Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Is changing style the answer? @DenyseBridger #RomFantasy

It’s been a strange couple of weeks, and not the kind of strange that makes you think “what next?” but the kind of strange that makes you wonder “is it time to quit this business?” In recent weeks I’ve finalized a novel and several stories that I think are among the best works I’ve ever done. The question now rises: is it a good story that people want anymore?

Rejections don’t bother me, they’re a natural part of this business. Decline to contract is a polite way to say “reject” and that’s still fine by me. However, what makes me wonder nowadays is the reasons I’ve been cited. They sound like dodgy excuses, not valid reasoning in a business I once respected, and now have growing doubts about.

According to a publisher I’ve been with over six years, readers no longer want description and scene setting, they want to jump right into the action. If you attempt to introduce readers to your characters by setting the stage for your story, you are going to lose them, even when the action begins by page three. I find this hard to believe, but what do I know? Maybe I’m an old style reader, but I still like to feel like I’m entering a new world when I start a book, not being flung into it while I try to figure out who the players are and why they’re doing what they’re doing. (Maybe I’m just getting old, too, who knows?)

I’ve had editors tell me to dumb it down, to sex it up, and to cut description to bare minimum. When I do what one asks, the next one wants me to put back in what was taken out. Can you tell how crazy this is making me? Over the past year and a half, for the first time in my “career” I’ve turned to learning craft with real intent to learn. I was always flying on instinct, but I’ve learned, and learned, and honed… I’m a better writer now than I’ve ever been. Attention to detail, to sentence structure, to choosing just the right word. All of this has made a difference I can see myself–and all of a sudden, I’m being told the writing is too smart, or too… whatever.

I know there is something wrong, some integral step is out of time when readers respond in gushing enthusiasm to a posted chapter of a book, then a submissions editor tells me it’s all wrong. What the hell happens in that gap between reader and editor? All the words stay the same–so just what happens in that electronic trip through cyberspace to the editor’s inbox? Damned if I know!!

I don’t believe my readers are stupid, and I refuse to listen to phrases that include the words “dumb it down” or “lowest common denominator” when reasons are being given for rewrites. I’ve heard them both, more recently than ever before. I still believe an author’s job is to craft the best story they can write, an intelligent, emotionally engaging story that will make those who read it care about the characters they’re reading about–and smile when they close the book. If that doesn’t happen, the book is a failure. In MY opinion, at least. If I’m wrong about this, and writing out the core of a book is what it takes to win that elusive contract, I have to be honest, I will soon be retired, for real.

I’d really love to know what you all think and have to say, readers and fellow authors alike.

Writer's Desk image is from Google Images, no copyright infringement is intended.


  1. I couldn't agree more. I was rejected many times in the four-plus years it took me to write/sell my Chances trilogy for many of the same reasons. Granted, I became a better writer through all those rejections, but also because I taught myself how to write the kind of books I like to read! Unfortunately, even in that amount of time, the industry has gone the way of the rest of the world and gotten in an incredible hurry. Get in, get out, move on. Luckily, my books are on the shorter side, an unintended consequence of self-editing, which probably was a blessing in disguise. I'm nowhere as accomplished as Denyse and many of the rest of you, which makes this trend even more disturbing for a newly published author like me! For now, I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that I beat the odds!

  2. Well, I have to agree also Denyse. It's important to me that I understand who I am reading about. Recently, on your recommendation, I got the free book entitled Her Dark Angel and was sadly disappointed in it. I know you wanted me to get an idea of how to write a story around an angel, and certainly had no idea what this book was about, but it is a demonstration of what you are talking about here. Like 50 Shades of Grey took off like a shot, not because they were good books, but rather because it jumped right in to the "action". For me it was one of the absolute worst books I have ever read. I'm afraid that what you talk about here is going to be what the reader is going to be faced with as opposed to good writing. I will not stop writing because I love doing it but you may be right in that it might time to get out of this business.

  3. As coming into this business as a Newbie I find that I write in the way I have always taught students to write - with lots of front loading- not so much to give the story away , but to set the stage and develop your setting and characters. I have just read one of Denyse’s books and was very impressed with the high standard of writing. I plan to read many more also. I know it is hard to please everyone is this business as they all seem to want something different. You are such a seasoned author I surely hope to see you continue your craft. Each story for an author is a work of art, as we mold , shape and retouch it. But in the end we need to be happy with our piece, no matter how much it is dictated or controlled by the publisher. It is your baby.

  4. I find it extremely offensive that publishers are telling you to 'dumb it down' for us readers. I am one who longs for details in the characters, the setting and the plot. I want an actual story with a side of romance. I hate a book that has sex before page 60 and even then think it is too soon for some stories. If sex is the story, what is the point? I want to be able to read a scene and smell the earth, the scented candle that is lit, the rose petals placed with care. I want to hear the birds sing, feel the wind blow. I want to feel the heartache, the desperation, the loss from a past that reflects the character's present and hope for his/her future. And as one who longs to write something, I yearn to write what I like to read. So if attention to detail is what you are being told to leave out of your writing, I would suggest that maybe you continue to search for a publishing company that looks for quality work, because I see nothing wrong with the style you write with, my friend! Do NOT dumb it down or get to the sex just to please a few. The books I see on the shelves at the bookstore or grocery stores and reach to pick up and buy are the ones that are full-bodied collections of words that have amazing eye for detail and plot.

  5. Frankly, pounding sex gets boring after the first five pages.......if I wanted porn, I'd rent an adult film - they rarely have a story beyond who is shagging who.
    Give me a proper story (with or without sex) any time.

  6. Thank you everyone for your insightful and encouraging replies. I think at the end of the day, each of us has to find where our personal creativity needs to settle. For me, I can't write without a heartbeat of passion running through the story. And that means, a setting, a mood, an understanding of the people I'm being asked to care about. Sex for the sake of a story has gotten old, it's everywhere, and there are a million books that cater to any fantasy you want to indulge. So, if I continue to write, it will have to be in the way I've always done - with attention to the details, and an eye toward making each story better than the last one. Like Lisa, I don't want to be a voyeur. April, your attention to detail even in your comment proves you're already a writer. Lorriane and Haven, much success to you both. Martha - congrats again on your books, and staying true to your vision for them!!

    Cheers, ladies - you're awesome!!


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