This year I've been privileged to judge several contests: the Ritas, Daphne published, the Golden Heart and the Thrillers. As I sit here surrounded by entries, I realize that adds up to over 120 books I've read searching for excellence in fiction.
Did I find it? Yes, but it was few and far between. When I judge, I consider every book to be a perfect 10. Out of those 120 books how many ended up a perfect 10 by the time I finished them? Three. And how many 9's? Five.
I don't think I'm an overly-harsh judge. But maybe I've read too much? So many of the books blend together—flat, cardboard characters following clichéd, over done plots to the point where I have to double check my score sheet. Did I read this book already?
No, it's just like all the others is all…..
Many of these books are by multiple published best selling authors. Some broke new ground with their early books but now continue to follow in their own footsteps.
I can understand that—if you find what works for you and have a large following of fans wanting you to do the same old thing and paying you lots of money for it, who could resist?
And, many readers DO want the "same thing, just different". They demand it, complaining if "their" author tries a new direction. They like having expectations fulfilled, rather than being surprised. Reading is a comfortable escape for them, not a challenge or adventure.
I confess, I'm more of a thrill-seeker when I choose my books. Maybe because I now have so little time to read, every book I do finish must promise something new and exciting. Many don't deliver on their initial promise and end up being unfinished, but that's fodder for another post!
I think there's a time and place for both kinds of books. And bravo to everyone who is reading instead of watching TV or living their lives on-line!!
But as a writer, it's scary to think about. Your gut tells you to go one way, your brain tells you to stick to "what works", your heart wants to head in a totally other direction…what to do?
So, I'll ask all you readers out there. What do you want from a book? A comfortable, familiar sweater that you know will fit perfectly? Or a snazzy, new dress that may itch at first but gives you that feeling of ohlala?
Thanks for reading!