50 Shades

Young Woman Looking Away from BookSince I can remember, romance books have been written in third person (character described by narrator) past tense (action already happened):

“Oh, screw you, Burkett.” Reese Colton threw his cards down as the man across the table collected the two paper IOU’s along with a pile of money. Testosterone and laughter filled the fire station kitchen. “You all suck!” Reese said before draining the drink at his elbow.

Every once in awhile I’ve picked up a book where the author wrote in third person present tense (current action):

“Oh, screw you, Burkett.” Reese Colton throws his cards down as the man across the table collects the two paper IOU’s along with a pile of money. Testosterone and laughter fills the fire station kitchen. “You all suck!” Reese says before draining the drink at his elbow.

I’ve actually read a book like this. It was odd at the beginning, but then I got into the story and barely noticed the present tense.

But now, more and more books are being written in first person. One point of view. The whole story told by the main character — usually female. Lots of young adult stories like Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series is written this way as well as EL James’s “50 Shades” series. I even picked up a mystery recently that was in first person.

Some writers do this better than others. Of course it seems to matter less if the story pulls me in and I become totally engrossed. I don’t even notice that it’s a single narrator. But other times …

Yeeeah, there are a lot of books, especially romances, where I miss that other perspective. I love being in the hero’s head … not just the heroine’s interpretation of his actions … but the actual jesus-she-smells-good-and-that-dress-hugs-her-luscious-curves-in-all-the-right-places kind of thought process. Why do I like that? I think because it makes me fall in love with the hero even as he’s falling in love with the heroine. I want to know he’s so hot for her he can’t get her all the way upstairs to the bedroom before he presses her against the kitchen wall and shows her just how much she means to him.

And you know, it’s not always the hero. I love suspense stories. When an author writes well from the villan’s perspective, it helps me as a reader understand why s/he believes they are totally justified in kidnapping and torturing all the clarinet players in their high school marching band from thirty years ago. (No, that’s not a book, but it sure could make a very disturbed villan. LOL!)

But with everything that the masses say is trending — television, phone apps and twitter, it looks like more and more books are being written in first person and readers are not only buying them … they’re buying them in HUGE quantities. It makes me wonder if some of my favorite authors are going to go in that direction.

What do you think? Is this a passing fad or are first person stories going to become the norm for our reading pleasure?

Have I ever mentioned how hard it is to write a book? I mean getting from Once upon a time to They rode off into the sunset is not only a difficult process … doing it well takes a lot of brain energy! (Well, for me anyway.)

There are all kinds of people who believe they have a book in them. Very few sit down to actually give it a try. A smaller number of those who try ever get to the end. A small portion of those that finish actually edit their story and send it out or publish it themselves. That’s an itty bitty bit of the population who actually have books available to readers.

And there are hundreds of thousands of readers out there looking for their next book to read. When they’re surfing Amazon or B&N do you think they care if it was published through a big NY publisher, a small press or if it was self-published? Okay, yeah so some of them do, but there’s a huge majority of readers with kindles and nooks and iPhones (and a whole bunch of devices I know nothing about) who are downloading books onto these devices and all they really want is to be entertained for a few hours.

And if the readers don’t care how the book they’re reading got to be published … why would another author?

I’ve only been in this publishing world for 7 years. In the grand scheme of things I’m just a toddler. I’ve never written a manuscript long hand. I’ve never typed my manuscript on a typewriter and piled the accumulated pages. I’ve never worried if the print on my computer was set so there was exactly 250 words a page (because a publisher wanted to know how many pages a book would be in the print version). I’ve never gotten my edits through the mail with red editing marks on my printed manuscript. My “call” came in the form of an email. I even signed my first contract electronically.

But even in the short time period since I began this journey, publishing has changed.

When I published my first full novel with a digital only publisher, many writers (and Romance Writers of America) felt I wasn’t really published. I can’t tell you how many people looked down their nose at me even as I cranked out eight books in two years. It took years for many people to realize e-books were here to stay. I think it began right about the day that Oprah announced on her television show that she’d discovered a Kindle. Oh, well if Oprah said …

Yeeeeah, I’ve already been through an “us vs them” attitude.

And you know what? It’s starting all over again. Only this time it’s “traditional” publishing (meaning NY authors who have chosen to sign a contract with an advance and a print book) throwing stones at the self-published (also called indie-published) faction. Oh, and don’t get me wrong, the name calling, hair pulling and clawing is going both ways. There are some big name authors who have blog posts claiming all self-published authors put out unedited drivel with no entertainment value. There are indie authors claiming all traditionally published authors are literary snobs.

Really? All?

Let’s face it, with so many people reading, everyone feels there is crap on both sides of the publishing aisle. And the fact is … what one person sees as crap another sends to the top seller list. (50 Shades? Twilight? Hunger Games? Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?) There are authors that are auto-buys for me, but a friend would never pick up.

This whole thing is really dividing the author community and I just want to scream WHY? On the one hand authors are some of the most giving people I know. There have been many who have helped me when I didn’t understand the publishing process. Many who critiqued and taught and took time to point me in the right direction. But they can also be some of the most stubborn, judgmental people I know.

Just this week I put out a long post about all the roads to publishing a book. Do I care how someone gets their book published? No. Do I feel they’re only valid if their agent got them a six figure advance? No. (Though I will be just a taaaad envious for a little while.) Do I care if an author’s success came from books they self-published? No.(Though again with a short pause to entertain my envy that they just bought a new BMW with their last royalties.)

I’m really sick of people pointing fingers and being angry and screaming that one way is more right than another and saying mean things about other authors. Really? What right does someone have to tell another author what’s right for their writing career. They don’t. And I’m not even sure why they would want to spend the time trying.

I’m a scientist in my soul and a teacher at heart. I research and I share. I don’t judge. I answer questions when asked and support when needed. I’m not interested in taking sides. And I’m getting really tired of people who do.

***NOTE I guess I’m not alone. Check out this post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and this post by Dean Wesley Smith and an open letter by Anna Elliot. Guess LOTS of authors are tired of this finger pointing and name calling.

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