Happy Friday Scribesters! Casey here.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading again lately. Frankly, my brain needs it. I have to gorge on other people’s stories so I can approach my own with a clear and joyful mind. Or maybe I’m just avoiding writing!
One of my favorite blogs is The Passive Voice blog (I highly recommend it for all writers or anyone interested in what’s happening in publishing). This post caught my eye – Good Writing vs. Talented Writing (the link is included at the end because I want you to finish my post first!)
The concept kind of struck me between the eyes: Writing can be technically good – excellent grammar, well-constructed sentences and still be lackluster. Or the writing can be good, but it’s missing that zing – the energy and zest that makes a story great.
Like many writers, I’ve read a lot of fiction. Some of it memorable. You know, the kind that gets under your skin and sticks with you a long time? More often than not, the stories are like chocolate: enjoyable at the time, but totally forgotten once the last page is read.
Sadly, I can tell (usually when the series goes beyond a couple of books or into the double digits) when the author and the storyline have lost their joie de vivre. Their enjoyment of each other has entered the toxic phase.
Why does this happen? For a lot of reasons. But I think one culprit is that the author starts phoning it in either due to fatigue or even boredom. I recently read the conclusion of a very popular vampire series. I’ve been following it since the beginning, long before it made the leap into pop culture.
I’m sure some of you know what series I mean and the author. Now, I’m not going to mention names or anything because I’m not going to trash talk the writer or her work. And I would appreciate it, if no one else did in their comments either (and I will zap it, if I see it).
No, no, no. That is not the reason for this post. Instead, I’m going to make an observation. Writers are people. Like anything in life, we can get sick of too much of anything – even a good thing. I imagine the lure of a popular series is too good for publishers to pass up so they keep contracting more and more books. Even when it’s clear to the reader that it’s time to wrap it up.
This happens a lot. Especially with paranormal and mysteries series. In fact, you can often see the “fall” coming when you see comments (on Amazon, Goodreads, forums, take your pick) like – “I’ve read every single book, but… (insert reason here) and I won’t be reading these anymore because (litany of complaints).”
You get the gist right? My other observation is that this is not always because the quality of story or writing slips, sometimes fans just feel like they “own” your world and characters and don’t like the decisions you made.
Back in 2007, I remember a lot of anger and outcry in my reading circle about the death of numerous characters in a certain series about a boy wizard.
Why did she have to kill off (insert names here)? She didn’t need to do that.
Since I sit on both sides of the fence, as a reader and a writer, my view has always been, it’s the writer’s world. They can kill off who they like. Or in the case of the recently departed vampire series, pair off the love interest however they want.
But, conversely, as a reader – if I really don’t like your stories anymore or I find that I don’t care about what happens to the characters or if I feel like I am reading the same story over and over, I won’t buy any more of your books.
Writers – all I can suggest is write every book like you mean it. With energy, with love and heart. If you don’t feel the love anymore, it’s time to say goodbye and let your characters go with dignity.
As Forest Gump famously said, “that’s all I have to say about that.”
The promised link: Good Writing Vs. Talented Writing from Brain Pickings
What say you all? Do you sometimes wish your favorite author would move on to something new? Or do you have a different take? Please share (remember, be nice!)
19 thoughts on “Once More, with Feeling by Casey Wyatt”
Casey, love your post. Lots to think about. I do not consider myself a well-read fiction reader . . . yet! I have not read enough books to become bored. But, I can see that happening. As I move towards the end of my own WIP, I have to think carefully how I write the scenes. You know–how to write conflict so that it is strategically different–from the beginning to the ending. How many no’s, how many thinned lips, how many narrowed eyes? If it is a series, how to keep varying the details so there is a connection, yet it is different. You are doing the right thing, gorging on reading. You go girl, you are good at what you do!
Thanks Gail. Keep reading fiction. It really does help with writing.
Casey, I just read Good Writing vs Talented Writing. Either can be developed. Here’s one for you . . . tennis. I am a certified USPTA teaching pro. I understand how a youngster progresses to become a Roger Federer or Serena Williams. They start playing around six or younger, take lessons and practice, practice, practice. Schooling is critical as well. It is the same with art, with interior design, with architecture, and of course, with writing. I have seen it, lived it, tasted it. You can learn . . .
I’m often disappointed when a series begins to flag. It feels like a let down and a betrayal of sorts. As you said, it feels like the author just “phoned it in.” Unfortunately, I think authors get a lot of pressure from the publishing world to keep producing “more of the same” once a series has shown sales potential. They want to squeeze every last dime out of the cash cow. The same can be said for authors who continue to write in the same genre…forever. I understand the need for “brand” when it comes to meeting reader expectation and from a marketing standpoint it makes sense, but it comes back to the “good” writer vs. the “talented” writer. I’m betting that readers will follow a talented writer just about anywhere, ie: Nora Roberts/JD Robb. My feeling is that as a writer, if you keep writing what the publishers/Industry want you to write, eventually all of your stories will start to sound the same and your creative well will inevitably dry up. I’m all for creating unique stories each and every time…hopefully stories with characters that readers will remember long after the last page. IMHO, a series really shouldn’t go beyond 5 books. As with good teli, five seasons is really enough for any show to take you through a full arc of character development and a satisfying story line. After that, it’s just rehashing the same old, same old.
