If writing is a little bit more than a hobby to you, at some point you might have thought about ‘writing to formula’ and riding the next wave. You know, for example, writing a romance novel according to accepted formulas and jumping on the vampire wagon.
I have thought about both, but being the kind of writer I am, none of those routes will work for me. My characters are rebellious in ways that don’t make them suited for formulaic stories. One of my heroines has a child out of marriage, another had an abortion and yes these two are in different romances and wouldn’t you know it, they are sisters.
This kind of unorthodox writing can lead to problems if you want to be published by houses (even small presses) that are sticklers for formula. Luckily for me, I was able to slip the story of one of these women into a novel that was bought by a publisher. An aside here; the main character in that romance was a goody-two-shoes, which made for a nice contrast.
Which brings me to short stories. I like writing looping or figure eight kinda stories. That’s where you start in the present, go to the past and then bring the reader up to speed on what’s happening now. I can write stories that are sequential, but somehow my ideas always take the characters spinning into the past before dumping them back in their present predicament.
The drawback with this style is that it can, and does confuse some readers. Naturally, I try to make it clear when the character slips into the past, with a lead-in sentence. I also put in some clear indication when we’re back in the present. This works fine for some readers, but there are those who get lost somewhere in between. I took this risk with Distraction, and luckily, only a few people were confused by the way the story was written, but I didn’t see how I could write that story any differently.
That said, I looked at the reviews for a free short story I have on Amazon, which is a spin-off of Distraction. In the back of that ‘book’—Giving up the Dream—I included the first three chapters of Distraction. I realize that despite the bold heading that said Excerpt from DISTRACTION, some readers still experienced confusion. I’m thinking that as a promotional strategy, this might not be such a hot idea since people thought the story was disjointed because there were three characters and no ending to what they interpreted as another short story.
It boggles my mind that people download short stories for free and then complain that they’re short, but that's for another post.
Going forward, I’m thinking that rather than putting excerpts in the back of short stories, I’ll go with a listing of my other books. Inserts are fine for sequels, but for stand alones, a list of other books makes for a lot less confusion.
This is some of the stuff I like about life. You get to change strategy and shift things up a little if they’re not working as anticipated. It gets complicated though with writing. Am I going to change my style because less than one 1% of readers don’t ‘get’ how my story is written? Their concerns do bear thinking about and yeah, I strive to become a better writer every day, but the short answer is that I won’t change my style to suit someone who’s picked up a free book and probably won’t buy anything else I write.
So, dear readers and writers, make your mark, but know you too have to be happy with the stuff you’re doing. Otherwise, your writing will be an exercise in frustration as you nip and tuck, trying to fit in with every reader’s idea of the perfect story.