I was an avid reader long before I became a writer. As a kid growing up in a volatile household, books were my escape. A great book was one I could read over and over. One with great writing that let me keep getting lost in some special world far more interesting than the one I lived in.
Until about ten years ago, there was only one book that I could remember not finishing. Nowadays, I DNF more books than I finish – especially if the books happen to be free. The older I get, the less willing I am to give up and irreplaceable hour or two of my life to trudge through a poorly written book.
It’s now rare that I read a story so well-written that it makes me forget I’m reading. Instead I’m constantly jerked out of the narrative by poor grammar, flat writing, Illogical storyline or characters, and so many other issues that could have, and should have, been fixed. “I didn’t spend near enough time writing and editing this to turn it into something amazing.”
This lack of great writing is primarily due to three things:
E-books could have been the great equalizer, letting otherwise underrepresented authors gain an audience and make a living. Unfortunately, the advent of e-books, Amazon Unlimited, and social media as a promotion tool, also turned writing from a pursuit focused on quality, to one focused on quantity. And because romance readers are known for being particularly voracious, the pressure to produce is really on in that genre.
Nowadays it’s like every great book is a single, treasured pearl out of hundreds of thousands of oysters. One I deem well worth paying for.
Sometimes I question whether—now that I’m a romance author—my standards are too high. That because I can see behind the curtain, I’m too particular. Or that because I was a professional journalist and copywriter for years my expectations for quality writing are out of alignment with the genre. Then someone turns me on to an amazing read, and I’m reminded of how truly mind-blowing, and even life-altering, a kick-ass romance can be.
I want to write books like that. The kind of books I want to read. Books I can be proud to put out into the world. Ones filled with compelling, intimate, and adventurous stories, characters I love, and writing that sweeps readers deep into the outdoors.
Doing that takes a lot of time and thought and care and effort. And professional editing. Maybe my career will suffer because I’ll never be one of those romance authors who cranks out three or more books a year. I don’t care. I believe great writing is worth the work AND the wait.
Do you think overall book quality has suffered in the past few years? Why or why not? Please do share your thoughts and comments below.