This has been something on my mind a lot lately and after chewing on the subject matter for a few days, I decided that it was time to do a post about it.
I always get so disheartened when I read posts that pit self-published against Indies against trad that I just want to sit all the folks in time out till they can learn to get along! I mean, seriously! Readers don’t want to be bombarded with all the negativity and fighting, people. They want to find and read good books.
So What Makes a Good Book?
Hmmmm…what makes a good book? Well, characters you can relate to are certainly a plus. Do they need to be human? Or should you go with aliens? Elves? Dwarves? Vampires?? Hybrids? I guess that all depends on the story YOU want to write. There are great characters that have been all manner of size and shape.
A good book also requires a great plot. But does that mean you stick to rigid formulas for the genre you’ll write in? Combine genres? Throw caution to the wind and do whatever you want? Do you have tons of action, beautiful descriptive scenes, gooey romance, blood and gore? Again, it kind of depends on the story that’s bouncing around your head!
Is the pacing going to be breakneck, taking the reader on a ride that barely leaves them time to breathe? Or is it going to be balanced with quieter, reflective moments?
The problem with trying to pin down an exact formula (A + B + C = bestseller) is that there’s no ONE formula that will guarantee a bestseller or that you’ll be the next JK Rowling or Stephenie Meyer. Reading is subjective and very personal. What one person thinks is the greatest book on earth, someone else will say it’s their least fav and yet someone else will be on the fence.
So What’s a Writer to do?
My good friend, Steve Umstead, recently posted about this same subject, as well as his take on the stats pertaining to self-publishing. Check out his great post here. The bottom line? DON’T write thinking you’ll be the next big thing. Chances are, no matter how awesome you, your family, your friends, your agent think your book is, you won’t be making $85 billion a year. If the gazillions of dollars you imagine in your bank account is the motivation behind your books, then you will most likely be disappointed. And readers KNOW when an author is truly writing from the heart or whether the author is writing to fit some formula they think will make them the big bucks.
Write the story that’s in your head, in your heart. Write what you’re passionate about and readers will find it.
Books, Movies, and Music…oh MY!
If you were to ask 100 people what their favorite books, movies, music is you would most likely get 100 different answers and some things that might even shock you! That cute little old lady that attends church every Sunday and volunteers at the local library? She loves the Die Hard movies and has a secret crush on the Jonas Brothers. The mechanic that works on your car and looks like he has done hard time in the local prison? Listens to True Blood audio books and cried at the end of The Notebook.
Just think about your favorites. I bet there is something in there that might surprise or even shock someone. And just because something is “hot” at this moment in time doesn’t mean EVERYONE is into it or that it will be around forever.
Here’s an example of some of my favs. Some might surprise you, others probably won’t
1) I hated the Twilight books. Watched the first movie and couldn’t wait to get out of the theater and never went back for more. I don’t get the love or what people see in the books but enough have seen something that Stephenie is laughing all the way to her sparkly bank. Now, this is nothing against the woman personally. I bet she is the coolest lady and if I got to meet her in person I would probably giggle like an idiot. I can’t read erotica or romance. Just can’t do it. Call me prude, but I have no interest in reading about that private act. What I do like is the journey that brings two people to fall in love. THAT I can read about all day long. I don’t read vampire stuff, although I have found a series I quite enjoy by Karen Dales. Very good, not too much with the vampires and I skim over the sporadic sex scenes. I dig horror, but not zombie blood and guts stuff. Creepy stuff, much like what RA Evans writes. Scifi and fantasy will always be my fav and will always be what I gravitate to.
2) My favorite movies are of course scifi and fantasy. Give me Star Wars (the original three!!!), Star Trek, Dark Crystal, Close Encounters, LOTR) any day! I also LOVE tough guy movies and can quote the lines along with any guy on the planet. I even know the soundtracks for most of the movies, even if it just a music montage. Hubby never has to worry about be begging him to go see some chick flick. I am NOT into those at all. Nor am I into romantic comedy. There are very few I like and I never go to the theater to watch them. I wait till they are on Netflix. I usually watch about 1/3 of a movie and end up turning it off and watching something else entirely. Like The Expendables or Conan!
3) My music is very varied. I grew up with Elvis, Marty Robbins, Gene Pitney, John Denver and have those songs in my iPod at all times. I also love Christian music and have recently downloaded The Story which is the most amazing collection of songs ever in the universe. Seriously, if you haven’t heard this, listen to it! I dig Skillet, Mandisa, Chris Tomlin. As a child of the 80′s I also admit to having pretty much every one hit wonder from that awesome decade as well as music from the glam bands like Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Poison, Def Leppard. County is another I listen to quite frequently and I am not ashamed to admit that I am in love with Taylor Swift. That girl is kick ass talented and her music is sweet and transcends many generations. She’s someone a grandmother, mother, and daughter could go see and each one would adore the show.
I doubt there’s anyone else out there who likes EXACTLY the same things I listed here. So what makes authors think that they have to write a book to please everyone? Write the story YOU have inside you and people will read it. Will it be millions upon millions and will they scream when you show up at a book signing? Probably not. And that’s okay! As long as people enjoy your stories, that’s pretty damn awesome!