To Write Like James Joyce, or To Write Like James Patterson, That is The Question?
Simple books sell, well because they are simple.
The concepts are clear. It’s easier to market. It’s easier for an agent to pitch to a publisher. And it’s simplicity is easier to make a literary writer upset.
I mean, you, me, we spent all that time getting every word right, every cadence down, every thought just right, but people just don’t understand or see our literary vision.
Some authors bicker that there are too many simple, crappy books sold in large amounts to the public, but that is the stone-cold reality—so deal with it, adapt, or don’t.
Anyhow, who do you want to market your fiction to? You should think about that before you touch those computer keys to write a story. Unless you don’t want to succeed and you just want to write for therapeutic reasons. That’s fine to. Think about your goals though, seriously.
I think we writers have a knack to just write a story and forget about the marketing and publishing aspects. Then we have nothing but good literary stories and no audience. The publishing industry is so particular. You may have written some lyrical, brilliant masterpiece and submit it to a Writer’s Digest contest, and fail. While 3 months later, you see the winners, and in your opinion, their writing is not that good; it’s too simple; it’s well, not that lyrical.
But why did they win the writing contest? Subjectivity, possibly. Guidelines. Probably all of those. What I’ve learned is that sometimes a story is more important than fancy literary writing, and that’s not so much my opinion, that’s just how it goes for commercial purposes.
I mean, not to take any shots at James Patterson, I think he’s a smart business man, but I think he’ll admit he’s a bad writer, but a pretty, good story teller. I don’t much like his stories, but hey, millions of people do. Why? I think simplicity is one reason.
He writes about simple stuff like good guy and bad guy, and he doesn’t dwell on anything too deep; it’s rather just-on-the-surface prose like:
The guy wore a hijab and walked across Patterson street in front of the World Trade Center. James watched him. The man's robe was bulky. A little too bulky in James's opinion. Should he tackle him? Notify a police officer. That's when the man stepped near the building and dropped a bag and ran off quickly. James heart thumped, and as he notified a nearby cop, the bag exploded.
Pretty easy, right? Pretty simple.
Does James Patterson do a good job at revealing the deeper sides of the human experience to really reveal something about the human experience; I don’t think so. He makes stories you read, and forget about. They’re entertaining stories to some, but then they’re forgotten.
But Mr. Patterson’s goal is probably not to make great fiction; it’s to make sellable fiction. That’s probably a confusing statement. But it’s true. Still, there is popular fiction that is really good literary fiction, too! So keep trying to find an agent for your Masterpiece!
Sometimes you get new writers who write a bunch of complicated big words and think they’ve done something special. If you are one of them, really evaluate your angle and your ego. If you want to publish something commercially, maybe you could learn something from Mr. Patterson’s methods. Try to get past the fact that he is a stinky writer, if you can, that is. 😊
You could always take aspects of his methods though, and combine it with your so-called literary genius. For example, try to write a literary story with a solid plot. Switch from literary to simple and vice-versa, so an average reader can dwell on some of your awesome prose, but not get lost—I believe now a days, they call this magic—high-concept fiction.
So who do you want to sell to, my friend?
Do you just want to write fancy stuff for yourself? Are you content with that? I mean hey, there are agents who like literary fiction, so you can stick-with-that-kid. But if you want your work to become more mainstream, if only to bring an audience into your brilliant world, try using some simpler techniques.
Come up with a storyline before you even begin. Make it simple:
“A man comes home to his wife murdered—now he must prove that the ‘judge’ that convicted him was the murderer.”
Something like that, anyhow. To tell the truth, I love writing fancy stuff. I only wish it was more easily understood. That’s why I say think about what you’re writing and who you’re selling it to.
Are you writing a timeless book like ‘Ulysses’ well then hell, man, go for it!
But hell, try a simpler concept and see if you can weave the literary sprinkles in there like a big scoop of sprinkled ice cream.
Life moves like a bandit because everything in life is stolen from us, and eventually we’re left naked or in ashes, and spread across the earth. To depth is where we’re found in the end, sinking like the thoughts of our past life.
That was kind of literary, but if I keep writing like that, I think most people might hurt their noggins. As for you, you can do whatever the hell you want to do as a writer. Who the hell am I to say different? I am just a suggestion. A temporary hiccup walking the earth’s platitude’s searching for a fortress and a mistress to call home, but they both elude me like contentment. So, stand firm writer, and follow your brilliant instinct while thinking about James Patterson! :)
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