Yesterday, on the last day of meteorological summer, I shelved my 100th book for the year. But even a reader as voracious as I am will never find time to read all the books she might enjoy. While the superabundance is great for readers, it’s less so for writers competing for their attention and time. However big and colourful our books, we’ve only one shoal in a pond so extensive we may never see, let alone touch, its banks.
The optimists, and those the publishing industry has smiled upon, insist we make our own luck. For me, although I concede you’ve got to be in it to win it, I’m not so sure. Is there a magic ingredient that will get us through the publishing bottleneck and, if so, is it possible to identify what it is? The creative writing industry thrives on the assumption that the answer’s yes to both these questions and that ingredient X can be taught.
Some argue there’s a recipe that’s particularly appealing to readers, either timelessly or shifting as politics, culture and fashions change. While I’m definitely shedding my suspicions of the hero’s journey story structure, it isn’t always right for what I want to write and read. I can see the appeal, and it’s helping with my current WIP Snowflake, but I come across lots of successful novels that don’t follow that route.
Others recommend keeping abreast of the publishing marketplace, monitoring what gets published and what sells. But while it makes perfect sense to soak up contemporary literature, an author would need more than a crystal ball to predict what’s going to excite the book world by the time her book is ready to show its face. And almost as soon as a trend is established, people want something new. But even if the current popularity of feel-good fiction lingers, there’ll still be readers who crave the dark side. If there’s one certainty in this game, it’s that not all readers want the same thing.
Genre can serve as the introduction agency between like-minded readers and writers but, once again, lots of fiction doesn’t belong in any box. Many of us can’t easily define our reading preferences until we find ourselves getting excited over a particular book. If you think you know the mystery ingredient, do let me know!
Huge thanks, as ever, for reading, and especially for those who read my new short story and left a comment on my post Should I stretch this short story to a novel? I’m sure if I really get my act together I could leave all future plotting to my blog readers and have a clear run through the bottleneck!
A bottleneck is the prompt for this week’s flash fiction challenge. My 99-word story is based on a true event (that fortunately didn’t affect me personally), and a significantly more serious one than publishing bottlenecks.
The match was a sell-out, but progress through the turnstiles deathly slow. To ease the tension outside, they opened the gates and funnelled the supporters directly into the already swollen stand. As the game kicked off, no-one heard the protests of those at the front, the screams forced from crushed lungs. While grown men cried for their mams, kids hadn’t the air to whimper. The first to scale the fence were met with truncheons. Belatedly, the ambulances pulled onto the pitch.
No goals were scored that day. But records were broken in the numbers killed at a sporting event.