Thursday, February 07, 2008

On Reading for Contests

What I'm reading: Tombstone Courage, by J. A. Jance

What I'm writing: Mystery short, e-publishing workshop

I finished my last Rita read. I have to admit, I wouldn't have picked up any of these books from the shelf based on type, cover, or blurb. However, I did have a couple of pleasant surprises.

I read 8 entries. Five of them reinforced why I don't read much in that sub-genre. I know there's good stuff to be had, and certainly the 'classic' romance has a tremendous following, but I found much of the writing left a lot to be desired. It seems that if these books are shorter by publisher's requirements, then authors ought to make every word count. Why did they have to keep reminding me that the hero/heroine's inner conflict was caused by a bad marriage/early trauma/family problems. I get it. I'm not likely to forget from one chapter to the next.

I got to book 6 with high hopes. The story was interesting, the writing was clean, and I wasn't being barraged with repetition. But then the holes started showing. If an author creates a problem, such as an injury, for her hero, fine. But you can't just ignore it when it doesn't fit the scene. And please find a better way to show me you're an expert in your field or that you've done your homework. It doesn't need to be on the page unless it moves the plot.

Number 7 kept me turning pages for most of the story, although it, too was a genre I don't read, and have a lot of trouble accepting. Since the heroine started out as someone I could identify with, that helped string me along. I'll probably give this one a high score even though I didn't "like" it.

Which brings me to book 8. Another one set in a world I'm not familiar with, nor particularly interested in. Yet the author drew me in, sprinkling the information logically, relevant to the characters and the plot so I enjoyed learning something new. And the emotional connections were there, making me laugh, making me cry.

So – 8 reads. One keeper. It sure reinforces everything you hear when you're trying to break into the business. It's a matter of marketability. What sells, or what the publisher predicts will sell, get published. Often, unfortunately, it doesn't have a lot to do with how great the story is, or how well the author can tell it.

I've been researching e-publishing for the workshops I'm giving, and there's a lot of misinformation out there, one major point being that if it's in print it's good, and if it's electronic it's inferior (or erotica, which is an entirely different conversation, best saved for another day.)


Katie Reus said...

I agree, I can't stand that assumption. I've discovered some fabulous authors through ebooks! I found Lisa Marie Rice through Ellora's (although I ended up buying her books in print also). Ebooks are the future in my opinion ;)

Terry Odell said...

With everything going on, I think there's definitely a real future in the e-publishing market, but it's going to take awhile to "educate" the public as to what e-books are and aren't.

I'll be doing a panel on this at the Southern Lights conference in March.

Dara Edmondson said...

I have 7 books to judge and am on number 5 - 2 good ones, 3 that are difficult to get through and not in a genre I would normally pick up.
Just goes to show you - there's good and bad in both print an E-books.

Terry Odell said...

I found the ones I didn't care for actually read faster, since I didn't have to make comments, regardless of genre. It was pretty easy to see things that bugged me; plot holes, constant head hopping, etc., or a story that kept breaking down. I did read them all, start to finish, but I guess there's a new definition of 'page turner' -- the book that you just want to be over already!

mimi said...

Contest judging is always such a mixed bag--sometimes you get something wonderful, sometimes it's dreck. I haven't gotten to RITA books yet, only unpublished authors. Some of them make you want to just give up yourself. Then there are the ones that remind you that maybe, just maybe, you might have some talent that needs cultivating.