Writing Would Be Perfect If…

by Janis Patterson

I mean it. Writing would be so perfect if it weren’t for the readers.

I know, that is a very incendiary statement, but it’s true. We’re asked to live up to readers’ expectations without being given much of a hint as to what those expectations are. Or what they’re going to be in six months or a year, after some big unexpected blockbuster shows up and turns everything we thought we knew into a fruit salad.

Have you ever noticed how so many of those big unexpected blockbusters are usually done by people who have never published a book before? Without the need to cater to a pre-conceived notion of what readers (and publishers!) want, they write what they want. But I’ll bet there are many many more who write what they want and never get by the second reader at an agent’s or publisher’s office. It’s the one that gets through that messes everything up for us working professional mid-list writers. We’ve finally (we think!) worked out the reading habits of our demographic and adjusted our plotting/writing accordingly and some of us make a fairly decent living doing that.

Then – boom! Some off the wall writer hands in a new style of book and suddenly that’s what everyone is wanting. I’ll bet all those writers who hit the jackpot aren’t trying to make a living off their writing, that they have jobs to pay their rent and bills, but they don’t mind messing things up for the rest of us. Humph!

It has become a bad joke in the writing industry that publishers are eagerly seeking something like [insert name of current bestseller here] – something just the same, but different. I have known writers who start to growl menacingly when told this and publishers don’t seem to understand that such a statement is not really good corporate communication.

Sadly, though, it isn’t just publishers and agents. I have talked to readers about this phenomenon and am astonished at how easily the little darlings are led – of course, they are the same people who rush to buy a detergent that screams “NEW” and “DIFFERENT” when the only things new and different about the product are that the boxes are smaller and the price higher.

I have talked to readers (in both romance and mystery, as I write both) who are upset with the new fashion of genre bending. I recall one most decisive woman who hated the idea, saying “When I read a story I want this to happen, and then this, and then this.” She was not happy when I asked if she were so rigid in her reading desires why didn’t she just read the same book over and over again and save herself some money.

Her reply was fit for neither print nor pixels.

I guess you really can’t please everyone. Sigh.

7 thoughts on “Writing Would Be Perfect If…

  1. I love your honesty! I totally agree. I am a genre bender myself. I also write romantic mysteries. The readers I’ve gotten feedback from tell me they love my novels which makes me feel very good. However, it’s a hard sell to editors when your writing doesn’t follow the tried and true formula of a Harlequin.


  2. Very funny and true. I gave up on the “same only different” and did my own thing. No murder. Way over standard word count. I recently got a very good review that praised one of my books for being long. She described me as generous for writing a long book. I’m not writing best sellers, but I’m writing books that sell. They do take up more space on a shelf, though.


  3. I loved this Janet, thank you! It made me laugh out loud. There’s no winning sometimes. I say, write what you want to read! Jane


      1. That’s okay, Jane – Janet is a family name (that I feel I should have gotten instead of Janis). Plus, I’ve been called much worse!


  4. I love this. You’ve put a voice to my (and many other writers) frustrations. For years (make that decades), I’ve heard editors and agents say, we want something different, something new…but, it needs to be like what we already publish. Oh, really?


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