All, good valid points, PJ. Especially in the world of series television. I do like when a writer (or screenwriters) have an end game in sight and can bring their worlds to an awesome, satisfying conclusion!
Totally agree, Casey! I’m coming at this from a very different place than I would have a few months ago. Yes, there are plenty of phone-it-in series with expired shelf lives out there, but I’m not going to fault any author who continues with a series even though it’s lost its luster. The buyer/reader is the queen, and if people still buy the books, well, this is a business. And if your product is still selling, then an author can continue to offer it as long as she wants. There are also long-running series out there that are just as good, maybe better than when they started out. Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles comes to mind. As for me, well, honestly I hope my series goes on for more than 5 books. And I hope I’m able to keep delivering fresh material. If I feel like I can’t down the road, I hope I’ll recognize that and be honorable enough to try something new.
I think there’s a fine line between selling well because the books still satisfy the reader vs. not knowing when to stop (and the damage it can do to a writer’s reputation to deliver a good product). The author I’m referring to in my post recently stated in an interview that she wished she’d killed off more of her characters so she didn’t have to write endings for them now. And she’s also implied in the past that she was kind of done with the series about 6 books ago. I wanted to shout “no kidding! Us fans could tell.” Pretty sure you know which series and writer I mean 🙂
I know your series will go beyond 5 books because you are an awesome storyteller!
Yup, I know what one you mean 🙂 Regardless of the money, it’s been clear to me that she hasn’t really been writing the book(s) of her heart for some time. I see she has a new co-written book coming out in January. I hope it has the sparkle (not the vampire kind of sparkle!) and charm of the early books. I agree about the fine line, btw. And if I ever cross it, I rely on you to tell me!
Great post! A light bulb went off when I hit this section “sometimes fans just feel like they “own” your world and characters and don’t like the decisions you made.” I hadn’t realized that was my own problem with a series I stopped reading because I wasn’t happy where it was headed. And I think that happens when readers are teased too much in a long series. At some point you have to give readers a payoff either way or they’ll just stop buying.
Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for stopping by Melinda! I think you nailed it – if a writer teases and doesn’t pay off – not good!!
Great post, Casey. Totally know which series and who you’re talking about and my heart goes out to her, because she did want to end the series but got so much pressure not to she continued on. And now, look what’s happened. People have been awful. Personally, I love who she chose as the final love interest (he’s had my heart since the beginning). However, she’s not alone, there are so many others that should have said “this is it” and haven’t. Suze and I were just having this discussion not long ago, as to why we couldn’t stop reading one series when it’s driving us crazy. Maybe as readers, even though the author is driving us nuts, we keep hoping that the characters we love will finally get that HEA or whatever goal, dream, closure they’re after. Maybe we readers need to take a little responsibility. If we’re no longer happy with the series, we should stop buying it and then the author won’t be pressured to keep writing it. Hmm.
As for how long a series can go on, good question. Keri Arthur, a fave of mine, took her Riley Jensen series to 9. Not once before then did I think she shouldn’t have written the book I was reading and the final book left me just as in love with Riley, Quinn and the gang as it did Keri and very satisfied. So I really think it depends on the story and the author and like you, I too think Suze’s series is going to be a huge hit!
Yes, Suze is going to be a super star. I can’t wait to see her book on a shelf and squee publicly.
And I agree – Series length definitely depends on the author/storyline. I know what you mean about Keri Arthur. I felt the same way when Gail Carriger (Parasol Protectorate) ended her series last year after 6 books. I was so appreciative that she let her characters go when she felt their stories had reached their natural conclusions. It was really refreshing and very satisfying.
Stop, you two! You are making me blush. Love you both! 🙂
You know, we are taking a field trip to B&N. Me, you and Viv. We are going to “oooh and aww”. And I am definitely smelling the pages. I can’t wait 🙂
Great post, Casey! I absolutely agree. Cheers, Ashley
Thank you Ashley!! I appreciate you stopping by 🙂
I couldn’t agree more, and being on the publishing side of the fence now, I can see why it happens.
I plot my book. I love my story. I submit my proposal. Editor does not love my story. Editor makes me change my story. I don’t love my story anymore.
My answer to this has been to do my time, write what I’m supposed to, but also to find ways to fall in love with my characters again. If I love them, then hopefully my readers will also…even if the story isn’t what it originally started out as.
Another thing I do is write something on the side that is just for me. I don’t want to lose my love for writing. And you never know, that work just might be something worth self-pubbing some day.
Oh, I love that idea Katy – of just writing something for yourself. That is great! Perhaps, that is the kick in the rear I need to start writing again (been very, very lazy lately). 🙂