lifting elements of the plot from the book you are reading, well, the problem lies with you. You either don’t have a plot already set in your head or you are so uncomfortable or so unsure about what you are writing that you unconsciously know you are in trouble.

But that doesn’t answer the question of whether you should read the genre you write.

My answer is a resounding “yes”. You have to read your genre to know what is selling, to know what the readers want. I don’t mean to just read what comes out of the major publishers either. You need to look at the best sellers list on Amazon to see what indie books are selling well and read some of them. This is important because indies can and do, on the whole, publish more often than traditionally published authors. So you can read multiple books in a series in short order.

You also need to read outside your genre because, whether you realize it or not, my guess is your current work in progress encompasses more than one genre. You may be writing a mystery but if there is a romance as a subplot, you need to read some romantic suspense books to get the feel for what sort of cues you need to put in. It’s the same if your mystery has a ghost story interwoven through it — read some horror.

Last week, as I prepared to write Nocturnal Challenge, an urban fantasy/police procedural, I read several books in the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. I also read the last couple of Eve Dallas books by J. D. Robb. Now that I am working on Challenge, and knowing that the next book I will be writing is Honor from Ashes, I’m reading David Weber and Peter Grant. Once I start Ashes, which is science fiction, I’ll go back to reading fantasy in preparation for writing Dagger of Elanna, the second book in my fantasy series.

So, while I don’t read in my genre while writing it, I do read it before and after. I will also throw in a healthy dose of non-fiction and other fiction genres like mystery/suspense and, heaven help me, even some romance because several of my series have romantic sub-plots.

But there is another reason why authors should read. We learn by reading. we learn the pitfalls of the craft we want to avoid and we learn how the better authors plot or develop characters or worldbuild. But, if you are like me, you also read for entertainment. I have loved getting lost in a book for as long as I can remember. My imagination is much more powerful than the images on a movie screen or on TV. I can — and have — read something and had nightmares afterwards because it set my imagination flying.

But what about you? Do you think a writer should read the genre they write? What’s the last great book you read? (Yes, I’m looking at padding my “to be read” stack)

 

What’s your genre niche?

When you go into a book store/library, what do you find yourself browsing for in a book? Is it a spicy romance novel that has your heart racing? Or a thrilling horror that has you screaming when your kids startle you… by merely going to the bathroom in the middle of the night? How about a travel through time to see the world how it used to be? Maybe you prefer an exciting trip into a world not quite like our own? There are so many varieties out there that it is mind boggling.

It is human nature to find something you know and like then to stick to it.

Growing up I tended to read more of the horror genre only sneaking my mom’s romance novels when I was really desperate. Then as I became a grown up, I read whatever book was passed to me from my mom and grandmother ; still mostly romances – Nora Roberts, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Danielle Steel, etc.

Somewhere along the way, the three of us branched out a bit further, now my grandmother tends to pick up suspense and mystery novels; my mom is more of a thriller junkie.  Me, I still read whatever is usually passed on or referred to me.

As a writer you have to read a lot. They say read what you write and write what you read. Research your genre and see what works and what doesn’t.

How does that work if what you write isn’t necessarily what you like to read?

When I read a book, I want my characters to have a happy ending. I know, I know, how boring. Life doesn’t always have that happy ending and neither does a book. I don’t care, I like what I like and good should over come evil, the bad guy should get his butt kicked by the end of the story, and the couple that is madly in love should have their happily ever after. Oh how it kills me when a romance story kills off one of the main characters at the end.

However, when I write, I don’t follow my own reading rules. This makes things a little difficult when trying to juggle reading for pleasure and reading to better your writing.

When I started writing the first draft of my current novel, I had no clue where I was going with it. In fact, it had started out as a short story to let off some steam. Once I had finished the short story, I realized that it wasn’t completed. There were other voices that needed to be heard, other point of views that needed writing. After all was said and done, I approached Amanda with my first draft and asked her just how crazy was I in doing what I did.

Her response… Eek. You did what? With how many different…

Like I said, what I have been writing is not something I generally like reading.

Being able to write something that wasn’t overwhelming or confusing and had people wanting to read it meant a lot of research in finding what worked and what didn’t. I was left with the possibilities of having to change so much that I considered giving up many different times but I kept going, expanding my story and plotlines.

Then it came time to start reading what I was writing… and I wasn’t looking forward to it. Again I contemplated just leaving it as a first draft and cutting my losses.

Research is fun for me… as long as it is not a requirement. Then it becomes tedious. So not only was I faced with having to read a bunch of books that I was sure I would dislike, I also had the chore of figuring out what books would benefit me the most. Needle in a haystack. (Ha! more like a book in a library.)

As I mentioned earlier, most of the books I read come as recommendations from friends, family or other bloggers. I have been extremely lucky these past months, almost every single book that has been suggested to me has somehow helped me with my current book.

Books ranging from a YA ghost story, a dystopian collapse of mankind that spanned over 70 years in time, a YA written in present tense, a historical two-person view that absolutely broke my heart, and a multitude of books all written by the same author who has many titles under their belt exploring multiple POV’s.

As far as research reading goes, I hit the jackpot. And it was because I did not stick to one specific type/style of book. I had to branch out and jump around from shelf to shelf, picking my way through what works and what didn’t work for me. My job isn’t done, I am still reading and with each new book, I am better equipped with the knowledge that I need to do the best that I can do.

If I had stuck to only one particular genre, I’d have probably given up on my novel by now.

Do you have a favorite genre? And does it help your writing? Let me know in the comments.

~AJP